Saturday, May 15, 2010

Public Transportation Education

"Your teacher could listen to AM radio in her car." our host at WABC radio said.

"I have a car?" I responded. (Well actually I do but for a variety of reasons I choose mostly to make the four mile commute to work, using a combination of what my father called "Shank's Mare"-walking and things that accept the NYC Metro card.)

And my portable audio device only receives FM.

You learn a lot on public transportation. Sometimes its what we call passive learning- just listening and observing, and sometimes you can be the recipient of active teaching.

Like the bus we took Wednesday on our journey to the Radio Stations.

The bus driver was unusually garrulous. Amid admonishments to watch our step, and be thankful for the day, even a wet cold one, he reported this anecdote.

A young lady, left his bus in the middle of the school day at a local corner and took out her cell phone. The bus driver, stuck at a red light, watched as a car pulled up and a woman got out and started yelling at the girl, "What are you doing talking on your cell phone way over here in the middle of the day? Why aren't you in school?"

And with that the light turned green and the bus driver moved on.
Moral of the story: The bus driver taught us we should all be aware and responsible for our children's whereabouts.

A young man offered me a seat on the subway, but I preferred to stand and oversee the seven young people I entered the car with.(Totally unnecessary, by the way, but old habits die hard). So I got to hear my young friends discuss Quincy.

Quincy could have been on the trip, I would have included him if I could have found him. But Quincy's attendance has been sporadic, so I never saw him to offer him the opportunity of joining us.

"He can't continue to be the bass player, cause he don't show up for practice," Kenneth complained.

"He's gonna lose the gig at the church, too," Conner added. "And with a baby on the way, I don't know what he's thinking"

I tried to listen unobtrusively, it was not my conversation to participate in. The group went on to agree that if they were the cause of a new life they would be responsible both emotionally and and financially.

"If I was having a baby, I would have a plan," Kenneth said.

"Plan to use protection." I ended my anonymity.

But everyone agreed.
You can't get this kind of education in a private car.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Radio Day

Field Trip!
Escape from standardized test city- and I could only take seven kids- of my choosing. Oh this gets better and better.

Okay short background. Connor and Norm had a senior science research project. It definitely fit into the "why I am stuck helping you with this project?" category and Connor and Norm decided they would do something with sound.

So somehow our new aspiring principal suggested we put together a radio station. (Another entry in the "why I am stuck helping you with this project?" category). And it turns out that our aspiring principal (think student principal as in student teacher) is one of those change of career people who left the corporate world to complicate my life with projects that are particularly high tech for those of us who started teaching in the age purple mimeograph machines.

But he has contacts in the corporate world- in the radio corporate world. So off we went to visit not one but two radio stations.

WABC was the top forty radio station of my childhood. I have fond memories of sitting around the dining room table on Sunday night and listening to Cousin Brucie introduce us to the Jackson Five and the like, but FM replaced AM for music and digital downloads replaced FM and talk radio left Cousin Brucie in the dust.

We squeezed into the control room. While Mark Simone discussed the gulf oil spill, Adam the 24 year old intern explained the technical side of the show. Then we went on the air and had our almost 15 minutes of fame.

We almost made it down to the fastfood underworld of Penn Station but Laurie our host decided it would be great if we could speak with one of the young producers of the Sean Hannity show. The Sean Hannity Show is the second largest radio show in the country she assured us, a fact I might possibly have known had I had the slightest bit of interest in Talk Radio Hey- I spent the whole day not mentioning once that I thought the ABC line up was a bunch of angry right wing hot air heads and I prefer to spend my time listening to NPR.

Ms. Perky young producer spent some time chastising the group for not being animated enough and I could live with that, my young friends need to know that putting yourself out in the world means just that - putting yourself out there. But then she went on to explain that she was a fiscal conservative but a social liberal. She lived in Chelsea and believed in Gays. (No - I'm not kidding, "Gay rights? I suggested)

"Anyone could marry who they wanted," she said, "but they shouldn't spend our money."

Kenneth, to his credit was the only one of the group who "put himself" out there. He tried to convince her that his status as a child of immigrant family made him more a fan of Democrats but somehow fell short in his explanation which somehow ended up with him pointing to a chair and saying anyone was entitled to one.

I got it- he saw Democrats and liberal leaning politicians as more generous in their policies and more friendly to immigrants and their quest for better lives/ My other friends and Ms. Perky however, made it clear to Kenneth that his argument made no sense.

Poor Kenneth went around the rest of the day worrying that he got his ass kicked by a girl and he planned to go home and get more articulate.
I continually reassured him I was proud of him for stepping up to the plate and attempting to make a point even if it didn't come out quite as convincingly as we would have hoped.

We went uptown in the afternoon and several leaps ahead in communication technology.
The afternoon found us in the offices of Sirius Satellite Radio. If WABC dated back to my childhood, Sirius did not even exist at the start of my young friend's childhood.

We spent the afternoon touring through the maze of production studios where radio programs to appeal to every taste were produced.The Martha Stewart cubicle was directly opposite the Out radio booth- a fact Kobe. our guide non-chalantly pointed out-no need on his part to justify his personal opinions of life style choices. Sirius is serious - if it makes money- it plays.

We saw the gigantic "brain" of Sirius, the row after row of equipment that somehow fed the voices and music of the production cubicles to the sky where the satellites redistributed these sound waves across the Western Hemisphere. (Millions of dollars of equipment cooled by $30 K-Mart fans, Kobe explained)

We passed wall after wall of artwork and signatures that represented most of the entertainment industry of the last decade.

We observed the system of tracking the satellites.

And then we ran into LL Cool Jay. We took pictures.
And now it is time to email those pictures to young friends.

Perhaps in the end, today will be forever remembered as the day we ran into LL Cool Jay.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Babies fake and real

The girls across the aisle on the city bus go to an all girls Catholic High School. Except for the thin white wires leading from the ears, the appearance is essentially the same as the girls who rode the bus to the same Catholic High School 40 years ago, pleated woolen skirts, sweaters embroidered with the school's initials and knee high socks. Last week they carried baby dolls. On Monday and Tuesday the dolls were cradled in the crooks of their arms and the the dolls were fed fake milk from toy bottles, by Friday the dolls were tucked into the side bags, are otherwise squeezed into a nook making way for Algebra texts or cell phones that garnered their "mother's" attention. I suspect the dolls were a part of one of those health education projects that are supposed to teach teenagers the responsibility of parenthood- the ersatz infants appeared to prove the point that "babies" were only interesting for so long.

In the eleventh grade last chance math class (where finding the area of a 7 by 4 rectangle is difficult) Lianna is pregnant. It's a big secret - except, of course, everyone knows, and talks about it all through class and Lianna passes the sonogram around under the table. Quincy, the 12th grader who occasionally remembers to come to me for math help is the dad. Someone asked the other day if Lianna was ready for the baby and unlike the question "how do you find the area of a rectangle?" Lianna answered without hesitation that of course she was.

I like Lianna, and I like Quincy even more.
But unlike the girls on the city bus, this baby won't be shoved to the side for algebra homework.
This baby will be here to stay.
And neither Lianna or Quincy can figure the amount of paint necessary to paint the nursery wall.