Before I become a teacher, I never realised that students would teach me lessons. I just presumed I would teach them and that was the end of it. Since starting my first teaching job this year, I have realised how much students teach us. Learning goes both ways! I am learning so much about life from them. I feel really privileged to be able to work with young people every day.
- Honesty – Young people are brutally honest. Whether it is positive or negative they will tell you how it is. The students have taught me how important honesty is!
- Be yourself– Be proud of who you are and do not change for anyone. I see this with 1st years but sadly sometimes it is not as prominent with older years as they tone themselves down to feel ‘accepted’ or ‘fit in’.
- Humour– Young people are hilarious. My classes make me laugh everyday. It is important to not take yourself seriously and to have a laugh with your students. Learning should be fun not dreary.
- To not judge people based on their origin or the colour of the skin – A few weeks ago I was reading ‘The Field’ by John B. Keane with my 3rd years and my students would not read the word ‘tinker’ or ‘traveller’ aloud as they did not want to offend one of their peers in their class. Also students do not care what colour your skin is, they just care if you are a good person or not.
- To be happy for no reason
- Being a role model– If you are a good person and you try your best. The students will think you are amazing. They look up to you. You are a role model to them.
- Care– Students will know whether you really care about them or not. They are not stupid.
- Acceptance- The students will accept you and each other for who they are. They realise no-one is perfect. Incredibly mature!
- Fearless– Young people are so fearless. They leap without looking and they are not afraid to take chances.
- Curiosity– Young people love to ask questions. I get asked a million questions a day. I thought it would be just 1st years asking me questions but 6th years ask a lot of questions too. Some you will not be able to answer. For example while reading ‘The Plough and the Stars’ with my 6th years, one student asked me ‘Did Nora have many boyfriends before Jack?’. Sean O Casey did not say, he only mentions Jack and that Brennan used to have a thing for her. For the questions you should know the answer too but you do not then just be honest. Tell the students you will find out tonight and tell them tomorrow or else ask them to find out for homework. The students have taught me to never stop asking questions in life.
I will explain to the students that from time to time we stop and think about our lives and wonder why things are as they are. Human Beings have a need to understand what our life, and life in general, is all about. At such times, we might listen to our favourite music, finding inspiration in the words of a song. People don’t always read between the lines with lyrics when they should because they teach really great life lessons. You may think that some of these songs are not exactly for you but maybe take a chance and listen with your heart instead of just your head, it may make a difference to you.
I will write the questions for the task on the whiteboard.
- What is the song called?
- What is the song about?
- What questions of meaning are raised in the song?
- What answers does the song give to these fundamental questions?
I will ask all the students to read the questions carefully.
I will split the students into groups.
I will give each group a handout.
Each group will receive a different handout.
Each handout will feature a different modern day song lyrics such as:
- Adele ‘Hello’.
- Miley Cyrus- ‘The Climb’.
- Macklemore and Ryan Lewis : ‘Same Love’.
- Avicci: ‘Wake me up’.
- Kodaline: ‘Big Bad World’.
- Thirty seconds to Mars: ‘Closer to the edge’.
- Black Eyed Peas- ‘Where is the love?’.
- Beyonce-‘ I was here’.
- Beyonce – ‘Pretty Hurts’.
- Ed Sheeran- ‘Small Bump’.
- Ed Sheeran- ‘All of the stars’,
- Little Mix- ‘Change your life’.
- Demi Lovato- ‘Skyscraper’.
I will ask the groups to work together and to answer the four questions on the whiteboard using their group’s song lyrics and to write their answers on the back of their handout.
I will give the group’s ten minutes for this task,
After the time is up, I will ask each group to present their work to the class.
We will have a class discussion about each group’s work.
