Wednesday, January 30, 2013

To Be A Man: Grooming

Appearances are not the most important part of being a man, but they matter.

We live in a culture that basis much on the way that people look and you don't want the way that you look get in the way of them getting to know the most important part of who are, what’s on the inside.

At the same time your appearance should give hints about your interests and express a level of individuality. The choices you make about how to present yourself are a reflection of the values that you carry and the philosophy you have about life.

That’s why there should always be some thought put into how you look.

Let’s start with grooming. How a guy takes care of his body is one of the fastest ways to tell his level of self-respect and respect for the people around him. A guy who doesn’t brush his teeth regularly doesn’t care about his own health and is inconsiderate of the people around him who have look at pieces of food left between his teeth and smell his stinky breath.

So brush your teeth as much as your dentist recommends, bathe regularly and wear enough deodorant and/or cologne so that you don’t smell. Smelling like too much cologne or body spray is as bad as having bad body odor. Don’t overdo it.

Make sure your hands are taken care of, cut your nails and moisturize. A man’s hands shouldn’t be silky smooth and smell of fragrances, but no one enjoys shaking hands or holding hands with rough, calloused-up hands with dirty fingernails.

Hair: No matter what kind of hair style you prefer, from mullet to buzz cut, what is important is that it is appropriate for your surroundings. A professional wrestler looks appropriates with long greasy hair, someone working in retail at Target, doesn’t.

I’m not saying everyone should conform, but you have to think about your surroundings. If the idea of modifying your “look” is such an affront to your “individuality,” then you need to put more of your personality into the way you act than into how you look.

Combing and brushing your hair is important. It doesn’t need to look perfect, but it needs to look like that you care. If you are at the other extreme where you spend more time than most women to prep your hair for the day, then you probably should rethink your hairstyle.

Being a man means that you take care of how you look and take pride in your appearance. It also means that your appearance is not so tied up in your ego that you aren’t willing to modify it for a job, or because of the preference of someone that loves you and will spend more time being with you than anyone else on the planet.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Skipping by Eddie Vedder

I don’t know what it means to be a parent.

As a teacher I’m responsible for my “kids,” but at the end of the day, they go home to their parents and I go home to my wife and my dog.

I’ve talked to parents, read books about parents and I’m currently watching Parenthood on Netflix. Parenthood is something that is on my mind not only because of my profession but because it’s something that God-willing will be part of my future.

I first heard Eddie Vedder’s “Skipping,” in a funeral. Throughout the service stories of an 18-year old boy filled the church. A couple pews in front of me I could see between a mother’s grief as she listened to people talk about her son.

When I read in the program that an Eddie Vedder song would be played during the service, I was surprised. My exposure to Eddie Vedder was pretty limited and my main impression of him came from Pearl Jam’s controversial hit, “Jeremy.” But as the voice of a young girl squeaked out between a calming guitar line and Vedder’s distinctive baritone started, I realized I was listening to something very special.

Vedder wrote “Skipping,” for his daughter as part of the charity album, Every Mother Counts, dedicated to addressing the issue of maternal mortality during pregnancy. This song was one of the mother’s and the son’s favorites. As the song played, each lyrics seemed to be written about their relationship.

The simple act of holding hands, which we take for granted, was a central way that this mother and son communicated their love. Like the service, this song is full of thanksgiving and cherishing the moments that bring true meaning into life.

“Forever we’ll talk and forever we’ll drown in each other skipping around,” could not have meant more in that moment as we all sat there contemplating how forever could exist in the memories we hold in our hearts.

The most powerful story that was told during the service was about how the son would feel after surgery.  This boy had to go through many difficult medical procedures in his life and he would wake up confused after the operations, not understanding what had happened or where he was. Then his mom would reach through the jungle of tubes and wires to hold his hand. He would know immediately that it was his mom and he would calm down. As Vedder sings, “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,” could not keep this mom from holding her son’s hand.

This service and "Skipping," gave me a glimpse of the love between a mother and a child.  More than that it made me realize how much I don't understand about the human heart.  There's so much I have yet to experience in life and while that fact is intimidating, it's kind of exciting.

There's a lot of amazing things on this planet but I'm not sure I'll ever witness something quite as powerful and beautiful as the love I saw during that service of a parent for a child. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Year 3: Week 18 – In The Company of Music Teachers

Me: On Friday, I'm not going to be here. I'm going to be at a music teacher conference. Basically a whole bunch of music teachers get together and talk about teaching music.

