My husband and I had a great opportunity to chaperone the Bell Mountain Middle School Symphonic Band field trip to Disneyland last Friday. They had auditioned and were selected out of hundreds of other bands to perform at the California Adventure theme park.
Being a chaperone isn't what is sounds like. These kids don't have to be babysat. In fact, they are allowed to cruise the park on their own for the day. Their main instructions are to follow the rules and be at the designated places on time.
At first, I was a bit surprised at the level of freedom they were given. When our daughter went last year, I had not let her roam freely in a theme park with her friends before. However, I decided that the band has done this for many years and hasn't had problems, so it was time to let go.
So, as a chaperone I didn't need to accompany the kids anywhere, but the band did need help transporting equipment and parents are needed to be on hand in the event of an emergency.
This was actually my second trip with the band. Last year I was able to go to Knotts Berry Farm with them for a band competition. For that trip, I chose to spend part of the day with my daughter and her friends in an effort to get to know them better.
Both experiences reminded me a few things about middle school kids:
1. They actually can be pretty responsible. Each time they had to meet their teacher for something, they were there on time. Not once was the band director left waiting for someone to show up. Considering that they were at a theme park with long lines for rides and long distances to walk, that was impressive.
2. They aren't always very thoughtful about looking out for each other. During both trips, I witnessed several kids getting "ditched" by their groups. From what I could see, it wasn't intentional. It seemed to be a case of a large group of kids getting caught up in the fun, hurrying off to where they wanted to go, and not bothering to check to make sure no one was left behind. It was an example of how middle school kids can be pretty self-centered at times.
For the most part, though, they did a good job. Granted, these are some of the best kids in the school; it takes discipline and dedication to get into Symphonic Band. Still, I was impressed with the lack of issues that arose on these trips. I was even more impressed at the quality of music these kids can produce. Their director requires a lot of them, and they rise to his expectations. Listening to them play is truly enjoyable. Hearing them play in a setting like Disneyland was a rare treat.
In many areas, budget cuts have made the band program a thing of the past. In Menifee Union School District, however, it has remained a priority. This is one of the reasons we chose to come to this area. Music enriches the lives of these kids and helps develop qualities that will bring them success in life no matter what profession they choose.
These band trips have given me a chance to see how kids I've known since Kindergarten are beginning to mature into responsible young adults. I hope our community will continue to support the music programs at our schools, because it does make a difference in our future.
Karen Thomas is a stay at home mom of four daughters, has been on the PTA board at her kids' school for four years, and is a volunteer at her church, in addition to her activities as a volunteer soccer referee, a piano teacher, and a runner. Her column will appear here every Thursday. Comments are welcome.