When I first learned through my mentor that my Building Outside the Blocks projects were avenues to personalized learning, I looked up the concept. I quickly discovered Personalize Learning and purchased Make Learning Personal by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey. It was clear from the text that this was well-researched and grounded in amazing learning narratives. Learning really is personal, and personalizing learning means student driven classrooms and efficacy

 Over the past few years, I have been able to connect with the co-authors through plearnchatand as guests on ONedchat. While I had always shared Barbara’s work, she started retweeting some of mine, and the connection grew. Barbara is a creative learning strategist, which says so much so succinctly. When I asked her to be my guest on the Personal Playlist Podcast, I was thrilled that she said yes, and then I was blown away when she asked me to reciprocate and come on her podcast Conversations on Learning. I felt shocked and elated by the idea that THE Barbara Bray wanted to speak to me about pretty much anything, never mind my work. Both of our conversations were fluid and fun.

When Barbara and I were recording her P3, she began to introduce her nostalgic song by invoking her mother. Her mom has passed away many years ago, and Barbara referred to this song as really hers. She said, “I learned from her that everyday…you have to treasure each moment.” Barbara learned gratitude from her mother and this song, among other things. Instead of marching down the aisle to Here comes the Bride, this song, that makes all of her sisters and extended family feel close to her mother, was the song that her niece marched to at her recent wedding. Here is Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World.

 After I played it in its entirety, Barbara was clearly moved. She candidly shared that her mom was very powerful in her life. After her mother passed away, a hummingbird came up to her and tapped on her glasses. This continued every day for a week. While that song was playing on the podcast, a hummingbird started tapping on Barbara’s window. I am getting shivers writing this incredible occurrence. I was happy that Barbara began to segue from this intense moment to sharing the power of music in her life, but it was profound.

Barbara has music going while she cleans the house, when she writes, or works, or when she is outside. In 1966, her parents informed their daughters that they would be moving from Maryland to California. All she could imagine were beach blondes and the Beach Boys. As she heard one of their classic hits over and over on the radio, she thought that it might be a calling. The song, also, is literally her identity song because her name is actually Barbara Ann. This song reminds her of major change in her life along with her move to a different coast. Here is Barbara Ann by the Beach Boys:

 After we listened to this song, Barbara started sharing her love of dancing. She began taking dancing lessons when she was little, and her love to boogie all the way to M Street in Washington where she got a fake ID and became a go-go cage dancer, unbeknownst to her family. She had a white leather skirt with fringed top, ironed hair to straighten her curls and long white boots. She even tried out to be part of one of Annette Funicello’s beach movies being filmed in Ocean City. Barbara has never lost her dancing shoes. Though there is no image to share that memory, I found a shot that helped me picture her in the gear. I chose this one, as well, because the dancer is so happy, as I imagine our guest is when she dances.

While there will be no Bray Family Band like the Partridge Family, everyone is her family is musical. She reviewed the instruments that her husband, children and granddaughter play.  “Music is big in our lives,” she giggled. She was happy to be part of the flash mob dance at her niece’s wedding. Music and dancing always makes her happy. Happiness is her life’s goal and what she wishes for everyone in her life. When she leads playshops, which is something I will try to attend (Canadian or east coast schools, please invite Barbara Bray!), where the participants get up and dance. It was a natural selection, then, for her pick-me-up song to be Happy by Pharrell Williams. Here’s the Despicable Me 2 version: 

When I asked her if there was anything missing in her playlist, I was surprised by the genre and the band that she shared next. Barbara said, “ Well, you probably wouldn’t know this…if I tell you this…, but I’m a Metallica fan.” Picture her head banging in the car to this hard rock release music, bordering on heavy metal (depending on which album). Fantastic! She went on to illustrate a scene where she and her granddaughter were listening to this Metallica and her granddaughter was playing the drums. Barbara described her going “ahhh ahhh” rocker style. Rock on, Barbara and granddaughter, alike!

“Music is everything,” adds Bray as she takes a moment to be grateful to hear. She was reminded that she had a deaf neighbour in Maryland, and she went to help deaf children with dancing at a nearby school. She spoke of how cool it was that they used the vibrations to get the beat. It opened her eyes to how lucky we all are and that we shouldn’t take things for granted. I would never take for granted this special encounter and all that I learned about Barbara through this podcast. I feel as if we’ve always been friends, and look forward to any time I can learn from her or just hang out and dance to the beat.

If you want to know more about how the P3 evolved from a BOB project or learn about more BOBs, click here and scroll down.

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