Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cue the Ugly Cry...

I don't know what it is about this week.  I'm being pelted by emotions in regard to teaching.  If you didn't know, before I became an island housewife, I was a middle school band director.  Yes, you read that right.  I *did* say Middle School and I *did* say band.  Was I crazy??  Yes probably.  But I was crazy in love with those crazy kids.  I still am.  I still quote their silly sayings, funny stories come to mind and I still laugh out loud sometimes, I see pictures of them on Facebook doing amazing things from time to time and my heart just soars (and sometimes it breaks because I can't believe I've got kids who will be seniors next year who were at one time my middle school babies!...they're growing up WAY too fast...).  Teaching at Keller was my first job.  I started that program from the ground up under the direction of my amazing boss, Diane, who honestly trusted me way more than I trusted myself to do that job.  I was a brand new baby teacher having to make decisions about how to spend a $60,000 budget to start up a band program.  I had no idea where to even begin!

That first year was rough.  It was the year of a new president, the swine flu, and hurricane Ike.  The learning curve was literally STRAIGHT up.  It was all I could do to keep my head above water...I was racing to try and keep up with my students!  I worked my tail off.  Put in 12 hour days 5-6 days a week sometimes.  Somehow, by the grace of God alone, I survived that year.  And even better than that, my principal was thrilled with the end product I had created and was so encouraging about what she was expecting for the next year.  So, weary as I was, I tackled another year.  And then another.  And it got better every year...

Each class of kids brought it's own challenges.  In every class there were those very special students who are literally imprinted on my heart forever.  They weren't always the "best musicians" in my class. Sometimes they were, sometimes they weren't.  The kids who had profound impacts on me were the ones who were full of heart.  And let me tell you, I had a TON of kids with heart.  I taught in a Title I school in a low income community.  And before I got there, the mentality was "Well, it would be nice if *those* kids could do a little band.  Something's better than nothing.  But they probably won't compete with the other middle schools in the area."  HA!  In 4 years, I raised the bar on performance with those kids.  I had 6th graders competing against 7th and 8th graders in All-City tryouts and holding their own.  One even made alternate...he beat out 8 other 7th and 8th grade tubas to get there!!  My groups went to solo and ensemble and pulled I's!  They went to Concert and Sight Reading and kicked butt and took names.  We played a very advanced program my last year and we had a curmudgeonly old band director (who was RARELY "blown away") blown away.  She was actually flustered when she came up to talk with the kids because she couldn't believe they'd pulled off what they had just played.  And then in addition to that, my first big class of kids to hit the local high school were snagging marching spots over upperclassmen!  And they were killing it!!  

So if you can't tell, I'm sort of like a proud mama.  Me and those crazy kids went to war and back man. I kicked their butts and they rose to the challenge.  I threw things at them that they shouldn't have been able to handle and they killed it.  I take NO real credit for any of that, though, because I believe whole heartedly that I was just a woman blessed to be in the right place at the right time with the world's best bunch of band kids.  It's just unheard of.  Really.  And my heart can't contain the joy I feel when I see them succeeding now.  I saw a picture of my illustrious tuba player carrying his tuba off the stage after a performance not too long ago.  And I couldn't stop the tears.  Proud doesn't really describe it...

I've got a student who has undergone surgery for scoliosis.  She is the picture of grace and strength and she has grown into a beautiful young lady.  And yes, she's a lady.  No longer a child.  I wish she, and all her classmates, would slow down a minute...I can't keep up!  God really did overwhelm me with blessings while I taught those little monsters.  I'm a better woman for it!  My sweet little Emily (that *lady* I spoke about) posted this on my wall today:

"I went to Keller today and went to the band hall, and took a picture of this qoute in the hallway before they demolished the building .... then I walked into my first ever band class and so many memories came back to me. This is were I learned to play my first and only instrument the flute. I learned from the best band teacher in the world and that was Mrs.Womack! I am so thankful to have had this woman as my first ever band teacher. She was more than that honestly. And I really really miss her. Even though I'm not in band anymore I will still be forever thankful for all that she taught me. Love you Miss!"

How could I not bawl after reading that??  This tattered old quote is what you see when you walk out the door of my band hall.  It was painted by the first art teacher at Keller in an attempt to make our "gently used" building (that was built in like 1954) a little more homey while we waited for the bond to be pushed through to build us a new building.  They are in the process of demolishing that building now and building a new one in its place.  That room, full of so many good memories, will be rubble in a few months.  That seriously makes my heart hurt.  There was something magical that happened in that room those 4 years.  I'm blessed to have had a part in it.  And I can't contain my excitement for what the future holds for all my babies.  Yes, they're my babies!  They saw me through some rough times, they held me up, made me better, challenged me.  And I wouldn't be the same today if I hadn't gotten the amazing opportunity to call myself their teacher!  I always told them that in my room they would learn to work as a team, how to set goals and meet them, how to challenge themselves...and I hoped they'd learn how to play an instrument along the way too.  It was more important to me that they become upstanding men and was just a HUGE fringe benefit that they were also spectacular musicians that made my job look easy!

Once a Keller Ranger...Always a Keller Ranger!  To say I am *proud* of all of you is the understatement of the century...

SO MUCH love to my crazy band kids!

Mrs. Womack


A Different Kind of Flair