"Would you like me to switch off your MP3 player for you?"
I asked the pupil. He eyed the wire-cutters I was brandishing, gave a practised, disarming grin and put away his iPod. This was one of the less confrontational episodes involving these devices I had on returning from secondment.
Honestly, you go away for a couple of years, and when you come back every other kid is permanently wired for sound. Worst of all were the long-haired girls and mosher boys who could run an earphone cable almost totally concealed up to a lug. Arguments ranged from, "Honestly, Mr Steele, it helps me concentrate," to "Mrs So-and-So lets us have them on." Counter arguments were respectively: "Research says it doesn't, especially if the music has lyrics," and "Do I look like Mrs So-and-So?"
It was following this sub-Wildean riposte that the shade of Master Po, the blind, bald mentor from 1970s TV favourite Kung Fu chose to appear. "You must learn to make your opponent's strength your strength, young Grasshopper," he said. "Now go ahead and nick an idea from some other teachers. Make your own physics MP3s."
Armed with a laptop, microphone and freeware program called Audacity, I set out to prepare my classes for physics enlightenment. Barring a few false starts due to stutters and sneezes, the first units went quite well. I offered them to my pupils and got a gratifying uptake. The next day, there was some bemusement. When I went to save the MP3s, I was met with a dialogue box for something called ID3 tags.
Thinking it might be an essential, I filled in a load of nonsense in the Artist and Album fields. "What's all this Mr Steele featuring Beyonce from the album Sing if You're Glad to be Bald stuff?" baffled pupils asked.
Despite that, I felt fairly smug. I had harnessed the technology of a media-rich age to my advantage. It took an overheard conversation to bring me back to reality.
"You been usin' thae physics MP3s?" "Aye." "Whit're they like?" "Well, it's jist him talking. Bit borin' really. I had them on in bed last night.
Helped me get tae sleep afore the test."
Grasshopper, you must learn that the road we think leads to enlightenment may instead take us to inner peace. Learn not to fight this, and put away those wire-cutters.
Gregor Steele finds enlightenment in MP3s of 'I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue'