As many of you know I used to be a high school English teacher before I started working as a copywriter. In fact, some of my most popular posts are about my experiences teaching, like when I found a highly scandalous love note in my classroom or talked about my students’ poor grammar and unconvincing plagiarism. These days I don’t think too often about my teaching days unless something happens to make me think about them, which is exactly what happened tonight. The lead story on the evening news was about the murder of a member of the rap group Cali Swag District (best known for the hit song “Teach Me How To Dougie”), and when they played the group’s video I realized one of my former students was in the group!
Upon hearing the entire story I was glad to see it wasn’t my former student who was murdered (though I was, of course, very sorry to hear about his band mate’s passing). As shocking as the news was about the murder though, I have to admit I was also a little shocked to learn that one of my former students was in a successful music group.
Looking back it does and doesn’t make sense that Corey (or C-Smoove as he is now known) ended up on MTV. On one hand I remember he would DJ after school and had developed a good following among his fellow students. He also would dance at the drop of a hat, and had pretty good moves as I remember it. On the other hand, there were other kids at the school who were much more vocal about their interest in music, and Corey was (like a lot of high school kids) a little lacking in confidence and a bit adrift at times. We had a few battles during the year – Corey didn’t have much interest in English and often seemed pretty unhappy to be there – but he was clearly a good kid at heart.
One thing I started thinking about after hearing about his group’s success was how, from time to time, I would give my students a little lecture about how they needed to focus on their school work. You see, I had far too many students who slacked off in school because they thought they’d become rap stars or NBA basketball players. I’m sure at some point I said something like:
“In case you don’t end up on MTV or in the NBA, you need to take your school work more seriously. Your future depends on it!”
Thinking about that got me thinking about all the Rolling Stone articles I’ve read over the years with artists who talked about how they hated high school, and how they had “thick” teachers who told them they would never make it.
Well, now I very well could be one of those teachers!
You know what though? That’s okay. I’m glad Corey is doing well and wish him further success, but the reality is that the vast majority of kids who blow off school because they are convinced they will make it rich in music, basketball, or some other long-shot fantasy will end up later wishing they had spent more time studying. For every Corey there are thousands who will need their education. That doesn’t mean kids shouldn’t be encouraged to follow their dreams, it just means that they should know they will need to do well in school too.
So maybe I came off a bit square when I made those lectures, but I still gave some good advice. And if that means I might end up being dissed in Rolling Stone one day, well, that’s fine with me.