There Were Hugs

There were hugs; lots of hugs.

My high school band is traveling to Florida this week. As we were stopped to change drivers along the route yesterday one of our great young students found out some terrible news. Our band kids knew something was wrong and they immediately came to hug him. Our chaperones came to hug him. I was able to hug him. In what should have been one of the most exciting parts of these kid’s high school years they experienced great sadness.   They also learned. They learned about compassion and they learned about what it means to support someone they care about.

There is no way to measure what the students learned. There is no playbook as an educator to deal with these types of things. There is no appropriate way to tell the students how to respond. Yet, we all responded as best we knew how.  I am writing this from an airplane as I prepare to join my students in Orlando.  Tomorrow our bands will play in the happiest place on earth.  We will dedicate our performances to a strong young man who is going through something very difficult.  We can’t be there to hug him, so this is what we will do.  We will play music for people who have no idea what we are going through the best we know how.  150 young people (along with 20 great chaperones) will show people from all over the world what we have been working on in our classrooms.  No judges, no scores, no trophies, just us playing for a friend who can’t be with us.

A lot is written about schools, students, and teachers.  My local paper tends to be pretty harsh on my profession.  What very few people get to see are the hugs. An elementary school teacher who hugs a student who falls on the playground, the teacher who hugs a student who just did great at a speech contest, or the students who hug a peer who needs it. Schools are important places where lots of things happen that can’t be measured.

I had thought I might make some grand political point with this post about things that we choose to measure, but that’s for another time. I should also spend more time blogging about the measurable statistics that show why what we do is so important. They are out there and they are hard to refute, but that’s also for another time.

Yesterday was a bad day in many ways and yet it brought out the best in the people (young and not so young) that I get to work with and around; the parents, the students, and my colleagues. I am proud to call myself a teacher today.   Hopefully we don’t look past the moments when a hug is necessary and will forever make someone’s life better.



  1. Well said Pat. Even though Ryan and Evan opted out of the trip (neither could fathom a 24 hr bus ride), I’d heard of the situation. Ryan posted a link to your blog on Facebook, which is what brought me here. I think that’s his way of saying that your words touched him.

  2. This was such a heartbreaking day for that student, the band students, directors and parents that were there. It was amazing to see how quickly everyone poured their care, compassion, support and hugs out to this student–and how it brought everyone on that trip a little closer to one another. I am very proud to be a part of this band family with my kids and that they have had the opportunity to learn from this wonderful man, Mr. Kearney. Our kids gain so much more than learning music from him. They learn how to be a family of people who care about and support one another. They learn leadership, teamwork, work ethics and so many more skills to help them in life. This band family is a place where everyone is important and cared about. We are very blessed and grateful for the many years with this band family. Thank you, Mr. Kearney for caring about these kids and giving them all that you give to them!

  3. I too was fortunate to have great mentors when it came to music. Always learned more than notes, melodies and phrases. Learned how to do a job, be done and move on. Learned that you have a goal you work toward that goal and assess where you are and how to do better next time. Family is part of that too. We all are a part of many families. I am grateful for band family. I am glad that the band and it’s directors are a great as they are. Quietly doing the ordinary extremly well.

  4. I am so grateful to have been a student of yours, Mr. Kearney. I cannot put into words how much your compassion and leadership meant to not only me, but thousands of students over the years. The lessons I have learned through your teaching has helped shape me into the strong, level-headed person that I am today. Your actions on this day went above and beyond, there is no way I’ll ever be able to repay you. Thank you for being a figure during the lowest point of my life.

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