Rough Times

Bothell Strong

It’s been a rough week in our small town.  I call our town small, but really it isn’t.  Our town has grown much in the last 10 years, with large parcels of land being sold to developers and homes upon homes being built.  However, I still consider us a small town.  I grew up here when it was considered the boonies.  We still have a parade on the 4th of July where people set up lawn chairs weeks in advance.  Those chairs will sit on the parade route unmolested until the actual parade.  When something happens, like a house fire, our community rallies behind that family immediately, helping replace anything that they may need.  This is why I still consider us a small town.

On Thursday May 19, a teacher at our high school was senselessly beaten over the head and strangled while in his classroom after school was let out for the day.  Luckily, he was able to stagger out of the classroom to be discovered by another staff member.  The school went on lockdown for the next 3 hours while they searched for the suspect.  Thankfully my son was home for the evening, but other kids and staff were not.  Mercifully the teacher’s injuries were not very serious and he was released from the hospital that evening.

Of course, in this day and age of social media and electronics, rumors began to fly about the attack before the lock down was even lifted.  Rumors of what was used to attack him and who may have done it abounded online and over texts.  Some students began to make a joke out of the situation.  Thankfully most students shamed those idiots and reported them to police.  If you have the balls to make fun of a situation like this, they may know something about the attacker and deserve to have the cops knock on your door.

Most of the students were in complete shock, as was our entire community.  School was cancelled for Friday because that area of the school was considered an active crime scene.  My son used it as a day of reflection and also a day to catch up on some homework.  I kept asking him how he was doing, and he would reply “I’m fine.”  He did not actually take any classes from the teacher that was assaulted, so I think it really didn’t hit him very hard.  Those students who actually had classes with the teacher and the staff have been hit the hardest.  The district brought in counselors for the staff on Friday so that they would be ready to support students when they returned to class today.  I’m so glad they did!

Of course, the police have brought in the FBI to help with the investigation, but four days later, they still do not have a suspect.  They have been poring over countless security tapes from the school and from buses that were at the school around the time of the attack, collecting evidence and conducting interviews.  It all takes time, but I believe the community is chomping at the bit for information, to no avail.  I myself have been trying to support the students that I drive as well as my own family through this horrific event.  This kind of stuff doesn’t happen in our town, this kind of stuff happens in big cities.  (Famous last words, right!?!)  Personally, I am hoping that this was a random act of a crack head rather than a student or ex-student.  I think it would just be better for the community and for our students if this was truly a indiscriminate act.

Today, when I drove my bus into the BHS bus load zone, I saw extra police, security and teachers everywhere and lots and lots of BHS Blue.  All the teachers have shown exceptional poise throughout this entire process.  Even the teacher that was attacked has been very appropriate considering the circumstances.  He released a statement thanking the community for their support.  He appeared on the news tonight and I was so proud because he is refusing to become a victim.  He said he would be back at work as soon as they let him.  Makes me proud to live in our district and be a home town girl.  I refuse to become a victim and so has he.  What a great example for my kids.

Here’s hoping that they catch the person who did this horrible thing soon!

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Trust Your Mama Bear Instincts!

Usually I let my kids fight their own battles. I tend to listen to their problems and then advise them on what I think they should do about it. Every once in a while, I feel the need to get involved such as the time that my daughter was bullied by a teacher.

Such was the case recently with my teenage son. My son is 16, so at this point I really hope that the lessons that I have taught him stick. I have always tried to teach my children that if you work hard, you will not necessarily get what you want, but you will get what you deserve.

A couple of bits of information first: our school district’s high schools are grades 10-12. My son is a music fanatic. It’s what he wants to do with his life. He wants to learn as many instruments as he can and become a brass expert. He’s not into girls (or guys, for that matter), or anything else that a typical teenager is into. He loves music. If he could practice 24 hours a day, he would. Now, the way Drum Major works at our high school is that Sophomores are allowed to try out to be Junior Drum Major for the next year. They are then automatically Senior Drum Major. Knowing all of this, my son has made it clear all year that he would be trying out for Drum Major in the spring. He spent hours practicing and filling out the questionaire, became section leader and spent as much time with the current drum major as he could.

