‘Student Voice, Student Choice’ by Mark Galbo, Rock & Roll Academy

Mark Galbo is the founder of the Rock & Roll Academy. On Wednesday, November 11th Mark provided helpful insights on new and emerging curriculum when he participated in New Look’s panel discussion, led by UNL President Shawn Wilson, at the National Dropout Conference in Atlanta.

“I just had the honor of sharing the stage with Shawn Wilson, President of Usher’s New Look , at the 25th Annual National Dropout Prevention Network Conference. Shawn invited me to sit on a panel to discuss innovative education models, specifically peer to peer learning. New Look Alum and Atlanta Coordinator, James Harris, and MIT (Mogul In Training), Ciarah Lee of Detroit (“the Big D” as James calls it), also sat on the panel, sharing their stories with an audience of 800+ in Atlanta, Georgia.

New Look has worked with over 16,000 at risk youth and has a dropout rate of 0%(!) in their program. New Look stresses leadership, service, and above all else, helping kids find their passion. Authenticity and relevancy will lead to rigor. But first, engage the kids! Familiar with RRA Methodology, Shawn asked me to speak to how adults can facilitate student engagement.

I asked the audience of assembled educators, at the conference to address lack of student engagement and the nagging issue of a 40% high school dropout rate among African Americans (25% for whites), how many of them had heard of Sugata Mitra? Three people raised their hands. Three people out of eight hundred! I was in the right place at the right time to spread the word about Mitra’s groundbreaking work, the fact that he’s in this month’s Wired magazine’s cover article, and his epic TED Talk.

As both James and Ciarah spoke, a common theme emerged. They spoke of “getting their classwork out of the way” so they could get to what mattered to them the most…their social network within the school. I emphasized this common theme and spoke to how Rock and Roll Academy leverages the social component through peer-to-peer learning. Eliminate everything else, all the things adults think should be important to kids, and go straight to peer-to-peer learning and what students want to learn. Instead of dictating content, take it upon ourselves as educators to use our skills to facilitate student-driven learning and our knowledge to scaffold and align this now emergent curriculum with state standards.

Sorry, but we need to work harder. The linear narrative (Sir Ken Robinson) is not working for teachers anymore than it is for students. The rewards of working harder, however, will be profound and lasting. Nothing less than a return to the love and potential connection that inspired us as human beings to become teachers in the first place. James, in particular, spoke to the power and influence individual educators can have on a child. “Don’t underestimate your power”, James confidently told the audience of educators.”

Read more from Mark and The Rock & Roll Academy on his website http://www.rockandrollacademy.com/founders-blog/

2013-NDPN-Shawn Wilson James Harris Mark galbo Ciarah Lee