8th Grader: Really, are you joking? Do people really do this? Do you enjoy this kind of thing?

Me: Well, yeah . . . kind of.

Music teachers conventions have always been an interesting experience. At times they have been inspiring, other times they are boring and sometimes they are just . . . well, kind of surreal.

When I was a in college studying to be a music teacher, conferences were really exciting. They were these magical places where all of these amazing ideas about education and music were in the air. Legends in the field came to life and these experiences made me feel excited to be part of a larger music education community.

Then I got my first job and went as a teacher. We had a lot of students from our school who were featured in the ensembles so we went down as a music staff. I walked around the conference connected to an amazing program with fantastic students. I had a place in this world.

Then I was let go from that job.

I was working as an assistant teacher and while I wasn't ashamed of this job, something felt off when I thought about being in a large group of music teachers.

After being away from a music education conference I suggested that our music department go to our state music education conference. It seemed like the right time to return and I figured it couldn't hurt to jump back into the professional music teacher community.

I'm no longer a college student, I'm not part of a school with a famous music department, instead I'm an experience professional here to gather new ideas about teaching. I don't feel sure of my place in this community, but I know where I am in my career and I'm beginning to feel better about these events.

In the same way that I'm still getting used to the idea of being a 30 year old and being an adult, I still feel like a rookie teacher. No, I'm not a master teacher but I've been at this for seven years and I have a pretty good idea what I'm doing.

Moving through my career as a teacher has been a journey. I'm not sure why this whole conference experience is unnerving. Maybe it's because of my insecurities about my skills as a teacher or maybe it's something deeper that I have yet to unpack. One day I'll figure myself out and feel a little bit more settled as an experienced teacher.

And if I don't get there after a couple decades of great teaching, it might not be such a bad thing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

To Be A Man: Introduction

What does it mean to be a man? Holding doors open for a woman? Providing for your family? Being good at football?

The illusion of the 1960s gentlemen seems appealing. Going to work, wearing a suit and hat, and being greeted by a wife holding a scotch with dinner ready wasn't as great as it seemed. This image of masculinity was fraught with marital conflict, depression and an image of being a man that caused many men to feel emasculated.

The echoes of the gender roles of the 1960s followed both women and men for generations and while there has been progress made in expanding the idea of what it means to be a man what we are left with is kind of a mess.

Images from our culture about being a man range everything from stay at home dads, Bros codes, a man who refers to himself as The Situation, a President who is not afraid to cry, sports celebrities who are revered like Gods and a guy named Chris Brown.

How do we handle all of this? How do we weed through tales of old-school chivalry and balance them with ideas of modern sexual equality? How do we deal all of these varying and offend conflicting ideas of what it means to be a man?

I'm saying that we have it harder than women do, but we do have challenges in creating and forming a modern sense of masculinity.

So I'm going to help you figure some of these things out. I don't have all of the answers and there will be some who will disagree with my assertions but I hope that I can give you a place to start and provide you some clarity amongst the babel.

Being a man is not a given. As Corey explains to Lloyd in Say Anything, "The world is full of guys. Be a man. Don't be a guy." It's a challenging and confusing journey to get to manhood and many guys never get there.

Being a man doesn't have to do with how much wealth you earn or the possessions you obtain. Being a man isn't about who you know or the number of people you call friends, and being a man is not about how good you are at a video game or how many beers you can drink.

Being a man is about knowing who you are, understanding your relationship to the people in your life and bringing the best part of yourself into the life you lead.

We got a long ways to go and now is a good time to start as any. So lets start with grooming . . .

Monday, January 21, 2013

Badlands by Bruce Springsteen

One of my friends jokingly said that Springsteen doesn’t sing his own songs in his concerts because the audience sings along. People pay big bucks to go to his shows sing in a big group like a live Karaoke band. 

Of course, I disagree with this.  Springsteen works harder on stage than most musicians, half his age.  But I didn't understand how meaningful his music really was until I heard "Badlands" at the end of a funeral service. 

Singing along to music can mean very different things to different people. Sometimes it’s nostalgia and other times it’s just loosing yourself in music through euphoric joy. You can have a song that is not that deep or meaningful and sing-along with a stadium full of people and have fun. It’s an amazing thing.  But with Bruce Springsteen, it’s more than that.

