Aren’t kids funny. I mean, aren’t they just hilarious.
When you’re old like me (not 60 yet), and working with kids, or even I think if you’re just a few years older than the kids you are teaching, I think it’s common to feel that you are in a tricky balancing act. We need, it seems, to be a little hip, a little relevant, in order to for the kids to relate to us. We also need, more importantly, to keep a separation between us and the kids, to maintain our role as authority figure and in charge.
The secret that I think all successful teachers figure out, some sooner, some later, is that we don’t have to stay hip at all. If you treat your students with respect and expect them to treat you the same, the classroom with be a pleasant place, kids will like you, and just by being around them, you’ll stay more hip that most adults your age. But not so hip the kids won’t laugh at you attempts to be cool. And not so hip that the kids won’t overestimate your age, on purpose or as a joke, by about 20 years.
You don’t have to be down with the street for your high school kids to want to make you a birthday card. You feel me? Boyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!
One of my favorite albums in my collection is The Piano Scene of Ahmad Jamal. It’s a favorite for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a great album and Jamal is a great jazz pianist. First issued in 1959, there are a dozen tunes that with the help of a cigarette (not recommended) and maybe an old fashion or martini (recommended) will transport you back to what is now often referred to as Mad Men Times. This is great cocktail lounge music, but as Miles Davis will argue in the copy on the back of this album, Jamal is more than a cocktail pianist. In my research, he’s always cited as an influence on Davis. So that’s cool. We’ll get back to that coolness in a bit.
The other reason I love this album is that it used belong to my dad. Back in the late 50’s and early 60’s (Mad Men Times) my dad was a student at Kansas State. While there he was a member of one of those 5-albums-for-a-penny music clubs. You get free music up front and then have to buy more music in the coming months. (This was back when people bought music.) As a result, we have a lot of cool old albums, all labeled on the back with a giant S for Sears. There are a variety of artist from his music club days. The most numerous are Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, and old movie soundtracks. The coolest, I think, is this Ahmad Jamal record. Dad says he saw Jamal perform back then in Manhattan, Kansas or maybe Columbia, Missouri. I imagine that influenced this purchase. So it’s fun to think of dad in his short hair and dorky 1950’s glasses, seeing some live jazz in 1960 in a smoky little room, listening to a guy that had an influence on Miles Davis, and being able to say years later, “I really used to like his early stuff.” When I listen to this album, I enjoy vicariously a little of my dad’s 1960 cool.
Jamal is still around. This album was actually reissued last year, which is probably why the youtube links to these songs are all broken. There is one great youtube clip of early Jamal which I’d like to share. Enjoy.
Ok. One more.