Does it suck?
It sucks, but not as bad as I thought it would suck. The main thing I miss is the NOISE. My class is always noisy. Kids are making things, and they aren’t quiet about it. Now the main thing I hear all day is my own voice. When the kids are looking at me, I feel like they’re being forced to stare, like student zombies; when they look away, I worry that I’ve lost their attention.
And it’s not just my noise that’s missing. No one’s laughing and yelling in the halls. The bells aren’t ringing. And heaven help me, I miss staff meetings.
I’m working from my classroom, so I have all of my materials. My students don’t have access to everything they should, but for the most part we can fake it. I still don’t know how my digital media monkeys are going to make movies with low-powered school Chromebooks, or what exactly will end up in the yearbook, but my students are clever and creative; they’re going to make things that surprise and impress me, just like they always do.
Fighting the student zombie stare
I accidentally changed my teaching strategy a few days in. I recorded a live lesson I did with a couple of classes in case someone was absent. Then I realized that instead of giving the same lesson again I could share the video for the students to watch in their own time, which meant I could do less direct instruction and let more students present their work to the class. Much more interesting from my side, and I hope more engaging for my students. It also means students who miss something can rewatch until they get it, and students who already understand can skip ahead and go right to their projects.
I’ve heard of the strategy before – it’s called a flipped classroom – but I’ve avoided it up to this point because I don’t like assigning homework. Now EVERYTHING is homework- and all lessons are coming from a screen- so it feels a bit more natural.
Next week, things change again. We have no students on campus, but a student enrichment program is going to bring about two dozen kids back, a dozen each in two rooms. One of those rooms is right next to mine. I’ve been teaching with my doors open for maximum ventilation, but now that one will have to stay closed.
Also scheduled for next week: Back to School night. Teachers can either host a live Zoom/Meet or post videos for their classes. I was going to record my videos at work today, but I decided I should wait until I’m not wearing the shirt with the cartoon dumpster fire. It might send the wrong message.
Honestly: I’m fine. My students are safe, this crisis will pass, and I feel like the challenges are giving me new skills as a teacher that will transfer to my future classes when we transition back to traditional instruction.
… or a new form of non-traditional instruction. Los Angeles County is starting to come close to the point that districts can apply for waivers to let students back on campus. If that happens, everything changes all over again, probably right when everyone has the rhythm of this system worked out. It will be an all-new struggle, but it will be worth it to have a noisy room again.
Today I saw Dad’s face – his actual, physical face – for the last time. Dad wasn’t actually there. He’d left the day before, but his body got a little extra time to hang around.
I shaved before we left for the mortuary. A few years ago (or maybe ten) I had read a few things about how great old-school safety razors were and I wanted to try one. Dad had switched to disposables, so he gave me his. I don’t know why he stopped using it. It really is a more comfortable and cheaper way to shave. But it was a very Dad thing to give me something I wanted even if he had made a different choice.
It wasn’t a memorial; this was technically just the identification of the body. In the past there probably would have only been Mom and one of my siblings there, and an actual service would have happened later. But these are not normal times, and there’s no telling how long it will be before a memorial happens. My sister and one of my brothers live two states away; there was no way for them to be here.
The mortuary did its best to give us something for closure. They laid Dad’s body out in the chapel area and let our family say goodbye. They did a good job with his face, but as natural as it was he still looked like he had fallen asleep and a prankster beautician gave him a secret makeover.
I broke social distancing rules for the second time in two days. Both times it was to hug Mom. It was absolutely worth it.
Katherine took advantage of the moment to get in a photobomb. Dad would have liked that.
Dad was a funny guy. On the old version of this site I wrote about his accidental garden. He could find the dark cloud in any silver lining, but he also loved to laugh and joke. He could tell a two minute story in just under thirty minutes. He never met a chair he couldn’t sleep in. He loved a good loaf of bread. He would wear any t-shirt as long as he could reasonably fit into it, and the sillier it was the more likely he’d wear it. He was always organizing, and always making piles of random stuff. I missed the organization gene, but doubled down on the random piles to make up for it. His love for Mom, for all of us, was not a complicated thing. It was just there, and that was that.
