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Beatboxer busts growth mindset rhymes


Kettle Lake Elementary School students named their passions while hip-hop artist Blake Brandes wrote them on a large sheet of paper: Legos, books, dogs, football, dancing and singing. To students’ delight, he launched into a freestyle rap on the spot, intertwining references to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with free throws, the Whip/Nae Nae dance and Harry Potter.

Inspired by a professor, and author Carol Dweck’s work, Brandes, known as the Doctor of Hip-Hop, is showing students how a growth mindset opens the doors to big possibilities.

“When I say beat you say box. When I say growth. You say mindset,” he called to Kettle students. “Beat!” he yelled. “Box!” they yelled back.

Blake Brandes raps at Kettle Lake Elementary School

“Growth!” he yelled. “Mindset!” they answered.

“Repeat after me: ‘When I keep going, my brain keeps growing….I don’t quit. That’s called grit.’”

Brandes is scheduled to perform 275 assemblies in 27 states this year for elementary, middle and high schools. His Kent County stops included Kentwood Public’s Valleywood Middle and Cummings Elementary in Grandville Public Schools.

“The growth mindset helps students be resilient and willing to learn new things even when they’re scared to make mistakes and scared they may not be good when they start,” Brandes said.

Hip-Hop Message Connects with Schools’ Themes

Growth mindset is a concept embraced in local schools, including at Kettle Lake where the staff has studied Dweck’s work and Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk on Grit, said Principal Sean McLaughlin. Kentwood Public Schools has also embedded Growth Mindset and Grit into instruction district-wide. It is based on ingraining the beliefs in students that they can get smarter and effort makes them stronger, which leads to higher achievement.

“Many of our classrooms share these concepts with students in an age-appropriate manner. It was impactful to have someone like Blake, who has applied the principles of grit and growth mindset to his own life, share his story with students. He demonstrated what can be accomplished with a positive, growth mindset attitude and plenty of perseverance,” McLaughlin said.

Brandes, of Berkeley, California, achieved success in music business after producing music for singer Ana Free. Their first song. “In My Place” became the hit single in Europe. “If I had told myself that I wasn’t good at music, and I had stopped before we made that song.  I would have never been able to have the life I love,” he said.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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