What was so inspiring about Matt Bar’s ELI Talk that I stopped all other work to write about it? Connections. As a person, I am always looking to connect myself to the ideas and world around me. This is also what I do as an educator. In every seminar I teach, each teacher mentoring conversation, each student interaction, I am asking myself:
How does this concept or idea connect to what I know?
I may not know a lot about hip hop, but I know that text! I was sitting on the edge of my chair as I heard Matt describe the word-based interactions between Rabbi Yochanan and Resh Lakish (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Baba Metzia 84a-84b) as an “original rap battle.” I had studied that same text in havruta (partner text study) just last March. And certainly not in the context of hip hop. So how exciting would the reverse inspiration be from a student: "I may not know that text, but I know hip hop!"
How can it connect to what the learner knows?
Seeing text through this lens is the kind of connection opportunity we seek for our students. As I look for multiple ways to access a text, comparing Rabbi Yochanan and Resh Lakish to Tupac and Biggie, honestly, hasn't occurred to me. But it might occur to others (as it did for Matt) and it certainly might occur to students if they are given the opportunity to interact with text in new and, maybe, surprising ways. As Matt takes his viewers and listeners from Talmud to hip hop to the importance and weight of words, I can imagine the eyes of today's generation lighting up, their interest peaked, their surprise, “Huh. This relates to my world?!?!”
How can we use this information to make new connections previously undiscovered?
Matt is exemplifying meeting students where they are to help them see Judaism through their own lens, not just the lenses that we, as parents or educators, might suggest. As a hip hop novice myself, I now have the riveting opportunity to learn with my students. If we want students to be lifelong learners, we should model how we still experience the thrill of learning something new and looking at something from a different perspective.
So where do all these connections lead? I started by connecting Matt's ideas to one of my professional goals: providing multiple pathways to access Jewish text study. I'm inspired to offer this kind of connecting opportunity to the teachers and students I have the privilege to work with. And, most importantly, I'm excited to explore these kinds of connections as one member of a larger community of learners, each of us "sharpening" each other.
Reference: ELI Talks. (2016, March 1). Matt Bar: The greatest rap battles started WAY before Tupac and Biggie... [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/bfPlQts5Nas
I'm an educational technology specialist, former elementary school teacher, avid reader, and lifelong learner.
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