A North Carolina second-grade teacher is using rap music to help his students overcome their daily battles with poverty in order to learn and achieve their dreams of a better life.
During the Jan. 12 telecast of “Ellen,” host Ellen DeGeneres surprised South Greenville Elementary School teacher Michael Bonner with headphones, iPad minis, drones and other gadgets, as well as a check for $25,000 to help the students learn and prepare for bright futures.
Bonner said that when he first arrived at the school, students had difficulty learning the simplest subjects because many of the students lived below the poverty line.
“When I came to South Greenville, at one point in time, we used to meet in class and pray before the day,” he says. There’s barbed-wire fencing around the school, a cemetery across the street and the children come from crumbling and worn-down neighborhoods.
“Poverty has this way of disrupting the brain,” Bonner tells Ellen producers. “Trying to teach a kid that doesn’t have a home and is hungry is a different ballgame. It shows up in your classroom.”
After his students failed to grasp the who, what, when, where and why standard, Bonner decided to create a rap song. The students wrote the lyrics, shot the video and edited it. And instantly, his students showed great strides.
The video went viral and Bonner noticed a change in his students. They enjoy school now. “The video is more than just dancing. It’s sort of a celebration of the fact this school is finally making a change. They’re turning the corner. The kids are starting to read. They’re starting to defeat those statistics.”