Why Teachers Should Embrace Youth Culture Power

Youth Culture Power: A #HipHopEd Guide to Building Teacher-Student Relationships and Increasing Student Engagement by Jason D Rawls and John Robinson

Teachers are using hip-hop in innovative ways in the classroom to not only connect with their students but to also give them voice. It’s about time that two musical artists in this genre combined their knowledge and experience in the classroom into a great work of art. Hip-hop fans get a great album and teachers get a scholar book showing them how to embrace youth culture power in their practice.

The first step to doing this is to simply listen to our students.

“Through paying attention to how youth express themselves through dress, music, activities even down to what apps they use can give teachers insight to help them become better readers.”

And to recognize that the youth we serve have a distinct culture.

“This idea of youth having a common culture is exhibited in their fashion, creative consumption, hairstyles and overall identity (Willis, 2002). Willis (2002) goes on to describe common culture as a manifestation of how young people change the world around them to match their own interpretations. Dimitriadis (2001) adds that only by understanding these modes and themes of common culture can we understand young people and figure out how to work with them. With these ideas in mind, it seems to us that it only makes sense that we as educators should make an attempt to understand the common culture of young people.”

Teachers can also take a note from hip-hop producers who borrow and layer musical elements from a variety of different sources

“In Hip-Hop music, beat makers sample notes and sounds from another source and proceed to chop and layer it to create new soundscapes. In this same sense, teachers can sample bits and pieces of information from old and new sources to layer new frameworks in which students can learn.

Let’s embrace the culture of the youth

“Since this generation moves to the beat of their own drum, why not embrace this? Embracing youth culture takes pressure off the teacher because instead of always saying “no”, the teacher can ask youth to define why they do what they do. Teachers should have students explain why they have that Fidget Spinner. Tell them to describe why they enjoy trying to flip the bottle of water. By embracing youth culture, we mean teachers should be learning about the beliefs, values, characteristics and behaviors of this generation from their students.”

And build great relationships and bridges to learning

“All of the above ideas align with the concept of building relationships with students. Teachers who seek to build relationships can gain helpful information about their students just by listening to what they are talking about in the classroom. We call this ‘listening with an open ear.’ In our song “Classroom Chatter,” we verbalize that teachers should mostly just listen. What we mean by this is, pay attention to what is going on in your classroom. Observe what your students are doing, who they speak to and the topics about which they speak. Allow students to speak about what is on their mind. This can give you subtle and sometimes very noticeable opportunities to make a difference in your classroom.”

This book is a scholarly work with opinions backed up by research and personal experience. It is a great read with practical ideas and solutions we can all use to become better teachers. I took quite a few notes as I read and plan to share more of their insight when the school year starts back up and I resume my Teaching Tip Tuesday series.

We can all learn something from these hip-hop artists and from our students. So, let’s embrace Youth Culture Power and turn up the music just a little bit louder.

Hear my exclusive interview with the authors as we talk about teaching, music, and their new book.

Order the book and album from Jay Are’s website.