It’s the end of the semester, and my plans of blogging each week got lost in a flurry of parenting and grading and lesson planning and committees and conferences and webinars and extra projects and why did I say yes to that and how did I think I had time for that and too much iced coffee. So it goes.
But this is pandemic pedagogy, and it’s important to at least try to extend grace to myself. The semester is never perfect, and it’s certainly not perfect in a pandemic. (And, as Michelle Nahanee recently said in a webinar about decolonization, “perfectionism is a tool of colonialism.”) At the end on the semester, there will be loose ends, unanswered emails, threads I forgot to pick back up. I don’t expect perfection from my students so I shouldn’t expect it from myself. I try to teach writing by focusing on the process. I want students to take risks, and fail, and try something new. I try to model failure myself: process-based teaching.
At the beginning of the semester, our class made a charter where we laid out 5 things I would agree to do and 5 things the students would agree to do. As one of my 5 things, I agreed to throw a class party. I gave students input and they decided a) that we should have a talent show and b) that I should sing and rap at said talent show.
Am I a good singer? No. Can I keep a beat? Also no. Can I at least stay in key? Again, no.
In fact, when I try to sing my toddler says, “No. Mommy doesn’t sing that. Google sings that.” Then, she tries to get the Google Home to sing the song. (Another sign I need to get rid of that Google Home).
But, here is a good opportunity to model failure and vulnerability and risk-taking. Also, as a child I dreamed of becoming the next Weird Al, so I was glad for the chance to write a song parody. I decided to pick something that was both relatively easy to sing and also had both singing and rapping: “You’re Welcome” from Moana. (Can you tell I have a toddler?)
My composition process took several weeks:
- I wrote the lyrics. That was relatively easy, and I awarded myself bonus points for rhyming ‘authentic’ with ‘pandemic.’
- I tried to record myself singing over a karaoke track I found, but my voice was quiet and the song was loud. Fail.
- I reached out to Dr. Gordon Cobb, who’s a genius in all things audio. Like any good educator, he expressed enthusiasm for my project and gave me a small, feasible task to do, which was to record the project in GarageBand. Lesson: don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- I refreshed myself on GarageBand and tried to sing to the karaoke track, but I couldn’t keep the timing without the lyrics appearing on the screen in the karaoke track. Lesson: sometimes you need a model to work from.
- After several failed attempts, I decided that I would just have to sing it live. That meant more practice. Lesson: when your plan goes awry, make a new plan.
- My husband helped me edit the audio files and even added a much-needed dash of autotune. Lesson: revision is important, as is asking for help.
So, at the end of the day, I have a recording of myself singing my business communication parody of “You’re Welcome.” Does it sound great and polished? No. Do I cringe to listen to it? Yeah, kind of. But I’ve never done something like this before, and it was fun to step outside of my comfort zone.
So here, for all to see, is my business communication parody of “You’re Welcome.” The lyrics are below, in case you want to sing along.
(To the tune of You’re Welcome from Moana)
Ok, ok, I see what’s happening here
You’re doing workplace writing and it’s strange
You don’t even know where to start
Well a lot can happen with a little change
Open your laptop. Let’s begin
to think of writing situations we’ve been in
We don’t have to learn it all at once
Let’s start by thinking of our audience
What can I say except you’re writing
Emails, memos, reports
Hey it’s okay, it’s okay
Just use plain language to keep it short
What has 4 steps and helps us assess
If we can trust a source? – yes
The SIFT test
When you learn someone
How can you give the credit right?
Just make sure you cite!
Oh, there are so many great ways
To quote your source or paraphrase
No one learns it all alone
Our influences help us grow!
So what can I say except you’re writing
Choosing words to fit your tone
A little bit every day,
We don’t have to do it alone
Well, come to think of it
Class, honestly do not go on and on
Keep it concise or your reader will start to yawn
Your charts, your graphs, your visuals
Use some alt text just to make them accessible
I started a blog
Did a few tries
Tried it again
Cause it’s good to revise
What’s the lesson?
What is the takeaway?
Don’t start to fret if your writing’s in disarray
Cause these headings I put in my draft
Are just one way to work through my craft
Look at you’re progress
You’re making it happen
Take a step back and you might start a’clapping
Hey, hey, hey, hey
Well, anyway let me say you’re writing
Even though the semester’s done
You’re meeting your goals, your plans
Cause you’ve worked hard and hopefully had fun
Hey everyday just say you’re writing
In a way that feels authentic
You’re doing amazing work, you’re writing
Even though we’re in a global pandemic
And thank you!