Jules’s Jukebox: Beyond 180–The Dawn Is Coming

After finishing up my 180 Days project, I’ve been contemplating my next projects. I plan to start my Jules’s Jukebox back up for certain. But I’ve been debating how or if to write about my summer or find another project to explore. For the interim–it’ll be the Jukebox and probably my upcoming road trip. Until then…here’s the first Jukebox in a while.

Jules’s Jukebox: ARTY, featuring April Bender “Sunrise”

“…Hello can turn into goodbye
But you know we’re still on the same side
Our hearts will fade into black skies
Then we’ll come back to life in the sunrise…”

I still contend that music in a universal language that transcends our distances and differences. We can all hear music and feel the emotion it holds–connecting it to our life events, memories, as part of the soundtracks of our lives. So many songs throughout my life capture a certain time and place.

This song captures a frame of mind that I’ve worked really hard to embrace despite feeling quite the opposite many times. This past year and a half I have often felt the night cannot grow any darker without tumbling headlong into an abyss–the political climate is so ugly; the struggles at work with the stalemate at the negotiations table; the tribalism and ugliness I’ve seen in people I once considered at least friendly if not friends. But I know that we are not in the abyss yet. I keep having hope that there are silver linings to these dark clouds. And this song sort of captures that silver lining for me.

“We must believe that it is the darkest before the dawn of a beautiful new world. We will see it when we believe it.” ~Saul Alinsky

 

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180 Days: Day 180–It’s Day 180! The End! Fini! Terminado!

My sophomores and I conducted our final Socratic Style Seminar of the year today, on our last day together. And this seminar felt different than the rest. Not just because it’s the last day, but because every single student participated and everyone seemed to finally gel and feel at ease with each other. The pressure was off. And the year was over in the blink of an eye. We could’ve held hands and sung “Kumbaya” at this point, but I spared them that assault on our ears. Instead, we took turns talking our successes and failures for the year–and set some goals for next year. We ended on a good note. I’ve got a feeling that tonight is indeed going to be a very good night to start a very good summer.

“I Gotta Feeling” by The Black Eyed Peas from 2009’s The E.N.D.

 

180 Days: Day 179–Graduation Day

Today our district held all high school graduations one after the other (we have four comprehensive high schools and one alternative high school) off campus–which is not the usual. Because each high school’s football field and track are being refurbished so they will be ready in the fall, we are taking turns at the local community college stadium.

Our school was third of the four in the day’s line-up. After we met at school, lined up, loaded the seniors onto busses in order, we were on our way. My job for the afternoon: assist the superintendent in handing diploma covers to students. So for what felt like forever, the super and I smiled, shook hands, handed out diploma covers, took pictures, and had a little side conversation about our own graduations from many years ago in different states.

One of my AP Students sang a beautiful rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner”. Then the choir sang “For Good” from the Broadway Musical Wicked. They saved their best performances of the year for the end–a very fitting way to go out on top. They were spectacular!

As the ceremony wore on, the ecstatic seniors came to the stark realization that this was the last time they would ever be all together in one place at one time. It happened often at assemblies during their high school days, but now, they are no longer high school students. They are graduates.

Congratulations, Class of 2018!

“Graduation Day” by Chris Isaak from 1995’s Forever Blue

“Driving slowly watching the headlights in the rain.
Funny how things change.
Think of the good times wishing you were still with me.
The way it used to be graduation day…”

“For Good” by Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel from Wicked

 

180 Days: Day 178–No Seniors and Summer-itis

Today, I had only sophomores in class as the seniors were at graduation practice. I did walk over to help with grad practice during my usual senior period, but today was about helping sophomores adjust to how quiet the halls felt without the seniors there and preparing for their final class period with me over the course of the next two days. But while my sophomores did ask a few questions and work some, it was clear that summer-itis has set in despite the quiet and reflective mood on campus.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that the Board of Education had not accepted our bargaining proposals from last night’s board meeting, our union office has heard no official word as of yet. It seems like we do not even matter enough to warrant a response. All this lack of a response does is bolster my opinion that it is not a response that we will find favorable and that the district is digging in for a blow that will be about as ugly as ugly gets. My fingers are crossed that something good will come from all of this, but I’m not optimistic.

