You need schoolin’

I have been working with a group of 11-13 year olds over the last week, teaching them music that they are going to then turn around and record for me in the studio, starting this Friday. I’ve been driving down to their school in order to work with them.

My relationship to “school” isn’t terribly complicated. I’m not one of those kids who did poorly and suffered because of it, I didn’t realize one day that my grades were slipping or tearfully admit that I never learned to read or anything. I have hated school since montessori. Apparently, I sat in the driveway, arms and legs folded, a normally rational and quiet kid now screaming his head off, and my mom would lift me in to the front seat, drive me to school, carry me out of the car and leave me on the front step and drive away. She would circle the block and wait for me to finally get nervous and go in.

My ADHD was profoundly misdiagnosed as anything from Epilepsy (because I would be lost in daydreams to the point of not responding to my own name) to OCD (being unable to stop blurting out unrelated information several times in a row) to bipolarism (the manic phase looks like ADHD). But all of these were casual uninterested diagnoses, I was the kid each teacher had to put up with every day, any day I wasn’t there was easier for them, and most of them probably advanced me because I could *always* do *everything*, reading-math-everything, on a high school or college level, and they just didn’t want me in their class anymore.

So, I have a really clean hostile reaction to showing up at a school. I look at the hallowed halls and I see cockroaches and hostile bitter adults cornered into a lifetime of medicority. No-one decides to teach school. In California, the teachers were paid worse than the garbage collectors, but it takes a certain chutzpah to get up at 3 in the morning and drive around picking up trash, so the teachers were even lazier, shittier people than the trashmen.

Even once I failed out of high school and lied my way into college, I found incredible disdain for my friends who talked about their schoolwork. One of my best friends has been close to me since the beginning of his freshman year, and he is now a doctor. I did my damnedest to get him to not go to class, and he found a way to rise to the top. He has the highest board scores of anyone I know, and when he was a freshman I *mocked* him every day for paying any attention to his work. I hated that he went to class, I still hate the idea that doing that work will help anyone.

So, I’m at this junior high school working with these kids and laughing at all the teachers. Fucking teachers, looking beaten down, hardly raising their heads enough to be confused by my smiling face. I walk through these halls knowing a) none of these teachers is good enough to smell my farts and b) I could kick every single punk’s ass in that school. It’s like I’m returning to school, only this time I get to have this 220 pound body, I get to be a handsome man, terrifying the other teachers and students with my devil-may-care attitude.

I sat down and started singing with the wonderful kids. So talented. These little burgeoning fountains of possibility, discovering the same thing I discovered at their age, that music was a passion of mine, that creating phrases and circumstance out of thin air, out of nothing, gave me a chance to feel whole for a moment.

The songs are for meant for younger children, 6 through 9 year olds. I explained to them that we use kids slightly older to give younger kids someone to emulate. “We’re trying to make little kids fall in love with singing at a very young age” I say, and the kids laugh. One of the girls says, “did you record songs when you were young?”

“Yeah, I did,” I said, remembering a recording my mom through me on when I was in 7th grade. “I sang songs for younger kids to learn, and then I started working with kids your age in ’89 or ’90. They have grown up now and a lot of them are working in the industry or on stage.”

“So, you got them to sing, and now they’re performing and then kids like us go see them and want to sing and now we’re singing these songs for kids, and they’ll want to sing…” her face lights up. “That’s awesome!”

I mean, what can I tell you. Kids, especially choir geeks, are into the larger meanings really early, they want what they are doing to have deep mystical meanings. But it seems silly at this point to wonder how I was failed by the system, when in fact the system seems to be working for so many other kids, and I get to be a part of that system. Sure, I was failed by every single teacher I ever had, but I currently have a life that is pretty close to what I always dreamed it would be, so maybe they actually did it right.