Archive for the ‘BlackEd’ Tag

Don’t put your faith in man…….or fictitious superheros   1 comment

DISCLAIMER: I usually post a bunch of links to stuff I reference in my blog. Once you start reading you will see that the topic has been beat like a dead horse (Oh wait, can I say that?) so there’s no need to repeat….everything is on the Internet.

For those of you who clicked the link thinking you would read my .02 on that popular mega-church preacher in Atlanta, you are sorely mistaken. But, since you took the time to click the link, you might as well sit a spell and read what I have to say. If nothing else, my words will compel you to think about some of the people whom you admire(d) and examine why you do so in the first place.

The past week we were bombarded with advertising for the much-anticipated (by some people) movie, ‘Waiting for Superman,’ which provides an inside view (for some people) on the state of public education. We saw Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Geoffrey Canada, and others parading around the media circuit to both promote the movie and their agendas. For those of you wondering: No, I have not seen the movie. And for good reasons:

  1. I am gainfully unemployed and have been so for 3.5 years. I can think of about five others things that are more deserving of my $10-12 dollars than a movie which I could have easily written, if I were in the business of pimping showing how kids and parents are stuck without quality school choice options;
  2. I do not need a movie to show me what I already know. Unlike Gates, Oprah, Guggenheim, and (fill-in-the-blank), I have classroom experience, both as a Special Education Paraprofessional and Teacher. In urban schools. Title I schools. Where kids came to school hungry, sleepy, unclean, without school supplies, etc. for a number of reasons. But no judgement because I, unlike the afore-mentioned people, talked to the students, not at or about them as if they were subjects in some science experiment. Big difference. I knew what they dealt with when they left the building.
  3. I don’t trust too many Hollywood movies, especially when people are portraying us (at least people who look like me) as downtrodden and on the brink of whatever, instead of investing into something more meaningful and immediate. Sure, Guggenheim will win an Oscar/Emmy/Whatever but what else will change? Exactly. Next year it will be a different movie. By some other person privileged enough to send their kids to private school. Whatever.

I have more reasons, but that is not the impetus for this blog…maybe later though. So, as people have bum-rushed theaters to see this move, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and online media outlets have been ablaze with stories of snottin, boo-hooin, and carrying on. Wow. Imagine that? Grown folks crying because they saw a 90 minute movie about the conditions of our public schools. I wonder how many stopped to ask themselves: ‘O.K., what about the other 75,510 minutes (180 days x 7 hours a day x 60 minutes for those who are mathematically challenged) that the kids are in school? Should I cry for those minutes/days/weeks/months too? Are the conditions the same?’ But no, they are not asking those questions because, like millions of other Americans, temporary outrage will suffice.  Yeah, I said it. Your outrage is temporary. Please do not mistake my honesty for cynicism or lack of compassion. I spent many days sitting in my classroom (and driving home) crying because I felt like there was so much more that needed to be done for students, but I just did not have the resources, connections, or pedigree to meet those needs. In fact, I still cry for my students because I wonder if they are: (1) alive; (2) incarcerated; (3) employed; and (4) if they ever went to college, as I stressed on a daily basis. But my kids deserved and got more than 90 minutes of sympathy from me. FACT.

I have never been one to shy away from a debate. And I am sure people will dissect and attack what I have written, anonymously, of course, by way of blog comments. And that’s fine. But I know what I know (and have seen) and no one can take that away from me. Or convince me to see ‘it’ from a different perspective. I have been both teacher and parent, working within crappy systems where Greek and church affiliations, or minstreling/Tomming/Shuckin & Jivin clear the path to administrative jobs, even if you cannot string together a complete sentence (Ex: The words tomorrow, yesterday, next (day of the week) DO NOT need to be preceded with ‘on’), or you lack the most basic people skills. By people skills, I do not mean that everyone has to like you, but if students are calling you ‘Bitch,’ ‘Dumbass,’ and ‘Motherfucker,’ then clearly you lack the ability to command/gain respect. In your attempt to deflect the obvious lack of respect from students, you belittle and disrespect the very people you need to help run the school, even at the most basic level of functionality. Sound familiar? She’s not the only one.

I am putting forth this challenge to those of you who have been ‘enlightened’ by this movie. Here are some things Iwould like you to consider when telling others how they should feel about the movie or playing writer and penning a blog, when you obviously don’t have a damn clue as to how to function in a classroom (Did you catch Tony Danza’s crying spell on Oprah? He played the role of teacher for a year and couldn’t hack it.)