Imagine yourself at a Black Eyed Peas concert singing these lyrics along with the band:

I gotta feeling...
That tonight's gonna be a good night
That tonight's gonna be a good night
That tonight's gonna be a good, good night!
Now try to imagine singing these words along with Bruce and the E Street Band:

Lights out tonight,
trouble in the heartland.
Got a head-on collision,
smashin' in my guts, man.
I'm caught in a crossfire,
that I don't understand.
I’m not making the argument that the Black Eyed Peas are an inferior band (I did that in this earlier post). But they are doing something very different and singing along to “I Gotta Feeling,” means something different than singing along to “Badlands.”

Springsteen tells the story of a man who through struggles and hardships realizes some truths about life. The first verse talks about being in a figurative “head-on collision” and a “crossfire.” He’s fed up. He doesn’t care for the “same old played out scenes” and he wants something real. It’s the same fear and reservation that is expressed “Thunder Road,” of a life that may go to waste through inaction.

The chorus states that the sorrow and broken hearts of the past as a price that you have to pay to make these badlands, these rough times in our lives to “start treating us good.”  The second verse continues these conclusion that the protagonist has made:
Poor man wanna be rich
Rich man wanna be king
And a king ain't satisfied
Till he rules everything
These are the truths about human nature and greed. In understanding these things we realize that it’s love, faith and hope as Springsteen sings that will raise us up, not wealth.  The bridge is a stirring and proud declaration of unity and perseverance:
For the ones who had a notion,
A notion deep inside.
That it ain't no sin to be glad you're alive,
I wanna find one face that ain't looking through me,
I wanna find one place, I wanna spit in the face of these badlands.
"Badlands" symbolizes all of the people who try to keep us down and Springsteen stirs the spirit inside of us to throw those shackles aside, be glad that we’re alive and search for meaning in the relationships that truly matter.

From the first opening riff, “Badlands,” is a celebration. The guitar solos and Clarence’s incredible saxophone solo are like the ending of “Thunder Road,” extended out into one amazing feeling of liberation.

Springsteen’s music and songs like “Badlands,” hold profound spiritual meaning for people. Singing along to these songs inspires people with strength and hope.

On my desk is a memorial card for a young man who died at the age of 18. On the front is his picture and on the back is information about the young man and the memorial service. About halfway down the back is a small cross and below the cross are these lyrics:
Well, I believe in the love
that you gave me.
I believe in the faith
that could save me.
I believe in the hope and
I pray that some day,
It may raise me
above these Badlands . . .
“Badlands,” isn’t just another pop song. Bruce Springsteen is not just another rock star. To this young man’s family, his words are an expression of what made this life that is now over, meaningful.  As I sat there in the church I couldn't help but softly sing-along, closer to a prayer than a song with grace and thanksgiving.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Year 3: Week 17 – The Counselors

I can’t remember who my high school or middle school counselors were. I’m not talking about the counselors that help get you into college (my mom made sure I was well acquainted with those people). I’m talking about the counselors that address the social and emotional lives of children.

I figured that these staff members were for the “other students.” The ones that were mixed up in things that made them inferior to me.

It wasn’t until my second teaching job as an assistant that I had my first meaningful interaction with a counselor.

I was a one to one aid, which basically meant that I followed around a kid all day long and helped this student get through the day. That year I worked with two different students. The first one had issues that were mostly academic but there were some stuff going on at home that hindered his growth as a student.  The second student’s issues were centered completely on his emotion problem.

So I spent a good amount of time meeting with the counselor. The first time we met was with some other teachers, other times it was with the student I was working with and then sometimes it was with just the counselor and me.

The first thing I realized is that even with a Master degree in education, I had insufficient skills to fully deal with children’s emotional needs. Even in the best teacher education programs, we simply do not have the training to deal with many of the emotional and psychological issues that students deal with. There’s a lot we can do, but there’s a lot that we shouldn’t address. If a kid has an injury that you don’t know how to deal with, you send them to the nurse and if a kid says something disturbing, you send them to the counselor.

The second thing I realized was that counselors don’t just work with the “those students.” Often they are in playgrounds and classrooms working with kids. They approach students across the school and often have the most keen awareness of social issues around the school. Even kids that seem to always have it together sometimes needs someone to talk to and it’s important that kids realize that there is another adult in the building who cares.

