Spoken Word Poetry as a Year 9 Project Based Learning task

Tomorrow, I start a new job. In it, I will be leading the direction of technology use in classrooms across three campuses. It’s a big job, and one that means I no longer will be teaching my own class. While I welcome the opportunity to think in a big picture capacity and support teachers and students across a very large school, I am going to miss the vitality of the classroom and the close relationships you form with a class over the course of a year. Hopefully people will welcome me into their classrooms, because I think you need doses of classroom reality to keep you grounded.

I’ve had to leave my wonderful class who are taking the elective I created called ‘Language of our Times’. This term begins with the Project Based Learning Spoken Word Poetry task that I have loved teaching. I’ve been meaning to write about it over the past two years so thought now was a good opportunity to share my experiences with it. It also might help teachers at my new school see that I am a classroom teacher too, even if they’ve never seen me teach a class. 🙂

Spoken Word Poetry task: Year 9

Driving question:  How can language move people?

Your task is to work in groups and create a Spoken Word Poetry piece (also known as Slam Poetry) that will be performed in class and then performed for a public audience during our celebration of Book Week in August.Your Spoken Word Poetry piece must use language effectively to convey meaning, and must capture the attention of your audience. The focus for the piece will be decided via negotiation with the members of your group. Group performance, your individual contribution, effective language choices, and high level collaboration efforts toward a common goal will form the basis of your assessment.

Student Objectives

Students will:

  • Listen to, read, analyze and write poetry;
  • Recognize, discuss and employ the poetic techniques employed in poems;
  • Analyze the techniques used by performance artists; and
  • Perform their own poems.

Reference explaining Spoken Word poetry: http://www.nelson-atkins.org/images/PDF/Calendar/PoetrySlam_SpokenWord.pdf

“What is spoken word poetry?

Spoken word poetry is poetry that is written on a page but performed for an audience. Because it is performed, this poetry tends to demonstrate a heavy use of rhythm, improvisation, free association, rhymes, rich poetic phrases, word play and slang. It is more aggressive and “in your face” than more traditional forms of poetry.”(follow the link above for more detail explaining what to keep in mind when writing a Spoken Word poem)

Relevant Australian Curriculum Content Descriptors addressed in this task:

Interacting with others

Listen to spoken texts constructed for different purposes, for example to entertain and to persuade, and analyse how language features of these textsposition listeners to respond in particular ways(ACELY1740)Use interaction skills to present and discuss an idea and to influence and engage an audience by selecting persuasive language, varying voice tone, pitch, and pace, and using elements such as music and sound effects (ACELY1811)Plan, rehearse and deliver presentations, selecting and sequencing appropriate content and multimodal elements for aesthetic and playful purposes(ACELY1741)

Interpreting, analysing, evaluating

Explore and explain the combinations of language and visual choices that authors make to present information, opinions and perspectives in different texts (ACELY1745)

Creating texts

Create imaginative, informative and persuasive texts that present a point of view and advance or illustrate arguments, including texts that integrate visual, print and/or audio features (ACELY1746)

Text structure and organisation

Understand that authors innovate with text structures and language for specific purposes and effects(ACELA1553)

Language variation and change

Investigate how evaluation can be expressed directly and indirectly using devices, for example allusion, evocative vocabulary and metaphor(ACELA1552)

We had a hook lesson with Poet, Alicia Sometimes, late term two because that is when she had been booked to come to the school. I had discussed PBL with the students and we went through the ‘main course’ elements when we started with the task.

A “Main Course” project:

  • is intended to teach significant content.
  • requires critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and various forms of communication.
  • requires inquiry as part of the process of learning and creating something new.
  • is organized around an open-ended Driving Question.
  • creates a need to know essential content and skills.
  • allows some degree of student voice and choice.
  • includes processes for revision and reflection.
  • involves a public audience.

At the start of the task I introduced the students to the rubric we used for assessment  so that they were aware of what was being assessed before they began and understand what to work towards. It was also made clear that although they were working in groups, they would be individually assessed based on what they demonstrated throughout the duration of the task. We used the collaboration rubric from the Buck Institute of Education and I added a component for reflection  because I wanted the students to value the importance of reflecting on their learning. (now part of Gold Standard PBL) I used a scoring rubric from the Out Loud Poetry competition Judge’s Guide to assess the Spoken Word performance element of the task.