  1. What do you think is the real underlying motivation for these people giving millions of dollars to improve Education for these poor little Black and Brown kids? Don’t be too quick to answer this one because you just may get it wrong. If you studied psychology, then you probably know the real answer. Not so much to do with Education directly though. The bible warns: ‘Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.’ (Matthew 7:15) Some people’s good intentions may be fueled by their desires to mend their battered public images, or convince the wayward sheep (and school districts) to continue buying their products. Besides, good deeds should not come with stipulations attached, under any circumstances. (I just realized that argument is suitable for merit pay too….)
  2. If the philanthropists are genuinely concerned about addressing the underlying issues affecting Education, then wouldn’t it make more sense to address those issues and not just the schools? If you know that 98% of the kids in a district receive Free and Reduced Lunch, why not start a Farmer’s Market in the school or community so that parents can buy affordable (fresh) fruits and vegetables for their kids? Then, you could offer nutrition classes at the school and within the community so that parents understand the importance of a balanced meal. After all, healthy eating habits are linked to academic achievement. Well, at least that’s what the experts say…
  3. Affordable (free) after-school enrichment and remediation programs. See #2.
  4. Academically rich summer programs. See #2.
  5. Healthcare. See #2.

Do I really need to present more examples? I know the writing is a little harder for some to see than others, but I think I have made my point. For those of you who are quick to say, ‘Well, Rhee has done some great things in D.C. so she really needs to stay on to continue her work,’ I present these questions for you to consider:

  1. Do you, based on everything you have learned as a teacher/parent/whatever, honestly believe that she isthe best person to lead that district? Given everything that has transpired publicly (because many obviously don’t know about the under-handed stuff she’s been able to cover-up), do you honestly, deep down inside, believe that she can move the district forward? Usually leaders that have generated such (warranted) animosity amongst employees and other stakeholders are unsuccessful at implementing change that people can believe in and whole-heartedly support. Yes, those things are important. That does not mean they all have to participate in sleepovers at her house or buy Christmas gifts, but an environment free of fear and distrust is imperative if genuine teaching and learning are to occur. Leadership 101. Just ask any leader who has been successful at leading a school or profitable company….
  2. Are you going along with the status quo in hopes of being recognized (on Twitter, nonetheless) and holding out hope that one day, someone may offer you a key position within their organization? I have been reading Tweets very closely and too many people have far too few facts to be her (or any edreformer’s) biggest cheerleader. Every story has three sides: His/her sides and the truth. Like that New York philosopher Jay-Z says (paraphrases, whatever): ‘Men Lie. Women lie. Numbers don’t lie.’ In this case, congressional reports don’t lie.
  3. Can we really trust a person who falsely accuses teachers of abusing students when she herself admitted to putting masking tape on the mouths of 2nd graders? No, this was not some science experiment. Apparently she had become frustrated with the noise and thought it would be a good idea to turn this into a game. I guess the crying kids with bleeding lips alerted her that it was not fun. At least not for the students. If you do not possess basic classroom management skills, how in the hell are we supposed to trust that you can manage teachers, staff, and students? It’s obvious she can’t manage the parents because they voted her boss (and hopefully her) out of office.

Your answers really aren’t that important (to me) because you do not have to answer to me in the end. But if you had to re-consider your stance on any of the above questions, then I certainly hope you are not a classroom teacher or a parent. More importantly, you do not have enough first-hand experience to interject comments of merit into this debate because you are clearly out of touch with my reality and that of millions of parents and teachers across the country. Before you position yourself over the keyboard to type a tersely written response, consider this: No check, no matter the size, can buy you an experience or a real sense of what people have been/are going through. They call it compensation for a reason. Mocking the Black vernacular to share an experience with new teachers or covering-up for your handsy Black boyfriend will not earn you a ‘homegirl’ card. They call it compensation for a reason. (BTW: I just answered the second #1 for you. You’re welcome)

So in this edreform circus, short men with little feet have been replaced by rich, White (mostly) men with big checkbooks who, undoubtedly, are looking at this with the ‘What’s in it for me?’ angle? There’s always something in it for someone….

Before I conclude today’s sermon I would like to take-up a ‘love offering’ because I do believe I took at least one person to chuuch with this blog post. Thank you and God bless!

Big dreams require big faith & friends with big hearts   6 comments

Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

DISCLAIMER: This blog post is about my desire to fulfill my purpose by helping the kids of my community. If you do not believe in faith or big dreams, please stop reading. From this point forward, only positive thoughts are allowed. Thank you!

