Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Is Our Children Learning?

Check it out. I am thankful for my readership. I feel connected to an educational blog community- which feels great to be a part of. Sometimes, I just need that outlet, that voice, those typed words to express what I want to express.

I want to extend an invitation to check out the blog of one of my colleagues that I just met, virtually (cohort 14 NYCTF) who reached out through a comment on one of my recent posts. I respected his comment, but more importantly, I checked out his page, and he's got a lot to say. So yea, check him out: Is Our Children Learning?


Monday, October 22, 2007

Young revolutionaries

It feels so good to, as Jose said, partake in “intelligent dialogue and thorough action.”

Jena 6 is on the topic of my mind. It has been ever since it happened. What is good with the state of America? Its 2007. Much has changed, much has remained the same.

So step 1: Do a lesson on Jena 6. Actually, the inspiration to do a Jena 6 teach-in came from some angry comments to a post of mine where I linked a detentioned Brooklyn 8 to the Jena 6…

Bet, mission accomplished- Teach-in on Jena 6= Intelligent dialogue. The next step: thorough action.

It was special. Through the lesson, I created (or rather witnessed) the passion of young revolutionaries! The class was filled with young souls and strong minds ready to “do what it takes to support this horrible, horrible atrocity,” said by “Sekou.”

Ok, so these kids are ready.

One of my students said he was “ready to get on a bus and head out to Jena, Louisiana to protest in front of the courtroom.” It just so happened that my principal walked in to observe my class at that very moment. Perfect timing, I thought to myself.

So anyway- the action is the Jena 6 bake sale week (that my students thought of) that is going on this week to raise funds for the efforts to support the Jena 6 and other victims of racism and letters to Governor Blanco. Today was the 1st day of the bake sale, and we raised $75 dollars! Every dollar counts! We got 4 more days of Jena 6 cupcakes, muffins, and cake slices.

Best of all, my kids feel connected to something larger than what they know, who they are, and where they are from. But at the same time, I constantly remind my students that these are the Jena 6, but can easily be the Brooklyn 6. So we need to give respect and support in the same fashion that we’d want people who have the opportunity to effect change would do for us.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Week 7

Today was disastrous. At one point, I just sat in my chair, mouth shut, and just listened to the chaos, witnessed the dance moves, and took it all in as each minute (which felt like hours) passed by. Outward appearance: calm. Inside I was boiling with rage. “What have I created!!???!!??,” I was saying to myself. I had to constantly remind myself that my classes have been going cool for the past 7 weeks. I had to remind myself that I hadn’t felt out of control in this class since the first week of the year when I shut it down! I had to remind myself that, as my mother always says, “This too will pass.”

I was pretty upset until I read the work that resulted from my exit routine, which I hope, will remain with my teaching for as long as I am a teacher. For the last five minutes of every class, silently, I have my students write me Dear Mr. * letters. At the beginning of the semester, the letters were fluffy and filled with unsolicited praise. Maybe the students thought it would increase their grades if, instead of telling me how they were doing, they focused on telling me how good of a lesson it was. Slowly, the letters really became a place where students could express their inner most emotions and delve into the real with how they were doing; what the experience of the lesson and day was to them; and most importantly, (as well as most difficult to communicate) what that day was like being in your skin and what it will be like at home.

So today in my Dear Mr. * letters that I just read on my train ride home, almost all of the letters talked about things that have been happening in their lives at home that could have contributed as a cause to their behavior today in class. One student, “Damien,” said that en route to school this morning, he saw a dead body by the train station and that “it fucked [me] up because I knew him and I know why he got shot.” Another student, “Lisa,” talked about how the previous class they came from was so out of hand and two girls were face to face, about to fight and the teacher left the room. “Walter’s” letter was unapologetic. He said that “[he] is just a kid and sometimes has bad behavior and nobody can blame [him] for that.”

But almost all of them hinted at a collective responsibility and necessity to continue to strive to be in class as their higher selves. However, I think it always comes down to the teacher and the lesson. I read in Stephen Wolk’s article “Heart and Minds” that good classroom management starts with good lesson plans.” True indeed. Today made me realize that I need to be a more reflective teacher, and look back at my first 7 weeks of teaching and find the lessons or pieces of lessons that were agents in the positive behavior and environment of my classes and of my students. I know it sounds simple, but I just need more reflection. I think I have been looking forward more than looking back to figure out which steps I need to take to in fact go forward.

It is a process and a journey, and I am thankful.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The 3 day weekend that I wish wasn't

We should have school on Monday. These kids should be learning instead of honoring someone who doesn’t deserve anything good to be mentioned in the same breath as his name.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

In response to the problematic comments to the post, "Problematic" (sigh)

I had to sit on this for a full day. Let me start with the Jena 6- (of which I did a lesson on today thanks to the responses to my blog- so not for nothing- thanks)

So, Chris- The Jena 6. Yea man, its relevant. It is connectable. It is important to discuss at all levels of communication. And FYI, I am without apology for my previous post about connecting the Jena 6 to my middle school 8. All things are relative. If you cannot make the connection- that is on you- I will not walk you through it. I’m tired and I have papers to grade.

However, “Chris”, your ignorance shines when you make comments like “you accuse teachers of not understanding young black men. Based on this, you obviously think young black men are different than young white men, and should be treated differently and with different expectations”.

