Yesha Callahan

Middle School Parent Outraged Over English Lesson Involving Lil Wayne Lyrics


As a mother of a student who hated poetry when they were in the  7th grade, I knew I had to do something to pique his interests.  When I asked a teacher friend for suggestions they said to find some rap lyrics to liven up the learning experience for the metaphor and simile section.  He said after all, one can only take so much of Shakespeare and Dickinson before they’re totally bored with poetry.

So that’s exactly what I did. I pulled lyrics from artists like Nas, Will Smith, A Tribe Called Quest, Mos Def and even Jay Z. But I did make sure the lyrics weren’t anything raunchy. Unfortunately, a Virginia teacher who tried to incorporate rap into their poetry lessons is learning that not everyone is going to embrace those learning tactics, especially if the lyrics are from a Lil Wayne song. 

Parents at Falling Creek Middle School in Chesterfield, VA parents are outraged after finding out their children were exposed to Lil Wayne lyrics in a poetry lesson involving metaphors .

One concerned relative felt the lyrics glorified guns, sex and violence.

“I don’t understand that,” said a relative of a student and school activist Tammy Motola. “I don’t understand what she was thinking.”

 Motola took issue with the following lyrics:
Young Money, syrup in the big shot
Time do things that’s word to your wrist watch
Shoot the glock till it burn till my wrist lock
Rims hella big tires skinny like Chris Rock
“You don’t give someone in 6th grade homework assignments and say give me a metaphor for that,” said Motola. “You are asking for trouble.”
According to NBC12, once confronted about the assignment, the principal of the school had the teacher send home a new poetry packet without rap lyrics.
“The school administration is working directly with the parent and this issue has been addressed,” said Chesterfield spokesperson Shawn Smith.
In addition to parents, one student found the assignment distasteful.
“It was just bizarre,” said the student who did not want to be identified. “No one our age should be hearing this music and listening to the lyrics.”
“There should be consequences for this,” said Motola. “I’m dead serious about that. I’m not going to go away. I’m not going to stop until she receives the discipline that she deserves for this. Students would be disciplined for this type of behavior.”
I totally understand the parents concern, but I’m now the proud parent of a 9th grader who not only enjoys reading poetry but also writing. As he wrapped up yet another poetry module he thanked me for making it interesting when he was younger.  As for the teacher, next time maybe she should stick to rap lyrics that don’t make reference to guns and sipping syrup. At least that’s what I think “syrup in the big shot means”.
  1. April 2, 2014 - Reply

    good intentions horrible execution. & rap got caught in the crossfire. there are creative noncriminal, nonsexist, modern rappers & rap lyrics that the kids coulda related to. lil wayne was the bad choice, not rap.

    • April 2, 2014 - Reply


      I agree. This is a little off topic, but when I taught seventh grade, we were using portable computers in class. One of my students had a Lil Wayne CD that I made him put away. During first period, he put the CD in the computer and started playing it. I took the CD away from him and personally took it to the office with a referral slip. This boy not only had unsuitable material, but he showed defiance against me. During a parents’ meeting at the school that night, I told his mother (he was standing right there) and she said that he knew better and asked for the CD. I told her that I had taken it to the office. The next morning, he was called into the principal’s office and returned, telling a classmate that he just got a warning. This incident taught the student that defying a teacher was okay, and that playing Lil Wayne lyrics in school is okay, too.

  2. April 2, 2014 - Reply

    While I believe the intentions of the teacher were well meaning, I can only presume the teacher is not a fan nor familiar with Lil Wayne.

    “Motola took issue with the following lyrics:
    Young Money, syrup in the big shot
    Time do things that’s word to your wrist watch
    Shoot the glock till it burn till my wrist lock
    Rims hella big tires skinny like Chris Rock”

    I will admit there are far worse lyrics by Wayne that could have been chosen, but the fact that his lyrics were chosen in the first place is where I have an issue.

