Friday, August 31, 2012

Student Teaching Part IX: The Space In My Heart

This is the final part of my student teaching journals, click here for previous entries. 

The concert day: insanity. The first collage concert went well. There was a run-through. And then we did it. It was rushed and the percussion did not do as well as I thought they were could . The concert band did well and it was really fun to do "Sleigh Ride" with the full band. Mr. S told the parents to come thank me and tons of them did. One parent got me cookies and well, it was really nice having parents come up to me and thank me for everything I had done. Most of the parents comments focused on how the kids liked me and thought I was cool, which isn’t exactly education at its best but it is a good sign. I mean at this age, any positive discussion between parents and kids helps and at least I did that.

Mr. S had an issue with Katie the night before at the rehearsal and she told me to promise that I would never yell at a kid irrationally. Which is something that I really couldn’t promise. I kind of played the sarcasm game too much with her and apologized. I’m glad I’ve built up a relationship with Katie and that she feels comfortable talking to me.

During set-up yesterday Laurie told me I was the only student teacher she was had that she feels comfortable being alone with. That was really nice though it did creep me out about the status of her other student teachers.

I'm going to miss that girl.

During a break before the basketball game I had a long talk with Megan. It was a really good one on one. She told me that she wanted to be an actor. This is something she has never told anyone before. We talked about her family and her life. She told me how her dad was involved in a Terry Shivo like case and what that meant to her with her dad being unemployed. She is a 2nd generation immigrant like myself. Times like that, just talking for like 45 minutes really make all of the crap worth it. I will miss that.

Today was Mr. S’s last day with me. He is going to the Midwest Convention after today and I am left with the band. He had some great parting words for me. He told me to make sure that I get a mentor on my first job and that he will be looking out for me for jobs. It’s amazing that he believes in me. He was very complimentary of me and in the last couple weeks he has been more and more appreciative on my help. I got him some CD’s as a thank you gift. The next couple days will be a lot of work but I’m looking forward to it.

Mr. S really does believe in me more then I believe in myself. It’s amazing that it has almost been 5 months. Things really do fly by. I spent so much time with Mr. S and now it just seems like it’s over and well, it’s sad but I’m just so thankful for the time I’ve had. This has been a great partnership and mentor situation with Mr. S and I wish I could stay for the whole year but I’m also glad I’m moving on. I am so lucky for all that I’ve had and Mr. S has been a great person to work with. He is so critical of other people, the fact that he believes in my abilities meant a lot.

I was the first student teacher in 3 years to make a real connection with the students. He feels that this is important. He says I’m a smart guy with people and can keep things together. Everything has turned out great and I’m looking forward to the next couple days so much.

I had one more talk with Katie. It’s interesting and challenging talking to her. I hope that she feels better about things at least. She’s a great kid. Mr. S might be a little hard on her but it’s tough for me to say but anyways, I’m going to miss her.

My final words:
Thank you so much for being so honest and open and patient with me. You more then anything else made this experience for the past five months, one of the most meaningful of my life. You’ve not only helped me and made an incredible change in my life but you have also effected future students of mine.

A lot of you have asked me if I will come back and visit. And I don’t know right now. I mean I will have a whole new group of students next quarter and my life, well, I’m not so sure about where things will go. I would love to be there and share in your accomplishments and help you in your struggles but I can’t. But one thing I will tell you is that no matter what,, when you have a great meaningful experience with someone , it creates a space in your heart and you can visit it and can’t help but smile and you have that in my heart.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

What Buffy Did During Her Summer Vacation!!!








Monday, August 27, 2012

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together by Taylor Swift

Hope is a powerful force.

It can change the course of history and save people’s lives. However, hope can also hold us back.

Diana and I have never broken up and then gotten back together. That was not the case with my high school girlfriend. We probably broke up three of four times for reasons that I cannot bring to mind. The reasons why we got back together, I can’t remember either.

The last time we broke up was right before I left for college. She was staying in the Seattle area and I was moving out to Chicago. We agreed that we would break up and move on with our lives but that we would still be friends.

The problem was that our definition of “friends,” was different. I didn’t want to respond to the daily e-mails and instant messages. She wasn’t getting the hint when I would not respond as quickly with shorter e-mails explaining that I was busy.

When I got to college I let go of any possibility that we would get back together, but she didn’t, she held out hope.

She kept pushing and pushing to be part of my life and as she continued to not get my hints, I became harsher and meaner and in the process, I fear that I broke her heart. I just wanted to move on and as horrible as this sounds, the only that I could do this was telling her over the phone that we would never get back together.

There were tears and these words resonated in a completely different way than the way Taylor sang these same words.

