So during class today, a student asked me "Why do we read Shakespeare?"
A part of me thought, "Really, this again. We have talked about this soooooooo many times."
But the student, let's call him Jesus, seemed sincere, like he was genuinely curious.
I took a deep breath and said, "There are several reasons we read Shakespeare. First, we read Shakespeare because he is the third most referenced body of work in the English language and you can't be culturally literate without recognizing Shakespeare. Second, we are focused on the skill of understanding difficult, archaic, figurative, or unusual language which is a skill you can apply to any hard reading even technical manuals. Third, it is part of the curriculum and we are expected to read it."
Jesus said "Ok. That makes sense." Then he continued "Hey, Ms. Hirsch, I want to show you a video, can I show you a video later? I'd show you now, but my battery's dead."
I didn't think anything of it, so I said "Sure," and promptly forgot all about it.
If he hadn't come back after school, I would never have remembered he mentioned it before.
He came in and said again "I want to show you this video. Can I write it down for you?" then he reached for a dry erase marker and turned towards the board. There is notoriously little room for actual writing on my white board. Before I could respond, or say anything, he paused in his search for a blank spot, glanced at my phone on the table and said "Wait, you can just search it on your phone, ok? I have to go."
Again, I said "Sure."
"It's called 'Don't Stay in School" he said and as soon as he saw I had found it, he smiled and took off to catch his bus.
I hit play. I was immediately enthralled, fascinated even, by this video. The artistry of the performance and the truth of the message hit me hard.
My first thought was that I had to show this to my colleague whose students have been creating their own textbook this semester (I've written about her a couple of times before). I scooted down the hall and she and I watched it together. She was thrilled and said immediately, "Oh, this is going in the textbook!"
The coolest thing would be for the students to compare their own experiences to the video, in my opinion.
This was such a revelation to me. Not because the video portrays a message most teachers don't often feel. No, it was a revelation because this kid felt comfortable enough to share this with me and solicit my opinion. It was a revelation because it captures so eloquently how many young adults feel about school.
It was reminder that relevance isn't about fun, or connecting to pop culture, or getting into our feelings. It is about allowing students to learn what will help them become responsible, successful adults and citizens.
It was a good thing.
It made me think and question and wonder. And so I leave you with this question: If the young man performing in this video had not experienced the education he so thoroughly bashes, would it even have been possible for him to compose this song/poem?