Tag Archives: English

What are you doing?

The video was produced by my son. This is our first poetry video. We are working on a new video as I write.

My third daughter is teaching herself how to play songs on her keyboard. She learned the opening to “Purple Rain” for me.

I took my daughters to a crane viewing site by the river to learn how to draw landscapes.

I know life is challenging right now. I am teaching English online. My kids are attending college through kindergarten on line.

It is tough in so many different ways. But maybe this is also an opportunity. An opportunity for you, for your family, to do something you didn’t have time for… to do something outside your normal routine before the pandemic. Maybe, just maybe, now is the time to build your skills to go after your dreams.

What are you doing, today?

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Family, Life

Your Own

We have a hard rule in our house; you can’t say you dislike anything until you have tried it.  Yes, it helps us to get the kids to eat their vegetables at dinner (there are some vegetables that are not served in our house, but it is because we have at least tried them), but the rule stands also for other issues.  From Justin Beiber to reading The Chronicles of Narnia.  We don’t let the kids just spat out other peoples’ opinions.  Or to just dismiss something without at least knowing something about it so that they can form their own opinion.

This approach isn’t always easy, even as elementary students the playground conversation can get negative and degrading.  I am amazed at times with the negative opinions my children express at the dinner table and the range of topics these opinions cover, from songs about Barney the Dinosaur (not happy songs!) to political issues.  With just a couple of questions, I discover that the opinion comes from the playground.  My wife and I then lead the discussion for them to express what they know of the topic.  We help them to formulate what their opinion is based off what they actually know.  Other times, sadly, we have to simply say, no that is not appropriate.  Usually with songs they learn, but it still expresses an opinion.

As a dad, this saddens me in a number of ways.  I actually enjoy helping them learn about the world.  To discuss issues, to question them and yes, sometimes I over analyze things (did you know how many different themes are present in Disney’s Beauty and The Beast?).  But when did this all become so negative?  What is wrong with liking something?  Why do we have to fight so hard to have our own ideas?

Why is our first reaction to something negative? As an English teacher this attitude is almost a cliché.

Courtesy of Flickr user piper caldwell

“I hate reading.”

“I hate poetry.”

“I hate English.”

I have no problem when a student says they dislike a poem, after they have read it.  In fact, it means the poem actually affected them and gives me something to discuss with them.

What sadness me the most, and not just for my kids but for my students too, is the lost opportunities because of this attitude.  The depth of our life is not created by others’ attitudes but through our experiences.  And those experiences have to be both positive and negative.  Those opposites give us the parameters to build our own views. To make this life our own.

Designed at PicLits.com

1 Comment

Filed under Education, Family, Life

Miles Davis: So What

My oldest son is learning to play the clarinet, and seems to be doing well.  He makes sure he practices every day.  Of course he learned to play a part of the Star Wars theme, which he likes to share every day.

So, I thought I would introduce him to Miles Davis.  To expand his musical interest.  To reveal to him some of the great artists, to show him how incredible music can be.  To show him the deeper part of music.

It didn’t go well.  Not that he didn’t listen with me, but he wasn’t much interested.  I tried to get him to let the music speak to him, to feel the emotion behind it.  He just wanted to be somewhere else.

I was disappointed.  Over the last month I have been sharing movies with the boys that I watched when I was growing up.  Both boys like some of my 80s music.  I thought exposing him to Miles Davis was going to be a great moment.  Why wasn’t it?

I started to wonder about all the times I tried something like this in the classroom.  Sometimes it worked, other lessons failed.  Why?  I just assumed my son would like Miles Davis because he was learning to play an instrument.  My son has no background knowledge about Miles Davis, hasn’t even heard him before.  What did I expect?  That he would just understand how great Miles Davis was.

As an English teacher I have fallen into that same trap, especially with literature.  That my students will just get how awesome a book or poem is.  I don’t want them to miss the opportunity to be moved by the literature, just like I wanted my son to feel the beauty behind Miles Davis’ music.  Ironically, I become the barrier of that moment.  Not in sharing the music, but by being the source of the selection.  And worse, like with my son, not creating an opportunity to spark their interest, or to provide a real foundation to what they will be reading or listening to.

I want to share the great works of this life with my students, with my sons.  But more importantly, I want them to decide what is great on their terms. To search out their own deeper moments.  That is when real learning happens.  And I want to be there, as a dad and as a teacher.

1 Comment

Filed under Education, Family, Life