Thursday was Back to School Night. Early again this year. Takes the pressure off for knowing names at least. My first two years as a credentialed teacher, I didn’t have Back to School nights. I worked as a sub (which is how I got this gig) and “teaching” independent study for a high school district in “da hood.” (Since the program got paid by the kid, we sometimes literally went out and knocked on doors of dropouts and kids who had just stopped coming to school–as long as they showed up to our program once a week and did their paperwork, the district got paid like they were regular students at the high school. We were even encouraged to award high school credits as “incentives” for showing up.)
So this was BTSN performance number 20. And in honor of the occasion, and since the wife was going to be in the audience (still didn’t wow her–more on that later), and since I suddenly got a little inspiration on the bike ride back to school for the gig, AND since my band teacher buddy had a spare geetar for me at the last minute (in tune even), I decided to bust a move and do a little song for the fans who are usually at home.
When I was student teaching, as well as subbing back in the day, my guitar was sort of my crutch. Especially when I was subbing regularly, it was sort of like my version of the old lion tamer’s whip and chair. I could play a little bit at the beginning and stop short, and say that we could continue to rock if all went according to the teacher’s plan. Sometimes I would walk around like Mr. Bergstrom, that sub on The Simpsons that Lisa fell in love with, and riff on things and croon stuff like,
“…Looks like you forgot your homework…bet you feel like I’m a jerk… for pointing that out. La la la.”
It was gold. Sometimes. But it worked at taming the natives most always. That shtick about “soothing the savage breast” (beast, whatever) has some merit. But when I got a regular gig, I sort of stopped using the guitar because I wanted to be a “real” teacher without a “gimmick.” I think I have played for the kids maybe three or four times since then.
But I was feeling sporty Thursday night. Actually all I did was take a song I had already written and substitute eight words (nine if you count the and), repeated over and over and in different permutations. Try to hear a kind of country/rockabilly/swing feel if you can.
“KBAR, notebook, homework and
Don’t space out in class.
Notebook, homework, KBAR and
Don’t space out in class!
Homework, KBAR, notebook aaaand
Don’t space out in class!”
I gave ‘em about a verse or so, and after the applause died down (‘Thank you, thank you!”) , I reminded them of that old Woody Allen quote that 90% of life is showing up.
“But he was wrong. Ninety percent of life is paying attention. Especially in this class.”
You all know how many times a day you have to snap your fingers or whack your stick or drop a teachers’ edition to bring one or more of them back from Planet Kyle or Sophie or Pony.
“If we can get them to learn to pay attention, if they do their KBAR and their homework in their notebook and bring it to school…OMG! They’ll do fine.”
Most all of the reviews at the door were positive. The missus thought I was too mean for the first half:
“That whole bit about ‘if they tell you they don’t have English homework they’re LYING’ I thought that was mean. My student would never lie like that and none of his friends would and…”
“It was supposed to be a shtick. It got a laugh.”
“Not from me. It sounded mean.”
She did say the song turned things around at the halfway point.
“It was good after that.”
I do like to finish strong.
(Yeah! 300th post!)