Reeths-Puffer principal uses rap music to reach students

Muskegon County

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — With schools out the rest of the year, some are trying to find new, innovative ways to reach their students at home.

The principal at Reeths-Puffer High School is using rap music and positivity to bridge the gap created by the coronavirus and the governor’s stay-at-home order.

“It’s nothing that educators ever go to college and take courses on how to manage instruction and lead kids through a pandemic,” Principal Dan Beckeman said. “I would say that I do not typically listen to rap music. When I normally hear that style music, it is usually at one of our dances.”

“I remembered hearing a song back in my college days, we’re talking years ago. This is my 38th year working in public education, my 27th as principal and I’ve never done anything quite like this. But if I could put a smile on the face of another student or a family, to make the moment a little lighter, then it was worth the time in making the video.”

The video is a three-minute musical rap posted on YouTube on April 4. It has already generated more than 8,000 views and highlights some of the student body’s favorite events like graduation and their annual paper toss.

“I can’t sing, and I would never want to torture anybody by hearing, having them hear me sing. But doing something in a rap version where I can kind of send a message that has a little bit of a connection to who we are as a school to me was important,” Beckeman said. “With the way we have our senior paper toss, our school musical that was cut short, the idea that we do have to maintain a level of social distance but there still can be some good things to look forward to. That’s why I created the rap so I could kind of talk through some of the things that were on my mind for our kids.”

He says it’s all about being vulnerable. In the video, Beckeman sports a Reeths-Puffer Rockets hat on backwards, green beads and sunglasses; it’s this stark contrast to the persona he portrays in the hallways every day that he believes will drive the message home and invite students to reach out.

“When one becomes vulnerable with another it demonstrates a willingness to establish and build on a relationship. I am certainly willing to become vulnerable to support my students and my staff,” Beckeman said. “Being vulnerable establishes a level of trust and comfort in a relationship and I’m certainly willing to do that.”

Something else he and his staff at the district level are willing to do; the paper toss and graduation for 297 seniors. When or how they’ll do both is still up in the air. 

“I let them know in the video there are two things that we’re definitely going to have, one is the paper toss, and two they’ll have a graduation,” Beceman said. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way. When I tell them we’re going to do it, we will do it. We’re working out the details currently, but I know this —there are enough seniors out there and these events mean so much to them to carry on the tradition. Whenever we do set that date, even if it goes into the Fall, it will be a time where we can bring back our seniors from 2020 to experience this and I guarantee it will be a time of joy heard around our district.”

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