My favorite movie of 2018 is the Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper film, A Star is Born. This is a remake in it’s fourth version. Seems there is a version of this story every generation and I think that is not a mistake. Each generation needs their A Star is Born moment to reinforce how we all eventually take the stage and change the world.
My favorite scene is where Gaga, a waitress by day and lounge singer by night is wooed by Bradley Cooper to join him on stage to sing a collaborative song, Shallow. The song is a soaring and beautiful opportunity to have Gaga introduce herself to the world. At first she refuses to go on stage but at the encouragement of her friend and Cooper’s Jaxson Mayne she eventually goes to the mic and begins singing. As she starts a cheer rises from the audience, she looks at Cooper, gathers herself and then roars into the refrain. The crowd comes to its feet, she knows she belongs, she reaches higher and higher and her stardom is complete.
But she just did not stroll on stage without a lot of things happening which put her in position to succeed. First, she was singing on the regular giving her a chance to be discovered by Cooper’s character. Second, there was a person who understands talent and wants to help her cultivate it (Cooper). And third, Gaga gets an opportunity to show her talent to the world and uses that moment to her greatest advantage.
As I watched the movie I could not help but think about our students and if we work hard enough to allow students to have their Star is Born moment. As I see it, students need not only their moment to shine but their opportunity to put in the work to get there. However, many times we are not focusing on how to create the conditions so our students can get there. Unlike Gaga, where luck and coincidence seemed to play a big part in her discovery I believe if we do our jobs right as educators we can create the conditions where discovery can be expected and not hoped for.
I believe there are four essential ingredients to get students to their Star is Born moment;
1. We need to create opportunity for students to learn and practice without the restraints of cost or inequity. This means we need to increase access for all students and keep moving in a more affordable direction. Too many times we can get students tuition and fees but many students still struggle to make ends meet and often do not have the resources to have time to practice and learn.
2. We need to commit ourselves to cultivating talent by inserting ourselves into our students lives beyond the business of classes. Mentorship is a key to talent development and increasing student efficacy. When we mentor students and coach them along students can see where they have opportunities for growth and understand how they are talented even absent a direct awareness of that talent.
3. There needs to be a stage for students to soar. We need to give students opportunities to showcase their talent and to gain confidence in their work and talent. When Gaga took the stage she was nervous at first but even by the last note of the first song she felt confident and understood she belonged. We need to provide that stage.
4. We need to work with our students with honesty and assess their work so each student can see where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Only after we present this assessment can students take stock of their talent level and understand how they can improve and grow. We also give our students an opportunity to develop a sense of self-assessment so in the future they can stay true to their path and understand what they need to get to the next level.
If we all think back there is a time when we had our Gaga moment and our students deserves the opportunity to have their moment. If we work to create the conditions that matter then our students will be ready to take the stage.