School Teachers By Day, Punk Rockers At Night, Encouraging Children To Raise Their Voices

Photo by Marjorie Salvaterra

Teachers have been in the news a lot lately, from marches in Oklahoma and North Carolina. Our nation’s educators are demanding better pay and increased funding for resources. They are the backbone of our society as they bear the responsibility for educating children. We’ve also seen political conversations about the possibility of arming all teachers, in the wake of recent mass school shootings, underscoring the problematic way some of our nation’s legislators view the profession of teaching.

It is no surprise that we are hearing educators’ voices loud and clear, as they deserve better for the work they do for our youth. One particular group of teachers from Los Angeles are quite familiar with the concept of raising their voice for students as well as their fellow teachers, and are doing it in a unique way.

By day they are elementary school teachers, and by night they form the punk rock trio No Small Children (an apt name indeed) whose music has been part of the recent ‘Ghostbusters’ reboot starring Melissa McCarthy, as well as the Unity Ball in Washington D.C which took place the day after the Trump inauguration. They’ve been featured in the LA Times and NPR, and are bringing a whole new meaning to the concept of education, by mixing learning with resistance. Our kind of teachers!

They are passionate about encouraging kids to use their voices, and speaking out about issues such as gun violence and our current political climate, and have appropriately named their album ‘What Do The Kids Say?‘, and one of the singles off the LP is ‘I’m So Concerned’which gives their point of view on the gun control issue as three veteran teachers. The trio is made up of guitarist and singer Lisa Pimentel and drummer Nicola Berlinsky and bass player and singer Joanie Pimentel, and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with them and get schooled (in a good way!) by these badass women.

First of all, we love the story behind how your band formed.  How did the discussion about forming a punk rock band come up during this particular recess?

Nicola Berlinsky: Lisa (guitar/vocals) and I (drums) were covering recess duty, sharing observations and emotions while dodging flying balls. We had always supported each other’s music, but decided on this day to head into the studio. The goal was to have fun and write relatable songs. Soon after, Joanie (bass/vocals) moved from Boston and joined the band. Three months later we were on tour!

Aside from making music that rocks, what are the issues you are passionate about tackling in your lyrics?

Lisa Pimentel: Our songs cover a wide range of topics from eating salad because we are so passionately sick of eating salad, to accidently being kind of deep because we are trying to be passionate teachers of young and hopeful minds in these wicked crazy times. All our songs are inspired by different moments in our everyday lives…. details that are in all our lives…then a little tune or a lyric idea may pop into your head and you run with it. You eventually put a heavy drum beat and distorted guitar behind it. It may sound weird but sometimes the song is written before we know what it is actually about.

How did the name “No Small Children” come about? Is there a hidden meaning?

NB: We came up with our band name during the same recess duty we decided to form a band. It’s original meaning represents our belief that that women have social relevance whether they do or don’t have children. Over time our name has grown to mean many things to us. As teachers, it’s important to carve out time for our adult interests. Our husband joke that we’re no small children ourselves.

We love that you are all encouraging youth to speak up and use their voices, as we are seeing many teens across the country doing this in the wake of Parkland and the March For Our Lives. What kind of impact are these events having on your own students?

NB: Our students are tuned in, engaged and finding ways to contribute back to society. They have staged their own marches in alliance with students across the nation asking for tougher regulations on guns. They are supporting current California legislation on a wide range of issues, including advancing disability rights and supporting children in the dependency system. They have formed new friendships with students in a school across town, writing and recording a soon to be released song that bridges two distinctly different communities, and they are looking for ways to make small, kind acts of friendship on campus. We love our students.

One of the issues you have sung about in one of your songs is gun control. As teachers, what are your thoughts on the conversations about arming teachers and expecting them to be Rambo in the unexpected event of a shooting as a “solution” from some legislators.

