HipHopEd4- a rewind and rethink.
I had never been at a HipHopEd seminar before- so I wasn’t too sure what to expect. What I experienced surpassed all expectations and was a perfect example of a grass-roots movement of teachers, educationalists, performance poets, rappers, PhD students and music lovers working to embed a positive HipHop ethos into education.
I have been to a few TeachMeets in the last six months, and this was similar in that there were presenters- however the atmosphere was much more one of academic, pedagogical and musical enquiry. Lengthy question and answer sessions followed presentations, or sometimes even interrupted them. Actually, these sessions were amazing stimulating and made the experience of attending feel truly collaborative, the audience were not at all passive and debates over the purpose of education, skills, aspirations and more ran throughout the day. The right to speak, and respecting others opinions is embedded into the ethos of the HipHopEd movement, and I can’t help but think the respectful discussion have a lot to teach some of the Educators set to transmit only, or those involved in twitter-squabbles.
The evolution of the HipHopEd concept is explained here: http://rapgenius.com/artists/Hiphoped and a really interesting blog from one of the originators Dr Christopher Edmin @chrisemdin, can be found here: http://chrisemdin.com/index.php/page/hiphoped I’m sure there is much more information out there- and I would recommend you read this blog by @rapclassroom http://rapclassroom.blogspot.co.uk/ which contains a reply to some of the criticisms of the work done by HipHopEd.
The day began with Kate Ryan, @MsKateRyan, giving a run down of what’s happened over last 3 seminars. I think the phrase ‘reality pedagogy, ‘ she used, where teaching and learning should reflect the lives of kids and teachers is really crucial. By lives, she was referring to Home, road, and school life. Traditional education really only considers home and school life, and this offers a bridge to vulnerable students who may be disengaged. Kate then went on to talk about the four Cs of HipHopEd, which are collaboration, creation, criticality and community- all of which rung true with my beliefs about what education should/ can be.
Kate then talked about this statement, which I know is an ideal expressed by many educators I admire: Be an authority, not in authority. This is teaching based on Mutual respect, positive relationships, and developing students as leaders. This is powerful stuff, and combines some many pedagogical threads that are of interest to me, and central to the way that I have been developing my own teaching practice. It resonates so much with the work done by other teachers on Student Voice, Digital Leaders and student control of planning and learning. At this stage in the day I had become a captivated audience.
Next to present was Chris Beschi, @poetcurious, who began with a spoken word poem. I don’t teach English, I don’t work in secondary, it’s been a long time since I saw someone perform poetry with such passion about something I care about too. It’s really hard to describe the effect that this had- it was somewhere between my total absorption in the language, the rhyme and the words and being really impressed at his confidence to perform.
Chris then went on to present the HipHopEd manifesto. I have included an image, but look at these that scream to me:
That by creating we become ourselves.
Ya don’t stop….Learning.
Teacher ear is as important as pupil voice
We recognise that dominant culture co-opts outsider culture for its own ends. We refuse to walk away.
There are a lot more points to the manifesto. Read it. See what you think. I think some really strong links could be made here to the #punklearning advocated by Tait Coles, @totallywired77, and would encourage some work to be done between the two. Such power, potential and inspiration in education all coming though music and dedicated educators.
Next up was organiser Darren Chetty, @rapclassroom, who started by saying he was in no position of certainty over his research, but he was confident it is worthwhile. Nice and how refreshing to hear an educator say this. He then argued that when dealing with education, which is based in certainty, you are often asked to deal in certainties, and that when you feel you are open you are closed to uncertainty. He talked about the limits of dialogue and the issue of reading the image over the representation of the meaning of the image- reading black youth not as individual but as part of black minority culture and perceived negative/s. He also show cased his ‘Power to the Pupils’ work, which was inspiring. He encouraged a critical engagement with academic discourses, particularly that exist in the USA. His pre-reading came from here:
Browen Low, Eloise Tan, & Jacqueline Celemencki, ‘The limits of keepin it Real: The Challenges for Critical Hip-Hop Pedagogies for Discourses of Authenticity,’ in Marc Lamont Hill & Emery Petchancer, (Eds.), Schooling Hip-Hop: Expanding Hip-Hop based education across the curriculum, ( Teachers College Press, 2013.)
