Monday, November 29, 2010

Crush by The Dave Matthews Band

I’ve always loved music but I haven’t always loved my passion for music.

In high school as I discovered The Beatles, Motown and delved deep into my studies of classical music, I found that none of my classmates seemed to shared my enthusiasm and love for music.

It was “dorky,” that I liked 1960s music, “nerdy” that I loved classical music and incredibly “un-cool” that I admitted to enjoying the resurgence of pop music with the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears (which you know other people did, I mean look at the sales of this artists at that time). But there was one person who thought my love of music was cool, Vauhini.

One night after hanging out with a group of friends, she gave me a ride home. As she drove “Crush” by The Dave Matthews Band came on the radio. Vauhini was a big fan of Dave Matthews Band and it was “Crush” and its accompanying album, Before These Crowded Streets that really helped me realize the greatness of The Dave Matthews Band.

“Crush” melded DMB’s jam band sensibilities with Jazz creating a dark and emotional opus. Like the best of DMB’s songs “Crush” had a dramatic arc that made the music go somewhere significant. Something changes for the character in the music and us as listners also experience this as we are taken to somewhere we never expect.

In the soft glow of the instrument panels of Vauhini’s car, I described the magic between the notes. I talked about the way that DMB holds back allowing different layers of instruments to come through. I guided her through the long verse that gradually opens up to choruses full of elation and the unforgettably ending of this song.

Throughout “Crush,” DMB creates a feeling of something building, like someone barely able to hold in his joy. Each chorus gives us a little release but never leaves us fully satisfied. In the second to last chorus, it seems like we get there and as Dave Matthews pulls back the song takes a breath. Then the song builds back up as Matthews, almost growling builds to a final exclamation of joy. He changes the lyrics and the melody adding syncopated rhythms while the band to a climax in a way that is beautifully symphonic.

After the song ended, Vauhini smiled with a sense of joy you can only get from seeing someone describe something they love. I’ll never forget how free I felt at that moment to be exactly who I was, feeling no need to hide or be ashamed of how I felt about music.

I often think about that moment when writing about music because it reminds me that I’m not alone. Yes, most of the people in high school didn’t understand me but Vauhini did and that gave me hope that there are other people in the world who would like me for my passions. Now I have a whole family of friends and who do just that.

Thanks Vauhini
It's crazy, I'm thinking just as long as you're around.
I'm here I'll be dancing on the ground.
Am I right side up or upside down?
To each other, we’ll be facing.

Vauhini Vara is reporter at the Wall Street Journal and a fiction writer with work with published or forthcoming in Glimmer Train, Epoch, and Black Warrior Review. Check out her work at

Friday, November 26, 2010

Week 11: Simple Gifts

Teachers often talk about how much they learn from students. Sometimes this “learning” comes from research that goes into preparing lessons and other times the students literally teach teachers things.  And it was my students who taught me the meaning of "Simple Gifts."

For the past month, I’ve been preparing for our Thanksgiving Assembly. This program is like a school play involving students acting out stories telling about the origins of Thanksgiving and Native American folklore. My part involved teaching my third graders “Simple Gifts” with an Orff accompaniment (those xylophone instruments). Closing the assembly with “Simple Gifts” is a much-loved tradition in this school and I was more than happy to teach this song.

“Simple Gifts” is a song composed by the Shakers, a religious organization formally known as the United Society Of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing. They were most active in the early 1800s and lived in communal communities.  This group got the nickname “Shakers” because of the way they danced. Music and dancing was central to the Shakers spiritual experience and “Simple Gifts” like many of their songs is a dance tune.

Aaron Copland popularized this song including it in the music he composed for the ballet, Appalachian Springs.

An arrangement of this song was also performed at the inauguration of President Obama.

That is pretty much where my knowledge of this song stopped.

Last week ten minutes before I was going to teach a class, I found out I was going to teach a different class. Without a lesson plan I hurriedly created a worksheet about the song “Simple Gifts.” The first two pages were a fill in the blank lyric activity and on the last page I asked my students to write down their three favorite “simple gifts” from the song and to come up with three “simple gifts” that were not in the song.

The worksheet did a nice job of filling up most of the lesson and at the end I brought the class together to discuss what they had written down. After going through the worksheet, I asked my students to define a “simple gift.”

