Education According to Hamilton: Helpless

Education According to Hamilton Room Where It Happens (1)

This song is my jam! “Helpless” is the one song on the entire Hamilton the Musical soundtrack that I can quite literally listen to again and again without getting tired of it. I’m singing it at the top of my lungs on repeat number two and still going strong on repeat number ten! My own daughters know almost every word of this one, too. Check it out here (or below).

 

If this is the first time you’ve heard “Helpless”, you may be wondering how in the world this is related to education. Some of it may be a stretch, but it’s my fave and we’re going to make it work! Ha!

Everybody’s dancin’ and the band’s top volume

With some of the students that have been hardest to reach, I finally broke through with music. In fact, there was one particular student of mine last year who barely said a word all year. One of the first conversations we had was after he shared that “Guns and Ships” was his favorite Hamilton song. I had the “clean” version of the soundtrack playing – which still requires a quick song change every now and again – and he just randomly mentioned this little tidbit about himself to me. I had him. After that, we had several conversations, but that was my “in” with him. Is the class (or is it just you) having a rough day? Find some grade-level appropriate music, crank it up, and take a little dance break! Dance with them! Don’t be afraid to look silly; in fact, the sillier, the better!

I’m about to change your life.

Education has the power to change lives. Why do you think slave owners didn’t want their slaves to be able to read and write? Education is empowering! If the slaves weren’t literate, the slave owners had an advantage. This is why many slaves learned to read and write on their own, or by being secretly taught by others. Having an education provides a level of independence that one will struggle to find otherwise. I remind my students of this independence when I see their work ethic diminish at school. We chat about what’s going on, usually a less-than-optimal situation at home, and then talk about how education can get them out of that situation and possibly provide them with the means to care for themselves and their future family. Every morning we could say, “I’m about to change your life,” to our students… By all means, lead the way.

If it takes fighting a war for us to meet, it will have been worth it.

So that’s a bit extra in this discussion about education, but think of all the things in education that are a bit more difficult to do. It’s easier to teach to the average student and hope everyone else “gets” it. It’s easier to run a worksheet than to create an experience. It’s easier to maintain status quo than to put in the work to be exceptional. But you know what? Going above and beyond, teaching each individual student, creating experiences, putting in the work to be exceptional… it’s worth it. Every time. It’s worth it.

There’s nothing that your mind can’t do.

We have to believe this about our students. If we don’t believe that our students can achieve success, there’s no point in going any further. Bobby’s success may look different from Tamilia’s success, but they can both be success stories. Angel’s success might appear more like stereotypical “success” than Mychel’s success… but every success should be celebrated and we must believe that every student can reach their own success. Imagine what our classrooms would look like if we truly believed “there’s nothing that your mind can’t do” about every student… yes, even that kid.

We’ll figure it out.

I love, and I truly mean… I love when a student asks me a question that I don’t know the answer to immediately. That means we get to figure it out together. That’s one of my favorite things about the Friday afternoon game club that I facilitate. There are many games that none of us know how to play, but we figure it out together. It allows me the freedom to be a little less teacher and a little more student… try it sometime. Let your guard down and let the students lead. Learn from them. (Hey! Hamilton says it’s okay!)

What’s your educational takeaways from “Helpless”? I’d love to hear your connections! Reply below or comment on Twitter!

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