Monday, May 6, 2013

The Pied Piper of Poetry?

We had "Electronics Day" at school last week for the sixth graders. As a reward, they were able to bring small electronics to school and enjoy them during the day. Most of the students brought something that played music (MP3 players, cell phones). All day long students kept coming up to me in the hallways and in the classroom to show me that they had the song "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons on their music device. They had the biggest smiles on their faces.

Earlier in the school year, I had introduced the students to the song "Radioactive" as part of a poetry study. I had so many students who said they didn't like poetry that I wanted to show them poetry comes in many different forms. I let them listen to the song. I put the lyrics up on a screen and we analyzed them - talking about what the words meant and what the song was trying to say. My students really liked the song. I showed them the music video afterwards, and we compared our analysis of the lyrics to what the video showed. We discussed what the visual images represented and talked about the video's message.

"Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons:

While I knew the students were familiar with the song from our study, it wasn't until later in the day that I truly understood what was really going on with everyone showing me that song on their playlist. In the afternoon, I had this conversation with a student that summed up what many of my students were thinking:

Student: Look at the song I have on my ipod!

Me: That's great! I'm glad you like it!

Student: The first time I ever heard it was in your class, remember? Remember when we studied it for poetry?

Me: Yes, I remember...

Student: Because we studied it in class, we liked it first AND we understand the song, AND now EVERYONE likes the song - it's EVEN on the RADIO! That means you are the coolest because you knew it was a good song first and you made it popular! 

Well, I had to chuckle (and was a bit flattered) that my sweet student thought that I had single-handedly made a song popular...and that I was "the coolest." I realized, though, there was something really important going on behind those big smiles and "thumbs up" I was seeing all day. I understood the "bigger lesson" my students learned from a song.

The BIGGER lesson:

Television and movies (and, in my opinion, society in general) bombards our young people with the message that being "dumb" or "the class clown" is funny...and that it's cool to be ignorant. They watch reality shows where people have no intellect, no common sense, and no talent (and, most of the time, no class)...but these people are popular (and on television) for being stupid and acting stupid. It sends a bad message. How often do young people ever get the message how great it feels to be smart?

The lesson my students learned was how great it feels to KNOW something, to UNDERSTAND something, and to FEEL GOOD about themselves for having that knowledge. They walked taller, they felt smarter, and they were proud to show what they knew and to share it with others who didn't know. "You don't know this song? Oh, we learned it in Mrs. H's class. Let me tell you what the song means, you'll really like it!"

The old saying, 'Ignorance is bliss' is a lie. Ignorance is just ignorance,...but knowledge?


If you don't believe me, just ask my sixth graders...

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