14 June 2011

(Re)discovering the Beatles

The Beatles and I were born in the same decade.  I grew up hearing their songs on the radio non stop, both while the group was active and much later after they disbanded.  But I was impervious to their appeal; I hated them!  I acknowledged that they were talented, masters of the pop universe (I never asserted that they were rubbish) but I just didn't like their style, for some indefinable reason.

Then they went their separate ways and left me in peace.  Of course, the radio continued to play their hits but more and more infrequently.  We were moving into the 70s and 80s and other dogs were having their day.  In the meantime, poor John was assassinated and George passed away.  Ringo became a grandad and Paul championed worthy causes.

Fast forward to 2011.  I am charged with teaching English to a group of 6th and 8th graders.  Not an easy assignment, given that they have poor discipline, a low attention span and detest grammar.  I too get fed up with the stale coursebook and arid worksheets.  The entertainment value of crossword puzzles and games is limited to five minutes.  To break the monotony I decided to introduce songs into the lesson, using the lyrics to expand vocabulary or reinforce grammar.  The first song I found was Yellow Submarine.  No way! I thought, I'm not doing a Beatles song.  But I was short of time and didn't have the chance to find and prepare another song.

To my utter amazement, the students loved the song.  Once we had completed all the exercises, they wanted to hear the song again and again.  I replayed the CD and they all sang along with their completed lyrics.  Even more amazing, I found myself singing along too!  The passage of time had softened my indifference and disdain and I realised what lovely little stories these songs told, with beautiful melodies.  I don't know what is to blame for my turncoat tactics; whether it is the sentimentality that accompanies approaching senility or a nostalgic yearning for past decades I cannot say.

Today we sang Help! and Beatles songs have a firm place on the timetable.  But it just goes to show how a bunch of 11-year-olds can introduce you to songs from the Swinging Sixties.

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Squeaky Door by Elizabeth Chairopoulou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.