Is this CRE? Cardi B and Geography

I’m conflicted y’all.

And this post is going to come off as I’m hating. But I’m not, I’m just inquiring and pushing my own thinking.

So, school popped off and out the gate we have a dope ass teacher, Ms. Buddington, from Capital Prep Charter school in Harlem sharing with us how she re-purposed Cardi B’s summer banger Bodak Yellow to teach her kids geography.

And the internets went wild.

Much like when principal Ron Clark juju’ed on that beat with his students. But different.

Everyone starts to fawn over experiences like these and calling them being culturally responsive.

But…..ummmmmm….welll….this is my problem with how we define cultural responsive and relevant education. We think it’s rapping, dancing, singing, slanging…which some would, could, may argue is a part of being culturally responsive.

Damn, I feel like a hater.

Sidebar: Ms. Buddington if you happen to read this, you dope asf and I give you much MUCH respect. You out here doing more than others and for that you are appreciated.

I got questions…rather thoughts (y’all I woke up out of myself at 2:54 am to write this.)

Because the facts are 84% of our teaching staff in America are White women and lordy lord when they see this they will Columbus it and this is when things get dangerous.

Secondly, after my summer pd and deep dive into Zaretta Hammonds Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain. I am super focused on cognitive development.


  • I can only imagine how much time and effort she put into crafting this experience, how much she learned, how much was sparked in her brain around geography. And I wonder what that would have looked like if the students were asked to put in that work. What if the cognitive load was on them to craft their own lyrics.
  • I wonder what it would have been like if students were asked to situate their neighborhoods in this task making a connection to the larger concept of geography.
  • It’s about to be Hispanic Heritage month, Cardi B, is Domincan, could they build on this experience and use another beat to discuss South America and the Caribbean?
  • Why were they still sitting in their seats? Could they not get up? (That’s my shade to the tierany that is charter schools.)

I know. I know. My own inner voice is like, damn girl you a straight hater!

But I’m really not.

What Ms. Buddington did was dope and exciting. And I’m focusing on how other teachers will internalize it and use it.

See, you gotta understand, in doing this work, I see a lot of teachers making connections to culture in authentic ways like Ms. Buddington did and inauthentic ways with the aim of engaging students. And I commend them.

But lots of times these cultural experiences don’t result in improved student outcomes, but rather just a good time. And I italicized just because Lord knows, there aren’t lots of good times in most of our schools.

And after watching this video numerous times because maaaaaad people sent it to me like loooooooooooook Khalilah, you’re going to love this, I really was left asking who is doing the heavy cognitive lifting here and what particular skills are the students gaining or deepening?

Y’all, I acknowledge that it’s only a 60 second clip and I have no idea what she did before or after or what she will do all year. And I see the kids rhyming and moving and enjoying themselves, which is what I want. And Ms. Buddington got her receipts. She’s about this CRE life and I give her much respect.

But shit, a girl still got questions.

Blame all my questions on the fact, I am (still) reading, Teach Freedom and it is challenging my notions of the purpose of schooling in our 21st century global society.

And what role culture plays in our 21st century schooling model. I fear we have a surface level understanding of the role of culture especially with diasporic children.

And it’s in cultural moments like this, that I get really worried that people will only see this on the surface level and call it culturally responsive education.

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For far too many of us and them, culture is relegated to food, fun and festivities and in this case taking pop culture; ie hip hop music and transforming it in order for it to be suitable for the school house.

But culture runs way deeper than that.

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Culture is family and identity, spirituality and interconnectedness.

Centering culture in our pedagogy means that we emphasize the reliance on the collective wisdom or resources within the group and that we create opportunities for learning to happen through group interaction and dialogue.

I want you to imagine if the 60 second clip was of students working together to craft the perfect line and rhyme using their geographical terms and then the entire class performing to Bodak Yellow, each pair or each group offering their part in order to create the whole.

And I know what you’re thinking; there isn’t enough time to do what I suggested. But shit, if we ain’t got time in September, we should just pack it up and start summer break now. What I know, is that if we invest the time to lay down the framework for how we will learn and grow now (ie routines and rituals), we can and will “catch up” later.