Have you ever wanted something so bad, that the thought of never getting or achieving it caused you to lose sleep at night? Have you discovered your true passion but are at a loss for ways to make it happen? Have you ever had a dream that you were afraid to share with people because they would probably have something negative to say, like ‘That will never happen,’ or ‘You’re dreaming too big.’ How did that make you feel? I know when the Georgia’s charter schools division told MSA that we had 30 days to raise $1 million dollars, I was devastated. And quite frankly, a little pissed. But that is not why I am writing this blog-appeal to you. When I finally accepted that God wanted me to keep hold of my purpose, but use different means to achieve it, I felt as though I had achieved victory. No, the school did not open and we did not raise those funds, but I found another way to do what so desperately needs to be done: Provide quality arts programs for kids in my community, for free. More specifically, I want to provide free arts programs to kids who may not otherwise have access, either because their parent(s) do not have discretionary funds or the arts are not easily accessible, meaning the programs ARE NOT being offered in the schools or the community as a whole.

Those of you who have been following either my blog or tweets for any amount of time already know that I hold no punches when it comes to discussing criticizing public education, especially here in Georgia and Gwinnett County. I participate in both #BlackEd and #ArtsEd chats on Twitter to discuss what’s wrong. More importantly, I offer my opinions on how I think things could and should be, not because I am an expert but because I have common sense. I have been in both traditional and alternative schools. Kids talked to me. About everything. Many of the things they shared were not coerced from me; they obviously felt that I was trustworthy enough to have the intimate details of their lives. That meant (and still means) something to me. I made the right decision when I decided to become a teacher and I miss working with kids. Everyday. But thankfully my passion for the classroom and kids didn’t leave when I chose to advocate for my own child instead of remaining in a job/school where I was neither respected nor valued.

As I mentioned earlier, we did not raise the $1 million dollars in 30 days. More importantly, I didn’t lose sight of my vision and passion although I came pretty close on numerous occasions. When everything seemed to work against me, I kept going. I didn’t have friends with large sums of money, but I kept going. I didn’t have personal relationships with politicians or board members, but I kept going. I guess there’s something to be said about the benefits of having my back against a wall – my creativity is at its best during those times! So, all of the ‘no’s’ have led me to re-conceptualize how I will change education in my community. Here’s my ‘big’ dream: I want to start a Summer & Saturday Arts Academy for kids in Snellville, but here’s the catch: I want to offer these programs for free to kids who may attend a Title I school, as well as ELL students and those who may have a disability. Yes, I said FREE! We are going to submit a $250,000 proposal for the Pepsi Refresh Grant competition to start our program, will serve at least 150 kids during the summer and possibly 250-300 during the Saturday program. Yes, that’s a big goal because I have never been encouraged to think or dream small. It’s going to take a lot of money to do this, but with support and commitment from those who believe in the arts, their value (both alone and their impact on education), and those who know there are disparities in programs and resources in some public schools, this CAN and WILL happen! So what do I need from you? No, I am not asking you to whip-out your credit cards or checkbooks (of course if you want to, you can). I am asking for a few simple favors:

  1. After you have carefully read this post, please Retweet it if you believe in and support what I am trying to accomplish;
  2. Once I tweet that our submission has been accepted for a Pepsi Refresh Grant, encourage all of your friends and Followers to vote for us;
  3. Repeat Step 2 for 15 consecutive days.

See how easy it can be to make a difference! I am believing that this program will happen because it needs to happen. I will submit the proposal to Pepsi at 12:01 a.m. on June 1st and will receive notice about Pepsi’s acceptance a few days later. As soon as I receive the acceptance via email, I will begin tweeting to solicit votes. Please join me in the campaign to ‘Wake the artists, change the world.’

Thank you!

Were you a part of Education-Twitter history?   4 comments

Tonight I had the pleasure in taking part in a ground-breaking chat on Twitter that focused on issues facing Black children and their families. BlackEd, as it has been coined, is an opportunity for parents, graduate students, educators, administrators, and community organizers to meet and discuss strategies on addressing the opportunity gap (we are rejecting the term ‘achievement gap’ as it implies that students cannot learn or are responsible for not learning) that exists for Black students, regardless of whether they are from low-income neighborhoods, single or two-parent families.

More importantly, BlackEd was born out of a desire to move past ‘blaming the victim’ e.g., students, and start focusing on feasible solutions. What can we, as communities (not just the group of neighbors) do to help students succeed in school? How can we address the obvious school-to-home disconnect? What role does the school curriculum play in the opportunity gap? Why do schools or teachers have low expectations for Black students? These were just some of the issues raised in tonight’s chat.

I think it is important that I acknowledge we had a ‘mixed’ group of participants in the first chat. Both Black and White educators were present. I will admit that I didn’t expect very many to participate because many people are, in fact, uncomfortable about discussing the issue of race, especially its role in education and perpetuating the opportunity gaps. I am hopeful that those who attended will be regular participants and encourage others to attend. I am especially hopeful that everyone will be able to process the dialogue, recognize how (if) their school/teaching methods may contribute to the gap, and how they can begin making small, yet measurable, changes for the sake of their students.