I met Jermaine yesterday at a birthday party and asked his family if I could blog about him. He really got me thinking.

Jermaine intrigued me as he walked into the little kids’ party, high quality headphones pronounced largely on his head, connected to his iPad tucked gently under his arm. I couldn’t take my eyes off him as he found a seat all by himself and proceeded to get very busy.

His head was bobbing up and down to a steady beat, his fingers dancing all over his iPad’s screen, mouthing what appeared to be words to a song. I had to approach him. Here’s Jermaine’s passion.

Using apps on his iPad, he makes ‘sick’ hip hop beats. His Notes app consists of pages and pages of marvellously precocious and intelligent lyrics. In addition, he is in the midst of creating his own album artwork using various creative apps.

“Who taught you this?” I asked.

With a look that said, why-would-I-need-someone-to-teach-me-that, he responded, “No one, sir.”

After noticing Jermaine had an entire song about his distaste for school, how teachers ‘don’t get him’, and how he can’t wait for it to end, I felt my heart sink into my stomach.

“Are you allowed to bring your iPad to class?” I asked him. He looked at me stunned, as though he had never even considered it an option.

“No, sir.”

I proceeded to have a lengthy conversation with Jermaine (the best part was that he kept calling me ‘Sir’) and left with the strangest mixture of anger and hope for our education system.



  1. Amazing and sad at the same time.

    Ask Jermaine if he is willing to put some stuff online. I’d love to hear his music.

    If he is interested, we can ALWAYS use good beats/songs in our video games and videos.

  2. I am not sure if you read my post where I talked about the kids that are successful in spite of us? Sounds like you found one. We need to do more for the kids that have these passions already so we can build on them. My heart sunk also just reading this.

  3. Hey Royan,
    Thanks so much for sharing this post – very powerful indeed. I think it is so imperative that we check our perspectives from time to time. What are we missing by saying no to the tools our students embrace – the tools that help bring out their passion and creativity? And, what is it going to take to realize change beyond a handful of progressive classrooms? Keep telling the powerful story, Royan. It will resonate and hopefully it will ask many to rethink their practices.


  4. Schools must find alternative ways to reach all students. Jermaine should be guided to pursue his interests and we should help him develop the skills to follow his dreams. Sadly, instead we are obsessed with giving every student the same set of skills. Hopefully Jermaine will find success once he is released from school.

  5. I love how much you left unsaid in this post, Royan. This is a terrific discussion starter for a staff meeting. Even if that meeting is the last day of school, imagine if every teacher in every school left for the summer thinking about the dialogue they had just had. Imagine how many Jermaine’s might stand a better chance. Powerful!

  6. I’m glad that Jermaine has found his passion, but I’m sorry that his teachers couldn’t help nurture this passion too. I wonder if they know what he loves to do, and if they don’t, would they change their approach if they found out? It would be wonderful for them to see this blog post of yours, and maybe something WOULD change … maybe something COULD change. You never know. I like to have HOPE.


  7. Unfortunately, there are so many in our classes like Jermaine. If we look at who is really getting into trouble, bored, failing, we could trace it back to schools not teaching the way kids learn. We need to wake up and take notice of the Jermaine’s. Hopefully, he will be able to get his degree (hs) and take his passion to the next level.

  8. Another case for opening the doors of our schools and enabling students to being in their own tools for learning,
    I love the comment about using this blog post as a conversation starter at a staff meeting.

  9. Jermaine clearly has a passion that is not necessarily being met by his formal schooling. I’d like to hear him talk about his at-school music education so as to get a better understanding of how that might or might not be meshing with his own music experience.

    Certainly the front is broken on student bring-your-own-devices, and districts are wrestling with how to support the incursion of student-carried tech. But the tide is certainly moving to allow for it — and with it, a move towards more differentiated learning opportunities for our charges.

    Great post, Royan! This certainly does bring a number of issues to the fore.
    And best wishes to Jermaine!

  10. Love this post! I will let it continue to resonate within me; I sincerely hope that Jermaine and others like him will find a place to have their talents and passions nurtured. He is already on his way to a fulfilled future..just hoping that “education” doesn’t get in the way of his path.

  11. What a great post! I wonder how many teachers have either dismissed this student simply because they misunderstood him or never took the time to get to know him and his passions. I wonder what his negativity towards school looks like when he is there? Is he inattentive, disengaged, disrespectful? I wonder if anyone has ever stopped to have this type of conversation with him before and how this could impact him and his future success?

  12. Mr. Lee,

    This post really got me thinking. In a world where electronics are taking over the world, should they have a place in the classroom as well? Jermaine felt his iPad was a source of creativity and spoke to him more than his own teachers did. This would be a good tool to help Jermaine become more interested in school. It’s not that we should buy a bunch of iPads and start making everyone in class use them, but instead look at what each individual uses for inspiration and creativity and seek to use that tool in the classroom for that individual. Of course, nearly everyone would have different inspirations and it would be hard to incorporate it all in classrooms where everyone is graded equally. Maybe, though, it can become a reality one day.

    Really liked the post,

    Elizabeth Brooks

    You can follow me on Twitter at!/Lizzzybell

  13. Bugger.

    Not you Royan… this was a great post.

    Bugger. Knowing that, for Jermaine, school is not all it could or should be. It’s sad that ‘we’ as an institution refuse to actively seek the passions of those we serve and build the curriculum expectations around that. Or connect their passions to new experiences and ways of thinking or expressing.

    Still there’s hope. Because although the institution we work within is slow to change, there are more and more teachers who see their vocation as unlocking the passions and potential of the children we teach.

    Here’s wishing that Jermaine gets one of them in September.

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