- Adele – ‘Hello’
In Adele’s ‘Hello’, her first single in three years, the British songstress is greeting someone for the first time in years. Who exactly is on the other side of that “hello”? Judging from Adele’s other work, the obvious answer would seem to be an ex-boyfriend. It’s theoretically in the same vein as songs like “Someone Like You” and “Rolling in the Deep” from 21, her second album. The video depicts her calling an old lover. However, the song is far less literal than that. The meaning of ‘Hello’ isn’t about reconnecting with an ex-boyfriend. “Hello” is about Adele reconnecting with herself. Everyone goes through times in their lives when they lose themselves. In her Twitter announcement of 25, her third studio album and first in four years, Adele talked about growing up and finding herself again. She called 25 a “make-up record” because, as she put it, “I’m making up with myself. 25 is about getting to know who I’ve become without realizing,” she wrote. So in the opening lines of “Hello,” Adele greets someone. “Hello, it’s me/ I was wondering/ If after all these years/ You’d like to meet/ To go over everything,” she sings. Taking “Hello” as a song addressed to herself, these lines become about a woman looking to rediscover who she is after years of not knowing. That jibes beautifully with 25‘s stated mission. In the chorus, Adele says hello from two different places: “the outside” and “the other side.” The former would seem to refer not to location, but to thinking a bit beyond herself to better understand who she is now. The latter is similar — it’s about a woman who lived through a very difficult relationship, as detailed in 21, and the influx of fame and came out on “the other side” of it. Much has been made of the use of a phone in both song and video form of “Hello.” In the song, Adele sings about calling someone at home “a thousand times.” On its surface, that seems odd. Why in 2015 is she calling someone on their land line? Taken as Adele trying to connect to herself, however, it makes sense. “Hello” is not a literal song. The “million miles” she says separates her from the person she’s addressing aren’t physical — they’re emotional. No one who’s been through what Adele has could possibly be in the same place psychologically. In four years, she’s grown leaps and bounds. “Hello,” and by extension 25, are an exploration of what it’s like to come together with yourself after such growth. With the release of this song, Adele seems to be saying she has met herself. Now, she’s ready to introduce this new Adele to us.
2. . Miley Cyrus- ‘The Climb’.
This song reminds me that everything I do, I do it for a certain reason because one day I will look back and remember that there were certain hardships to get where I am, but it was all worth it in the end! This song has a serious message behind it that everyone should take a little from. Miley (back in her somewhat normal days of Hannah Montana and before she discovered twerking) wrote music to inspire young girls, mainly, to overcome any obstacles they face. ‘The Climb’ sends out the message that no matter what is thrown at you, you will be able to face it and overcome it. Miley sings to the audience,
“There’s always gonna be another mountain, I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle, sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there, ain’t about what’s waitin’ on the other side
It’s the climb”
Life is sometimes a game and were not always going to win. Thats an important thing to always remember when facing difficult challenges. These lyrics really bring out a great message in life. Even though sometimes we may lose never give up hope. If you set a goal for yourself, don’t base it on how long it takes you to achieve that goal but rather if you actually get there one day. Push yourself to all limits. As Miley says, “its all about what’s on the other side,” meaning it’s all about what you gain in the end.
I’m sure we have all heard that life is about always taking chances. I really think these lyrics explain how no matter a situation the end result is always worth it. Miley says that no matter what even if she does not know it, the struggle and obstacles will always be a remembrance for her. Most of us can probably relate to this because you’re making a memory even if it seems like an issue at first, you may get something really great out of it in the end.
“Keep on movin’
Keep the faith baby
It’s all about, it’s all about the climb”
Lastly, it’s so important to always keep on moving. Whether it’s a minor or a major issue lyrics can always remind you and can make you connect.
The climb is the final step to you are going through. It is the feeling of success that you actually made it, even though you felt at times that you would’nt get through it.
3. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis- ‘Same Love’.
