Well, the school year is officially over! Last night was our 8th grade graduation ceremony, and my last performance of the year. The chorus sings at graduation, so after the spring concert, it's rush and get ready for graduation. no rest. oy!
This year was a particularly hard graduation for me. Hard because it was a fantastic group of students that I've known since they were in 3rd grade. They are talented, caring, funny, smart, and just a blast to be around. Even last year when they were in 7th grade (an awful year for any kid) they were still fun! For some reason, I've built an especially close relationship with a lot of the students in this class. I've never gotten quite so many hugs (even from 8th grade boys!) as I did last night. I think out of this group of 85 students, there are only 2 or 3 that are "bad apple"/bully types. Included in this group were 4 students who have lost a parent to cancer in the past 6 years. One girl in particular whose mother died just this year after a 4 year battle with lymphoma. She has a strong faith in God, and had asked me to pray for her mom on many occasions before she died. I had a very hard time saying goodbye to this girl last night. Many of these students have strong families who are supportive and encouraging. However, there are many that aren't as fortunate.
I would say that easily half of these kids come from single parent/divorced homes, and a handful that are raised by grandparents or a relative other than their parents. Some of them I know for a fact are using drugs, drinking or or getting involved in various harmful "activities". One student is under treatment for severe depression. Too many of them go home to an empty house, some until 8 o'clock at night. I found out after graduation that one poor girl was dropped off by her mother before the ceremony, and picked up by her mom after the ceremony ended. Her mom didn't even stay for the ceremony. The girl was in tears the whole night.
Can you imagine yourself at the age of 13 or 14 having to deal with this kind of stuff? My heart breaks for a lot of these kids. Whenever I hear someone complain about middle school kids, I just shake my head and wonder what they would do if they were in the same situation that some of these kids are in. Yes, I know, some of the kids are just the way they are because they're 13, their hormones are going crazy, they're trying to figure out who or what they are and want to be in life. But all of them have a story. And some of them have reasons for being the way that they are, if you just take the time to get to know them. I love my profession, and I can't imagine being anything other than a middle school music teacher.
I'll never forget when I graduated from college. A woman from church gave me a little framed poem about being in Music Ministry. When she found out that I was going into teaching, she said, "Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you were going into ministry." While I understand how she saw a difference between the two, I realized later that I am in a ministry, even though I am not paid by a church. God has given me the awesome responsibility of ministering to these kids in need. Almost every time I pray, I pray that God would use me in some small way to minister to my students.
So now that school is over, it's time to decompress a little. However, as nice as it is to be off from school, I won't receive another paycheck until September 15. Yikes! So, as of now, I have 8 piano and voice students each week, and I have a couple of feelers out for some part time work starting in July. Thank the Lord, we do have some money set aside for some of our bigger bills, so our needs aren't huge. Just the same, it would be nice to have a little breathing room.
Most importantly, I'll have some good family time. I am SO busy during the school year (no, I don't just work from 9 - 2 as some people think!) that I miss out on a lot of good extended quality time at home. I can't wait to play with the boys, sit on the deck with Danielle, and enjoy all that God has blessed us with!