Dear Evan Hansen – YES I SAW IT!

Dear Evan Hansen – Poster

I don’t remember where my obsession started with this show. I remember downloading the songs with my Apple Music. I do not even know when it won Best Whatever for the Tonys. But when I am in the mood, in the car, I sing the entire soundtrack. EmmeClaire and I, driving to Pittsburgh and back to Columbus, from Pittsburgh, sang the entire soundtrack in the car. It’s funny to hear an 8 year old, who pelts out all the words, sing some of the words that are inappropriate for 8 year old children to hear or say!

Months ago, I saw an acting troop on YouTube do a couple of music videos with the music and I thought they were very moving videos. But the problem was that I still didn’t know the story. I love the music and the lyrics of the music. But I had no idea how all the scenes came together for a musical.

Dear Evan Hansen on YouTube

EmmeClaire would watch the videos on Youtube to know the songs a bit more, she had questions about why Connor died. I couldn’t answer her about any of her questions, until yesterday. Here’s how I was able to see this glorious, wonderful, powerful, yet sad and movie musical.

Last summer, I noticed that Dear Evan Hansen was playing in Pittsburgh, my hometown. I wanted to go and I knew my sister had tickets. I asked her to get me at least one ticket so that I could go with them. Interestingly, last season, Hamilton, was in Pittsburgh so there were no tickets at all available. I was ok for that. Then I found out that Dear Evan Hansen was playing in Cincinnati and Cleveland later in the summer, I ignored both showings and it bothered me a bit. But I was still ok with just singing the songs.

Then came this week. Dear Evan Hansen, was playing here, 12 miles away, in downtown Columbus. I putzed on getting tickets because I was hoping that I could convince my wife to go as it got closer. Thursday came, and several former and current parents and students told me or posted that the play was amazing. Then I read a review from a new friend of mine, who invited me on to her podcast earlier this year.

Here’s what she said:

When I read the above passage on Facebook, I had to see it. So Friday at school, I was pretty bummed that I never bought the tickets when I knew I should, months ago! So as the day ended, the secretary at school, Mrs. Zorn, had told me that she and her son was going and it made me more bummed, but I was happy for them. Then later that night, she texted me and told me I had to see this show! Man, that hit me.

I sent out a plea on Facebook, to any of my local followers hoping that someone had tickets that they couldn’t use. Now, the whole point of the post is to see if anyone had tickets, not for a bunch of people to tell me how great the show is or was, and how happy they were to see it wherever they lived. I was diving into a bigger hole. Heck, even Friday night, I signed up for the theater lottery for tickets and even found two tickets for $255 a piece. But I knew I’d never spend nearly $500 to see the show. I also didn’t want to go alone, so I wasn’t going to pick one of the many single seats that were available.

Then as I was working Saturday morning on more Washington DC lists for my trip with 8th grade in a couple weeks, there was a message from a friend, that she had sent me a DM on Messenger! Excitement was through the roof. So when I opened the message, I told myself that I didn’t care when the tickets were for, I was going to see this show. I was really hoping for Sunday afternoon tickets. Only because I really wanted Beth to go and she would struggle if the tickets were for Saturday. She ran 20 miles on Saturday morning.

Right as I replied to the DM, Beth came home from that 20 miles. I ran down the steps, running over my excited EmmeClaire, who was excited to see her mommy for the first time on a Saturday. I told Beth who was offering and when the show was and reluctantly she said, “Get them.” I said, “Good, because I was going to anyways.” This is one of many reasons, I believe, that social media shows the good in people.

Here’s us, isn’t she beautiful….

I am going to skip the next 2 paragraphs that would the explain how I struggled to get the tickets transferred, but I got them and now we need to go!

Ohio Theatre

So we get in the car about 10 minutes late, and as we drive down Polaris Parkway, there is a traffic line of cars on the ramp to Interstate 71. The traditional Friday night traffic on a Saturday afternoon with a bunch cars slowing down before the 270 ramp because of a small fender bender. What a small mess. Then, as we get to the Morse Rd. exit, there’s another stoppage on the road because of another small accident mixed with some OSU traffic. We were running out of time and if we ended up being late for this show I have been waiting to see for such a long, I would be a bit upset!

