BY KYLEEN GRAY
While flipping through Maclean’s Magazine a couple of years ago, I came across the article: “Rick Mercer: Why I rant. And why you should too.” I read it because I enjoyed Rick’s work – especially his rants, but I walked away thinking: hey, I could teach this.
The first time I taught the unit, we went straight to the rant. Don’t get me wrong, we took a look at Rick’s work and read the article that inspired me, but we didn’t really get into the ‘guts’ of rant writing. Nevertheless, my students thoroughly enjoyed it, and I realized a fringe benefit of asking students to rant: it gave them a voice. I especially noticed this in previously disengaged students who complained about everything from their teachers to their classmates, and of course about every school policy in existence. Ranting was their niche.
When I finally felt like I had a great grasp on my teaching, I took a giant leap and contacted Rick (we have a good mutual friend). Not only did he support my teaching with some great suggestions to add to my unit, he also agreed to judge my top three rants each time I used the unit and held a ‘ranting contest.’
Like Rick argues in his Maclean’s article, ranting is a necessary skill – one that students will use in and outside of classroom walls for the rest of their lives. It gives students the confidence they need to write and speak about something that they feel matters; teaches them to be engaged citizens. If we don’t teach our students to rant, how will they be able to stand up to their boss who has taken advantage of their hard-working nature, or the local politician who has squandered taxpayers money on fancy new signs when roads are falling apart? How will they be able to teach their kids to rant?
As 2018 begins, and we say goodbye to the Rick Mercer Show on CBC, my hope is that teachers can continue to be inspired by his rants, and encourage their students to find their voices.