Monday, November 16, 2020

Song Lyrics for Educators

Music is a big part of my life. So many memories of my life can be tied to music.  When I hear anything from a "classic rock station", I think of my dad and times spent in the truck with him growing up.  Country from the 80s & 90s reminds me of my mother and the clock radio on the kitchen counter that she would turn on to 99.3 WATZ in Alpena, Michigan each morning around 6:00 AM.  Older country, like that of Johnny Cash, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton, and Charlie Pride, reminds me of my grandpa.  Green Day's Dookie album was the first CD I ever bought, so it reminds me a lot of my time in junior high when I got my first CD player. Deftones' White Pony reminds me of cruising the streets of my hometown in high school with my friend, Nic Wiser, on Friday nights after getting out of work.  Anything by Less Than Jake reminds me of my friend, Ryan Baker, who used the handle LessThanBake for his AOL Instant Messenger.  And Sevendust's Next album reminds me of the months after my move to Nevada from Michigan as I played it on repeat for weeks during that time of my life.  I could probably write a book several hundred pages in length just on how music has helped influence me, influenced my memories, and helps me to cope with various emotions. 

It's not a surprise that when I listen to music, I often make connections to my role as an educator. Lyrics to songs most likely were not intended to relate directly to education, but the beauty of music, and art in general, is that lyrics are open to interpretation, and musicians will often give vague explanations of what they were trying to say with a song so listeners can make their own interpretations. And because I need a release from the standard educational content that I typically, I have selected five songs that I have interpreted to mean something that can relate to our roles as educators. And while my listening tastes tend to lead toward rock, punk, and metal, perhaps you can expand your playlists a bit!

Disclaimer: some of the songs that I selected do have some objectionable language, so please be advised... 

Slogan on a Shirt by 7Seconds
We've got our PMA
We gotta spread this s*** around
And make it more than just some slogan on a shirt
We've got our PMA
It's not a new philosophy
Still amazing that you treat people like dirt
I struggle on but I can see the brighter side
Even when things seem impossible or dull
And I embrace the flaws I carry deep inside
We're not perfect, none of us

A great attitude will go a long way.  A great attitude is also infectious.  We can talk about having a great attitude, but if we aren't living by those words, then it doesn't mean much, it's nothing more than a slogan on a shirt.  Even when things seem bleak, it is important to keep your head up, try to find the positives in the situation, and inspire ourselves and those around us to keep moving forward.  As educators, if we can find it in ourselves to be positive at all times, even when things are tough, it is going to impact our students, their families, our colleagues, and our communities for the better.  

Superman's Dead by Our Lady Peace
Do you worry that you're not liked?
How long 'til you break
You're happy 'cause you smile
But how much can you fake?
An ordinary boy, an ordinary name
But ordinary's just not good enough today

This song came out in 1997, long before the explosion of the Internet and social media.  Kids have always struggled with fitting in and wondering what others thought of them.  The Internet and social media have only made this struggle worse for some students.  So many kids (and adults) look at all of the great things that people post online and become envious of what others have.  A lot of kids also strive for likes on their posts and if it doesn't happen, many become depressed.  As educators, it is sometimes hard to tell how students are feeling and if things are bothering them, especially in the current world in which we are living.  That makes it even more important to be a person and make connections with students as people.  Mental health is important for all and by taking the time to open oneself up and demonstrating that you care, we can help those students are that are most vulnerable.  


Unknown Road by Pennywise
What passages, what fantasies lie just
Beyond the unknown road
Do you know, the miracles that could
Be found they're waiting down the
Unknown road, so it goes
A few more cornerstones that could be yours
Ever get the thought you were mistaken?
Ever think about the stones you've left
Unturned? More chances slip away with
Every passing day, suffering with cold
You're so afraid you might get burned.

When I was writing my book, To The Edge: Successes & Failures Through Risk-Taking, this song really inspired me.  The idea behind this song is that we can spend time wondering if what we have done was good enough and continue down that same path, or we can learn from the past, move forward, and try something new.  As educators, we cannot afford to become stagnant.  We need to continue to learn, to take risks, to learn from our mistakes, and to improve upon our craft.  We cannot be afraid of the consequences, we just need to accept them and learn from them, regardless of the outcome.  As long as we are willing to accept this, the possibilities are endless! 

This is Our House by In Flames
This is the fight
the fight for our lives?
Scream out loud
Have you heard the call?
It involves us one and all
From the rising sun
Until the day is done
Do you hear the call?
This is our time
We won't back down
From the rising sun
Until the day is done
Do you hear the call?

In Flames holds a special place in my heart. When my brother was still alive, we would play a game that involved texting lyrics to songs to one another with the goal of stumping each other.  The last song that I stymied him with in the days prior to his death was The Mirror's Truth by In Flames.  Circling back to this one, this one, while only released in 2019, brings me back to my football playing and coaching days.  I always had music to fire me up before games and if I was still playing and/or coaching, this one would most certainly be on the pregame playlist.  For our students that have missed out on sports over the last few months, I cannot even imagine having it taken away because sports meant so much to me throughout school, into college, and into the first few years of teaching when I coached football, baseball and volleyball.  I want this pandemic to end for lots of reasons, one of which is so students can get back to the fields, courts, and ice and use songs like this to fire up for a victory!