The third thing I came to understand was that counselors are here to take care of the teachers. It was not easy working with those two boys. I felt frustrated, annoyed and at a loss on how to interact with them in a positive way. There she was, with not only good strategies but with a sympathetic ear to help me work through my feelings.

I found the same thing with the counselors in my current school. After the tragedy in Connecticut, they seemed to be everywhere as a resource for the children and the teachers. Most of us teachers had been reading articles all weekend about how to talk to children about this tragedy but it was one of our counselors, the “feelings and friendship teacher” who sent out an e-mail telling us how to take care of ourselves during this difficult time.

We can't educate our children without great counselors in every school.  We simply can't.  Our students can't learn effectively and grow as people without these professionals and I couldn't do my job as a teacher without their support.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Second 100 Miles

It took me 3 months to complete running 100 miles . . . it took me four and a half months to get the second 100 miles done.

After sticking to a running program and finishing 100 miles, I felt great (I discussed how I got to this point in this blog post). I built my endurance up to the point that I could run comfortably for an hour complete about five miles. I experienced glorious runs on the shore of Lake Michigan and felt really excited to continue my progress.

Then I went to Taiwan for my grandmother’s funeral. I didn’t exercise or run for 11 days.  This was the longest break I took since I started my running program. The day after I got back, still not completely recovered from the jet lag or the trip I went for, what I planned to be a glorious hour long run along the lakefront.

This run ended up being a forty-five minute painful and frustrating experience. My knees felt awful after the first mile. I previously had some soreness here and there but nothing too bad so I just ran through it. It didn’t get better and I ended up walking for a good portion of the “run.”

The next morning I could barely walk. Once I got going though it wasn’t too bad until I hit the stairs at my school. The only way I could get up and down those things were by gripping the railing tightly and moving very slowly.

I was back at square one.

My body would not let me run or walk longer than fifteen minutes. After feeling the freedom of hour long runs, the only way I could complete a mile was by starting at the beginning of the Couch to 5k program. This started my slow and frustrating journey back to enjoying running.

On top of this life interfered with my work-out schedule. I’m a teacher so over the summer I was on summer break and it was easy to find time to run, but that changed when the school year started.

You know when people say that it’s easy to find a half hour three times a week to work out?

That’s utter garbage.

It is very difficult to work a full time job, take care of your home and family, have a social life and find time in the week to workout. In the summer, some weeks I would run four times a week, once school started, sometimes all I could make happen was a short run once a week.

Is it worth it to find that “me” time to work out and take care of yourself? Yes, but is it easy, no. Sometimes it’s really a struggle to make working-out a priority as an adult. I’m not complaining about this to try to get sympathy, I just want people to understand that sometimes it’s not easy to make a workout happen. Also, for the people out there who struggle to find time to workout, I want you to know that you are not alone.

It’s tough only being able to run half as long and as far as you used to. But I knew that only by holding back would I be able to get back to where I was before.

What got me through this rough patch? Diana, my wife, urging me to go easy on myself and being proud and excited about even the most minor running goals. Also, there was Doctor Who. Netflix on my new phone allowed me to escape as I ran, running along with The Doctor as he traveled through time and space.

Then it happened. After a month of struggling to finish half hour runs and just beginning to feel comfortable with that length of run, I went for it.

3.15 miles in 44 minutes and 25 seconds.

It was this painless and joyful run that got me back to my goal of running a 5K under 45 minutes and  completed my second 100 miles.

That is no where near my best 5k time which was 33 minutes. Like my previous post about running, neither of these 5k times are impressive to anyone.  I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have to look hard to find someone who would laugh at me being proud of a 44 minute, 5k time.

Go ahead and laugh. I’m doing my thing, I’m feeling good about my accomplishment and I’m making it happen.

What did I learn during my second 100 miles?

1. Listen to your body: You know that “no pain, no gain,” mantra. That should be changed to “pain=more pain=frustration.” If you are working out and your body is saying “no,” stop. Sometimes it’s not worth pushing through.

2. Ease in: If you take a break from running like I did, ease back in. Let your body adjust. If you don’t take it slow and build back up, your body will force you to when you go too fast, too quickly.

3. Get over the past: If you are in a situation when you can’t do what you could do before, you have to let the past go. It wasn’t until I could stop focusing on how "bad" I was doing compared to my previous runs that I could enjoy the small accomplishments I was making. 

