Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Momma first, everything else second: Why I Do What I Do   Leave a comment

I was just reading through my Gmail inbox (trying not to let things pile-up again) and I opened this message from Rosetta Thurman (who I also follow on Twitter) about Blogging for Branding. Honestly, I am in one of those moods where I don’t want to do anything because I don’t know what to do. It’s quiet in the office because the quarter just started at the college, so there is very little traffic the first 2 weeks of the term. Sometimes I get restless during quiet times…I don’t have enough to keep me (and my mind) busy so I start thinking about what I should be doing and where I am supposed to be. Much like I did in this previous post. Well, I recently started an online certificate program, where I will learn how to develop and teach online classes. I thought that would be enough to keep me going for a while, but you know how it goes when life happens, right? I admit that my writing (frequency) has been lackluster recently and I really don’t know what to write about on most days because I feel like I am saying the same things over and over again….kinda like deja vu a la Groundhog Day. Once I read Rosetta’s suggestions on blog topics about PASSION (no, not that kind of passion), the lightbulb started flickering…

As you all may/may not know, I homeschooled Boy Wonder for a couple of years because of bullying and threats; the folks who oversee run Gwinnett County Schools failed to abide by their own code of conduct. It all became too much for both of us so I decided to try the homeschool option. It worked well for us: No stress of elbowing finding his way to class, trying to concentrate while other kids disrupt class, or dealing with the threats/taunting/bullying. And it worked for 3 years. But then I decided it was time for him to go back to school and be around other kids and I wanted to start looking for work again. So off to school he goes….

Things were moving along pretty well initially, then someone (not me) dropped the ball. The first snafu happened when they forgot to include my son on the list of students taking the PSAT, even after I initiated the conversation (in writing). I was assured that as long as he was present that day, he would take the test. He didn’t. Well we are in the second semester and he is still struggling with Georgia’s prized ‘new’ Math curriculum. As a 10th grader he is taking Integrated Geometry. He has stayed after school a few times for additional help, but the help didn’t really help. O.k., it helped temporarily, but he still failed the first semester and is in danger of failing the second semester. Oh yeah, almost forgot: He is taking a CRedit Recovery class in hopes of ‘recovering’ that credit from the first semester. BONUS: I had to pay $100 for it. And I really didn’t have it to spend. And no, I cannot afford a private tutor. And yes, I can help him with (some of) the Geometry, but I will proudly admit: Some of that crap is foreign to me! I took Geometry in high school, you know, the old school kind with Pythagoras, Euclid, planes, angles, degrees, and such. I still do not UNDERSTAND why they are calling it Integrated Geometry so my confusion regarding the content is justified (in my eyes). Oh yeah, the school does not offer any regularly scheduled tutoring services even though 57% of the students are Black and 57% of the students qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch (FARL), including my own. Hmmmm. I am not too adept at the ‘new’ Math but I know that something does not add up here. If those numbers are not compelling enough, how about these: For the 2009-2010 school year, 79% of students FAILED the Algebra End-of-Course Test (EOCT); 70% of students FAILED the Geometry EOCT; 41% and 40% of students FAILED the Mathematics I and II EOCTs, respectively. I won’t bore you all with a breakdown of the failure rates by AYP subgroup, but I am sure you can guess which group (s) performed the worst, right?

To avoid the risk of having this post turn into a rant, I will end by saying that I was very proactive and vocal regarding my concerns over this ‘new’ Math. I emailed the State Superintendent (even though I knew someone else would read and respond to me) and I forwarded the response to the school. The principal admitted that he had not heard of any decision by the local board to implement to alternative Math curriculum, which the State Board of Education approved. I informed him that I would contact the district office because, despite what they think/don’t think about my son, he is going to college. Of course now with the ‘F’ on his transcript, his options will be greatly limited. Limited as in he may be stuck here for college. At least there is still the HOPE scholarship. Oh wait, he has to have a 3.0 GPA in core subjects to be eligible for that. Nevermind….I will continue to do what I do because I am a momma first and everything else second.

