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Profile Name: Chris Bowen
Year: 2007-2008
District: Downey Unified School District
School: LEWIS
Grades Taught: K-5
Subjects Taught: English, Math
Additional Info: A former student writes: "If there was a Coolest Teacher of the Century award, I think he would be deserving of that as well!"


Sunday, March 27, 2011 8:56:00 PM



     I’m looking at pictures of Detroit on line the other day.  It’s not third world.  It’s other world.  Buildings, grand and gothic, decay and sag.  Look at photos from natural disasters.  Mix in a few from Detroit.  You man not notice.  Probably just effortlessly blend.  The big difference?  Detroit’s disaster is man-made.

     An American symbol.  The Motor City.  Of course, this would be the spot to throw down about unions and livable wages.  Maybe hark back to a time when we really made stuff with our backs.  And our hands.  And our pride.  For all those social troubles of past generations, assembly lines and unions were like battlefields and the fronts.  Unifiers, if only from eight to five.  Americans.  All of us.  I’ll leave it at that.  I’ve got a grander story here to tell.  Something bigger to tackle and lay open.

     Dance competitions.  Until my daughters got involved, I had no idea how much of a moneymaker these competitions can be.  Cash cows.  Almost recession proof.  Parents will cling to the dreams of their children until there’s nothing left.  God bless every last one, struggling to make the ends meet, but holding on to what’s a cut above for the kids.  As a former Jersey boy and Springsteen disciple, I always think of his struggling mother and the young Bruce mesmerized by the guitars hanging from the Pawn Shop windows.  Somehow, some way, she found the money.  So the legend goes.  That’s real devotion.  I am grateful for this woman, this mother I never met, every time I hear one of those songs.  They are the sound track to so much of my life.

     A friend of mine helps run these dance competitions all across the country.  Every weekend the recession stays at bay, at least a little longer, in high school gymnasiums and civic centers.  Recently, they were in Detroit.  Like I said, the dying American legend.  My friend didn’t know what to expect.  He too has seen the photos.  Heard the word.  Would anyone show?  Maybe the company shouldn’t come next year.  Maybe Detroit really won’t be here next year.  He pondered what’s best for business.  He got his answer.

     One thousand.  Over a thousand, really.  Over one thousand families came to compete.  They came to dance.  From the rubble of the forgotten city, over a thousand families, holding tightly to the dreams and hopes and aspirations of their children, showed up.  Wanting more.  Despite it all, they came wanting more.  Demanding more.  Most of the shine has come off the phrase lately, but they came with the audacity to hope.

     Simply put, we can do better.  When we forget one population after another, they only leave our view.  They do not disappear.  Forget enough of them, and there won’t be room enough for the new ones to leave our line of sight.  When we cut budgets on the backs of the disenfranchised, and eliminate devoted public servants and services, we leave behind thousands and thousands of hopes and dreams.  We lose our moral compass.  Keeps getting harder and harder to find our true north lately.

     My friend and the crew had to extend the competition an extra day.  They raced out and had “Detroit Rocks” t-shirts printed.  An unsung moment of solidarity.  For a weekend, it was truly a unifier.  Young kids.  Young kids from Detroit with their dreams, determined to see them through the decay.  They took their shinny trophies and medals back into the rubble.  We have forgotten many.  Masses.  But the masses have not forgotten us.  I am proud and deeply grateful that they maintain their audacity to hope.   We are all better for it.  Detroit rocks.


If you're enjoying the blog, my first book of classroom stories, "Our Kids: Building Relationships in the Classroom," is available at  Now available for the Kindle.  Happy Reading!

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