The second 100 was far more frustrating and challenging, but I got there.  I'm not sure what kind of  struggles the next 100 miles will bring, but I'll get there and so can you.

Just take it one mile at a time, one step at a time and I'll see you at 300. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

On My Own by Samantha Barks (from Les Misérables)


Like the Edward, Jacob and Bella debate, the Internet erupted in a similar Eponine, Cosette and Marius discussion with the release of the film version of Les Misérables (which I discussed in this earlier post).

Okay, actually there really wasn’t really much of that but I wish there was.

The story of Cosette, Eponine and Marius could be made into a musical or film by itself. Cosette was raised by Eponine’s corrupt parents. As children, Eponine was treated well as Cosette was basically treated like a slave. Cosette sing the heartbreaking “Castle On The Cloud,” song as she dreams of a better life.

Then things flip around dramatically. Cosette gets taken away by Jean Valjean and is raised in luxury while Eponine stays with her parents and is raised on the streets. While Cosette lives in wealth and comfort, Eponine is subject to helping her parents in a life of crime.

Eponine pines after her friend Marius, who then falls in love with Cosette and the once fascinating character becomes an infatuated lover without any true depth (and no interesting songs in the second half).  Eponine's story comes forth as one of the most powerful and tragic parts of the musical.

This turn occurs with the song “On My Own.”

So much talk around Les Misérables is focused on Anne Hathaways’s portrayal of Fatine and her performance of “I Dreamed A Dream,” and its well deserved, however Samantha Bark’s Eponine and virtuosic “On My Own,” is just as amazing and deserves as much fanfare.

Samantha Bark’s was discovered on the BBC talent show, I’d Do Anything in 2008. She went on to play Eponine in the London production of Les Misérables and played this part in the 2010, 25th Anniversary Concert of Les Misérables.

She did this part on Broadway and did the jump to the film which is a challenging thing to do as the different mediums require very different skills.

She’s the real deal.

“On My Own,” is a self-reflective and conflicted song full of hope and the harsh realities of life. The song opens with Eponine fantasizing about being with Marius. The world seems beautiful and magical as she lives in this fantasy and Bark’s eye light up as she sings the words, “on my own,” as only her solitude can bring her the joy of this fantasy.

She almost giggles with the lyrics “he has found me.” There’s a teenage-like glee in her voice, but also a dark maturity. In many ways she has been forced to grow up but there is still this girl inside of her.

Then reality sets in. In the middle of the songs, Eponine shakes off the fantasy and she tells herself the truth about Marius and her own life. She hold sback tears as she angrily beats herself down as she sings “talking to my self. . . ” but somehow she feels that there is still hope.

She is renewed with the words, “I love him,” but that is quickly dashed away.  The world that once seemed magical, is nothing special, “the river is just a river.” The song climaxes, not with hope, but with sadness of a spirit unfulfilled. By the end of the song the words “on my own,” are no longer a place to find happiness, but a curse, because only on her own can love Marius.

Barks does a remarkable job of hitting the variety of emotions in this song and taking the audience on a journey. We get a sense that her love for Marius is not some teenage infatuation but the representation of something more. Marius is Eponine's hope for a better life, a way out of her misery and for Cosette is something very different.

What Eponine ends up doing for Marius is heart-breaking. Barks’ portrays her Eponine's final moments in the film beautifully creating the most powerful death scene in the film (spoiler: everyone in Les Misérables dies).

Reconsider Samantha Barks.  She's a young, talented singer and actress who has an incredible potential.

Maybe it's not so much that I'm on TEAM EPONINE, but rather TEAM SAMANTHA!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Year 3: Week 16 - Imagine Diversity

What makes music meaningful?

Teaching a song to a group of students takes skill but it doesn’t necessarily require a lot of creativity or insight. Making the song that you teach meaningful to your students is a much harder thing to do and is the true mission of the music teacher.

When I decided to have my 3rd graders perform John Lennon’s “Imagine,” I knew that it would be a challenge. Lennon didn’t compose the rhythms in the melody to be sung by a group of people and 3rd graders' voices are better suited to sing folk songs like “Old Dan Tucker,” than a pop song. Also, the lyrics, like I explain in this earlier post, are very challenging to understand.