Taylor Swift’s newest single, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” is about the freedom and joy that comes from giving up on any hope that a relationship will come back together.

This song continues the evolution of Taylor Swift’s musical style. She takes different musical elements from her own musical heritage and mixes it with moderm influences to create a fresh and original sounding song that is uniquely Taylor.

The opening guitar lick has two effects thrown in that seems to turn the line around like a sample in a rap song. As soon as that is established she introduces a steady thumping beat. This four on the floor bass drum rhythm comes from country line dancing and can be heard in Springsteen’s “Shackled And Drawn.”

Taylor has already combined very different musical elements, the feel of sample and a the beat and pulls it together with a hook featuring repeated syllables that is reminiscent of “Umbrella” by Rhianna and harmonies in the chorus that sound like something out of a One Direction or Jonas Brother’s song.

All of these different influences and musical ideas combine with Taylor’s unique subject matter. Now does Taylor Swift sound like a woman in her early 20’s? Do girls this age actually sound like this when they talk about relationships? I can’t generalize but I know girls who do and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. I think this song may come across as speaking from more of a teenage perspective because of the sound of the song, but Taylor is singing about relationship relapses that happen just as often with young adults.

All of this adds up to expressing that moment when you finally get over a relationship and are once again excited about the future possibilities. If you break up with someone and keep hoping in the back of your mind that you could get back together with that person then you can never truly move on with your life.

I didn’t learn until later when I was dumped how the loss of hope could hurt but how this pain could lead to the kind of joy that Taylor sings about. I know in my heart that my high school girlfriend got to that place as well. As I telling myself this to make myself feel better about my actions, probably but after twelve years, what else is there, but hope?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Student Teaching Part VIII: Testing Time

This is the eighth entry of my student teaching journals (Part IPart II, Part III, Part IV, Part V & Part VI, Part VII).

Right before I started to teach concert band, Mr. Smith the orchestra teachers asked me to switch rooms so he wouldn’t have to move the percussion equipment. He asked me presenting it in a way that if I said no, I would be making a big inconvenience. He asked why I needed to record when so many players were gone, and I told him it was for student teaching stuff. He didn’t want to spend half of the period moving “a lot of percussion equipment including timpani and mallets” but I explained to him that I needed to record the band so I couldn’t.

I found this weird that he hadn’t thought about this earlier and asked Mr. S yesterday about this. He ended up only taking a couple things from the band room like the snare drum and cymbals.

During 6th, he came in and asked me how things went and I told them they went well. He said he was glad to hear that but it wasn’t genuine. Part of me thinks he wanted to hear that I had a bad time because so many players were gone. Right before jazz Bill asked about the whole situation because Mr. S made some comment about, “bashing the student teacher” saying that they couldn’t switch rooms because the student teacher had to record, and from Bill’s description probably in a bitchy way. That’s annoying. I need to talk to Mr. S to see how I should take this. I feel like he was trying to take advantage of the fact Mr. S wasn’t there and that he knew days ago he was going to have this situation but didn’t want to deal with it with Mr. S.

Monday, nothing too much happened to day. The day went smoothly, Mr. S mentioned that it might be good to confront Mr. Smith about Wednesday. When you do that you let the other person know you aren’t taking that stuff, it makes you look better as the person trying to mend things and it sends a message of maturity.

Today in concert band we had Sleigh Ride testing. The way this worked is that Mr. S and I figured out spots in the piece that needed to be tested on. The whole band sat in the room and Mr. S would call out section of the piece to play with certain sections. He moved around the band so that no section was sitting there doing nothing for too long.

When it was a sections turn, he would sometimes have them play it once as a section. About two or three people would play an excerpt at a time, if he needed to isolate who was having issues he would have people play alone. The whole band was present so every was listening to everyone else's test. This did put a level of peer pressure on the situation and gave everyone in the band an idea of how everyone else is playing. If people talked Mr. S said he would take points off, so the room was silent while testing was going on.

Mr. S told me later that he doesn’t want kids to get “F’s,” he just wants to get them to learn music. He did stall on some of the testing which gives a lot of kids another day to practice as we finish up testing tomorrow. I mean it’s not fun to humiliate kids who haven’t worked hard, but it’s part of the game and the responsibility of dealing with you own actions.

In Sleigh Ride some of the sections sounded ok as a group but the instant smaller groups of people started playing problems really emerged. It is tedious but I think if it comes from an attitude of getting kids moving and making sure people don’t hide in the section, then I think it’s a good idea. It takes a willingness to do things students don’t like to help them learn which is a hard thing to do but a responsible and necessary step to take to help education students.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Philsophy Of Music Education

At graduate school I wrote a final paper for my Philosophy Of Music Education class.  To prepare for the school year, I decided to take a look back.  I'm not sure how I feel about all of this now after six years of teaching.  Some things I question (music as a language) and other things are reminders about why I love my job (musical meaning). 

