Archive for the ‘single parents’ Tag

“I’d rather be smart than pretty any day” and Other Tidbits of Wisdom from My Granny   1 comment

As kids, we often heard little sayings from older people, like ‘A hard head makes a soft a$$’ or ‘I can show you better than I can tell you’ or ‘You don’t believe fat meat’s greasy!’ More often than not, we didn’t even understand them but we knew that we had done something wrong and were on the verge of getting in trouble. I remember a lot of things Granny said to us as kids and now that I am an adult and parent, most of them make perfectly good sense. I often think about the wisdom she imparted to me, in particular, because I am sharing a lot of those lessons with my own kids.

Today was a fairly quiet day at work, as we are into the third week of the semester.  That means: no registration (late or otherwise), no explaining financial aid intricacies (even though we clearly are not the financial aid office), and very little advising. None of the drama I wrote about a few weeks ago. But something happened today that got my dander up (yet another one of those sayings). A student came into the office because she needed to complete an assignment for the college’s new College Skills class, akin to the Freshman Seminar or Intro to College course offered on other campuses. The mere fact that she needed help is not what bothered me, but rather the fact that I helped her with the EXACT SAME ISSUE last week! GUess what she needed help with??? Microsoft Word! No  need to adjust your screen or grab your reading glasses (for my over 30 crowd)…you read that correctly. And she is younger than I am. I can’t blame Smartphones, cell phones, the boogeyman, or Mr. Charlie. She is responsible for this deficiency. I have an almost-8 year old who has been a master at PAINT since she was about 4. I can’t even use that damn program. I can’t blame lack of access to computers either because they are available in the public libraries. And the reality is that she is not the only student who lacks basic computer skills.

But here’s the real reason(s) I am pissed:

1. She’s a young, Black woman

2. She has a child

3. She has a cell phone (much nicer than my pay-as-you-go)

4. She has hair the color of Wendy from Wendy’s

5. I ALREADY HELPED HER WITH THAT LAST WEEK!

Somewhere along the way she, and many other young women, have been complimented on their beauty, booty, or a combination of the two. And somewhere along the way she, and those countless others, came to the realization that they didn’t need to be ‘smart’ (or have common sense for that matter) because they were cute. Sure enough, as I am sitting there steaming and biting the hell out of my tongue, my late grandmother’s voice resonated in my head: “I’d rather be smart than pretty any day.” As a little girl I didn’t understand why she said this, but it always stuck with me. Brains last forever but beauty fades…I get it, I get it. She pretty much ‘programmed’ me to excel academically because she knew that it would take brains to succeed in this world. No, I did not know that as a kid but hearing her say that repeatedly, had an impact. So I struggled to remain professional while working with this young lady even though something or someone inside of me was yearning to take her and shake the hell out of her. Yes, that’s the level of irritation/ire I felt. But I have no desire to go to jail so I opted to sit and think about how I could express my feelings in this post.

I started doubting whether I could actually do anything for some of the students. Am I too hard on them? Is expecting them to come to school, i.e. a college campus, with their pants pulled-up, breasts covered, sans midriff tops or anything exposing their chest tattoos and stomachs too much to ask? Am I expecting to much for them to understand what it means to be a college student? Or that people died fighting for their right to be able to step foot on any college campus? When a student comes to me and says that s/he doesn’t know why an instructor dropped him/her from a class do I really have to ask if they have been to every class? Are or should the expectations at a technical college be lower than a 2-year or 4-year college or university? Here lately I kinda feel like I went into this thing blind. I mean, I expected to ‘advise’ these students on being successful in college but I often feel as though everyone around me has been bitten by the ‘This is how it’s been because people don’t like change and all you can do is advise them to the best of your ability’ bug. Some days I feel like I am still in K-12, or working for people from the same family. Apathy is both contagious and potentially deadly, depending upon the situation/environment.

