Things I learned today

1. “Across the Universe” is magic: It has a calming effect on rowdy teenagers.

2. Especially when they find out it was written during the Beatles’ hard-core hippie phase. That “jai guru deva om” bit knocked them out when they found out it was something the Beatles picked up from their guru. My sophomores seem to be obsessed with hippies. Maybe I could command a little more respect if I ditched my oh-so-professional business-casual Dockers and polos and just let my freak flag fly from now on….

3. Speaking of commanding respect, here is an easy way to keep the schmuck in the back of the room from telling you that your musical taste “sucks”: Break out a little Aretha Franklin. Even the professional wiseacres defer to Lady Soul when she demands a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

4. Every time I think I’ve wrapped my head around the impact of Cars, my kids surprise me again. Aretha got a big response, but the loudest cheer of the day — in every class — was reserved for Rascal Flatts’ cover of Tom Cochrane’s “Life Is a Highway,” which the kids all recognized from the Cars soundtrack. Even my hip-hop fans and metalheads were singing along with every word. Amazing.

If any teachers or homeschoolers happen to be reading this and would like to borrow the idea, the lesson plan is here.