Around the time I started teaching "Imagine," my principal had us meet in small groups to think about ways we could integrate diversity into our classrooms. As I was talking to some other teachers, I realized that through exploring diversity I could make the experience of learning “Imagine,” be as meaningful as the performance.

My school has been working with a diversity consultant who has provided us with some wonderful ideas about diversity. Her approach is not to completely redo our curriculum but rather think about what we can in small but significant ways to weave diversity into what we teach (for more about diversity in education check out these earlier posts: What Diversity Means In EducationWhat Diversity Means In Education-Part II.)

I decided early on to use performances of “Imagine,” to help teach my students this song. I started with John Lennon’s music video.

After we watched this video, I asked my students if they had any questions. Some of them asked about the hairstyle and Lennon's glasses. One of my students asked about “the Asian lady.” I explained that this was Yoko Ono, John Lennon’s wife who was from Japan and that Lennon was from London. A different student raised her hand and commented that she had parents from different countries as well. Then I related that my wife and I come from parents who are from different countries as well.

We weren’t talking about the song anymore but we were talking about differences and ourselves. This was a little scary because I wasn’t sure where we would go with these discussions but it was exciting because it attached something personal to this song.

Instead of listening to Lennon’s performance for further study of this song, we explored different people’s performances of “Imagine.”

In the next class we watched PS22’s performance:

Before we watched it, I told the students to listen to the children’s voices and look at their faces. This was a great example of the type of singing and expression we had been working on.

After we watched the video, I asked if there were any questions or comments. Students observed that the auditorium looked old, the fact that they weren’t in a music class room, the uniforms that the students wearing and the one girl pointed out that unlike our school, most of the students weren’t white.

I asked the other students to try to answer some of these questions. In the conversation, the class realized that this school didn’t have the same resources as ours did. This was a very different community than ours,  but it excited my students when I asked them to think about the fact that we were singing the same song.

And then we watched Ms. Gaga:

I wanted my students to watch this video to realized that this was a song that could be sung by a woman and that "Imagine" was alive in our culture. Once my students got over the fact that we were watching Lady Gaga, they noticed all of the changes she made in the lyrics.

This was the most divisive video. Some kids really didn’t like this performance, which I told them I was okay with. Beyond those reactions, there really weren’t any interesting conversations. This one didn’t really make the students think in the same way previous videos did.

The last video I showed them, I prepped. I asked them what was the word for not being able to see or hear. We talked about deafness and how some people are born without being able to hear and some people like my mother lose hearing as they get older.

Some students were really sad to hear about people with disabilities, while others didn’t think it was such a bad thing. I followed up with this talking about the unique culture and language that deaf people share, sign language and how they live happy full lives.

Then I explained how people who are deaf can speak and sing, but sometimes they sound different. I asked them to be sensitive to that as we were going to watch this video from Glee:

When the soloist started singing, none of the kids giggled. They were all completely quiet throughout the entire video (which is a big deal with 3rd graders).

This video more than any other inspired my students. They pointed out how the two choirs were singing along through the singing and the signing. Multiple kids wanted to learn to sign this song. I told them I wish we could but that we didn’t have time before the performance. One boy noticed the student in a wheelchair and how that person could sing and dance despite his disability.

I spent a lot of class time watching and talking about these videos. In that time we could have learned another verse, got some hand motions down and even learned another song.

Why bother spend so much time on these diversity discussions? I’m a music teacher, shouldn’t my focus just be on the music? I understand if some people think I should have watched fewer videos and made the discussions stay more focused on the song itself.

I'm not sure if this learning experience made "Imagine" a more meaningful song and led to a better performance.  But I do know that thinking about these videos made teaching this song more meaningful for me.  Some of it was scary.  I was worried they would look down on the students in the PS22 Choir and laugh at the Glee video.  You never know, but you got to take chance and sometimes like with the Lady Gaga video, things fall flat.

We need to find meaning in what we teach if we are to even attempt to help students find meaning in their own learning.  Exploring diversity is one way to get there.  Think about what you can do in a small way to open your students' minds to think about diversity as you consider diversity in your own life.

Be brave, take a chance and listen to you students.  You may fail but you also might go to a place of meaning with your students that you never imagined.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Buffy's Sleeping Saga!!!



Monday, January 7, 2013

8th Grade Playlist: 9 - Everything Has Changed by Taylor Swift featuring Ed Sheeran

Diana Ross and Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand and now there’s Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran.