The first year I made the groupings without consulting students. Last year, I asked students who they would like to work with as some had begun a poem when workshopping with Alicia Sometimes and I didn’t want to interrupt the flow that some had attained. Some groups formed naturally from this process but I did place students in other groups.

I was continually heartened by the majority of the groups’ application to this task. I tried to focus them at the start of a lesson by asking each group to briefly provide feedback to the whole group about where they were at and what they think they need to build on for that lesson. At the end of a lesson (when time hadn’t got away from us!) we refocused by watching a YouTube video of a spoken word poem to continually provide exemplars of effective performance.


Braemar College-Comp from Australian Poetry on Vimeo.

The LMS we used had a sharing space where the students  posted examples they had found of Spoken Word Poetry to share with the class. I also included information about Poetic techniques within this space and we explored this as a group to give them some grounding to assist with the development of their poems.

Each group used their Google Drive account and were working on a shared document to collaboratively write the poem. I asked them to identify who had written each part by colour coding the lines for individual contributions and indicating when the group achieved consensus with some lines. That worked well and they honestly provided indicators of individual’s contributions. I always find it interesting when you give the students a lot of agency with their work – my experience has seen students honestly reflect and acknowledge when they are pulling their weight, and when they aren’t. They are self assessing all the time. For some, this is impetus to do better not just for the teacher, but for their own self worth.

The rehearsal stage was always interesting. The scoring rubric from the Out Loud Poetry Guide measures physical presence, voice and articulation and dramatic appropriateness. The students were exposed to many examples of group performances (some seen above) that demonstrated how they could incorporate movement into their poems for effect. They practiced tirelessly to coordinate movement and time delivery of their poems and those who really worked at this performed pieces that quite literally left me and many in the class almost speechless. Other groups were not so polished with some group members not being able to stay ‘in character’ or able to commit all of their lines to memory. They were Year 9 students – I wasn’t expecting miracles because to pull off spoken word poetry well is very difficult indeed.  However, over the two years when I taught this unit there were groups who did pull off a miracle, and that was satisfying for me, but more importantly, it was personally satisfying for them.

Working within the Project Based Learning model was eye opening for me as a teacher. I saw students work way beyond the capacity of what test scores predicted as their achievement level. They were invested in their groups, saw the value of shared purpose and some exhibited leadership capabilities I had never seen evident in more traditional learning tasks. More than once students told me how proud they were of what they were doing and this was clear when they publicly performed their pieces at our Book Week performance days. In the second year, we invited parents to come along and those who came were blown away by what their children had managed to achieve.

A moment stood out last year when sometime after we had finished the unit, an English teacher came to see me one morning to let me know that a student in her regular English class had written a remarkable poem that incorporated an extended metaphor, repetition and other poetic techniques that she did not think were in the range of this student’s ability. When she quizzed her as to where this inspiration emanated from, the student explained that in our Language of our Times elective we had studied Spoken Word poetry and that was where she had learnt these techniques. What did I love about this? Being able to talk to this student and ask to view her poem as I had heard how wonderful it was. I could almost feel her pride in herself envelope me at that moment.

You guessed it, those are the moments to savour, and the moments I will miss.  🙂

School’s out Friday

My students are currently enmeshed in the John Green component of our ‘Language of our Times’ class. In the past couple of weeks they have been working in teams and collating research about John, trying to ascertain how he uses the Internet to build community and thus increase his audience.

His success at doing this, in an entirely authentic way, has changed his life. He’s incredibly successful, has had two of his novels made into feature length films and has had YouTube approach him and his brother to host ‘Crash Course‘ – a range of fun educational videos about science, history and literature. But as this video suggests, it’s also changed his life in ways he probably never anticipated. He’s become a recognisable Internet ‘star’ and and this means a life of constant attention. The price you pay for fame I guess.

John says in the end stages of the video that he thinks that some kind of loss is inherent to change. I think he’s right.

