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Rock Stars and Vacuum Cleaners

January 8, 2013
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Thoughts From The Corner

Searching through my folders and files for material for a private English tuition lesson, I came across a file marked ‘Oral and Aural’.

Opening it I found a plastic wallet containing a cassette (remember those?) and two pieces of typed paper. Written on the cassette was ‘Stan Rogers – White Collar Holler’ while one paper contained the lyrics. Stan Rogers (b.1949 – d.1983) was a Canadian folk singer I discovered while spending time in Canada in the 1980’s.

The second piece of paper contained the students in the class and a list of songs they chose to talk about. Speaking and listening exercises were part of the English curriculum and I had asked the class to choose a song and talk about it, as one of those exercises. Students were asked to bring the song on a cassette which was then played to the class. I led the way by choosing to talk about Stan Rogers ‘White Collar Holler’:

Well, I rise up every morning at a quarter to eight
Some woman who’s my wife tells me not to be late
I kiss the kids goodbye, I can’t remember their names
And week after week, it’s always the same
And it’s Ho, boys, can’t you code it, and program it right
Nothing ever happens in the life of mine
I’m hauling up the data on the Xerox line
Then it’s code in the data, give the keyboard a punch
Then cross-correlate and break for some lunch
Correlate, tabulate, process and screen
Program, printout, regress to the mean
Then it’s home again, eat again, watch some TV
Make love to my woman at ten-fifty-three
I dream the same dream when I’m sleeping at night
I’m soaring over hills like an eagle in flight
Someday I’m gonna give up all the buttons and things
I’ll punch that time clock till it can’t ring
Burn up my necktie and set myself free
Cause no’one’s gonna fold, bend or mutilate me.

Written by Nigel Russell

You can hear it here:

At the time I could strongly relate to the song. How I wished I was that eagle in flight! However, that day did come when I left behind the mind-numbing bureaucracy of the education system and forged my own path. Still doing Shakespeare, Browning and Austen but on my terms – not the systems!

Alas, I have digressed. Looking down the song list brought back memories of some great characters from that class and some of the wonderful songs they chose.

One song was ‘Hotel California’ by the Eagles. The student talked about the song being particularly important at a certain time of her life but couldn’t really understand what the lyrics meant. A lively class discussion followed, which is what oral and aural exercises were all about, but we never did really clarify those lyrics.

Another great session was listening to Bryan Adams ‘”Summer of ’69”. The choice of a divorced lady bringing up two young children on her own.

‘Don’t really listen to the words’, she said, ‘but I put it on full blast when I’m hoovering and it makes me happy.’ I started the cassette and she immediately jumped on her desk and mimed singing the song while hoovering. The class started clapping and singing along to the chorus. The French teacher in the next classroom came to see what was happening and asked me if I could possibly keep the noise down. . .

Ah, good times in the classroom – private tuition is a little more sedate!

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From → Education

  1. I used to drive the 300km between Sydney and Canberra to songs including Hotel California and Summer of 69. No hoovering, but imaginary moshing. There is something about those songs..

  2. Thanks for taking time out to comment. Difficult to put your finger on what it is but you’re totally right. I used to do the ironing with ‘Bat out of Hell’ on number 11 on the stereo! The clothes didn’t look too good but boy did I feel good.

  3. I had an English teacher who used songs to teach us poetry. It was a positive learning experience for me and very memorable, especially since it was many, MANY years ago. School doesn’t have to be boring to be educational! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and memories. 🙂

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