For the past two years, an increasing number of my university students have been asking me whether what they’re seeing transpire between White House officials and members of the national news media is, for lack of a better word, “normal.”
They often refer to the death threats journalists like White House reporter April Ryan has received after being singled out by the president for verbal attacks. They talk about how the commander-in-chief routinely labels news reporters as the “enemy of the people” (a phrase applied by dictators like Stalin, as NPR’s Scott Simon said “to vilify their opponents … who were often murdered.”). They are aghast that the president once joked about killing journalists and routinely calls those who practice journalism as “fake.” During the presidential campaign, a Trump supporter wore a T-shirt to a Trump campaign rally suggesting that journalists be lynched.
I wrote a piece for the Inside Higher Ed website exploring my struggles with teaching students how to be savvy news consumers when things like basic facts are under assault.
You can read the full piece here.
Image credit: Inside Higher Ed.
The book talk/signing at the Southborough Library finally — finally! — happened after being rescheduled three times following snowstorms and a bout of the flu.
Parents of current and former Trottier Middle School students who attended the reading at the library (see video below) told me they were mentally and emotionally brought back to the days when our children roamed the halls of the middle school, when some of the kids played music for Mr. Clark, and when all of the students mourned the loss of their friend, Eric Green.
Two days later, Mr. Clark and I chatted about Mr. Clark’s Big Band with music fans at the Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra’s final performance of the season, a season in which music educators were celebrated.
Some current Trottier Middle School students attended the show in Milford’s historic town hall and stopped by to greet Mr. Clark, who couldn’t play the trombone with his pals in the Claflin brass section because he recently had elbow surgery (see the sling he’s sporting in the photo below).
Several folks also paused at the book table to fondly remember former Algonquin Regional High School music director Dennis Wrenn, the man who helped Mr. Clark get his job in the Southborough school system and who is mentioned several times in Mr. Clark’s Big Band.
It can sometimes seem like a small world indeed.
Image credits: Southborough Access Media (first image), Scott Weiss (other two images)
Mr. Clark’s Big Band: A Year of Laughter, Tears and Jazz in a Middle School Band Room has won a 2018 Independent Publisher Book Award.
The group–which received over 4,500 entries for this year’s contest–honored Mr. Clark’s Big Band with a bronze medal in its Education: Commentary/Theory category.
“This year’s winners represent books from 41 U.S. states, Guam, and DC; 6 Canadian provinces; and 12 countries overseas,” the Independent Publisher group said in a press release.
Ironically, the silver award winner in my category is Joseph E. Aoun, author of Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence and president of the university where I teach. Two Northeastern University educators in one category. Not too shabby!
Mr. Clark’s Big Band is also a finalist for the Foreword INDIES Award, in the Education category.
Image credits: Independent Publisher Book Awards and Foreword INDIES.
It was in Monson, Mass. where I autographed my first arm.
And my first sneaker.
And a slightly sweaty palm.
Students from the Granite Valley Middle School — where I spoke in March about Mr. Clark’s Big Band — were full of questions, energy, and requests for me to use my green Sharpie to sign … their various limbs and footwear. (They SWORE their parents would be totally okay with this. For the record, I remain skeptical.)
Before I spoke in the auditorium, I visited the Granite Valley band room where students assured me that their Mr. Clark — who goes by the name of Mr. Topham in Monson — is just as lively and off-center as the lead character in my book.
Later, I shared stories about how and why I came to write Mr. Clark’s Big Band about a middle school jazz band about an hour’s drive to the east, told them tales about Southborough’s Mr. Clark, and read passages aloud while a PowerPoint presentation behind me showed various images of Mr. Clark (including one of him in a goofy pink wig during a performance), and of the Trottier Middle School band room.
The image that got the loudest response? The one of chicken-in-a-can that was on screen as I read a segment from the chapter called, cleverly enough, “Chicken-in-a-Can.” At least the presentation was AFTER lunch so it didn’t spoil anyone’s meal.
I also got the opportunity to catch up with my friend from West Springfield (MA) High School, Granite Valley’s Principal Mary Cieplik (above, on the right), who generously invited me to address her students.
If you’d like me to visit your students, or your book club, send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images from Granite Valley Middle School’s “In the Loop” newsletter.
The trio that make up the Hopkinton Coffee Break hosts — Darlene Hayes, Colleen Wright, and Patricia Duarte — recently invited me to dish with them about my writing, my kids, and journalism during their lively half-hour weekly talk show.
We discussed my latest book, Mr. Clark’s Big Band (2017), about a Southborough jazz band led by a risk-taking teacher, as well as my other books, Mortified: A Novel About Oversharing (2013), about a fictional blogger who reveals way too much personal info online, and my collection of humor/parenting columns from when my three children were but wee youngin’s, A Suburban Mom: Notes from the Asylum (2007).
The League of Women Voters of the Worcester Area recently posted the video of the late-2017 panel of journalists and news media educators discussing the importance of media literacy and how to combat the scourge of “fake news.”
The 33-minute video above is of the second half of the panel discussion, the academic portion in which I participated as a faculty member at Northeastern University’s Journalism Department. Joining me were fellow panelists Chris Gilbert, Assumption College assistant professor of Communications, and Mary Robb, Andover High School civics and media literacy teacher.