They told me that “simple gifts” are not things that you can out put in a box. One of my students articulated that a simple gifts is something that you do for each other. When I asked them what wasn’t a "simple gift," they gave me examples like video games and televisions and when I asked them to come up with “simple gifts” they responded with the idea of sharing and being kind.

Thanks to my third graders now I understand why “Simple Gifts” is a fitting song for Thanksgiving. The most important gifts in life, the things that we are thankful for are not things that you can put a price tag on. They are things that we do for each other and with each other. In thinking about the gifts that we are thankful for it encourages us to pass on those gifts to the ones we loves transforming the act of thanksgiving to an act of giving.
‘Tis the gift to be loving,
‘Tis the best gift of all,
Like a warm spring rain bringing beauty when it falls,
And as we use this gift we may come to believe,
It is better to give than it is to receive.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Harry Potter And Somebody's Missing A Nose

I had a great time seeing Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows last weekend. It is without a doubt the best Harry Potter film out of the seven and the first since the first two that didn't feel rushed. Even without having read any of the books (I know I'll get on it), I could feel that things were left out in the other films but not in this one.

I love the slower pace and it really makes me wish they did each book as a full season television show. The atmosphere and the mood were great and I continue to be impressed with the actors especially the leads.  I also continue to be annoyed with the look of Voldemort. I know that he is suppose to have the look of a snake but sometimes things don't translate from the page from the screen.  Grandpre (the illustrator for the Harry Potter series) got it right with the angular face and big red eyes.   

Conan knows what I mean:

[note how all of this footage is from Part II!]

And to the girl a couple seats down from me who freaked out a end of the film "Oh My GOD!!! I can't believe I have to wait months to see what happens!!!" go buy the book or at least read the wiki summary . . . like I did.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hey Jude by The Beatles

Imagine you are going to visit a 5 year old whoes parents are getting a divorce. Now imagine that the child’s father is one of the most famous people in the world that has been absent for most of this child’s life and cheated on his wife.

This is what Paul McCartney faced in as he went to visit Julian Lennon, John Lennon’s son with his first wife Cynthia. In 1968, John met Yoko Ono and had an affair with her that resulted in a divorce leaving young Julian at the center of it all. Paul sat down to write down his thoughts to Julian and what these comforting words became was one of Beatles most enduring classics “Hey Jude.”

This song shattered pop music’s song forms as one of the longest songs ever to be a number 1 hit but what makes this song uniquely meaningful is what this song is at its heart: a song of comfort and reassurance.

Amidst love songs, protest music and psychedelic rock, Paul is singing to comfort us all balancing an ambiguous subject with emotional clarity, the Beatles created a universal song of comfort and reassurance that has stood the test of time.

The song begins giving advice about how to approach a girl.
Hey Jude, don’t be afraid,
You were made to go out and get her.
The minute you her under your skin,
Then you begin to make it better.
In the refrains where Paul digs deeper the situation with Julian helping him understand that the divorce is not his fault, “don’t carry the world your shoulder.” Then there is the most touching line in the song in the last refrain when Paul reassures Julian that he is worth something and that all he needs is within himself.
So let it out and let it in, hey Jude, begin,
You’re waiting for is one to perform with.
And don’t you know that it’s just you, hey Jude, you’ll do,
The movement you need is on your shoulder.
Paul wraps up all of these thoughts and feelings in an extended ending sections, a sing-a-long of sorts with a chorus of na’s repeated for the last half of this seven minute song. What is going on here? It’s repetitive, lyrically non-sense and up until this point in pop music was something that was never heard before.  Even though this sections seems illogical something about it works.

The ending of “Hey Jude” provides space to reflect on the song. It frames all of the emotions and give focuses us on one of the main points of the song, making one’s life better.  It is not the words that we speak that we comfort each other in times of need.  The words are merely an expression of being there with someone in a time of need that makes them meaningful.

Hearing a chorus of people singing inviting us as an audience to sing along creates the ultimate feeling of comfort as a chorus of voice beyond is saying that things will be okay. It is not just one person’s belief that things will improve, it’s our shared humanity, our shared hope that this ending expresses which is what gets us through the darkest moments in our lives.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Week 10: My First Campfire

On a crisp fall night, I stood in front of a campfire surrounded by almost sixty 5th graders. I felt the cold steel under my fingertips as my left hand formed a chord around the neck of my guitar. I flicked my pick between my fingertips of my right hand trying to summon the courage to play. Turning away form the onlookers I looked into fire, slowly exhaled and drew my right across my guitar and let the my guitar sing out into the night.

