Influential Albums – Day 6

The Clash – S/T (US version)

I wish I knew where I heard The Clash for the first time. I got this on cassette – that was the format I used pretty much exclusively at the time – in California, I think at Tower Records in San Francisco. I was in 9th grade and my family was in SF for a conference my dad was involved in. I guess I heard something off London Calling, maybe had even gotten it at that point? Anyway, I love The Clash and this one totally struck a chord with me. Loud, raw, catchy. I know the lyrics are a very important part of the band, but to be perfectly honest, I’m a melody man. A song’s got to have a great hook and music to pull me in. I’ll incorrectly sing the words to songs for years. I am a serial lyric mishearer. So, again, I know the lyrics to The Clash are super important to whole thing of The Clash, but at the same time, so were their looks. They were calculatedly put together by the band. That has nothing to do with anything other than make me feel like less lame for not fully committing myself to the lyrics.

My dad did not understand or like my punk rock inclinations. I did not understand his disdain for it. To me, there were a lot of comparisons between the early, original rock ‘n roll he turned me on to and bands like The Clash. They even covered, “I Fought the Law”, not on this album, but nonetheless. Three chords, catchy songs, brazen attitude. It seemed synonymous to me. I get it now. Punk rock was an affront to a lot he held near and dear and I’m sure had he heard, “I’m So Bored With the USA”, he would have been none too pleased.

My favorite tracks from this one are – again, no certain order – “Police and Thieves”, “Garageland” (Gehr-aj), “Hate and War”, and “Career Opportunities

A podcast I listen to – and you should too – “The Great Albums Podcast” did one on London Calling not long ago and it was great. I was unaware that Joe Strummer wrote most of the songs, whether it was he or Mick Jones that sung. The Clash always did great covers, too. They could have put out an album of just their covers and it would have been great. The hosts of The Great Albums talk about how The Clash always make the covers they do their own, and it’s totally true. As mentioned earlier, “I Fought the Law” (Bobby Fuller Four version) could totally come from the pen and paper of a young, British punk rocker.

Not seeing The Clash play live is something I am sad about. I don’t know if the band would have gotten back together had Joe Strummer not died. Their induction into the R ‘n R Hall of Fame – who are those sharped dressed, hair slicked down men? – was interesting to see. I don’t know if Joe would have been part of that or not. He had moved away from punk rock as he got older, but he was still revolutionary. Mick Jones moved away from punk too with Big Audio Dynamite. I read somewhere that Joe was up for playing, but he died shortly before their induction. Damn.

The documentary on The Clash (there are several, but I really liked this one) and Joe Strummer are both worth watching. Go get your punk rock on and listen to The Clash.

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Influential Albums – Day 3

 

The Beatles – Meet the Beatles

The first Beatles album I heard was their 20 Greatest Hits. I remember hearing it when I was probably in 7th grade riding to a football game with a couple of friends and I was imitating the harmonica sound in “Love Me Do”. Sounds about right for a 7th grade boy. My favorite Beatles album is Revolver.

This album though, is influential because it’s the first one that I got for myself. Nowadays, I prefer the British versions to the American ones, but  back then I didn’t know any different and this was my exposure to any of their songs that weren’t greatest hits and any that I might have heard on Z-93 or 96 Rock growing up. I think my elementary school music teacher probably had us sing, “Yellow Submarine”, but that could be a shared memory of someone else.

The excitement of most of the songs on this album, to me, was electric. It has the hits, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, “All My Loving”, “I Saw Her Standing There” and those are GREAT, but the deeper album cuts I really, really love. “Hold Me Tight” and “LIttle Child”. I can’t include music links because all the actual Beatles songs have been taken off YouTube. The slower songs on this album I don’t particularly love, but they fit. They are a snapshot of what the band was at the time – a group making their way through the world, trying to make it big. I’m sure they had NO idea; although, it was certainly starting at this time. They would appear on The Ed Sullivan show shortly after this was released in the US.

This album has LOTS and LOTS of “yeah”s. LOTS of them. There’s a whole lot of clapping too on these songs. It must have been pretty tiring to spend the time working out and recording  those claps.

The Beatles’ harmonies has always been one of my favorite parts of the group and they fascinated me when I heard this album. I love to sing and I am much more of a melody person than a harmony person, but I wish I could come up with harmony lines. I’m sure I could with practice or teaching or whatever. I guess with the Beach Boys and the Four Freshmen the harmonies were big here in America. I’ve always thought that Paul Anka’s “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” had to be influential to The Beatles’ early work. I know The Everly Brothers definitely were, but the line, “I beg of you…” and all the intro lines to the verses are very Beatlesque, even though their originals were just starting to be developed at the time.