Kate then spoke about Gender and HipHopEd. she runs a Rap Club at school and wants to encourage girls to participate and was considering Segregated rap groups. She wanted to audience to consider the how to engage girls with rap, and spilt up into groups to discuss these themes:
Looking at female lyricists
Issues of self esteem
Heath and bodies
Media representation of women
The following debate and discussion was insightful. Offering ideas around the prevalence of patriarchy, the commercialisation of music, and encouraging the practice of skills over content analysis. Fabulous and engaging discussion.
Next to present was Jeffrey Boakye, @unseenflirt, who discussed student ownership of language and the use of slang vs standard English. He talked about the power of sampling/ remix- rewrite whole chapter and change something in each sentence and the work that his class had done with the text ‘My name is Mina’ by David Almond. His class remixed this into a rap-battle which they performed to the school. Great ideas about engagement, enfranchisement, and inspiration.
William Essilfie now invited us to consider- who’s answering whose question? This presentation was based on his Phd research, which considers the skills/mechanics of art form vs teaching theme/topic. He invited us to consider a Critical pedagogy, where teachers as co-learners. He then discussed, Ideological power-where teachers controlling students thoughts and desires. He cited Luke 2007 (apologies don’t have full reference) but I was reminded of the work of Bowles and Gintis, in their study, Schooling in Capitalist America. William covered so many interesting points, but this one stood out for me, ask yourself: How many things in society do you not get to see the other options? He said this can be as trivial as fashion and a lack of non-skinny jeans in shops, but can also be applied to our learners and their aspirations and dreams. Why would kids come into school and work hard if they don’t know/ have experience of all the options that doing so makes available to them? Think on it.
Next up was Iesha Small, @ieshasmall, who won a prize in my head for actually playing us some music! Iesha asked us to think about Authentic voice and male working class identity through the medium of Original Pirate Material album by the streets. she argued that authenticity is bound up with notions of Truthfulness, believability- what it is to be a young man- monotony of working class life. Authenticity in UK HipHop is about expressing culturally relevant desires and ways to escape monotony- and is also language Specific- ‘birds not bitches,’ kind of stood out for me! I won’t write more here as she is going to publish the paper on her blog. Go and read it.
Joel McIlven was next to present on ‘Whiteness- in HipHop, which he acknowledged was more white maleness/es. He framed his presentation around a series of questions:
How do notions of class inform notions of authenticity?
Is society comfortable with plan b critique because he is white? (Video here http://youtu.be/s8GvLKTsTuI)
What does it tell us about HipHop culture that it can be appropriated by neo-nazis to articulate their vision? (Couldn’t find link sorry and expect I am now on a Government data base for googling it….)
Is showing solidarity with the oppressed is a way of alleviating your own guilt.
What is an authentic performance of whiteness?
How can HipHop help us engage with white privilege?
Mind blowing in terms of the discussion that this presentation generated, but also left my head spinning.
Sadly we had overrun, and we didn’t hear Sam Berkson, @angrysampoet, speak on integration and segregation. However, he did finish the session by performing a poem about his feelings on integration and the role of the outsider. Again, I was totally blown away by by being in the presence of an artist who has such command of language and is engaging the audience on such critical issues. The photo is blurry as that is how much energy he had!
The whole day was a total breath of fresh air. Not a book tour which some education CPD events can feel like, and it felt like the people there really cared. About their students, about education. It felt living and real, and that change is possible. I will apologise if I have left anything out or misrepresented. As I said, this was my first time at a HipHopEd seminar, so this is very much the perspective of a new comer, and I would welcome any feedback or corrections. I would maybe encourage the organisers to consider having a live stream so people can attend virtually, and also to record to sessions- including the valuable discussions so that more people can have access to this rich source of inspiration. Thank you to the organisers for inviting me and I’m looking forward to HipHopEd5.