Teaching in an 11-16 Comprehensive School and teaching in a Sixth Form College were entirely different for lots of reasons. Every year that I taught at BHASVIC, I had a different set of students – I never taught a group for two years. At Oakmeeds, I once had the same class from Year 8 to Year 11 – four years. I always believed that good teaching and effective learning came from forming good teacher/student relationships. Whether or not the students who had to suffer my bad jokes, bad temper and bad moods for four years would feel that we had a good relationship is open to question. From my point of view, it was better the devil I knew; I was more than happy to keep teaching most of these students as there were some really lovely youngsters in this class although none of them found Maths easy. There were some very quiet boys, some vivacious girls and some badly behaved boys. There was a girl who disappeared for Year 10 whilst she had a baby and when she returned in Year 11 she was much better behaved; even docile, probably through lack of sleep. There was also a boy, who I shall call Fraser, who wasn’t someone I got on with. He was one of the cleverest kids in the class and also one of the laziest. He frequently misbehaved, whether it was throwing things around the room, talking whilst I was attempting to explain something or talking to his friends and doing no work himself. It was a point of honour for him not to attempt any homework for four years. It wasn’t as if I set difficult or lengthy homeworks – most people could copy it at the start of a lesson but he never wanted to show compliance. Out of lessons and around the school, he was a bit of a bully and often got into minor fights with other students.
It got easier to teach him in Year 10 because the Chair of Governors had adopted two boys from Kosovo as refugees and I put them into my class when they arrived in the UK. They were supposed to be fourteen years old when they first appeared but they looked about five years older than that. Their English was very limited at first but by the time they left school they were fluent. In the first lesson, I wrote the numbers from one to ten in Albanian on the blackboard which seemed to impress them. They were charming, intelligent and hard working. They were also quite big and I think that early on, outside of lessons, Fraser thought he would test his virility and pick a fight with one of them. He lost. This meant that every time that Fraser started a loud conversation when I was teaching, one of
my mates the boys from Kosovo would turn to Fraser, give him a menacing look and tell him to shut up. Which he did.
In one of the many lunchtime detentions that Fraser attended to complete his homework, he told me that he hated Maths. I told him that I was surprised to hear this because he was very good at Maths. He replied “Maths is gay”. Because I can’t resist an opportunity to be sarcastic I said “Oh! That’s interesting. Which other academic subjects is it sexually attracted to then?” This seemed to work because he told me that I was funny which was very reassuring to know.
In 2006, Chris Moyles, on his BBC Radio 1 programme said “I don’t want this ring tone. It’s gay.” He was criticised by the BBC Board of Governors who wrote “The word ‘gay’, in addition to being used to mean ‘homosexual’ or ‘carefree’, was often now used to mean ‘lame’ or ‘rubbish’. This is a widespread current usage of the word amongst young people. The word ‘gay’ need not be offensive or homophobic. The panel acknowledged however that this use in a derogatory sense could cause offense in some listeners, and counseled caution on its use.” In my head, I am very liberal, tolerant and understanding. However, I sometimes get feelings that I’m not proud of. I guess I should call these instincts. Maybe I should blame Enid Blyton. When Pete and I would book into a Holiday Inn on our travels across the USA we would smirk at the check in counter when asked what sort of room we wanted as we replied “Two Queens” – referring to bed size and nothing else. When meeting people in the USA, I always tried to let them know that both Pete and I were married and our wives were back in the UK. I probably did that because I was apprehensive about being thought of as gay. Not something I’m proud of.
“Big Gay Heart” is a perfect pop song on The Lemonheads’ sixth album. Evan Dando, the leader of the group said that the song is “a serious attempt to get the word ‘gay’ back to meaning ‘happy.’ It’s really just about my friend’s house, a big happy house on the hill in Austin.” The lyrics of the second verse are “I don’t need you to suck my dick or to help me feel good about myself.” When the group performed the song on the Mark Goodier radio show they were asked to change these words which they did “I don’t need you to stroke my brick” although the word “brick” ended up sounding like “prick”. In the video for the song, he changed the words “I don’t need you to duck my sick.” I’m not sure which of these three versions is worse. The song features a lovely pedal steel guitar part played by Sneaky Pete Kleinow who was a member of The Flying Burrito Brothers as well as playing on records by Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, The Rolling Stones, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and The Eagles amongst others.
There are some utterly perfect pop songs on this album and they come rushing at you from the word go, one after another. These are songs with verses, choruses, melodies, jangly pop guitar, great drumming, lovely harmony vocals and ten of the fifteen songs last less than three minutes. Lyrically, most songs are concerned with girls, drugs and fame. Is this “power-pop”?
The mood is light hearted and at times, hilarious. Take this from “Being Around” “If I was in the fridge, would you open the door? If I was the grass, would you mow your lawn? If I was your body, would you still wear clothes? If I was a booger, would you blow your nose? Where would you keep it? Would you eat it? I’m just tryin to give myself a reason, for being around.”
What is the best way to think of the word “gay”? Certainly, it should not have negative connotations and should not be used in the way that Fraser used it to me. Is it still acceptable to use it in the way that The Flintstones theme song did, to mean happy, light-hearted and carefree? Surely it can be both.