“Time after Time” by Cyndi Lauper

“If you’re lost you can look–and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you–I’ll be waiting
Time after time…”

180 Days: Day 177–Togetherness in the Coming Storm

Tonight was not fun. Tonight was not fun. Tonight was not fun.

This evening was the final regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting for the year. As has been the case for half a year now, our union members showed up in force and spoke during the open comments section of the meeting.

Union leaders walked in hoping to hear something positive come out of our flurry of negotiations from last week, hoping to put to bed two years of stalled negotiations and distrust. Instead, we found an emboldened school board that was dug in against us and ignoring our voices yet again.

As our membership showed up for our final week “grade in”, where many teachers filled overflow rooms grading their last week’s worth of student work, the board of education attempted to bargain from the dais to the boos from the overflow rooms. One board member thought he was doing us a favor to ensure we got district money to spend on supplies that should be provided by the district anyway. But his actions from the dais told me all I needed to know about what happened in closed session–the board was not going to negotiate with us and had instead chosen the path of imposition. When we were so close to finding a mutual resolution, they instead chose the power play to walk away and thumb their noses at us.

The board of education yet again chose to tell teachers that they didn’t matter, to just shut up and do what we are told, to throw away our years of experience and training and just read the script…and we continue to hold strong to our core values–that face time with our students matters, that if our employers want us to do more and more, then they should include raises out of the COLA they get from the state every year, that scripted, one size fits all methods do not meet the needs of our children–and that teachers are left to fight for child-centered instructional goals instead of this overwhelming program-centered approach that leaves everyone behind. This is not a case of teachers being resistant to change. This is a case of teachers being resistant to what is bad for kids, bad for our classrooms, bad for our profession. Thankfully, we still have a spark, as the board ensured tonight that the need to fight will continue.

“Firework” by Katy Perry from 2010’s Teenage Dreams

“Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting thought the wind
Wanting to start again
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards
One blow from caving in
Do you ever feel already buried deep
Six feet under scream
But no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there’s still a chance for you
‘Cause there’s a spark in you…”

180 Days: Day 176–Senior Day

Today was Senior Day. Senior Day consists of four hours of activities for the graduating senior class, including senior breakfast, senior slideshow, baccalaureate practice, handing out and signing yearbooks, and handing out caps & gowns and graduation tickets. It is a morning of fun, memories, and the beginning of the class of 2018’s legacy. Their time at our high school is now history.

While they officially have three days remaining as high schoolers, their coursework is complete and all that stands between them and the rest of their lives are three days of activities and final paperwork signing them out of high school. Today is the day that this all begins to feel real–that they are crossing a threshold, fulfilling a rite of passage.

Onward, Class of 2018!

“History” by One Direction

“You and me got a whole lot of history
We could be the greatest thing that the world has ever seen
You and me got a whole lot of history
So don’t let it go, we can make some more, we can live forever…”

180 Days: Day 175–Thank Yous and Final Final Presentions

Today was the last day for all presentations. My sophomores completed their projects with a sigh of relief. But for my seniors it was bittersweet.

My seniors completed their TED Talks and turned in thank you cards to their interviewers. So after the last student delivered his speech where he stood up and read Dr. Seuss a la Ted Cruz filibuster, my students erupted in applause because they were officially done with their speeches. As the end of the period approached and I collected the last of their thank you cards, I made the best announcement of the year:

“You have completed AP Literature and Composition. We are officially finished!”

After the whoops and hollers died down, they all looked at each other and tears started welling up in their eyes. They knew they were at the end of the AP Lit line. All work was complete. We only had one class period left together to double check grades and sign clearance forms–then it was on to the rest of their lives. Then the hugs and high fives commenced.

It’s days like these that keep the profession fresh for me–seeing the student glee as they reflect on a year-long (and in these students’ cases 13 years-long) accomplishments. As this door is creaking closed, next week another door opens for these incredible kids.

“End of the Line” by The Traveling Wilburys

 

180 Days: Day 174–ICE and Living in Suburbia While Black

Two of my seniors gave powerful and deeply personal speeches today–one about ICE agents arresting a family member, the other about how she and her brother were detained by police just because they were black in a predominately white neighborhood. Both of these very timely and heart-wrenching speeches highlighted a key theme among my seniors today: that we must be the agents of the change we seek in a world we find lacking in humanity.