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Sometimes the blind leading the blind just works…   2 comments

So I am sitting here, at the computer, with nothing to do (unless I count Tweeting as ‘something’). Yes, I am at work but this is an unusually slow day. As a matter of fact, the past few weeks have been pretty slow. Our ‘peek’ times fall around registration and orientation days. When I am bored, my mind begins to wander….

 ‘What am I supposed to be doing?’

‘Am I in the right place?’

‘Am I better suited for a K-12 classroom?’

‘Why do I feel like I am not making a contribution?’

*Sigh* I feel a little guilty for having these thoughts, especially since I’m an Academic Advisor at a technical college. After all, students come to me (us) with questions regarding course selection, career choices, etc. How in the heck can I (correctly) advise someone on a career choice when I don’t even know what I want to do???

I guess I just have to take comfort in knowing that sometimes the blind leading the blind just works. Especially when they smile, say ‘Thank you so much!’ and come back to see me.

At what point do we stop ‘dreaming’ and start doing?   Leave a comment

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

As I was laying in bed listening to the Tom Joyner Morning Show’s tribute to Dr. King, I got that feeling again. I have always wondered what it would have been like to live during the Civil Rights Movement. Sometimes I even joke that I did and was reincarnated as the me I am today. I have always been a little outspoken smart-ass or loud-mouthed Yankee, as I was ‘affectionately’ called by some southerners when I first moved to Georgia. I would just smile and giggle on the inside because I knew they were jealous of my fearless and opinionated nature. They were not raised to have the same level of self-confidence and strong moral compass as I, but I did not blame them for that. So anywho, I got to thinking last night as I scrolled through my Twitter timeline. Several people started posting or retweeting those ‘What would Dr. King say about….’ blog links. I thought, ‘Oh lord, here we go.’ But I guess people need a way to direct traffic to their blogs, right? There was one title that caught my eye….I believe it had something to do with education. Of course, I didn’t read it because, well, it’s the same ish regurgitated from last year and the year before. But here’s the thing…Dr. King would not keep saying the same things about education/employment/housing discrimination. Know how I know? Montgomery Bus Boycott, March on Washington, etc. At some point, they stopped talking and started acting either through walking, sit-ins, or all-out boycotts. What happened to that level of commitment to the cause? Why do we insist on talking to the-powers-that-be when they have shown us, time and time again, that they are not the least bit interested in what we have to say? Why do we listen to people such as Diane Ravitch, Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Davis Guggenheim, and any person of privilege who has profited from the poor state of Black and Brown education? Better yet, why would we even entertain anything a former insider has to say when s/he was completely silent when on the inside? I thought the whistleblower had more power when they blew the whistle while still working within the corrupt entity? No? Ok. But I digress….

So today I am not doing anything out of the ordinary. Nope, because the other 364 days of the year I make sure that I teach my children to carry themselves in a respectful manner, whether at home, school, or other public places. I teach them that no one, regardless of race, has the right to mistreat/disrespect them, teachers and other school officials especially. Most importantly, I teach my kids that they have the right to go wherever and dare to dream whatever their little hearts desire. Why should today be any different? These lessons have obviously missed a great number of the people with whom I have come into contact. I can’t fix them or change their upbringings. All I can do is be grateful for the sacrifices (as in lives lost) made so that I could actually sit in classrooms next to (not behind) little White girls and boys. No longer am I relegated to the back of the bus or separate entrances into restaurants or movie theaters. I have voted in every presidential (and almost every local election) since the age of 18. All of those privileges required sacrifices. Not talking, roundtables, CNN specials, NBC townhall meetings, movies about fictitious characters who NEVER visited the hood, or power-hungry media whores claiming they care about kids whose mouths they taped shut. Nope. All of those privileges came by way of action. Doing. Marching. Sitting-in. Crippling a city’s public transportation system. So until someone needs help organizing a massive school boycott, y’all can miss me with that ‘What would Dr. King say’ stuff because he would have already gotten the ball rolling on the (education) changes we were supposed to see after 1954.

