On May 23, Q-Mack came to our school. Who's that? According to his website, www.qmack.com, he is "Canada's only professional basketball freestyler and premiere motivational speaker". I didn't know what to expect, as I hadn't booked him. Sometimes these kind of assemblies have minimal educational value. If you are a fan of The Simpsons, you might remember the episode (#316, "Bart the Lover") that parodies this kind of presentation with the yo-yo trick expert. Cynics might categorize this assembly exactly as that type of trivial amusement. One of the adults that saw the show compared Q-Mack to a circus ringmaster, hyping the performances. Upon deeper reflection, I realized that Q-Mack actually showed signs of a master teacher, using strategies that all educators should consider implementing in their classrooms. I'm not saying we should balance ladders on our chin, but we should employ some of the methods he used for educating and engaging.
Q-Mack had roughly four main points to make in his presentation.
a) Bullying isn't just physical; it's verbal.
b) Bullying can make your confidence disappear.
c) Learn something new and when you get it, your confidence grows.
d) "Increase the peace"; stop bullying by including people or telling adults when it occurs.
That was it. It wasn't complicated. He kept it simple. The assembly was 90 minutes and those were the key points to take away.
2) Repeat the message over and over again using different methods.
Q-Mack told a story from his childhood to illustrate the first point. He retold it several times during the assembly. He had the audience repeat key words and phrases from the anecdote. He pointed to concrete objects to jog our memories. He did a magic trick to demonstrate the second point. He created a catch-phrase that we recited. He performed another magic trick to reinforce that same point. If we were using edu-babble, we'd say that Q-Mack was differentiating his instruction. If we are auditory learners, we heard it. If we are visual learners, we saw it. If we are kinesthetic learners, we used the actions.
3) Keep 'em entertained.
Everyone from grades K-8 were transfixed for the entire assembly, even though it was long. There was something for everyone - the basketball fans enjoyed Q-Mack's tricks, the music/TV fans loved J-Box (Q-Mack's sidekick, an accomplished beatbox expert who has appeared on Canada's Got Talent), the little kids liked the slapstick humour, the big kids liked the name dropping. He brought things that interested the kids into the program. There were plenty of opportunities for audience participation, and there was a quiz with prizes.
4) Prepare them well for the assessment.
Q-Mack told the crowd at the very beginning that there would be a quiz that could earn lucky respondents some prizes. He highlightted when he was talking abou a key point that they needed to remember for the upcoming quiz. He reviewed the material several times before the quiz. Thanks to points #1-3, when it finally came time for the quiz, the students were able to articulate the answers correctly and with ease.
5) Be happy and upbeat.
Q-Mack and his posse do this show multiple times for many different schools but he acts like he is having a wonderful time and that our school is the most special group of individuals he's encountered. He seems very positive and friendly, posing for pictures, smiling and greeting the students. The kids gravitated to him like magnets. He made them want to be there.
So thank you gentlemen for your entertaining show and for giving me some food for thought. I better start practising my dribbling now.