Songwriting: Lyrics for a Friend

My friend, John, has long had a vision of producing a country album on his bucket list. John and I play in a rock and roll band but his country project was something he always wanted to do, drawing on Hank Williams and others as inspiration for the sound he was after. So many months ago, he started to write the music and then he asked if I would contribute lyrics, and I readily agreed.

We had worked on some of his songs live, with our bandmates, and then the Pandemic hit and that came to a sudden pause. So John did it all solo at home in what he calls The Demonstration Tapes, and the tracks are, as he explains, published drafts for a possible future studio project.

Here is his song page for Bodie Madison & The Ranchers.

I tried to write the lyrics as character sketches for a general theme that John had in mind, and it was an interesting experience to try to do a whole collection of songs this way. John and I have collaborated before, many times, so this was not a new experience, but I really wanted to give him words that would make his songs work as he wanted.

Listening to what he did, from a distance, I am proud of the stories in running through his songs and happy that music remains a connection point in our friendship.

Peace (listening in),
Kevin

Pandemic Podcast Audio Diary (September 2020)

School has started for teachers — it began last week with ten days of professional development — and students start school next week. Our school is doing a phased-in hybrid approach, which means I start the year remote. This is another in a series of monthly podcasts (except for May, when I guess I was too busy to think about doing it) that I have been doing to record some of my thoughts as the first day of school with students approaches.

Here are the previous entries, in reverse chronological order:

Peace (day by day),
Kevin

Book Review: The Hyperdoc Handbook

This teaching book is now a few years old (2016) but The Hyperdoc Handbook (Digital Lesson Design Using Google Apps) by Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton and Sarah Landis was helpful for me in thinking further on how to integrate the concept of HyperDocs (a way to design a lesson or unit for independent inquiry and reflection for students with links and resources and places for sharing) into my remote and hybrid learning approach. I wrote about my initial foray into Hyperdocs the other week.

And plenty of National Writing Project colleagues and I have been engaged in Twitter discussions about the viability of HyperDocs, as well as the limitations. It is important to note, as the authors do repeatedly, that HyperDocs are not just some amped up worksheet to be given remotely to students. (See Deanna Mascale’s latest post on Hyperdocs for her university instruction) I also know there are criticism of this kind of approach, as being too prescriptive or narrowing in scope for learners.

The three authors of The Hyperdoc Handbook are experienced teachers and instructional coaches and technology advocates, and I appreciated the approach of screenshots and examples and the way they talk through the pedagogical rationale for Hyperdocs as a way to engage all learners in a guided yet independent inquiry process. They explore pedagogy and tap into the ways that well-designed Hyperdocs can extend the idea of Zones of Proximal Development, through layered choices and skills and expectations.

You don’t need buy this book to learn about Hyperdocs (I am one of those own-a-book people and I like to support teachers) and their website has plenty of examples and templates and more that you can examine and borrow, and hack, as the authors tell you in the book.  A blog post at the site even provides some useful thinking on remote teaching with Hyperdocs.

This week, in fact, I am going to use a HyperDoc with teachers as part of a professional development session on Project-Based Learning, in which teachers explore a theme for a short/tiny public service announcement (an idea borrowed from AJ Jacobs).

I’m deep into the design stage of curriculum for the start of our school year (which begins remote and then becomes hybrid, with independent learning days for students in the weekly schedule). I see some possibilities here for my students, although it is important to acknowledge that Hyperdocs as nothing new, really, but more of a way to organize resources for student inquiry and exploration. Webquests, websites, blog posts, etc, all are in the same family. The book is helpful in its range of examples, visuals and testimonials from other educators.

As mentioned, a Hyperdoc (which does NOT have to be a Google Doc or product) is definitely more than a glorified worksheet. It’s more like an anchor or docking point, leading students to other activities and resources. That’s important to remember.

Peace, (linked),
Kevin

Book Review: Long Story Short (100 Classic Books in 3 Panels)

Three Panel Review of Three Panel Comics

It seemed appropriate for me to make a comic with three panels as review art for a book of comics of three panels (for the most part) of classic novels. Artist Lisa Brown uses whimsy and brevity for her small collection that summarizes classics like Moby Dick, The Handmaid’s Tale, Lord of the Flies, and more.

As both an avid reader and a lover of comics, as well as an appreciator of popping the balloon of pretension, I thoroughly enjoyed Brown’s small book and humor, and insights, too, that come from trying to find the most important thread from which to spin a comic piece of art. Long Story Short is a fun diversion and witty companion the serious novels of the so-called “literary canon.”

Note: there are references to sex and death in here (it’s a theme of many novels, as you might know) so if you are teacher wondering about the possibility of using this book in the classroom, you might want to pick and choose pages from Brown’s book, or at least, give it an entire read (you should anyway) and determine appropriateness for your students.

Peace (in three frames),
Kevin

 

Song Lyric Deconstruction: With You With Me

I shared a new song entitled With You With Me the other day and wanted to use the draft lyric sheet (this is often what my notebook paper look like as I am writing songs — messy, with crossed-out words and phrases, and crammed things all over the place) to annotate what I was thinking as I was writing the song.

I did this annotation in Thinglink (which allows for audio embeds and layered notes) for myself but maybe you will find it interesting, too.

Peace (with you with me),
Kevin

Comic: All Those Protocols

Covid Protocols

School began yesterday with staff training, and two hours of protocols on staying safe with students and teachers in a building re-opening in a Pandemic was eye-opening and exhausting. Shout out to our school nursing staff, though, who are doing a phenomenal job with sharing information and guidance.

I’ve been making comics since Spring about the Pandemic and its impact on education — you can view the entire collection of nearly 60 comics here.

Peace (take a breath),
Kevin

Comic: The Insomnia of Teachers

Educator InsomniaThe school year starts today, but the year begins with state-sanctioned 14 days of professional development before students begin (our school is doing a phased-in hybrid model). But this is when the sleep of teachers gets regularly disrupted, and the Pandemic makes it worse, of course.

I’ve been making comics since Spring about the Pandemic and its impact on education — you can view the entire collection of nearly 60 comics here.

Peace (resting up),
Kevin

 

Comic: Shifting Perceptions of Educators in a Pandemic

Perception of Teachers

This comic oversimplifies the sense I am getting in listening to our School Committee meetings, observing local social media postings of residents and local elected officials, and reading the news — but it does seem as if the goodwill towards that educators that came in the Spring when the Pandemic hit, and we working non-stop to reach and engage our students via remote, has shifted to more finger-pointing and negative tone as plans to re-open developed, at least where I am.

Some of the comments in the second panel are actual versions of things I have heard said or read in the last few weeks, and while I know this represents only the vocal people who are worried about how to balance it all and that the quiet ones may be supportive, it’s still disheartening that educators are becoming targets of scorn when it is a lack of a national effort to deal with the virus that has put us all in this spot.

Also, it is important to acknowledge that the current landscape is complicated for everyone, whatever their views. It may be that I am defensive in what I hear because it feels like educators are targets in a political scene, fed by the president.

I’ve been making comics since Spring about the Pandemic and its impact on education — you can view the entire collection of more than 50 comics here.

Peace (together),
Kevin