“And I can’t change…even if I wanted to…”

There’s something so unbelievably exciting about discovering new music — or, as it happens mostly for me — having it discovered for me. Prior to my brother cluing me in on Kings of Leon, which wasn’t long after I first heard Ray LaMontagne, I hadn’t heard strong, new music for quite some time. My brother, Nick, and I have talked before about the importance of an “entry song.” In other words, first impressions make a monstrous difference. If I don’t like that first song, it’s going to be very tough to get me to change my opinion.

Which brings me to Macklemore. I had never even heard of Macklemore until about two weeks ago when a student of mine completed his Unit Project for The Book Thief by changing the lyrics of popular songs to those that made sense concerning the plot of Markus Zusak’s novel. He did this to Macklemore’s Thrift Shop, which I hadn’t heard before, so I checked it out. I truly wish I could get that two minutes of my life back — and it was only two minutes because that’s all I could take. Just another hip hopper, wanna be without a real message.

But I was wrong. Yesterday a colleague of mine who is so up on music — especially contemporary music — that it’s not even funny, introduced me to Same Love by Macklemore. Immediately, I dismissed it. There’s no way I was going to like something by this guy, it just wasn’t going to happen. Except it did. Mary Lambert‘s voice complements Macklemore’s  so well. Ryan Lewis’ beats work so well with this. I know that I have also obsessed over him at times, but I also have to admit that there are parts of the song that truly remind me of Shane Koyczan. And now I can’t get the dang song out of my head… aworldsohatefulIn case you are like me and knew nothing about the song, it’s about the need to push for equality, it’s about the need for homosexuals to enjoy the same right to marry as heterosexuals. It’s about taking a stand. Macklemore has taken a stand – and I love that about a person. macklemore If you know anything about hip hop or rap music, you probably know that a lot of discrimination can be easily found. I’m very interested to see if Macklemore, who created Same Love prior to Thrift Shop hitting it big, thrusting him into the limelight, will be able to hold on to this message. I really hope he doesn’t give in and change his message. I hope that he continues to create videos like the one that he did for this — it’s phenomenal.

Click on the image below in order to be taken to YouTube to see the video.

samelove

Bully…

So if you read yesterday’s post, you would have noticed that bullying has been on my mind lately. I’d like to thank Shane Koyczan for that — sincerely. After seeing his work and also after seeing some friends who posted about watching the film Bully with their kids (Thanks, Di and Ryan), I decided that I needed to check out the documentary for myself.

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I must admit that the movie disgusted me on so many levels. First and foremost, I was disgusted by the way that some students treated others. As a high school teacher, I haven’t seen much of this — not in this form. I’ve thought long and hard about my teaching career and I don’t believe I’ve witnessed this, let alone let it slide. The documentary centers around several different kids of different ages who all were bullied in some form. Two of the “strands” focused on families dealing with the aftermath of a child who committed suicide as a result of the bullying he endured. In addition, the documentary creates a villain in one Middle School’s Assistant Principal, Mrs. Kim Lockwood.

There’s not a doubt in my mind that much of what I saw could have been taken out of context in the editing process, so there’s a part of me that wants to hold back. But I’m telling you that there’s not a doubt in my mind that this woman should not still have her job after seeing the way she acted toward both students and parents. I was flat out appalled. I highly encourage you to check the documentary out and see if perhaps I’m overreacting in this case.

I also wasn’t exactly sure where the boundary line was for the filmmakers. This has to be tough, I’m sure, but at what point do you, as an adult, put the damn camera down and take a stand against some little 15 year old punk who’s continually stabbing another with a pencil while riding the bus??? After the second time? The third? The fifteenth??? I’m just really not sure that the filmmakers were completely responsible, either (although, in fairness, they did finally take their “tape” to the parents and to the school as well as evidence of what was going on). In what infuriated me to no end, Lockwood, after seeing this footage, told the victim’s parents that she had been on that specific bus before and that the kids on it were “good as gold.” Ugh…

The film is powerful enough that it needs to be seen and it needs to be discussed — in schools, but also at home. It needs to be watched as a family and discussions need to stem from it. Bullying, whether physical, emotional or through social media — which is the way I truly think it’s occurring at the high school level — has to be stopped. And I’m not sure where to begin.

