#BloggingAtoZ — Wait for It

I always tell people that my favorite song from Hamilton is “Burn” but I’d be lying if I didn’t readily admit that I wouldn’t want to live off the difference between that song and “Wait for It.”

“Wait for It” is my daughter’s favorite song from the musical, and when I learned that, for some reason, it caused me to play closer attention to the song to try to see what she saw, and it’s a good one.I don’t know what resonates with my daughter, but what resonates with me is the simple, obvious, but profound truths Burr shares when he says,

“Love doesn’t discriminate
Between the sinners
And the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep loving anyway.
We laugh and we cry and we break
And we make our mistakes.”

“Death doesn’t discriminate
Between the sinners and the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway.
We rise and we fall and we break
And we make our mistakes.”

“Life doesn’t discriminate
Between the sinners and the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes.
And we keep living anyway
We rise and we fall and we break
We fall and we make our mistakes.”

It’s like those phrases smacked me right in the face because they are so true and so powerful. And when they are put in the context of the song, the frustration and envy Burr feels for Hamilton, somehow it makes those sentiments all the more poignant. This song is instrumental in developing the audience’s relationship with Aaron Burr. We want to dislike him, especially knowing how his relationship with Hamilton is going to end, but he manages at times to garner enough sympathy in us that we can’t be filled with disdain for him — there’s a part that pities him, and that’s what makes the relationship with him so powerful.

I have been thinking about getting a Hamilton related tattoo, but I don’t want the show logo — too simple and obvious. But I like words and quotes, and this song offers some strong possibilities.

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#BloggingAtoZ — The Virgin Suicides

I am behind on my blog posts, so expect a barrage of them 🙂

My post for the letter V is another fantastic but disturbing book I read called The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (yes, I know there’s a movie but I’ve never seen it because I didn’t want to be disappointed because I don’t think this book lends itself well to being a movie). The story is essentially told from the collective point of view of neighborhood boys, now adults, remembering back to when they were kids and they met the mysterious and beautiful Lisbon sisters. But the Lisbon family ends up torn apart as sister after sister takes her own life. This book is heady and heartbreaking and disturbing but fascinating all the same. It makes the reader think about our own memories and how we remember the past. It makes the reader want to know more about the dynamics of the Lisbon family, but the reader never gets that. It’s like quicksand. The more awful things get, the more you want to be in it — to understand, to make sense, to be part of the collective memory. It is quite a sad book but beautifully written. I believe this was Eugenides first book and it really showcases his ability to write compelling prose. One of my very favorite books of all time. If you’re looking for something deep to read, this book might do the trick.

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#BloggingAtoZ — Unwind

My post today is about one of the most haunting, disturbing books I have ever read — Unwind by Neal Shusterman. The premise of the book is this: the second Civil War in our country is called the Heartland War, and it is fought over reproductive rights. The result of the war is Unwinding: abortion is not allowed; parents must have their children and keep them until the age of 13. Between the ages of 13 – 18, however, any parents who decide they they no longer want to keep their child may choose to instead have the child Unwound, which means the child’s body in its entirety must be used as donor parts so that, technically, the life goes on, just in a divided state. The story focuses on the main characters of Connor, Risa, and Lev — all scheduled for Unwinding for different reasons — and how their lives intersect and how they deal with their imminent Unwindings.

The premise of the book is seriously messed up, and I will tell you without giving away any plot details that yes, you will get to witness an Unwinding, and it is a scene you will not soon forget, it is so powerful and disturbing. Hats off to Neal Shusterman for his amazing creativity in developing the premise of this book and the unnerving description of Unwinding. The man is brilliant.

If you are like me and enjoy dystopian fiction, I highly suggest reading this book. There are other books to create a series (or a dystology, as some call it). I have read them, and while they are good, in my opinion, none of them live up to Unwind.

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#BloggingAtoZ — Tu Meri

I’m going international for my post today! I’d like to introduce you to a song that I’m guessing very few of you know. It’s called “Tu Meri” and it is from the Bollywood film Bang Bang.