Posted January 17, 2011 by moniseseward in Uncategorized

Things I wanted to Tweet today but couldn’t because I was on a Twitter-fast   1 comment

 

This is what I've become

 

  1. It was so cold this morning, I didn’t want to get out of bed.
  2. Thinking about Indiana winters has kept me stuck in Georgia.
  3. My body doesn’t like the cold.
  4. Why do people get uncomfortable when parents start asking questions?
  5. What would you think if a school official sent you an email at 12:41 AM?
  6. Why is it so hard for people to say ‘We/I made a mistake. Please forgive us/me?’ I would accept your apology and move on.
  7. #1 again.
  8. When/how did students with Special Needs become such a low priority for school districts/state departments of education?
  9. Who really wants to work with parents w/o knowledge of school policies/laws/rights? I didn’t/don’t.
  10. Good lord, can this child’s mamma buy her some rhythm? Please? (Dancing with the Stars)
  11. As much as I hate/fear (the process of) moving, I think it’s time to move on.
  12. I’ve had many days where I sat still to hear You. Have You been listening to me?
  13. I was liking Jennifer Grey until she started acting like a drama queen. I’m rooting for Brandy & Rick now.
  14. I thought I kept up on the new people who are following me! Sorry! Thanks for your interest!
  15. I enjoyed the Sesame Street video promoting love of natural hair, but I didn’t realize the story behind it. By no means am I against people adopting babies from other countries (one of my fav profs & her hubby adopted a Black baby-U.S. born), but…if you adopt a child from Africa and give her/him blond haired. blue-eyed dolls, expect him/her to have some image ‘issues.’
  16. I miss y’all when I’m not online. I will go through withdrawal when I finally start working!
  17. Dear Junior Seau: Putting your hands on a woman is bad. BTW: What is up with these old dudes & these young girls?
  18. I only cussed once today. That’s good considering these Yahoos at the school are getting on my damn nerves…o.k. that’s twice. SHAT!
  19. I feel better after that face-first fall on the concrete 2 weeks ago. Will start walking again tomorrow.
  20. Looking forward to serving on the Educating Georgia panel next month. Should probably start working on my ‘piece.’
  21. Which reminds me, I really need to get this web site done. FYI: I am not very good at HTML/Code or whatever they call it. I have little patience for such things, which is why I have about 10 unfinished home improvement projects scattered throughout my house.
  22. I wonder what I’d be doing if there were no twitter???? Probably talking to myself…my kids already think I’m crazy….
  23. Why do people follow you but not interact with you? I need to do some Twitter-cleaning real soon. I need & welcome dialogue!
  24. Less than 2 hours and I get to Tweet again!!!!!
  25. Uh…haven’t written anything since #24 and still 1 hour and 4 minutes until I can tweet……. *faints*
  26. I think I might have a piece of that cake I made last night. FYI: @JournalProject – I gave more than half away to neighbors! <sticks out tongue>
  27. 1 hour to goooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!
  28. I wonder if my <fake> Twitter Boo(s) is/are online and if he/they missed me today?
  29. So, if you have a Twitter Boo, or Boos, around Valentine’s Day, does that mean they have to get you something? No? Oh, ok, Nevamind. Carry-on!
  30. Dear Sonny Perdue: Your days are numbered-stop grasping for straws. TYVM.
  31. Wow! City of Atlanta has an $11M water bill. I wonder when they will get their disconnect notice?
  32. Dear Clifford Harris: I was really rooting for you because you have the potential to positively influence a lot of kids. I hope this stint in the clink/pokey/big house/pen will open your eyes.
  33. I think ‘gubernatorial’ should be changed to ‘goober-natorial’ when I look at some of these commercials…
  34. Um, so I went to Bing.com to find pics of distracted people and several pics of women showcasing their um…twins popped up. I guess I should have said ‘Distracted women.’ Seriously? Wow.
  35. Dear Facebook: Just stop already! Dagnabit!
  36. What can I do, besides eat, to pass the last 39 minutes of my Twitter-fast?
  37. I need to get cable before Conan comes on……
  38. Dave said he had a knot in his thing….dirty old man…..

