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« Ted Kennedy in YouTube | Main | Unique field trip experiences make a difference »

Rappin' and Writin'

By Janet Morrison
April 7, 2010

Every once in a while I get on a kick to write. One of my goals is to write a book, but I can never seem to get out what I want to say. Even as I try to compose this and other blog posts, I get stuck. I can talk all day long, but when I try to put it on paper, I feel the need to be more formal and to make sure it is written well for you, the reader...and then I get stuck.

Today was one of those writing days. A few days ago I was inspired and figure out what I wanted to say (at least for the moment), so I started writing. I've been trying to work on it each day since. This afternoon, I was kind of stumped. I thought fresh air might give me some inspiration. So, I took my computer, set my camping chair up on my front porch and hoped the nice weather would get my juices flowing.

As s I sat, staring at the screen more than watching my fingers move and compose anything, my neighbor's grandson walked by (he's about 23 years old). He's always really sweet and says hi or waves as I come and go from my house. If I'm outside or walking to my mailbox, I always try to say something chit-chatty just to be friendly or to joke around with he and his cousins and friends. Today, when he walked by my house to go to the store I asked where his "peeps" were (he's usually walking with a group of cousins and friends). He just laughed at my attempt at slang (Don't worry, I don't use the word "peeps" in every day language...only when I'm trying to get a laugh out of the kids). On his way back, I guess he was returning the chit-chat favor. He saw the computer on my lap and asked if I was surfing the internet. I told him what I was really trying to do was write, but it wasn't working very well.

In my mind, I was really working on something...or trying to. I expected him to just nod and keep walking. Instead, he completely identified with me. "Yeah, I know what you mean. Just like when I'm working on my songs." It took me by surprise as I realized what he was talking about. When he's not working at his day job, he and his friends often perform their rap music at a club. I don't know why, but though I knew they wrote their own lyrics, it just never dawned on me that they have to utilize the same thought process I do when I write.

His comment launched us into a 10 minute discussion and commiserating session on how challenging writing can be and how great it feels when the "flow" is there. We talked about sitting, staring at the page trying to figure out what to say and how much easier it is to "freestyle" (for him) and talk (for me) than it is to actually get those thoughts down on paper. It was an amazing and rich conversation.

It reminds me of a blog post I wrote a few months ago, "Skills of a Thief." I think a lot of times we overlook the skills that the kids use when doing things that we don't necessarily agree with. Maybe if we looked past the act that we scrutinize and ban from our presence and looked more at the skills they utilize when reaching for their dreams, we would be able to affirm and tap into the knowledge our kids already possess. And, who knows, maybe if we affirmed those skills and utilized them in our lessons, the rap songs they create might have a deeper message and the "licks" they hit (in Skills of a Thief) might end up being challenging business ventures.

Irregardless, our kids deal with so much discouragement and assumptions that they don't possess skills that kids in other schools or other neighborhoods do. As an educator, it's my responsibility to help them see how much knowledge they actually possess...and then help them figure out how to channel that knowledge into something productive.

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