I’ve never led a campfire sing along or even participated in one. It’s not that I have anything against campfires, the opportunity just never came up. So I had some apprehension at the idea of leading a campfire.  All of that melted away as soon I started singing “Mbube,” better know as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

The cool night air, the smell of the smoke and the light of the fire mixed with the sound of the guitar making the tone of the instrument glow. Now there may be no scientific way that those factors could change the sound of a guitar but I swear it did.

Leading a campfire is like conducting but more intimate and immediate. There’s a beautiful feeling of letting go when you stand in the center surround by voices that is humbling and truly unforgettable.

We ended the sing along with a song that is traditional for all 5th graders to sing at my school, “Orion.” Before we began I told them this:
One of the many things I love about music is how music can make us feel. Sometimes that feeling comes from the subject, what the lyrics in a song are about, and sometimes it comes from somewhere else.
When I mentioned to my 8th grade students that I was going to this retreat with all of you, they started singing “Orion.” When I asked them what that song was about, instead of talking about the starts they told me about this moment, singing this song together around a campfire.
Music has the ability to transport us to different times and places. When you experience a song in a special moment such as this, the song becomes linked to that experience and every time you hear that song it will take you back to the that memory.
While the subject of a song is important what is personally meaningful is how music ties into our lives, our memories and our hearts.
Let’s shares this moment together. Make this memory special so when I see you in 8th grade and I mention that I’m taking my 5th graders to this retreat you come back to this movement and feel how special it is to share this time together.
I can’t wait until next year when I get to revisit my first campfire experience playing
"Orion" and create new memories for my future students as my current students created for me as we shared the magic of creating music.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Put Me Back Together by Weezer

Weezer singing to . . . um . . . children?

There's always been a layer of sadness behind the quirkiness of Rivers' music but in this song he lets the darkness come to the front.  This song is about gratitude and desperation all at the same time as he explains how much help he needs to be put back together.

There is something fascinating about watching Rivers Cuomo singing this emotionally draining and intimate song in front of children in a playground.  I am sure that the meaning of this song is lost on the children in the audience but he tries anyways.  It is this attempt that makes this song that much more powerful as sings to anyone who will listen to his pain.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Buffy's Sense Of TIme

It is often said that dogs don’t have a sense of time. The argument is that if you leave a dog alone for 5 minutes it’s the same thing to a dog as if you were gone for 5 hours. Because of this it is thought that dogs live in the moment, not dwelling on the past or thinking about the future. After having Buffy in my life for the more than a year, I completely disagree with these ideas.

I think these ideas come more from dogs’ lack of ability to express and comprehend language connected the concept of time. I can communicate some things like commands with Buffy:

And there are the emotions that we share through looks in the eye or body language but time is something we simply do not have the language to articulate to each other. However just because there is not language to communicate a concept doesn’t mean that it isn’t understood. A baby feels happy or sad long before it has the words to express these emotions and Buffy definitely understands time.

Buffy’s enthusiasm to see me when I get home is directly proportional to the amount of time that I’ve been away from home (though if she just woke up form a nap it takes her second to greet me because she has to do her doggy stretches). If I’ve been away for an extended period of time she will through her body completely into me and give me face-licking like you would not believe.

Buffy also has a sense of the day and knows what’s coming up next. My girl dislikes waking up on Mondays when we get up after two days of sleeping in.  In the evening she joins us in the bedroom and attempts to help us get ready for bed, which mainly consists of her trying dry us off after a shower by licking our legs.

When Buffy’s routine is changes, there is no way for us to explains to Buffy what’s going on. On some level, I envy Buffy. Life must be a great adventure for her full of surprises every day, however I imagine how stressful life could be for her with so much uncertainly. How does Buffy get through the day without so many unknowns in her life every day?

For Buffy, what we have done since the first day we welcomed her into our family is be there for her and surround her with positive experiences so that uncertainly in her life is answered with love. What we created for Buffy’s life is the same thing we all need, the same hope that tells us that things are going to be okay even if we don’t know which way the road will turn.

Buffy has a sense of time and other things that she cannot express to us but what is magical is how she is able teach us what it means to be alive and experience life through the simple gift of time.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Week 9: The Plan

“I love it when a plan comes together.”