I was getting ready to ride my bike to visit Mom when I saw the message from Katherine, who was on her way to Yosemite for a few secluded days in a friend’s cabin.
Call me ASAP.
I knew exactly what that meant before I called her.
I decided I’d still ride over; the hour or so would be a good time to get my head together. I cued up “Rhapsody In Blue,” one of the few bits of music I knew Dad liked, or at least that I thought I remembered that he liked, and started my ride. I could hear why Dad would like it. Like him, it’s switches between structure and meandering all the time. That Gershwin guy has potential.
A bit after the music ended I got a flat. Then my pump screwed up my spare tube and I laughed, because of course it did. But it worked out, because Katherine had canceled her trip and come home so we could go over together. So: thank you, flat tire.
I was uncomfortable at the memorial-that-wasn’t-a-memorial. Seeing Dad’s body helped make Dad’s death real, and I was happy to be there to support Mom, but a lot of it felt like an attempt to Create A Special Moment, and special moments are hard to force. Afterward at the house, when we were just talking about whatever was on our minds, I relaxed. The special moments were here, in the house where I grew up, in the house where Dad lived for most of his life, not in the mortuary we had never been inside.
So long, Dad. I love you. I don’t believe in an afterlife, but if I’m wrong I hope they’ve got lots of fresh bread and good mustard there for you.
Haven’t done one of these for a while. 50ish recent tracks, mostly picked by my phone.
Turning of the Tide – Bob Mould
Let’s Go Slow (with Rob Shear) – Jules Shear
Morning Flowers – Wax Witches
It Tango – Laurie Anderson
Blues For Yesterday – Louis Armstrong
On Your Own – Blur
No More Kings – Pavement
The Opposite Of Hallelujah – Jens Lekman
The Sheik of Araby – Edmond Hall Sextet
Feelings (ft. Maggy Lee) – Treasure
Stranded – Shawn Colvin
All I Wanna Do – Jakob Ogawa
Dead Finks Don’t Talk – Brian Eno
No Complaints – Beck
Glad To Be Unhappy – The Mamas & The Papas
Waiting For The Sun – Powderfinger
Only Matters When – UV-TV
Slip Away – Clarence Carter
Rain King – Counting Crows
Navy Blue (Alt Tk Of Above) – Stan Getz
In The Midnight Hour – Wilson Pickett
Long Vermont Roads – The Magnetic Fields
Palm Of Your Hand – Cake
Truckdrivin Neighbors Downstairs – Beck
What To Say – Bill Nickson
Celebration – They Might Be Giants
Wouldn’t It Be Nice To See For Miles – The Who Boys
Don’t Ever Leave Me – Connie Francis
Paperbacks – Arlo Parks
Up The Morning – Babyshambles
No You Didn’t No You Don’t – The Courteeners
Get Me By – Boy Scout
Hawaiian War Chant – Billy Mure
The Distance – Cake
A Little More for Little You – The Hives
It Was a Good Day – Ice Cube
I Get A Kick – Jungle Brothers
Stupid Thumbs – Sugar John
Under Daisies – Monogold
Lightness – Dead Times
Daydream – Boy Romeo
Kiss the Devil – Eagles of Death Metal
The Haunted Mansion: Grim Grinning Ghosts – Disney
Blister in the Sun – Violent Femmes
LISTEN UP, YOUNGSTERS! AN OLD MAN IS ABOUT TO TALK ABOUT THE GOOD OLD DAYS.
I’m really sad that Post Malone is on KROQ. You might think I mean “that’s not KROQ music!” And I do think that- but I probably don’t think it the way you think I think it.
As I said above, I am an old man. I’ll be 54 in two weeks. I’ve started listening to KROQ at the start of the eighties, when it sounded like a college station that liked to get drunk and fight with its best friend, pirate radio. You might hear Van Halen, you might hear Devo, you might hear the theme from The Jetsons.
DJs would have a loose playlist, but they really played whatever they wanted to play. They brought in their personal records (remember records?). You could call and make a request and it might actually get played. They played some mainstream music, most of what they played couldn’t be heard anywhere else. And new, weird sounds showed up all the time.
