This Post Originally Appeared on Medium
How I Got to Now and What I Intend to Do About It
. . . my nerdy roots and that which got me to now
Reading Will Wheaton’s “7 Things I Did to Reboot My Life” reminds me: I was once a much better geek.
Covers afforded tutelage on tone, new distribution models encouraged entrepreneurship, and everything was a remix.
I devoured music, hunting through the music blogging wilderness of the late 2000’s, downloading musical Whitman samplers every Friday night from I Am Fuel, You are Friends, Aquarium Drunkard, and a host of since-departed sonic curators.
I’d return to school on Monday armed with a pen drive and the sort of “Oh my god, you have to hear this” energy that warms small planets. Only three colleagues who would give one iota about my discoveries, but those three would hear what I heard. And so would my students, subjected to Junior- Ivy-League-college-band chamber pop and neo-bluegrass-Americana revival rock, whiskey-soaked rockabilly trashcan blues and SoCal skate punk, Brooklyn soul and Bay Area hip-hop. Lyrics found their way into poetic device analyses, while melodies served novel and short story soundtracking purposes. Covers afforded tutelage on tone, new distribution models encouraged entrepreneurship, and everything was a remix.
I read series long forgotten and scoured fifty cent bins for diamonds in the rough.
I hoarded comic books. Monthly shipments arrived first from MyComicShop and then later Discount Comic Book Service. Stacks filled my geek lair, bringing new longboxes, then drawer boxes, then thrift store cabinets to hold the piles. A vibrant comics podcasting community includingComic Geek Speak, 11 O’Clock Comics, and Indie Spinner Rack, turned passive collecting into active nerding. I read series long forgotten and scoured fifty cent bins for diamonds in the rough. Late nights with Marvel’sCivil War and DC’s 52 characterized a week at the family camp as much as did the sunny days with their beaches and kayaks.
My longstanding Watchmen unit experienced a renaissance as interviews with creators and editors appeared and show-your-work materials emerged. Meeting other teachers using comics in the classroom pushed me to to amplify integration, looking for cracks to be filled with exercises in sequential storytelling, point of view, characterization and archetype. I found myself attending major conventions on educator credentials and presenting at regional gatherings thanks to geek cred.
The promise of commentary tracks and process-rich behind-the-scenes content justified the costs and carried me well into the evenings.
I absorbed film and television. The proliferation of blu-ray meant deeply discounted DVD and the growth of Amazon and Bull Moose Music meant easy access. Reading Ain’t It Cool News and The AV Club led to purchases rather than wish lists, boxed sets rather than waiting for re-runs. (I allowed DVR to pass me buy with no regrets. We are a streaming home now — I want for little, save live sports. Go Sox.) The new establishment of cinematic episodics, on the heels of 24 and The Sopranos, brought me The Shield andThe Wire, Mad Men and Friday Night Lights. The promise of commentary tracks and process-rich behind-the-scenes content justified the costs and carried me well into the evenings.
I assessed essays in the shadows of Shawn Ryan and found my notes on tightening and active verb tenses mirroring the intensity of Vic Mackie’s strike team. I collaborated on a year-long Freaks & Geeks curriculum aligned to our ninth grade readings including Speak, To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, and Romeo & Juliet. Preparing theatrical productions and revising scripts were as informed by Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler, Bradley Whitford and Allison Janney as any prior direction or stage experience of my own.
What has changed most is my definition of success and thus my priorities.
I don’t miss it. Much. Obsession with a fear of missing out on a great deal caused me to spend beyond my means to consume. I still have gigabytes of music unheard, shelves of comics unread, racks of DVDs unwatched. Many of the communities that fostered my passion have since withered or transformed in ways that left me behind. My professional, creative and personal lives have evolved in exciting ways and ways that present fewer opportunities to settle into an evening of Micronauts and Bogdanovich.
I miss are the ideas. I miss the energy and enthusiasm I brought to the classroom inspired as much by my personal passions as by my pedagogical compass. And I’m most certainly not for hurting for new ideas or possibilities. I have an exceptional PLN on Twitter and Instagram that infuses me daily with sparks of innovation. Newletters fill my inboxes with suggestions and strategies. And my school colleagues are constant sources of strength.
What has changed most is my definition of success and thus my priorities. No longer the new, young, excitable teacher who does things differently and hopes its okay with little to lose if it goes awry, I’m a veteran educator finding himself wanting to make sure he does things “right,” holding myself to the standards and reputation I’ve established as part of a bigger sphere than my classroom. The self-inflicted pressure of demonstrating best practices, walking the talk, creating compelling arguments for culture shifts in our building and district, has had the unintended effect of shrouding my nerdy roots and that which got me to now.
Derided by my own vanity, I have become a creature admired but in need of a better diet lest he grow any more malnourished. Thus I will write these words in the company of The Flash and Supermensch, plan my lessons to the sounds of Lord Huron and Courtney Barnett, and press pause on assessing student blogs to read Ms. Marvel and Kelly Sue Deconnick.