Nothing ever goes exactly as planned when you are a teacher.  Every week, I make lesson plans for the classes I teach and almost every single lesson I teach varies from the plans that I make.

Now it may seem like that I’m just really bad at planning but that’s not really the case and if you ask around the only teachers that you find that teach exactly as they prescribe in a lesson plan are people who aren’t very good teachers.

You can plan for a lot of things but you can’t plan for everything. You don’t know what students have happening at home, you don’t know what just happened the class before and you don’t know how exactly how your students are feeling. Even after I teach the same group of students for months, you can never predict what they are going to bring to the table, so if you are truly teaching them and being responsive to them, you have to willing to change your plans.

My plan was for my three fifth grade classes to learn two different songs. One class was going to compose percussion parts, one class would learn instrument parts and the other class would sing. The second song would have a similar arrangement but the classes would switch jobs.  After a couple weeks for all three classes would come together and put these parts together. This all sounds simple enough.

Well, a bunch things didn’t go as planned. Composing percussion parts worked great for one of the songs and for the other song, not so well. There were three attempts by that class to compose parts and it just didn’t work out. The instrumental parts for the first song had to be modified because they just weren’t gelling together and I had to cut a section out of the second piece because it wasn’t working with the instrumental parts.

What you just read probably made no sense, the point is though, I had make a lot of changes. Every single time I made a change it made the prospect of putting all the parts together seem more intimidating. I felt that every time I was changing part of the plan it was derailing the quality of the song when we put it together. That concern was compounded by the idea of having to teach 57 fifth graders in a room designed for 19 with two-thirds of the students having instruments in their hands.

The day before our the rehearsal I asked one of the fifth grade classes, “what is the point of our group rehearsal?” The first students said that it was to learn the other parts. The second student said it was to prepare for our performance and the third student said it was to have fun.”

I had made all of these plans but somewhere I lost sight of the overall goal to have students have positive interactions with music and through challenging musical development enjoy music on a deeper and more meaningful level which in fifth grade speak is “to have fun.”

I threw out my original plan for the group rehearsal and simply planned to have fun. With fifty-seven fifth graders crowded into the music room on a Friday afternoon, we made some beautiful music and shared a wonderful moment together.

I love it when a plan comes together, but sometimes I love it even more when it doesn’t.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Best Part Of The Day by Elton John & Leon Russel

My favorite track from Elton's new record, The Union her recorded with one of his heroes Leon Russel.

I'm still not quite sure what to make of this album, but this song is one of Elton's most heart warming and watching Elton geek out as he plays with one of his heroes reminds us that at heart, we are all fans.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mine by Taylor Swift

“People like to fixate on Taylor Swift’s youth, as if to say, yeah, she’s pretty good for her age. But that just begs a question: Where are all the older people who are supposedly making better pop records than Taylor Swift? There aren’t any.”

This opening from Rolling Stone’s four star review of Taylor Swift’s new album Speak Now pretty much sums up the reality of the situation. Her career has no parallel in popular music. Taylor Swift a country singer, on an independent label, recording music that she composes and at the age of 20 is one of most popular and critically acclaimed musicians of her time.

If you don’t like her music, it’s all good, there’s no apologizing for taste, but it is undeniable the incredible craft and skill she puts into her song writing. Is Taylor innovating like crazy? No, but what she is doing reflecting on her own life and beliefs in a genuine and intimate way that speaks directly from her soul to our hearts.

The lead single “Mine” is “Love Story” matured from an idealized fairy tale romance to realistic struggle of a couple. It follows a similar form providing background on a relationship building to a flipping perspective in the song which for “Love Story” is when he proposes to her (which is a moment that gets to me every time I listen to that song).

What is remarkable about this song is the way that Taylor packs in so much information in so few lines, painting a rich and deep emotional story in a subtle and unassuming way.

The first verse sets up the story as Taylor meets a college student. She describes her own insecurities “I was a flight risk, afraid of falling, wondering why we bother with love, if it never last” (man, that’s girl has a little Bob Dylan in her, wow) which sets up her emotional journey.

The chorus describes a critical memory which will come back to bring Taylor comfort as well as describing how she views herself, “you made a rebel of a careless man’s careful daughter.” This line not only sounds great but it speaks to the reality that girls often end up with guys like their father and while she views her dad as careless it is the same rebellion that this guy bring out of her, helping her embrace the parts of her father that are within herself.