There’s this amazing tradition in popular music of artist joining together to do duets. It’s a dream team kind of idea where two people at the top of their game come together and create something amazing. Taylor Swift, a still rising pop star, and Ed Sheeran who recently broke big (I talked about him in this earlier post) are huge right now.

Taylor and Ed are the Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand of their generation. They are central figures in their genre representing the best in popular music right now.

No, they are not singing a break-up song about the lack of flowers in their lives (check out this post if you missed this reference). Instead they are singing about the beginning of a relationship, that special spark in “Everything Has Changed.”

Taylor and Ed lay down a peaceful and intimate track. The opening dialogue breaks down any sense of formality. You really feel like you are in a living room hearing them perform this song.

“Everything Has Changed” is a very gentle and unassuming song. It doesn’t really insist on a strong meaning or narrative. Instead it reflective and honest capturing a certain innocents that we sometimes overlook and forget about when we get to know the people around us.

The phrase “all I know,” appears throughout this song. This phrase expresses a sense of humility. They don’t fully understand their own feelings but they do know that they want to know each better.

There are beautiful and subtle descriptions as Ed sings about a wall painted blue coming down and Taylor’s butterflies in her stomach taking flight. These are the lines that really show the strength of these two song writers. They are short but meaningful and full of emotion.

There’s no turn around or twist in this song. Unlike other Taylor Swift songs like “Love Story,” this song is really about a single moment and not the way a relationship develops over time. It’s tough to have a song talk about such a small moment but this song does it really well.

Initially this song feels like teenagers singing about their first love.  That mix of hormones and infatuation that rarely leads to a long-term relationship, but it's more than that.  The older I get the more I realize how much I need people in my life and how much of the meaning in my life lies I share my life with others. 

When I first met Diana everything in my life didn't change, but it felt like it did because my perspective changed.  Every person you meet changes the way you look at the world sometimes in very small ways but in other times in very significant ways.

When you meet that person and all you want to do is get to know them better you're entering a journey that leads you to truly know yourself.  This is what life is really about.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Why You Need To Go See A Shrink - Part 2: Peace In Your Heart

While we have made progress in our society acknowledging that mental health professionals as not just for "crazies," we still hold a stigma against seeking out this kind of help. There's this fear that this person will somehow "change" someone's personality or that this person will force a person to make changes that they disagree with.

First off,: a therapist doesn't brain-wash his or her clients. They don't tell people what to do or how to live their lives. They listen to a problem, diagnose the issue and prescribe a way to help a person feel happier and healthier. With a psychiatrist there may be drugs invovled and with a counselor there may be group therapy as part of the prescription.

Here's the thing, just like with a medical doctor, you aren't forced to take the prescription.

How do you know whether or not you need to go talk to a professional? It's the same thing with any other medical issue. If a medical problem is getting in the way of the quality of your life and is preventing you from doing what you want to do, then you need to go see a doctor.  If your fear, anger, insecurities, or other emotions are getting in the way of your life, go seek mental help.

It isn't healthy to have your skin constantly itch and it's not healthy to have conflicts take over your thoughts for extended periods of time. 

It is not the responsibility of people who love you to be your psychologist. Yes, these people can listen to your problems and provide advice and encouragement. However, it is not fair to burden them with issues beyond their ability to aid. While you may think that your loved ones can give you better advice because they know you, sometimes it's their closeness to you that keeps them from providing perspective and objective advice.

If you are thinking about going to find someone to talk to and you are are hesitating don't forget a couple things:
  • You are not alone, You know someone who has talked to a professional to deal with an issue in his or her life. You may not realize it, but you do. 
  •  Ask as many questions about confidentiality, qualifications, procedures and whatever else you want in order to make you feel comfortable.
  • If you don't like the first person that you talk with, don't give up.  Try a different professional and keep trying until you find someone that you get along with. 
We are in the midst of a nation wide conversation about health care and mental health. As we examine the systems in our society and how we take care of our own, we need to reflect on how we take care of ourselves.

We have to move past our own machismo our own ego and seek help when we need it. If we don't, we are sentencing ourselves to a life that is less full-filling and we are hurting the people around us. If you care about the people that you love, then you owe it to them to take care of yourself.

At the point in your life when feel you need you it, go talk to a professional. You deserve peace in your mind and peace in your heart.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Buffy's Winter Break!!