Jacob Gebrewold is an excellent human being. I can feel it. Emma and I recently had our second meeting with him at the Starbucks adjacent to Chapters, and I was struck by his charisma, as well as the effort and planning that he is putting into our relationship. What I first thought was going to be just another writing session has turned out to be seminars on life, networking, and relationships; and that is not even getting into the poetry side of things!
On an unrelated note: clear communication is a beautiful thing, so all questions from here out will be clearly marked.
1) What went particularly well during your mentoring sessions?
The two mentoring sessions Jacob has facilitated thus far have been incredibly successful, because of his structured lesson plan that he brings to the table every single time- he knows what he’s doing. He assigns us homework (reading leadership literature & organizing poetry slams at Gleneagle & Workshopping w/ Emma), and we are slowly working our way through our curriculum- yes he has a curriculum- and everything is just dandy.
Jacob is very, very good at what he does. I didn’t really realize at first how lucky Emma and I to have this opportunity… Jacob is the Founder and Captain of the Port Moody Secondary Poetry Team; which won Hullabaloo in it’s first ever year, mind you. He won the Vancouver Youth Grand Slam, and to top it off he has gone on international tours as an activist poet.
On to question #2.
2) Were you candid and open in your communication with each other? Explain.
We were incredibly open and candid with each other from the very start. For example, the first exercise he had us do was write down a pros/cons list of who we are as people. This was difficult and draining, but it made us comfortable with each other pretty darned fast.
3) What did you do to hold yourselves accountable for the learning?
For the first time ever, I am using a planner. This is not completely due to Jacob, TALONS has helped considerably, but I think there is a correlation, at least.
Mill’s Ideology in a nutshell could be defined by the statement: “For the Greater Good.” Why try to make peace with your warring neighbors when you can massacre most of them quickly and efficiently?
Afternoon TALONS will understand this meme without the need for explanation, but essentially, during a class discussion on ethics with regards to ‘insert sarcasm here’ the greatest humanitarian ever, Christopher Columbus; Emma, thinking no one would hear, quietly spoke: “It’s easier to just kill everyone.”
Now, because I don’t want Emma to be investigated because of the lack of vocal inflection in the written language, I’ll make sure I clearly state that she was not serious.
In our TALONS Social Studies *cough* Philosophy *cough* class I recently came across one of the more intriguing ethical dilemmas that history can throw at you: Is the mindset of accepting atrocities as the price for greater human progress still with us today?
To answer this question, I must first separate it into chewable bites.
1) What, in clearly defined terms, is this “Mindset?”, and
2) How do we (dis)prove that we have evolved from our oftentimes, seemingly barbaric roots?
The latter is rather difficult to address, however the former can be shown very cleanly by the piece of media above: “It’s easier to just kill everyone.” This statement demonstrates the disconnect between what I, and many others regard as moral (e.g. not aimlessly murdering), and the concept of efficiency = good.
Keeping that in mind, I can now examine whether that ideology of seeing atrocities as acceptable when needed, has changed since Columbus.
I understand I will not be fully accurate, especially seeing as I live as a privileged, white male who arguably has never experienced true hardship; but I shall remain a student of perseverance.
The reason it is difficult to find out whether or not we accept atrocities as: uncool, but okay if it brings us new stuff- is mainly that history is generally dehumanized. Howard Zinn futilely attempted to ignore the effect that examining the past has on the story itself, but to no avail. Bias leaks through, and the humanity of it always, always bleeds away. Despite remaining consciously aware that it is happening, you can read about the most awful events to ever occur in human history and feel less emotion than you would if you stubbed your toe.
“Those tears, that anger, cast into the past depletes our moral energy for the present.” -Howard Zinn
The past simply does not bring up the emotion that the present does, and so it is frustrating to answer Question #2 because you cannot examine history and identify the feelings that it conjures up. So you have to look at the present. Anyone can do this, in fact, I recommend that you attempt this for yourself in a second: really think about the world, think hard about something that is happening right now, or something that you could postulate happening in the future.
For example, think about the revolutions in the Middle East: does the deposition of corrupt governments justify the thousands, or tens of thousands of people that have died and are dying?
Or what if North Korea did actually initiate war instead of only threatening it? Personally I can’t see an outcome where North Korea emerges victorious, but again: does the reintegration of a culture back into the international world actually outweigh the lives lost, the families ruined, the homes destroyed?
When I think about these questions, I get angry because my answer seems to vary depending on how empathic I feel that day, which isn’t exactly ideal for when you want to write down something concrete.
But ultimately, the answer is something personal. So if you want to find out, close your eyes, do you best to imagine those scenarios, and feel.
And then take those feelings and dissect them with cold, hard logic.
In my introductory post I briefly touched on the fact that after Emma and I had presented our poems at the Poetry Slam downtown, an older youth approached us and asked us a few questions.
“You guys were fantastic! You must be veterans at this, right?”
“Umm… nope. This is our first time.”
“No way! How old are you guys?”
“We are in grade 9…?”
“WHAAAAAT! That’s adorable! Ohmygoodnessgracious that is so awesome! You guys are going to go far… how would you guys like to workshop with me?” This is where Emma and I realized exactly what was actually happening. And so…
“Well, actually… blah blah blah… so the point is for our school project we are looking for a mento-”
“Sounds great! When can you guys meet up?”
And that is how we met Jacob.
So far, he seems really, really great. We’ve had one workshop with him so far, and it was incredible. He began by speaking about how eventually, workshops with him will leave poetry behind and just start to be about life… he actually founded the Port Moody Secondary Slam Poetry Team, and he gave us tips on how to start a club at Gleneagle (next year is coming soon!). After charming the librarians at the Coquitlam Public Library into giving us a room, he began by opening up John C. Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.
“This book is my bible. My testament. It will help you with your poetry, creating a club, and it will make your life indescribably better. When we meet again in two weeks, you guys must have a copy of this. You can either get a copy from the library or, I recommend, buy it. If you have not gotten a copy, our next workshop will be very short. Do you understand?”
Although this may sound harsh, I was actually surprisingly happy to hear it. It showed how serious he was and how serious he expected us to be about the whole shebang.
After putting his book away, he made us create lists of our strengths & weaknesses with regards to poetry. Upon reading them:
“Oh YES. You guys are just like me when I first started out. If I put you two together and made you black, you’d be me.”
He has a curriculum for poetry, which has four pillars, and despite only getting a taste at that first session I am excited to learn the rest. So far this whole poetry experience has been amazingly surreal; he is a wonderful mentor, everything I could have asked for, and his teachings are going to improve both Emma’s and my poetry by leaps and bounds.
He is on the right: Jacob Grebewold w/ Ralph Aguila – Beautiful Homeland
Finally… he spoke to us about the provincial competition. Emma and I have formed a team! Gleneagle, for the first time ever, is going to be represented at Hullabaloo… so if you are reading this and you know someone at Gleneagle who really wants to do Slam Poetry maybe put them in touch with Emma or myself?
The poetry train is speeding up… here we go!
This is Emma and I’s performances from our first ever Poetry Slam! Emma came in 1st place and I 4th. Check ’em out, and please post a comment with feedback/things you liked!
Time, Movement of – Jamie Fajber
Construction Paper – Emma Field
Family Thing – Jamie Fajber
Yellow – Emma Field
If you did watch those… thanks!