Slice of Life: Little Musicians in Speakers

Slice of Life

(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

Wacky idea alert!

My youngest was in the middle seat of the van as the older son controlled the radio buttons (there was a long squabble over pop music or the Star Wars story tape which we have listened to “at least 200 times!” and the one closest to the radio, the oldest, won.) That was followed by a spell of quiet listening, and then the little one asked, “Where is that music coming from?”

My oldest son and I looked at each other.

“The speakers, ” I said. “There are two in the front and two in the back.”


“But, who’s making the music? Who’s playing the music?”

My oldest son explained about how music is recorded and how we listen to the recorded music. I could tell, though, that the little guy had this vision of little musicians in the back of the van, waiting to be told what song to play (or, in his preference, what story to tell) before cranking it out for our entertainment.

And I had this neat idea that that concept of little musicians would make a cool comic or graphic novel — a bunch of Beatles-like players just hanging around, waiting for a song to be chosen, playing the song and then, like those clowns in Waiting for Godot, just hanging around, waiting and talking. All inside the speaker box.

Can’t you see that? I can. I can hear it, too.

This morning, as the cat (again) woke me up early and I lay in bed, I started imagining some of the musicians in the box.  The name of the band might be The Pop Rocks. There might be:

  • Shellbean — the guitar player, who is sort of paranoid about someone opening up the speaker and finding them there. She thinks they are just fakers and will be found out. She loves hard rock — AC/DC and Pearl Jam rock her world — and groans when someone chooses John Mayer (“Music for wimps,” she calls it). Shellbean handles the lead female vocals, but reluctantly.
  • Jeff — the bass player, is sort of lazy and goes with the flow. He enjoys the world of the speaker, because most of the time, he isn’t doing anything at all. He debates philosophy with the rest and dreams of someday finding a Tuba in the speaker. He thinks the appearance of a Tuba would be a sign from God. It’s all about the Tuba.
  • Timtam — the drummer and the leader of the group. Timtam is all about energy and spends much of his time trying to get the group to practice. “We got to be ready!” is his mantra, and he imagines something bigger – brighter lights — for them because his theory is that they are being auditioned for something. He doesn’t know what yet, but something. He loves all music except … he hates Abba. Timtam is the lead male singer.
  • “Fingers” Phineas — the keyboard/synth player and sometimes, guitar, too. Fingers has a driving ambition — he wants to write and perform original songs.  Sometimes, during long stretches of songs, he will get the group to unexpectedly insert one of their originals into the mix of cover songs. Fingers is a bit disappointed that this is where he ended up, give his background. “I’m classically trained!” he cries from time to time.

Peace (in the little people),

Day in a Tabloid Headline

I am running a bit late with Day in a Sentence, which asked for a Day in a Tabloid Headline. But here they are, and I was happy that a few of you took me up on teh offer to use the newspaper generator, which is fun to use.

First, the ones on their own:

  • Teacher sets new record for consecutive days of playing catch-up. — Mr. Mansour
    Teachers learn how to resolve conflict and assist healing using restorative conversations. — Shaun
  • Teachers, students – missing! — Tracy (spring break report)

And here are the newspaper headlines, which I decided to share as a Flickr slideshow, but which means that the names of the contributors get left off, so thanks to: Connie, Aram, Lynn J., Lynne C., and Nancy C. for their submissions here (plus, I added my original and a new one).

Peace (in the daze),

Slice of Life: Have a muffin, Mr. H

Slice of Life

(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

It was rush-time, the end of the hectic day with the closing bell just lingering in the air and desks slamming shut, when I turned around and almost bumped right smack into one my of students. It was the same student whom I talked to yesterday and again this morning about staying organized and on task and all that.  The same student I worry about when he goes off to a charter school next year. The student who needs so much structure and guidance, it worries me to no end and sometimes drives me nutty.

He held his hands up towards me. They were cupped together with something in it, held gently.

“Mr. H, here is a muffin for you,” he said, smiling.

“A …  muffin?” I was keeping an eye on the crowd near the door, and listening for announcements. I tried to shut all that out and concentrate on the moment. It wasn’t easy, given the commotion around me. But I did.

“I had it as an extra for snack and I wanted to give to someone. I want you to have it.”

“Oh,” I said, “thanks,” and took the twisted plastic baggie from his hand that held a small, corn muffin. I held it up to look at it but really, I was looking at him.

“I want to give it to a great teacher and that’s you,” and he smiled again with a light in his eye. “You’re a great teacher.”

I swear, I could have hugged him right then and there. I almost did. Instead, I smiled back at him and looked at the muffin, and patted his shoulder. “Thank you, xxx, I appreciate that. Thank you for the muffin.”

