Losing Touch

To me, one of the reasons why I want to go into teaching is that I think I am pretty in tune with the youth culture of today. Of course, this is a totally subjective call, so it’s only natural that I will then look for ways to disprove it.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for me to feel inadequate again. The briefest of conversations with a Year 5 kid had rather more impact on me than it should have done. I was asked the dreaded question: “What music do you listen to?”

I have trouble answering this question normally anyway. I listen to a lot of music from a lot of decades from the Beatles up to the Zutons… in general it can be described as rockish, poppish, guitarish, but mixed with orchestral and piano driven music, plus other weird stuff. It’s a horrible description, and it’s bad enough trying to tell adults, but to tell a child is even worse.

So I reel off as many artists as I can to try to illustrate.

“James” I say.
“Never heard of them” comes the reply.

Not a good start. So I go for something more modern.

“Green Day”.
“I hate them”.

Oops. Just like with anyone in life, the small talk has to be good before you might consider talking to someone again, becoming friends with them. I can’t make much small talk if we can’t even find an artist to agree on. I go general, going backwards a long way…

“U2”
“My dad listens to them”.

A tactical blunder, leading to the kiss of death for any respect I may have had. Kids are generally very positive people, and will give anyone respect to begin with, they will trust anyone until they demonstrate otherwise. I seem to get bonus marks for being not too old, and quite tall (strange as it may sound, kids have a strange sense of mystery/discovery where tall people are involved). Being a man also gives me extra points because the kids in school barely see any. There are just two men (not counting me) in a school of 36 teachers and assistants. All this adds to me not having to try very hard to “make friends” with them.

But my foolish suggestion that listening to U2 could possibly be a good thing to a 10 year old was a grave error. I tried a rescue, but they hadn’t heard of almost all of what I suggested.

I left the conversation feeling a little bruised. It’s important to stay “in touch”, because I see so many teachers who are failing because they can’t relate to the kids of today. Of course, music is probably one of the more trivial sides of keeping up to date, especially as there’s no way in hell that I can learn to love bands like Slipknot, Marilyn Manson and Alkaline Trio. That’s not a price worth paying to keep my finger on the pulse.

I’ve always hoped I don’t stop listening to new music. My uncle once told me that all new music is rubbish, because there’s nothing original left now. But I couldn’t disagree more. I do think that there is a very high level of derivation at the moment, but there is still some great music. Just that my tastes are increasingly departing from the mainstream of music. Oddly enough, my music interests would have been considered very mainstream in the mid 90s. Now they are quite distinctive. They’re not even part of the culture/counter-culture that kids manage to simultaneously maintain.

But this tiny conversation has only just made me realise this. It doesn’t seem that important in the grand scheme of things, but it’s never nice to get a small reminder from society that I’m well on my way to obsolescence.

Lesson for today: avoid small talk about music where children are involved. And definitely don’t mention U2. Instead, bathe in the glory of acceptance by telling them you enjoy nothing more than a good wrist-slashing session to the hallowed refrains of Korn and System of a Down.

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