‘Same Love’ is a great song for using for the search for meaning. “Same Love was a song that I wanted to write for a long time but I didn’t know exactly how to address the issue,” he explains. “I knew I wanted to write a song about gay rights and homophobia within the hip-hop community and the world.” Macklemore, whose uncle is gay, said it wasn’t just the issue of marriage equality that fuelled the song, but also the flagrant use of ‘gay’ as a derogative term in the hip-hop industry, and the world. A couple of years ago, Ryan and I would say ‘that’s gay’ because it’s so embedded in our culture,” he admits. “You have a conversation with a couple of people and they kinda call you out about it and all of a sudden you stop saying it.” The musician believes it’s only a matter of time before rappers and hip-hop artists stop using words like ‘faggot’ and ‘that’s gay’ as just another lyric. I think it’s happening right now… It takes a little while, but eventually you eliminate that type of vocabulary from your everyday life and I think that hopefully that is what a song like Same Love does, that it makes people second guess their language.
“From the people that come to our shows, a lot of feedback from them is, ‘I used to say those words, not I think twice, now I don’t say them any more.’ It’s really about awareness.” While more and more pro-gay music artists are coming out, Same Love marks the first time a male mainstream hip-hop artist has rapped positively about homosexuality.
Ellen DeGeneres is a fan, saying “no other artists in hip-hop history have ever taken a stand defending marriage equality the way they have.”
4. Avicii- ‘Wake me up’
This song is about finding your purpose in society. It actually has a deep, important lyrical meaning about the power of dreams. It’s okay to dream, since that can be your saving grace.
“Feeling my way through the darkness / Guided by a beating heart / I can’t tell where the journey will end / But I know where to start / They tell me I’m too young to understand / They say I’m caught up in a dream / Well life will pass me by if I don’t open up my eyes / Well that’s fine by me.”
That sentiment celebrates the fact that life is a journey and not just the destination and that sometimes, throwing caution to the wind is the best thing you can do. There’s nothing wrong with being a dreamer, because dreams can and do come true. Dreaming is not a waste of time, especially if the dreams are an escape from a harsher reality.
“So wake me up when it’s all over / When I’m wiser and I’m older / All this time I was finding myself / And I didn’t know I was lost.”
The chorus is catchy, and it’s lyrically simple but powerful. Sometimes, you learn the most and find out who you really are when you didn’t even know you were looking. Blacc is essentially singing about experience making you who you are. The only way to know life is to live it. Sometimes, that requires living it in your mind, when you are bound by circumstance and can’t just take the first step of the thousand-mile journey whenever you feel like it.
“I tried carrying the weight of the world / But I only have two hands / Hope I get the chance to travel the world / But I don’t have any plans.”
Again, Blacc sings about going with the flow and moving with the wind, without any firm plans. It also suggests that the narrator might not have the chance to travel the world due his situation or station in life. Perhaps he is poor. Perhaps he is committed to a family. Perhaps he doesn’t have the means. Even so, that shouldn’t prevent him from thinking and dreaming about what could be. Sometimes, when you are in a situation over which you have zero control, the best faculty you have is your mind, and even your daydreams can help make that harsh reality a little bit better.
5. Kodaline- ‘Big Bad World’.
The speaker of this song is confused.
‘Maybe I’m wrong or maybe I’m right’.
We have to grow up and go out into the world by ourselves and fend for ourselves. We have dreams of what we want our live to be like, and we try to make these dreams come true but sometimes life gets in the way.
‘We go out on our own
It’s a big bad world outside
Carrying’ our dreams and all that they mean
Trying to make it all worthwhile.’
The speaker then starts questioning life. Is there a God? Maybe we will live until e are old or maybe we will die young. We should live everyday like its our last and enjoy life.
Or maybe don’t care
Shit, maybe there is no god in the big white clouds up there
Maybe live long
Or maybe die young
Or maybe live every day like it’s your last day under the sun.
6. 30 Seconds to Mars- ‘Closer to the edge’.
