Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

You Never Know

The beginning of a new school year is full of new realities, new routines, new understandings, and sometimes new locations.

Most of the time I meet all this newness with a mixture of happy anticipation (what sort of remarkable events are upcoming?) and stressful anticipation (until I’ve seen my classes and ensembles, I wonder what exactly I’ll need to do to engage them all year … even if a class is full of miserable behavior, once I know what they look like, I can formulate the strategy; so the run-up to Day One feels like I’m gunning the engine without letting out the clutch pedal).

But even if there is a generic plan for how my school district’s year started, this past week, nobody really is entirely ready for it.


There was a house fire in town on Labor Day, which killed two people. One was a young mother. The other was her daughter. Her daughter was one of our first graders.


I’m not teaching first grade music this year. I’m haven’t taught in the K-2 area of town for a few years, so I didn’t know the little girl, or probably any of her friends. So I was prepared to talk to my middle-school students in case one of them had a sibling who was a friend of…, but I didn’t expect to be as neck-deep in it as some of my colleagues.

I heard about the house fire on the morning news … then got the faculty-wide eMail saying that in spite of various people’s caution, a couple of Boston newscasts had released the names and images of the fire victims, so we should be prepared to help students deal with it all if necessary. At which point I thought: as much admiration as I always have for what elementary-level classroom teachers do all the time, on Tuesday morning they were going to have my admiration, in spades – and they were really going to earn their pay.

Our district has a new Superintendent, a relatively young gentleman with background in middle school administration and special education … so, one can assume, he has some experience in rolling with the punches. He arrived in the district as we were opening our newly-constructed high school, so he landed smack in the middle of most of the teachers and students trying to assimilate new physical surroundings (and, in some cases, trying to find where boxes of their supplies got to).

And then, on Monday, three days into the school year, the fire happened. Welcome to town, sir. Here’s the ground. Hit it, running.

He sent out another faculty-wide eMail late this week. I imagine that administrators have to have a certain amount of boilerplate text at the ready for use in lots of situations, tragedy included. There was that, but a couple of his thoughts seemed (to me at least) to be more than just that … they were right on the edge of being Starred Thoughts®.

In addition to their obvious usefulness in the midst of this tragic situation … they also struck me as things I perhaps need to remember to focus on, particularly in this moment in my career as a music educator.

…there is nothing worse than an unexpected and unfair death of a child. That feeling of unfairness can and should make us appreciate every second with our own children and the children we are blessed to work with in our schools.”

Enjoy every moment you have together and ‘don’t sweat the small stuff (i.e rubrics, assessments, evaluation, missing boxes).’”

And this one, which is a constant battle of mine, in spite of my imagined dedication to it:

Make an extra effort to spend quality time with the people who love you most.”

You never know when, for whatever reason, you won’t be able to … whether for a short amount of time, for an extended period, or pretty much for good.

So … see you soon, with any luck (and some planning).


September 8, 2012 - Posted by | Starred Thoughts, teachers | , , , , ,

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