I listened to this album on my way to school this morning and there were parts I’d forgotten, but by and large it was as exciting and exhilarating today as it was more than 30 years ago. Good Lord, more than 30 years ago. I had a great time singing along and trying to hit the harmony parts right. When I was younger I used to play with the balance a lot and listen to just the vocal track in one speaker and then just the instrumental track at different times. Whether it was the instruments bleeding through the vocals side or the chorus coming in on the instruments side, I just dug it.

I’ll end with two songs, George’s, “Don’t Bother Me” and the closing song, “Not a Second Time”. I like George’s songs. He was kind of thrown a bone on the records. At first it was, ‘Here, George, sing this cover or sing this song John wrote”, but then he started writing his own. Imagine the courage it took to bring a song to Lennon and McCartney! “Don’t Bother Me” is a great first original for George to bring to the group. “I’ve got no time for you right now, don’t bother me.” I loved that line as a teenager and still love it today. “Not a Second Time” is such a great song because you can tell the character still really wants to be with the girl he’s singing about, but he knows he can’t. He was hurt too badly the first time, and he’s not going to do it, not a second time.

What it could have been

Jellyfish – Bellybutton

Harmonies? Check. Clever lyrics? Check. Pure pop awesomeness? Double check. I found Jellyfish when I worked at the UGA radio station, WUOG. I totally fell in love with them. After listening to them I basically decided they were a continuation of Paul McCartney’s “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” which was just a continuation of Paul’s experimental/baroque Beatles genius. I have Jellyfish Pandora station and as soon as I figure out how to work Spotify correctly, I will have one on that, too.

Book Review – /The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth/ by Alexandra Robbins

preface statement – I hate that I can’t underline or italicize the title up there

book cover

I found this book on one of the tables in the Teachers’ Lounge at Trinity back in late April or early May. I wasn’t sure I’d get to it, but it’s title grabbed my attention. I started reading it a few days after I took it home and got drawn in pretty quickly.

The author, Alexandra Robbins, follows six individuals for a school year. Each one is given a categorical label along with their name:

  • Blue – The Gamer
  • Whitney – The Popular Bitch
  • Regan – The Weird Girl
  • Noah – The Band Geek
  • Eli – The Nerd
  • Joy – The New Girl

In addition to introducing each of these people, Robbins also gives background information on what she calls the cafeteria fringe – “People who are not part of or who are excluded from a school’s or society’s in crowd.” She goes on to explain how very often those who a part of the cafeteria fringe go on to much more successful lives than the popular, or in crowd, people. She acknowledges that getting through those times of lack of popularity is not easy, and is a “gut-wrenching social landscape”. Robbins backs up her claim of the cafeteria fringe’s post-high school successes with something she calls Quirk Theory – “Many of the differences that cause a student to be excluded in school are the same traits or real-world skills that others will value, love, respect, or find compelling about that person in adulthood and outside of the school setting.”

The book is divided up into six parts, late summer-early fall all the way to late spring-early summer. In between each section Robbins introduces new ideas, explores different perspectives and shares stories of current well-known people that were not part of the popular crowds when they were in high school.

As I got further into the book I was amazed time and time again with how horrible high school students can be. I saw myself as part of the fringe when I was in high school, but I was really a floater – I could move pretty easily between groups at school. I did not fit into any easily definable category. I wasn’t a jock, but I swam for my school and played softball and basketball for a church league. I definitely wasn’t a nerd, my grades were far too low to be considered that. I didn’t drink or do drugs, so I wasn’t a stoner. I liked punk rock, but also many other types of music, so no to that too. I had the good fortune to be able to make the choice to walk away from the popular crowd at the end of 8th-grade. I say this as opposed to those that were never given the opportunity to be part of that crowd, more than an arrogant boast.

Robbins’ stories of her subjects are fascinating, sad, alarming as well as funny and touching. One of the subjects has an interesting twist that I won’t spoil. I highlighted over 30 parts of the book that struck me. There really are too many to go into, so I’m just going to try to hit some of the ones that really stuck out to me – positively and negatively.

The whole idea of popularity is split into the standard way of looking at it – the opinion of a person from another to perceived popularity – “how students rank a classmate’s reputation rather than their personal opinion”.