And then, the kids were out the door in a flash and I was left there, in a quiet classroom, looking at this silent muffin, just wondering about the magic that can sometimes unfold at the strangest of times.

Peace (in the hustle-bustle),


Highlights from the Concert for Change

I finally got time to make a highlight video of last week’s Concert for Change at our school, where we had student and staff musicians put on a live concert to raise coins/money for Pennies for Peace and donated books for schools down in New Orleans. I showed the highlights to my students yesterday, and they loved it (particularly my drummer student, who helped come up with the concert idea and helped organize the event with me). If you make it to the very end, you can see the stage full of students singing the Three Cups of Tea song as a finale.

That’s me, by the way, playing guitar in the first few acts and then bass near the end of the night.

Peace (in the music),

Slice of Life: Frustration Levels

Slice of Life(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

There’s a teacher at my school whom I respect greatly for her love of children and her teaching ability and style (I want to be like her when I grown up), but she often reminds us that, “I refuse to do more work than the student,” which is something she doesn’t quite mean (she does plenty for her students) but which hits at the issue of student responsibility. Yes, I — the teacher — have an obligation to help them learn, but they — the students  — too, have an obligation to learn and grow, too.  One rarely succeeds without the other.

I was reminded of this yesterday when the majority of one of my classes of sixth graders had failed to do a very  simple homework assignment given five days ago, even after having time to work on it in class on the day it was assigned so that I and my student teacher (who actually assigned it) could help them as needed. This followed on the heels of some other work not being turned in by much of the same class when I was away on Friday. Now, this class has a number of students with documented organizational issues, but this was just too much for me to let slide.

I know I have a cold and my head is tired, but I sort of lost it for a bit in class and took them all to task, hard, for not striving for the highest bar instead of the lowest, which some of them seem to be doing already (and spring isn’t even here yet!). I reminded them that parent-teacher conferences are next week, and that our report/progress reports are going on soon, too, but that most of all, they were disappointing me and letting themselves down  with their passive work ethic. I expect more of them, for heaven’s sake,

I don’t know if it got through.Their heads hung low and they were listening, but I don’t really know if my words got through.

In another class, I had to pull a student outside in the hallway and give a similar lecture, one-on-one. It has been a continuous string of excuses for not doing any work and I had had it (he didn’t realize that I had gone through this earlier with an entire class, poor kid). He nodded, and gestured a good game, but we’ll see if he follows through. Then, at the end of the day, after checking all of their planners, I reminded my students of a few things they should have already had packed in their backpacks and I was amazed at how many scrambled back to their desks. They would have come into school tomorrow, empty of the assignments but full of excuses about why they couldn’t do the work because they left stuff at school (and watch, there will be one or two who will have zoned me out and watched the classmates get their things and not have figured out that they, too, were missing something. I just know it. Or is my mood affecting me?)

Honestly, I felt like a frustrated babysitter more than a teacher, yesterday, and I am hopeful to see some changes in the days ahead, otherwise, we are all in for a rough patch of “Mr H. Turns on the Heat.” That’s never pretty to be part of, even for me.

Peace (in the my class, please),

Slice of Life: Something Simple

Slice of Life

(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

You know the saying about the simple things in life being the ones that we most appreciate?

Well, I spent the long weekend in a sunny place with an awful cold that had my nosing running as it were on a marathon. Just perfect for that weekend getaway, right? So, I needed to have tissues with me everywhere I went,and each time, I walked out our hotel door, I would stuff a handful into my pockets and then distribute the “used” ones in trash cans all over the Tampa/St. Pete area.

Let me say, the tissues in hotels must have glass fibers in them.  Or maybe these were the rejects from the sandpaper plant? My nose felt so raw by Sunday that I often had to second-guess myself on whether it was time to use a tissue or not.  And I sort of forgot that not all tissues are created equal.

So, arriving home yesterday, I grabbed a tissue from our box on the counter (after hugging our boys, of course) and it was like a bit of heaven right there on my face.  The softness was a grandeur I may never know again. I would have gladly have been in the most awful commercial right then and there, and been the most jubilant face in the mix. It felt nice.

It’s the simple things …

Peace (in the blowing),

Imaginary Slice of Life, 3: As the Blog Writes

Slice of Life(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

This is my third day of posting an imaginary Slice of Life, since I am nowhere to be found. In fact, I think my blog is starting to write itself.