The second verse describes the struggles in her relationship and how thinking back on a memory helps her get through the fights. The conflict is continues in the bridge as she feels that the relationship is “slipping right out of our hands” like she predicted in the first verse. Bracing herself of the worst her love interest responds not with an apology but a memory, the same memory that she holds so dear in her heart. Knowing that they feel the same way Taylor exclaims at the end that she “I can see it now,” the future they have together.

Relationships succeed or fail often because of the similarities or differences in the way people feel about each other. When you know in your heart that the person you love, loves you back with the same depth and passion that you feel instead of grasping at past glories as Taylor does in the first part of the song the future opens up with possibilities and wonder.

I love the memories I have of times I spent with my wife Diana but more than that it's the future that excites me. I don't know how Taylor Swift captured all of this so beautifully in her music. I just know that Taylor Swift reflects my belief in love and the beauty of life and for that I will forever hold her music close to my heart.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Week 8: What I Learned In Kindergarten

conversation between myself [T] and a class of Kindergarten students

T – Does anyone know how strings are on a guitar? It’s between 1 and 10 strings!
Student 1 – 7?
T – Good guess, but it’s closers, it’s between 1and 7.
Student 2 – 4?
T – Yes, that is between 1 and 7 but that’s not it. It’s between 4 and 7
Student 3 – 5?
T- Very close, not quite it’s between 5 and 7.
Student 4 – 8?
T – Not quite
Student 5 – [interrupting] 8!!!
T – No, it’s between 5 and 7 which is 6.
[blank expression across the entire class of students]

“I can’t imagine teaching students at this age,” is one the first comments teachers say when they observe grade levels they do not normally teach. Last week I spent time visiting three-kindergarten classroom and seriously, I would have NO idea what to do with those kids.

One of my goals as a new teachers in the school is to get out of my bubble and observe other classrooms to get a sense of the school and how what I do fits in within the larger educational community. Mostly I’ve been visiting other teachers who teach the grades that I teach but last week I decided to venture outside of my comfort zone and enter the worlds of four and five year olds.

As teachers, we purposely make students feel discombobulated. Working through confusion and discomfort in a safe and structured way is an important way for students to grow. Even though I strive to help my students feel more comfortable with being uncomfortable, I don’t often put myself in these situations purposely but entering these kindergartners was an exception.

I observed students learning how to draw the letter “D.” There was snack time in which the students struggled to open their snack packs of vegetables and of course needed my help to open. Free playtime was great as students tugged at my pants to show me around the room. The most fascinating part was watching these students have conversations with each other, which made no sense to me at all but seemed work for them.

Then there were the teachers. I have a limited amount of “elementary school affect” that I use with my third graders. It’s when the pitch of my voice gets a little higher, I talk softer and slower, and express a calmness and comfort completely devoid of the sarcastic edge which is characteristic of my voice. These teachers had this affect to spare laced with patience and understanding that was remarkable and awe-inspiring.

At moments in our lives when we are at our most uncomfortable we search for familiarity to makes us feel at ease, and what comforted me in these classrooms was the same educational values that made me feel like I was speaking the same language even though I was visiting an alien world.

What connected these teachers to the way I teach my eighth graders was they way they talked to the students. When you think about talking to young kids sometimes you think about dumming things down but the teachers did the exact opposite. They challenged the kids, consistently asked follow up question and forced the students to talk up to the teachers talking expressing respect, dignity and belief in the students.

It doesn’t what age a student is, you can always challenge them and push them to be better. Of course you don’t present material that is beyond their comprehension but that’s not what I’m talking about and that’s really not the central point of education.

That's what my time in kindergarten reminded me. We’re don’t teach subjects, we teach people. The time we spend with students is about helping them be the best people they can be. That is something that is so in the forefront of the kindergarten classrooms and sometimes get lost in the bustle of older graders.

Kindergarten is a completely different world but it's a beautiful place to visit and even though they can't count, it's incredibly cute and touching how excited they are to try.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Guest Blog: Honky Tonk Women by The Rolling Stones

Last Saturday the Northwestern Wildcats faced the Indiana Hoosiers winning by three points in Big Ten football action. One of my favorite blogs, Two Penny Opera is written by a Indiana fan. The author Ian and I decided we would guest post on each other's blog to honor of our teams.