The part I am going to include now really blows me over. Even reading it again for this part just leaves me speechless. This comes from the mini-chapter, Understanding the Popular Bitch

When I asked a popular boy from Arkansas how people at his high school treated               students who were different from others, he said, “We crushed their dreams. We             had a kid who wanted to be cool, but he wore eyeliner, so we invited him to a party,         got him drunk and pushed him into a fire and then some guys peed on him when he         passed out. He moved the next week. [Supposedly due to technicalities, charges               against the aggressors were dropped.] We cut off a Pentecostal girl’s hair and hid             her skirt in gym class, just because we were all Baptists and thought Pentecostals             were weird. We felt it our right to do whatever we pleased. Part of being cool was             uniformity and anything that isn’t part of our hive mind needs to be mocked.”

I’m just going to let that sink in for a minute.

There’s nothing at all that get me to understand that mind set. Nothing. And the thing is, those kids were probably seen around their town as good, upstanding Christian boys and girls. It’s madness!

There is a section called, The Courage of Nonconformists that I really liked. I’ve always considered myself a nonconformist, and in high school I embraced that. Reading this section made me feel good about that, especially with all the science Robbins includes that shows how our brains are mostly hard-wired to conform. Looking at my daughters now, I can see some of the same non-conformity that I had. GQ had and has it in equal, if not greater quantities than I do.

Robbins talks a good bit about how school systems are designed to get kids to think inside the box when almost every article written about what America needs to do to get education back on track is help to develop students that can problem solve, and almost all of those articles mention students that think outside the box are the ones that are usually best at doing that. I have been fortunate enough to work in three schools where the usual is not the case.

The last part of the book that I’ll talk about is the end where Robbins gives three sections devoted to what students, parents and teachers can do to help this situation. For the students, it again is a little heart-breaking. To be told to hang in there, it will get better seems so shallow, even though it is, for the most part, true. I don’t know how many students will read this book, but I think if they do they can find some hope and some connections with the subjects. I guess the part about the parents seems to be what GQ and I naturally try to do for The Girls. I think the part about what schools can do may be just as hard as what students can do. So much in education is set in stone. So many rules and laws and standards come from people that are not in school buildings daily, with the students. Everything Robbins says is necessary, but not easy to attain at all. However, if an administrator or teacher reads this book and recognizes some changes they can make to help students on the fringe feel more valued then that is a step in the right direction.

I think that The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth should be required reading for anyone going into education. I also think that anyone considering being a parent, or has recently become a parent should read it also. It’s eye-opening on many different levels. I think that anyone who relates to children at all can find something that they can use to make a connection where there might not be one currently, and again, that is a step in the right direction.

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth is available for Kindle (currently $2.99!!), hardback and paperback.

30-Day Writing Challenge, Day 12 – Two Words, or a Phrase That Makes You Laugh

I’ll go ahead and address not doing yesterday’s challenge – Your Best Friend. That’s a loaded gun that I’m not playing with. If they had just added an /s/ to “Friend” then I could have done it, but it’s singular, and well, no one wins there. I could have gone on and on about best friends, but that isn’t how it worked out. So, I skipped it. I feel a little bad, but not too much. On to bigger and funnier things!

I would say that, “Go clean your pickle!” is my go-to funny phrase, but that’s not true. I just made that up right now. It made me chuckle a little, but I’m afraid it’d be taken as some kind of euphemism and it’s not, it’s just silly.

My favorite thing to say that makes me laugh is, “pickleweasel”. (look, “pickle” again). It comes from an episode of That 70’s Show and Kelso, a favorite character of mine, asks the guys, “You know what’s a funny word? ‘Pickleweasel'”. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

The thing is though when I Google it, it comes out as two words; sometimes hyphenated, sometimes not. So, because of that, it totally fits in today’s prompt – “2 Words or Phrase…”

I’ve used it for a team name before, The Ferocious Feral Pickleweasels. The teenagers on my team that weekend didn’t think it was very funny. Ha. What do they know?

You try it. Go ahead. Go up and say it to someone. You can do it randomly, you can do it like Kelso did it, or you can find a way to work it into a story you’re telling. Go on, I’ll just wait over here and you can come back and tell me how they laughed and laughed.

pickle weasel

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day 1

social media

  • source – http://hivechicago.org/portfolio/social-media-working-group/

I gave my students a 30-Day Writing Challenge today. I have asked them to do this just to get them writing some each day. I know that some will do the very bare minimum that they can get away with. I also know that some of them will dive right into it. I will be randomly choosing students from my bag of Luck, Chance and Fate to share their thoughts. I am attempting to complete this challenge as well, and I will be sharing some of my entries with my students to let them see that I am taking part in it, not just giving them an assignment.