This song is about living, taking risks for what you want and what you believe, and not regretting it, It makes you who you are. And you shouldn’t be ashamed of the decisions you make in your life. It is a very beautiful song. It’s about how he lost himself from all the hate and sadness inside of him. He wanted to erase all of that and not remember it, but then he found the truth. He wanted to live his life with no regret, happy with all his choices, and not focus on the things he thinks he needs in order to be happy. The sun (happiness) is born and dreams die because he no longer is seeking for something to happen for him to be happy and fulfilled with his life. He is closer to the edge because he is almost completely transformed into someone who is internally fulfilled.
7. Black Eyed Peas -‘Where is the love?’.
This song is a classic.The song is about exactly what the title is asking. Where is the love? The bible says: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Look around you. Think about the relationships you have with people. Is it really love?
This song is telling us what this world of ours is turning into without love, true genuine love. It states all these awful things that are going on in the world. Not to bring you down nor to make you feel guilty BUT to open your eyes. To love people. Not just your family, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend. To selflessly love everyone else as well.
It is about the disintegration of society’s values.
“But if you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate
And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you’re bound to get irate, yeah”
Racism is being expressed in violent/humiliating methods nowadays.
“As I’m gettin’ older, y’all, people gets colder
Most of us only care about money makin’
Selfishness got us followin’ our wrong direction”
Materialism is getting more common. Making money seems to be the most important thing in people’s minds now.
“Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images is the main criteria
Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria
Kids wanna act like what they see in the cinema”
It seems that the youth are easily influenced by the media. This leads to the rise in juvenile crime and violent acts.
8. Beyonce- ‘I was here’.
Life is about being remembered for the positive impacts that you have had on others in the world and the things you have done to make it a better place rather than how rich, famous or successful you were. We should live life to the fullest so we do not have any regrets and that means that when we have the chance to do good and choose not to because of its “inconvenience” in our lives, that will remain with us and is not the piece of ourselves that we wish to leave behind on this earth. This song emphasises that Beyonce wants to do positive things in peoples lives. She has achieved to point of more than what she thought, but she still wants 2 do more. The 2nd verse reminds us that she wants to be remembered for her good deeds. She wants to make a difference and make her mark on the world. It reminds me think of how valuable life is and how we all impact the world somehow. She wants to leave her footprints in the sands of time.
7. Beyonce- ‘Pretty Hurts’.
This song is an assault on the pressures that women face to attain physical perfection in life. It has a really strong message. The singer plays a beauty pageant contestant whose name “Miss Third Ward,” is a reference to the Houston neighbourhood where she grew up. Miss Third Ward does everything in her power to look flawless but she still can’t achieve perfection.
The concept of the video is really a behind the scenes look into society’s take on beauty and how it doesn’t bring you happiness and it doesn’t move you forward in life,’ says Melina.
“Well I think we definitely wanted to speak to as many women as we could and all the pain and struggle that we go through as women to maintain this impossible standard of beauty,” Matsoukas explained to MTV News. “We wanted to give it a darker edge and take it there and not give you the Disney version of that struggle. And Beyoncé was more than willing to go that far with it. And I applaud her for that.”
It was Beyoncé herself who suggested that Miss Third Ward loses in the competition. “Originally, I had her win and I had it meant nothing,” Matsoukas said. “And then she didn’t want to win. And then, actually, the woman who wins is an albino woman. And we thought it was really important and interesting to break those ideas of what the classic beauty standards would be and to do this with this beautiful albino woman, I thought was really great. And to show ‘Yeah she’s not perfect, she doesn’t always win and you put your best foot forward and you may still lose.'”
9. Ed Sheeran – ‘Small Bump’.
This song doesn’t need an explanation. It is a beautiful song about the joy of pregnancy and the sorrow that comes with a miscarriage. Sheera wrote this song for a friend who had a miscarriage at 4 months. He discusses what would have happened if the baby had been born and was okay. ‘wrap my fingers around your thumb’. He also questions what happened, ‘maybe you were needed up there’.