I’ll leave you with that, and wish you the best of weekends. Melbourne is promising an almost balmy 19 degrees C this Sunday. If the sun is shining, I’ll be basking in it. Whatever you’re doing, enjoy it. 🙂

Looking back…

At the end of 2013, I read a post from Steve Brophy where he reflected on the year that was. Just the other day I read his 2014 reflection of the year that was. I’m thinking a reflection on the two years just gone is warranted seeing that I never got one posted last year!

In 2014, Steve took on a position similar to mine (Director of ICT and eLearning), and his summation of the experience echoes strongly how I felt in my first year. To go from being Head of Library and English teacher, to someone who has overarching responsibility for managing the school’s infrastructure and directions the school would be taking with platforms and devices, was a huge leap. Just getting my head around the language of the area I was now working in was challenging. Everything is an acronym, and you look pretty darn silly when you’re in meetings with vendors negotiating contracts if you don’t have a handle on an acronym. I’m not ashamed to admit there were occasions when I’d nod knowledgeably then retreat to my computer after a meeting to play catch-up with Google.

2013 saw the introduction of a new Learning Management System (Schoolbox) and 2014 saw the introduction of Google Apps for Education and Hapara Teacher Dashboard across our school. We also introduced Chromebooks and Nexus 7 devices in our Junior School as part of this move. These were huge undertakings requiring staff buy in for success. I’ve had to work out ways to communicate effectively to help staff understand systems and have tried very hard to offer professional development opportunities and well as support in online environments. I’ve found the following an effective way to explain new features quite effective when you’re starved of face to face contact with the whole staff cohort. Make a quick screencast using Screencast-o-matic, upload to Google Drive, embed in LMS and share via email.

I’ve continued to teach a class while taking on this role, and introduced a new elective called ‘Language of our Times’ focused on communication in today’s world. This meant creating new curriculum and shifting my pedagogy into methodology such as Project Based Learning – all in the midst of learning how to manage the network and introduce new systems! While it’s been challenging, it’s also been incredibly exciting. The students have loved the class and I’ve loved teaching them. True to form (for me, anyway) I’ve changed each unit from year to year, based on what the students need and responding to shifts on the Internet. Keeping a foot in the classroom keeps you grounded and enables you to model effective use of the systems you’ve introduced. Credibility with staff matters  – the old adage ‘Practice what you Preach’ really does hold weight.

Suffice to say, the last two years have seen me on an exponential learning curve, one that required a huge investment of time and took me away from blogging on a regular basis. It’s something I have mixed feelings about; there have been many times when I felt that I had something worthy of sharing, but the energy levels were low at the end of long days. I really do feel the need to reinvigorate this space – I’m hopeful that 2015 will see me post on a more regular basis.

What has really sustained my appetite for learning over the last two years has been the opportunities I’ve had to keynote at various conferences across the country. I derive energy from these experiences. Putting a keynote together sharpens my thinking and the interactions with conference participants really helps me remain committed to sharing what I know. What fascinates me right now is what the future holds and what this might require of us as educators. What are the learning environments we need to create to help our students navigate a very different world of work? What are the skills we need to teach effectively in new environments and what will school look like 15 years from now? My reading focuses on thinking around this  – I can be pretty interesting at conferences and pretty boring at dinner parties!

Looking forward…

What will 2015 bring? Consolidation at school level – no new platforms to introduce, but a focus on how to best use ICT to personalise learning experiences for students. In my view, we have the platforms we need – moving through the technology adoption cycle to appeal to the early and late majority is where the work lies.

I’ll continue reading and maintaining my Twitter presence – it’s by far the quickest way to share and the connections formed in that network are my go to place when I get discouraged at school level that change isn’t happening quickly enough. Communicating with like minds feeds my soul.

It’s my greatest hope that I will find time to invest in this space and share my thoughts and perhaps some insight into the work I’m doing at school level. Let’s see what happens when the pace increases – perhaps short bursts of content are what I need to aim for. Long reflective posts take time!

School’s out Friday

I’m currently in the throes of trying to pack as much as I possibly can into my ‘Language of our Times’ class in the final weeks of term. We were looking at viral videos recently (and at its essence, what are the qualities of a video that makes it move to viral status) and have returned to this in the last two days, prompted by what I’ve viewed on mainstream television and what has run past my Twitter stream.