Day 1 – 5 Problems With Social Media

  1. Too many kids don’t understand the permanence of it.
    • I have two Facebook accounts. I started my second because former students used to find me and friend request me. I’m not embarrassed of anything that I post, but I’m an adult with adult friends who sometimes don’t have the same judgment I do when I ‘m sharing, and I don’t want to be responsible for exposing them to something that an adult friend may post. So, a separate account for former students. I can’t tell you the number of pictures I have seen of my former students engaging in…inappropriate activities for their age as well as pictures that will live forever on the Internet.
    • To be a 13-year old girl on social media
  2. I spend a ridiculous amount of time on it.
    • I have a problem with it. I do. I know this. I have gotten better than I used to be. It’s mostly Facebook and Tumblr that are my big problems. In the past year, I went through and unfollowed a long list of sites from my Tumblr account b/c I was spending too much time on it. It’s a rabbit hole, and I fell down it every single time.  What I try to do now is scroll through once, and if there isn’t anything that really catches my attention, or leads me to an article to read, get up and move away from the computer. It used to be (and sometimes still is, truth be told) too easy to just refresh again and again and hope for something new. I want to add that this is at home at the end of my day when I’m tired and sitting in my desk chair is MUCH easier than getting up and doing something productive.
    • b5cef-crackbook
  3. Too many parents aren’t aware of what their children are doing on it.
    • This ties into #1, but there’s more. I have current students who are on social media now. That would be fine except that I teach 5th-grade and 5th-graders are 10 and 11 years old and to have an account on almost all (if not all) social media sites you are supposed to be 13. I spoke about my laziness in #2 (ha, ha #2), but the laziness of letting children on social media without monitoring it is a big concern of mine. That being said, these are parents making choices about their children, not mine. GQ and I just offered our 14-year old an Instagram account this past December, and she declined. Our 11-year old can’t wait to get on, but wait she will. That’s how we roll.
    • Unaware Parents
  4. The people that say that it’s useless
    • I have no time for those people that don’t see the use of social media. I get a little annoyed and a little sad when I read an article that says how social media does more to separate than bring together. It depends on how you use it. I find the opposite to be true. I have made connections with people through social media that I would not have made otherwise. I have been fortunate enough to make some very good friends through social media also. I am a part of no less than six groups on Facebook. Each group centers around a specific thing that I am interested in, and discussions there are entertaining, sometimes enlightening, and help me connect with friends in a variety of ways. Social media is what you make it. It can be a drain, it can be a bridge, it can introduce you to new people and new music, books, ways of thinking, movies, and more.
    • Debate – Has Social Media Made Us Less Social
  5. When it is used to bully and intimidate.
    • Unfortunately, there is a part of social media that is a haven for people who treat others horribly. I don’t know if it’s that you can say whatever you want about a person or an idea without saying directly to another person’s face, or something else. I have read more articles than I care to number about teenagers getting bullied so extremely that they have taken their own life. I can’t think of anything to say about that except that it is beyond sad. This ties back into my second point also; parents not knowing what their children are doing or being exposed to on social media. Just because kids today intrinsically know how to use technology doesn’t mean that they don’t need to be monitored. In addition to monitoring, we can’t expect them to know how to use it properly if we don’t teach them how to be responsible with social media. Easier said than done? I don’t think so. I think it’s just staying plugged into what your kids are doing. Yes, if they really want to do it they will find a way, but that’s a whole other can of beans, isn’t it.
    • Cyber-bullying Statistics
    • Cyber-bullying

Whoo! Just made it! The first entry in my 30-Day Writing Challenge. I am excited about this, and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes from it. See you tomorrow!

The Footsteps I Follow (and the Few I Avoid)

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. Well, at probably every school except for the one where I work. We had ours back right before Spring Break. The Powers That Be decided that with it being so close to the end of school having Teacher Appreciation Week and End of Year gifts to think about was too much; so they moved it. 

A good friend posted on his Facebook account a list of 12 teachers by name and had nice things to say about them. This has prompted me to do something similar. Being that I am verbose I had to do it in this format, so David Slagle, thank you for the inspiration.

1st Grade – Mrs. Underwood. Yes, we called her Mrs. Underwear behind her back. She was mean. 1970s public school teacher mean, but she saw something in me and chose, for whatever reason, to not smack it down, but encourage it. We were making paper mache piggy banks and I decided to do mine all different colors instead of just one like everyone else. When she shouted out my name after looking at mine I thought my world was coming to an end. Instead she made everyone else do like I was doing.

2nd Grade – Mrs. Gartrell. Sweet, old southern lady that gave me a great line for my classroom, “Don’t blame your mother for not having your homework.”

