Last period Friday afternoon. One period a week!

It was my first year of teaching. Non elective music was the thing that, to people in the know, was an absolute necessity for all students from first form to fourth form. I do not remember the exact allocation of hours but somehow in my very first year of teaching I ended up with 9E7 for one period a week, last period on Friday afternoon.

I was machine gun fodder! Not for one minute do I blame them. It was an utterly stupid allocation. The classes were graded according to their english ability (whatever that meant in 1973) and this class had less than 20 in it. One girl only!

My room was above the science labs.. I never complained about the fumes. But there were multiple complaints about my class after I had finally managed to find a way do to something remotely musical with them for the last 40 minutes of their weekly schooling!

I could hear them coming to the lesson from the end of the balcony. What adolescent would not be looking forward to what went on with chairs and desks, and projectiles!

One day, out of desperation I decided that instead of standing outside the room waiting for them to line up “quietly” I would play the piano. I played marches and in they came. Bags tossed aside, chairs raised above their heads, rather than launched around the room, and off the marched! Round and round and round. No yelling! No swearing! Just the thumping of feet, rhythmically in time (music skill being developed!) and we were happy!

As the weeks went on, bags (before backpacks) were left neatly, in line outside the room and they waited to be asked in, greeting me on the way!

Music knowledge developed? They could recognise the difference between triple time and duple time! You can’t march to a waltz. They could adapt their movements according to volume – “piano” softly, “forte” loudly and speed “allegro” fast, “Largo” slowly. Sadly, the opportunity I may have had to developed a program for bringing the cultural love of classical music to the marauding hordes was truncated by serious objection from the downstairs science staff and the marching ceased!

However, by that stage I think enough rapport had been developed for me to chance the introduction of untuned percussion arrangements of the Minuet from Handel’s Fireworks Suite with the class remaining in chairs and following a percussion chart, wallowing in playing a triangle or castanets, or tambourines or a drum. Irreplaceable life skill!

I am sure that nearly 50 years later they are so much better for it!

I love the memory!

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