By Laurie Guyon @smilelearning
Have you ever been in a moment where you hear a song that you have known forever, but all of a sudden, you see it through a different lens? I had this happen to me recently over a song you probably know by heart. The song was “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins. There are many stories about what the song is really about, but during an interview with Jimmy Fallon, Collins explained that it was about his divorce.
But, sometimes songs can take on a new meaning when you are in another context. Let me set the stage for you. I recently started riding my Peloton again after injury and illness had sidelined me for some time. Starting over is always tricky because you know where you used to maintain a speed without being out of breath. I was struggling with something that should have been super easy for me. Sound familiar? Many of us felt this way this past year with hybrid and virtual teaching.
Then the opening notes of that song began. You know it, that slow build is so incredibly identifiable to any child of the ’80s. It made me smile, and I thought, ok, I can get through this ride with this song. Like most songs from that decade, you get a full 30 seconds before the lyrics start. I felt my mind settle in on just riding the bike and immersing myself in the song.
As my mind started to drift, I started to think about the beginning of a school day. The anticipation that grows for our students coming through the doors, the excitement of the activities you have planned for them, and the joy of seeing them smile. I then thought about how that feels in an online space. That first second when they connect, see you and share something with you, or wave as we all seem to do on Zoom. It’s the slow build of a new beginning and another chance to build those connections with our students.
The first line hit me, “I can feel coming in the air tonight, Oh Lord.” It made me think of this past year and what educators worldwide have been dealing with—the air of uncertainty, struggle, and fear. We were asked to do something so unexpected. But, the song continues: “And I’ve been waiting for this moment, for all my life, (Oh Lord) Can you feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord, (Oh Lord)” and it made me think of our expectations of what’s next. And then it hit me. We need a divorce; teachers need a divorce. Everyone is talking about reimagining, refining, re-whatever. But really, what we need is a divorce. We need to take what we want from the past year, give away what we don’t, and throw out anything toxic and no longer necessary. Can you feel it coming? Something new and exciting and scary and insert all the words here that you are feeling.
Phil (and I feel I can call him Phil because I am so deep in this song with him), talks about drowning and not lending a hand. I started to think about how I was struggling at starting over on the bike. I began to think about how many teachers felt like they were first-year teachers this year and were struggling, drowning even. When I ask in my PD sessions how teachers feel, they most often tell me that they are overwhelmed. Who is going to lend them that hand? What if we are the only ones who can help ourselves? He tells us in the song that he knows what we did and to wipe off that grin because it was all a pack of lies. It made me think about my inner thoughts that I’ve had over the past year. All the what-ifs like what if I don’t do enough, help enough, listen enough. Somewhere along the way, the Peloton trainer, Ally Love, says something so profound. I wished I had a pen to jot it down. I wished there was a rewind button to hear it again and again. She said, “Take that doubt, wipe out the O-U-T and just do.”
Phil reminds us in the song to not forget what has happened. He even understands why we hold onto how we were feeling. Our inner demons often remind us about our failings, and we often don’t talk about them. But, it so important to talk about our stress, to look for ways to deal with our anxiety and fear of failure. We need to in order to move forward.
Then, the drums….ba-bum, ba-bum…you know it. Take a moment and let that drum solo wash over you. Rock out to it just like you did at a 1980s rock concert. Now picture yourself walking out of the past and out of the trials of the past year. It’s just you in the spotlight. It’s just you ready to take on the world.
Now ride that bike, embrace your struggles from last year and then let them go. Divorce them. It’s time for a new beginning. Can you feel it?