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.