Power of Music – 5 Songs of Nostalgia




The above picture sits on my desk at school.  It’s a picture of me, in my first year teaching, at a small school in Washington, DC back in 1995.  I recently caught myself staring at the picture reminiscing on “the good ‘ole days.”  In the background of my thoughts, the song, Waterfalls by TLC was playing.  The reason – Yolanda, Chelsea, and Bianca, pictured above, used to sing this song day in and day out while rehearsing a choreographed dance routine.  Each day at recess and every day during our after-school program you could witness the young versions of Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes dancing and singing their song.  I specifically remember this picture being taken.  I was honored when they asked me to be a background dancer for their group (I tried out to sing, but Yolanda said my voice was too manly).  With Waterfalls softly playing from a small boom box, we just finished our number when one of my colleagues snapped a picture of us in our finishing pose.

For me, music is extremely powerful.  It can set my mood based on its melody and/or lyrics.  It used to “fire me up” before a big game.  Every night as a young teen, I’d turn on my radio alarm clock to listen to K104 out of Poughkeepsie, NY to help put me to sleep.  I use it professionally to motivate my students in PE.  Every once in a while I’ll hear a song on the radio that will not only remind me of something but will take me back to a time in my life, much like the above example.  It starts with this strange “fuzzy” feeling in my stomach.  Then, in a flash, I’m transported back in time to a very specific, usually minor event.  It’s strange to me how only certain songs have this effect every time I hear them.

Here are a few more of the songs that have this magical power over me, with a vivid description of a time and place I heard the song.

Although Dream Weaver, by one of the original “one-hit wonders” Gary Wright, was released in 1972, the song takes me back to the summer of 1978.  In the back of my parents’ 1978 Buick Opel, we were driving to Kingston, NY on our weekly shopping excursion.

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1978 Buick Opel

As my dad pulled into a parking deck, and Dream Weaver was fading into the next song, I reached back for my crayons which were placed, by me, in the back window.  Uh oh, how do I tell my dad there was a liquid rainbow dripping down the vinyl interior of his car?  Not good!

The year is 1981.  My little league team just finished winning our league championship.  To celebrate my parents took us to the Stissing House, an Italian restaurant, in my small hometown of Pine Plains, NY.  My brother and I were obsessed with the full-sized jukebox that was loaded with songs from every genre.  Our usual play was Mack the Knife by Bobby Darin.  However, this night we would play It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me by Billy Joel.  I still love that song and I miss “pizza nights” at Stissing House with my family.

November 1984.  I was home from school, battling seasonal asthma.  I was resting on the couch trying to watch a riveting episode of the Phil Donahue show when I heard two dreaded sounds.  The first was the Electrolux vacuum cleaner being dragged into the kitchen followed by the crackling of our Panasonic record player speakers.  My viewing pleasure was about to be rivaled by my mom vacuuming while blaring Barry Manilow’s Copacabana.  Why do I remember that?

December 1986.  I just wasn’t cool in high school.  I was respected for my athleticism but definitely not cool.  Case and point, I’d go to the free library at night to do homework.  “Homework would inevitably lead me to the library’s only computer to play Breakout.

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On one such occasion, my friend Tommy D entered the library with a Sony Walkman maxed out.  As I was feverishly working the left and right arrows on the keyboard, I heard him much before I saw him.  The usual silence of the library was held hostage to Mike D, MCA, and Kind Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys.

Without pulling the orange foam from his ears and neglecting to turn the volume down, Tommy D, in an awkwardly loud tone said, “You’ve got to hear this new group…”  I remember him holding up the tape cover for License to Ill.  Turns out, I loved it!

January 1993 – Enter Grunge.  I arrived in Washington, DC to begin my final two years of college at the George Washington University.  After my parents dropped me off, I headed up to my dorm for the first time.  I was a nervous wreck.  My new roommates weren’t back from their winter break yet and I needed something to settle my nerves.  Along the back wall, there was a small Emerson stereo system.  Sitting on top was the Nevermind CD by Nirvana.  I slipped in the CD, sat on the end of a bed, closed my eyes, and began listening to Smells Like Teen Spirt.  Nothing like a good dose of Nirvana to help settle my nerves and a slight case of homesickness.  Halfway through the song, I opened my eyes to see another student with long, shaggy, red hair standing in the doorway holding a red electric guitar.  The music drew him to my room like ants to sugar.  “Is that Nirvana?”, he said.  Just like that, I made my first friend in college through music.

I could go on and on with several other songs from several different genres. Instead, I’ll save them for a potential “part 2” in the future.

