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Secret Lives Of Teachers: 'Bored Of Education'

The NPR Ed team is discovering what teachers do when they're not teaching. Artist? Carpenter? Quidditch player? Explore our Secret Lives of Teachers series.

You're a sixth-grader in New York City. Your principal gives you a choice: Get free tickets to a Columbia University football game, or participate in a music video in which your assistant principal is the lead singer.

The 66 fifth- and sixth-graders who chose to sing, dance and act are glad they did: The video, featuring the song "Bored of Education," amassed more than 15,000 views in the first weeks it was posted. Here it is:

The video's main act, rapper I.C. Will, is indeed Ian Willey, the assistant principal at KIPP Washington Heights Middle School.

bored of education
/ "Bored of Education" music video
/
"Bored of Education" music video

The son of two ministers, Willey started rapping when he was 12. Growing up, his family moved around, finally settling in Louisville, Ky., a place where, Willey says, "I could be a white rapper and it wasn't that weird."

As a first-year teacher with Teach for America, Willey wrote and rapped when he could squeeze it in, keeping it separate from his life in the classroom.

"I never talked a whole lot about the fact that I was rapping on the side, unless it was relevant in class," Willey says. "It didn't seem that important to the work we were doing in the school."

But a group of filmmakers in Brooklyn disagreed. In 2011 they made a short film about Willey and his double life. Seeing the film made Willey reconsider the distance he had created.

"I started feeling more comfortable sharing it. I saw that kids can actually be inspired by this," he says. "And the pieces finally fit together."


Tell us about the Secret Lives of Teachers – maybe your own or a teacher you know. Or post your own Secret Life on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram at #secretteachers. We're on Twitter at @npr_ed. Our Facebook page is here or you can drop us an email at NPREd@npr.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elissa Nadworny reports on all things college for NPR, following big stories like unprecedented enrollment declines, college affordability, the student debt crisis and workforce training. During the 2020-2021 academic year, she traveled to dozens of campuses to document what it was like to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Her work has won several awards including a 2020 Gracie Award for a story about student parents in college, a 2018 James Beard Award for a story about the Chinese-American population in the Mississippi Delta and a 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in innovation.