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Pop Punk to Punk Rock & DIY Teaching

I love music! But not any kind of music. I'm not really into Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd and unlike my contemporaries, I'm not jamming to Arcade Fire or any other band "who I haven't heard of" either. No, unlike the aforementioned bands, I like a band and style of music that doesn't get me much "cred" in any music scene. I am, and have always been, a fan of pop punk and punk rock music.

The first record I ever picked up was Green Day's "Dookie" and it stuck with me for the next 20 years. I loved everything about it. The snotty vocals, the 3 power chord structure to songs, and the lyrics of teenage alienation and frustration. Green Day was just the first of many bands who formulated a large part of my identity when I was a kid.

Now, before all you musical purists role your eyes to the back of your skull, just take a minute and hear me out. I like a band who are simple and straight forward. I don't like listening to the greatest guitar solo ever or hearing the greatest singer lay down a great track. I want a band who can barely play their instruments and sing only slightly better than I can. I could never connect with any other type of band or genre since I was 10 years old. Pop Punk/Punk Rock music is what connected the most with me as a suburban teenager in the mid-late 90's.

It started out with Green Day, Blink 182, Less Than Jake, New Found Glory, Goldfinger, MXPX and many other bands who wrote two minute songs about being dumped by girls and getting in stupid trouble with your friends. I used to love going to shows and having a blast with my friends in mosh pits.

Pop punk was really a "gateway music" for me though. As I got older I started listening to more punk rock bands such as Bad Religion, The Clash and the Dead Kennedy's. It was through these, and many other bands, that  I discovered the DO IT YOURSELF ethic to making music and pursuing your passion.

Surrounding myself with punk rock bands as I finished my undergrad gave me the attitude and vision to become the effective teacher that I was aiming to be. Even with all the formal education that I was receiving in my undergraduate studies and into teachers' college, I think the most important things that I learned were through punk rock music and what that taught me about being a principled person who would not hesitate to stand up for others.

My professional career in teaching has taken me to schools to work with what we often call our "most challenging" students. Within these schools, I have never had textbooks or other learning resources to use. Technology has been extremely limited  so I started out in a place to have to create my own resources to get these "challenging" students excited about learning. So, instead of depending on mainstream learning materials to get students learning, students and myself started writing our own curriculum and resources. I learned to use music, dialogue, Democratic decision making and many other strategies in place of more traditional resources. Embracing the DIY attitude into my teaching allowed me the opportunity to really learn what it would take to get the most difficult students excited about learning.

This DIY attitude has pushed me into discovering hip hop as well over the past three years. Since most of my students are emerged in hip hop culture I have had the opportunity to not only learn and appreciate the music, but discovered how I can use the culture of hip hop to successfully engage youth in positive learning experiences. See more here:

Now I have had my fair share of difficulties as well and have by no means successfully engaged every student who has come into my classroom. But what started off as a stubborn love for bad pop-punk music has turned into an attitude and determination that you can find in every lesson I teach.

Oh yeah, even though I'm turning 30 this July, I still listen to Green Day and Less than Jake along with Bad Religion and The Clash on the regular. Deal with it! ;)


  1. I'm a 47 year old punk rocker.......( your just a kid ) you are not alone . The punk underground is still alive and well , Lots of kids out there , picking up the torch .

  2. Glad to hear it! And nice to be called a kid again. The thinning hair on the top of my head would suggest otherwise but I'll take it! Cheers!


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