10. Ed Sheeran – ‘All of the Stars’.
Ed Sheeran wrote this beautiful ballad for what may arguably be the saddest cinematic love story of all time, “The Fault in Our Stars.” It is the teenage version of ‘The Notebook’. The 2014 film is based on John Green’s best-selling Young Adult novel of the same name, which depicts the beautiful yet tragic love story of two teenage cancer patients that fall in love. The song is a perfect tribute to their short-lived earthly love affair that is destined to play out eternally in the stars. It can be found on the deluxe version of X.
11. Little Mix- ‘Change your life’.
This song is about some girls and how they have made a few mistakes in their lifetime. But everyday is another day to “Change Your Life” and start over again. It is also about bullying. about standing up for yourself and having confidence in your self. it is also about your dreams, if you have a dream, go for it and don’t let anybody stop you. It is about getting over what other people think because there are plenty of other people that feel the exact same way. It is about starting new and forgetting the past. It’s about people crushing your dream. But Little Mix is saying ‘Ignore it… Go for your dreams and CHANGE YOUR LIFE” If you have a dream, don’t let ANYONE bring you down. Go for whatever your dream is. You’ll get through all the criticism and the hard times. “You got the right to show the world something never seen before. We wanna hear you scream it out, you’re not alone!” That means go for your dreams, show everyone you can do it. Show everyone that you have got what it takes.
12. Demi Lovato- ‘Skyscraper’.
This is a great song. It has a very powerful message. Demi Lovato has been through a lot. She suffers with bipolar disorder and also anorexia and she had a drug problem. She spent awhile in rehab but now she has risen above it all. This song is all about fortitude and rising above the trials and tribulations that we face in our lives. Everyone is battling something and I think many people can relate to this song and find it relevant to their lives. In the first verse of the song Demi sings, “Skies are crying, I am watching”. The way Demi refers to rain is very interesting to me. The “skies are crying” creates a depressing mood. Rain is often associated with sadness and she is watching as if to manifest in this sadness. The next line “catching teardrops in my hand” represents the connection she feels to the sadness symbolized by the rain. The next line reads, “Only silence as it’s ending like we never had a chance”. I think the “like we never had a chance” part refers to the struggle you are facing. You never have the chance to be happy if you focus on your struggles and let them ruin you. Silence can be very peaceful. As you end your relationship with your struggles and pain, you will find peace. The last line in the first verse “Do you have to make me feel like there’s nothing left of me?” is a rhetorical question and emphasizes how little you can feel when people break you down until you literally feel like you are out of willpower. It’s an awful feeling and no one deserves to understand that pain. But she tells people to rise above it and be a skyscraper.
As I said in a previous blog post, I like to show my students inspirational quotes and video clips sometimes. This is a great speech to show to your students’.
A New Zealand schoolboy from Christchurch Boys High School. He has been given 3 weeks to live has delivered an inspirational speech to his entire school. 18 year old Jake Bailey has Burkitts non-Hodgkins lymphoma. It is a very aggressive and fast growing type of cancer. His medical team estimates he has just weeks to live. He was told by his doctors that he would not be able to attend his school’s prize giving ceremony as he lay in hospital bed. Jake is head boy at his school and he ignored he advice! His doctors felt that Jake would be too ill to deliver a speech at his school’s annual prize giving. However, Jake defied the odds.
Jake’s speech is very emotional and inspiring. It is 18 minutes in length. There are many shortened versions available but in order to experience the full impact, you need to listen to the whole speech.I have listened to the whole speech and I loved it. It is a thought provoking speech that really moved me. At the end of the video, Jake gets an award for being a great leader and I think it is fully deserved.
Jake’s peers even surprised him with the Haka at the end.
‘NONE OF US GET OUT OF LIVE ALIVE, SO BE GALLANT, BE GREAT, BE GRACIOUS, AND BE GRATEFUL FOR THE OPPORTUNITIES YOU HAVE’.
Jake Bailey 2015
Here is Jake’s speech.