I have. And I have to say, the slices that this man writes about are just ridiculous. I mean, who writes about the tiny moments of life? I did agree to take some time the last few days and post this fool Kevin’s links over at Two Writing Teachers blog, which is such a nice blog to hang out with. But really, the Net is for big things, bigger than these words even, and we Blogs are on the verge of taking things over. I mean, have you read the spam I am getting? Those people just love me.  One spammer even asked if I needed help writing my research paper.  Of course, not, sir. I have all the research at my command that I need. Another spammer showers my blog with praise, but I can see that that email address is suspicious and I hear the other Blogs talking about him in the back-channels. (Yes, we blogs back-channel, too).  No sir, you, I do not post.  But I do glow brightly in your praise. Now I suppose this fool Kevin will be returning to his regular writing tomorrow, but for today, I — The Meandering Mind, itself — intend to take full advantage of my time here and make some hyperlinks. Oh, yes, I am going to meander …

Peace (in my mind),
Kevin and his blog, don’t forget the blog

Imaginary Slice of Life, 2: While I Am Away

Slice of Life

(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

So, here I am, writing my second imaginary Slice of Life while away on a long weekend. I imagine that there are some funny comments in my blog bin about my imaginary slice from yesterday. So, even though this is being written a few days ago before anyone read a thing, I want to answer a few of your questions that are no doubt sitting in there:

  • What does your imaginary voice sound like? Good question. It sounds a bit like Elmo, but a cool Elmo. He’s actually kind of hip, making the high-pitched sound reasonable to live with. For now. But when Elmo hits his teen years, watch out, man.
  • Do you ever write when you dream? Funny you should ask that. I do. The problem is that the pen I use is always hard to find in the night, so my words get all jumbled up on me.
  • How did you write this days ago but only post it today? I used a courier pigeon to bring my notes to a telephone pole, where a squirrel dashed off my notes to a crow, who tied it to a hot air balloon, which used GPS to bring my words to the little Internet fellow who writes all of my blog posts for me. It was easy, trust me.
  • Do you think this imaginary slicing has some people scratching their heads right now? Not at all. I know the Slice people. They are quite nice. And they are all missing their heads, so really … nothing to scratch, you know? In fact, they are all heart and soul. Heart and soul.

Peace (in my mind),

Imaginary Slice of Life, 1: In the Sun

Slice of Life(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

I am away this whole weekend on a short but sunny vacation with my wife and I won’ t likely be near a computer, so I am working on posting a few imaginary Slices of Life. What? That’s not legal? Well, here I am, on the beach in Florida with my wife, probably walking along the water and just enjoying time together while my blog automatically posts this piece. So, my slice is this: I am not right now thinking of the world beyond the sound of the ocean, the smell of the water and touch of her hand. Promise. It’s a peaceful slice of life here, away from the world.

Peace (in my mind),

Slice of Life: Rocking the House for a Cause

Slice of Life(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

After a delay caused by winter weather and then school vacation, the Concert for Change event took place last night, with more than 25 student and staff musicians and singers (the number is a bit inflated because our finale piece was having a large group of fifth and sixth graders on stage, singing the song “Three Cups of Tea.”) playing their hearts out and in the process, raising money for the Pennies for Peace organization and books for schools in New Orleans.

The crowd size was OK, maybe about 75 people? We’ve had more in the past but then, rescheduling a concert made things difficult, particularly here in sports tournament season. But we filled up about 10 large boxes of donated books and filled a few large jars with coins.

And we played music of all kinds (including some Guns N Roses, Bob Marley and Jason Mraz). I performed two original songs — one about Hurricane Katrina and the other, about the Haiti earthquake, and I was joined by one colleague on his accordian and another on vocals.

What I liked best was that I was able to get a lot of my current and former students up on stage. Every time I looked up, there was another student on stage, doing something. I know that is how I planned it but still … it was such a great experience to see them up there, taking charge.

I had one my most dramatic former students (in a good way) come back to be master of ceremonies (he took a break from his role as the Wicked Witch in the high school production of Wizard of Oz coming up), and a few other former students were playing guitar and singing on various songs. We had others helping with the door, collecting books and coins, and doing the lights and running the video camera.

And my current students were with me, too, including one boy whose question “Can we collect books for New Orleans?” led to the entire event. He played drums and I was so proud of him. Another student sang a solo version of “I’ll be There” with me on guitar. And another group of boys just learning guitar wrote a song for the event and we played it together.

Fifth grade students came on stage to talk about Haiti (they are doing a read-a-thon), and about reading Three Cups of Tea, and they did a fantastic job speaking on a stage, with the lights, in front of a good sized audience.

I am glad it happened, and now, I am glad it is over, too. There’s a lot of planning that goes into pulling off a 90-minute benefit concert and snow didn’t help.

Peace (in the notes),

PS — Here is some video of one of the bands (with me on bass).