I don’t know…maybe my boss was right: Maybe I do take things too seriously. After all, we can’t all be on time for work, care about the quality of service we provide to students, or advise them correctly right? Or maybe I am in this environment to learn a lesson (or two). I do know this: I am beyond making excuses for people. I, too, was a first generation college student. With regard to getting ‘homework help’ in high school, I was pretty much on my own, as I am sure a lot of people were. I am not knocking my family in any way but rather demonstrating that, at some point, we have to take ownership for our learning. Stop the excuses. Stop the ignorance. Stop the finger-pointing. Or at the least, pray that someone will intervene on our behalf and either show us the way, give us a stern talking-to or shake the hell out of us.

I will end this rant-gone-awry with this message, from one glasses wearing, book-reading, violin-toting, late bloomer to all the kids experiencing the same thing: It gets better. You’ll get smarter. You’ll outgrow your awkwardness. Even if you don’t, remember what my Granny said: “I’d rather be smart than pretty any day.”

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Do I offend your sensibilities when I talk about race?   3 comments

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.

It’s official: Some people really don’t know what they are doing   1 comment

Yesterday (and the day before) I kinda ranted about the latest debacle at South Gwinnett High School (population ~2,800), where my oldest is a 9th/10th grader (will explain that later). He came home Wednesday and started his usual routine: Homework, snack, and asking me random questions that seem to come out of nowhere (he’s a Gemini). So I am sitting on the couch watching tv and he walks into the room and asks:

Boy Wonder: Hey Mamma, do colleges look at whether or not you take the PSAT?

Me: Why?

Boy Wonder: Well, because they took it today and my name wasn’t on the list.

Me: What? (More of a ‘You have GOT TO BE F*&@%$# kidding me’ tone) How do you know your name wasn’t on the list?

Boy Wonder: The teacher asked the class if they knew where they would be during testing and my name wasn’t on the list.

Me: Well, I emailed the school back in August to find out the date and whether or not you would be able to take it. They told me as long as you were there on testing day you would. Don’t worry about it, I got it.

So, in my usual form I started researching and re-reading my email communications with the school. [SIDE NOTE: For those of you who think email communication is too impersonal (or are worried about how you will be perceived by school officials, all I can say is…whateva.) An email paper trail can be the difference between your child(ren) getting screwed or getting the things to which they are entitled. You choose]. Just as I thought: I did send the initial email in August because I wanted to know about both the PSAT and End-of-Course Tests (EOCT) that my son would have to take. Because he was home schooled during his freshman year, the district requires him to take the EOCT for both Algebra and Physical Science in order to get credit. I don’t have a problem with the policy as much as I do the manner in which the counselor spoke to us during registration. Read this post to see what else South Gwinnett got wrong that day.  In fact, when she told us that he would have to take the tests, I looked at him and said, ‘Don’t worry about it. You know the material and you can ace those two just like the one you took in 9th Grade Literature.’ Unfortunately, the school couldn’t get their at together: I asked for EOCT testing dates on more than one occasion and was told that they would let him know when he would be tested. Guess what? He was supposed to test in August and September. The school sent home a tint square piece of paper, stating that they forgot to get him for testing and, with my permission, he could test in October. Well, today is October 15 and he hasn’t received any information about testing yet. I sure wish I could make $60k+ for half-arse developing a school-wide testing calendar/system.

Now don’t get me wrong: It may seem like I nit-pick over the little things, but I don’t. If I did, I would have something to blog about everyday-on this particular school alone! I let a lot of little things slide because sometimes it’s just not worth the headache. However, when you speak to me (one of my kids) or interact with me in a manner I deem condescending or disrespectful, you damn well better have your SHAT in order because if you don’t, I will check you. Both publicly and privately. But as I said here and on Twitter, people make assumptions about others based on the manner in which they are dress, where they live, the color of their skin, and especially if their children do not have the same last name as their parents. Yes, petty but people do it everyday…and more so if the mom is not wearing a wedding ring. But that’s o.k. because I enjoy watching people turn five shades of red when I start responding and asking questions using the education lingo…. Then they start fidgeting when I tell them I used to teach (in Georgia) AND I have my Ed.S.; most of them have a Master’s, but I digress…..

Needless to say I copied and compiled all the email communications regarding testing and sent a message to the principal…and the assistant to the superintendent. So I wasn’t very surprised when I received an email at 8:49 PM from the principal, stating ‘…We will then move forward with trying to resolve the issue.’ Not sure how they can resolve it since the PSAT is only administered on 2 days the entire year, but we’ll see.