Perhaps you can relate to the “fuzzy” feeling I get when I hear certain songs.  Do you feel a sense of nostalgia when listening to music from the past?  For me, I never know when that feeling, that sense of comfort, that rush of emotions will strike.  Hopefully, it will strike me often and soon!

I wonder if Chelsea, Bianca, and Yolanda remember our time together as the supergroup TLC!  Reunion tour?

Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

Search #trinitype to see what my amazing PE team is doing with their classes.

Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion!








“Why Not 125?” The Question That Helped Motivate My Students AND Me!



Several months ago, as I was going through my normal morning routine, I began to reflect on my previous night’s workout. In an effort to be more efficient with time, I’ve been going to the gym less and using my resources at home. One of my new favorite exercise rituals is performing 100 pull-ups in under 30 minutes on a pull-up bar hanging in the doorway between my kitchen and laundry room. One morning, as I was mentally rewarding myself for completing the above-mentioned workout, my 10-year-old son entered the kitchen with a severe case of bed head and very sleepy eyes.

Continuing my morning routine I said, “Good morning Zavier! How’d you sleep last night?” To which he gave me his regular response, “Good.”

What happened next was NOT routine, and totally unexpected?

In an effort to lead by example and demonstrate to my son that I make no excuses not to exercise, I proudly declared, “Well, I got my 100 pull-ups in last night!”

I was expecting Zavier to give me another one of his subtle head nods accompanied by, “nice job dad.”

Instead he looked up at me and said, “Why not 125 or 150?”

As I snapped my head to his direction in complete shock, I quickly realized his stare as he was waiting for a response.

WOW! This was a serious blow to my ego. This simple question sent an array of emotions spewing through my mind.

When the smoke settled, I realized his question was a stroke of BRILLIANCE. He was right, and his question was completely fair. Why DIDN’T I do 25 more or even 1 more? Why do I stop at 100 every time I “complete” this routine?

His question continues to impact me daily both personally AND professionally.

Flexed Arm Hang


As a physical education teacher, getting the most out of our students is a continuous goal. Especially in regard to fitness, keeping our kids motivated is a daily challenge. For instance, part of our fitness assessments includes the flexed arm hang. Using an overhand grip, students must pull themselves up so their chin is above the bar and they must hold themselves in a flexed position for as long as possible. Following each round, they set a reasonable goal. Using my son’s question as a tool, I encourage my students to attempt to not only reach their goal but fight to stay up even longer. I tell them; “Even when you feel you need to drop, push yourself to stay up just a second or two more. Break the mental barrier”!

The same goes for our timed runs. For example, our 3rd grade students complete a 9-minute run around our track four times per year. Each runner has a partner who writes down his/her time following each lap. In the past, as nine minutes expired, the runners would stop and only get credit for the last COMPLETED lap. However now, we give credit for each additional fraction of a lap. We tell our students that ever ¼ lap counts and could be the difference in meeting or surpassing their goal. It has paid off tremendously. Out students are now sprinting the last 30 seconds to one minute of the run.

9-Minute Run Log

Why not 125 or 150 pull-ups? Sure we can and should set goals, and use them as motivation. Apparently, we can use our children’s comments as inspiration as well. Thanks to my 10-year-old’s encouragement, I have slowly increased my repetitions.   Without setting a limit, who knows what I can achieve! -what YOU can achieve! – what our students can achieve!  Without challenging our limits, we are just limiting our challenges.

We need to continue to encourage ourselves and our students in developing a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset!

“Sprint through the finish line, NOT to the finish line.”


Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

Search #trinitype to see what my amazing PE team is doing with their classes.

Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion!

Motivate Your Class With a Meaningful Quote and Image

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Have you ever needed an idea or a visual to help set the tone for a class, running club, or any other group?  Recently, my colleague, Jedd Austin (@jeddaustin), found the above quote and photograph from American photographer, artist, and director Chase Jarvis.  Following an instant activity during our running club, we gathered our runners and asked them to reflect on the quote and image for 1 minute.  Our more than 100 1st-6th grade students suddenly became very quiet.  You could almost hear their minds at work.  Then, slowly, hands began to go up as our gang wanted to share their insight.  This meeting, although brief, was extremely powerful for our club.  We immediately began to notice increased effort. Students  were less likely to give up during our challenging workout of the day.  At least for this day and this workout, kids were inspired.  It is our hope that both the visual and discussion, will continue to encourage our runners.


Find a quote and set the tone for your group!

Next week’s quote:


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If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more of what I have to say about physical education and keeping kids in motion, follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion!

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