First, let me celebrate any individual who has put ANY amount of blood, sweat, and tears into this profession. I appreciate you, and I’m not going to wait until May to tell you! I know teaching through the worst of the pandemic and the months that followed have taken a toll on us, as this NPR article suggests. We were told to offer grace during the remote/hybrid learning environments, which we did, but now as most students have returned to campus, that same grace has quickly evaporated as we rush to return to the status quo of the pre-pandemic world. Going back to how we did things pre-pandemic in Education is my greatest fear, as the inequalities, the disproportionality issues, and lack of engagement will continue to be present, because as an institution, we typically do things as they have always been done, and we have not placed significant value on the concepts that really impact student outcomes. Per this report from the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) platform Panorama, the ABCs (Attendance, Behavior, and Coursework) of student success are strongly correlated with Engagement, Self-Efficacy, and Teacher-Student Relationships. Those three indicators are concepts that a teacher can make or break and if we really want our students to manifest the greatness that lies within them, WE MUST do things differently!

Looking at the title, I know you think my solution to the problem is suggesting doing a book study on The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, which it’s not, but The Alchemist I’m referring to can be found coming out of speakers across the country. Hip Hop producer The Alchemist is one of the most respected producers in the industry and the meaning behind his name can give educators a new paradigm for building with their students. During an outro of one of his songs, it is mentioned that “a Professor Alchemist has discovered a way to transform ordinary metals into GOLD!” You can call me crazy, but I see a ton of synergy with that line and all of the great educators I’ve seen throughout my educational career. Students come to us as sponges seeking to soak up the knowledge we are there to convey, but for the educators who truly understand their Alchemistic Powers, they know they have an amazing opportunity to change a young person’s trajectory in life. I have learned life lessons in classes of all disciplines because I’ve had teachers who not only taught me their subject content area but challenged me to become a higher version of myself, some might even call it a GOLDEN standard!

Just some of the lessons I’ve gained from educators:

  • How to deal with people in a respectful way even when harm has been done
  • How you dress reflects how you feel about your environment
  • Completing the bare minimum won’t challenge you which will hinder you from reaching new levels
  • Remembering a name makes a person feel special
  • If you believe in a person it boosts their confidence
  • Be impeccable with your word, and so many others.

Students are the “ordinary metals” until they have you as their educator, how will you transform them into GOLD?! With such an incredible responsibility in our hands we cannot take this position lightly. As the New Alchemists, we can never adopt a “same stuff, different day” mentality, because every day is another opportunity to help our students reach GOLD status and our collective impact will spark the next generation of great individuals!

David Spellmon, Behavior Specialist

David Spellmon is a Behavior Specialist in Charlotte, NC. He specializes in creating innovative ways to incorporate hip-hop pedagogy, social and emotional learning, service learning, and cultural responsiveness to make an impact on his students. He is also the author of the book, Just Like Music: Social Emotional Learning Inspired by Hip-Hop.
To learn more about David's work, go to
You can also follow him on Instagram: @mrjappi