Rockin’ the Curriculum
In the late 70s my Rock Club at school went from strength to strength. I wish I could say the same for our family finances. We were floundering.
Then I had this brilliant idea.
I would run a History of Rock music course as an evening class. I approached the college adult education and they were keen. I set about it. I had lots of vinyl albums, I’d lived through it and I’d seen most of the major acts. Easy. I was used to talking about it all with my students. I knew my stuff. What could be better than playing the music you loved and talking about it and getting paid for doing it?
What could go wrong?
I could make some money to help tide us over and I would enjoy myself at the same time. It was a win win.
I produced some flyers, spread the word and set about offering my first class. As far as I could tell nobody had ever run such a course in Britain. I was the pioneer.
I needed twelve good people and true. I attracted ten. The college ummed and aahed and decided to let it run. I was to be paid £15 an hour. That meant I would probably, after tax, clear £18 for the two hours. It wasn’t a huge sum but it would make a bit of difference. We were desperate. It was 1978 and we had three children.
It took a lot more preparation than I had envisaged. I had to organise what we covered in the two hours, select the tracks I was going to play, check and research what I was going to say and produce information sheets. It took hours.
My students were all keen. They had areas of expertise. They expected me to know what I was talking about. I was being paid.
That’s where the reality hit home.
My record collection reflected my tastes, which were pretty wide, but there were holes that needed plugging. The weekends were spent trawling around the second-hand record shops and buying up material to plug the gaps. That was fun too. I started to meet a number of interesting people, some of whom I’m friends with until this day.
However, it was not doing anything for our budget. I was spending more on essential albums than I was bringing in.
My course was running well though. It was the only course in the college to actually increase in numbers. By the time I finished it had gone up to sixteen.
My record club at school was also flourishing. I started taking students along to concerts as far afield as Leeds and Sheffield as part of our unofficial extra-curricular activities.
Later, as a Deputy Head, I managed to convince the Head that Rock Music needed to be on the curriculum. I devised a course for the Sixth Form which was ostensibly Skill Development. I delivered a couple of lessons on a Rock genre or musician and they had to analyse my presentation in terms of verbal skills, body language and materials used. Then they formed in small groups and produced presentations on their choices and we analysed their performances and gave pointers on how to improve. They took it very seriously. I remember one group dressed up in Disco gear and produced a dance routine as part of their presentation. It was a hoot. The confidence the students gained was brilliant. It went through the roof and we all had a good time. The students skills are giving presentations also improved which went straight into interview skills. Every school should do it.
Nick Harper was a great favourite with the kids. Not only did I organise trips to see him play but he came into school quite regularly and did a performance for them. He went up into the Sixth Form room and sat around, playing, talking and showing them how it was done. He came into my PSHE lessons and talked to them about song-writing, life on the road and guitar playing. He gave performances in the main hall. Nick was a star in every sense of the word.
I often think about reviving those courses. I did three of them. They lasted two years each. But it was quite a commitment.
I do not think I have the time now that I’ve retired.
But I’m still rockin’ even if the curriculum isn’t.