Free To Be Me!

collaboration real-world learning songwriting May 04, 2020

'Write a song contrasting how you feel learning with your lights dim to learning with your lights fully switched on.'

This brief was given to three teenagers in our community, none of whom were confident writers, nor had ever made a song before. All stepped up, bravely sharing their true feelings about learning. 

Working during lockdown, the group met online. In that creative learning space, a little bit of Lights On® magic occurred.

James (14) recalls, “When I heard about the project I was like, no way am I doing that! I can’t sing and I hate writing. But then I thought about songs having a rap section. Maybe I could do that.”

Out walking after dark, James started skipping. “The rhythm of the skip made me think of songs.” Reminded of the project, he began putting words together. Mum, Lisa, says, “When I heard about the project, I knew James wouldn’t sing but watching him work out how he could be involved and the fun he had with the process was fabulous!”

For Maria (15) inspiration also hit whilst outside. Initially, Mum, Dawn, was hesitant about her involvement, wanting to protect her dyslexic daughter. Recognising her own negative thoughts, she pushed through her resistance, passing on the creative invitation. Maria jumped at the chance. Early each morning she worked on the lyrics, recrafting three drafts.

When parents empower their children to believe in themselves, they can step up to take risks with their learning.

Megan (15) was uncertain at first, but kept engaging. Facilitator and Lights On® University mum Angela, asked her to imagine she was at school when her lights were off. I asked her to climb into that space, look around her, see what was there. Then I asked her to move into a lights on learning space. What did that look like? How did it feel? That seemed to really help her.”

Megan went on to produce some lovely lyrics.I found the experience enjoyable and exciting. It was fun to collaborate with other people. I am happy I got to be part of it. I like how it has had a positive impact on people.

The experience was also formative for Angela. “It was an eye-opener into the world of possibility; if you take one step and commit, slowly something beautiful will unfold. These teenagers didn’t know the ending, even if they could do it. There was fear and trepidation. But as they took each brave step, they came up with these beautiful words.”

“I used to write songs, but I haven’t for years, and not in a group scenario. It was new for me as well. Working in a zoom room with three teenagers is nerve-wracking. The joy of seeing these young people develop was rewarding, to be part of their growth and have them be a part of my growth too.”

The youngsters had delivered on their brief. Now it was Angela’s turn to step up and pull it all together. “You do the music so they can see how wonderful their lyrics are.” Angela recalls she had one night to come up with the melody. “That, for me, was huge. I couldn’t believe I actually managed it.”

Everyone involved grew in the process. “The enjoyment is heightened by working together in a collaborative way. You draw on each other’s strength. The kids’ superpower was writing the words. My superpower was bringing the music to the mix. My husband got involved and brought the technical side. So it became a much bigger experience. It turned into a beautiful story. I’m very grateful to have been part of it.” 

“I think there was something powerful about them having the space to give voice to their own experience. And to hear that sung back to them. These moments were very emotional for us all.”

James’ Mum said his face hearing the final song was priceless. “All the training from Lights On® has paid off. James is really good at working around projects with confidence and resilience.”

Maria, too, was happy with the result, and surprised that she could write lyrics. She liked having her ideas heard. Mum Dawn concludes, “The song demonstrates that true learning is being free to learn in their own way, not just in its message but in the way it was completed.”

Facilitating an environment in which learners feel free and enabled to share the gifts they carry within is what Lights On® learning is all about. 


Alice Khimasia
Seeing her eldest son's lights go out when he was 7, Alice took action to ensure his freedom to learn. She has been speaking and writing about her family's learning adventures ever since, and gave a TEDx talk in 2016. Alice is part of our Lights On® Academy and lives with her husband and 4 Lights On® Learners in the West Midlands.


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