My wonderful wife is a bit behind because her legs hurt after running 20 miles earlier in the day. I was a bit excited to get to our seats.

As we turned off of Broad Street onto 3rd Street, the traffic was backed up again. In fact, I was shocked that so many people were running as late as we were and we had 7 minutes until the show starts! We found a spot of the road of all places and had several minutes to walk in and slowly make it to our seats.

As the show started, I was thrilled how the songs all connected together and how I now know the entire story of “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Opening Scene…

What I will say, is this, anyone with a son or daughter, in middle school or high school should see this play. In this time of our lives, in the world or social media, media, other’s perception of ourselves and so much more, this is a story, a musical that all should see. I cried, I laughed, I connected and I remembered, meaning this, I cried thinking of my parents and how I parent. I laughed at the language and how kids these days use the language and comedy in the play. I connected to a time in my childhood when I messed up or lied with friends and I remembered that as I grow as a parent, there will be times I could do better and that I need to let my kids, meaning my OWN kids and my students, that I will always be there from them when they are found, when words fail and no matter if things are so big or so small, it’ll be ok.

Blinded by the Light

When I go to a movie, the line I draw between me liking a movie and me LOVING a movie is through the characters in the movie. I absolutely fell in love with all the characters of Blinded by the Light. My son said at the end of the movie, “Oh dear, Dad, are you crying? You loved this movie.” He was right, I loved this movie, because I cared about all of the characters in this movie.

In my simple world of writing, this movie is a solid A. It is my second favorite movie of 2019, behind Avengers. The main character, Javed, was stuck in his 17 year old world as a young man from Pakistan living in a Luton, a small town outside London, England in 1987. He loves to write and hides it from the rest of his world, especially his father mainly because his father wants him to get a degree in economics and get a job to “make money!”

Javed becomes connected to Bruce when he bumps into a buddy of his, Roops, and two cassette tapes comes out of his backpack. The next 6-10 minutes of the film felt like some very different cinema to me. It was like a Bruce Springsteen music video as Javed soaks in the lyrics of the boss as the lyrics scroll across the screen. He realizes then, that his life needs a boost and he knows no one is going to stop him from trying to live a fuller life.

What I didn’t know was the race relations with white supremacists and the Pakis, and I am sure there was more, that live in Luton. It was awe dropping(through verbal and physical abuse) to see people be affected by such hatred and it made me sad, but it also made me really care about the main characters.

There’s music from the 80s, clothes from the 80s, cassette tapes and a lot of Bruce! I loved the music, the dancing, the scenes when Javed sings made me tap my toes. You don’t need to love Bruce to love this movie, but if you love Bruce you will be ecstatic. It’s a feel good look at a Pakistani family struggling to live after the patriarch of the family loses his job.

Blinded by the Light took me back to my childhood with Bruce Springsteen’s songs. It pulls at the heart in separate directions and its main message was that we are all people and although we may be different of have different value, we all are the same, families that care about each other.

In closing, I want to thank Gurinder Chada, director of Blinded by the Light, for making a movie that made me smile, become angry and tear up a bit. Thank you for taking me back to my own childhood in the late 80s as I connected with what was going on in with Javed’s life. Thank you for showing that a brother/sister can have a special bond. Thank you for making the older, caring neighbor who, when he connected to Javed through his writing was a welcomed, pleasant surprise

I didn’t want this movie to end. I tried to see the relationships throughout the movie. This story, mainly through the songs and lyrics of Bruce Springsteen, lifted my spirits, brought me back to earth and then back through the roof with joy.

Go see this movie….it’s a solid A!!

Starting Year 23 Tomorrow…

(I am editing this post, so I added this to the beginning, I AM NOT A GOOD WRITER!!!)

My wife tells me that I am full of cheese some time. I share this because I want to express two things.

Emme and I on my first walk after back surgery.

