Hip-hop often gets a bad rap for its morally questionable lyrics, but this teacher at a primary school in Bedford, Massachusetts, is using the genre to encourage good behaviour among troublesome kids.
“I’m making my decisions; I quit making excuses; My mind is like a muscle and I’m not afraid to use it,” says one lyric written from a student’s perspective.
Gabriel wanted to show pupils that being kind, respectful and hardworking are positive qualities they should be proud of.
“I’m a rapper and I know most of our children, our demographic, that’s what they listen to,” said Gabriel.
Three students, Justyn Lampkin, Ethan Hailey and Damarian Warren were chosen to feature in the video as they were often in trouble at school. Gabriel stepped in to mentor them, his motto being “excuses are bricks that build houses of failure.”
Lampkin said this phrase made him take responsibility for his actions rather than lying.
The boys’ tutor, Melissa Rossen, said she’s seen an improvement in the students’ behaviour since Gabriel started mentoring them four months ago.
“When they do an action that they know is not what they are supposed to be doing, they end up thinking about it and saying, ‘Oh, Mrs. Rossen, I’m so sorry I lied about that.’ They take ownership of what they did. He [Gabriel] took those students under his arm and said let’s become the men that we need to become.”
Gabriel, meanwhile, added:
“It’s important to me to let all the children know that your voice matters and the things you have to say and the things that you value matter. They can speak up and let people know who they are and how they’re distinct.”