Middle Level Playlist: Song #1

Minor Threat, Seeing Red and School Improvement

What songs come to mind when you think about early adolescence? What artists helped you navigate those often turbulent waters and also helped you celebrate the wonderful wilds of the middle grades? Who’s on that playlist? That’s the reason for this post: to build and share songs on my middle grades playlist. Please use the comments section to share yours!

So as a young adolescent in fifth grade, I moved to Virginia Beach and immediately felt the undeniable and familiar sting of being an outsider. I was not a surfer. I was not a skateboarder. I was an overweight tuba player who was out of step with the world. I did not have many friends to lean on. I did have, however, a few musicians that helped me along the way and gave me hope. One of the artists I turned to was Ian MacKaye from a band called Minor Threat out of Washington, D.C. They played fast and angry and honest, and as their name illustrated, they were minors too—just like me. And they didn’t fit in either. For this Monday’s ABCs post, I took the title of one of their songs, “Seeing Red,” because it encapsulated how I felt as a middle school student, and it resonates with me today. I’m a cheerful person most of the time, but I also recognize that anger is a natural element that we all work through—and young adolescents are definitely working through it.   What’s inspiring is that Ian MacKaye did something creative with his anger.  Instead of destruction, he chose construction.  With his angst, he made art.  As you listen to this one-minute song, read the lyrics and think about your own early adolescence and about the students you serve. Be cautious: it’s not a placid waltz.

You see me and you laugh out loud
You taunt me from safe inside your crowd
My looks, they must threaten you
To make you act the way you do
You see me and you think I’m a jerk
First impressions without a word
You can’t believe your eyes at first
But now you know you’ve seen the worst

So today’s essential questions:
1. When do you see red and how do you help students when they feel this way?
2. Can poetry and songs be data that schools can collect? What can they tell you about your classroom and school culture?

3. How do we help students work through and deal with anger, so we can improve school culture and climate?

Post your answers, your songs, and your comments. Reach every student. Grow professionally. Create great schools. With AMLE.