Hearing Voices

When I was in 8th grade, Russ Ballard came out with a song that was used as part of a multimedia presentation on the influences on human behavior.  The song, like the presentation itself, was entitled “Voices.” It was a fun, highly visual show that involved multiple video screens, laser lights, and clips of some actresses that, to the 14-year old male mind, were the hottest thing on the planet (yeah, there was some deeper message to the event as well, but I honestly don’t remember it.)

Years later, after having been a husband for 6 years and a teacher for 4, I heard that song again in the car on my way to the Napa wine country.  Anyone who was alive in the 1980s and has heard the song more recently would probably agree that the arrangement is dated: a synthesized horn section and a looooooooooong instrumental lead-in were the stuff of our childhoods.  But the song stuck in my mind, and it’s become more important to me in the past eight months for reasons that have nothing to do with music or overly-made-up girls.

The beginning lyrics of Russ Ballard’s song go like this:

If you could see my mind

If you really look deep, then maybe you’ll find

That somewhere there will be a place, hidden behind my comedian face

You will find somewhere there’s a house,

And inside that house there’s a room

Locked in the room in the corner you see

A voice is waiting for me, to set it free,

I got the key, I got the key


I hear voices

I have been hearing voices of encouragement, of reprimand, of support for the last 8 months now, because of my PLN on Voxer — #4OCFPLN.

The thing that makes a Voxer PLN so effective is the fact that you are hearing people’s voices and the emotion those voices carry.  If we’re excited, we can hear it in our tones. If we’re suffering, we can empathize in a way that we could never get in an email or a Twitter chat.  If we have a problem, we can offer suggestions in a way that we know our listeners (our friends, really) will take to heart. Because that is the power of voices.

At the risk of sounding apocryphal, I am going to state that Voxer is The Single Best Online Tool for an ongoing PLN.  Nothing else is its equal for continuity, for feeling, and for consistent support and motivation. Not Twitter, not SnapChat, not Instagram, not Facebook, not Blogger, not WhatsApp, not Google Hangouts.  Not even FlipGrid or FaceTime.

It’s a running joke amongst us “roguesters” that we should claim the hashtag #NotCaughtUp, because we almost never have heard all the messages that we leave for each other.  Even when the East Coast has gone to bed, the West Coast Voxers (myself included) are chatting deep into the night about all things educational. I can go to bed with 30 unheard Voxer messages and wake up with  80 of them…and they all have something I can add to my tool kit, or something that draws me emotionally closer to their authors.

Back to Mr. Ballard’s lyrics:

In my head the voice is waiting, waiting for me to set it free

I locked it inside my imagination, but I’m the one who’s got the combination

Some people didn’t like what the voice did say

So I took the voice and I locked it away

I got the key, I got the key


I hear voices


I hear voices

Yes, I have had real-life colleagues who haven’t paid attention, who have dismissed my ideas, who at their worst even told me I was doing everything wrong and that my lessons were bullshit.  Not the #4OCFPLN. I did indeed “take the voice and lock it away.” Now my PLN is giving me the key to let it out.

And now the chorus to the song…

Don’t look back, look straight ahead, don’t turn away, then the voice it said

Don’t look back, yesterday’s gone, don’t turn away, you can take it on


I hear voices


I hear voices

I am no longer beating myself up for all the things I did wrong in my early years as an educator.  I can look at the challenge of a new school year, and as the man says, “take it on.”

(As soon as I catch up on Voxes.)


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