As part of our ELA curriculum, #BullockES utilizes a single schoowide essential question to link all reading and writing activities for our students…and now that I think about it, it also appears on the header of every edition of the #BulldogBuzz! Our Schoolwide “BIG” Question (as it’s known to our students) changes each trimester, and helps to ensure that our students are thinking deeply about reading & writing. This practice also ensures that content area learning (history, science & social justice) stays at the forefront of our practices.
- 1st Trimester: What will you LEARN ABOUT THE WORLD by sharing stories from your life and the lives of others?
- 2nd Trimester: How will you think like a scientist to UNDERSTAND THE WORLD around you?
- 3rd Trimester: How will you CHANGE THE WORLD by sharing and supporting your opinion?
A personal goal that I have set for myself is to read (at least) one book each trimester that is aligned to our Schoolwide BIG Question...and so, as we conclude parent-teacher conferences, end the 1st Trimester, and move on to our next BIG Question, I am excited to share my text! Keep reading to see what I LEARNED ABOUT THE WORLD by reading the Miles Davis Autobiography!
Bebop & Addiction: After a brief account of his childhood (Miles came from a well-educated and wealthy family; his father owned a thriving dental practice), Miles quickly takes us to Julliard and the New York jazz scene. It is during this time that Miles begins playing with Dizzy Gillespie & Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, and becomes addicted to heroin, like most of the bebop musicians of his time. Fortunately, after some struggles & relapses, Miles beats his addiction (unlike many talented bebop players, Bird included, whose addiction would lead to a premature demise). Through these struggles (both personal and artistic) we are given our first glimpse into the drive, passion and need to evolve that will become the cornerstones of Miles’ life and career.
The 1st Great Quintet: It is in the post-bebop “world” that Miles begins to evolve as a musician and find his own voice. For me personally, this is my favorite period of his music (although, Miles himself would HATE the fact that many of his fans tend to get “stuck” in this portion of his career). As I read, I was surprised that Miles didn’t have more to say about the role John Coltrane played in this part of his evolution. I have often thought of Miles & ‘Trane as each other’s muse but Coltrane’s quiet nature and drug abuse (which Miles had moved beyond at that point) seemed to stifle their relationship on a personal level. Throughout this portion of the text, Miles frequently states: Trane was ALWAYS about the music, while Miles seemed to have more of a balance between the “art” and the “business” of music.
The 2nd Great Quintet & BEYOND: From Wayne Shorter & Herbie Hancock to Jimi Hendrix & Prince, Miles continually evolved throughout his career and was influenced by musicians from every genre. Case in point, Miles made Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” a regular part of his set-list during his tours in the 80’s. I could write more about the creative renaissance that began for Miles in 1969, but I could never say it better than he did!
What will you LEARN ABOUT THE WORLD by sharing stories from your life & the lives of others?
This is a text that I was able to connect with as both a musician and as an educator…after all, those of you that know me, know I’m fond of saying that “all educators need to think like Miles Davis.” No matter what level of mastery Miles reached, he continued to push the boundaries of his ability, constantly “living” beyond his comfort zone!
Consider this: Miles could easily have played it safe and had a successful career playing the same bebop licks over and over again but he chose not to! Did he fall on his face at times? Absolutely, but this is how we grow and evolve. This is how we gain expertise…and despite the occasional misfire, he is still considered one of the greatest musicians that has ever lived!
As educators, we face that same challenge. Do we reteach our “first year” twenty-five times and then retire, or do we continue to push beyond our comfort zone to learn new things & grow as educators? To be clear, while this is essential to being great at what we do, it certainly isn’t as easy as falling back on those old “bebop licks!” Just like Miles, we must LIVE this philosophy! Remember, it doesn’t come from any one workshop or any particular program!
- It comes from ongoing engagement with our art form and the research that supports it.
- It comes from the ongoing relationships we build with the best and brightest educators (both those with experience and those right out of college). Those who lift us up personally & professionally!
- It comes from keeping a “pulse” (like Miles said above) on what is happening and the direction that our profession is heading.
- Most importantly though…It comes from being OPEN to the changes that the above points will bring!
After all, if you were being treated for cancer would you go to a doctor that hasn’t done all of the above? Absolutely, not…and while our choices are not necessarily ones of life and death, we certainly owe it to our students to provide them with the BEST education we can!
Looking towards the future…The 2nd Trimester has just begun and so has our next Schoolwide BIG Question! Just like the staff and students at Bullock I am ready to “think like a scientist” and have already selected my text (see below)! Stay tuned for my piece on Echo of the Big Bang (mid-March), and if you would like to participate in this journey by reading this text with me, please reach out!