    SMH & Shrugs

  3. April 2, 2014 - Reply

    I am a teacher.
    You have access to a wealth of material before turning to Wayne.
    The teacher is lazy and unprofessional.
    The soft bigotry of low expectations by teachers, parents and students is the underlying reason for this nonsense.

  4. April 2, 2014 - Reply

    Dang some Nikki Giovanni or Maya Angelou. But this is a different time and a different generation. *SIGH*

    • April 7, 2014 - Reply

      @mary burrell

      but there are so many options out there for this generation from Saul Williams to Bassey Ikpi

  5. April 2, 2014 - Reply

    Have people forgotten about Tupac? “Dear Mama” was put into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry! He has a wealth of poems and songs to choose from and all these teachers can think of is Little Wayne.

    Even Eminem in “Lose Yourself” has great examples of internal rhyme.

    I’m a middle school teacher and I’m glad I grew up in the 90s and was exposed good rap/hip hop because if your base of reference to rap is Little Wayne, then I feel sorry for you..

  6. April 3, 2014 - Reply

    When I first got to college, I was a political science major because I wanted to be an attorney.

    In my English 101 class, my HIGHLY EDUCATED AFRICAN AMERICAN FEMALE professor had us write about “Money On My Mind” by Lil’ Wayne. The assignment made me (and my other classmates) look at writing and the English language differently.

    Parents have this fictitious world where students LOVE school and are being educated well. That’s not the case – we’re bored 90% of the time, our teachers are disconnected and don’t understand us or the things that are important to us, the teachers are burnt out or doing this solely for a paycheck – like so many other working Americans. In high school, I never thought I would be a writer, never thought I would even pass an English class and here I am 8 years later working on my doctorate with the goal of becoming an English professor. If left up to my high school English teacher, I would not be pursuing something I love.

    The teacher in this article has to rely on popular culture because the text books students learn from are outdated! Children are reading To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984, and Lord of the Flies. And, while there is nothing wrong with these texts, the students cannot relate to them and they don’t feature any BLACK writers in English classes for youth. I studied Giovanni, Angelou, Anzaldua, Baraka, Hurston, Moraga and Hughes when I got to college. In primary and secondary school you don’t get the opportunity to study these works and it sucks, it’s systematic and designed to make children of color fail.

    Sixth grade is too young to be relying so heavily on hip-hop music to get kids to about English Literature/Language Arts, I get that, but the question is: Did the students learn? And if so, then I don’t think the teacher should be penalized. Besides, it’s not as if kids don’t know Lil Wayne’s lyrics or hear even more offensive language on the school bus.

    • April 3, 2014 - Reply


      i hate that argument that b/c kids “might” have already been listening or watching something bad or b/c they “might” be around other people that listen & watch bad things that the folks that should be guiding them should just throw out all morals & good sense & go with the kid’s examples instead of keeping things above ground. i don’t think it’s anything wrong w/using rap for a lesson or whatever but i would definitely be in the principle’s office demanding answers if they gave my kid some lil wayne to learn about. i don’t care if he’s the only interesting person left in the world. my kid’s teacher would just have to keep it 100% boring if that’s the only person she could think to get my kid excited about school. & i would have a fit if the teacher used some excuse like she heard the kids talking about him one day so she thought it would be ok. kids don’t set the standards. (i don’t have kids btw. ijs. if it was me…)

      • April 4, 2014 - Reply


        You might not like the argument, but it is a very valid one. The children around your children (if and when you have some) have just as much influence on your children as you do. If you don’t like it, then you’ll have to homeschool your children.

  7. April 7, 2014 - Reply

    i also cringed when i read ‘lil wayne’ considering that there’s a wealth of young poets, especially performance poets that can help teachers with poetry.

    but on the other hand, i really don’t see analysing Lil’ Wayne lyrics as something wrong. I’m not sure how old Grader 6ers are in the US, in SA they are 13 and 12 which is young for Wayne lyrics. so in that regard the teacher should’ve looked up other rap lyrics.

    that said, those lyrics would be useful in a different class. i see a teachable moment there.

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