Lil Wayne Or Snoop Dogg

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Dec
  • 01
  • 2007

What do you do when you start thinking that your subject is worthless? “You know, maybe the students are right. Maybe this is all completely irrelevant to their lives.” What do you do when you look at your content standards and think, “why would the average person need to know any of this?” What happens when you decide that what you are doing in class is not going to prepare students for life after high school? What if it suddenly dawns on you that you are only preparing students for more school?

I have these doubts all the time, as recently as yesterday. Here’s the speck of light that twinkled in my darkness while on the road last night:

Listen Up

In order to ride the latest and coolest roller coaster, you need to be tall. No one will tell you how tall, but the taller the better. Would you rather be Lil Wayne or Snoop Dogg? Remember, you risk not being able to ride that roller coaster. Lil Wayne is shorter than Snoop Dogg

Now replace “ride” with “work in,” “roller coaster” with “career,” “tall” with “educated.” Welcome to your life.

Because teachers expect so much of your thinking, writing, and speaking skills, almost all future expectations of you in those domains will be easy. If you can match the expectations of your teacher, this campus, our district, and the state, you’ll find the expectations of others well within reach. That’s why all of this matters.

Most of what you’ll ever have to read, write about, or speak about will be far less intensive than what I ask of you. But all that stuff you’ll run across later in life, you’ll already know how to do all of that because of what I ask you to do here. You’ll be more prepared than you need to be and that’s much better than being less prepared. The chances of you being perfectly prepared are slim. Better to do more than not enough.

If you can successfully write a 3-page paper exploring the significance of a character in The Great Gatsby, using quotations all along the way to support your opinions and giving reasons that this character’s traits matter in today’s world, then composing an email to your client about the latest project will be a snap.

Analyzing a passage from The Scarlet Letter is likely something you won’t ever have to do again. In fact, once you graduate college, you probably won’t have to perform a literary analysis, provided you don’t become an English major or a writer. But because you have the ability to pick out meaning in a complicated pile of words, all of your other encounters with reading will be that much easier.

That’s why you’re here and why we sometimes do things that you think don’t matter. They are to prepare you for the things that do matter. Very little else you do will be like this and so you’ll be ready for almost everything that comes your way. If you’re already a 10, a career that only asks you to start out as a 5 is simple.

So, Lil Wayne or Snoop Dogg?

Note to reader: Any ideas on how to sell this to the students without sounding self-aggrandizing? Any idea how to say this and get it to actually sink in? Do I need better pop culture references? I’m all ears. The floor is now yours.


1. Ben says:

[12/1/2007 - 7:08 pm]

Kudos on finding the silver lining of your bad day.

I would have loved having you as an English teacher, Todd. If not for making this comment that much easier to write, but to have such a reflective teacher that actually cares about making the content relevant instead of the near-retirement, doing the same old thing for 25 years teacher.

2. Damian Bariexca says:

[12/1/2007 - 8:42 pm]

Well put, sir. I say the same thing to my students at least once a year.

The way I usually phrase it goes something like this: Your other teachers and I are essentially teaching you all the same thing, just in different ways. It probably won’t much matter if, in ten years, you don’t remember who killed Macbeth, or you can’t define “loquacious” (one of our SAT vocab words). These are details.

We’re all teaching you to hone skills, and that’s what’s most important. Collaboration, cooperation, critical thinking, public speaking, analyzing smaller parts of any larger concept, idea, or physical thing – all your teachers should be teaching you these things. I happen to do it by way of literature; your other teachers do it with math equations, the scientific method, and basketball.

My younger students mostly give me blank stares, but the older ones get it, I think. I got a letter from a former student once telling me that this sentiment has really stuck with him well past high school, and has influenced his own teaching aspirations.

By the way, you don’t necessarily need pop culture references (as much as I love them). Sometimes they’re lots of fun to fit in, especially when the kids and I can both get a laugh out of it. Sometimes, though, they just cheapen the message.

3. Todd says:

[12/1/2007 - 9:21 pm]

Thanks, gents. Glad you both liked it. It drives me crazy, Ben, the number of teachers I work with who are the “near-retirement” type you describe.

Damian, really? You think that cheapened the message? I thought it was a good metaphor to heighten the message. No? Huh…

4. Best Books of the 20th Century: Fiction » Blog Archive » Lil Wayne Or Snoop Dogg says:

[12/2/2007 - 2:24 am]

[…] Lil Wayne Or Snoop DoggBy ToddIf you can successfully write a 3-page paper exploring the significance of a character in The Great Gatsby, using quotations all along the way to support your opinions and giving reasons that this character’s traits matter in today’s …Thoughts On Teaching – […]

5. Damian Bariexca says:

[12/2/2007 - 10:28 am]

Well, I guess it depends on your audience. I think I’d get laughed at (not in the good way) if I used the metaphor with my students, but YMMV.

It wasn’t so much a shot at your message as it was at pop culture references in general, a crutch on which I sometimes rely too heavily. “Cheapens” might have been too harsh; “detracts from”, maybe? No offense meant; just my self-loathing coming through again.

6. Todd says:

[12/2/2007 - 10:41 am]

Damian, I wasn’t offended. I put this out there in part to get some feedback. Thanks for the thoughts on that; it’s interesting to read.

I find that I don’t make enough pop culture references, especially since I don’t have cable. I have to really stretch sometimes. This was originally going to feature Eaze E (5’4″) and Dr. Dre (6’1″), but that’s kinda dated (until Dre finally releases Detox, which I ain’t holdin’ my breath for).

7. Katie says:

[12/2/2007 - 11:13 am]

Did you get to see his new video yet? It’s awesome!

8. dhalia says:

[4/4/2008 - 7:47 am]

i would be lil wayne cuz snoop dog is ugly but got some nice body..lil wayne is fine in body and face

9. jad says:

[4/13/2008 - 3:08 pm]

i don’t get it. whats the difference between being a snoop dogg or lil’wayne? well antway i would pick lil’wayne.

10. Anonymous says:

[5/10/2008 - 9:17 am]

lil wayne is cooler than snoop dog.

11. cherie says:

[9/19/2008 - 10:12 am]

snoopy is sweet. snoop is better!!!

12. ashlee! says:

[10/27/2008 - 1:45 pm]

no way
lil wayne is way better
im in love with him .
hes amazingg , i would kill for him to come to Newfounlandd
hesss soo hottt
and im also inlove with his voicee

13. heaven says:

[12/9/2008 - 1:41 pm]

i love lil wayne better than i like snoop- dogg because lil wayne is cute and buff

14. Oj Tse says:

[1/20/2009 - 12:34 am]

Snoop Dogg is the Godfather of Hip Pop to be real. lil wayne is ugly like all Carters look at Jay z! Bigge got shot N tupak got shot but Snoop Dogg is still doing hes thing So fuck to those whose with wayne n their motherfucken moms too. Snoop Dogg when the pimps in the Club na, drop it like its hot ask Puff ask Bigge oh he s Dead. Snoop Dogg is our Father Hood in this earth our Father

15. tha boss dawgg says:

[2/4/2009 - 10:49 pm]

i agree with OJ :) snoop is definatley the best within hip hop

16. DESTINY says:

[4/28/2009 - 5:42 am]


17. D o double G says:

[3/2/2010 - 12:25 pm]

Old School…Snoop Dogg…listen to lil´s choice…hears like a fart or something like this…Real King snoop!