Sometimes in life when trying to follow our passion, we misunderstand what we really love. When I chose to be a composer as an undergraduate at Northwestern, I thought my passion was for composition. I found myself wanting to be challenged more so I picked up a conducting degree my junior year in addition to my composition degree and thought that my real passion was for conducting. The fact of the matter was that what I loved about composition and conducting was the opportunity to empower individuals by helping them develop personal meaning in music. I realized then my love was for teaching. With this, I chose to pursue a master in music education degree to further develop my love for music, teaching and students.

In the past, philosophy seemed like a discipline of thinking about ideas that are interesting and mentally stimulating but not relevant. I now find this is not true at all. Philosophy for music educators changes teaching into an art form. A philosophy of teaching defines the values of a teacher and informs the decisions a teacher makes. Practical experience informs a philosophy creating an evolving set of values. With this set of values, educators can better communicate to others music’s important role in education. Teachers become artist through developing a philosophy that helps them understand, analyze and improve their craft.

Understanding music as a language is central to my approach music education. Music is a language that communicates emotions. Listening and performance are both important parts of music education. Both provide different ways of understanding. Variety in musical understanding needs to be included in the education of students to develop different ways for students to understand and learn music.

Musical meaning is how individuals understand music. People understand music in many different ways influenced by life experience. Musical meaning varies reflecting people’s lives and experiences. Musical meaning evolves as people grow. The goal of music education is to help develop in students more significant musical meaning.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dancing In The Dark by Bruce Springsteen

As I said goodbye to Allie, I tried to say something honest and real but instead all I could muster was awkward reassurances. Allie was moving away and like any big change in life, the feeling was bittersweet. There was the excitement of new opportunities mixed with letting go of the life that came before.

One of the things about going to a college that attracts people from all over the country is that you become friends with people who in the years after college move away.  My late twenties seemed to be marked with having to say goodbye to friends.

Saying goodbye always feels unfinished. There is never enough time to say what you want. You tell yourself that it doesn’t matter if you get it all out because you'll "be in touch," however that's not always the case.  As easy as a cell phone call or an e-mail can be, sometimes keeping in touch with those we care about fall to the corners of our lives.

While we said our goodbyes the silences between our words were filled with the joyous singing of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark.” Like a guiding spirit, his presence helped me get through that moment and listening to this song afterwards revealed to me feelings I always had but couldn't articulate.

“Dancing In The Dark,” is Springsteen’s most successful single that led to the sales of Born In The U.S.A. This song, packed with 1980s synthesizers feels completely different than the passionate and operatic rock of Born To Run. While people seemed to revel in this song, the happy melody and harmony juxtaposed against the disturbingly dark lyrics like “I want to change my clothes, my hair, my face,” never really made sense to me.

Something changed when I listened to this song and thought about Allie. The lines about the challenges of life seemed to take a back seat to the lyrics about hope:
Message keeps getting clearer . . . 
There’s something happening somewhere. . .
I’ll shake this world off my shoulders, come on baby this laughs on me.
These lines reflect why I admire Allie and why I am proud to be her friend.  While Allie has been blessed with a wonderful life, she has had challenges. When life has knocked her down, Allie gets right back up, and with a smile keeps on.  Never a victim, Allie lives life with the wind on her back and the sun upon her face.

In darkness, like in life there is much to fear.  You can’t predict the future and it’s impossible to truly see what’s around you in the darkness. So you have a choice: you can sit in the darkness petrified by uncertainty or you can stand up and dance.

Allie chooses to dance.

None of this came out as I said goodbye because I didn’t really want to think about what it meant for Allie to move away. Now that I have, I think it’s okay that things were left unfinished. This friendship isn’t ending so why should a goodbye feel complete?

Allie, best of luck in your new place with your new job, I’ll see you in September when Bruce rocks Wrigley.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Student Teaching Part VII - The Writing On The Board

This is the seventh entry of my student teaching journals (Part IPart II, Part III, Part IV, Part V & Part VI).

The kids will surprise you some days. Megan came into Mr. S's office and said hi to both of us. And that was really nice for me. It was like she acknowledged that things were ok between us. And for her age and her maturity, I guess that's her saying that she's sorry and that she's not holding what I did against me, which as nice. It's amazing how little things like that can make your day.

