Archive for the ‘Jose Vilson’ Tag
I have spent the past month recuperating from two round-trip drives home (Indiana, 12 hours each way but I managed to shave off an hour coming home the last time…no snitching!), a minor illness, and a 7 Day Mental Cleanse (upon the advice of my Life (saving) Coach @MyLifeKeys and @StephanieAlva). I will be honest, I thought I would go crazy without my social media vices (mostly Twitter but I missed Facebook a little too). After the first 2 days, I was actually getting used to and making the most of the free time by reading, thinking (without thousands of other people’s thoughts coming at me), and planning to launch my own business(es). I was amazed by the amount of work I accomplished by unplugging from the extra noise.
Being away, however, did not change this drive I have to fulfill what I believe is my purpose in life: Use my knowledge, education, and passion to provide equal education and access to the arts for minority and/or low-income kids. I am human and I will admit that whenever I hit a roadblock, I get frustrated. I question why the path to ‘doing good’ is always fraught with politics, red tape, and
malarky b.s. Why is it that when someone (Read: A black, female, outspoken, liberal, and educated Yankee -that’s what they call me in the South, as if it hurts my feelings) identifies a need within his/her community, the powers-that-be old White boys’ network works so hard to make people believe there is no such need? But then I check myself because any time we (minorities) start shouting about our realities and how we perceive know things operate, we’re labeled as sensitive. Or even worse, we get accused of playing the ‘race card.’ First of all, I don’t view this thing called life as a game. So what in thee hell is a ‘race card?’ And unfortunately, the majority of us with melanin-infused skin and obviously non-European features cannot pick and choose the days that we are something other than what the mirror reflects. My point, and I do have one, is that someone (whom I respect a great deal, even though we don’t agree on everything), validated the feelings I’ve held for the past 4 years: There is no place for (all of) us at the table. And by ‘us’ I mean those who are not willing to placate, secret handshake, shuck-n-jive, skin-n-grin, or throw kids, single moms, or teachers under the bus to make others comfortable enough listen to us, let alone hear and consider us. Or give us our own segment on some Cable News Network.
As I read two of Jose’s (@TheJLV) posts, I thought: I can either spend my time, talents, and energy trying to get on the ‘inside’ so that I can fight them on their turf, or I can fight from the outside by continuing to encourage parents to speak-up and be the advocate their kids need. I can also fight by doing my own thing; providing opportunities for our kids, where the local board of education’s approval is not needed. Yeah, I think that would be a much better use of my time.
Whatever they throw at me, I will always win as long as I remember: They can slow me down, but they can’t stop me.
So (late) last night I decided to embark on a 24-hour Twitter fast after reading a testimony from @CandiceNicolePR. She openly shared how so many things had gone wrong during the past fews months, but then, almost suddenly things started to work in her favor. As I thought about her and her refusal to give up (even though she came close), I thought: I really need to take a break, sit and reflect on some things because I have been waiting for answers/direction for a very long time. And that’s exactly what I did today: No logging in to Twitter or Facebook. Instead, I rested and thought. For those of you who don’t know me, that’s code for I slept. All day, save for the few disturbances by the ringing cell phone. (FYI: You will see this post on Twitter, but I won’t be online until 12:01 AM)
When I finally got out of bed, I checked homework then logged in to check my email. Despite my protest last week, I read the contribution to the Huffington Post by my friend @TheJLV. Jose honestly tackled an issue that has become a talking piece amongst psuedo-edreformers, such as Arne Duncan: Increasing the numbers of Black and Latino male teachers. What’s really interesting is that I engaged in a conversation (not debate, not argument) with @rugcernie on Twitter last night on the same topic. But Jose’s piece made me think of the bigger picture: Race and its role in education, edreform, and everything ed-related. I couldn’t help but think about the blog post I wrote after I was shafted overlooked by the Huffington Post. Why are some people so obviously uncomfortable with talking about race? Better yet, why do some people get offended (defensive) when others discuss it?
PSA: If my frank discussions about race and class offend you, STOP READING! For those with a healthy and realistic view of the way things really work in this country, grab a seat and a snack because this one will be a little lengthy. A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post on my perception on what I (key word) perceived to be a dismissive/rude/unprofessional handling of my request to write for the Huffington Post’s Education Blog Special. Like other recent news and media outlets, like Education Nation, the online news outlet decided to dedicate a section of its web to discussing issues related to Education. To its credit, however, the Huffington POst did do a much better job at selecting a few good writers (@TheJLV and @TeacherSabrina). On the other hand, they mirrored the Education Nation’s efforts (or apathy) in selecting some parents (with actual school-age children, who attend public schools) to contribute to the dialogue. In every recent debate or teacher-union bashing event, the voices of parents have been silenced. More specifically, the voices of Black and Latino parents. I can’t help but wonder if, I were a parent with less than a college degree (or three) and a proclamation that I am willing to do whatever necessary to ensure that my kids attend college, would they have accepted me? Silly me! I thought someone was genuinely interested in hearing diverse perspectives, even those from single parents, a.k.a., the downfall of the family unit and public education. I guess not.