The Qantas ad, above, caught my attention while I was making inroads on correction. It led me away from the correction pretty quickly, enticed as I was with the soundtrack and storylines that were unfolding in front of me. A two minute slot in primetime must cost a fair whack, but the 300,000+ views it has racked up on YouTube in 8 days is quite possibly paying dividends for the Qantas brand.

We followed this up today with two Christmas ads coming out of the UK. The first was the John Lewis ad below that has racked up a more than impressive 14 million+ views on YouTube in 8 days. And yes, I’m betting John Lewis sees this as an investment that has paid off.

The second is the Christmas ad from Sainsbury’s, a UK Supermarket chain. It was made in partnership with The Royal British Legion and is inspired by real events from 100 years ago. I dare you to watch it and not tear up.

It was released two days ago and has racked up 4 million+ views to date. I’m figuring this is one with shareability written all over it. Check back in six days and I’m betting it’s running rings over the John Lewis ad.

What these ads have enabled is some great discussion around what makes an effective marketing campaign in a world where YouTube rules and mainstream media is becoming less relevant in the lives of the everyday citizen. A good discussion to have and one that I think my students have benefited from. If I find them all leading marketing campaigns in future years I’ll know I’ve done a good job. 😉

I’ll be grabbing some shut eye this weekend and gearing up for a busy few weeks as the year comes to an end. Rest up folks and enjoy some down time. 🙂

‘Language of our Times’ – my opportunity to teach content and skills that I think matter

I teach this wonderful elective at Year 9 called ‘Language of our Times’. It’s wonderful, because I’ve had the freedom to create the curriculum. The premise behind the subject is that we are studying how we communicate in today’s world. So far this year my students have explored the art of presenting well by creating Pecha Kucha presentations (and been supported by the generous Garr Reynolds in the process) and have looked at the way John Green uses social media platforms to grow his audience and support his career as an author.

I thought that sharing a task I set my class to do might be helpful to people out there who are teaching English and perhaps thinking about how they might incorporate something that recognises what might be required if you are intending to write in online spaces.

THE TASK!

Write a Feature Article for an Online Newspaper.

Your focus: John Green and the methods he employs to build his audience.

But first….you need to do some research.

I have created a page in iVE  (our LMS) with links to articles about John Green and online videos where John is discussing his life (amongst other things). To do all of this reading and viewing is very time consuming but necessary if you are going to understand your subject matter in depth.

So….you are going to pool your talent and work in groups to do the research. In your group you will need to divvy up the reading and viewing. I would like you to create a shared Google Doc (that you file in the Language of our Times folder in your Google Drive) where you will be identifying what source you have read and writing notes that are visible to all in the group to ensure you come to a shared understanding of John Green and all he does.

Writing the feature article – transmedia article (text, pictures and video)

Necessary elements:

Effective Headline

An inviting lead that draws the reader into the article

Hyperlinks to source material

An embedded video

Suitable pictures that complement the text

References to experts, use of quotes to support claims being made.

A well structured piece of writing that follows conventions for online newspaper publishing (we’ll be looking at exemplar models in class to assist your understanding of what this looks like)

An effective conclusion.

Minimum word length: 750 words

The students did require exemplar models to gain an understanding of the structure of an online news article. While we we working on this task, John Green was heavily involved on promotion for the film of ‘The Fault in our Stars’, so there was plenty to provide as models, like this one here. They really needed to see what a good lead looked like and the nature of writing for online audiences where the paragraphs are often very short and sometimes even just one line.

Quite a bit like blogging really.

I think this is so important to teach our young people. Schools (particularly English classes) tend to get tied up in the mire of the five paragraph essay, when in real life, no one in their right mind is ever going to stick to such a pre-determined structure. Well, not me, anyway.

Demonstrating how to hyperlink text is a skill that often needs to be taught. I’ve written about this in the past. When I went through this with the students, I could hear the ‘aaahhhs’ around the room as they discovered the mystery of  hyperlinked text. Who, I ask, is teaching this skill, and how many teachers out there even know how to do it? I’ve shown plenty in my time. Surely this is something that is a fundamental skill in today’s day and age?

