Teaching Tupac to Georgian Tweens
An innovative middle school teacher is using rap classics to teach English irregular verbs.
A middle-aged school teacher pulling off a hip-hop act with her students is not something you see often in the ex-Soviet world. But in Georgia, an English teacher has become an internet star after she posted a video of her and her preteen students jamming to Tupac Shakur’s rap classics.
In the video, teacher Darejan Gurasashvili shakes to the beat of Shakur’s “Me and My Girlfriend,” singing words from an old jazz chant: “I told you not to do it, and you did it again!” Then the kids take it away, chanting “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”The video was a hit on social media, garnering thousands of views on Gurasashvili’s Facebook page. “I wish I had a teacher like that,” gushed one user.
Gurasashvili, who teaches English at a public middle school in Tbilisi, says that rap is one of her favorite music genres and a great way to teach English. Thanks to her 2pac session, the kids “learned a few irregular verbs and the interrogative form of the simple past tense,” and got a kick out of it too, she wrote on Facebook.
The unconventional approach stands out in a country where the image of an English teacher usually conjures up a disciplinarian with standardized textbooks and scoresheets. And there are not too many hip-hop fans in her age group.
Gurasashvili first experimented with rap as a pedagogical method when she used music to explain comparative adjectives. “When I tried a melodic song, the kids did not seem particularly interested. I knew I had to try something different,” she told the Ambebi.ge news site. “So I came up with an impromptu rap and I saw that the class got all animated and entertained.”
Before becoming a teacher, Gurasashvili dabbled in music some 30 years ago. In 1984, she recorded a song “December, December” with a popular local singer Merab Sepashvili. That lyrical love ballad is a far cry from the sort of gutsy acts that she’s been belting out in her classroom recently.
Georgia, where Russian and English compete for the status of unofficial second language, has experimented to widen the knowledge of English, which is seen as essential to the nation’s efforts to integrate with the West. In 2010, the government launched the now-defunct Teach and Learn with Georgia program that brought hundreds of native-speakers to teach English in public schools across the country.
It’s too early to tell if Gurasashvili’s method will inspire other teachers. Perhaps one day Georgian public schools will have dissing competitions.