I know very, very little about Bollywood movies. I’ve seen only one — Bang Bang. What I can tell you about that movie is it was AWESOME! I can see why Bollywood movies are so popular if they are all like this one. The story is engaging, the plot is action packed, and the musical numbers are absolutely epic! I don’t think I’ve ever had as much watching a movie as I did watching Bang Bang.

I really enjoyed the music in that film, but I remember my dad telling me how much he liked “Tu Meri” so I paid extra attention to it when I watched the movie, and I see why he liked it! It doesn’t matter that I can’t understand a single word — it’s such an fun, engaging song, you can’t help but get caught up in it! See what you think! The video for the song is actually the scene in the movie where the song is performed. You’ll see what I mean about the musical numbers being epic! I’m betting you’ll be tapping your toe right along to the song not too far into it! Expand those musical horizons — add a Bollywood song to your playlist!

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#BloggingAtoZ — SBG

My post for today is a little bit of a cheat. I’d like to talk a little bit about standards-based grading (SBG). If you’re not familiar with SBG, it’s essentially a way of assessing student learning that focus on measuring student progress against a learning target instead of reporting student learning with a letter grade. Lots of people say they don’t understand SBG or they have no experience with it, but if they’re parents and their kids went to school it is likely they do know about it. Many kids in younger grades are assessed using learning targets — “The student can add single digit numbers,” would be an example of a learning target, and as the school year progresses, the teacher checks the student’s progress against this target and then reports that to the parents. The goal is that by the end of the year, the student achieves mastery or proficiency (some say there are synonymous, some say they are different, but that’s a topic for a different blog post). Admittedly, the learning targets get more complex and more challenging to measure as kids get older, but the goal is to provide students, parents, and teachers with more detailed information about what a students knows and where more work needs to be done. SBG is meant to be more informative than an A, B, C, D, or F. Letter grades can reflect so much more than just what a students has learned, and they can be defined differently (if I asked you to define each of those letter grades and compared your definitions to mine, there would likely be discrepancies on what those grades mean). I am working hard to learn about SBG — it is a huge mind shift for someone who has spent her entire career giving letter grades to junior ELA students. I like it in theory; I am still trying to understand it in practice (which is doubly challenging for me since for the past 6 years, I have been working as my district’s instructional technology resource teacher, so I don’t have my own students, so I am not actually using SBG). Not too long ago, on my education blog, I wrote about an epiphany I had about SBG, so I’m going to link to it here. Like I said, I am still working very hard to learn all I can about SBG, so if you’re able to help me on my learning path with insights, resources, personal experiences, etc., I’d love to hear them!

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#BloggingAtoZ — Rag ‘n’ Bone Man

I was confused yesterday because I realized I was a letter behind. I couldn’t figure out how that could be — until I realized I did 2 posts for the letter N! So here I am, Easter Sunday, getting caught up!

For the letter R, let me introduce you to a musical artist I discovered maybe a year and a half ago — Rag ‘n’ Bone Man. I happened to be channel surfing through my Sirius XM radio stations one day in the car when I was stopped by the voice in a beautiful song I had never heard before called “Odetta.” The song was by Rag ‘n’ Bone man and his voice was haunting. I immediately started pulling up random songs on Google Music by him and fell in love. He has this rich, soulful voice that absolutely does not match his face. This made me love him even more. As I listened to more and more songs, I fell more and more in love. “Hard Came the Rain” pulled me in, but really hit me hard when I watched the video for it. Songs like “Skin” and “Human” are so powerful, they nearly move me to tears. I would love to see him perform live, but he doesn’t appear to be in the United States much. He was at LollaPalooza last year, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay the exorbitant price and fight the traffic into Chicago to go to Lolla for one performer so instead I listen to Rag ‘n’ Bone Man and wistfully hope for him to embark on a US tour someday. I hope you enjoy his music as much as I do.

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#BloggingAtoZ — Quiet

This ornament was made for and given to me by one of my most respected and admired colleagues. It is a constant reminder to me of how important it is to continue to speak up and out.

