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  •  Andrew Shearer @ Rowbarge Guildford 2013. Photo by Vic Cracknell
  •  Absolutely Love This Song (Something Wild) DennyCraneLocknLoad, YouTube User
  • Andrew Shearer @ The Retreat by Vanessa Lovegrove 2014
  •  Love The Stones' Cover (Sympathy For The Devil). Vic Cracknell, Surrey & Hants Musician / Promoter

BLOG 2011

10th February 2011

Worlds Collide and American Pie

I know at least one person who is going to hate this SG (:-)

It's funny how different worlds can collide. Completely by chance recently an ex-pupil from Gillotts School where I used to teach Mathematics 15 years ago met a telecoms ex-colleague at a party on the other side of the world. They became friends on Facebook and she discovered that I'm a friend of the ex-colleague. What resulted is one of the most eloquent, well-written emails that I've ever received.

I hesitated in commenting on how well I thought the email had been written as I didn't want to come across as the same old patronising teacher after so many years. However in the end I decided to say something (no surprise there then, I can imagine those that know me well saying). And I'm pleased I did. Just that little encouragement has seemed to have pushed her over the edge to have the confidence to start the book she's always wanted to write. Any talent I might have pales in comparison to hers (though her trigonometry still seems a bit shaky). I kind of feel I did something good.

It's strange that she should reappear now as I've been recently thinking a lot about those teaching days. Mainly because I've decided to include Don McLean's American Pie in my set and that was the song I decided to perform in an assembly in my first year of teaching all those years ago. Was I mad? Undoubtedly. I would try to discourage any probationary teacher from playing in front of 200 teenagers that can smell fear when you walk in the room. Also this was to be only my second ever public performance. The first was several years before, when I had decided to busk for a couple of hours in Farnborough. The most memorable moment of that experience was when some guy said "I'll give you some money to shut up".

At the time of the assembly American Pie was back in the charts. I think Don McLean had even been on the Top of The Pops TV show the previous night. I'd always liked the song for some reason, maybe because it touches on believing "you could make those people dance". There was quite a sense of anticipation as we "assembled" in the upstairs hall and everyone saw that I had a guitar with me. I must've been mad - I'd only been teaching for about six weeks, any good work I'd done, any discipline I'd established, could evaporate in the next five minutes. The pupils sat crossed-legged on the floor in front of me, six or so staff sat on chairs behind. I introduced the song, mentioned Top of the Pops and banged on about finding what you most love to do. And then I performed the song.

It's all a blur. I can't remember playing at all. I just remember the applause afterwards. The sense of relief. It seemed to go okay, I got through it! Smiles from pupils and staff alike. Even the aforementioned, literary genius ex-pupil who was in that assembly, still remembers it and mentioned it in her email.

My lesson after assembly was a class from that year group. Guess what they were singing as I walked into the classroom? Another round of applause and a cheer! It brings a lump to my throat as I write this. Later, obviously word had got around and pupils from other years would jokingly start singing or humming as I'd pass them in corridors etc. It was good to be cool for a day.