A Glee-ful approach to learning

My Sunday was a lazy one. I was vegging out on the sofa with my two dogs keeping me company while my other half was trudging up and down woodland shooting his bow and arrows. Bliss! I was flicking through the channels to find something of interest and came across Glee Club. I’ve never seen it before but heard a lot about it and thought it the perfect veg-out, feel-good way to spend an afternoon.

Well, I thought I was going to spend a lazy hour anyway not thinking about work – house-work or otherwise. But – no – not a chance. My little grey cells jumped into action during an interaction between Mr Will Schuester, the Glee Club teacher played by Matthew Morrison, and a substitute teacher, Holly Holiday played by Gwyneth Paltrow who was standing in from Will as he suffered from ‘monkey flu’ (well I need to put you in the picture). Holly, was a breath of fresh air to the students. She had an up-beat attitude and connected with them emotionally (and Gwyneth did an amazing rendition of Cee Lo Green’s ‘Forget You’ in the episode too).

What made my slumbering grey cells jump to life was the following conversation:

Will: “you’re a substitute – of course you can paint murals and let the kids sing whatever they want. You don’t have to deal with the hangover of all that fun”

Holly: “16% of all students dropped out last year. You can’t expect these kids to sit up and pay attention. These kids feel special. They have a voice and if we don’t listen to it they just tune out” (sound familiar?)

Will: “I give my kids a voice. I just don’t let it run free. It’s my job to know more than they do” (hmmmm – sound familiar?)

Holly: “Right – but you don’t know more about what they care about most – themselves. These kids get bored…. they change their Facebook status. They’re entitled to have all these emotions and not only that, they’re entitled for the world to care about them. That’s what this generation is all about.”

Will: “A great teacher is supposed to show them there are other points of view besides their own!”

Holly: “OK. What do you do when a kid does something really great in your class?”

Will: “I praise them!”

Holly: “I Tweet about it. Right there and then and then for 30 seconds I know that kid has a connection with me.”

Yeah! I know. Sad isn’t it. But it just shows we can learn from sometimes the most unexpected places and occurrences. Glee Club is an ‘all-come-good-in-the-end’ programme. I loved it (but then I loved Fame – the original Glee Club). So what connection did I make from this? Well, it’s set within a school so the teaching bit is obvious. But the message is clear:

We need to connect with our learners emotionally (it doesn’t matter how young or old they are).

We need to understand their point of view and give them a voice.

We need to encourage them to be more self-directed in their learning rather than be told what’s best for them.

They need to see the relevance to help them motivated to learn

We need to become familiar with the tools they use everyday and harness them

We need to step down off the soapbox and admit there is more for us to learn and they can teach us too

The first step is asking “what would YOU like?” “what would help YOU to learn?” “what would YOU like to see happen?”

We need to try and step into their world without it looking too much like ‘dad-dancing’ at a family wedding!

The new generation has already joined us in our organisations. They are the digital natives. They have already introduced some of us oldies to their world and welcomed us with open arms. We are the digital immigrants and are finding the ‘new world’ exciting, challenging and full of opportunities.

I’d like you to humour me a little more with my Glee themed post. Every feel-good story has a happy ending and this one is no different.

It culminated in my all time favourite musical number. A traditional classic – timeless. Singing in the Rain.

On Will’s return to the Glee Club, he wanted the group to perform it. Because it was timeless, a classic and his favourite too, he was convinced everyone else would be equally enthusiastic. Now the movie dates back to 1952 but the song ‘Singing in the Rain’ was actually written in 1929 for ‘Hollywood Review of 1929″. How could a younger generation relate to something so old. How could they connect emotionally with this ancient score?

Realising he needed help to connect with his students he sought the help of his nemesis, Holly, who worked with him to bring the classic up to date, keeping the magic of the traditional but adding a modern flavour to appeal to a newer audience. The result was a magical blend of old and new – tradition and modern. Here is the number the Glee Club performed.

Some classics are too good to be missed but to get the message across to a different audience, we need a different blend while still keeping the message fresh.

And for those hopeless romantics and lovers of the classic number, here is genius that is Gene Kelly. Enjoy!

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1 Comment

  • Laura Layton-James

    February 28, 2011

    Thanks Colin. Yes indeed I totally agree that although we tend to refer to the Gen Y+ wanting their learning engaging, flexible, on-demand, collaborative, challenging, relevant and using the tools they’re familiar you’re right it IS really how we would all like our learning. Perhaps it’s just because we’ve been brow-beaten into thinking otherwise and the younger generation are just more vocal. Glad you liked the post


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