By: Mr. Lu
Mr. Bohnen was dancing. Feet sliding and shuffling, he glided into my room, and with hips and shoulders swaying, and fingers snapping, he was moving jauntily to the beat while a maudlin 1980s tune was playing. I leaned back in my chair, turned up the volume, and started to bob my head in inspiration.
In the mornings and at lunch, passersby on the second floor are usually quick to note the loud, often obnoxious, music emanating from my room. Students in the room have been conditioned to accept it, and I regularly field requests. A bit of a music community forms. Mr. Butler or Ben will trumpet the latest song they’ve been listening to, or Ayla may pop by to shower praise for Stevie Wonder. Occasionally, a student slides up to ask what song was last playing so they could add it to their playlist.
Some music is meant to be played loud. The opening chords to “Lola” by the Kinks, the guitar lick to “Satisfaction” by the Stones, or the sonicflood start of U2’s “Streets” cry out and demand to be played all the way to 11. Such is the power of music. But that’s not the only reason I play it loud.
I was talking to my advisory, and I asked how many of them viewed themselves as “bad”. A remarkably high number, from different grades, raised their hands. “Our entire grade is bad,” one student opined. Unfortunately, they had internalized this. This is how they defined themselves. They expected to be treated as such. We had a unravelling conversation, but it made me think how common this was. A student had told me how she was viewed as the “quiet one” as teachers and classmates struggled to remember her name. “I am more than this,” she might as well have said. “But this is how I am viewed.” It’s not easy to change unwanted perception. Easier to passively accept it rather than change it. Frighteningly, there is self-fulfilling prophecy. What others think, I become.
I, too, am not immune. After all, do I really want to be known as the just-give-up, blowing-in-the-wind teacher? Resources abound to help us with these challenges of course. Sometimes, I think the answer lies in grabbing on to something else. To passionately pursue something healthy that ignites us. To reframe us. To re-center ourselves. To rewrite our definitions. Not for the benefit of anyone else, but just to say, “I’m not that, but I am this.” Not easy to find that something, but worth looking for. Even if takes a long time with a lot false starts.
So what do I do? My reframe? My re-center? My rewrite?
I play music.
If you’re ever in the vicinity, feel free to stop by for a listen. We can swap songs. We can swap stories. We can swap ideas. And if you’re lucky, you may even see Mr. Bohnen dancing.