New teacher Dwayne Reed wanted to put his fourth grade students at ease for the first day of school at Stenson Elementary School in Skokie, so he decided to create a 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.”
The video is called Welcome To the 4th Grade. The creative young teacher raps about himself and what his students will be learning.
Before filming the video, Reed asked the school principal for permission. He posted the video to YouTube and Facebook last weekend and sent links to the parents to show students. The video had nearly 190,000 views on YouTube Wednesday afternoon. The response has been both positive and controversial.
“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.
O’Neil said she liked the creative approach Reed took to capture the attention of his students. The staff watched the video Tuesday and applauded, she said.
On Wednesday 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.”
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.
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