I am a two-time sexual assault survivor. Oddly enough, it has only been in recent time that I actually realized that the sexual assaults were just that — assaults. I have only recently also recognized that I was a victim as well as a survivor. It was the #MeToo and the #WhyIDidntReport movement and the attention paid to Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony that helped me recognize what happened to me in my past and also inspired me to finally share my story. Since then, I have vowed to not remain silent on this topic. I believe women when say they have been sexually assaulted or raped because no matter what anyone thinks or says, any perceived “benefit” the woman may get as a result of reporting it is far, far outweighed by the amount of slut shaming they receive as a result. This is what keeps women from reporting and therefore living their lives silent, hurt, and confused like I did. I came across a song shared on social media that expressed the sentiment behind this beautifully. The song is “Quiet” by Milck. It is powerful and moving. I hope women everywhere hear it and know that when they speak up and out, they will have an army of women with them, hearing them, supporting them. No woman should ever have to keep quiet. We keep hoping that the culture will change, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. So I must be the change, and I will not be quiet.

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#BloggingAtoZ — Princess Diana

Have you ever been asked the question, “If you could have the chance to meet with any person, either dead or alive, who would it be?” When I am asked that question, I answer with Princess Diana.

What I saw in Princess Diana was an incredibly human human being. She had power and prestige and privilege and beauty and station, but she also had weaknesses and flaws and vulnerabilities while also having a heart and compassion and selflessness. She was able to leverage each of those qualities to make herself someone who was relatable and admirable and inspirational.

I feel like she created a legacy for herself purposefully, but not because she wanted to be remembered by all of us; she created a legacy because she knew that she had the ability to change people’s lives, and that was what would live on well beyond however many years she lived (which wasn’t anywhere near enough, in my opinion). She showed the world that you can make mistakes on the most public of stages and still be a force for good in the world. She showed us that we don’t have to always play by the rules. She showed everyone that using your wealth, power, privilege, and station to benefit others begets more wealth, power, privilege, and station that you can keep using for good. It’s a beautiful vicious circle. And you don’t have to have loads of wealth, power, privilege, or station. We should all use what we have, and if we all worked as selflessly as she did, just imagine how wonderful this world would be.

That’s why I would want to meet Princess Diana. I would want to hear how she did this and then do it myself.

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#BloggingAtoZ — Over When it’s Over

Since I was unable to do my blog post yesterday, I’ll be doubling up today! So the “O” post should have been for yesterday, and the topic is the Eric Church song, “Over When it’s Over.” I don’t remember when I first heard it, but I do know it was one of those songs that I fell in love with the first time I heard it. I love the bit of melancholy in the way Church sings it, the tinges of regret. And the language, oh, the language! The words, the metaphors, the extended metaphors! So many good ones:

“We had it in the air but just couldn’t land it.”

“Where regrets outlast the alcohol.”

“It’s the last long drag on a Marlboro light.”

“It’s a blank page when you’re out of words.”

“It’s too far gone to be shocked back.”

The teacher in me would LOVE to use this song to teach my students about metaphor and extended metaphor. The girl in me just sees all sorts of different ways to describe the heartaches I’ve felt in my life. This song is a good one.

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#BloggingAtoZ — 99 Years

Not very long ago, maybe 6 weeks or so, I stumbled upon a song that resonated with me. My husband and I have been married for almost 29 years and we have had our share of ups and downs. And if I’m being honest, most of the ups were not really high ups, but the downs were really low downs. When our daughter started high school, I started harboring a deep, secret fear (found out later my husband was having the same fear) — I was very much afraid that when our daughter left for college we would fall apart. We had had so many bad years and our marriage really felt pretty empty at times that I worried that the last little bit of glue holding us together would be gone. But miraculously, we didn’t break. Instead, we somehow found our way back to each other and our marriage started to flourish. I’m not saying things are perfect because we’ve had a few downs since our renaissance, but it’s like now we know how to find our way back to each other when things get rough and stormy. And it turns out we both have been secretly harboring the same secret thought again — we wish we could have found each other sooner. We both are feeling our age and knowing we probably have passed the midway point in our marriage and there’s some regret that we missed out on some years of great friendship. That’s where the song I’m writing about comes in. The song is “99 Years” by Josh Groban and Jennifer Nettles. It’s one of those songs that grabbed me the moment I first heard it. It’s like the song fell into my lap when I needed to hear it. I know Jim and I don’t have 99 years left together, but I’m going to make sure we make it as close to that as we can.

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