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A picture for Michael Armstrong, after reading The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino. Summer, 2011

I have to admit, I am disappointed that none of the songs today are bluegrass. I had an amazing moment at school today, and I feel like Allison Krauss and Union Station should be present. But it’s not meant to be.

Today’s highs–nearly everything: bachlorette dinner for a dear friend I never get to see, amazing street tacos provided by the PTA for lunch, a great doctor’s report with a potential lead into my stomach issues, and an entire class of papers graded. Not to mention several compliments today on how I look “a little slimmer”. Today’s lows–barely anything except: sideswiped by a taxi only a few blocks away from home. It’s not my fault and the taxi company will cover my deductible, but when you rely on a car to commute 80+ miles a day, it’s a complete pain.

So at least I got the negatives out of the way. Let’s look at those positives. My poor students have four days of testing this week. They are fried. It’s a blessing for me–two-plus glorious hours of silence to grade these Tom Sawyer papers that are killing me. Well, my final period today (our schedule is crazy and completely out of sorts this week), I was putting up the agenda and I kept hearing whispers about one of my students. We are just starting Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. The novel is fun and quick, and about an odd, unusual girl named Stargirl, through the eyes of her admirer, Leo. She dances in the rain, plays the ukelele in the lunchroom, and carries around her pet rat Cinnamon. We’ve been discussing whether or not standing out too much causes social issues. It’s an amazing mess of a debate.

So I turn around, and there’s my student, home-schooled until this year (just like Stargirl), wearing her ukelele on her back, with a skirt to the floor. She walked in singing Happy Birthday, and truly made me proud. This is Stargirl’s M.O. My student actually performs in a bluegrass band, and has one of the most beautiful voices I have heard. So we as a class decided if everything was completed in time, we could have a 5 minute jam session before the end of the day.

To put this into perspective, this class is…how do I say it…my most colorful. I have every ability, every disability, and every type of kid one could imagine. Too talkative, prefers to stay to himself, likes to talk to her friend, keeps his head down, likes to criticize, likes to eat chips secretly out of his pocket, needs to use the restroom every day exactly five minutes before class is over. Well, for whatever reason, they have been killing it lately, and they were on task, paying attention, and finished not even on time–with minutes to spare. So we jammed.

We started with the girl playing the ukelele and a friend singing Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours”. Well, I have four or five girls in the choir. And then they sang the most beautiful rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, harmonized perfectly. I mean, it wasn’t professional, but they were lovely. The class was stunned. Two of the girls are my two quietest. Eyes, closed, unabashed, just like About a Boy by Nick Hornby. Afraid of nothing.

It’s fantastic to see students in a new light, appreciating each other, happy to share new experiences, and encouraging one another. See why it was a good day? So despite my car emotionally turning black and blue, things today, as my mentor and writing teacher from college would say, were pretty great. I got to see dear friends. We ate inappropriately shaped cake. We laughed and caught up. And I witnessed Spinelli’s words come to life in my classroom. And that’s all I need to know.

Us and Them–Pink Floyd

The Sound of Fear–Eels

Where the Streets Have No Name–U2

She Talks to Angels–The Black Crowes

Jimmy Jazz–The Clash

Band on the Run–Paul McCartney

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