I had the students write their article in Google Docs so that I could give them feedback through Hapara Teacher Dashboard (another post I need to write!). This enables me to shoot into their Docs quickly and makes the feedback loop between them and me really fast. One of the features lacking in Google Docs at the moment is the ability to embed a video so the students had to take screenshots of a YouTube video and provide the link.

I do have to say, the quality of the work submitted was pretty high. I was genuinely blown away by the headlines and leads the students came up with. One student had five different headlines written in the planning stages and all surpassed many I had seen in the exemplars we had looked at.

I’ve asked one of my students, Emma, if I could share her piece here. She’s agreed, so take a read yourself and see if you think this piece is as good as I think it is. I’m pretty darn impressed that a Year 9 student is capable of producing a piece at at this standard.

 

John Green, the Internet Community Puppeteer

 

Screenshot 2014-08-06 20.53.54

                                                                                                                                                                         John Green

If you are one of the small minorities that aren’t familiar with the name ‘John Green’, you won’t remain that way for long. From humble beginnings, this Indiana-based author has become one of the most successful people on the Internet. Using his large fan base “Nerd fighters” he has made his way to become a young adult bestseller novelist, a famous YouTuber and earned his place on the Time’s list of the most 100 influential people in the world.

As the internet continues to be of larger importance in modern day society, more and more time is being spent in this virtual space. John Green suggested humorously that we should “Just move to the Internet, its great [there]. We get to live inside where the weather is always awesome.” But this is becoming increasingly true, especially amongst the younger generations. John Green has managed to become very influential online, hence reaching out to a larger audience than ever possible before the 21th century. A single “tweet” on his twitter recommending a book can cause the sales to boom the same day. Critics have dubbed this phenomenon the “John Green Bump”.

But how did he become so influential?

His road to fame probably began during project “Brotherhood 2.0”; one of the first vital points in John Green’s Internet take over. In 2007 he and his brother Hank agreed to only communicate through YouTube as a medium. From January the 1 until the 31st of December, the two brothers took turns uploading videos to their YouTube channel, “VlogBrothers” every weekday.  The videos had varied content. It usually had the brothers talking about their lives and things that genuinely matter to them while lacing in jokes and trying to make each other laugh. From this project they not only entertained each other but also a large audience that was later dubbed “Nerdfighters”. Currently this channel has over 2 million subscribers alone.

The Nerdfighters are supposedly “made up of awesome”. They are John Green’s loyal army of extremely active fans (some who are well known youtubers themselves). John Green enjoys being a self-proclaimed nerd, “…because nerds like us are allowed to be ironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-and-down-in-the chair-can’t-control-yourself love it.” And John Green’s ever-abundant Nerdfighters do exactly that. They nerd over and love everything to do with John Green: his merchandise, his books, his videos, his words and him. As a result their influence in the online space is of colossal proportions due to their sheer enormity. They promote John Green and what he does, further spreading his influence amongst the online community, for free.

Screenshot 2014-08-06 20.55.34

                                                                                                                                                                            John Green at a fan meeting

 As well as managing the “Vlogbrothers” channel, John Green also produces “CrashCourse,” an educational YouTube channel, where he educates his audience in 12 minutes about world history, psychology, biology, ecology, literature and chemistry. Using humour and entertaining visuals, he makes his lessons more fun and educational. These 12-minute clips are easy to fit within classes or study periods and making them a convenient tool for teachers. His indirect presence further expands his audience as he is introduced to a younger generation of consumers through the internet-savvy teachers.

John Green also puts his dominance on the web to good use for the less fortunate. Using his extensive Internet presence he created “ProjectforAwesome”, (also known as P4A) an event that occurs for two days (traditionally Dec 18-19) annually where YouTubers raise money for a charity of their choice by promoting it to their audience. In 2013 they successfully raised $869,171. That is almost double the amount they raised the year previously, suggesting that his audience has grown considerably larger in just a year.

As an author, John Green wrote the young-adult best sellers, “Looking for Alaska”, “Paper Towns” and the immensely popular “The Fault in Our Stars (TFiOS)” which has been converted into a major feature film adaptation. This tearjerker is rare amongst young adult fiction because it is a cancer book, where the main protagonist is a cancer patient. The book received highly positive reviews with critics such as the New York Times describing the book as “”a blend of melancholy, sweet, philosophical and funny” and that it “stays the course of tragic realism”. Upon release of the book, it stayed as number one bestseller list for 44 weeks and had 150,000 pre-orders (which John Green kindly hand signed each copy diligently).