So things are totally cool with Megan. I think in some ways she respects me more and I don't know how she got over what I did, but I guess the thing that bugs me the most is the fact that as a teacher you love and care about all your students. And you like them too and it's tough to be teaching students who don't care about or like you. I don't know how teachers can do this and teach kids and stick with them even though some students may not like them. it really is an amazing thing to think about.

So Abby, the girl I helped yesterday on the trombone came in and did a mediocre audition. She dropped chairs in the concert band even though she was trying for the symphonic band. Before posting the audition results Mr. S called her in to explain things to her and why she was placed lower. She was pissed and left his office. Later, we noticed someone had written “Mr. S is an Ass” on the white board. There was one other girl who could have done it and she received good news that evening.

It’s amazing. You put all this work and time into these kids. And all the auditions really do take a lot of time and Mr. S does this willingly even though he does not have to. You give up all of this and you are working making personal connections with all of these students. It’s an emotional investment along with the time.

The job is great because you are making real connections and effect kids, the downside is that because you care about each kid it’s harder to leave things like your student calling you an ass at work. He was visibly pissed, like so pissed he was quiet. That’s really tough.

With the symphonic band Mr. S discussed the writing on the board from Friday. He was very honest in telling how it hurt him and how it made him frustrated. He told them how much he cared about the class and explained that he is not a warm-fuzzy kind of guy but that he did care.

Music is about emotions and sharing in experiences and if you can't share a part of that with your students, it's just not honest. It never hurts to tell kids you care about them. I think if anything the kids appreciated his honesty. I was very impressed that he would open up like that. There's not always the opportunity to do that but if you open up to the kids and be open, they'll love you for it. It's all about honesty, and really having a reason behind everything you do. Mr. S is trying to change their lives for the better. That's an amazing thing to do and a heck of a goal, and it's a beautiful thing to witness.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Buffy's Monday Morning!!







Monday, August 13, 2012

Top 5 London Olympic Moments

The 30th Olympiad is over and it was really a fun ride. I watched more of this Olympics than any other games and overall I really enjoyed the experience.

So here are my top 5 favorite moments from the games.

5. McKayla Maroney is not impressed

As the memes exploded over the internet with Maroney’s indignant expression, I couldn’t help wonder what McKayla thought of this herself. As a competitor and an Olympic gold medalist she brought a high level of dignity and poise to what she did, which is why every website and new source seemed to get so much glee from this website.

Then McKayla showed her good humor poking fun at herself proving that even the most serious gymnanst  have fun.

4. Women’s Soccer On The Podium

As I watched American atheltes on the podium who won the gold medal I noticed very different reactions to the playing of the National Anthem. The male swimmers stood there looking serious without singing and the female gymnast sang along respectfully. Then I watched the women’s soccer team. The entire team sang along proudly and without hesitation to the National Anthem.

The “Star-Spangled Banner” is a song of pride and celebration and the women’s soccer team truly honored America reflecting on their love of country singing with pride and joy.

3. Freddie Mercury

Watching Freddie Mercury come back to life doing a call and response during the closing ceremony almost brought tears to my eyes. This was taken from a 1986 concert at Wembley Stadium.

Featuring him on enormous screens calling out to the world was a powerful reminder of how far we’ve come and how far we have to go. The fact that he was homosexual and died of AIDs doesn’t matter to so much of the world that love him for everything he was and all that he gave to us. Unfortunately many people in the world still believe stereotypes about homosexuals and get in the way of them having equal rights. London showed the world during the closing ceremony that those people will are wrong through Freddie’s voice and everlasting spirit.

2. American Beating Brazil

There were two stories in American Women’s beach volleyball: Misty and Kerry’s triumph at their last Olympics and Jennifer and April shocking Brazil. Jennifer and April beat top-seeded Brazil in an intense three set match.

What I’ll never forget is how Jennifer and April supported each after every point even the ones they lost.  Watching them play in the pouring rain, you truly felt that while they were fighting to win the game, they were partners and they were not going to give up on this game, but more importantly each other.

1. Gabby Falling Off The Beam

I understand why women gymnasts sometimes cry. They are under incredible pressure performing in front of millions of people and many of them are teenagers. After thrilling the world winning a team gold and an individual all-around gold, Gabby competed for the individual event medal on the balance beam.

During her routine she fell off the beam.  She fought to stay on but she just couldn’t do it and because of this error she finished in second to last place.

But she didn’t cry.

