‘You can just express you’; TikTok opens up new forms of expression for Burlington language arts class

What's Right with Our Schools

BURLINGTON, N.C. (WGHP) — TikTok is how 8th grade Language Arts teacher Derek Tang gets his students at Turrentine Middle School thinking.

“I’m encouraging the students to go beyond just, you know, paper and pencil, submission of assignments,” said Tang. “I’m trying to get them to think about creating their own video recordings. Maybe even using social media, like TikTok, to try and develop this creative expression and give them an outlet for their writing.”

Tang says he knows kids these days can get bored with the typical pen to paper language arts assignments. So, for summer school he’s going beyond that.

“My goal with them was talking about authentic writing, where they’re retaining the knowledge, the use of grammar, vocabulary and punctuation, but also applying writing from the heart. Be honest, be transparent. Talk about yourself, talk about your experiences and your background. And my hope is so that they look at writing as more than just an assignment, but an outlet, a creative outlet for them to express themselves.”

Students have come up with videos, poems and raps, which Tang says have impressed him. Like Demari Crump’s rap. The teenager said once he got started writing, the words began to flow, even though some of the memories they evoked weren’t always pleasant.

According to Crump:  “Everybody got a story. Everybody needs to be heard. Everybody. Everybody got a story. Everybody should, one of my personal opinions, they should tell their story, no matter how bad it is, because everybody’s a person. Everybody’s life. Everybody’s a soul, no matter what you believe in, no matter what you did, you can do, you can do the wrong thing, you can always be forgiven.”

A summer school assignment that may have opened Crump’s eyes to a career as a musician and songwriter in the future.

“Because like you can really express your personality and like, you can just express you. You can just be you.” 

That’s what Tang is hoping his students will learn from this assignment.

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