Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Don't Judge a Beatbox By Its Cover

Adult Assumption Alert: This blog reveals an unconscious generalization I am not proud to admit.

We are partnering with the organization R.E.A.C.H. Communications for our Stand Up Speak Out (SUSO) middle school leadership conferences, which we are facilitating at six sites in Ohio this fall and winter. At one recent SUSO event, R.E.A.C.H. speaker, Shaun Derik, called for two male and two female volunteers to join him in his presentation.

Four students, ages 12-13, went up to the stage. A petite white girl who said her dream job was to be an actress or a singer. A confident African American boy who said he played sports. A seemingly shy white girl with glasses who giggled that she wanted to be veterinarian. And a tall, lean, lanky hispanic boy who seemed to be participating in "No Shave November."

After pointing out how brave they were for volunteering, Shaun upped the ante by putting them into a dance contest. While Shaun beatboxed, the students shimmied, one at a time, to the applause of 70 of their peers in the audience. After three attempts to break the applause tie between the boys and girls dance team, Shaun decided to jump into the competition. "But I'll need someone to beatbox for me," he said.

Now, if I asked you to put the four students I described in the order you thought they would: 1. be competent to beatbox and 2. volunteer to do so, what would your sequence be? Here was mine: confident athlete, male student on the other side of puberty, self-proclaimed actress and, finally, future veterinarian.

So the giggly, shy veterinarian says to Shaun Derik: "I got this." And you know what? She crushed it! Shaun danced and the last kid on my list popped and clicked and tch'ed into the mic, to my amazement and the rhythmic beat of her clapping peers. It was is if she was born to do it. Shame on me for assuming otherwise.

You know what they say happens when you assume...

What would you learn about your students if you dropped your assumptions?

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