It would have been perfectly understandable if she broke down but instead Gabby was poised and kept it together. In an interview afterwards, she acknowledged that she was drained mentally but wasn’t too hard on herself. It wasn’t a pity party and it wasn’t a tragedy.  You could her in her words a level of perspective and maturity.Some  may think that this was because she had already won two gold medals but I believe that even if she hadn’t she would have carried herself with that level of dignity because Gabby is truly the best kind of Olympian.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Student Teaching Part VI - Black Socks & Angels

This is the sixth entry of my student teaching journals (Part IPart II, Part III, Part IV & Part V).

After school I worked with Katie on her essays for Northwestern. That was a lot of fun. I’m making some real connections with her and she’s beginning to really trust me and open up to me. She is more self-aware then a lot of kids, she just has trouble expressing things and not judging people too quickly. She’s a great kid, and she tries, and I admire her in a way and I’m really going to miss her.

Megan: Mr. S was being tough on black socks today during the game. Kids he caught with black socks had to run in grab a pair so they could do the show. Megan came up to me and jokingly told me that she was walking on a thin line and she would tell me about it after the game. About five minutes later I realized it was the fact she as wearing white socks. Her pants were long so it wasn’t obvious but there still was an issue.

I tried to come down on her and she did not believe I would tell Mr. S. She told me that it wasn’t cool for me to do this and it wasn’t a big del. I reasoned with her for a bit and left her. I told Mr. S and he told me that she needed to get black socks to march 1/2 time. I went back to her and told her and she was pissed that I told Mr. S. She was giving me tons of attitude and really couldn’t believe that I would do that. I let her complain at me and I didn’t want to just blow up at her. I felt that if she got her say maybe she would understand how idiotic she sounded and what she was really saying. It ended with me telling her what was the deal and walking away.

Laurie: God bless her, she came up to me after seeing that whole exchange and apologized for Megan. Laurie is an angel. She is the kind of person that sees into your heart no matter what you try to express on the outside. She saw clearly that this whole Megan thing had shook me up and it did. For some reason I was about to cry. And the thing is I guess was that I knew it wasn’t personal, I knew I was doing the right thing, but it’s hard to hear that stuff.

You care about these kids and it’s easy to be nice to them to show you care but it’s difficult to be hard on them to express that you care and that you aren’t just punishing them for no reason. Especially Megan who I like a lot, it just was hard. Laurie tried to cheer me up and said that something “sucked ass-stronomically.” She was really cute and well. . it’s amazing how some kids get it. They understand when someone is really there who cares about them. Some of the kids really understand that I’m there for them and really trying to help them and well Megan at that moment forgot that but Laurie didn’t.

Right before the halftime performance I checked with one of the moms and she had told Megan that there was socks inside that she could go get. I checked Megan and told her that she could not go on without the socks. She tried to use the excuse that the other kids had not gotten black socks and well, good thing I had checked before talking to Megan because I didn’t let her use that against me. She stormed off. I told Mr. S what had happened. She came back at the last second with black socks.

So I did the right thing. And Megan is going to be pissed at me for hopefully not any longer then a week. And maybe she’ll surprise me by apologizing to me, and maybe from here on out she will hate me. Either way, I did what I did and hopefully somewhere along the line she will understand the choice made and get it.

Mr. S left the game early and I thought he went to the parent party but he didn’t show up there. It was really awkward at this parent party but it was ok. I couldn’t really relax and have a glass of wine. I was still on, but the parents were all very nice and it was ok.

It’s a big thing to have so many people lean on you. It’s a lot of kids to take care of. Sometimes I feel like that I’m about to topple over because there is no way for me to lean on someone else as much as I feel that people are leaning up against me. Teaching is really hard, and sometimes I worry that I don’t have the strength to do this every day.

The rewards are great, and there is nothing like a parent saying thank you, and as much as I can’t lean on a kid, it’s amazing to see a kid like Laurie caring about you. All I can say is that today was tough, but the good stuff I think outweighed the difficult stuff and hopefully in the end the difficult stuff will end up for the best.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Soup or Salad? The Tough Decisions In Life

From the moment we wake up in the morning until we go to sleep at night, we are constantly making decisions. Some of these choices happen quickly and are relatively insignificant like choosing which mug to use in the morning. Others decisions seem more important with long-ranging consequences like making a business deal.

Making decisions often takes little effort but sometimes decisions can literally take hours of thought. Sometimes we spend too little time or too much time deciding on what direction a small part of our life will take.

When I had an important decision to make in high school and college I would make a pros and cons list. This is a strategy that many people recommend. While this was a logical way to analyze the choices in my life, it never really made a difference.

Before making the list I had a feeling of what I wanted to do and after making the list, rarely would that feeling change.  The older I get the less I make pros and cons lists and the more I go with my gut feeling.

