I want to go back to Fourth Grade and be a student in Mr. Reed's class








An excellent teacher is solid gold. The impact on their students is endless.

The affects can't be measured because they linger long beyond the school years and last a lifetime. That's a pretty powerful position to be in.

From what I've seen in less than three minutes of a music rap video, Mr. Reed looks like he's heading straight to the head of the class.

When I read his story in the Chicago Tribune and watched his rap video on You Tube, I was moved to return to fourth grade for a repeat, even though I completed fourth grade in 1963,

Dwayne Reed, from Chicago Heights, a twenty-five year old student attending Eastern Illinois University, began student teaching last week at Jane Stenson Elementary School in Skokie.

Student teachers do not get paid, of course. This is their time to gain experience, learn, grow and prove themselves in the classroom before graduating and striking out on their own. The textbooks don't prepare them for the real school world. It's sink or swim time.

You can never be late. You must be over prepared. A lesson you think will take an hour will be finished in twenty-two minutes. Now what? Then a parent will show up to observe you. Then the principal. The fire drill alarm goes off. Eddie just vomited all over his desk. Emily is crying because she forgot her lunch money. The field trip permission slips were due in the office yesterday. Book orders need to be submitted to the PTO by noon. Oh, no, we were supposed to be in the art room nine minutes ago. Why did I go into teaching? I can't do this another day. I'm falling apart.

No you're not.

Student teaching is hell. But the good ones stick it out, survive and thrive.

My second career after having children was to work in local elementary schools for about sixteen years as a substitute teacher. I worked with student teachers. A few, perhaps, should have chosen a different field. Most were born to teach and went on to achieve great success in the classroom. It's an extremely hard job to pull off when done well.

Most people wouldn't make it through a Monday morning.

I've always said the easy part is the actual teaching. All the planning and preparation is where the real work comes in. That all takes place after hours or at the crack of dawn. Often both.

Teachers teach the future leaders of our country every single day.

As well as every future doctor, trumpet player, dentist, economist, mechanic, plumber, airline pilot, psychologist, MLB short stop, veterinarian, electrical engineer, journalist, firefighter, marketing executive, ballet dancer, lawyer and chef.

They also inspire their students to eventually become teachers themselves.

They say you can't always remember who won the Super Bowl last year or the Oscar for Best Picture, but everyone remembers their favorite teacher.

Sister Benedicta. Junior Year. Elizabeth Seton High School.

I'll wager that within five years, Mr. Reed will receive a Golden Apple Award for excellence in teaching.

This is like what I've been

made to do in life

and now I'm finally

getting a shot at it.

Dwayne Reed

His forward thinking principal, Susan E. O'Neil, gave him permission to videotape his music rap at the elementary school to "welcome"  twenty-four fourth graders to his classroom this fall.

A link was sent to the parents of his future students to view this video ahead of time. It was unanimously applauded by everyone that watched it, including the staff at Jane Stenson Elementary School. Congratulations to all of them for giving Mr. Reed such a warm welcome.

Most teachers introduce themselves at the beginning of the school year with a written handout geared towards the parents. Mr. Reed's rap video speaks directly to his nine year old students.

I'm just guessing, but it probably took a few weeks to write, produce, add music, film and edit this video. Remember, he isn't getting paid.

Mr. Reed said himself that he wasn't such an enthusiastic student as a kid. That's why he wants to be a motivating teacher.

He's funny. He's approachable. He seems kind. He wears goofy glasses and a silly wig. He goes out on a limb. He will win these kids over the second they walk inside his classroom, sneakers and all. He won me over in about twenty seconds flat.

Just to hear the words, "Welcome to the Fourth Grade," tells kids that someone is excited to have them in their classroom and that they are eager to spend the school year together. After all, don't we all want someone to say to us, "I'm so glad you're here!"

Twenty years ago, we had a long distance move from Atlanta back to the Chicago area. Two weeks later, on the first day of fifth grade, I walked my daughter to her new school to ease her fears.  I found her teacher on the playground, introduced my daughter and myself and made small talk. Once the bell rang, the students lined up to enter the building with that "first day excitement" on their faces, fresh haircuts, new gym shoes and Batman backpacks. I will never forget what happened next. Her teacher turned to me and quietly whispered, "Now I can't smile until Thanksgiving."

Really? That makes you a good teacher to be stern and fearful? Is this Catholic School back in the 50's and 60's? Fifth grade students can't have a teacher that cracks a smile? Maybe we should turn around and move back to Atlanta. Georgia's teachers smiled.

Thankfully, there was a plethora of kind teachers that did smile and so we stuck it out.  But those words on the playground still haunt me. A teacher can be kind, loving, warm and smile and still be an excellent teacher. I can't imagine feeling comfortable with a teacher that was rigid, cold and unapproachable. If I feel that way as an adult, can you imagine a child?

Mr. Reed raps:

So happy to meet you,

can't wait 'til I see you.

I'll greet you with a smile.

He doesn't need to wait until Thanksgiving to smile.

Dr. Kevin O'Connor, the BEST principal I ever worked for, (now retired) smiled all the time. He has a great voice and often sang to the entire school at assemblies in the gym at Maplewood Elementary School. He believed that all children learned differently according to the "theory of multiple intelligences," with music being a very powerful style of learning. I shared the video rap of Mr. Reed with him. He also wanted to be a student in his classroom or would have hired someone like him to be on his staff.

Of course he would and often did. Also the BEST staff I've ever worked with.

Mr. Reed raps that his classroom will make music and write songs to help them remember what they are learning. Countless kids have learned the names of the United States Presidents and the Fifty States from singing about them rather than memorizing proper nouns. Hell, I still remember jingles from television commercials back in the sixties but can't remember what day it is. I'm a "musical learner" myself even though I can't play a single instrument and sing like a walrus.

He's not all fun and games. Respect one another. Respect him. Respect yourself. Respect the staff. Respect the school. Follow the rules. Write papers. Learn fractions. Do science experiments. Work hard.

The best teachers

teach from the heart,

not from the book.

Author unknown

I can't imagine a single student not learning from being in his classroom. When a teacher has command of the students, engages them, uses humor and eliminates fear or shame if a mistake is made, they can't help but absorb what is being taught.

I have that much faith in Mr. Reed.

Perhaps he can squeeze in another desk for me and make his class size twenty-five?

The best of luck to you and your students in Fourth Grade, Mr. Reed. Don't get discouraged on a bad day or during a difficult moment which are guaranteed in the field of education. You'll get through that with an A+.

Hurry and get that degree so you can finally get paid for your hard work, passion and dedication.

Watch his "Welcome to the Fourth Grade" video here:


Now, what about that pizza? May we please have a classroom Pizza Party for earning 5 Gold Stars for good behavior?


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