Screenshot 2014-08-06 20.57.11

                                                                                                                      John Green’s bestseller, “Fault in Our Stars”

But what has made John and his works so successful?

 The answer probably comes down to a combination of free, his endorsements, thanks to his fan base, and the fact that people generally really like it. The proof? Well, the average rating is 4.52 out of five, on goodreads.com, which is very high in comparison to most books (e.g. “Perks of Being a Wallflower” average rating is 4.2). The book was also voted as one of the winners of Goodreads choice Awards 2012 and the winner of Children’s Choice Book Awards for Teen Book of the Year. The readers obviously also seemed to have liked it enough to recommend it to their friends and family. John Green suspects that another factor leading to the books success is the fact that his “readers are evangelists.”

The people who read his books tend to be incredibly devoted fans who want to convert everyone they possibly can into Nerdfighters or at least, a fan of TFiOS, filling up posts and comments with fan art, gifs quoting the novel and screaming pleas for people to read the book. John Green could not ask for a better audience.

Such an audience isn’t to be taken for granted. John Green puts a lot of effort into connecting with his fans. He asks them for their opinion and seems generally curious. He somehow miraculously manages and is active on a vast variety of social media platforms including YouTube, Twitter, tumblr, Facebook, Goodreads, subbable (a sharing platform which he and his brother Hank founded), his own blog and instagram. He sends out surveys to gather data do that he can shape his activities to suit his audience and gauge which social media platform seem to attract the most visitors and how they found out about him in the first place. He calls this survey, “Nerdfighteria Census”. He also arranges fan-meet ups and gatherings so that he can meet his fans and help them to feel closer as a community.

 His audience is attracted to his humble, likeable and witty personality, making him an idealistic role model. He believes in self-acceptance, accepting other people and fighting for the right to be who you want to be. He “… tr[ies] to live life so that [he] can live with [him]self.”

 Watch a video from his youtube channel Vlogbrothers, “What To Do With Your Life”:

 John Green has set a high standard for role models everywhere. His presence on the Internet, as vast and extensive as it is, is not just beneficial for him. It is also beneficial to a lot of people who are influenced by him, those who would like to aspire to become someone like him and also to become someone like themselves. Marketers and authors who wish to promote themselves should also look to John Green for his good use of social media platforms and connecting with his fans. John Green is also looked up to by those who can relate to him and just want to also remind each other DFTBA (Don’t forget to be awesome); borrowing John Green’s catchphrase as both a greeting, farewell and encouragement.

I was impressed. I hope you were too.

What did I do wrong?

I didn’t get my students to create a bibliography and properly cite the sources they had used. Massive oversight being a Teacher-Librarian by trade and all. Something I will need to rectify next time.

I wish I could share all of my student’s work. The time they invested into this task was impressive and I’m sure they learnt skills that might not be being covered elsewhere. I’m loving the opportunity to explore interesting curriculum and teach my students skills and content that I think are important in today’s world.

 

 

 

Macklemore’s 10,000 hours

A couple of years ago, I gave a presentation to a group of Commerce/Business Studies teachers about the impact of Social Media on Business today. In the opening slides, I referred to Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers‘ and the 10,000 hour rule discussed in that book (inspired by a scientific study in American Scientist by Herbert Simon and William Chase). It’s a contentious idea, one that suggests that you need at least 10,000 hours to become proficient in your field. (Read this article from Malcolm Gladwell that discusses his thinking in some detail) I was trying to make the point that I was capable of delivering my presentation because I had invested near on 10,000 hours in social networks and had read plenty about business and their changing approaches. I’m not sure I convinced all of those present, but I firmly believed (and continue to believe) that the 10,000 hour rule rings true.

It seems Macklemore does too. I’ve been listening to ‘The Heist‘ for over 12 months now and find it an inspiring album. I’ve used ‘Same Love‘ and ‘Wings‘ as examples of what I consider contemporary poetry of today in my ‘Language of our Times’ class. When my students were working on a Spoken Word poetry task, dissecting the lyrics of Wings and the imagery utilised within those lyrics was one of the most powerful lessons of our year.