Going with your gut requires a belief in your heart that even if a decisions initially may turn out to be wrong it will eventually it work out for the best. The negative consequences of my decisions are never that bad.  Part of this is because I’m still a young adult and because I’ve lived an incredibly lucky and fortunate life that has never required me to make a “Sophie’s Choice.”

Knowledge is part of this equation too. Sometimes the pros and cons list engenders more questions that require research. Doing this is essential to make sure that you don’t sign a bad home loan for example. The thing is even with doing all of your research and checking every angle of a decision, at the end you still have to take a leap of faith.

Logic and facts only get you so far in life. The decisions that matter, the decisions that change your life cannot be fully fleshed out in a chart. They require your heart to make that last step.

Now that I'm an adult decisions seem more important. While this can be frustrating, challenging and sometimes petrifying, the positive side is that you get to make your life what your own.

If you can get through a day without saying “I don’t know,” to yourself in response to a decision, you are probably lying to yourself. Never forget, it’s okay to not know what to do. Do what you have to do, analyze the situation, maybe make a chart, but also listen to your feelings.

While your feelings sometimes change, they are the only thing that you can know in life for sure and deserve your trust.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dancing On The Ceiling by Lionel Richie

"He has a special quality that makes me want to punch him."

 My wife, Diana said this after listening to “Say You, Say Me” by Lionel Richie. Much to her dismay, I recently put Lionel Richie: The Definitive Collection on my iPod and we’ve been listening to it in the car.

Now, I understand what Diana is talking about. Lionel Richie is one of those puzzling figures in pop music. He’s one of the most successful solo artists of all time. If you were alive in the 1980s, you listened to this guys music. He has yet to diminish from our popular culture and his country album, Tuskegee, is one of the best selling albums of 2012.

His incredible success is puzzling because of . . . well . . .  have you seen the video to “Hello”?

I spent an entire blog post (click here) mocking this song. I’m not alone in making jokes at Richie’s 1980s styling and music videos.

Mainstream pop music in the 1980s, while directed at youth culture also seemed directed at forty-year olds. People like Huey Lewis and Billy Joel, seemed to dress like people’s parents and Richie with his jackets and sweaters fit right into this more “comfortable” idea of a pop music star. The artists who are around now present themselves as being younger and more hit and often time more overtly sexual.

The other thing about Richie is that he’s not that good looking and he’s not that great a singer. He has very distinctive adlibs and sings with instantly recognizable phrasing. To certain people, like my wife, it’s kind of irritating. I get that.

But I still love this guy. My favorite Lionel Richie song is “Dancing On The Ceiling.”

My parents bought this CD and I used to dance around listening to the title track. I didn’t know that Fred Astaire had previously done before the whole ceiling dancing thing.

So I was blown away by the music video. Yeah, it’s cheesy, all the cameos are really corny but there’s something about this song that’s so much fun.

Pop music audiences in the 1980s were less cynical. Something cheesy like “Dancing On The Ceiling” could be a hit, a song with a silly and fantastical subject, could never be a hit today. If you can peel back your jaded view on what’s “cool” and “in,” you’ll find that there’s a lot of fun to be had with Richie.

Look at Rascal Flatts kicking it with Lionel.

This is awesome . . . and I’m not saying that in an ironic way. “Dancing On The Ceiling” doesn’t speak any great social message, nor does it break any music boundaries, but it captures that carefree moment I had as a child dancing around my living room with abandon.

What a feeling.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Student Teaching Part V - Crying Freshmen

This is the fifth entry of my student teaching journals (Part IPart II, Part III & Part IV).

What makes a teacher?

What is the distinguishing characteristic that separates teachers from others in society? I believe it is love. Love in teaching is unique, it’s about, courage, strength, persistence and the belief that people can be better then they are.

Today we had an afternoon rehearsal. Mr. S had chosen to utilize a day off school to rehearse the marching band. An hour before the rehearsal the saxophone section leaders had called a sectional. Mr. S was leading a section leader meeting at this time. He felt it would be good for me to work with the saxophone section during the sectional. The first thing for me to do was to take attendance and call whoever was absent. Jack one of the freshmen was not there so I called his house from which I found out that he was on the way over.

The mom came into the office and Jack was outside. I asked her if everything was ok and she said things were definitely not ok. She asked where Mr. S was and I told her he was in a meeting and I asked him if he wanted to talk to her but he was busy with the section leaders. I came back to the office and asked her if she wanted to talk to me. She said she felt it would be good for me to talk to Jack. I was surprised to find that when she brought Jack into the office to talk to me she left.

