Yesterday was a great day for fireworks. Our family spread our blanket right next to the Wisconsin River and had a great time playing card games and messing around while waiting for the fireworks to begin. While waiting, there were a number of songs being blared from the fireworks launching stand (I confounded my children by being able to sing every word to Don McLean’s American Pie) and I enjoyed listening to the basic staple of patriotic songs. Neil Diamond’s Coming to America always particularly gets me because I remember coming back from two years abroad in Switzerland and that was among the first songs that greeted me on the now-not-taken-for-granted experience of turning on the radio and hearing songs I knew. I got lost for a bit in remembering how much I appreciate all the opportunities I have here in this country, and how much I love living here.
Fast forward then to the fireworks display, which was especially big this year because last year’s rain gave them extra explosives they weren’t able to use last year. But when they started, the songs were really nothing to write home about: AC/DC’s Thunder, Metallica’s Sandman, Lady Gaga’s Firework, etc. The big booming explosions sort of matched the beat, but that was it. No artistry, just blowing things up. Normally I’m a bit more used to having those ultimate-big-screen explosions (we sit so close the shell casings often rain down on us) back up those songs that get me thinking a bit more about America. Don’t get me wrong; I like the massive explosions as much as the next guy, but for me without an emotional hook or something to think about, the explosions just start running into each other and it is just something else to do.
While grumbling to myself about that on the ride home, I thought about how often my classroom can be like those fireworks if I don’t do the job correctly to get the PQA done correctly. I love Laurie’s admonition to look for the Power, to find ways to make vocabulary circling center on the students’ hopes (and embarrassments) and futures and selves rather than just throw out things that seem to “have a good beat.” I guess I have learned unconsciously over the years to project my own thoughts and appreciation for my country into the yearly fireworks display, and didn’t realize I was doing that until it wasn’t there anymore. How much am I allowing my students to project themselves into what we talk about in class? Otherwise, I’m just blowing things up, and even the sometimes kooky explosions of situational fireworks that come up in TPRS after awhile can just run into each other and provide more sound than light.