Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


There I stood, graciously accepting the compliments a parent was giving regarding today's 6th grade music concert.  My students had just presented a 30-minute program of music from the baroque, classical, and romantic periods, singing music by great composers including Handel, Beethoven, Schumann, and others.  26 students ages 11 and 12 had just presented 8 songs, each in either 2 or 3 part harmony ranging from canons to counter-melodies, to the particularly challenging homophonic harmonies in which each student sings the same words at the same time but must do so on his or her own melody or harmony.

It was pretty great.

So there I stood, graciously accepting the compliments.

I was about to ask this particular dad my standard question, "So which student do you belong to?"  Typically, the parent chuckles, thinking that most people would consider the children as belonging to the parents, not in the reverse.  It's a great icebreaker, and chance for me to praise their student by name as I respond with a genuine compliment about their child.

But this time, I got interrupted before even asking the question.  Mrs. Casdorph (aka, my mom) came over to ask if I knew which parent I was talking with.  At which point, I immediately recalled a conversation of full disclosure in which I had mentioned I was a bit star-struck by the parent of one of her students.

Now, many of you may get a bit flustered meeting, say, a famous actor, or a rock star.  Maybe a famous athlete?  I'm even friends with a few nerds who'd get a bit ga-ga over a Nobel Prize winner.  But for me, I can think of little cooler than knowing an author.

So when I found out a few years ago that the father of some kids at our school was a bona fide successful author, I read a few of his books.

The Maze Runner.  Have you heard of it?  Read it, even?  My December 2011 Goodreads review said,

"I had a little extra motivation in choosing to read this book, and I consequently had expectations going in. I was not disappointed. The plot gripped me from the beginning, and it continued with the perfect combination of suspense and direction. As I closed the last page, I was glad I already had the sequel!"
Well, the dad standing in front of me discussing the musical prowess of his son's class was none other than James Dashner.

I could have kept my cool.  Probably.  Were it not for the fact that I had told my mom that I kind of wanted to meet him but didn't want to seem like a groupie when I did.  Were it not for the fact that I have pointed him out in a there's-a-celebrity sort of way to Kirk at family activities hosted by the school.  Were it not for the fact that, well... he's a successful author in a sub-genre (dystopian) of my all-time favorite genre (fantasy).  So not only is he a successful author; he's a successful author of books I actually like.

So, as I'm standing there, I literally turn pink, gush something about how much I love his books and how Mrs. Casdorph knew I'd be a bit star-struck and that's why she made a big deal of asking if I knew who I was talking to.  I was flustered, and consequently talking at warp speed, and all-in-all, I just felt like a huge dork.

"Did you know the movie is coming out in the fall?" he said.

I responded with some barely intelligible babble about the fact that my book club had recently discussed that.

He returned to complimenting the performance.

I excused myself with the tiny bit of dignity I had left.

I glanced at Kirk, who had watched the whole ridiculous exchange and was visibly amused.

I fanned my face with the left over programs in my hands as I simultaneously realized how front-row-fainting-over-Elvis I must look.

And I laughed.

Well, I've officially met Mr. Dashner.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Pop Culture Ruins Everything

As a 5th grade teacher, I've come to hate pop culture.


Well, adults find things they like and share them with their friends.  Then their friends respond with something uniquely interesting, and the conversation continues and morphs until they've been twenty-nine different, potentially interesting places.

Not so with kids.

In the kid-world, someone says,

"What Does the Fox Say" is an awesome video!  And suddenly everyone watches it.  Multiple times.  And then you can't run from it!

Last year, "Gangham Style" hi-jacked my ability to let 5th graders freestyle dance to a song we were learning.

This year, I was caught somewhat off guard during a seemingly harmless lesson on sharps and flats.  Sure, I'd seen the memes (with a Facebook full of music geeks, it would be hard not to), but the real-world impact just hadn't occurred to me.

Sure, they were only 4th graders.  But it became readily apparent they'd seen this video:

I mean, they did the hand sign for hashtag and everything!

And suddenly it really didn't matter what I said, because underlying it all was a constant bed of whispers and giggles:

"Hashtag... hee hee hee..."

"Hashtag... tee hee hee..."

I know all you education graduates are screaming at me that I'm missing an opportunity here.  We were all taught to latch on to their prior learning, right?

Yeah... next year... maybe I'll go that way.  I could plan a whole cool lesson introducing the Sharp as the original hashtag.  If only I'd thought of it this year!

But that's the trouble with pop culture.  What's popular is always changing!  And it turns out, I'm getting old, and I'm not as in touch with the 11-year old set as I may once have been, at least where YouTube is concerned.

I know I need to adapt, and I know the kids respond well to cool.

But people: