University of Hip-Hop
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UHipHop Apprenticeship Program Summer 2007-Part 2

By Sun Run 1


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  1. Sun Run 1 October 2, 2008 at 4:16 PM
    UHip-Hop Apprenticeship Workshops
    Summer 2007
    Sponsored by Teaching Tolerance and Alternatives Community Center

    Over the summer of 2007, an intensive interactive workshop was offered to youth, teachers, and youth advocates interested in integrating hip-hop into curricular practices and community work. One of the main objectives of the program was to create collaborative relationships with youth and adults around hip-hop, and more specifically, to work with youth in sharing their areas of expertise with adults. One of the driving concerns behind the creation of this program was the sense that many teachers struggle with connecting with their students, on an intellectual, emotional, and curricular level. As the student body in America becomes increasingly diverse, the teaching force is becoming inversely more homogeneous. These cultural and linguistic disparities have led to a growing sense of disconnect by students from school. These workshops sought to help teachers tap into an area that students are already heavily engaged in, and in which they have expert knowledge. Too often students are told that they are at school to be quiet and learn what the teacher has to teach them that day; they are seldom invited to share what they know and to participate as teachers in their own right.

    This series of workshops helped teachers and students share what they knew about education and hip-hop. Some of the workshops were facilitated in a manner where all members were teachers and students, and some were led by youth as the teachers and the adults as students. The workshops took place both at Alternatives, Inc., the community center, and also extended into the community, such as the Chicago Freedom Museum, the Ba’hai Temple, and the Hyde Park Art Center—spaces which allowed us to greater explore the community as a resource for both teachers and students, another objective of the institute. During these outings, the participants learned not only about community resources but grappled with larger themes and issues in today’s society, such as cultural survival, peace and tolerance, and how to create spaces of mutual learning and respect. There were wonderful discussions
    Some of these workshops, graffiti-painting and break-dancing, were skills-based and created specifically to help the adults be uncomfortable by learning something new and somewhat risky and to help the youth take on teaching roles. The intention behind this was create a space for the full participation and exploration of hip-hop as art form, vehicle for social critique, and community activism , as well as exploring spaces of learning and discomfort. Though not all of the youth were expert in both areas, they had all been exposed and participated in the production of both, whereas the adults had never done either. This created an inversion in traditional roles as both groups explored what it meant to teach and learn and to consider the world from the others’ shoes.
    There were pre- and post- questionnaires and interviews conducted with all participants of the workshops, as well as ongoing informal discussions and interviews. Overall, all the participants felt that the workshops were important and that more people should be involved in the future and similar activities occur at multiple sites. They most enjoyed the discussions and interactions with each other about hip-hop and larger social issues. Based on the questionnaires, it was apparent that the adults’ views about hip-hop had changed and that they felt more able to implement some hip-hop into their curriculum. Before the workshops, they knew hip-hop “was a big deal,” but most of their information about it came from mainstream media, which tends to depict it as only about sex, drugs, and violence. After the workshop, they realized how hip-hop can truly have a social justice focus and be empowering, “…learning from the kids that they don’t’ see hip-hop as a negative thing, that they want to break away from that and promote positive hip-hop—that they’re ‘into’ spreading the word.”

    One of the main goals of the workshops had been to help the adults realize that youth had expertise and knowledge to share, that they were not the ever-present “empty vessels” in classrooms. This change in thinking was seen specifically in one adult teacher, as she moved from making some very deficit-oriented comments about her past students to embracing the possibilities for youth to teach her: “The best features of this activity were meeting with the students, learning about something I didn’t understand, sharing and working with the students with roles reversed. I can’t believe they didn’t even utter a swear word, nor were they swearing at us (That’s the ‘normal’ way it is every day at school.” This was from her final evaluation. Although some of her comments are laden with judgments about “her” students and not “these” students, she grew quite a bit over the workshops. This is a teacher that admits struggling with classroom management, partially because she feels like she has trouble connecting with students. Throughout the workshops, she made disparaging remarks about the students she had worked with in the past and her surprise at how great the youth in the program were. Even at the end of the program, as indicated above, she still retained some of those beliefs, she was beginning to grow and reflect on what students were capable of doing if given the opportunity. She is one of the best success stories of the workshop in that light.

    Another goal of the workshop was to help youth begin to become apprenticed into teaching roles. As the workshops continued, they became more confident in leading discussions and in interacting with the teachers. During the graffiti workshops, we could see them struggling with thinking through how to break down in teaching and assisting the adults the requisite skills in completing a graffiti mural. They enjoyed this role, though, and all of them expressed an interest in working in the future to replicate similar workshops at schools throughout the city, and there was some talk by the youth in even considering becoming teachers.
    The money was spent in paying for instructors for breakdancing and graffiti ($600), as well as four guest speakers ($100) who helped facilitate some of the field trips ($500). The allotted monetary amount was spent on journals and writing utensils ($300). All of the participants were quite excited about receiving their own journals and having a space for their thoughts, sketches, and ideas. More money was spent on mural supplies ($600) than originally budgeted, as there were a few different opportunities to work on the mural work. There were several opportunities to practice and create pieces on wood boards, but then another opportunity to create a giant mural on the back of the Alternatives’ building came up. This allowed for a more permanent and communal mural to be created where many youth and adults who were not part of the program were also able to participate in its creation. Each of the sessions was documented on audiovisual tape ($200). The participants also received copies of lessons and music CD’s for use with the lessons ($200).

    We have maintained contact with the teachers over the school year and plan on conducting follow-up workshops and hope to repeat the series this summer with previous participants as leaders. It seems clear that this is important work and was profoundly beneficial to the participants. As hip-hop becomes an increasingly larger global force and schools continue to be spaces of both collaboration and conflict, youth and adults can come together to address larger social issues and to work towards greater individual and group learning and respect. This work is only just beginning, though, and it is important that individuals and groups work collaboratively with the goal in sight of improving classrooms instruction and culture. To this end, it is important that all participants hoping to replicate similar work nurture and retain a sense of humility and a desire to teach and learn from each other, to listen, and to actively engage in allowing spaces of full participation for all participants. In today’s world, there are many barriers put into place that break down communication and understanding, and it is the hope that through work like this, those barriers can be tackled so that teaching and learning in and out of classrooms can occur.

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