Overjoyed with Open House

I am in the middle of my first military PCS move.  I say middle because although I am in my new home…my husband, children, and furniture are not. I am not sure how these moves usually go but this one is not going smoothly.  Husband is due home from overseas after a year away tomorrow night (AHHHHHHHH). I’m excited! Children are back in Virginia with Nana and Papa until this weekend since household goods (everything on the moving truck) is due to arrive Friday.  I am currently living in a big ole house that I purchased without ever stepping inside while still in Virginia.  I am on a air mattress and living out of a suitcase. There were also countless other hurdles and roadblocks along the way. This can all be discouraging and I began to question if this move was the best thing for me and my family.

I am in Georgia early, before furniture and husband, because I have a teaching job and school starts Monday.  I have been busy preparing my room, meeting my co-workers, and attending pre-year training. As the pressures of getting ready for a year of school loomed, I again began to question what I was doing. I came from a divisional level position to go back to the classroom and began to worry if I would still be able to relate to the students after working primarily with teachers for the past two years. Which brings us to last night’s Open House for 6th graders at Grovetown Middle School.

After meeting 25 of the 26 students in my homeroom, countless others from my other blocks, and their parents, I am overjoyed to be at Grovetown Middle. I was able to quickly and successfully relate to each student. I had terrific conversations with their parents and eased a few jittery spirits. I have never had such a successful open house and knew when I turned out my light that I had made the best decision in accepting the position at GTMS. It made me a bit emotional knowing the potential that lay before me with this group of eager learners. It is going to be a great year and I am excited that you will be able to read along as I reflect on our journey.

Believe in your Students Every Day!

It is that time of year with state testing, pep talks, Kudos and remediation. I have walked through the halls of the schools I support and wonder why the enthusiasm and support shown to the students is not shown year round. Posters line the hallways, hanging from ceilings and adorning the walls. Students are given high-fives and “job well done” when they pass their test. My hope is that this support and belief in students begins the minute a teacher receives their roster and continues till the very last day of school.

What if we as teachers made posters to show the brilliance of students every day? Imagine the atmosphere of a school that supports student growth with the same energetic high-five as the passing score? Allowing students to believe in their potential everyday and not just testing day can be powerful and much more lasting. If we spend the entire school year celebrating with our students the successes of their growth they won’t need our last minutes chimes of “you can do it” at the end. The goal is for the students to tell me as they head into state testing…”I got this”.

So, make the posters, have the chants, pep up your students, but do so EVERY day!!!

Just a Song? Importance of Analyzing Lyrics

My 11 yr old, 5th grade son has been singing a certain song non stop. He loves music, sings frequently and enjoys different types of music. I pretty much have my radio set to two stations, 80s music and K-Love. So when I heard him sing, “Once I was seven years old my momma told me / Go make yourself some friends or you’ll be lonely..” my first thought was that’s good advice. Then he continued with, “By eleven smoking herb and drinking burning liquor..” Okay, now you have my attention. He went on to sing, “Once I was eleven years old my daddy told me / Go get yourself a wife or you’ll be lonely…” This is where I stopped him. “Smoking herb”, “liquor”, wife at eleven?HNCK0537

Wait…What? I had to ask my musical child what the song meant.

Me: “What are you singing?”
Him: “7 Years”
Me: “I heard that part, but what is it about?”
Him: “I don’t know”
Me: “Those are some strange lyrics. What do they mean?”
Him: (blank stare)
Me: What is the artist talking about? What does he mean to get a wife at eleven?
Him: “I don’t know, it’s just a song!”

Just a song? Just a song? Did U2 not having something to say in “Sunday Bloody Sunday”?Can we glean nothing from John Lennon’s “Imagine”? Is Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” just a song? Did “War” by Edwin Starr not have a message?

My son opened my eyes to the need for my students (and my own children) to be able to analyze lyrics in order to really hear what is being said. Artists have something to say, and I wonder how much is missed while we are bopping our head or tapping our foot. To be able to really hear and interpret the lyrics of songs is a skill that I want to give my students.

I can think of so many amazing and powerful songs from environmental issues with Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” to humanity issues with Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” Discussing social injustice in Bob Dylan’s “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” or “Glory” by John Legend. How many of my students can sing R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly” but have never really heard the words? What does Sister Hazel mean when they ask you to “Change Your Mind”? What do Katrina and the Waves mean when they say they are “Walking on Sunshine”? Why does Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” always make the listener feel like they can run through a brick wall? Was Louis Armstrong delusional, hopeful or realistic in “What a Wonderful World”? HNCK8481

These are questions I want my students to be able to answer or at the very least know that they should be asking. The flipped side to this is that it becomes very Scarlet Letter and every lyric, in every song, is over analyzed until it no longer resembles a song. This is not my goal. I want my students to listen with active ears and when they hear something that perks their interest or makes them question the artist’s meaning, that they will stop, reflect, and ponder before singing the song over and over as they walk around the house.

I have discovered that “7 Years” is about a man wanting to be a good father so that his children will want to visit him when is older. Being able to interpret songs is a skill that
I hope I can share. My desire is to open the possibility that there is meaning in any lyric, even in the absence of meaning. Don’t believe me? Well… “Mah Nà Mah Nà…!”

I plan to work this summer composing a list of songs, analysis, and artist bios to use in my lyrical resources.  If you know of a song that must be among them, please share in the comments.