Posted October 18, 2010 by moniseseward in Uncategorized

Ain’t I a Black parent who wants to improve education? Or is that not good enough for the Huff Post?   14 comments

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

So I had the weekend (and part of today) to work through my frustration and anger regarding the manner in which staff at the Huffington Post handled my request to write for their Education Blog special this month. The initial email and ensuing responses are below.

From Me to Them:

Good afternoon,

A Twitter friend ( @ReadyWriting) suggested that I contact you regarding writing for the upcoming Education section of the Huffington Post. Could you provide some additional information on the guidelines and criteria please? I am very interested in this opportunity, as the parent-teacher voice has been silenced in recent Education dialog efforts.

Below are some links to a few blogs/articles I have written:

My personal blog: https://educationceo.wordpress.com/

Contributions to Race-Talk blog (Kirwan Institute);

‘Black women in Education: Do our voices count?’

”Don’t blame the drop-outs, blame the outdated education system’

Examiner.com: Atlanta Education Reform Examiner

I would also like to add that I have approximately 2,300 followers on Twitter. Not quite celebrity status, but not bad for an unemployed single mother (and former teacher) who only started seriously tweeting earlier this year!

Thank you in advance for your consideration!

Sincerely,

~Monise

An email sent from D.G. to T (with a Cc: to myself):

T

Let me know any next steps to take with this one. Thanks!

– Show quoted text – (The initial email I sent, which is above.)


D.G.

Associate Editor

The Huffington Post Impact

Causecast.org

Second email from D.G. to Me (same day):

Dear Monise,

Thank you for showing your interest! People interested in blogging for the Education section are asked to send in a brief bio for review by our editorial staff. If we feel you could contribute to our section we will get back to you as soon as possible.

To familiarize you with the expectations we have for our section and our bloggers I have provided you a bit of information below. If you have any other questions or concerns please feel free to contact me.

Best,

D

_____________

HuffPost Education, launching Monday, October 4, will serve as a hub for prominent educators, celebrities, politicians and other influential voices to discuss successes and failures in the American K-12 public school system. This is a great opportunity to share your opinions about education and education reform and to encourage readers to get involved. We want to inspire thoughtful discussion about education, spur innovation in the field, recognize great teachers and provide tools and information for ordinary Americans to make a difference for their local schools.

Like the Impact section launched last fall, Causecast has partnered with The Huffington Post to develop the Education section.

By providing unique content (text or video) either regularly or as an occasional guest contributor on this platform, bloggers will be able to share their message with millions of active Huffington Post readers who are looking to be inspired and get involved. HuffPost Education will feature blog posts from teachers, students, education reformers, nonprofit leaders, politicians and celebrities and provide clear calls-to-action for readers looking to get directly involved with the issues discussed. Contributors will include Arianna Huffington, Davis Guggenheim, Rosario Dawson, Geoffrey Canada, Joy Bryant and numerous other individuals passionate about improving education in America.

HuffPost Education presents an exciting opportunity to build a community centered around education topics on one of world’s most active news blogs. To build a strong relationship with your HuffPost readers, we encourage you to contribute regularly. This is the best way to maximize your effectiveness on the platform.

So here is my issue: First of all, I didn’t quite appreciate to the reference ‘this one,’ regardless of the intended context. For the record, I don’t like ‘You people,’ ‘Those people,’ and any other derogatory terms/statements. Second, look at this line (yes the response was canned, but it speaks volumes about the lack of respect that everyone has shown for the parents):

HuffPost Education, launching Monday, October 4, will serve as a hub for prominent educators, celebrities, politicians and other influential voices to discuss successes and failures in the American K-12 public school system.

Did you happen to notice who was missing from the line-up? The same group that was missing from Education Nation and the talk show circuits during the past 2 weeks: Parents. No, not the kind like Guggenheim who can afford private schools for their kids, but the kind like me who sacrificed a lot to buy our first home within a school district known for its (supposedly) excellent schools. Me, who when backed into a corner and threatened to choose my job or my child’s well-being, chose my child and now cannot get another teaching job in the state of Georgia. Me, who is suffering because I cannot do what I love-what I was called to do. Me who realizes that I would rather struggle alone in calling attention to the Johnny-Come-Latelys who don’t know a damn thing about Public Education, must less how to relate to people like me. Like I said before, money does not buy you the experience. Sleeping with a Black man does not buy you the experience. There is no substitute for experience. Sorry, I don’t make the rules. It is what it is.

