Sunday, September 01, 2013

What the hell do you mean you’ve never heard Hotel California?

I was going to end my lesson with four minutes left in class.  Note to all new teachers; that’s not really a good thing.  You want to have things happening from bell-to-bell.  Well, I noticed earlier that the lesson was moving quicker than I wanted it to, and I wasn’t going to have time enough to transition to the next exercise while making it effective.  So I was going to have a spare for minutes.  So what do I do?

It’s relationship building time.  I decided to comment on a recent cultural event. 

When Madonna did these kinds of things it was interesting and provocative.  When Miley Cyrus does …well…this, it makes you wonder if Paul Verhoeven was secretly filming it for Showgirls 3: Releasing the Nutty Shrew.  It was weird.  And I made a joke about it in class to stir up conversation.

Within 20 seconds one of my students popped in with the fact that he was reading an excellent book on The Eagles, and how Hotel California is so hard to play on guitar.  I asked the students, a class of 34, how many had listened to the great Hotel California.  Six raised their hands.  SIX!  That couldn’t stand.  So, I warmed up the iTunes and we listened to the first few minutes of the song while discussing why music was better in the past.  It was a nice way to end fifth period.

No, it wasn’t a waste of time.  Those are the moments were you seem human to the kids and they appreciate that you are bringing something into their lives that shows a bit of “you”.  It’s those things that Khan and MOOCS and the entirety of the online world can’t give students.  Relationships.  The kids got a kick out the song; some holding their nose while others were sort of digging the music.  It’s a moment where everyone relaxed and yet they learned something about who I was, who each other were, and who we as a country are.  Use those moments wisely and you build an atmosphere that goes beyond professionalism. 

And you teach them about The Eagles in the process. 

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