Fireworks

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.

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5 responses to “Fireworks

  1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who generalizes everything back to the teaching situation!! I have been having the same thoughts–my parents are both recovering from surgery, and we’re trying to get them to eat–my sister and I both focus on whatever has been successful, but yesterday I realized that we need to change up the foods instead of repeating whatever someone liked the last time. Out of my mouth came the sentence, “The brain loves variety,” and then I started thinking along the same lines as you–great when I find an activity that works, but need to keep changing it up. (I have been repeating that all year, but don’t seem to have acquired it, starting with last summer’s workshop with Jason.)

    I’ve also been reading a book by Temple Grandin, who said that humans tend not to expect change, especially visual change, and they often won’t notice unexpected visuals (you may have heard the psychology experiment where people watching football don’t notice a person in a gorilla suit). She said the two things that people do notice absolutely are their names in text and smiley faces.

    So it seems we need to personalize the fireworks (and maybe not have fireworks every day), add new flavors to the favorite muffins, and throw in the kids’ names and the smiley faces.

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  2. 🙂

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  3. I love fireworks and love your enthusiasm Nathan but I have to grab on to Michele’s thought that we can’t have fireworks everyday! I feel overwhelmed sometimes just thinking about it! I think I am right in saying your point is more about the emotion behind the fireworks than the fireworks themselves, n’est-ce pas? A good point indeed. I find myself wondering how to draw out the personal (the power, the emotion, the spark) from students who might be reluctant to share themselves with us?

    Thanks Michele for the reminder about the brain loving variety. Contrary to my usual summer inclination to not think about school for a while I am trying this year to think ahead and remember to get organized and remind myself of all the wonderful ideas out there. I think we get better every year but I also know that I forget fabulous things I want to remember!

    Nathan, Fireworks by Katy Perry but Gaga once had fireworks shooting from her bra during a performance! I say this as Gaga is a tried and true character for us. Poor dear she seems to be disliked but still makes a great addition to stories. Justin Bieber is passé already.

    I’m smiling and repeating your names! I appreciate both of you so much, in your dedication to sharing and to thinking about methodology all the time!

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  4. Whoops, Katy Perry. I guess that’s because she’s another good stand by for me as well: Boring class? Drop a Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga reference. But when you really need some help, Chuck Norris is the man.

    And I agree, we don’t and shouldn’t do fireworks every day. And even if we were to, it would be counter-productive because–like MJ again says–it’s not the explosion but the variety, and the meaning that each individual kid puts behind it. I want to get better at getting away from the fireworks and more into the meaning building.

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  5. This is the most powerful piece and comments that I have seen in a while…beautiful. 🙂 Laurie

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