Part of me was surprised that she left me alone with Jack. The kid was crying, not crying, bawling. In addition, like most boys his age, he was embarrassed to be crying. I talked to him and asked him what was wrong. He proceeded to explain to me that he felt very bad. He was stressed about marching band and how hard it was. I reminded him that there was only three days left and that he should hang in there for concert season. Jack quickly explained that this wasn’t an issue of him wanting to quit band. He said he loved band. The problem was that he felt like everyone in band hated him and that he could easily name 40 people in the band who did.

Jack explained how people in the hallways would say “really nasty” things to him. He said it wasn’t during band and it wasn’t people telling him to march better. It was outside of the band room by band people. At that moment, I told Jack that if he felt that people were going over the line and harassing him that he needed to tell the dean, Mr. S or some other teacher. And I further promised to him that if anything that he was describing happened in the band room or during band telling Mr. S would guarantee that it would never happen again. That didn’t comfort him at all which proved to me, that things were not as bad as he saw them.

If Jack was honestly harassed, having someone say that they would protect him would be a like an angel coming down, but it wasn’t. He just went on about how tough it was. And I explained that I could relate to how hard being a freshmen in high school but you just have to focus and do your best. What I really wanted to say to him was “suck it up and deal! Be a man!” Instead I focused my energy in explaining to him that he was letting a couple people, a couple weak and insecure people shade his entire view of the band which is the most accepting and caring group of teenagers I have ever worked with. He said he understood that when people made fun of him it was their insecurities, but I just could not get him to believe that the people in the band in general were a positive group that did not hate him. I tried and he nodded in head but his eyes showed me that he thought I was telling him a fairy tale. It was hard not to take that personally.

His mom asked me what I thought. I told her I felt like that he was focusing too much on the negative side and that he was clouding his own view of the band to make it as bad as he wanted it to be. She told me that she didn’t think that he was going to be back next quarter for band. That was the issue she saw, and I found that odd that this was not the issue that I felt Jack was expressed to me. Is Jack’s special needs really his biological and developmental issues or is it his mom? Jack had anxiety issues and motor control difficulties. That much was obvious. It was when his mother proceeded to tell exactly the same things Jack was that I really started to question what really is going on with Jack.

She told me that she was disappointed that band wasn’t the safe haven that she felt like Jack needed. In the exactly same way, Jack explained, she told me how hard and stressful band was and how kids didn’t like him. And just like Jack, I don’t think she really believed me when I told her how great I felt like the kids in the band were. After I explained my feelings about the band, she said, “It’s really frustrating, isn’t it, dealing with Jack?” And I told her firmly, “Jack is not frustrating, he’s challenging.”

Jack came back from the bathroom and his mom asked him if he was going to stay for the whole rehearsal. He said that he would and that he had a responsibility and a commitment. His mom suggested that he only stay for part of the rehearsal. I told Jack that he needed to make a decision for himself, and he told me he was going to stay. Jack left soon after. I headed out from the hallway into the band room and another saxophone player who came in late explained his situation to me. I started walking out to the field with him and Jack caught up to me and told me that he was feeling sick and wasn’t sure that he was going to stay. I told him again to make his own decision as an adult. I told him to go inside and get his horn. I went out to work with the saxophone players and he never came out.

I wonder if those couple minutes when I left Jack and his mother alone in the hallway if she convinced him to leave. I could have been harder on him. I know that in some ways his Jack and his mom wanted me to put my foot down and give him an ultimatum saying that he HAD to stay. I’m not in the position to make that kind of statement and I wanted to challenge him as a adult. But perhaps he wasn’t ready for that. Was I wrong to not push him harder to stay? Perhaps, but was I wrong to challenge him to make his own decisions like an adult, no.

I worked with the saxophones and the bigger band later in the rehearsal and on the drive home I found myself not so much frustrated but angry with Jack’s mother. First reason: I appreciate that she made Jack come to rehearsal but the kid was crying and it would have been so embarrassing for Jack if this was a regular rehearsal and not an early sectional. If it had been a regular rehearsal there would have been other kids everywhere, right outside the office and in the band room. I know you have to push your kids but is it worth it at the risk of only making Jack feel worse.

Second reason: what kind of parent leaves their kid alone in the office to talk to a student teacher when the child is crying? I understand that maybe Mr. S would have another perspective or some better advice to give him. But I’m not Mr. S. I’m the student teacher and I’m flattered that she felt that I could help him, but I am also very surprised that she would trust me, someone who doesn’t have the credentials and the background of a hired teacher to basically parent her kid for her. Teachers can be a great resource for parents to better understand their own children. But at this stage in my understanding, bringing a child who is having a breakdown into a teachers office and leaving him or her to talk to someone who is not a consoler, and not even a certified teacher to pull a kid together does not seem like something a parent should do. If anything a teacher should be handing students off to their parents during a breakdown, not the other way around.