And by the way, routines and rituals are not just for class rules and procedures. They should also be used to cement how we teach and learn. For me, I would use this Bodak Yellow Geography situation, as a setup for my pedagogical routines and rituals. The routine being that we will use music (on a consistent basis) to help us memorize important information, because we know music aids in cognition. The ritual being that we will (on a consistent basis) be challenged to create something new with the information we have consumed and we must utilize interdependence over independence to complete the task. Understanding that routines are a series of things to be completed that don’t necessarily foster a sense of belonging, while rituals tell a story, focus on the process and ensure belonging.

I saw excitement on the student’s face and the euphoria of bringing home into the school and reading the comments below the videos, I can tell Ms. Buddington is loved and respected and really about this life. She talked about how students came into her class tapping the beat on their tables and constantly singing the lyrics and like a brilliant teacher, she seized on their connection and enthusiasm and became an alchemist.

Her students will never forget their geography much like I will never forget when I learned the nine planets or the periodic table, through rhyme and rhythm.

However, I can’t help but to wonder what it would have been like to see the excitement and pride on their faces if they had the opportunity to grapple with the task of creating the Bodak Geography song for themselves. But maybe that’s what I saw in the video, like I said earlier, I need a unit plan.

Regardless, of what she did or didn’t do, this isn’t about her, it’s about me and you and how we take the gift she gave us and deepen our practice, while we engage in inquiry. Being a culturally responsive educator means to get comfortable with constantly questioning.

Anyway, I leave you with this: you can measure your CRE’ness by what the students create.

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Ok, let me know in the comments below if you think I’m a hater or if you had thoughts like I did? What was your reaction to the video, your questions your feelings? And are y’all bringing Cardi B into your classrooms? Because I bring her into all my work. She’s fascinating and there’s a lot about her that is appealing to our youth (and our adults) that means she’s a prime pedagogical tool.

Till next time,

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Said little…you can’t…with me,
If you wanted to.
These expensive, these is red bottoms,
These is bloody shoes.


  1. Yeah, you aren’t a hater at all. This line of questioning (and thinking) is perfect and definitely needed. It made me start to think about things differently, and I understand better why I didn’t always get as excited by such things. It (the CRE attempt) is great, but it seemed to lack something. However, I have seen some educators have students come up with their own rhymes/raps, poetry, stories, or whatever for a specific topic. THAT is truly amazing. I agree with this wholeheartedly and appreciate your perspective.

    • Now if we can get Everyone to repeat that, the person doing the work is learning the most. Teacher has to go from sage on the stage to the facilitator on the side…. there’s a rhyme that goes there but I don’t remember it. Lol

      • It’s sage on the stage vs guide on the side . . . but as we know, “guide on the side” does not do justice to the enormous in-depth work of designing learning experiences that matter to students, celebrate their strengths and challenge them appropriately, foster agency/metacognition/positive learner identity, build genuine mastery of skills and knowledge–and also a sense of value and belonging, provide a coherent arc of learning with carefully conceived and constructed and then strategically subtracted scaffolding, and align to everything from here to eternity. It’s more like “genius architect emcee coach and more on the side.” Sigh. 🙂 But it can be done and we’ve all seen how beautiful it can be.

  2. Students had a rigorous geography lesson before this. This was the first time they heard the song and they were prompted to stand up and rap it afterwards. It took up 5-10 minutes of an hour and fifteen minute lesson. I’m well aware of surface culture versus deep culture. I know that multicultural teaching, social justice education and culturally relevant teaching are not the same things. One provides a lens and the other furthers learning capacity. I appreciate that you understand that we can’t derive what I did from a 1-minute clip nor my understanding of pedagogy. Your site is dope. Thank you for the love.

  3. There are many different approaches to CRE. Ms. Buddington is the real deal; she is highly engaged with keeping our children engaged and making sure their materials are differentiated and woke. She works tirelessly at creating curriculum that incorporates different cultures and practice, and yeah she is dope as hell.
    I’ve watched the kids in her room move with intention.
    A lot of work is needed to get kids to the point of writing their own rhymes and taking agency with their own learning. As it stands most of our kids are there everyday getting their learning on before most adults are awake.
    I haven’t even got my circles up and running because im learning the kids because rap isnt all their thing, but my room is nowhere as lit as Ms. Buddington’s. Like most of my pedagogue friends, I’m trying to get out there on best practices. The glee the kids have to look forwarf in Ms: Buffington’s classroom is fire that trying to bring imto my middle school clasdroom!

      • We’re working on getting students to question texts and history. It’s happening and its a mindset shift for teachers and students

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