Let's Face It by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones
Well it's so hard to face
That in this day and age
Somebody's race can trigger somebody's rage
And somebody's preference
Can drive some total stranger
To make somebody somehow feel the wrath of their anger
Why were we put here?
What for? We're unsure
We sure weren't put here to hate
Be racist, be sexist
Be bigots, be sure;
We won't stand for your hate

When the Bosstones released their album, Let's Face It, in 1997, the title track was a commentary on society of the time.  Unfortunately, we are no further along now than we were over 20 years ago.  In fact, I would argue that we have taken a step back after four years of a leader that stoked divisions, embraced the words and actions of white nationalist groups, and used xenophobic language to describe people of different nationalities, colors, etc.  It is mind-boggling to me that we are still fighting this battle, but at the same time, so much of society has been whitewashed in the last 50 years that it shouldn't be too surprising.  As educators, it is imperative that we learn everything we can about our differences, learn how to be an ally, and to call out instances of injustice.  We have always had a lot of work to do, but it seems as if the last four years has enabled more to be more vocal about their hate and we need to fight to end it.  

I would love to learn about songs that YOU find to be inspiring and meaningful as an educator.  Please post yours on social media, in the comments of this blog, etc.  

Until next time... 

Credits for Lyrics

Sunday, November 8, 2020

The Virtual Conference

If you are like me, you like to attend educational conferences.  And there are a lot of reasons that I like to go, from learning about new ideas to getting out of town to another location, to seeing the friends that I have made over the years.  So when schools were shut down back in March and conferences were canceled, I wondered when I would be attending a conference again.  

Shortly after the shutdown, Spring CUE was forced to go virtual.  The annual conference in Palms Springs in the middle of March would be held entirely online, and months later, I am still in awe of how quickly the CUE team was able to shift the conference into a virtual format.  But if I am going to be honest, I did not participate much in sessions.  Spring CUE took place about a week after schools shut down.  At the time, I was very busy figuring out how to shift lessons and activities from in-person to online and by the time the days were done, I was exhausted.  But I guess the disappointment of not getting to go to Palm Springs also had a factor in my non-participation.  

As the weeks turned into months and spring turned into summer and then fall, a lot of conferences went virtual.  But I still wasn't into a mindset that allowed me to want to participate in a virtual conference.  I completed a couple of webinar type courses over the summer, the Pear Deck Summar Academy for Pear Deck Coaches and TCEA's Canvas educator course, but that's it.  I even spent $15 on a CUE of Nevada event that I didn't do.  I had heard people say that they were learning a lot from virtual conferences, but I still wasn't a believer.  

Fast forward to FallCUE.  This event that has been held in Northern California for many years as an in-person conference would be going virtual this year as well.  I had submitted sessions for the event back when it was going to be an in-person event, so I had a free registration for it.  I was also asked to participate in a Google Educator workshop and the Meet the Authors and Meet the Podcasters event.  Instead of a Friday-Sunday format, the conference would kick off on a Thursday and last through the following Monday.  Sessions for school days would not begin until after 3:00 PM when most teachers are out of school for the day.  Since I was going to be participating as a presenter, I figured this time around, I would make a conscious effort to participate as an attendee and see how a virtual conference would go.  

While I must admit that an in-person is a better option, at least for me, I must also admit that I was not disappointed in the virtual event.  The live sessions that I attended were very well done, with very engaging speakers. Because I was in the comfort of my own home, I didn't have to contend with others for a seat, wifi, and I could control the temperature of the room.  I did not leave any sessions that I attended, but I had the option to go to another session much more quickly if I chose to do so.  And the best part? Sessions that I couldn't attend were made available to watch at a later time (in the case of FallCUE, until November 30).  I still had the opportunity to interact with a handful of friends before and after sessions, but I missed the opportunity for the long conversations, meals, and drinks with those friends like we are able to have at an in-person event.  

As for presenting at a virtual event, much like teaching virtually, it was a struggle.  I couldn't read the room like I can when I am in person.  Questions from attendees were different to address and fewer in number. Having a partner to present in Corey was helpful, as we could monitor questions from the chat and from those that unmuted more easily.  I like to move about the room to mill about with attendees, which also gives me a better read for the room, but obviously, that was not possible.  

As I am writing this, the situation with COVID is getting worse in many places.  Positive cases have been on the rise, with more people needing hospitalization, intensive care, and deaths have also been increasing.  Schools that were in-person or in a hybrid format have had to resort to distance education as the rise in cases amongst students and school staff has forced schools to shut down.  With that, it only delays that ability for conferences to return to an in-person format.  The success of virtual conferences and the cost-effective format for attendees and for schools seeking to send educators to conferences also contributes to delaying the return.  I envision future conferences as having an in-person and virtual option that will allow attendees to choose.  Money normally spent on hotels, food, and travel to conferences will be saved, allowing for more to attend.  

In conclusion, while I had a positive experience with Virtual FallCUE, I definitely missed the in-person format.  I feel that I am more focused when I am in attendance, I have the chance to catch up with friends, and I enjoy the traveling part, going to places that I typically would not go.  But at the same time, the virtual format has a lot of perks, like a more inexpensive experience, flexibility in sessions, and more.  Whichever way you choose, you cannot go wrong.  I look forward to my next conference experience, whenever and wherever that may be. 

Until next time...