Category Archives: 30 at 30

30 at 30 List #1: Student Responses to Mr. Hubert’s End-of-Year Survey

In honor of me turning 30, I’m compiling 30 different top-30 lists on a wide variety of topics ranging from trivial interests of mine to meaningful life moments. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for these lists. They were composed by a panel of one—me.

Mr. Hubert

This week marked the end of another school year, my third as an English and journalism teacher at Cathedral Prep.  It was also the first year I was charged with teaching AP Language and Composition—to three sections totaling nearly 70 sophomores. It was a challenging task for me as a teacher, but it quickly became my favorite class to teach. It was also (and rightfully so) a very demanding class for my students, but I’m proud to say that the vast majority of them really learned a lot over the course of the year.

Their development as readers, writers, speakers, listeners, and critical thinkers was evident to me in regular class discussions and frequent writing assignments, but cherry on my teaching sundae came after reading what they wrote about the class and my teaching.

Dating back to my student teaching, one of the things I’ve done each year right before summer break is to survey the students. The survey is completely voluntary and anonymous. I preface the survey with a heartfelt plea to my students to be honest and sincere (knowing that I’ll still get the occasional goofball responses). For the most part, though, students take it to heart when you tell—and show—them that you care what they think. So I try to make my case quite clear. Logistically, principals and assistant principals are only able to observe on an occasional basis. My students see me every day at work. They see me at my best, my worst, and everywhere in between. So I ask them to be candid and spend 10-15 minutes responding to a survey that I put together. I read through every single response and take time to reflect on what it all means to me as a teacher.

The first several questions ask the students to assess on a 1-5 scale (from strongly disagree to strongly agree) several statements about the class, my teaching, and their performance in the class. Then, there are a handful of open response questions that ask the following things:

  • How did this class compare to other English classes you have taken in the past?
  • How did this class compare to the other classes you took this year?
  • What did you like most about this class? Why? Be as specific as possible, and list as many aspects as you feel are appropriate.
  • What did you like least about this class? Why? Again, be as specific as possible, and list as many aspects as you feel are appropriate.
  • What do you feel are the best aspects/qualities of my teaching? Why?
  • What do you feel I need to work on to become a better teacher? Please be as specific as possible.
  • What are you taking away from this course that you didn’t have/know/think about/realize before?
  • In 10 years, what are you most likely to remember from or about this class?
  • If you have any other thoughts/comments/feedback about the year in my class, about me as a teacher, or about my teaching style, please include them below.

When I read the responses this year, specifically those from the students who took my AP Language and Composition class, I was blown away. As a teacher, these comments are the fuel that power me to show up early, stay late, and work nights and weekends lesson-planning and reading essays even when it’s not always easy, convenient, or fun. For them, it’s worth it. The end of the school year was the perfect time to be reminded of that.

My first attempt to comb through the students’ responses resulted in more than 100 results. I tried to include a few of the good constructive criticisms in addition to the complimentary comments. There’s really no logical way to rank all these comments in comparison to one another, but this project is about a series of lists, so what follows is my best effort to narrow those down to a top-30 list.

Continue reading 30 at 30 List #1: Student Responses to Mr. Hubert’s End-of-Year Survey

26. Sufjan Stevens

In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 26 is Sufjan Stevens.

SufjanStevens30at30

The 30 at 30 project has nothing on Sufjan Stevens’ purported 50 states project. Unfortunately, after Stevens’ magnificent musical takes on the states of Michigan (Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lake State) and Illinois (Come on Feel the Illinoise), follow-ups from the other 48 states never surfaced. It turns out the ambitious concept was too good to be true.

Those two albums remain at the core of the Stevens that I have grown to love over the past several years, and so it is no surprise that 60 percent of the tracks that made the cut for this CD come from the state-themed albums.

Continue reading 26. Sufjan Stevens

27. The Decemberists

In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 27 is The Decemberists.