3rd Grade – Ms. Rosen. She played “Disco Duck” on the record player for the class and one day when more than half of the class was out sick she took us on a walk around the neighborhood. I can’t even imagine that nowadays.

4th Grade – Mrs. Pullen – Beautiful woman. Very kind. She left for a large portion of the year due to breast cancer, I believe. Her substitute, not so beautiful, not so kind. Maybe I’m holding a grudge because she busted me forging my mom’s signature

5th Grade – Mr. Boyd. My first male teacher. Tall, salt  & peppered afro and goatee. Drove a silver Trans Am. He would leave the class for 15 – 20 minutes at a time. One time when he was gone I got up and was goofing around, looking out the door to see if he was coming. When I turned around to go back to my seat he was standing outside the building at the window of the classroom, just watching us/me.

6th Grade – Mrs. Rainey – Another kind, kind woman. I don’t remember much other than she was basically the antithesis of the other 6th grade teacher we had – Ms. Stallworth

7th Grade – Mrs. Thomas. I sold Mrs. Thomas a lottery ticket from the Briarcliff Community Sports raffle and she won $100. That’s what she wrote in my yearbook, “To my $100 friend.”

Growing up in DeKalb County in the early 80s we didn’t have middle school we went from elementary to high school. Starting in 8th grade I started a fairly consistent downward  slant in my academic career.

From 8th grade to the end of 10th grade nothing really stands out as positive. I know there are some moments there, but by and large it was a very negative experience for me academically. Unaddressed attentional issues, not understanding the importance of actually doing homework and knowing how to study guaranteed that these were not smooth years. I almost didn’t pass 8th grade ELA because for some reason I could not grasp the concept of diagramming sentences. To this day I cannot stand the idea, and will avoid it at all costs.  My 8th grade composition teacher told me that everything I wrote was absurd. Granted, it probably was, but would it have killed her to throw me a little encouragement, or to try to steer my writing to something less absurd? I failed Geometry at mid-term in 9th grade and was convinced I would fail it altogether. I had one of the vilest, most evil teachers that I have encountered. I was horrified to find out that she was still at my high school 20 years later and was still spreading malevolence and ill will at students. She is the teacher that would literally smile as she handed back test papers with grades of F.

In 10th grade I asked my mother to move me out of advanced classes to general ones, but at the encouragement of a neighbor who taught ELA classes at my school she kept me in,  and then something happened in 11th grade that made the last two years of high school not just bearable, but mostly enjoyable.

11th Grade – Mrs. Merkle & Mr. Glass – Mrs. Merkle was the school yearbook editor, junior and senior ELA teacher and the teacher of my favorite class ever, Humanities. For lack of better wording it was a class on appreciating all aspects of the arts; music, architecture, literature, art. Mrs. Merkle was probably the first teacher since primary years elementary school that I wanted to please. I had her my junior and senior year. She was, to my memory, the first teacher to not just assign a book to read, but to actually talk about the book. She was the first teacher to help me relate to the characters in the stories. She got me to see that novels and short stories are more than just words on a page.She was a significant influence on me as a teacher. Sadly when I saw her again at the unveiling of the new additions at Lakeside High School she looked at me with absolutely no recognition at all. I was more than a little hurt inside. 

Mr. Glass was the art teacher at Lakeside. He was a meticulously dressed and groomed gay man. I have no idea what he was doing surrounded by the stinky, unkempt hormone crazed high school students that clearly repulsed him in so many ways, but he was always there. It was well known that art classes were where most of the stoners, rockers and punks could be found. Being that I was none of those I’m not sure how I ended up there. I had several friends that took art and loved Mr. Glass, so probably by way of those folks. Mr. Glass was incredibly patient with me. As Glitter Queen can tell you, I am a painfully slow painter. He would offer encouragement and snarky critiques as I finished my pieces. He was entertainingly offensive and offensively entertaining. He did not suffer fools and spared no one. At the same time, you could tell that he really cared for some of his students. You could also tell that he couldn’t stand others of them.

12th Grade – Ms. Shelfer – Ms. Shelfer was the teacher that made me love to write. She was the first teacher since probably primary elementary school that I wanted to please. I loved that woman.

I was going to go into some vitriolic diatribe about the teachers that were so horrible, but it’s not Hate on Hateful Haters’ Week, it’s Teacher Appreciation Week. So for all the teachers that have had a positive impact on me, THANK YOU! For all those other teachers that just had an impact on me and so many others, well,unwittingly you showed me how NOT to be a teacher, and because of that I will also say thank you.