1.) My wife is a saint. She truly is and she NEVER gets full credit that she deserves. She has a crew to deal with! One with a back issue(ME) that took all the fun out of July this summer. A young man(ADAM) that challenges her everyday and young lady(EMMECLAIRE) that would stick to her side hip if she was allowed. For most of that time, my wife smiles and just does the job and never asks for recognition of this job as a mom and wife. Her job gets harder tomorrow as I go back to work. I really love her and hope that she has a good start to her school year.

Adam, as he prepared to be a defendant in a mock trial this summer!
A selfie with My IronMan, Beth finished this amazing race in a little over 6 hours

2. I’m starting my 23rd year as a teacher. Wow. Think about that. 23 years. I still remember the day I graduated from the University of Dayton, with the video camera on my head, holding on to the graduate in front of me so that I wouldn’t fall down the steps of the University of the Dayton Arena. 23 years has flown by. My students at St. Joseph Montessori School, Scioto Ridge and from Hyatts Middle School have families, new jobs, bought their own homes, gone surfing all over the world and a lot more than I ever thought they’d do. Yet, I’m still teaching and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

I still keep in touch with a lot of these students. Believe me, it isn’t easy and I wish that I could talk to a lot more of them. I really work at it, yet I also know that it isn’t the first thing on old student’s minds to reach out to their old 3rd or 8th grade teacher. With the invention of social media, I keep in touch for most of them, just a little bit, but with some them, much more!

Some of my old 8th graders got married recently. For one of them, I was the “Video guy”. That was cool. I watched her get ready for her wedding day, hang with her family and document the day. It was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work! I was the teacher of some of the bridesmaids and thought about how weird it was that I was watching some celebrate their friend’s wedding. I also realized that several of my students celebrated their own weddings and I wasn’t there, either as the “Video Guy” or just a guest. I know, I know, I have to admit that seeing all the wonderful pictures of a former 8th grade student of mine was very nice to see, in fact, awesome to see, but DARN, I wanted to be there.

A student of mine in both my 3rd and 8th grade classrooms won an Emmy for his sports reporting over the weekend and another, this one from just my third grade class went hiking with husband and two little kids. Another student of both of my classes is singing her heart out and I know, really soon she will be singing on a stage, and I will be there!

Here is Thomas, accepting his award last weekend!

Now, understand this as I write and reflect upon so many of the students that I spent a year of their lives with in my classroom, I think about all the stories that my wife listened to as she sat at the dining room reflecting her day in her classroom. More stories are coming to my mind now and I want to share. There are so many of our (Mine and Beth’s) that I want to share.

So many stories, so many moments that meant the world to me and I hope meant the world to my students. These moments stick in my mind and I bet you all, if you are still reading, are wondering where I am going with all these words….

Here goes…

Every year, as a teacher, when the first day of school happens, I, in my head, say goodbye to last year’s Eagle News students. Their classes in Schoology disappear, their grades in Powerschool move on and the groups in my Remind app, move down in the app to make space for the new crop of kiddos that will sit the their seats in the Eagle News classroom. I REALLY miss those new ninth graders. Most of them that came in on a summer Monday to help me get my classroom ready. Most of them that came in on that same Monday to fill me in on the “tea” or “gossip” that I missed over the past two and a half months.

The last day of school with last year’s Eagle News group, I will miss you all!
Setting up good ol room 114, the Eagle News Lab for another school year.

Did I say, that I really am going to miss them. And it will take a while for me get over them. But I will. I will with excitement, but as I introduce what we do in Eagle News and recruit new kids into my world of the class, I will remember those from last year and all previous years. Their pictures spread the walls of my classroom and I so happy to see them everyday!

I have to stop, it’s time to go to bed, but for a post where I wanted to thank my wife for dealing with me, I turned it into a post where I realize that I love the things that I DO in my life. I love my wife, my kids, my work, my students and I am so blessed to have the job that I do. I am blessed to have a wonderful family. I am blessed to work with so many great people.

Living and working in the world of education, takes you all over the place. I continue to think of soooooooooo many people. I think of my parents and family back in Pittsburgh, see “YINZ” soon, I think of the thousands, yes, thousands of teachers/administrators that I communicate with on social media (mainly Twitter), thank you for your ideas and books and motivation, we are a team!

