Bowie & Prince: How My Teaching Influenced Them

I like to think, as I marvel at the myriad movements in Prince’s Condition of the Heart or the cloudbursting beauty of Bowie’s sudden reincarnation of Ziggy late on in the song Blackstar; I like to think “Those multi-instrumentalist, platinum-disc poets with Shakespearian discographies; those multi-instrumentalist virtuosos that have surfed zeitgeist after zeitgeist and that have pores that ooze funk the way that I just ooze sweat; those multi-instrumentalist geniuses, well, they’re a lot like me.

Like them, I blur gender boundaries. I blur them in at least two ways: by dressing up as Mrs Twit sometimes and by using a camp voice for reprimand (combined with a fruity stare). I regard these skills as commensurate with Bowie getting off with Lou Reed (probably) and Prince covering his nipples on the cover of Lovesexy (something I offered to do for an INSET once but was politely told to save for #primaryrocks, where my head said it would be more appreciated and less harmful to my colleagues, whom (he claimed) “didn’t need to see that“.) Quite what he meant by “that“, he neglected to elaborate. Needless to say, I put my clothes back on and marched right out of his office.

Like Bowie and Prince, I am also highly eclectic in my tastes. Big Writing (a technique that I wouldn’t at all be surprised if I had invented) might be soundtracked by Enigma or Enya, sometimes even Clannad. Mudhoney’s Touch Me, I’m Sick was a bit of a blip, I’ll admit, and was mentioned in the Ofsted report as a contributing factor in our downgrading, but eclecticism is a curse as much as it is evidence of my genius.

I’m a great user of technology in the classroom. Like Bowie, I sell the students shares in my lessons. These are called Whatonomy Fixed-term Derivative Option Vehicles and entitle student shareholders to a lifetime of flipped learning for jobs that will never exist (I promise that). Like Prince, I refuse to make my lessons available electronically, which rather problematizes the flipped learning offer (but then no one’s bought one, so it doesn’t matter).

Bowie and Prince have both touched people in ways that I also have touched people. They have famously enabled the wider public to express themselves (in terms of fashion and lifestyle choices) in ways that would have been inconceivable prior to Bowie wearing a white suit or Prince working with Sheena Easton. Many of my best students have gone on to express themselves without fear of consequence by doing such things as wearing chinos, saying “OK” into noisy chat or beginning sales presentations with a meme of a teacher giving a test to an alligator, an elephant and a koala bear (empowering, I know).

Like their songs, my lessons have many parts. I have a start bit where there’s maybe some spoken word. There’s a noodly middle bit where I’m doing stuff and the students do a bit of something (a lot like session musicians smiling up adoringly at me as Lionel Blair in Absolute Beginners). My lessons also end, like Bowie and Prince’s songs do. Admittedly students sometimes complain of my distractive use of a vocoder or the odd impromptu and irrelevant blart of alto sax whilst they are doing a reflection activity, but it’s a price that is worth their paying.

So. My sagelike genius is the same as that of Bowie and Prince (and probably also Victoria Wood, Ronnie Corbett and the man with the mole from Hawkwind). Yes, I haven’t made any music (apart from a regrettable stint with The BIC Razors of Bestiality) and, no, I haven’t influenced public discourse in any way (except that time I got done for playing ‘knock down ginger’ on an old folks’ home with a glass door); but, in my small, teacherly way, I have rocked, funked, popped and punked a few little minds and will continue to do so until the lights go down and someone ushers me, for the last time, back into the dressing room (that my Head insists on calling a ‘staffroom’ and in which he frowns upon my instantly stripping off and donning a silk kimono).

Let him frown. Life is just too long for some people.


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