Last year, I walked into my Sophomore English classes to explain The Holler absolutely sure that they were going to think that the opportunity was as awesome as I did. Instead, after talking to twenty-five blank expressions for ten minutes, I stopped mid-sentence. What I had said wasn’t sparking anything in them, so I rephrased it for them with a question:
How often do you get the opportunity to create and be heard?
If you ask any teacher who has spent a few years in a classroom about the interest levels of their students, you’ll get some variation of the same answer: Some are interested in a lot of what you’re talking about, some are interested in a little bit, and some check out the minute they sit down. Those kids who check out are often the most creative souls that will walk through the door, but they suffer a bit in classrooms that run in a more traditional way.
To me, the beauty of The Holler is that it is a direct connection to the spark that those creative, non-traditional students need.
Over the course of our last school year, I had students who barely spoke in class start to write in the hope that they could publish it on The Holler. A few students collaborated on a podcast where they just talked about their reactions to movies and television shows. They had a space, suddenly, where they could just express their interests in whatever creative way they chose. On top of that, they also had access to equipment that they wouldn’t have had otherwise: audio recorders, professional film equipment, and editing software if they needed to use it. In short, I had a direct way to channel that creative spark that those quiet kids needed to excel and explore what they are capable of.
That’s not to say that the benefits stopped there: plenty of the kids who already loved Sophomore English found the opportunity exciting. Some avid readers used the site to publish video book reviews for their favorite recent reads. A trio of talented girls published a “How To Survive High School” video, some students liked to poke around on the site and see what other schools were publishing or working on, and even the students who didn’t end up publishing any material still felt the urge to create. From a personal standpoint, any student that I can inspire to create, no matter what it is, counts as a victory.
This year, I’m excited to expand out my integration of The Holler and my classes. Our focus on storytelling is going to be a perfect fit for my classes. I look forward to seeing students branch out into making a narrative happen in video format, which I didn’t see last year. Typically, students seem to think of any sort of video project as an extension of the social media they already consume: Snapchat, Twitter, and YouTube. Channeling their creative impulses into an actual narrative, rather than the small slices of life that they are so accustomed to, will be the focus of our first few weeks on this project.
If last year was the test launch for Pikeville’s Holler contributions, this year is going to be a solid maiden voyage. I’m lucky enough to have talented and hardworking students, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with.