Third reason: I know Jack has special needs. But the fact that there were so many similarities to the attitudes of Jack and his mom makes really wonder which of challenges are from his environment and which are from his own biology. I feel a need for a case worker to talk to about Jack. If I could find what problems Jack has that come from his special needs and which ones come from parental influences then I could work with him better. The things from the family, the attitudes and viewpoints on life can be worked with. I can show him a better way, a different answer, a brighter light. The challenges that come from his own special needs are things that I need accommodate and accept to a certain extent.

Fourth reason: Jack’s mother complained that band wasn’t the safe haven for Jack, she hoped it would become. People make their own safe havens in life. It angers me that Jack’s mom has placed these blinders on Jack so that he cannot see the greatness around him in the band. I feel like Jack is trying. I believe he loves being in band. I believe he can find the positivity, but unfortunately, he’s fighting a force a negativity from his mom that blinds him from the light that is the soul of this band. I think in some ways, Jack’s mom wants him to quit more then Jack actually does.

What’s the point? Why bother work with Jack and his mom? Jack will probably never be a music major, he will never sit first chair. Why not give up on him? His potential for greatness is no different then any other student. You would never think to give up on the exemplary first chair clarinet player because there is true greatness there. Jack has greatness I can see it in how he works and he tries. The kid has heart. He can achieve a greater self.

The deeper reasons why I find it impossible to give up on Jack is that in doing that it would be giving up on me. To say that Jack is not worth the effort would be say that I am not worth the effort. The hours my teachers spent on me weren’t worth the effort. The time I spend trying to better myself, as a person is not worth the effort. Giving up on Jack, saying I no longer believe in his potential to be better man, is giving up on my own belief in me and my belief that the greatest potential in hearts of men is for love.

Great teachers harness the power of love to change lives. It takes courage to reach out to students. It takes strength to not let the negativity of life pull us down to our baser pessimism. It takes persistence to not give up on when challenges arise that we may have no idea how to deal with. Most of all it takes belief, believing in lost causes, believing in the positivity of the youth in a world filled with anger and hate, and most of all believing in ourselves, that we can make a difference in the world and in ourselves.

Today didn’t discourage me from wanting to be a teacher. If anything it made me even more sure that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I know this because I still want to go back tomorrow. Do I think I have what it takes? I’m not sure but what I do know is that I have the love. And I think if I got that I’ll be ok.

I guess we’ll see.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I’m Gonna Be (500 miles) by The Proclaimers

Would you walk 500 miles to be with someone that you love?

Okay, let’s break this down. 500 miles is roughly the distance from Chicago, Illinois to Willmar, Minnesota. According to google maps it would take 165 hours to walk that distance. So let’s say seven miles of walking a day, and we have 23 days of walking. That’s like three weeks of doing nothing but walking!?!

I would totally walk for three weeks to fall down at my wife’s door, but I’m not sure I would walk 500 more. That’s like 6 weeks of walking. I’ve never done anything consistently in my life for six hours, so forget six weeks.

People making totally unrealistic statements of what they will do for someone they are in love with is something that makes absolutely no sense until you’ve been in love with someone.  It’s not like people who are in love have reached some higher plain of understanding, it’s quite the opposite. Somewhere between love-drunk and over-romanticized ideas of love there’s a level of passion that pushes logic aside and convince people like Romeo and Juliet that getting married in hiding and faking death will end well.

As being “in love” simmers into “loving” someone, logic enters back into the picture and people are able to make educated decisions about their future, hence why you should wait a reasonable amount of time before getting married.

Here’s the thing, as weird and crazy as that "in-love" stage is, it’s kind of fun which is why songs like “I’m Gonna Be,” stick with us. We want to go back to that crazy feeling and remember what it feels like to think that we would do anything for our love.

Something about this song has simmered in our pop culture like in this appearance from Family Guy:

To one of my favorite episodes, "Arrivederci, Fiero," from How I Met Your Mother, which prominently featured this song.

Even though the delivery of this song is a little forceful, it’s really catchy and it’s hard to believe that it was originally released so long ago in 1988.

What really works about this song is not so much the chorus that stretches logic but confidence in the verse of how he will be with her. This isn’t a question or something to ponder about. He will be next to her through the good and the bad. That’s not unrealistic and the craziness of walking for three weeks makes it even more powerful.

If you've been in love and understand this song then have fun with it.  If you haven't had that moment when all logic escapes your mind in the eyes of another, then come back to this song when that moments hits and you'll be singing along with this song.