As an elementary student I went to many different schools. I know what it feels like to be the new kid, to be different, to not be from there. I also know what it feels like to be picked on. Later on, at the high school level, I was no angel — I was an ass at times and wanted to impress my friends. I picked on many good people. I thought I was being funny, but many times I was cruel. I’m truly, truly sorry.

I’m fortunate to be able to embrace teachable moments in my classes. In Mass Media and Communications I we are currently working on how to properly conduct an interview, create a lead from said interview and then transition in to the actual article. We are between issues with the more advanced students. We’ve watched the documentary together over the past two days and will be conducting a “press conference” with a student who did her Senior Project on bullying. They’ve developed questions for her based upon their viewing of the film and the topic of her Project. They’ll be able to create articles based upon her research.

More importantly, I’m hoping that just one is able to figure out a way to put a stop to this.

Dang, Shane Koyczan, you nailed it…

I’ve spoken to my students on occasion about what has to be the greatest feeling in the world. Many times I get some pretty shallow answers, while at others they give me a response that just blows my socks off. Admittedly, I’ve typically gone with a stock answer: to be a musician who has a crowd of thousands in the palm of his hand, all singing the words to the song he’s written. I’ve felt this way since the mid 1980s when Live Aid took place. I hadn’t really seen big concerts like this — and while I thoroughly enjoyed it all, I was really taken back by Queen’s performance — specifically, I remember watching Freddie Mercury essentially toy with his audience. He truly had control over tens of thousands of people in such a positive way. I think that this can really be seen at the 3:10 mark of this video…

I follow a pretty wide variety of people on twitter — and some services like BrainPickings and Upworthy as well, both of which are pretty tuned in to making suggestions to me concerning things on the web that I will more than likely be interested. I’m not sure that I’ve ever been more taken back or affected by Upworthy’s recommendation to check out Shane Koyczan’s To This Day Project.

In actuality, that’s not what Upworthy told me to check out — they actually had it titled: Bullies Called Him Pork Chop — and this caught my attention right away. I was captivated by Koyczan’s voice as well as the techniques that were used in the video itself. But his message — his message is what kept me tuned in. I simply couldn’t stop watching, and I couldn’t get his words out of my head.

The next day I showed this video to each of my classes and we had some wonderful discussions about everything from the idea of bullying itself to how soothing his voice sounds, even when talking about such horrible events, to how awesome the elements of the video itself are. Simply put, Koyczan just flat out nailed this.

We caught this early — in fact, when we watched it on YouTube during First Block, there were under 2,000 views. We watched throughout the day as this number steadily climbed — by the end of the day it was closer to 70,000. Koyczan’s video continued to be re-tweeted over and over and over again. The social media machine took over. I woke up the next morning to see that it had been viewed almost two million times. I can’t even IMAGINE how weird and exciting and rewarding this had to have been for Koyczan. I mean, really, can you imagine the feeling of knowing that something you poured your absolute heart in to was turned in to something that has touched so many? That’s just got to be the absolute pinnacle.

On top of that, he’s got a bad ass beard and is bold enough to say Yes, I’m going to put flowers in my beard and be even more bad ass than you!

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As of now, close to eight million people have viewed this inspiring video. He’s done a TED Talk — what an honor. Shane Koyczan, you’ve Freddie Mercury’ed us…

Koyczan’s piece really forced me to take a look in to the concept of bullying and more specifically, the way that a simple word — whether positive or negative — affects the kids we work with. Looking in to his work further brought me to another piece, Instructions for a Bad Day, which also had a tremendous video to go along with it. And his words are beyond inspirational:

— Remember the times that you could have pressed ‘quit’ but you hit ‘continue.’

— Everyone is blessed with the ability to listen. The deaf will hear you with their eyes. The blind will see you with their hands.

Let your heart fill their newstands — Let them read all about it.

Love and hate are beasts and the one that grows is the one you feed.

I could go on and on — and each day that I take a look over the lyrics to his pieces, something completely different jumps out at me.

Honestly, I’m SHOCKED that somebody like Ellen DeGeneres hasn’t picked this story up yet — what are you waiting on, Ellen? this has your show written all over it.

I know I’ve provided you with some links — take the 20 minutes or so to check out the things in this post — I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed.