Monthly Archives: June 2008

The Lil Wayne Problem

I’m young.  While I’m an adult with adult problems and perspectives, my media interests are much more in line with my students’ than my fellow teachers’ (although some teachers have remarkably cool tastes).

I try to use these interests to my teaching advantage.  If I can assess my students’ understanding of conflicts through Rob & Big, by golly, I’m going to do it.  When we watched To Kill a Mockingbird, I used a few Kanye West lyrics to relate to the themes of poverty and racism.  We listened to Rilo Riley and Ludacris to go over the role of a speaker in a poem.  Sometimes, the extra effort I put into these lessons catches a gleam in a student’s eye or gets everyone’s attention for thirty minutes, and I feel rewarded.  The fact is, though, they’re still in school.  Thinking about Lupe Fiasco lyrics is still thinking, and it hurts them.

At 26, I’m starting to see the distance between my students’ tastes and mine already, though.  Pretty soon, my cute little lessons with contemporary media will seem ancient (my Ludacris song already met its death blow: “This song old as hell.”) compared to what my students like, and I’ll be like all of the other adults in their lives, complaining that music and movies were better however many years ago.

My first realization of this came with Lil Wayne.

Hero to Suburban 9th Graders

Lil Wayne did a guest vocal on the last Kanye West CD, so I’m only vaguely familiar with him, and it’s terrible.  It’s only a verse long, but it lacks the wit and verbal acuity that draws me to the little rap I listen to.  But this guy is HUGE with my students.  They adore him.  His very recent release, The Carter III, sold more than a million copies in a week, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished in 3 years.  That’s a lot of teenagers.

The problem: he’s kind of an idiot.  Reviews have confirmed what I’ve heard from friends: Lil Wayne is half brilliant, half terrible, only I haven’t heard any of the brilliant stuff yet.  My main issue is that his style illustrates exactly the type of ignorant, barely-educated dumbassery that I urgently try to get my students away from.  Never mind the man’s well-documented penchant for drugs and guns, his egregious abuse of the English language is what’s really destroying our kids’ futures.  Let’s take a look at some lyrics:

They don’t make em like me nomore
matter fact they never made em like me b4
im rare like mr clean wit hair
no brake lighs on my car rear
i never had lice and i never had fear
i rap like i done died and gone to heaven i swear
and yere ima bear
like black and white hair
so im polar
and they cant get on my syster cuz my system is the solar
i am so far from the odar im an other
i can eat them for super get in my spaceship and hover

What the hell is that?  How can I possibly stress the importance of using English well when their hero writes like a toddler?  This isn’t a 13 year-old’s attempt to transcribe the man’s lyrics; I got this from his official website, misspellings and typos all.  It looks like he writes all of his lyrics through AOL Instant Messenger.  And they don’t make much sense.  There’s no richness to Lil Wayne’s lyrics–it’s all stream of consciousness, it seems.  Which is fine, in its own way, I guess, but it leaves me with a very difficult reality to battle:  Just make up stuff as you go along, don’t bother revising or spelling anything correctly.  It works great for Lil Wayne.


Principal Futureman

A grad school project last semester asked us to reflect on our growth as a teacher through a digital journal or video. We were asked to take pictures during our student-teaching experience, but I didn’t. So instead of reflecting on my growth as a teacher now, I thought I’d look into…the future.


Unsolicited Praise

One of my 10th graders’ last assignments was to write a “closure letter” to the class, saying goodbye, reflecting on the good times, etc. Some were nice enough to mention me:

“Señor Harding. What can I say. You have given me alot. Chance after chance, you never give up on me and I wanna thank you for that. And there’s something Ive been really wanting to thank you for is the talk we had earlier. That meant alot to me. Every last word of it and i’ll keep it close to me. Thank you.”

“This has been my favorite class since you’ve gotten here. You have made this class really fun and you have put up with every annoying person in this class. You are a great teacher and it’s too bad you won’t be teaching us next year.”

“Anyone who can handle us as a class had to be a good teacher.”

“I’m going to miss Mr. Hardings weird movies and his awesome outfits.”

“Mr. harding is one of the best english, but you have made me understand english even know I dont like english. But overall this class was one of my favorits.”

“But there is somebody who has helped me out even more than that, and that would be Mr. Harding who has helped me to become a better writer just by giving me tips and telling me to turn in assignments even if they are late.”

“Mr. Harding you were the nicest teacher that taught me and the meanest. But that is because you cared.”

“Mr. Harding your a good teacher, but I didn’t learn anything.”

“For the first half of the year, I dreaded going to Lit class, it was super boring and our work just kept piling up. After Christmas break, Mr. Harding came in and took over. Since Mr. Harding came my grade has gone up 40 points. Not only my grade go up, I’ve learned so much; life lessons, things having to do with school and I’ve made some really good friends. I have come to love and appreciate my fourth period Lit class. I feel that in Harding’s class we’re more then just stupid kids that goof around. Everyone in here has so much potential. Mr. Harding really does care about all of us. This class has gone from my least favorite class to the best class I’ve ever been in…

I want to especially thank you Mr. Harding. You have taught me how to open up and express myself, you were always there for my bad days. and you always made it a little better. You’ve me how to challenge myself in so many ways. I’m sorry about all the days I was a bitch and days when I didn’t do anything but make noises and talk. This is my favorite class and you are my favorite teacher.”

“Mr. Harding made it to where I was finally passing the class.”

“Through Mr. Harding’s teaching and talks the class went through a change, we became a family. We started getting a view to peoples souls.”