My school year is officially over. Last Thursday was the last day of school for the eighth graders in my science class. Teachers came on Friday to clean rooms and begin prep work for next fall and gossip about basically everyone who has a heartbeat (and, in some instances, even those without).
This was a particularly enjoyable year for me. For the most part, a majority of my students seemed interested in learning (or, at least, interested in passing the test at the end of the year that determined if they could avoid spending summer in a classroom staring into space). We accomplished plenty. Were I a liar, I'd write something here about how they taught me just as much as I taught them. But that's not true. Like, it's not even close. I taught them WAAAAAY more things.
I'm saying, we pretty much covered everything, from the structure and function of valence electrons to which humans could break a bear's neck in a death match (me, John Cena and Shaq). I had a kid show me how Grooveshark worked, and that's fine, but fuck, man. I'm unlocking the secrets of the universe. Grooveshark's not even that cool.
At any rate, here are the three best non-academic music-y things I learned from my students this year:
The Illuminati Is Real, And They Are Responsible For The Miami Heat's Impending Championship
This revelation came during a three-hour blackout* that happened near the end of the year. Kids were drawing pictures on the white board. Someone drew a pyramid with an eye on it or something. Someone immediately accused him of being a member of the Illuminati. I asked the accuser to explain exactly what that meant. He said something about Jay-Z's “On To The Next One” and that Beyonce was probably a demon. When I pressed for more info, the accuser faltered, responded with something like, “I don't really know EVERYTHING about it. But do you know LeBron James**? He's in it too. That's why the Heat are going to win the championship.”
*My favorite thing that happened during the blackout was a tiny, nebbish kid asking me if I knew Future's phone number. When I told him I didn't, he said that that was too bad, because he could've really been helpful. When I asked why, he said, “Because if he was here we could ask him to tuuuurrrrrn on the liiiiights.” I laughed. Kids are clever sometimes.
**The “Mr. Serrano, do you know…” question makes me smile. I get it a lot. All teachers do. I'm always surprised by the amount of things that students think teachers don't know. “Mr. Serrano, do you know who Barack Obama is?” Yeah, bitch, I think I've heard of the president before.
Kids Talk About Music With Their Friends
Two things here, one happy, one sad:
Last year, I played an album during class called Arroyo Deathmatch Split. It was from a lo-fi punk rock group called Days n' Daze, which I told the kids about because the band is mostly Latino kids and my students are mostly Latino kids. I played a portion of it for all six of my classes. I'd assumed nobody was paying attention. This year, a student asked me if I'd ever heard about them. I asked where she'd heard them. She said her older brother “plays them at home.” Her older brother was in my class the year before. Love.
Another teacher and I spent the better part of May trying to convince the kids that saying something was “too legit to quit” was going to be the next popular thing. We even showed them the hand signs for it. “I think I saw Drake do it in an interview,” I told them. No go. It never took off. Probably my saddest thing of the year.
Narcocorridos Is That True Gangster Shit
Corridos are basically ballads, and narcocorridos are basically super violent ballads about Mexico's super violent drug war. It's kind of like if horrorcore was telling the truth. I think I listened to them play in the background of class during independent study for a good two days before I realized that one of the songs the kids were humming along to was about a guy losing his arms and legs.
We totally backed our way into it. Gerardo Ortiz is especially popular among young Latinas here in Houston, and we were listening to his music. Mostly, he sings about the existential angst that accompanies love, but he is very much tied to narcocorridos, so we just eventually ended up there. Actually, quick sidebar: He was once the target of a drug cartel murder squad. Some hyperaggressive men shot up his car with AK-47s. Ortiz escaped without being hit. His manager, however, died, one of the dozens of murders associated with the music. Read about it. That shit is hella cold and hella earth shattering.