When the 4 finalists for Junior Drum Major were announced my son was not among them. We were both shocked at this decision by the band director. The director had eliminated all brass players claiming that the section was weak. My son informed me that he honestly would not pick any of the 4 that were left to be drum major because they were either too meek and mild or just not leaders because they were not committed to band. My son and I sat on this information for about a week. I told him that if he wanted to fight for the position then he should and I would support him. He chose not to, but I could tell that it was continuing to bother him. That is when I decided to write the director an email. I wrote the following:

“Dear [Director],

Over the past several days I have struggled with the decision to march into your office or write this letter. After speaking with another parent last night at the Music Boosters meeting, I decided to write, so here goes.

Last Thursday, you crushed my son’s spirit completely. His faith in doing the right thing, working hard for what he wants, trust in his teachers have all been decimated. I have always tried to instill in him that if he works hard he will get what he deserves. Your decision to exclude all brass from the running for drum major is baffling to me. It is one student; one that will not make or break an entire band. However, a bad leader can break a band. If you were going to make that decision, then why let them get their hopes up in the first place? Why let them hope all year long? Why let them train with [current drum major]?

You know that this has been a goal of [my son]’s from the very beginning of the year. He has spent countless hours practicing what [current drum major] has taught as well as hours on the questionnaire. He has also spent countless hours outside of regular time with [current drum major], learning from him. In comparison, one of your finalists spent about 10 minutes on the questionnaire and barely practices on their instrument, let alone anything else. Isn’t a drum major supposed to be a strong leader and good example for the other students? [My son] has already proven his leadership skills as section leader is Jazz. Given how week and unreliable [junior drum major] is (I know this from S & E experience), I would think you would want a solid Junior drum major. I would also think that you would want someone who is fully committed to band, is one of the first to arrive and one of the last to leave, who wants to make the band better.

It would be one thing if [my son] was put up against peers that were actually real contenders, but to be discounted just because he is a brass player is just wrong. Out of the four finalists, [my son] has said that he would not vote for any of them as they do not have the qualities that a drum major should have. He has also said that the position is basically a popularity contest. As a teacher, you should be above the popularity issue and really should not be letting the students run your program, which is the whole point of you having a veto.

[My son] wants this, wants to continue music after high school, wants to teach. Music is his passion, proven by the fact that he will be showing up for Jazz Band next year, even though he will not be officially enrolled in the class due to Running Start restrictions. This would have been a stepping stone for him to start on that path. You have now put those future plans in doubt as he is questioning why bother even trying for anything. I hope that you take all of this into account in the future and be aware of the feelings of your students rather than crushing their hopes and dreams.

Thank you”

As you can see, I was one pissed off mama bear. Seeing my 16 year old son cry over something that he has worked so hard to achieve will do that to me. I let my son know what I had done, but because he was so down about the situation, he had no hope that it would help.

Two days later I received and email from the director stating that my son and another brass player were going to get the chance to try out for Drum Major. I was not actually expecting anything to change, was actually expecting to be ignored completely, so was pleasantly surprised. For me, this was a giant mama bear victory. For my son, it was the best day of his life. I even got an “I love you” out of it!

I guess the purpose of this post is, if all your mama instincts are telling you to get involved, DO IT!

Stand Up!

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In my previous marriage, I did not stand up for myself.  Now, that’s all I do!  I stand up for myself and encourage other to stand up for themselves.  Honestly, I have learned that when it comes to my family, my friends and myself, it is the most important thing in my life.  To stand up for yourself and for what is right.

Teaching the kids that I drive to stand up for themselves is incredibly important.  Most people thing that being a school bus driver, is just that, driving.  Wrong!  Last week, one of my high school girls was telling me about a problem she was having with a boy.  I encouraged her to stand up for herself and walk away from the situation.  By the end of the week, she had done just that, and felt great about herself for doing it.

I also taught my daughter to stand up last week.  My daughter is in 7th grade, so drama is a daily occurrence.  However, this particular day, she was approached by a boy and “asked out”.  Unfortunately, this boy had just broken up with one of her best friends.  She was confused and did not know how to handle the situation.  I told her that she could not break her friend’s heart by dating this boy.  I informed her that one of the major “friends rules” is that you NEVER date a friend’s ex.  She did me proud the next day and went and told him off!

Standing up for what you believe in and finding out what you stand for in your life is probably one of the hardest lessons to learn.  It is usually learned by making a lot of mistakes and getting your heart broken a few times, but it can be done.  Standing up also makes you feel good about yourself, like you can hold your head high because you did what feels good with no regrets.  With encouragement from adults in their lives, kids can make it through to adulthood with a sense of who they are and what they are going to stand for in their lives.

So STAND UP!