My friend Sarah and her husband have a game they play when they're in the car for long stretches, a game which she taught me on a road trip she and I took together a couple falls ago. With the MP3 player or phone plugged into the stereo, the passenger chooses a song to play and explains why he or she chose to play it. After that song finishes, the driver chooses the next song—the catch is that the second song needs to be connected to the first in some way or another. When the driver tells the passenger which song to play next, he or she explains the connection the song has to the previous song: perhaps one line in the lyrics of the first song has a word or phrase that is also in the second, or maybe the first song brought to mind a story that reminded him or her of a person that loved this second song. The second song plays. Then it is the passenger's turn to choose again, and he or she tells the story of the connection of the second to the third. There is fun in the listening to the music, but even more fun in the telling of and listening to stories.
Though I'm back to work for a couple days of meetings and preparing my classroom, school starts with students on Monday. I'm excited and nervous. I dread waking up to alarms and peeing by the bell. I can't wait to thrill in the excitement of new learning and belly laughs. This year, I will have taught seventeen years. Occasionally, I think that I'm almost done, but more frequently, I look forward to many more years.
Right now, though, I've got the back to work jitters. I know I'll sweat a lot Monday, so I will need to wear something that hides sweat, but I'll also need layers because the A/C in my classroom is on steroids. I know I will be terrified of the quantity of names to remember because I'm no good at names, but I also know it eventually will happen. I know, from many years of doing this, the first day is one of the easiest days because everyone is on their best back-to-school behavior, so I will not be able to make any valid predictions about my students based on Monday. I also know that this year will be an awesome trip.
Let's put together a back-to-school mix, one to pump me up and keep me moving along on this adventure. I'll start.
I choose Pixies' "Here Comes Your Man." Walking my dog a couple days ago, this song came on my player as we were returning home. I began belting it out, and once in the backyard, hopped around dancing with my hands in the air. The Pixies are unique because they still move me. When I was 17, I thought I'd die without Pearl Jam, and when I was 23, I thought Weezer was doing something amazing. Now, I think "Hurl Jam" may be a better name for the former, and I usually skip over every Weezer song that ends up on a playlist. But the Pixies, they never went away. So far, that's true for teaching, too. Each year, I've been frustrated by something different, but I've also found new things and people to love about the job. I haven't reached an "I'm done with you." Teaching, so far, is the Pixies.
So, listen to "Here Comes Your Man," sing along with the Pixies' weird lyrics, see if you can keep from echoing, "so long, so long," howl along in the background of the guitar solo, and give me another song and story for this year's mix.