BY LEONOR VIVANCO
Give the new teacher an A for effort.
Dwayne Reed, who said he was “more excited than nervous” about starting this week as a fourth-grade student teacher for the fall semester at Stenson Elementary School in Skokie, Ill., made a three-minute rap video to welcome his 24 students and introduce himself.
So long, printed newsletter. Hello, fun music video.
“I didn’t want it to be boring and super old school,” said Reed, 25. “I wanted to get them jazzed about coming to fourth grade.”
In the video, he sings a catchy chorus, “Welcome to the fourth grade. So happy to meet you. Can’t wait till I see you. We’re gonna have a good time.”
He raps about himself as well. “Hello I’m your teacher. My name’s Mr. Reed and it’s very nice to meet ya. I’m from Chicago. I love eating pizza. I dress to impress but I still rock sneakers. It’s my first year of teaching so it’s all really exciting.
“I’ve got some ideas and I’d really like to try them like making songs to remember what you hear. We’ll be learning so much by the end of year,” he says in the video, which he filmed at the school with the help of a producer and director.
‘Uplifting and creative’
He posted the video to YouTube and Facebook last weekend and sent links to the parents to show students. (The video had more than 750,000 views on YouTube this week, http://bit.ly/2bUZ52a).
“What I would want to come across is that the person that is going to be leading you this semester is so pumped about serving you,” said Reed, who will be paired with another teacher in the classroom.
“We can have fun and we can joke and we can be hardworking as well.”
Before filming the video, Reed asked the school principal for permission.
“We loved the idea, so we encouraged him,” said Sue O’Neil, who has been principal at Stenson for 22 years. “Of course, we had no idea it would take off like this. When we saw it, it was uplifting and creative, and it’s a great way to connect with the kids and get them excited about school,” she said.
Didn’t like school
O’Neil said she liked the creative approach Reed took to capture the attention of his students. The staff watched the video and applauded, she said.
On Aug. 23, he got to meet his students and their parents for the first time at a meet-and-greet.
“They’re the sweetest things,” Reed said of his students. “This is like what I’ve been made to do in life and now I’m finally getting a shot at it.”
After he completes his student teaching, he will receive his bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Eastern Illinois University.
Originally from Chicago Heights, Reed now lives in Skokie.
When he was younger, Reed was indifferent about school.
“I didn’t like it and I didn’t hate it. I just kind of showed up and I knew it was something I had to do,” he said.
But he wants a different experience for his students.
“I want my students to know somebody loves you and is pulling for you. … I want you to enjoy being in the room as much as I enjoy being with you,” he said.
Outside of the classroom, Reed records music for fun with his friends.
This video — his first — wasn’t without controversy. Reed said the song has a melody he sang often but didn’t know how it originated. After seeing the video, his friend said it sounded familiar. Reed said he later realized the tune sounded similar to Michael Jackson’s song “Will You Be There.” “It was no attempt to copy, steal and riff or anything,” he said.
He’s not selling the “Welcome to the 4th Grade” song and instead is making it available to download for free.
So how would he grade himself on this project?
A solid B, he said. Next time, he wants to include school staff, students and their families.