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Like many youngsters, Ben Turner always loved music but struggled to know how to make a career out of it.
However, after a suggestion from his mum, the 24 year-old quickly discovered his true calling in life: teaching.
Ben started teaching at Oasis Academy in Shirley, where he founded his now famous ‘Rap Club’ – an extra-curricular club committed to teaching pupils how to write and perform lyrics while allowing their musical talents to flourish.
Now at Haverstock School in Camden, where he is Head of Music, Ben has continued to inspire the next generation of young people by allowing them to showcase their gifts and giving them the confidence to succeed.
“Rap is such an authentic representation of them [his pupils]”, he says. “The way that young people use rap is to express so much of what they’ve experienced – so it’s about using the music as a form of expression.
“It changes the students’ mindsets and gives them new skills, like confidence or communication – I even monitored their behaviour by asking teachers how they were doing and overall, it was a very positive improvement.”
Ben says that through teaching he has managed to forge close relationships with his pupils, which feels just like a ‘family.’ He explains that this sense of family is one of the best parts of the job, saying “it’s all about relationships that you build when you teach.”
“Teaching is massively rewarding, as are the positive relationships I have with my pupils,” he says.
“There’s so many individual stories that have had a profound impact on me, especially when youngsters go through difficult moments.
It’s just like a family – we sometimes even have family meals together when a load of us would have lunch together and listen to the music everyone has made. That closeness translates in their performances as well, so the rewards really are significant.”
Ben has always pushed for those involved in both his classes and the Rap Club to focus on positive music and what they are passionate about.
“There is one kid who raps about how bad knife crime is,” Ben says.
“And one member lost a close family members and the whole group started creating raps about that experience.”
In recognition for his efforts, Ben was shortlisted for Best New Teacher of the Year at the TES Awards, as well as winning a Music For Youth Connects Award for his efforts in leading a youth group.
While this level of recognition is something Ben is certainly proud of, it’s not what ultimately motivates him, as “seeing the impact of what I’m working on and seeing positive change in young people trumps anything.”
Ben’s Rap Club has gone from strength to strength under his tutelage, performing at Wembley Arena to close an annual teaching event, as well as the Royal Albert Hall. They have even had a music video featured on BBC Children in Need.
The Wembley performance in particular, though, was a real landmark moment for Ben, who acknowledges the incredible opportunity only presented itself because of his decision to become a teacher.
“We got to play in front of 10,000 people and we went for really high energy with loads of excellent young musicians and drummers. We also got to meet other artists the pupils love like Wretch 32.
“I was at the side just cheering them on, feeling like a proud parent!”
Moving forward, Ben comments that the aim is to expand Rap Club as much as possible – “for the future of Rap Club, we are exploring how we can get into more schools across the country” – but teaching remains at the heart of everything he does.
He says that “being authentic and passionate is important in giving off the right attitude to pupils” and that “vibrancy and having an interest in the culture of what young people do” is the key to being a successful teacher.
Charismatic, witty, charming, engaging - four things Joshua Rogers will never be. Thankfully, he’s a semi-competent writer, who, after graduating university with two mostly pointless degrees, joined The Hook two years ago. Since then, he has honed his writing skills over the course of various sex related articles. Now, at the tender age of 26, he’s finally finished experimenting with (on) himself.