But despite the elitism and condescension, I knew that I could count on someone (@readtoday) for support and a little hell-raising. To her words and constant support, I say this:

‘In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’ ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

And in keeping with who I am and knowing whose I am, I will embark upon my own little boycott of the Huffington Post and any other media rag that choose to continue to ignore the voices of those who have the most at stake in this game of Russian Roulette disguised as education reform. Yes, I know I will be alone but that’s how I came into this world and I am sure that is the same manner in which I will leave. But you know what? I am ok with that because when I have to answer for what I did/did not know do, I know that my actions/words will not have been in vain.

An IEP is not a free pass, and other misconceptions about Special Education   5 comments

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in Twitter’s #SpEdChat (READ: I actually remembered it was taking place and added my two cents). I have a special place in my heart for Special Education; I made it through 4.5 years teaching without laying hands (CODE: Channeling Madea) on any students. More importantly, I managed to only mildly inform colleagues and administrators of their ignorance of Special Education’s purpose and when they directly violated any component of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Act). But I digress because this post is about something else. It’s about teachers being proactive in gaining knowledge to do what’s in the best interest of their students. And I can always support that!

I noticed a theme during the #SpEdChat: A lot of General Education teachers are genuinely interested in learning about ways to help those students with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), as opposed to ‘passing them’ simply because they have an IEP. My buddy @TheJLV and I were discussing the arrangements at his school: The majority of the kids served by Special Education participate in Inclusion classes, where students are essentially mainstreamed into Regular Education classes. (NOTE: This setting, as with any other, is determined by the child’s IEP team – parents, teachers, psychologist, administrator, etc. and his/her area of disability. This is covered by the FAPE – Free Appropriate Public Education- provision of IDEA.) He shared that the staff attended an IEP training workshop, facilitated/led by the Special Education Department. That’s certainly a good first step, but I am sure some of the people were overwhelmed. Why? Because I was overwhelmed with writing IEPs for the first two years; reading them was much easier! In order to better educate teachers, both General and Special Education, it is absolutely necessary to for school’s to offer ongoing professional development regarding IEPs, IDEA, Inclusion, etc. One-shot workshops don’t usually work well for other education-related topics, so it’s no wonder why they don’t fare well with regard to Special Education.

So a few people asked questions about IEPs, including how do you write them, how do you understand them, etc. As I stated above, writing IEPs is a difficult and sometimes daunting task; however, when done correctly, a well-written one makes delivering quality instruction and assessing student growth a proverbial cakewalk. I cannot, nor will I attempt, to do a drive-by blog on writing IEPs because there is a lot that goes into that, but to start I will give you a quick run-down of what an IEP is/is not, and what it’s supposed to do-when followed.

What the heck is an IEP? (Not to be confused with EIP – Early Intervention Plan/Program)

  1. First and foremost, an IEP is a legal document; it’s contents & directives are protected by IDEA;
  2. An IEP is a confidential document. You should only discuss its contents with people who directly interact with the child;
  3. An IEP is required for any child diagnosed with any disability that impedes/affects (not stops) his or her ability to learn at the same rate or in the same manner as peers;
  4. An IEP is not a free pass for students to ‘skate’ through the system; do not let anyone tell you otherwise. You will do students a great disservice if you don’t hold them accountable;
  5. An IEP does not excuse (the majority of) students from learning the same standards/content. It does, however, provide for accommodations/modifications based upon the IEP team’s recommendations;
  6. A well-written IEP requires input from all stakeholders: Student (if appropriate age-usually 14); parent(s); teachers; psychologist; Lead Special Education Teacher (terminology may differ by state); administrator; school counselor; therapist, SLP, etc. when appropriate. This is a group effort and the child will only be successful if the requisite amount of time and knowledge are applied to writing and following the IEP;
  7. An IEP is integral to the success of any student with a disability. It should not, under any circumstances, be filed in some cabinet and ignored during the school year;
  8. By law, an IEP must be updated every year, on the anniversary date. Err on the side of caution: Schedule the Annual Review 7-10 days prior to the anniversary date. I have seen school districts sued by knowledgeable parents because the district failed to conduct the Annual Review. I have also seen students with 2-3 year old IEPs. Yes, the system is broken but we are still accountable for meeting the needs of our students.