We both wrote about "Honky Tonk Women" by The Rolling Stones, bellow are Ian's thoughts on this classic.

As the probable prologue to this post indicates, this article is the spoils of the first ever Purple Reaction/Two Penny Opera Trophy game. As you know, Kingsley is a Northwestern alumnus and I attended Indiana University. On Saturday, the Northwestern Wildcats beat my Indiana Hoosiers, 20-17 in my adopted hometown, Bloomington. It’s not as if this will be an annual game anymore, as the new Big “10” alignment will have this game happen about once every three or four years.
About a month ago, we agreed that the alum of the losing school would write about “Honky Tonk Woman” by the Rolling Stones.

In a way, it’s almost fitting that this song was chosen, as it has a lot in common with my Indiana Hoosiers. The team that IU has is a middle of the pack team in a talented conference. If this team were in the MAC or any other mid major, they would be conference champions. But they have to play Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Northwestern.

If another band had written and produced “Honky Tonk Woman”, it would be the best song that band would have done. With a portfolio containing “Paint it Black”, “Satisfaction”, “Gimme Shelter” and “Sympathy for the Devil”. In fact, “Honky Tonk Woman” wasn’t even the best song from the single (the B-Side was “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”). Plus the song will always have the distinction of being Brian Jones’s swan song. He died the day before it was released in the UK.
The song spins a tale about the sexual adventures of a guy who likes to find drunk and vulnerable women. Ranging from a gin-soaked barfly in Memphis to a divorcee in New York, the storyteller is trying to get over a woman who had wronged him. He tries to imply that he is unwilling to lay down with these women in both stories, but he seems to be all about the honky tonk women.

The song certainly lacks the depth of meaning that most of the early Stones songs had, but it’s one of the more fun and upbeat songs that they created. They went from social commentators that talked about manipulative advertising (“Satisfaction”), drug usage (“Mother’s Little Helpers”) and mourning the loss of a loved one (“Paint it Black”) to party band that’s really into inconsequential sex. “Honky Tonk Woman” is all flash, but has very little substance and isn’t to be taken seriously.
Just like the Hoosiers.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Why I Still Believe In The Power Of Voting

Tomorrow across our country, Americans go to vote and I am as proud to be an American and participate in our government as I have ever been in my life.

How am I hopeful and optimistic about our governments when there’s so darkness in our political discourse right now? Because I simply don’t accept the negativity that people preach and I don’t believe it’s productive for our political process.

There’s no need to put down the other side to build you up. It’s not informative, it doesn’t really say much about what actions people will actually take and it transforms an election from a choice of hope to a choice of fear.

I refuse to accept that as how I make my choices in life.

Both the Republicans and the Democrats have had times in recent history when they had not only the Presidency but also power in the House Of Representatives and Congress. During these times, neither side convinced the population that this was the one true, “right” approach to government for the entire country. What this tells us is that there is not a “right” way of governing but rather a difference of opinion that reflects more individual’s philosophies than what is truly most pragmatic.

I refuse to accept that there is one side that has all the answers.

Lately some crazy people from both sides have gotten a lot of coverage in the press. These people are unreasonable, unrealistic and simply, as Jon Stewart pointed, have too much free time. They do not represent the majority of American they should be ignored. You cannot reason with unreasonable people so don’t bother trying.

I refuse to accept “crazies” in my mind when I think about politics.

If you put aside the negativity, the idea of one side being “right” and all of the insane people who speak louder than the rest of us, what are you left with? You are left with people who are trying to make a difference.

Governor Crist of Florida has made some incredible steps to improve education in Florida. He has acted independent of his party (to the point that now he is running as an independent) to fight for what he thinks is right and you can assume he’s just doing this to get teachers' votes but I think he’s honestly trying help future generations.

President Obama has made a lot choices that aren’t popular. Some people have claim he has ignored the will of the American people and is simply feeding his own agenda. Well, what is agenda as with any other first term president? Getting reelected and right now with his approval ratings he’s clearly not making the choices he is for that reason.

Either you can look at the glass as half empty and think that he is trying to get public opinion by pushing his agenda and just failing pathetically or you can look at the glass half-full and believe that he is truly trying to make a difference for all Americans.

Please vote.  Get people in office that you believe can make our country a better place.  Don't vote by fear, by party or through extremist, vote through hope and optimism.