When Alice Boucher Elementary students walked into music class during the second week of this semester, they were welcomed by their teacher in a different way.
April Henry, 32, introduced herself, being new to the Lafayette school, and asked the students to pay attention to a video on the screen.
The screen turned bright pink featuring paper masks that change from green to purple to blue. Henry’s face appears and starts rapping to lyrics about the correct way for students to wear their mask, a requirement for students third grade and up.
“My main goal was just to give students a fun way to look at the new expectations and the new normal and to relieve some of the stress about it,” Henry said in an interview.
She gave students a task to complete as they watched the video. First, they were asked to find the beat and nod along. Second, they were to write down what steps they heard in the song — cover your nose and mouth, make sure there are no gaps, keep the mask under your chin.
In the 1:10 minute song, Henry starts by pointing out the wrong way to wear a mask:
“How do you wear your mask? Like this?
Oh, no, you’ll be breathin’ germs so fast.
How do you wear your mask? Like that?
Oh, no, you’re not protected. That’s a fact.”
Then she goes on to deliver the steps for the proper way to wear a mask and why that matters:
“Your mask protects you from the COVID, keepin’ you from gettin’ sick.
“Always cover your nose and mouth. No gaps, make sure it’s under your chin.
If you don’t wanna be infected, you better have the right fit.
Shouldn’t be sliding down your face; the proper maskin’ is legit.”
After a chorus of “always wear your mask — oh!” Henry slows down and demonstrates putting on her mask correctly before the video ends.
Henry heard one fifth-grader say, “Man, that was lit!”
That was praise enough for her.
The video did a lot of things at once. It introduced Henry, as a new teacher who moved to the area after three years teaching in the Bronx in New York City.
It showed them her personality and what they might expect in music class this year. And it reminded them about “how to wear a mask,” like the title said.
“That was a good way to let them see music can be cool, that we’re going to learn so much this year but have a good time doing it, and that we can still have fun in masks,” Henry said.
The principal asked Henry and other teachers on the elective team, which comprises fitness, art and music, to create videos for students about the different COVID-19 restrictions implemented for this semester.
Henry wanted to write a rap because it’s a fun style that the kids might also enjoy and because it’s something that they’re allowed to do under current restrictions.
“Rap is perfect, because it’s chanting with words,” she said. “We aren’t allowed to sing right now.”
She’ll also have her students make music and sound with their bodies, with snaps, claps and stomps. She wants them to not only perform songs they learn but also compose their own, like she did with her mask rap.
“This video showed them ‘You have a leader who can do those things and can help you do those things,'” she said.
The mask video also features art teacher Ashly Nash, who was tasked with making a video about socially distant greetings. Her video about “how to greet from 6 feet” uses graphics, gifs and short TikTok videos of folks giving air hugs or foot bumps.
In Henry’s video, Nash models incorrect ways to wear a mask and dances along with Henry during the chorus.
It took Henry about two or three days to complete her video, working after school or during her planning period the first week of school.
She found the beat on YouTube. It’s part of a longer, free song, and she cut the end of it to use for her rap.