Tuesday, October 13, 2015

What I can Learn from Mr. Schneebly & Tim Gunn

Mr. S sharing his passion for rock n' roll
Recently I was re-watching "School of Rock", and I remembered how much I love this movie. Of course, Jack Black (Dewey, a.k.a. "Mr. Schneebly", a.k.a. "Mr. S") is a total fake and is only using his students to win money and prestige.
As a teacher, I was motivated by the one thing about Mr. S that is not phony - his passion for music, especially rock music, and this is what is passed on to his students. He is so intensely excited about his craft that he taps into the budding rockers in his class and leads his students down a path they probably wouldn't have taken without him; they had no knowledge of rock before he entered their sheltered world: "...don't tell me you guys have never gotten the "Led" out!"

Once he shows his students that they have talent within them already, he is able to open a world of rock music that inspires them- Pink Floyd, Rush, The Ramones, etc. Then they begin to create themselves, and not just cover music.

This is the point of the movie that truly got me thinking about how a teacher's passion leads to creativity in their students. Here's what I garnered from this film about teaching and how it relates to my teaching:
1. He shares his creativity with his students. Mr. S is not very likable or talented; his song is terrible, but he is excited about it and shared it with his students. I've never really shared with my students like this; sometimes I will mention things like, "when I write a paper," or something like that, but I wonder about this..
2. He tells his students why rock music matters: "One great rock show can change the world!" And he also shows students how writing music is a means to let out frustration about "The Man". I've been reading some of my students' blogs, and a couple have mentioned that they still don't know why reading and writing is important.
3. He finds a place for his student rockers to have a legitimate, real-world  audience. Yes! Gratefully, this is something I had been thinking about this summer, and the e-portfolio and Digital Research Story are definitely based on having a real-world audience. I believe this is a powerful motivator for students to be more mindful of their writing.
4. He collaborates with his students as equals. The only thing that comes to mind with this is when students and I work on examples together. We try writing a conclusion as a whole class, and I put in my efforts as well, but how could this be more intentional?

I've also been thinking about Tim Gunn, the mentor on "Project Runway". Really, there is time for only one TV show in my life during a semester. I shouldn't like this show. I was confused about my attraction to it. It's just people sewing clothes for about an hour and then presenting their creations. There is no drama like other reality shows. I sew some, and my oldest is learning some, so we like to watch this together.
Tim Gunn taking his time to reflect on a student's work
Tim Gunn, the very respectable, thoughtful and articulate coach to the show's contestants is a natural mentor. I'm usually very impressed with his guidance, and here is what I garnered from him and how it relates to my classes:
1. He respects his students. He greets them individually and thanks them at the end of their session for sharing their work. He reminds them of their strengths throughout the chat they have.
2. He is usually thorough and thoughtful with his critiques, taking his time with each student. I always want my students to be awed by how many comments I provide for them. I want them to know that I take the time to remember their stories. I want to experiment with Kaizena, a Google Doc add-on, which utilizes voice comments to show that more human quality for feedback.
3. He is honest. I think this is so important for a mentor to be able to communicate when something is terrible, but the respect that he has gained through his respectful tone allows him to do this. In the end, I think students will be grateful for honest feedback.
4. He asks questions. I've noticed that Tim Gunn will throw out open-ended questions to get his students to stop and think about their work. I've noted that my students will ask, "so should I just erase that?" and even though I want to say, "YES!!!" I can't. I've been more mindful about saying things like, "it's your writing choice" or "consider what that will do to your paper". It seems that students' natural reactions lean to: "tell me exactly what and how to do this and I will", but that's not creative, is it?

This post has made me think of mentors I've had in my own life, and it's actually something I'm kind of missing right now. I love learning from people more experienced in me in my field, which is partly what inspired me to start this blog.

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