The Weather

I Want To Teach Kids Who Listen To Hip-Hop

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to express my particular interest in a teaching position at Martin Luther King, Jr. Junior High School. While I have no teaching experience per se, I did get to the second round of Teach for America interviews, and took a Sociology of Education class at Sarah Lawrence (where I will proudly graduate in May with a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology of Musical Theory). I also worked for three summers at a musical theater summer camp in upstate New York where I was voted “coolest counselor” for two of the three summers. And while I have never actually been to Martin Luther King, Jr. Junior High School, the pictures on your website suggest to me that this school would be an excellent fit for my unique skills and interests.

I am interested in MLKJJH (is it ok if I call it that?) because I’m diligent, hardworking, and passionate, like so many of your students appear to be in the online pictures. I would also like to work at a school where the students predominantly like hip-hop music. As a person who grew up around privileged people who like mostly variations of folk music or even “indie rock,” I know first-hand how much people who like hip-hop music can be overlooked. I passionately believe in my ability to reach kids who like hip-hop music, partially because I have dabbled in listening to hip-hop music myself, and partially because I am up for a challenge.

You know that scene in Dangerous Minds where Michelle Pfeiffer says something like, “I’m here because I care, and besides the money’s not that good?” And you’re thinking, “That’s so brave, I could never do that.” And in the background it’s that Coolio song about how this dystopia is a “Gangsta’s Paradise?” You know the scene I’m talking about? Well, first of all, not like it’s a big deal or anything, just kind of a funny coincidence, but three separate people have told me on three separate occasions that I look like Michelle Pfeiffer. I mean, I’m obviously a lot younger than she was when she made that movie, but there’s a resemblance. Secondly, I don’t watch that movie and just think, “That’s so brave;” I watch that movie and think, That’s so brave, and I’m the type of person who is absolutely brave enough to do what she is doing. As a bonus, I have listened to that Coolio song, and there were parts of it that I thought were as poetic as real poetry. I honestly thought that.

I think I would be the ideal candidate to take your students’ love of hip-hop and use that to help them get interested in actual music, or even legitimate literature. I have two Kanye West albums (I just call him Kanye usually, because I feel I have a pretty intimate understanding of him), and I sometimes listen to Kanye-themed Pandora station. I feel very capable of bringing this knowledge into the classroom, or if necessary, the streets (where I am aware that kids who like hip-hop generally hang out and sometimes lose sight of their inner potential). I want kids to know that they can like hip-hop and still be successful. I want them to know they can listen to hip-hop in college. I didn’t hear any hip-hop music at Sarah Lawrence myself, but I think that’s exactly the point: we need to live in a world where you can go to a mixer and be just as likely to hear Kanye as you would be to hear Vampire Weekend, or even Sufjan Stevens.

There are plenty of teachers who are afraid to teach kids who like hip-hop. I am sure your staff turnover rates are very high. Based on the pictures on your website, it seems like every single kid at your school likes hip-hop. It’s important for me to say that while my first concert was Dave Matthews Band, I’ve come to a place in my life where I realize that we need to make space for all types of musical tastes. Maybe if more people who were at that DMB concert were willing to go into communities with hip-hop lovers, we’d be able to live in a freer, more equal world.

Thank you for considering me, ya dig? (The “ya dig” is just a sample of what potentially could come if you chose to hire me. I also know how to integrate the phrases, “ya heard?” and “YOLO.”)

Sophie Johnson is the editor-in-chief of the humor/nonfiction magazine Neutrons/Protons, and has been published in McSweeney's Internet Tendency, The Hairpin, Rookie Magazine, The Nation, and plenty more.