"To make the rap flow, Bedell, performing as M.C. Globanati, repeats “Eritrea” a few times. The country is on the eastern side of Africa, connected to Ethiopia and Sudan."
Virginia Beach teacher's rap song might be "corny," but it got students to learn about Africa
Mike Connors The Virginian-Pilot (TNS) 13 hrs ago (0)
Michael Bedell was home on a recent Friday night when he had a random thought: “Tunisia” sounds a bit like “tweezers.”
With that, the Bayside High School teacher was on a mission.
A lifelong music lover, he wanted to write a song to help his students learn. His geography class was studying Africa, so he decided to write a rap that would make the continent’s countries and history sink in.
“If it gets one more kid to study,” Bedell said, “it was worth it.”
He sat down to write.
“Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt,” he began, pointing to each country on a map.
“Tunisia, I’ll squeeze ya and grab ya with tweezers.”
Bedell finished the song that night, then used his own equipment to make a video. His brother came over the next day and helped edit.
Soon the video was on YouTube. Nearly 1,900 people watched it – easily more than a dozen times the number of students Bedell teaches.
Olivia Howard’s first thought when she saw the video?
“Corny,” said the high school sophomore. But it was catchy.
To make the rap flow, Bedell, performing as M.C. Globanati, repeats “Eritrea” a few times. The country is on the eastern side of Africa, connected to Ethiopia and Sudan.
“It will help you remember,” Olivia said. “It makes it more fun.”
Truth be told, Bedell, 35, wanted to attend a music production college and pursue a career in that field. He performed in bands growing up and still plays acoustic guitar. When he
took a class at Kellam High taught by Scott Boone, it piqued his interest in geography.
From Kellam he went to Old Dominion University, where he signed up for one of Christine Drake’s classes. She brought geography to life with her personal stories of living in Africa,
and Bedell was hooked. He started helping her before class and working toward his own teaching career.
He didn’t shake the music bug, though.
At the front of his classroom is a poster of MC Hammer, a rapper who was popular from the late 1980s into the 1990s. The hip-hop artist promotes a book of the month, which students can read and report on for extra credit.
Bedell knows some current students probably don’t know Hammer. He also admitted he paid about $10 for a poster that’s “probably not worth a dollar.” But he said he had to buy it when he saw it online.
Bedell has worked music into his classes before. A few years ago, he turned his classroom into a night club, complete with a stage and red carpet. Students had to teach a vocabulary word through dance, poetry or some other art form.
“I kind of tricked them into teaching,” Bedell said.
Junior Tori Johnson, who took Bedell’s class last year, remembers the geography of Latin America in part because of that performance. Bedell has a knack for making any topic entertaining, she said.
“It was probably the best experience of my learning career,” she said.
On a recent March morning, about 15 students studied Africa’s history. When the topic of apartheid came up, they knew it was a system of racial segregation that existed for decades in South Africa.
“I’ll tell a little story about a man named Nelson Mandela,” Bedell rapped.
“Jailed for 27 years, but as the story went, he became South Africa’s first black president.”
Tiyanah Edwards chuckled when asked if she thinks Bedell has a future in rap.
“No,” she said.
But his song did get the Bayside senior to learn about countries in Africa.
“It was very catchy,” she said.
©2017 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)
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