Don’t worry, series on digital tools and activities in the classroom. I’m coming back for you soon. It’s just that I’m so in love with Louder Than a Bomb, MA!
After years of enthusiasm and respect for Boston’s Louder Than a Bomb (LTAB) scene, which is something I’ve expressed in an earlier post, I finally got the opportunity to be an infinitesimally small part of it. This past Friday night, I showed up at UMass Boston to judge a preliminary slam between 3 different Boston high schools. And I have to tell you; I was completely unprepared for what those kids did up there.
What I experienced was an incredible group of humans from all walks of life coming together to celebrate vulnerability, difference, and community. The raw honesty and talent that these students courageously shared in front of everyone floored and humbled me. With their words and their performances, they truly moved the room. Tears and heartfelt connection ran rampant. It was a glimpse of what life could be if we would just listen to one another.
Among many other things, this experience has served to reinforce my passionate belief in the critical importance of creative expression and composition in the high school curriculum. While often thought of as a lesser or more frivolous form of academics, creative writing like the kind promoted by LTAB gets kids to dig deep into themselves. It teaches them to share their issues and to really hear the issues shared by those around them. The topics addressed by the kids at LTAB are real; every high school student out there is wrestling with at least one of them in some way. Violence, abuse, depression, anxiety, troubled home life, substance use. The list is endless and viscerally real for our students. Programs that promote expression and vulnerability are often some of the only chances these students will have to confront their struggles with these issues, connect with their community, and overcome the factors that work against their success. This Atlantic Monthly article goes into much more articulate depth on the necessity of creative writing than I will in this post, but suffice it to say that the power and the honesty that the LTAB kids brought to the stage inspired me to continue and even escalate my promotion of creative expression in our high schools.
Ultimately, for these students to allow me to be there, witnessing their testimonies to their lives and experiences, was such a profound reminder of the gravity and complexity of the teacher’s calling and vocation. We all, myself included, need to hear from students like the ones I interacted with at LTAB to remind us of our responsibilities as educators. In my own understanding, those responsibilities can be summed up in a single goal: to be our best for them. They deserve it and I don’t know that we live up to the challenge often enough. At least for my part, I can commit to saying that, if and when I fall short, it won’t be for lack of trying to be what they deserve.