Seeing the above picture nestled in the Newsweek cover story on The Beatles reunion stirred a feeling of both wearied disbelief and a shot of optimistic reality. I remember saying to myself at stage whispered volume, “This is going to happen.”
It’s the fall of 1995 and I am knee-deep in the second wave of Beatlemania getting ready to hit the airwaves. The surviving Beatles have collaborated on an upcoming documentary entitled “The Beatles Anthology.” A three-volume set of accompanying music is on the way with previously unreleased outtakes, alternate versions and two new songs.
As an unabashed Beatles fan, I am near hysterics and anticipation over the notion that the surviving Beatles were reuniting. My recurring dream of a Beatles Reunion was actually going to happen. I did not have to deal with the coy avoidance of the subject from the surviving Beatles anymore. What made this reunion even more poignant was that Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr ignited their collaboration again with John Lennon. They entered the recording studio again with the collective premise that their friend, senselessly murdered by a deranged fan’s torrent of gunfire, had slipped out for cup of tea and entrusted a couple of demos for them to finish.
The reunited Beatles were able to add lyrics, vocals and musical accompaniment to an unfinished demo recording by John Lennon entitled “Free As a Bird.” Another Lennon demo recording was finished and the band added their musical stylings to it. That song was called “Real Love.” Both songs were global smashes and fueled a renaissance for The Beatles at the twilight of the 20th Century.
Considering that the band was able to put aside years of legal and personal battles fueled by a bitter dissolution and enter the studio again with a fresh creative approach is astounding. Adding to the improbability of this scenario was that they were able to reunite with input from a deceased friend. John Lennon’s demos of “Free As a Bird” and “Real Love” were recorded onto tape cassette from a boom box. The tape cassettes of demos possessed all kinds of technical glitches and were crudely created.
On top of this was the heightened reality of fans clamoring for a Beatles reunion since their 1970 disbandment. Each solo member of the dissolved band was faced with the burdening hype of inquiries into a possible reunion. Paul, George and Ringo quietly slipped into the studio and recorded two poignant songs left unfinished by John.
In essence, The Beatles made the impossible possible with their brief reunion.
I remember literally being on the edge of my seat as I watched the countdown clock to The Beatles Reunion appear over the closing credits of Part 1 of ABC’s “The Beatles Anthology.” The video begins for “Free As a Bird” and I am soaring. Hearing Paul’s solo vocal turn during “Free As a Bird” sealed it for me that I was in the middle of a Beatles reunion. It was The Beatles as one would hear them in 1995 and it made so much sense to me.
(You can hear and see the “Free As a Bird” video here: The Beatles Reunion.)
After the witnessing Beatles history, I could not sleep much. It was a school night and a full day of teaching was awaiting me. My 8th Grade Students knew of my Beatles obsession and eagerly awaited my reaction to the new Beatles song. Their genuine and sincere support of my passion led me down the path to integrating a formal lesson based on the music of The Beatles into English Language Arts Class. I had played various songs for The Beatles as background music for various activities but I had never officially taught them.
The reunion of The Beatles compelled me to tune into the courage to introduce their music within a planned lesson. I figured that “She’s Leaving Home” from the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album was a logical place to introduce our upcoming Poetry Unit. What followed was an enriching jaunt into creativity with the class. Students connected with the heart-wrenching story of a teenage runaway as detailed by Lennon & McCartney’s sharp lyrics and string-laded orchestration. Students collaborated in small groups to create an artistic interpretation of the song. I allowed their collective voices to take the song to new creative heights. With my passion for Music and their desire to explore the song further, led me to go off my planned scripted lesson. Student Voice conquered the constraints of the classroom and a new level of expression ensued. Students produced a range of original artwork, mix tapes, storyboard renderings and newscasts all based on extending their interpretation of the song. I simply stated for students to explore and interpret the song as they wanted to do so without limits.
The template for this activity fueled my inspiration to integrate each moment in the classroom with meaning, relevance and creativity for my students. I never let a day pass in the classroom in which I wanted to tune into their creativity. Some days were successful and others were tremendous failures, but I had the picture of reunited Beatles taped to my desk as reminder that the impossible does become possible.
For our Noble Profession as educators, the impossible is a constant in the schoolhouse. We are tackled with daunting odds, no-win scenarios, and decaying perceptions of our work. Varying labels are affixed to schools in attempt to define a schoolwide achievement grade or solidify a false negative perception. I dream of a perfect glaze to protect us all from our collective schoolwide challenges. There are various movements out there to support and uplift the beautiful work we do in service and support of our kids in the schoolhouse.
Sometimes there are days in which those various positive movements are not enough to sustain me along the journey. Negativity drowns my vision and I allow the echoes of naysayers to resonate. As a principal now, there are greater hurdles to overcome amidst seemingly impossible odds. A steady drumbeat of “These kids can’t!” and “If only we had Program X to save us!” lifts the cacophony to Wagnerian volumes.
Despair is an easy fix.
Then, I gaze at the tattered picture of a Beatles Reunion.
The Impossible became Possible then.
I look back over past blessings and victories in the schoolhouse. I see a classroom transformed into a collaborative hub of creativity by a sad Beatles song. I see a young teacher getting his classroom confidence. I see schools transformed by dreams.
Then, I am “Free As a Bird” like the Beatles Reunion Song.
I flick off the first two letters of the word, “Impossible” and move forward with the schoolhouse.