‘Think A+ Tour’ builds rap-port with young students
Editor’s note: This story is reprinted from the November issue of GCU Magazine. To view the digital version of the magazine, click here.
By Jeannette Cruz
When Nate Whitsett taught elementary school students in metro Detroit, the notion of becoming a rap artist was not on his radar. Life, however, has a funny way of pointing you where you need to go. Whitsett recently resigned from teaching in the classroom and developed the “Think A+ Tour.” He travels the nation on a mission to impact change using rap as a tool to motivate and educate students.
Whitsett graduated with a bachelor of science from Eastern Michigan University and, in 2011, a Master of Arts in Teaching from Grand Canyon University. His education coupled with the experiences of being raised in a low-income, single-parent household pushed him to become a self-proclaimed “college kid with a street degree.”
On his tour, Whitsett combines raps, songs and chants to “get students hyped up for learning and testing and to build self-esteem in the student population.”
His message to district leaders, administrators, teachers and students is clear: It’s time for a change.
The former elementary school teacher said he became disenchanted when his school asked him to follow a scripted classroom program.
“I started reading the script, and it felt so unnatural to me,” he said. “I was frustrated, and each time I picked up the script the students would get antsy and off task.”
Struggling to spend several hours a day reading a script to his students, Whitsett had a lot to think about. He reached out to the school’s principal, seeking guidance, but her response only shaped his decision to leave.
Whitsett explained how this “cookie-cutter” design in the education system hinders teachers from bringing out the best in every child. He emphasized the need for educators to build rapport around student interests. In his pursuit to improve education, Whitsett said the experience has been “positive and liberating.”
Whitsett’s “Think A+” song encourages students to think positively when the odds are against them. In “Take Heed,” Whitsett tells how as a child he hated reading and later found the value in gaining knowledge through reading.
But it’s not all music and hip hop. Whitsett is also the author of “The Answer: Finding Purpose and Building Relationships in the Classroom.” The book follows Jameka, a student with major behavior problems who ultimately finds her purpose and talent with the help of her teacher, Mr. Whitsett. The book is a spinoff to his own story.
“My mom gave me a challenge when I was younger because I was always rapping. She said, ‘If you did your schoolwork the way you rap around here, you’d be an all A student,’” Whitsett recalled. “So I began to do just that.”
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.