I loved listening because I knew I’d hear things that were only on KROQ. I’d probably hear something I’d never heard before.
But then radio shifted, and KROQ shifted with them. “KROQ music” started moving onto more conventional stations. KROQ started to sound like New Wave Oldies. How many times can you play the Red Hot Chili Peppers in a day? A lot, apparently.
Somewhere along the way I stopped listening. The old music was old, and I owned any of it I wanted to hear. The new music didn’t appeal to me, and I thought that was a good thing. I’ve always told my students that every generation needs music that the previous one doesn’t like, or at least doesn’t understand. KROQ was never about appealing to older people, and I had become older people.
So you might think I’d be fine with Post Malone on KROQ, since he clearly fits the “not for old people” profile. But he’s not weird and new. He’s already a pop star. And he’s pretty mainstream. You can’t be an outsider and write the theme to a Spider-Man cartoon movie. Even worse: I like some Post Malone stuff.
It’s probably time to let KROQ die. Radio stations can only adapt so much before the world passes them. Online sources make even early KROQ look stodgy and professional. The current format will get played with, shuffled, adjusted, rejiggered, and eventually – probably soon – they’ll abandon the whole thing and start over. It happens. When it does, KROQ will join stations like KMET, KDAY, and KNAC as wistful memories of old farts like me.
SPECIAL BONUS: I used to be a big enough fan of KROQ that I would make KROQ-specific websites. Here’s one. It might look bad now, but at the time it looked terrible.
I posted about how hard the last few weeks have been. It’s time for a little counterbalancing. Here’s the end of the year video I put together with the help of our staff and students. Enjoy!
I did something today I haven’t done for two months: I worked at school. First I shot some video of our principal, then I helped clean out lockers.
It was hard.
Dr. Macias and I talked a bit about this year, and about the next. Next year’s kids will almost certainly be going to a school where they are rarely on campus, and never all on campus at the same time. Electives and physical education are particularly impacted. I teach digital media, and there is simply no way to be socially distant in a computer lab. I do not know how (or what) I will be teaching in August.
After the video, I went on locker duty.
Every locker is open. Most of them had school locks that were opened with a master key. Some had personal locks; those were opened with bolt cutters. Every unchecked locker has a profile page of the student to whom it’s assigned. It was the first time I had seen most of those faces since we closed.
The lockers are weird little ghosts of the students that once used them. Some students are organized – their lockers are usually empty. Some students are a little less focused. Their lockers look like mine did when I was their age: messy and stuffed with whatever weird trinkets I loved that week.
One of the lockers had a big pink and purple button that read “I REALLY WISH I WEREN’T HERE RIGHT NOW!” It was absolutely right and completely wrong. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to be throwing student treasures into plastic bags. But I wanted to be there. I wanted to be making jokes with students, complaining about “that kid” to my friends at the lunch table, working out final grades, watching students get ready for high school and beyond.
Our eighth graders always have a big promotion ceremony. Family and friends fill the PE field. Awards are given. Crowds shout and applaud. Friends hug. Summers together are planned. Students get one last moment as a single group before they get split up and absorbed into larger schools, before they really make the first steps from adolescence to adulthood.
This year they will get a video they can watch at home. Teachers are working to make that video something special, but it will always be more isolated and distant. Next year will probably be even more disconnected.
I’m not in the center of this thing. I spent two hours bagging belongings, not two months bagging bodies. But if my tiny actions on the edge of this pandemic hurt this much, I can’t imagine what it’s like at the epicenter.
Take care of yourselves.
I really wish we weren’t here right now.
My Mortal Foe, Daniel Quinn: VANQUISHED!
TWENTY FIVE POINT TWO PERCENT. Pity poor Daniel Quinn, for his paltry 25.02% of the Valley has been crushed.
This is me:
…and this is PATHETIC HAS BEEN DANIEL QUINN:
At this point, the only way he could possibly catch me is if he rode SEVEN MILES. IMPOSSIBLE! NO MAN CAN RIDE SEVEN MILES AND LIVE TO TELL THE TALE.
My glory will never be surpassed!
The killing blow:
Now go and tell the world of this glorious day!
(maybe don’t tell Daniel)