But as I end this post, where my writing was all over the place and start a new school year tomorrow, I want to say that I will be thinking of two women that retired from Hyatts last school year. One that taught me to keep the passion for teaching alive in my room and another who taught me to keep the words of this blog about me and me only. Ladies, enjoy your Monday morning, I will miss your lovely faces tomorrow at our opening meeting.

And to one last group, you got me through my back surgery 11 days ago…..DUNKIRK.

Laying on the couch after back surgery.
Hey ReelBlend and Blenders out there, if you make it this far, thank you for all your support over the past two weeks. You all gave me the strength to make it through my surgery. These movies helped me through and you all made me believe in the positivity of social media can be a good thing. Thank you!

The Florida Project

The joy of poverty under a landscape of “Magic”

This movie was phenomenal, it shows the life of two/three families, each with an 8-9 year old kid with more freedom that any kid I know has in Central Ohio.

These kids went anywhere and traveled that stereotypical 8-lane highway in front a major amusement park or beach. (The Magic Kingdom)

The motel where these families live show a world of a motherly grandma, hard working mom who realizes she needs to make better choices as a mom for her son and a final mom who is the central character and her daughter the leader loudmouth leader of the kids. This story leads up all over the place, up and down with a lot more downs.

The story is led by the Motel Manager, William Dafoe(Nominated for a Supporting Actor role) who is the father figure for the kids while dealing with all the other issues with running a cheap mote outside Disney…he was absolutely perfect in this role.

It’s a movie all to real to many people and you want the adults to make the right decisions and cringe when they don’t.

My grade – A. This is a powerful film and I loved the emotional ride that the kids took you on under realistic rough times for the people around them.

It’s Been Busy…

Wow! Summer has flown by. It’s not over, but in three weeks (or less), I will be in my classroom, setting up tables, computers, broadcasting equipment, cameras, etc ready for the new batch of students that will coming into the classroom for the 2019-2020 school year.

I will also be that worried 6th grade parent, whose kid is entering middle school for the first time. I will want to make sure all is ready for him, all the kids around him will be nice to him and that all works well for him during the first month of his middle school life.

Being a teacher in a middle school, different than the one my son will go to, I have observed 6th graders come into that new, big middle school and either be cool with it and just go with the flow or I have seen kids struggle to find his/her way through the halls, struggle with friends, not sure how to fit in and it scares me that he will not know what to do.

Its the middle of the week for me this week, the 2nd in July and my son is currently in Indiana at Boy Scout camp. I don’t have any contact with him, I don’t know what he is doing and I am not sure he is ok. This is hard but it is helping me get to Saturday when he returns. It has helped a bit that I have been a bit injured this week with a pinched nerve in my back, so I have been doing a lot of sleeping and watching movies, so my mind has been elsewhere. I can’t wait until he gets home this weekend.

At home, I spent a moment looking at the calendar for the final three weeks of July and what comes up in my mind are all the people that say to me that it must be nice to have the summers off. I don’t let those comments bother me, for I know 98% of the people saying that to me are not trying to be rude, but every time I hear it, I think, my summers are packed and crazy! All the appointments that I have after school are moved to the middle of the day. You try to get some stuff done around the house, but then the kids just mess it up.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the time off in the mornings and late evenings, I sleep in sometimes and sometimes I stay up late and head the local theater to watch a late night flick. But the 7/8 weeks we’re off fly by and now I am in “back to school” mode. Not fully but sooner than later I will breaking down the class list, checking my schedule, trying to rearrange my room and think of different ways I can make my classroom flow better. It’s all exhilarating for me to do, I love it, but I really love my busy summer days as well.

What’s the point of this post, nothing really, just thinking on the blog. I will be ready for year 23 of my career and I can’t wait to see what my students come up with this year! With new computers, new equipment, new schedules, etc, the beginning of the school year is always fun!

But I will enjoy the final 3-4 weeks of summer…

Top 5 Movies so far….in 2019

I’m in the road on my to the beach and before I start to listen to the ReelBlend podcast to hear their top 5 movies of 2019, I want to post mine.

