Two nights ago I received a notification that Shad was announced as the new host for Q- one of CBC Radio’s flagship shows. I was beyond excited. I also realized that a year has come full circle.
Where to begin… let’s go back to a year ago…
I had heard Shad’s song “Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins)” on the radio and wanted to use the song with a class. But who would be willing to use a hip-hop song as a lesson in the classroom? There was only one person who came to mind. Someone I knew who loved hip hop as much as I do and would be happy to use it.
I approached my friend and colleague, Ms. G and asked if she had heard the new song. She said she hadn’t but she would get to it. Everyday I asked her. Everyday she said she would get to it. Finally, she came into the library for her planning time and I pulled up the video for her to watch.
By the end of the video, we had pulled up the lyrics, we had made our own connections to the song and started asking questions:
“What does it mean…?”
“Why did he say…?”
I was so excited that when I saw Ms. G in the afternoon, I asked when she wanted to do the lesson. She said she already started the lesson. Of course! This song was a goldmine of lessons. I asked her how it went and she said her students were totally engaged. (At this time, I should say that Ms. G was a grade 7 teacher). The students were going home to research some of the ideas from the song and ask their parents about their immigrant stories.
For a week, Ms. G worked with her students as they asked questions, researched ideas and looked into Shad’s lyrics. When Ms. G. came back to the library, her enthusiasm was so infectious, we joked that we should go to a Shad concert. So, we sat at the computer and googled Shad’s concert schedule. And there it was, right in front of us. He was going to perform at the Danforth Music Hall on a Friday night in a couple of weeks. We had to go.
It was at that moment that I shared my story of baking cookies for Sharon, Lois & Bram (my favourite childhood music group) and delivering them at a show. And a few weeks later, I received a postcard from them. Enough said.
Ms. G.’s students’ each chose a line from the song “Fam Jam” that meant something to them and wrote about it’s meaning to them. Unfortunately, I don’t have copies of the students’ work but there’s more to that story. They weren’t meant for me anyway. They were written to and for Shad to read.
Ms. G and I composed a letter to Shad about how his music has made a difference to her students and how we would love to hear from him. We signed our names and headed to the concert.
When we arrived at the venue, we had to figure out how to get the big envelope to Shad. Of course, in our dreams, we would be asked to deliver the work straight to him and profuse our admiration for his work and how he inspired a group of students. We approached an official looking person with a headset, who said she was part of his team and would personally deliver the envelope. Ms. G handed over the envelope and we headed to the swag station. We purchased Flying Colours sweatshirts. On our way to our seats, we bumped into the girl with the headphone and she said the envelope had been delivered. Ms. G and I were giddy, thinking we may get a shout out during the concert or something.
The concert was great. Shad got the crowd on its feet and Ms. G and I were amazed by his freestyle rap and his intellect. We left the concert on a high and couldn’t wait to share our stories with the students on Monday.
A few weeks go by and we hadn’t heard from Shad. And then on Valentine’s Day (this part is true) we received the best gift for our hearts. Shad had emailed both of us with gratitude for sharing the students’ work. But best of all, since he lives on the West Coast, could he have a Skype/FaceTime date with our students?
Let the celebration begin! Ms. G worked with her students, encouraging each student to ask one question and a couple of students prepared a speed round, with hopes that Shad would freestyle rap.
This occurred approximately a year ago. Just before March Break. And it was a highlight in my career as a middle-school teacher-librarian. Ms. G and I had created an authentic lesson with a current song that spoke to us and our students. Then, Shad lifted it to a higher experience by gifting our students with his time.
On my way out that day, a new student to the school, and new to Canada, was waiting for his parents to pick him up. I asked him what he thought of the experience. A huge smile lit up his face and he said, “It was the best day ever at school.” Then, I asked him if he is a bigger fan. He continued to smile and replied: ” A fan for life.”
I think radio listeners will become fans for life. Thanks for the inspiration, Shad!
Update: Found this short gem of Shad freestyling for the students. Thanks Ms. G. for filming: