Melissa Wuz Here

During rehearsal one recent day at Backpack Middle School I had stepped off my podium to check fingerings in the clarinet section when I noticed some writing on the back of Melissa’s hand.

Melissa is a seventh grader with a sweet spirit and a serious case of diabetes.  It is not uncommon to see her pull out her testing kit, stick her finger, and check her blood sugar level.  She does this so often that the students around don’t seem to notice.

Anyway, written on the back of her hand were the words, “Melissa wuz here,” with an arrow pointing up her arm to her self.  I laughed when I read it – it seemed funny and clever on several levels.


The past several days have been busier than usual as the new 5th grade band students have been getting their first lessons after school.  There are 36 new citizens of BandLand this Spring.  My first impressions of them as a group are good.  There is nothing in the world like the enthusiasm you see as they open their instruments for the first time and learn how to put them together.  And nothing can match those first sounds coming out of their horns – Good Golly!

When I had finished 8th period General Music today, I went back to the band room only to find that our substitute custodian had locked the BandLand door before the end of the day.  So a bunch of new 5th graders were waiting out in the hallway along with some middle schoolers who needed to take their instruments home.  Unlocking the door, I saw that the custodian had also erased my chalk boards.  No big deal, right?  Just write it all again.

First thing in the room, two young ladies meet me and say, “We’re the new clarinet players, but we don’t have instruments, yet.  Didn’t you tell our parents you could loan us instruments?”

“Yes, but they were supposed to let me know for sure that you would be needing them, which they didn’t do, so I don’t have them out, yet,” I replied.  “But no problem.  We’ll just get them now.  Let’s see, here they are.  Let me write down the serial numbers.  Oh, yeah, I will also need to loan each of you a reed, and a swab, and cork grease.  Here you go.  Last ones I have, but that’s o.k., I’ll order more.  Oh, you don’t have music books, yet?  O.k., let me get a couple from the cabinet.  There.  All set.  Go have a seat.  Thanks.  Anyone else need anything?  A french horn book, and a baritone book?  Here is a horn book.  I’m out of baritone books.  Sorry, but no problem.  You can use this trombone book for now.  I’ll tell you the fingerings as we go.  Now let’s get everyone arranged.  Clarinets, please sit over here in the front row; saxophones over there, with the tenors behind them in the second row.  Then, let’s have the french horn, trombones, and baritones next to the tenors, with the snare drum on the end.  Don’t be bashful; you can go ahead and move.  No, clarinets over here, saxes over there…”  And so it went…

As you can imagine, it can all be a bit overwhelming.  About this time, as I had my head buried in a pile of details, I heard a voice beside me:

“Mr. Shaver?”  It was Melissa, my seventh grader, picking up her clarinet before heading home.  “I can’t leave without a hug,” she said.

I put my arm around her shoulder and gave her a quick hug, all the time thinking that teachers aren’t supposed to do that anymore.  “I’ll take one of those anytime, Melissa.  Have a good night.”

Then I got right back to work.  I really didn’t think much about it at the time.  But later on, while driving home feeling tired and frazzled, I remembered her hug and smiled, and thought how glad I am that Melissa wuz here.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mom on April 18, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    I love how you care about your students. Mom


  2. I absolutely LOVE this story. I completely “get” the fear we have about inappropriate touch, but sometimes kids just need hugs. You sound like a good teacher and one that your kids will remember.


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