All I “expect” from teachers is that they learn about the communities [and the histories] of the students of which they are teaching. A white man saying that he wants to handcuff a black boy to a desk is inappropriate! It has racial and historical sentiments. He might of well used the word shackle. But again, if you cannot understand this, than you need to educate yourself on African American history!

And lastly, your final question poses a lasting impression of your true ignorance: “How can you ask for equality when you yourself claim black men are different?”

First of all, homie, I never asked for equality in that specific post. That was far from the topic of conversation. Actually, equality is my expectation. And lets not talk about what I am asking for. How about lets talk about what I want. I WANT teachers to know the realities of their students and the communities and shared histories of which they are a part of!!!

Next, Mr. “Anonymous” (lol)… your entire commentary is problematic. So, first off, of course I will get frustrated and I get frustrated at times while teaching! Isn’t frustration part of the process?

“I promise that if you go to an all white school, the teachers will be saying the same exact things about their students too.”

Why are you telling me what white teachers might possibly be telling to white students? That is irrelevant to me (and to you) because you are speaking on speculation, and the bottom line, is that I am not working in an “all white school” as you say. PLUS- “all white schools” have their own issues to deal with, (remember Columbine??) I’m not sure what “all white schools” are saying to their students, and I am not really concerned. What I know is that I’m teaching in the hood, and I’m speaking on that!

Your next quotable moment was, “I guess what is frustrating is the self-important, self-impressed tone that this blog takes.” With that one, you win the best quotable award! So, now you are talking about how my blog is frustrating you!!! LOL. I had a real kick out of that one. I guess you are modeling for me how to express my frustrations aloud, “because I will feel it” as you say.

You are a fool.

Did I really cause you frustrations? Are you going to be ok? “Self important, self impressed tone”. What should I be? Unimportant and unimpressive? I know I can always be a more effective educator. But what I’m doing right now is working. RESPECT THAT. And please, don’t project your own personal unimportance and unimpressive teaching career on me!!

Jose- thank you for your response and support. It’s hard out there for a pimp for a teacher trying to teach from the heart.

Repairman Hugh- (nice to meet you- lol!) These folks on here are crazy. But you know what, I’m not trippin- my skin is thick- My Momma taught me right!

‘Another teacher’- Thanks for your support.. I was feeling you and I acknowledge your suggestion for me to pace myself “because I’ve only been teaching for a month”. Except- in my community I feel like I have to teach and work with a sense of urgency. No time to be passive- about anything.

Subtext- I value your response, but would love for you to decode it! LOL

Frumteacher- Interesting. I’m with you until the end of your commentary. “That is what deserves your energy right now, not the battle with your colleagues that are not open to criticism anyway.” I actually think that my colleagues (and myself) are open to criticism. Positive and negative. I don’t believe that it is acceptable for teachers to talk to and about students in any way. They need to be checked. Imagine- if all of that came out while talking to me, I wonder what comes out when those teachers talk with their friends about that student?

And lastly (save the best for last), “Mex”. Your mini-speech/monologue was deep. Please, please, please do not attempt to tell me what I think or what I will think. Know that! And know that you don’t know me! How about YOU focus on YOU!

And you are talking about “biological kids” and your “favorite person in your house being a dog” (maybe you should think about that first- your favorite person is a.. dog) Whoa!!! What district do you teach in!!!???!!??. They let you teach homie?

Anyway, please keep your commentary relevant! You saying that you want to “shoot” your dog is your own personal issue that has nothing to do with education. To bring it to an educational context, ummm, if I heard a teacher say that he or she wanted to ‘shoot’ a student (even if it was out of frustration), I wouldn’t write about it in this blog- I would call the police aswell as the department of education to have yo ass removed from any environment that involves students!

Mex, what was your point? Racism does not have to be explicit! What world/time do you live in? If you think it must be explicit, than you do not need to be an educator.

Another question- does MEX stand for Mexican? Is that what people call you? Mex? Nevermind! That is a whole other problem.

But lest I forget. “Mex”- you want an apology? Umm.. from who??? From me??!?!? You are a fucking fool. CAPICHE????

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


"Sometimes I just want to handcuff him to the table," was the description of his Science teacher.  "I just hate him," barked his Math teacher.  "He… is... just… so... un-teachable," according to the assistant principal. 

How are we describing our students??  Naw, that is too nice of a way to say that.  How about… WHAT THE FUCK??  I cannot stand this monsterization of our young black men. 

Handcuff to the fucking table?? Handcuff?? Naw yo, its you.. You don't know how to reach him.  You don't know how to handle your stupid classroom.  You don't know shit about young black men. 

You hate him?  That is no way to talk about a child.  You hate him?  This is a personal attack!.  Personal and inappropriate.  How can you be an effective teacher when you are devoting all of that negative energy towards him??

Un-teachable?  Naw bitch- you are just incompetent.

It disgusts me to think that my colleagues think that it is acceptable to speak about children in this manner.  Don't they know of the racial, historical, and social implications of a white man talking about handcuffing a black boy?  The racial undertones of my colleagues are making me sick to my stomach.  My militancy is itching to get out.  With Jena 6 lingering in my mind and with the racist teachers that I'm working with, my revolutionary agenda might just come to center stage.