Remember when you point the finger…   5 comments

three are pointing back at you. Yes, I went there with song lyrics again. Couldn’t help it. Dealing with ‘education rhetoric’ overload. Last week I wrote about the single parent-bashing that has been going on in the media, especially as it relates to Education. Since I wrote that blog ‘off-the-cuff,’ I didn’t have time to do any research on people raised by single parents or grandparents who are now very successful and well-adjusted. I am sure that we all know someone who, despite the statistics and negative Nellie, went on to college, graduated, and are making some form of contribution to his/her community. I know I can name a lot of people who are succesful and self-absorbed, but I digress because that is not the topic of today’s blog. Instead, I thought I would issue a challenge to those who are still playing the blame-game and laying the responsibility of Education’s demise at the feet of teachers and teacher unions.

For those who are ‘in’ the 3-ring circus of Education reform, I can’t help but wonder:

  • How many of the ‘experts’ attended public neighborhood schools? Not the elite schools where parents pulled a few strings, but the schools located right in their own neighborhood. Probably none.
  • Of the people, actually ‘in’ Education, who are bashing public school teachers, how many would be willing to contact their teachers to say they did a crummy job? Probably none. For the record, I try to connect with my teachers each year and thank them for their dedication and high standards. Some of them are actually still teaching. Yeah, who says teachers aren’t committed?
  • Has any union-basher actually done any empirical and peer-reviewed research on the detrimental effects of teacher unions? No one seems to notice that Georgia, a state without a union, consistently performs in the bottom five. Massachusetts, however, consistently performs in the top tier. Hmmmm. Could one dare to say that student performance is tied to teacher effectiveness, which is tied to a strong and active support system, a la unions? No one wants to admit that. Nevermind.
  • Will anyone admit the real issue with unions: The only reason why education ‘experts’ are calling for the dismantling or reorganization of these institutions is because they (experts) want to bring-in Rhee-type leaders to fire anyone who does not conform to the regime-of-the-moment and replace them with TFA alums. I guess I just did. Nevermind.

I would like to know when someone, anyone, will start addressing the educational infrastructure, which parents and teachers alone cannot change? You know, things like overrepresentation of minority students (particularly African-Americans) in Special Education. Or how about the underrepresentation of minorities in Gifted Education programs? Here’s a good one: What about the systemic tracking of minority and low-income kids into technical education programs? It’s one thing if kids are interested in those programs, but a completely different issue when kids are not provided with exposure to options. I guess I will continue to have this conversation with myself because no one wants to jeopardize losing powerful connections by admitting that our country’s education system (not teachers) and its archaic policies are, in fact, racist and classist.

Sometimes song lyrics are the best way to convey your point!

When action turns to acquiescence   4 comments

DISCLAIMER: After reflecting on some dialogue on Twitter, I took some time to process last night. I then started reading the bible to find some reference on dealing with ‘conflict,’ because we tend to shut people out when we disagree (2 Corinthians 7). I checked my ‘cliff notes’ in the margin of my bible and found this explanation: ‘First, believers are expected to cleanse themselves by turning from everything that contaminates the body or spirit- including every person who bends the truth.’ That was my confirmation that I had to write this blog, today. I need to get this off of my heart so that I can move forward. This blog post will include some very direct and honest insight. If you are sensitive or concerned about not offending your supporters, I suggest you turn the channel. Please understand that there is an urgency with the state of public education, so I refuse to pussy-foot or sugarcoat anything for the sake of making others feel comfortable. I am interested in the truth, the whole truth, so help me God. Thank you.