I continued to think….then felt that there were a few things I needed to say, in reference to some of the comments left on that blog post.
1. At no point in that blog did I say that the Huffington Post did not choose me because I am Black or a single parent. I simply inferred that they are no more interested in the parental perspective than Education Nation, Rhee, Klein, Duncan, or Gates… Black teachers, a little. But Black parents, not so much. The same applies to Latino teachers and parents.
2. The title I chose for that post, ‘Ain’t I a woman…’ was a play on words and one of my (many) attempts at sarcasm (Definition: a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual). By the way, my insertion of the definition of sracasm was also an excellent example of sarcasm. That’s how I roll: Go with the flow or get ran over. (Seriously) More importantly, if you didn’t recognize from whence the paraphrased title came, STOP reading this blog and go read this! I felt that my Blackness and my status as a mother were of little to no significance to the organizers of Education Nation. Being overlooked by Huffington Post magnified those feelings. So yeah, I was a little pissed. I had and have every right to be. How dare anyone assert themselves as leaders in Education, the ones ‘chosen’ to educate my kids, but not give any consideration to my viewpoint or what I can contribute to the discussion. The unmitigated gall!
But here’s what really ires me (I promise, I am almost done): People, Black, White, Latino, and everything in between, who refuse to acknowledge that the educational disparities we witness in present day, are in fact, directly correlated to race, which is directly correlated to the history of this country and every institution within it. Believe me, it’s a vicious cycle and it will not be broken until we have the courage to openly acknowledge and challenge what’s wrong, how we can fix it, and who needs to be involved in rebuilding it, whatever ‘it’ may be.
So, my question still stands: ‘Ain’t I a Black parent who wants to improve education? Or is that not good enough for the Huff Post? But in all fairness, I will make an addendum and include the U.S. Department of Education, Arne Duncan, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Joel Klein, and that woman. I guess if I decided to rile up some other ‘militant’ Black parents and start our own forum on education reform, someone would take me seriously. Doesn’t matter because I know what they spend millions to figure out. For the time being, that’s entertainment enough for me. So yeah, I’m a whole lotta woman.
Still synthesizing dialogue from last night’s #BlackEd chat on Twitter (9 PM EST every Thursday). The group continues to grow, but I feel as though I need to address the elephant in the cyber-room because we do not want this effort to become counterproductive to addressing the ’cause’ (identifying problems & solutions to the opportunity gap for Black students). Now I know there are tons of educators and parents using Twitter. If it’s true what they say about 6 degrees of separation, we should have more people actively participating in the dialogue. After I took the high road last night in a disagreement with another participant, I got to thinking: This is exactly why there are probably four times as many people watching as there are participating.
I was called to task on my criticism of Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Anyone who has ever read my blogs with a semblance of interest or paid any attention to my tweets knows how I feel about him. I have never minced words when it comes to discussing him or that woman in D.C. (Read my blog about not drinking the kool-aid) I was challenged to post a link to any article where Duncan stated that parents do not care about education. Well, I think Duncan has shown that he has been stricken with a case of foot-in-mouth disease on more than one occasion. First it was the witch-hunt for ‘ineffective’ teachers. Then, he had the unmitigated gall to say that Katrina was the ‘best thing’ that happened to the New Orleans education system because some of his homies have netted some hefty profits). Now he’s on a mission to ban schools from participating in the NCAA Tournament based on academic performance and graduation rates. Yeah, let’s see how that pans out… Anywho, this individual went on to tell me that Duncan has been in education for years (please Google Renaissance 2010 and read more than one story) and basically knows what he is doing. Again, please see Renaissance 2010 and what has really transpired in Chicago (not the suburbs) as a result. My counterpoint: Would you allow someone other than a cardiologist to give you medical advice/treatment for your heart? HTTN! Would you allow a tax driver to fly your airplane? HTTN! So why is it ok for a non-educator to make major decisions about education when he couldn’t get results in Chicago? I can’t help but invoke the infamous words of Jay-Z: Men lie. Women lie. Numbers don’t lie. The data is available to the public. if numbers don’t move you, please Google Derrion Albert. He was attending a school that housed members of rival gangs because theirs had been closed under Renaissance 2010, brainchild of Arne Duncan. Education is the only profession where someone without any on-the-job training or experience can come in and implement changes that do not make sense! I wonder how the American Medical Association would receive me, a trained educator, if I drafted a 50 page report outlining how they should improve healthcare…but I digress.