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 11.57.29 PM

 

http://macklemore-mania.tumblr.com/

I’ve never really paid attention to the lyrics of the opening track, 10,000 hours, until just recently. It was when I heard reference to Gladwell in the lyrics that my ears pricked up and I began to listen more intently. What I discovered was his story, his commitment to his craft and his ability to rise above a school system where he didn’t find himself ‘top of the class’. Take a read of these lyrics to see what I mean;

Now, now, now
This is my world, this is my arena
The TV told me something different I didn’t believe it
I stand here in front of you today all because of an idea
I could be who I wanted if I could see my potential
And I know that one day I’mma be him
Put the gloves on, sparring with my ego
Everyone’s greatest obstacle, I beat ’em
Celebrate that achievement
Got some attachments, some baggage I’m actually working on leaving
See, I observed Escher
I love Basquiat
I watched Keith Haring
You see I study art
The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great cause they paint a lot
I will not be a statistic
Just let me be
No child left behind, that’s the American scheme
I make my living off of words
And do what I love for work
And got around 980 on my SATs
Take that system, what did you expect?
Generation of kids choosing love over a desk
Put those hours in and look at what you get
Nothing that you can hold, but everything that it is
Ten thousand

Not being American, I had to look up what a 980 SAT score meant. It means that you’ve ranked in the 6th percentile of all students who sat the exam. Ninety four percent of students scored better. When I look at the success of Macklemore , then it’s obvious that this is a person who does not let an exam result define him. Instead, he saw his potential.

Take that, system.

I’m starting my ‘Language of our Times’ class this year with 10,000 hours. This is a class that explores how we communicate in today’s world. Macklemore and Lewis independently produced ‘The Heist’ and it rose to number one on the iTunes charts within days of release. No record company made that happen. Their sheer hard work in the preceding years and a core army of supporters who shared and promoted this album through the social networks we inhabit made that happen. The world is different. Some people, those with talent, but perhaps even more importantly, with persistence and determination, know it.

Is our education system helping our students understand that there might be different pathways to success? How many young people passionate about something never get an opportunity to pursue this through the curriculum offerings in traditional school? What are we doing to help these students understand what they may need to do to fulfil their dreams? How many teachers even have any concept of what can be done using the networks of today? Sure, not everyone will succeed, but our students do deserve to hear the stories of people who have taken the non-traditional route.

Read Macklemore’s story. Share it around. Open eyes.

* and if you happen to read this Macklemore, I’ve got a group of students in Australia who’d love a virtual visitor to their class. I’m dreaming big. You taught me that. 😉

 

 

School’s out Friday

Thanks go to my good friend Helen for recommending Tim Minchin’s Occasional Address when he accepted an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Western Australia. Listen to what he has to say about teachers. If you’re pressed for time, here it is in print.

6. Be a teacher.
Please? Please be a teacher. Teachers are the most admirable and important people in the world. You don’t have to do it forever, but if you’re in doubt about what to do, be an amazing teacher. Just for your twenties. Be a primary school teacher. Especially if you’re a bloke – we need male primary school teachers. Even if you’re not a Teacher, be a teacher. Share your ideas. Don’t take for granted your education. Rejoice in what you learn, and spray it.

(You can read the rest of the transcribed speech here. Great for an English class!)

It made me think about those of us who are career teachers, and not just teachers for our twenties. It’s a hard gig being a teacher – there’s an unrelenting pace to the school year and the fact that it’s a job that continues well past the final bell means that it pulls on our families and our ability to pursue facets of our life that we’d like to pursue eg; the exercise that Tim is such a strong proponent for.

BUT, the rewards of the job are beyond measure…

Today was my last lesson with my Year 9 Language of our Times students. I’ve had a wonderful year with these girls, exploring ideas around communication in today’s world and utilising Project Based Learning methods of teaching with them. At the end of the lesson they hugged and thanked me. Ahhh…such rich rewards…for them, and me.

So yes, be a teacher.

Enjoy your weekend. I intend to. 🙂