I think I am starting to get the hang of this blog-thing. I have connected with some really great intellectuals (Black, White, and everyone in between), who are also fighting to change education for those who need it most: Kids living in America’s urban cities and attending the some (not all) of the worst-performing schools. In my very first blog, I stated that I am not an expert but I do have a great deal of common sense. I do not claim to know everything that veterans with 20+ years’ experience know, but I know some things they do not. I have experiences they do not. I have the natural ability to relate to groups of parents and students they cannot. Shared experiences do matter in many instances. Am I claiming that a ‘non-member’ (insert any race/ethnic group) cannot contribute or help a member? Not at all. What I do know is that, as a single parent, I would never tell another single parent that his or her child will never amount to anything because there is only one parent present. I also know many people who have defied the statistics. It can be done. I am blessed that I never bought into other peoples’ limits on me simply because I was born to a single woman. My kids will never buy-into other peoples’ limits simply because they were born to a single woman. Why? Because I don’t believe in being a stereotype. Yes, I am a single mother. But, the description does not and will not stop there. I also happen to be a well-read, analytical, doctorate degree-seeking college graduate. Yeah, I belong to a very exclusive club. My integrity, principles, and refusal to label all single mothers and their children make me a very unique kind of educator. I would even go so far as to say that I am the kind of educator single parents would want on their side. I am not going to sell you out for a headline, a check, or a pat on the head by a group of old, White men studying ‘inner-city, disadvantaged, low-performing youth.’ Nope. Not gon’ do it.

Now that states are vying for Race to the Top funds, everybody and they damn mamma (excuse the slang, sometimes it’s the only way to accurately convey my true feelings) is an expert on education. Nevermind the fact that some of these yahoos have either never been in the classroom or have not been in a classroom in 20+ years. How about the fact that you cannot always treat people like statistics? Yes, as a researcher I understand that some things need to be quantified, but we cannot assign numbers to kids all willy-nilly. When discussing academic performance or graduation rates, it is acceptable to use numbers. When speaking about kids and their potential, we must view them as individuals. Every child has a name and a story. Just because society has written them off, does not mean that we have to continue the trend. Think about it. If you were told that you would never amount to anything, everyday, at some point you would begin to believe it. That is proven psychology. Don’t believe me? Look at all the young girls who don’t eat or make themselves sick because they want to look like the emaciated chicks on tv. They receive messages that they are not thin enough to be considered beautiful so they starve or make themselves vomit. The kids being written off are no different. Why do you think it’s so easy for 15, 16, and 17 year-olds to kill each other, with crowds of people watching? They know no one cares about them. How many times have we mentioned Derrion Albert in the past 3 weeks? Probably none because Tiger Woods was front and center, but I digress.

I have a challenge for you, especially those of you of the same hue: The next time you fix your lips to say “These single parents don’t care about education…” stop and ask yourself these questions:

1. How would I feel if someone were saying that about my mom/grandmother/aunt?

2. Is it better for a woman to remain in a physically/emotionally abusive relationship for the sake of the kids? (That’s the next biggest cop-out after people who say ‘I am not a racist. My best friend is Black, White, Asian, Latino!’)

3. Who are they (someone outside the group) to pretend to be an expert on something of which they have no knowledge?

4. What about the kids from two-parent homes who go to school strapped and kill their classmates and teachers? (Note: It’s not us)

5. What about the privileged kids who develop addictions to their parents pain killers? They are simply imitating what they see.

6. What about the kids ‘sexting’ and harassing each other to the point of suicide?

As I said before, I am not an expert on anything but I know a little about everything. Since I am African American, I can only write about that experience and what it means to me. I can only write about what I have seen as an African American educator of African American kids, mostly those tracked into Special Education. I do not know how the ‘other half’ lives because I don’t live near them.

My grandmother always talked to me about being able to spend time by myself; not to be with the ‘in-crowd’ all the time. As a kid, we don’t understand those gems that our elders pass down to us. As an adult, I can honestly say that now I understand. Being honest, especially when you have to ‘call-out’ your own, is a lonely journey but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I need to be able to look at myself, and like what I see, everyday. I need to be able to humble myself before God (and God only) and honestly say that I did what I thought would be pleasing to Him. After reading the disparaging remarks about single parents and their children, I can say that there are not a lot of other people who can do that. I wonder how many people would make those same remarks about President Obama’s mother? I mean, after all, she was a single mother of two biracial children. Food for thought.

The next time you fix your lips to verbally assault your race and its future, ask yourself: What would Jesus do? If you are not a believer, here are some worldly translations: Why do I feel the need to attack/kick a group of people who are already down? What will my negative comments accomplish? Who am I trying to impress? What am I trying to gain? Do I really feel this way, or am I just going with the flow?

Until next time, I’m out!