In response to concerns voiced by some teachers and administrators during the chat: IDEA states that teachers who have direct instructional contact with the student are required to attend IEP meetings. Attendance by a building administrator is also required. I would suggest that the Special Education Department Chair collaborate first, with the principal to develop a master calendar of potential IEP Annual Review dates. Then, work with other department chairs and inform all teachers of their responsibilities. I understand that teachers now have 1,001 things on their plates, but I am sure they would much rather make time for meetings than be named in a lawsuit.

When in doubt, follow IDEA. Every state/district/school must use IDEA as a foundation for developing their respective Special Education programs. Anything above and beyond IDEA is up to their discretion, but the federal guidelines cannot be altered as long as federal funds are involved/accepted/spent.

I’d prefer, ‘Changing Demographics.’ Thank you.   4 comments

During the past year or so, we have been bombarded with stories about what works in education, whose to blame for the current situation, blah, blah, blah. Honestly, I thought I had seen it all, or at least developed some degree of immunity. Heck, I don’t even read stuff about ‘that woman’ in D.C. anymore because I am possibly the only person who will publicly state that if her name was Tanika Jackson, she would not be able to get away with that shi behavior. Anyway, as I am updating Twitter with what’s going on ed-wise in Atlanta, I came across a blog post from Maureen Downey-who writes the AJCGetSchooled blog.

In one of her weekly posts, Downey discusses the issues going on in DeKalb County, the state’s third largest district, and whether the state should intervene. Earlier this year the superintendent was indicted on racketeering and theft charges (who says the mafia is dead?) and now allegations of nepotism have (finally) surfaced. According to Downey:

‘But the county has changed, and there are far more hard-to-educate children now than when DeKalb was a bedroom community of Atlanta. Those days aren’t going to come back because the easiest-to-educate kids now live in Alpharetta and Peachtree City. Poorer children, immigrant children and children whose own parents didn’t go to college have a longer way to go than the  students whose parents bought them the Tolkien trilogy when the kids were still in diapers and send them to math camp.”

In the next paragraph, she explains her comment by stating that it is not a ‘slur’ on the county. That is an interesting defense of an obviously insensitive generalization. First, who believes that some children, e.g., African-American, Latino, and low-income, are hard-to-educate? Those student groups comprise the majority in DeKalb County’s schools and in most neighborhoods. I do not doubt that she chose DeKalb for it’s diversity, but I would wager that her neighborhood school does not depict a true reflection of the larger community.

While reading her post, I started asking myself some questions:

1. What, or who-the-hell, is a ‘hard-to-educate’ child?

2. What, or who-the-hell, are the ‘easiest-to-educate’ children?

3. How can you tell the difference between the two?

I am not a trained journalist, but I can think of at least two other non-offensive ways in which to describe the changes that have occurred in DeKalb, and other metro-Atlanta districts, over the past 10-20 years. Perhaps my race and ethnicity have a lot to do with that, but I prefer to believe that my sensitive nature stems from my upbringing and common sense. Furthermore, I refuse to allow anyone, especially an outsider, to lay blame for what ails urban schools at the feet of the children. After all, they were not holding signs, spitting on, or attacking kids who dared to integrate them and they did not make the decisions to uphold segregationist practices by covertly dismantling district-wide transfer programs.

The message and potential lesson here: Members of the media have a (sometimes too) significant impact on how different groups of people view each other. We need to continue to hold them accountable when they publish insensitive and borderline racist remarks. This instance is no different. Like my Granny always said: ‘It’s not what you say, but how you say it.’ She was right about a lot of things.