Last night, for family movie night, we watched a really fantastic documentary on Apple Tv. Our eleven year old daughter hasn't stopped talking about it. It was called Being Elmo and was the story of Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who brought us Sesame Street's much-loved Elmo.
The documentary tells the story of a young boy growing up in a working class neighbourhood in Baltimore. From a very young age, he was passionate about puppetry, becoming obsessed with Jim Henson's muppets as seen on a new show at the time, Sesame Street. He spent many hours designing and sewing puppets and creating their personas. His dream was to work for Jim Henson and the documentary tells the inspiring story of his path to making his dream come to fruition.
Kevin didn't have support at school, in fact he was bullied for his obsession with puppets, but what he did have were two loving parents who were strong advocates for him, encouraging and supporting him every step of the way despite the fact that wanting to become a puppeteer was an unusual dream in 1970s Baltimore.
This story resonated with me because our school is committed to helping our learners find their passions. We strive to help them identify their strengths and the things that they love doing and to celebrate each girl's uniqueness, giving them the time and space they need to really explore and become fully immersed in their passions. Each year group has a different form of passion-based learning so our girls are constantly reflecting on who they are and what makes them tick? In Year 8, our primary medium for passion-based learning is the incredible Passion Project. These are a full year self-led inquiry into one of their passions and seeing what the girls create is the hands-down highlight of my school year.
There are so many things I love about these projects and for so many reasons. My greatest fear is that education is becoming too standardised, that we are turning our learners into carbon copies of one another. I know we can all think of schools that pride themselves on creating the XXXX boy or the XXXX girl . I strive, in my classroom to do exactly the opposite, to enable and empower each of my learners to be unique and to celebrate that unique identity by becoming the very best version of themselves. I want my learners to be individuals who are aware of their strengths and are working towards finding that thing that Sir Ken Robinson refers to as The Element, the place where their strengths and passions meet.
Kevin Clash found his element and then he put his head down and walked straight towards it. Sure, the line to get there was wiggly, not straight but he never gave up, always keeping his eyes on the prize, that illusive job as Jim Henson's puppeteer.
I can't wait to share "Being Elmo" with my Year 8s.
I have lots more to say about this documentary but my 28 minutes is up. I thought I'd leave you with an Elmo clip that was a favourite of my son's not all that long ago. I hope you enjoy it!