A Centaur in the Playground
I really wanted my oboe. I was so enthusiastic about it. I really wanted to play my first note. I was eager to feel the oboe in my hands. I wanted to try out my reed. My hope for that was ruined, ripped into pieces by evil Mr. Griggs. Who would have guessed that evil Mr. Griggs was going to make us walk up and down the stairs for the whole 2 periods of band class, with an extra setting-up-the-band-room? Well, just walking up and down the stairs wouldn’t have been twice as bad as being forced to do so in a PERFECT straight line, in instrumental order, with our mouths completely zipped. One stair at a time, we carefully and almost flawlessly climbed the stairs.
It all started in the playground on a Tuesday afternoon in 5th grade.
“Wheeeeeeeeuuuuuuuwww Wheeeeeee!” Mr. Griggs whistled loud like an out-of-tune flute. All of us, 5th graders, stared at him as if he was a centaur. None of us knew him, and as he refers to now, he was the ‘New-Young-Man’ at the Saint Maur International School, who smelled like cologne. I don’t think anybody was expecting such a boring class with harsh labor; and what do I mean by that? I mean, the walking-up-and-down-the-stairs-in-a-PERFECT-straight-line-in-instrumental-order-flawlessly. My longing to get my oboe — that dream — had completely disappeared.
All of us sat in a straight line behind the behind the sign on the playground that said ‘5H’ and ‘5R’, waiting eagerly for Mr. Griggs to come and pick us up. It was our usual after-recess routine to sit and wait for our teacher to come.
We thought we had been doing the right thing, when Mr. Griggs came and started shouting, “Grade 5! I want you to line up in instrumental order! First is flutes, and oboes, then clarinets in the first row! In row 2, saxophones, trumpets, and low brass with percussion at the end! Let’s get going guys! Hurry up!” in a humongous voice that the citizens of Brazil could hear.
“Whhhhaaaaattt?” all of us whined while reluctantly moving to our new spots in the line.
After five minutes of trying to line up, Mr. Griggs’ eardrum-breaking-loud-voice interrupted us again:
“Ok. Now guys, remember exactly where you are standing. Look to your right, and your left. Memorize the spot you are currently in!”
All of us, once again, reluctantly obeyed his instructions, while he continued to yell: “Once that’s done, I need you guys to go off and play again. Listen carefully for my whistle though!”
That moment we were waiting for! Free time! But the happy moment barely lasted 10 seconds before Mr. Griggs blew the whistle.
“Get back in order! Hurry up! We’re going to the music room now! Chop chop!”
I was furious, maybe more like apoplectic. I felt like being stubborn, and standing still without budging the slightest millimeter. I thought it would be too much of a risk though, considering the fact that he was a new teacher, and I didn’t want my first impression to be a bad one.
We spent about 7 minutes walking up the metal slope that led from the playground to the entrance of the fine arts center, and all the way up the staircase to arrive on the 2nd floor of the building, where the music room is. So far, we had wasted about 20 minutes of band class already. I was relieved that we had arrived, but again, this relief didn’t last long.
The third time we heard this come out of Mr Griggs’ mouth, “Now we’re going back down in the same exact order! You better hurry up or else you won’t get your instruments today!”
I got extremely excited. Just the thought that I could get my oboe — the dream I thought was gone — made me line up like an army soldier, without wavering. His very words, ‘You better hurry up or else you won’t get your instruments today!’, had lit up my heart with ray of hope. I was waiting for everybody to get ready, anxious to get my instrument.
Nobody could have possibly predicted what happened after we got back to the music room. Guess what? All the stress of lining-up-and-climbing-up-and-down-the-stairs-perfectly was for nothing. We heard Mr. Griggs’ voice unexpectedly, again. “Nah uh, I expect something better from you guys! No chitter chatter! We’re going to do that again! Come on! We’ve only got half an hour of class time left!”
At this point, all of us had suspected that we weren’t going to get our instruments, so I guess it was apt for us to go back down and come up to the music room again halfheartedly; we unwillingly started climbing the stairs again, hesitating at every stair and giving a bad attitude, with the desire that Mr. Griggs would give up on us.
None of us should have been expecting to receive our instruments when the bell rang a few minutes afterwards despite whining at him, saying things like: “Mr. Griggs! You’re the worst teacher ever! I hate you!” and, “Such a liar! You said you would give us our instruments!”
I guess it was our fault for talking and chatting continuously, and that was why we couldn’t get our instruments, but Mr. Griggs had received dozens of emails from parents with content along the lines of, “How dare you make my sweet and innocent child miserable with stair-climbing! You ruined his day!”
After all, we got our instruments during our 3rd band class, and although I still hold a grudge against Mr. Griggs for doing this to us, I am pleased that this lead to my current passion in music.
Today, Mr. Griggs still remains a teacher at Saint Maur, and hasn’t been fired for the harsh labor he made us do, and I am glad about that. This is because today, he does not make us walk up and down the stairs, and he is a very supportive and encouraging teacher.
He says things like, “Guys, you have to do less chatting and more listening. You have a lot of potential as a band, but the chitter chatter is what ruins everything.” He makes a good point that we are quite terrible listeners, and we are quite talented at talking very loudly. However, Mr. Griggs has beared our annoyingness and has encouraged a lot of potential in us, as well as challenging us in ways that can take us further into the musical world.