Glimpses of magnificence

When I introduced my students to their third paper,

In this essay, we’ll do some more personal writing but use the medium of music. You will choose a song that you could call your anthem: a song that so perfectly coincides with your life, describes it – exemplifies it – that it could be “your” song. There will be limitations and rules however.

For one, I really want you to think about this and consider options. Please don’t choose the song you are most familiar with right now. Secondly, please be able to bring this song to class. (ipod or on a flash drive will work fine, as well as a CD.) There will be an aspect of sharing/presenting. Thirdly, I will ask you to deconstruct the song. We will read some things about reading texts – any kind of text – and making meaning out of reading, so this won’t be so difficult. You will point out what about this song draws you to it, be it the singer’s voice or the instrumentation or composition. Feel free to analyze the sound, the feeling, the music itself as well as the lyrics. You will analyze why you have even chosen this song. Your final task is to point out what the song is missing. Where does it stop being a perfect compliment to who you are? What would you add?

one of my students asked if he could play his song, holding his arms up in guitar form. I was nervous, to be honest, because I didn’t want the other kids to roll their eyes and make fun of him. All semester, he has excelled and been that one kid no one wanted to speak after, because everything he said was so profound.

A couple weeks passed and it came time for presentations. Fourteen students brought their anthems up on YouTube and spoke briefly about them. We were running short on time and Brian was last. And I remembered that he was going to perform; he brought his guitar. He got up there, obviously a little nervous, and threw down on this song:


You may recognize it from Shrek. The class sat in wonder as this semi-geeky boy belted out a melodious tune. And I have to say, not one person laughed or so much as snickered; we were all enraptured by his beautiful voice and skilled playing.  I know my eyes teared up a little.  The entire class clapped loudly for him and he spoke of why he chose this, etc. On their way out, I heard a couple people thank him, tell him “well done” and one kid even said, “You touched me, bro.” I think it was a humbling experience for all of us, because Brian took this assignment one step further and he wasn’t afraid to show his talent or this side of himself to the class. This small event made my entire semester.

Sometimes I have that one student who reminds me of why I teach. Why I spend my lunch break trying to get 17 year olds to care about English and personal writing. Sometimes it’s  good to step back and realize how important some things really are.

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