Today was an undeniably sad day. I know it may seem like I’m being melodramatic over the death of a celebrity I’ve never met, a celebrity who remained a mystery even to those who knew him best. However, despite my complete and utter lack of musical talent, I tend to submerge myself in a musician’s work so deeply that their lyrics, their rhythms, their eccentricities become a part of me. When “Prince is dead!” seemed to jump from my Twitter feed today, my heart sank. I was on my planning and preparing for a group of post-standardized-testing teenagers to kick down my classroom door, begging to be made human again. And, as so many things do, the news of the day drifted into the background as creating a better tomorrow with the kids I’m called to serve took focus in the foreground.
Luckily for the children I serve, Prince, his music, and his lyrics have subconsciously molded me as so many of music’s greats have done. On such a sad day, I’d like to pay homage to this mysteriously magical man by offering 5 of his lyrics that have the potential to REVOLUTIONize your classroom:
Nothing’s more disheartening than to hear a teacher or parent speak about a child as if their behavior is a result of their inherent rotten core. Suspending predispositions of a child’s run-ins with teachers of yesteryear allows you to see them anew. Before a student’s hapless culture and context had their way with the child’s psyche, every student was a potential success story. Fortunately, that story is still in the realm of possibility. As Prince says, a child will ultimately imitate their atmosphere. Be sure to create one worth imitating.
Despite what legislators would lead us to believe, our classrooms are more than factory assembly lines. Although standards and benchmarks have their place, we’re ultimately preparing our students for “this thing called life”. We owe it to the children we serve and the countless academics, orators, and pedagogues before us to rise above the myth that our sole purpose is to prepare them for The Test.
If Prince stood for anything above all else, it was the belief that one’s persona is fluid. Through the years his image has metamorphosised time and time again. The man once gave up his NAME for a symbol incapable of pronouncement! Likewise, teachers should not fear change. The world we prepare our students for is not a fixed point; it is an ever-evolving, elusive target that only those capable of recreating themselves will be ready to endure. Kids will only learn this trait by seeing it modeled; by seeing adults try new things, risk failure, and come out the other end a stronger version of themselves despite the outcome.
Despite the best of intentions, sometimes the biggest barrier to a student’s innovation is his teacher. Through practices like Genius Hour projects, Maker Spaces, and student choice in proof of mastery, teachers get out of the way. With all of the world’s knowledge at their students’ finger tips, a teacher’s job is necessarily different and more important than ever. We must become masterful facilitators, coaches, and mentors. To do so, we must first accept that part of our new calling is knowing when to get out of the way of a child’s creativity and discovery.
And finally, Prince leaves us with an ongoing theme in his music: the time for change is now! We can’t afford to drag our feet towards inevitable change. The rules of the “3 R’s” being the essential takeaways of a child’s academic upbringing is a thing of the past. Although the “3 R’s” have their place, students need a “new education”. Be the change they need. Prince would be proud.
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