They both spoke about being afraid to leave their homes because either ICE or the police would detain them or send them away, or worse, tear their families apart or kill them. We live in a suburb of Los Angeles. Our school is very diverse–27 languages spoken and many different nationalities represented in our multiracial, multiethnic, multilingual, diverse school community. We celebrate our diversity as a strength for our school. And to hear these first-hand accounts about what we see on the news every day brought home to my students that we are not immune to the headlines–that what is happening in the world around us can just as easily happen to us.

I am thankful that my students felt comfortable enough with each other to share their experiences and to allow all of us to learn from them. I was deeply saddened that my students have had to experience this level of fear in their lives. As we ended class with our debriefing session, I thanked them for sharing such personal stories and for speaking truth to power–and that I encourage them all to continue to have the courage to push for change in our society.

“Glory” by Common and John Legend for the movie Selma

 

180 Days: Day 173–And the Curtains Rise

My students began their presentations today. Seniors started their year ending TED Talks-style speeches while my sophomores began their group research presentations featuring Pecha Kucha style multimedia slideshows to accompany their speeches.

And today’s groups set the bar for all the subsequent presenters. Today featured stellar presentations across the board–the kids who signed up to go first were actually the ones who paid attention to the details.

In my senior class, the first presenter asked the audience to reconsider art and photography in the world around us. He included some amazing slides that were impeccably timed as he used his own iPad to as a timer right in front of him. He set a standard for the remainder to follow. And his each of his other three peers that presented today did not fail. One, in particular, spoke about her choice to take this class–AP Lit. This class was the only AP class she took in high school and thankfully, she did not regret it. But she did talk about finding the balance in life with classwork, clubs, and social life. And everyone after her bemoaned that they had to follow her as she hit a grand slam. Everyone in the class was hanging on her every word. She nailed it! I knew my seniors would do well, but I was really impressed today. All of today’s seniors could have presented at an actual TED event with success.

My sophomores did well also, but the very first group today set the bar for all the classes. Four girls, all dressed alike (frankly they looked like Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs with their skinny ties, white shirts, and black jackets). They were coordinated. They were well-rehearsed. They were on point. And they didn’t go over on time like all the other groups did today. But the thing I liked most? Even though most groups exceeded their time limit on their speech, they did not drag or linger. Their speeches were smooth, easy to follow, and made sense. Today’s groups showed the rest of the groups how to do it right. This should make the remaining days interesting to see–to see if they apply what they learned from today’s groups.

Reservoir_Dogs_Blood_Outdoor_Metal_Print_a

To ensure we knew what they learned from today’s presentations, I ensured there was time at the end of each class period to debrief. I asked today’s presenters what advice they had to offer those who have yet to present. I also asked those who haven’t presented what their takeaways were from the day. Most talked about the rehearsal being important and looking at the tops of heads instead of faces to help with nervousness.

“The Show Must Go On” by Queen from 1991’s Innuendo

 

180 Days: Day 172–Turned In, Rehearsed, & Ready to Go

Today marks the Monday of the last full week of school–and presentation week. Seniors will be delivering TED Talks starting tomorrow. Sophomores will begin their group multimedia projects. So today was rehearsal day.

My seniors practiced and used their time well–as I fully expect AP students to do. They needed very little direction as they put the finishing touches on their presentations and dropped their media into the share folder.

My sophomores, on the other hand, were in a state of flux between well-managed practice and hair-pulling frantic panic. But they were all on task. I had all but two of 27 media presentations in the share folder by day’s end. That’s pretty good considering that all of the presentations were finished and it was just digital issues causing problems for the last two. But that’s why I have a rehearsal day–to find all the last second problems before they become an issue on presentation day and throw the entire timing into a tailspin.

Tomorrow we begin to see the fruits of our labors over the past few weeks. It will hopefully be a fun and cathartic experience for the kids–and hopefully an experience that will leave them feeling like they accomplished something by finishing a multi-step project that incorporated research, reading, writing, speaking, listening, teamwork, and a whole host of other skill sets.

 

“Ahead by a Century” by The Tragically Hip

“No dress rehearsal. This is our life.”