NB: Yeah, we’re not going to carry a gun. We will start by keeping an eye out for students become withdrawn and who’s behavior could be read as defiant. We will build a community where we try to meet the needs of all our students and try to reconnect with their peers and teachers. We support California’s current legislative bill AB 2888. If signed into law, it would authorize teachers at a secondary or post-secondary schools to file a petition in court for a restraining order preventing a student from obtaining a gun for one year if it can be proven that the individual poses as threat to him or herself or others.

LP: The thing we love most about teaching, is our students and are inspired by them every day. We take children seriously and feel when given the license and tools, their creativity, energy and resilience can move mountains. We have always felt this way. “I’m So Concerned” is a song about listening to young people…and believing in them. The song is about education. It’s about teachers. It about responsibility. It’s about respect and love.

As far as carrying gun…um…no. Instead, we can use the money to buy supplies for the classrooms, resources and prep time to meet the needs of every kid… to build in systematic support for them so no one falls through the cracks.

I don’t think a lot of people realize the pull on teachers. To plan to teach well thought out and exciting lessons for seven hours, five days a week for anywhere from 22-40 students. It’s like planning a show…because otherwise your students probably won’t be inspired to learn. About 20% of these students have some form of attention or emotional issues. You have to find time to grade the papers for all these lessons.

You have about a thousand things that happen in the class that need a follow-up…from calling a parent because someone isn’t doing their homework, or dealing with behavior issues, divorce, pregnancy, daily adolescent happenings that comes up in class EVERY DAY!!, to dealing with suicidal kids. We have a lot of homeless kids in L.A. I know a lot of teachers that buy shoes for their students…and bring in snacks for them too.

You get 15 minutes for lunch. If you’re lucky you make enough money to make rent…and now suddenly there is enough money to buy a gun and to train teachers…anyone with the least bit of knowledge about the reality of teaching knows this is a RIDICULOUS solution.

What is your message to women about speaking out, especially in our current political climate?

LP: One of the songs on our new record is called, “Can You Imagine?” It is a song about our moms and how bad-ass they are. How can someone imagine something that they can’t see? And all while the world is telling you not to make waves because it isn’t “lady-like” or no one will believe you. Our moms found their voice in a different world than ours and then passed on what they learned so we can find ours. #Metoo has made us all wake up. Now we know we are not alone. This is for sure the start of a huge change. You can feel the momentum.

It took me a while to find my voice. It happened when I started singing and playing guitar. (I’ve always been into non-ladylike things). It was scary in the beginning and I was terrified in so many ways. I was terrible at first too, but it was fun and exhilarating so I kept going…failing.. and getting back up. After a while, it all started to feel natural and I realized that I had “found my voice” through my singing and my writing.

Does it encourage you to see such a huge wave of women rising up with movements like #MeToo, the record number of women running for office, as well as the Women’s March?

LP: I am so moved by all these people coming together in solidarity in the name of fairness and justice. #MeToo was so effective because it showed that virtually ALL women experience sexism and misogyny on a regular basis!! It opened eyes and has been the start of an awakening. We are just getting started.

Speaking of which, you performed at the Unity Ball after the first March in 2017. Tell us what that was like for you, and the general vibe of the event given the significance of the day and what happened the day before?

Joanie Pimentel: We were so humbled by the invitation to play the event and even more humbled by the sheer number of people who came out in solidarity, not just in DC, but all over the world. Never in my life have I seen that many people together in one place. We felt nothing but love and respect the entire day. Women from every race and station in life were there as well as so many men and children who were there to show their support and lend their voice. Everyone was pretty raw about the election but our crowd was bigger than his….so whatever. A few more port-o-potties would have made it perfect.

What was it like to have your remake of the classic ‘Ghostbusters’ theme featured in the all-female reboot?

LP: We are so grateful for that opportunity….and it lead to many more. I’m waiting for the all-male reboot of the classic “Thelma and Louise”.

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You can listen to No Small Children’s new album ‘What Do The Kids Say?’ in full HERE, and download it by clicking HERE. Watch them perform their version of the ‘Ghostbusters’ theme in the video below:

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  1. Pingback: Author & Activist Marie Unanue Writes Books To Help Children Become Advocates For Kindness - GirlTalkHQ

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