By Tom Dare
IS THIS the world’s coolest teacher? Incredible video footage shows the sassy secondary school teacher who has been causing a stir online after recording her ninth and tenth graders rapping about what they would do for their grade.
Footage shows forensic science teacher Kendrah Underwood, 37, getting her students to sing and dance about their ambitions for the year after one of her classes at Butler College Prep School in Chicago, Illinois.
The kids throw out answers such as “I’mma miss practice for that grade,” and “I’mma slap my momma for that grade,” as Kendrah makes her way around the class.
And Kendrah says that, despite it looking like a well-rehearsed routine, she had only thought about the idea a couple of days before filming.
“I’m a creative, think outside of the box educator, so when I got the green light to teach forensic science to the seniors this school year I was elated,” she said.
“I automatically started to think of creative and engaging ways to captivate my students. I thought, what would you do for that grade would be a cool concept the students would gravitate towards, and it would be a good catchy concept we could adopt as we shifted into full throttle for first quarter.
“I literally had the idea on Wednesday, ran it by the students on Thursday and recorded the two-minute video afterschool on Thursday and uploaded it to my YouTube Channel.”
By the following Sunday the video had taken off on Facebook, receiving over five million views, and Kendrah says that activities such as this one are one of the main reasons she loves teaching so much.
“I really enjoying doing challenges and actively engaging with my students,” she said.
“I’m constantly looking for ways to make my classroom inviting and conducive for learning. When students are bored it’s impossible for them to learn or to be vested in content.
“We all were students once, so I take a very deliberate approach and envision myself as the student and design lessons that I would be interested in.
“The great thing about high school is you get an opportunity to teach and inspire a wide range of students ages 14 to 18, which is hands down during one of the most impressionable periods of their lives. I create a space where leaders feel comfortable coming to me to get the help because they know I will reach them where they are.
“In my forensic science class, currently we are exploring all the elements of a crime scene and I’m working on creating my first escape the classroom project.
“My goal every year is to help students acquire an understanding of science and developed an appreciation of the real-world applications and sometime a song is the perfect vehicle to carry the message.
“It is never hard to get students to have fun. They actually come to school looking for it. Students know that at my core I love to have fun, so if we can make learning fun, I’m 100 per cent down for it. I’m authentic with my students and that alone creates authentic relationships with them. People learn best from people they like.”
Kendrah, who has an eight-year-old son herself, was voted ‘Teacher of the Year’ by a class of seniors last year, and gets plenty of positive feedback from parents who say they wish more teachers took such a pro-active approach to teaching.
So, what would Kendrah do for that grade?
“I would make it happen for that grade,” she added.
“I decided at a young age that I would be the architect of my life and that I wouldn’t allow other people, situations, stigmas, stereotypes, bias, opinions or adversity prohibit me from living my best life or reach my full potential. At their age, I simply didn’t let people or things that didn’t matter that much, matter that much.
“The outcome I was looking to achieve with this video is that students on the Southside of Chicago are smart, funny, creative and fearless. We can put a positive spin on anything! I wanted to change the narrative of what the world continues to hear about Black students when it comes to education and positivity.
“The video was not scripted nor controlled by me, it was an accurate depiction of who my students are and it showcased their personality in a positive light. Anyone who wasn’t able to get that clear message from the video is not a part of our intended audience and should keep their comments to themselves.”