When Your Royals Become Radioactive and Go Timber!

by gillis

Indoor recess is having some profound psychological consequences on our collective classroom psyche. As the landscape remains in a deep freeze and we remain indoors, interesting coalitions form and dissolve on a daily basis.  On Friday during homeroom/ study hall I tasked a diverse group of students with listing popular songs that most fifth graders would know – at least superficially. I gave them this assignment for two reasons. Firstly, the group was getting restless, not Lord of the Flies restless, but maybe Page of the Flies restless, and I had to keep them busy for the remaining ten minutes before lunch. Secondly, I needed song lyrics for next week’s figurative language activities and the thought of sifting through Katy Perry and One Direction titles on my own made me feel a bit queasy. What I didn’t anticipate was that the song list would generate so much controversy.

The kids began naming songs – Radioactive, Counting Stars, Brave, Royals, Timber, Can’t Hold Us – and I dutifully wrote them down. I knew the titles from my daughter’s listening habits but I wasn’t entirely familiar with the lyrics in the songs.  When one of the boys questioned the appropriateness of the lyrics to Timber, I snapped to attention because that song was breathlessly described as “my all time FAVORITE song” by one of the kindest, sweetest girls in the fifth grade. You know the kid I mean. The “go to” kid. The one student whose name you leave for any substitute to refer to when you’re out because they can trusted to tell the teacher when everyone else is switching seats or saying that, “No, there was no homework assigned in this class.” I thought surely the boy was mistaken if she loved this song. Then again, he was the boy who enjoyed the “Hey Mike, you know what day it is? It’s Hump Day!” commercial a little too much. Remembering this detail I quickly googled the tune in question, and sure enough I found some booty twerking worthy words and images in there. Go ahead, check it out, I’ll wait. Not terrible by adult standards I suppose, but blue enough that I wouldn’t want to print it out and have kids singing along to it in class in order to find its similes, metaphors. and hyperbole. Lots of clever hyperbole.

The kids argued a bit back and forth about the song. It was clear that he was far more socially precocious than she. It was also possible that he was more socially precocious than I am. I guess next time, I’ll do my own damn homework.