Short and Sweet list…

5. Pokemon-Detective Pikachu – This one looked good from the preview and I enjoyed this one with its effects and story!

4. Captain Marvel – I liked the story and knew that this story and character was going to be important for Endgame.

3. Us – Yep, I saw this three times in the theater and really became infatuated with the story and how Peele put together this crazy movie.

2. Rocketman – this story about Elton John, is still stuck in my head. It was an amazing movie with a wonderful performance from Taron Edgerton. I was amazing at how poorly he was treated by his parents. The music is wonderful too!

1. Avengers: Endgame – My all time favorite movie, outlasting Die Hard. I have never emotionally rode the roller coaster that was this perfect movie.

Goodbye to My Students, 2018-19

To be a teacher is a special thing. It’s not an easy occupation, no matter which type of teacher you are. What I mean is that those who teach CORE subjects, SS, Science, Math and especially ELA have an entirely different experience in school than the teachers that teach the Unified Arts, PE, Art, Music, Technology(What I teach), etc.

Elementary teachers have a much different experience than Middle School and entirely different than High School teachers. But no matter what anyone teaches, it truly depends on the individual on how he/she handles the closing of every year. Some say goodbye to kiddos, wrap up their room and head away for the summer. In fact, we ALL do that.

As I was training to be a teacher at the University of Dayton, I remember the graduation weekends and the finality of it all. Saying goodbye to the new graduates as they move on to the real world as I was preparing to say goodbye to Ohio for 3 months to head back to Pittsburgh. But as I reflect on that, I never thought that the end of the school year would hit me like this one has. Like the last 5 or 6 have. (PS – Crying now)

This year was a tough year for me. I missed some time because my daughter, EmmeClaire, had major leg surgery to help out her walking and when I was away, my students still let me be a part of the class, but from a distance. It wasn’t the same. Bue EmmeClaire thrived and I was back in with my Eagle News kiddos a little after the holiday season.

This is where I develop such strong relationships with my 8th graders and when I say “My” 8th graders, I mean approximately 60 of the 330 8th grader that we have at Hyatts Middle School. Not that many, but these 60 kids do the toughest work of any of the 8th grade students. I’m not talking about writing the best research paper or doing Calculus 1 work as a 13/14 year old kid. I am talking about putting themselves out there to create content, videos/podcasts/lip dubs/etc for my class for not just their “Powell Bubble” to criticize, but a global audience to judge.

That is the hardest thing and I know this, because I get judged every year with our work. The difference is I am 44 and these students are young teenagers in the times of cell phones and social media. My students are tough. Are they perfect, FAR FROM IT, but they did their best work in the 65-120 minutes a day that I saw them.

I pause to wipe my tears, and I reflect on the letters that these kids gave me on Wednesday. Look at them….

Letters to Mr. Meta

Overwhelming, isn’t it. I started to cry laying them out. Back to this in a minute, on Monday of this week, we had out 10th Annual Hyatts Film Festival and the This Week local newspaper covered the event. They called me in the first line, “A self proclaimed crier.” The article nailed it. Back to the picture above, all I asked my students was if Eagle News meant anything to them, write me a letter telling me why and say goodbye. I ask this of most of my Eagle News kiddos and I tell them it’s ok if you don’t, only if they wanted to.

So I sit here tonight, Friday night, and I am absolutely dreading opening these envelopes. This would be it, no more grades for these kids, no more newscasts, no more speeches from me, no more lunches together. One last final goodbye from them to me in written form and my heart is racing. Not like a heart does on a first kiss or after a winning homerun, but it’s racing because I am sooooo afraid that these might be the last words from them to me. And now I’m sobbing because my heart is broken.

I know they will come back to visit, share success, need hugs for various reasons, but it won’t be the same. So, Eagle News kids, if you read all of this, send me a quick “remind” and tell me if I made you cry again, because I am and it doesn’t help that I have the soundtrack to Avengers Endgame on in the background. You all have a special part of my heart. I always have your back.

Make good choices, do good for one another and share your lives with me! I will keep you posted with my world, my kids, my Steelers/Penguins and with Eagle News.

I gotta go now…I’m gonna get a box of tissues before I read my goodbyes!

Goodbye Eagle News

Love You 3000, Mr. Meta