He went on to tell me that my ‘logic’ was assinine (poster’s spelling, not mine). Ok. Whatever happened to respectfully disagreeing? I think I am a little (ok, a lot) too old to participate in name-calling with people who come together to discuss solutions to the education epidemic. I will agree to hear your point-of-view. If I do not understand, I will certainly ask you to expound. I may still disagree, but at least I will extend you the courtesy of respecting your opinion. I adamantly refuse to participate in such banter, as I know people are watching. That is what’s important to me. Someone who may be teaching in a predominantly minority school may be watching, because he or she does not know what to do, how to do it, or how to ask for help. The last thing I want that person (or hundreds of people) to see, is two African Americans bicker over Duncan’s suitability to serve as the Secretary of Education. Yep, counterproductivity at its best. I refuse to participate. End of story.
For those who have been watching, I challenge you to join the dialogue. We need to hear from you. We cannot arrive at solutions without hearing from you. We all have a voice and potential to contribute and exact change.
In the words of Mr. Vilson, who motivates me to write blogs more frequently: That is all!
Up until last night, I was 100% certain that I was not going to write a year-end blog for a number of reasons. First of all, I have only had a blog ‘presence’ for about 2.5 months now, so I figured that my review would be, uh….blah. Then I thought, people aren’t going to be reading blogs on New Year’s Eve anyway, so what’s the point? Yep, I decided that I would start blogging again after the New Year. Well, it just so happened that one of my friends, Jose Vilson, was posting updates on Twitter about his progress on completing his year-end review. I was thinking, ‘I can’t wait to read it; he’s really honest and a great writer. I don’t feel like doing one though.’ I remember one of the updates mentioned that he was at 1,500+ words or something like that (overachiever). Me thinking: ‘Damn, he must have a lot to say about the year. But I am not doing one.’ So I waited for him to post the link. As always, his words/thoughts were thought provoking and made me think about my life in 2009. Damn him!
After I logged-off late last night, I started thinking: What did I accomplish in 2009? Did anything exciting happen to me? How did I spend the year? Well, the end of 2009 marks the third consecutive year that I have been unemployed. Exciting, huh? I know inquiring minds want to know: Why are you not teaching? Long story short: I briefly worked for the Newton County School System in Georgia; my kids also attended school there since I commuted everyday. My oldest, who is now 14, was in middle school at the time. Those who teach that age group are well-aware of the trials and tribulations of pre-pubescent kids, so I don’t need to describe the atmosphere, as it relates to kids. As a parent, I do my best to teach my kids how to best interact with people. I know there will be conflicts and two days later, they will be friends again. However, the kids were not the issue: It was the ‘adults’ who crossed the line. I had a serious problem with adults making inappropriate comments to my son because it’s (1) unprofessional and (2) just downright ignorant. If you have a legitimate concern, then you should address the parent, as I was expected to do as an employee of this same system. After addressing my concerns, the taunts continued.
Things escalated when I had to be out for minor surgery; the same teacher refused to excuse my son’s absence since it was not ‘life-threatening.’ Despite the fact that he did not have an absenteeism issue, my appeal (to the director of secondary schools) was denied. Anyone who knows me, knows that I never take no for an answer. I did some research and found out that the first absence was excused by the Attendance Secretary, but the second was not. Some of you may be thinking, ‘Well that’s minor it was only one absence.’ That one absence resulted in my son receiving zeros for every assignment he missed that day, which dropped all of his grades 1-2 letter grades. Here’s the dilemma: My son worked very hard to maintain B’s and two high C’s, now they were D’s and F’s. Would it have been fair to say: ‘Suck it up!’ No because he was penalized for my illness and the fact that they knew I was an ‘involved’ parent (that was sarcasm). After more research, I learned that one of my own students was absent 2 days before and 1 day after Labor Day. All of his absences were ‘excused’ and he was allowed to make-up his work. Fast forward: I enlisted the assistance of the Office for Civil Rights. Attendance and grades were corrected, but only after several admonitions of the district by OCR. End result: The district now refuses to provide a reference for me. So here I sit: A Special Education teacher with advanced degrees, excellent teaching abilities and superior classroom management skills, unemployed after 3 years. Yep. It’s time to put it out there so I can move on. I am ready. God has already moved some people around and out of that organization, there is nothing else I can do but let it go. On a positive note: My oldest son and I are still home schooling, without incident. I have threatened to put him out, but I haven’t made good on that one…yet. I think he still likes me for the most part. I have the feeling that when he transitions back into a traditional high school next year, he will tell me that he doesn’t like it.
As we welcome the New Year, I have to agree with Jose in that I can’t help but wonder if I am leaving ‘…too much on the cutting room of this movie we call our lives. None of the lessons get left on the floor, though. They stick around, secretly making their way into our laments and celebrations,’ (Vilson, 2009). For me, I know that I will truly never leave anything behind. Every incident and experience, positive or negative, have collectively played a part in who and where I am as I sit here typing these words. I am learning to be grateful for them all, even on the days when I wonder if I will ever be able to teach again. Saying goodbye to 2009, I eagerly look forward to 2010 and commit to being ‘..steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain for the Lord,’ (I Corinthians 15). Even though I may feel or appear to be alone, I know that He always has my back!
Have a safe, happy, and prosperous New Year!