Monthly Archives: November 2015

Thankful, once more and always…

The turkey is roasting and it smells delicious. B and O, my wife and daughter, are still out of town. They’ve loaded the car, but haven’t hit the road, yet.

I’ve alluded to it in the last several posts but haven’t been direct. B’s mother and my mother-in-law, my favorite mother-in-law, I might add, passed away a week ago Monday morning. The funeral was last Saturday. Her wake, funeral, post-funeral gathering was a beautiful tribute to a wonderful woman who led an extraordinary life. She leaves behind three children, a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law, and seven grandchildren. We will miss her.

I drove home with W, my son, Sunday afternoon. He slept, I drove thinking about the two days I had to teach my 8th graders.

Instead, I thought of all of the parts of my life for which I have to give thanks.

I am thankful for so much. I am third.

I am thankful for my faith in God, who has sustained me over the last several years as our families have struggled with loss.

I have a wonderful family, a great wife and kids, and a great dog, too. My mom, step-mom, my brothers, my wife’s brother, sister-in-law, her sister, and all of nieces and nephews, who are strong role models for my two children and always make time for them. Continue reading Thankful, once more and always…

Tuesday’s Tune: This Old Punk

My friend Scott sent his guest post to me Monday afternoon; and it’s now Wednesday, not Tuesday. It’s been that kind of week or so. I’ve known Scott since our school opened up in ’01.He teaches health education in the building and is a writer, too. He writes at Life is the Future and is planning to ‘Bite the Bullet’ this coming year. We were talking and writing came up – neither knew the other wrote, it’s interesting how that all works. I knew he loved music and collected vinyl. We got to talking and he agreed to guest post here at Making the Days Count. I enjoyed the read and I hope you do, too. I am thankful for friends like Scott, have a Happy Thanksgiving.

vinyl_scott

Some of my favorite memories come with a soundtrack. Of course, almost all my memories come with a soundtrack—the good, the bad, and everything in between.

In teaching discussions, and even in life conversations, I make it no secret that music has helped me stay alive this long. Music has been one of my constants in a lifetime of change. It has seen me age, and awkwardly so. It has seen me make bad decisions, and dread repercussion. It has seen me laugh, cry, and scream. It has taken me across the country on the kick of a dream. It has kept me home in the arms of my family.

While writing, I rarely do any stream of consciousness without it. And even then, when the editing grip finally takes hold, I can hear the echo in the embers. It’s in pieces, in manic-depressant fits of stress and relaxation. Like dust motes in the blank stare of a daydream, music can fill space or demand attention. Depending on the mood, music confirms or denies feelings of self-worth, vents of frustration, and outbursts of elation.

Pop music of my childhood combined with the classics from my parents, which led me to being introduced to other styles of music. The alternative music boom of the 80’s and 90’s paved the way for exactly what I needed: the edgy, angsty hooks of punk rock.

I was about 14 when I found punk music. Coming from a fairly normal and fortunate upbringing, punk rock didn’t represent a distaste for life, necessarily, but it hit home as it satisfied a very natural need of adolescence: to question everything. Question the norm, question the rules, question the answers, question existence… question oneself.

A punk song may never change the world, but I could tell you a few that changed me. Which means, by virtue, punk rock does exactly what it sets out to do.

If you’ve been there, you know; people are drawn to punk for many reasons, all unique to each individual. For me, the attitude of the music and lyrics was easy to relate to. But songs with societal meaning registered just as much as the galloping riffs that accompanied those often-indiscernible words. (Good thing for liner notes.) The punk community is one that offends the mainstream with no mercy but all in the demand for tolerance and equity. Racial and class lines be damned.

Identity in school, as in life, remains just as difficult a topic as ever. In my case, not following pre-set expectations made a lot of sense… classifications, stereotypes, cliques all seemed dumb and immature. Counterproductive. Moreover, why can’t a person be interested in a variety of things, and hang out with lots of different people? Funny enough, finding like-minded friends and having that kinship of a social circle is essential in teenage development.

Cue the music. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: This Old Punk

Egalité, Liberté, Fraternité: A History Lesson

I am a teacher. I teach kids history, some kids get it and others, will get it later.

We are studying the period in US History right after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution – the first fifty years from President Washington to President Jackson. On Monday morning when my students sat down in class for the new unit, I challenged them to name as many presidents as they could. I gave them ten minutes.

I had taken the same challenge the week before. I got 42 presidents and had 41 of them in chronological order. Give it a whirl and post your number with your comment.

The average for my students was 11. The high was 34 and the low was two. I do not think the ‘2’ tried, the next low was six, which is about right.

Tuesday was my birthday and I modelled the reading and thinking process with my students.

Wednesday was Veterans Day and my students learned the meaning of the day and the inspiration behind the poppy symbol.

all of our poopies together to form a field of poppies....
all of our poopies together to form a field of poppies….

Thursday I continued modelling and gave them homework – finish President Washington and we will review Friday in class.

Yesterday was Friday and in class, we were reviewing George Washington’s second term and the Neutrality Act came up. George Washington was an isolationist and believed in the dangers of political factions and parties. Essentially, he was a Federalist believing in the power of a strong centralized government. Alexander Hamilton Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury and architect of our financial system agreed with Washington. On the other side of the argument were Thomas Jefferson and James Madison – writers of two of our most important documents – the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, respectively. Jefferson and Madison argued against being neutral and siding with France.

Once again, I used music to make my point and I played “Cabinet Battle #2” from Hamilton: An American Musical.

They got it, I think. “…if you don’t know, now you know. Mr. President.….”

Washington listened and issued the Neutrality Act, Britain removed her troops from American soil, but is didn’t solve the problems of the day. Continue reading Egalité, Liberté, Fraternité: A History Lesson

toujours marcher le front haut

My mind is in a million places this morning – it has been for last several weeks.

B, my wife, is home with her mother, where she needs to be. Last weekend, we – the kids and I, along with Ivy, traveled up north to do fall cleanup at the cottage. We started yard work Friday afternoon but stopped. It rained all Saturday and I did not want to get wet, so we did our fall cleanup on Sunday morning and afternoon. It felt good to be away and be up north.

We came home Sunday night knowing we had a tough week ahead.

The kids and I have been on our own since last Thursday – over a week – and the week has been hectic – I had parent teacher conferences Thursday evening and all day Friday. O had a recognition breakfast at her school yesterday morning and I was able to go. I am in impressed with her, and her brother. They are great kids and B and I are blessed, though sometimes we don’t realize how blessed we are.

My mind has drifted back to July 2009 off and on for the last several weeks. It was when my dad had moved to hospice. My brothers and I would visit his bedside and talk to him – he was unconscious and Warren, David, and I would talk and tell ‘dad’ stories – funny stories to us, and maybe to him. I think he heard us, but more importantly, it was for us – to remember him for how he lived and how he shaped us.

It’s been over six years since he passed away and over five years since we spread his cremains in norther France.

My mind has been on school and my teaching – I was observed in my class over a week ago – it’s part of the evaluation process and it is highly stressful. I got my feedback Wednesday afternoon and it was good, very good. My principal, my evaluator, gave me some goals to work toward and that is on my mid as well, one of the million or so things on my mind.

I received an e-mail from one of my students yesterday and I discovered it this morning. I read her e-mail and watched the video clip she sent. I laughed. Here is video…..

It was a clip from a song from the play Hamilton. It made my morning and I was already in a reflective mood, so I responded. Here it is what I sent my student. Continue reading toujours marcher le front haut