“It’s an Irish song that came out in 2002, You raise me up, picked up in 2009 by American singer Josh Groban, and then by others too. I chose the last version by the female band Celtic Woman … ” said Sonia as she placed down her sheet of notes on the teacher’s desk where she had moved to make her presentation. She stood up, adjusting her T-shirt, on which sparkled golden rhinestones the word “dream”, as she attempted to plug the cable of the TV on her phone. She installed the video of the song she wanted to share with her classmates, while another student distributed the lyrics to everyone.
Standing at the back of the room, Max was supervising the session, encouraging Sonia with a smile, suppressing the boys’ desire to make fun of her by placing a strong hand on the shoulder of the most difficult of them, to remind them that he was there, the teacher, and that he would not let anyone make fun of the song chosen by Sonia. He soon understood this, Max, that in a class as in life, many things expressed through gestures and looks, more effectively than by words. Sometimes rising, approaching, and placing a deterrent hand on a shoulder was enough to defuse the onset of disorder, and sometimes it was sitting and staying still that was best for silence and attention.
Every week, one hour of class was reserved for presentations, on the initiative of Max who wanted to get them to speak English, off the beaten track and marked out textbook. Sometimes a student would pick a song in English for others to listen to, and the class would then discuss their choice and the qualities of the lyrics. The video was launched on the big screen of the television, and it was a live concert, outdoors, a scene illuminated in the night of summer, and a breeze that lifted the sails of the young singers dressed like princesses, with their magnificent robes, their long hair dancing to the wind.
A violin was starting alone, played by a blond girl who imposed silence on her audience, in the immediate emotion that arises from solitary performance in front of all eyes. In the classroom, too, attention had suddenly settled, and behind the fogged windows of the classroom, the autumn evening fell discreetly, without making a noise, erasing the reality of the outside world under a dark curtain, as if to give the music all the place.
When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary /
When troubles come and my heart burdened be /
Then I am still and wait here in the silence /
Until you come and sit a while with me /
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains /
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas /
I am strong when I am on yours shoulders /
You raise me up to more than I can be…
In turn, the pure voices of the young singers rushed towards the sky, and the strange words made the audience shudder with emotion. Max understood the text as coming from a young man talking to his parents. He himself could have said that, “You raised me up to walk on stormy seas” … This corresponded exactly to the very lively dream he had made, in which he was going to sea with his father to save the shipwrecked migrants. ..
Yes, he himself had been brought up with great love and hope by his parents. But this formidable expectation of parents, who perhaps believe that their child, with his pure heart and his new eyes, can change the world and achieve the dreams they themselves could not achieve, a feeling he didn’t like to feel, but which he felt in spite of himself! You raise me up to more than I can be…
The young singers would now take turns, and that was the most bizarre phrase in the song. For Max in fact, there was no limit to what he could be, he felt capable of everything, climbing the highest mountains and suprassing any wave …
He had always felt that an incredible force inhabited him, a feeling that was almost impatient when he was still a student, so much he was anxious to take action. When the song stopped, he was astonished to be there, in this classroom, a space very restricted for his ambitions. “What does that mean, sir, you raise me up?” Without answering, Max turned to Sonia, still sitting in the teacher’s office, indicating that it was up to her to explain.
-Ben, that means, uh … to elevate. You raise me up, that is, I have been brought up by you, or you elevated me to another level…
-To raise, in the sense of educating, or of helping someone achieve a better version of themselves?” Asked a boy in the last row.
“Yes, both are possible, to be honest,”Sonia said, clicking her bracelets with an air of great importance, maybe the singer is speaking to her parents, and she says to them:” You raised me so I can climb the highest mountains, or she’s addressing her lover, and she says to him: “You elevate me, you make me stronger, with you, I surpass myself…”
– Good, I suggest you listen to the song a second time, and then each of you will have their turn to try and explain how you understand it, whether you see it as a relationship between parents and children, or as a love relationship perhaps…. The mere mention of the words “a love relationship” unleashed sneers that Max had to calm down before making a sign to Sonia to restart the video. And once again, the charm took over, and the violin forced the attention of all.
Then,” said Max, “how do you understand this song?” Lydia? – I think it speaks of the parents who raise their children at the best of their abilities, because the singer says: I am strong when I am on yours shoulders … It is the children who climb on the shoulders of their parents …
“Yes, that’s a good point. Helen?”, Helene was the best student of the class, a little shy, her long hair still tied in a long mat. “I don’t understand,” she said, “the last sentence, you raise me up more than I can … Does the child feel that his parents are expecting too much of him?
“Great expectations, “Max wrote on the board. As the debate progressed, he noted the words his students needed to express themselves in English. “Do parents have too many expectations? Resumed Helene. Will they be disappointed?”
“No, there is no way,” said Florian, a young man with well combed hair. “It’s not possible that they are disappointed … They are at the top, these girls! They are very beautiful, they sing very well, everyone applauds them … I don’t understand that part, you raise me up to more than I can be … Max was pleased … The debate was launched and all the students had their say.
– Besides, they play the violin!” It takes years of work to play the violin like that, said Kevin, who often walked around in the schoolyard with his guitar.
– Perhaps the parents had something else in mind,” suggested Helen, “maybe putting on a beautiful dress and singing is not the best thing you can do in life.
-Hou hou! …. Jealous! You are jealous because they are more beautiful than you! … Helene blushed and once again the noise swelled in the classroom, like a wave of excitement difficult to repress for a long time.
“Helene is absolutely right,” said Max, motioning with both hands to lower his voice, eager not to miss the opportunity to talk about the meaning of life. He wrote to the board: “You raise me up to more than I can be,” and then turned to the class, saying, “It’s not necessarily the best thing to be a pretty singer. Life is much more than that …
Sonia vexed: – How? Do you not like my song?
– But of course I do! Come on Sonia! .. Otherwise we would not be having this debate to understand the meaning … Let’s resume … According to the song, parents raise their children for what purpose? Kevin?
– to walk on stormy seas and to stand on mountains …
-What does it mean ? Yes, Lydia …
– It is an image, that is to say, facing difficulties, taking responsibility …
– Resist injustice or war, added Helen. At that moment they knocked at the door. “Come in!” Said Max.
The door opened nervously and the headmaster came in, accompanied by the deputy director. The pupils stood up together as a sign of respect. “Sit down,” the headmaster said to the students. Excuse me for interrupting you, “she added to Max. Unfortunately, I have very bad news to announce … She lowered her eyes for a moment to the ground, then again faced the faces turned towards her. “As you know, your comrade Delphine Augier was the victim of a terrible accident last week. Since then, her condition has not improved. Some of you went to visit her and could not speak to her. I … I just learned that she died in hospital an hour ago.”
Several students placed their hands on their faces or on their mouths to suppress a cry. In the classroom darkened by autumn evening, silence was felt, each holding their breath. – I offer my sincere condolences to all of you. You were her classmates, her friends, sometimes for several years. I would like you all to stand up for a moment of silence in memory of Delphine. Max turned his face towards the classroom board, his eyes fixed on the last words he had written: great expectations …. You raise me up to more than I can be.