TheDecemberists30at30

The Decemberists are great storytellers. The fact that they tell their stories via folksy, rootsy rock songs is a bonus. Unlike the majority of the bands and songs that have and will find their way onto my countdown, The Decemberists’ best work comes when there is considerable distance between narrator and subject matter in their songs.

Take,  for example, “The Crane Wife 1 & 2” and “The Crane Wife 3” from the band’s 2006 album The Crane Wife. The songs are based on an old Japanese folktale. I had never heard of the tale before, but I could not imagine a more beautiful retelling than The Decemberists’ interpretation, which mixes lyrics and instrumentation flawlessly.  “The Crane Wife 1 & 2” is the less popular of the two tracks. Clocking in at 11:20 it feels like parts one and two of an emotionally stirring epic tale. Cue the opening guitar of “The Crane Wife 3.” Although this track curiously leads off The Decemberist’s album, I find it more fittingly (surprise!) as the direct follow-up to “The Crane Wife 1 & 2.”

If you’ve never heard of The Decemberists, “The Crane Wife 3” is the place to start. I have yet to find a time when I have heard this song pop up on shuffle—whether working at home, at the gym, hosting a party—when I felt inclined to skip it.  It’s a song for all situations, a song for all seasons.

Continue reading 27. The Decemberists

28. Ben Lee

In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 28 is Ben Lee.

BenLee30at30

When I think of Ben Lee, I think happy thoughts. Ben Lee’s music is full of optimism. He sings about messages of hope, togetherness, and the promise of the future. The Australian-born Lee, who shares a September birthday, is six years my elder. Although started a solo music career at the ripe young age of 16, it wasn’t until he released Awake is the New Sleep in 2005 that I was introduced to his music. Immediately, I was hooked.

Continue reading 28. Ben Lee

29. The Fray

In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 29 is The Fray.

TheFray30at30

I have to give credit to my wife here. In November of 2005, before anyone—or at least anyone we knew—had ever heard of The Fray, Jessie was standing front row at a concert singing along word-for-word to the likes of “She Is”, “Over My Head (Cable Car)” and the rest of their songs from their How to Save a Life album, which hadn’t even been out for two months. I was standing by her side and loved what I heard—both from her and them.

That all took place at Allegheny College. The Fray were opening for Ben Folds (Spoiler Alert! You’ll hear more from him later in the MM 30 at 30 Countdown). There was no way The Fray were going to steal a show headlined by Ben Folds, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only new fan they gained that night.

Continue reading 29. The Fray

30. Oasis

In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 30 is Oasis.

Oasis30at30

Oasis is in the minority among the groups that made my list in a couple of respects: they are no longer together and were based out of England. Fittingly, they share those two attributes in common with The Beatles who (SPOILER ALERT!) also will show up on my list. Oasis also credited the Beatles as their most significant influence as a band.

Oasis’ last album, Dig Out Your Soul, was released in 2008, and none of the tracks from that album made the cut for my ultimate Oasis mix. The final tracklist features songs from five different albums, led by four songs apiece from Heathen Chemistry and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?

Continue reading 30. Oasis

Introducing the 30 at 30 Project

Six months from today I will turn 30 years old. It’s a milestone birthday, and I’ve decided to commemorate it by writing about it (hopefully on a consistent basis). As my wife Jessie will tell you, I’ve been obsessing over turning 30 pretty much since the day I turned 29.

Those who know me shouldn’t be surprised at my making a big to-do about turning 30. I’m all about memorable moments—a special sports highlight, the first time I saw a particular band in concert, or a pivotal match from WrestleMania—and 30 seems symbolic to me of a new phase of adulthood.

I am very aware of the fact that I am already, today, older than both of my parents were when I was born. Even if it’s not right at 30, this will (God willing) be the decade when I start a family. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t get any bigger than that. It’s awesome, and it’s awfully intimidating. My parents set a hell of a standard to live up to.

Continue reading Introducing the 30 at 30 Project