Students arrive to class with earphones deep in their ears.
"What are you listening to?" I ask one.
"What?" he calls back. I point to my ears and exaggerate the words with my mouth.
"WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?" I shout.
He nods back at me, takes the earphones out of his ears, and says, "Blu Exile."
"Blu Exile?" I ask. I find the band on youtube and bring up the song for the class to hear. It's a rap song. I listen, trying to think of something to say.
"I like how the background vocals make this so layered."
We listen to the song together, and the student smiles. I tell the class, "Maybe we can play a song from one of your favorite bands at the beginning of class."
One student who rarely speaks says, "Awesome! That's awesome!"
I remember the story of a man who had a very rebellious young adulthood. He hated everything and everyone, and while his life fell apart with drugs and alcohol, most everyone in the community gave up on him.
This man tells the story of how his grandma would come visit him and sprawl out on his bedroom floor to just listen to his music with him. She never preached at him or asked him about all his bad choices. They'd sit together for hours and listen to all his heavy metal bands. A few years later, when this man felt so hopeless and depressed, he remembered how his grandma loved him and never judged him. He knew because she listened to his music with him. That simple act reminded him somebody cared about him and wanted to enter into his world. It encouraged him enough that he changed his life and didn't commit suicide.
That story sticks with me. I thought about it today when that student told me about his favorite band. You never know what students are really feeling and what hardships they experience. What if I just listened to their favorite band with them in those few minutes before class starts? Maybe they'd feel seen and cared about and not lost in this huge world.
I'd love to know your favorite band. I admitted I love country music already, so it's your turn!