My morning radio has David Bowie singing “Ch-ch-ch-changes,” and I’m remembering one of the earliest classes I ever taught, Intermediate Composition at the University of Denver. My students’ ages hovered around the magic number of 19. The song had been out for a while. It came out on my twentieth birthday in 1972, five years earlier.

I heard the song on the way to school that morning. I felt so old, so much older than my students, even though, in years I wasn’t. Already in life experience I was far away even from my 19 year old self.

As I listened, I somehow thought David Bowie was warning the ancient me that the young’uns in my classroom were a different generation, and I could neither understand them nor hold them back. I felt used up, irrelevant and passe. At 25.

And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re goin’ through…

Just starting out I felt the weight of responsibility. Why would these 20 some odd kids want to learn from me? If they were anything like I had been, they were challenging everything I said, at least in their minds.

The song –which I didn’t much like — lingered in the back of my mind, residue from the car radio. It was as intimidating as the forest of kids who didn’t especially want to take a composition class, but had to. Timorous? All of us were. They because I had the power of the red pen. Me because they might make my life hell as I’d made the lives of some of my teachers hell.

It went all-right in the end. A month or so later I was sitting with a few of them in the student union sharing a pitcher of Coors (don’t judge; this is and was Colorado and craft beer wasn’t a thing) and watching Star Trek reruns.

11 thoughts on “Ch-ch-ch-changes

  1. Coors was a big deal around here back then – but really only because you couldn’t buy it. I remember bringing a case back from Denver and thrilling a friend with the gift. My sister, who lived in New Mexico at the time, parodied their slogan as “Brewed with pure Rocky Mountain goat piss.”

    • Nice! We said horse piss but mountain goat piss is far more colorful and romantic. I had friends drive out from Illinois to buy Coors. I was living at home and they camped out in our back yard.

  2. Ah the red pen, the mighty sword of the University Professor! The students just wee timorous beasties. I love the word timorous.

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