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????


rabi said...

ergh, it bugs me when people tell new teachers to chill out / calm down / focus on positivity / whatever. what happened to, "if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention" ?? only you can decide how much energy you should spend on your job. maybe it'll change, maybe it won't, but it's your call. and teachers mistreating students .... that's infuriating.

NYC Teaching Fellow said...

yo- rabi.. thank you for your comment. thats real talk.

subtext said...

Sorry about the obscurity in my last comment. I am becoming trapped by the shorthand jargon of academia. Maybe that means I'm finally getting what the hell they are talking about since I beginning to sound like they do; or maybe I'm simply losing myself. Sigh.

one last comment; When teachers (especially white teachers) say they treat all of their students the same, it usually means they treat them as if they are white. The students are not all the same. Have your read Ladson-Billings?

Hugh O'Donnell said...

Our board of ed is reading this book.

It sometimes seems that "cool" educators don't want to confront issues of race, but if we're going to serve all the children, we have to know all the children. We do have to talk about race.

If that URL doesn't show up, send me an email and I'll forward it to you.

Keep on!

Hugh aka Repairman

Hugh O'Donnell said...

I don't think that URL is going to work and I don't know how to create a link in this comment box, so...

Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D., "Can We Talk About Race," Beacon Press, Boston, 2007.

Check it out on Amazon.

Hugh :)

NYC Teaching Fellow said...

@ Subtext- you make an interesting point. I was just talking about that w/ one a friend of mine. There is much research done that shows how many teachers believe that the "ideal" student has characteristics of a white female. So anything that is outside of those characteristics is "deficient", "un-teachable", and definitely "special ed". I will look into Ladson-Billings

@ Hugh- yes- race is an issue! it always has been an issue, and it always will be an issue! we are kidding ourselves if we believe that it is not. and even for those who say it is not an issue- that in itself is an issue. its like people who say that "they are not political". well that in itself is political! thank you for your comment.

mex (aka Syb) said...

My kids are gone from the home.. leaving my choices for favorites to the three cats or the dog. I chose the dog.

Mex is my cat's name. My GF and I adopted cats the same time. Hers was names Texas, Mine Mexus. (in honor of places we had visited together) Then we began calling each other by the cats' names. That was 15 years ago.

Way before the public school district here became 60% Hispanic. (in large part illegal immigrants)

The district is Beaufort County (SC) and the location is a resort island, Hilton Head.

I am sorry if I offended you; however, I would be +shocked+ if you never think a negative thought about a kid you know you have reached.. AND.. a kid you know that you haven't reached.

You likely will not be +the+ person to teach any kid the life lesson he;/she needs. He will learn it.. tho likely the hard way. Didn't you?

Of course, that's an opine.

Apologies for anything offensive. That wasn't my intention. I am Just reallly tired of the race card used when it shouldn't be. (I agree w/ you about the Jenna 6. I don't agree ww/ you about yr co-workers wanting to string a kid up cuz of race) I Just think you shld give them the benefit of the doubt.

I also don't agree that kids need (in large part) "race specific" role models. I think schools need more men. A man is a man.

I guess we can agree to disagree... maybe w/o expletives too


mex (aka Syb) said...


You asked @ the demographics here.. and I didn't answer. I only wrote @ the recent Hispanic influx. Talk @ a problem!! Try reaching a kid who speaks not a word of English. That (to me) is frustration at max.

To answer tho: the remainder of the PS population here (now) mostly Hispanic. The remainder is African Am and Caucasian (almost equal in numbers) The AA kids are largely what are called "Been-yas" as opposed to "Come-Yas" I am a "come-ya" having resided on this LowCountry sea island only 33 years. The culture is (mostly) Gullah.

Familiar w/ the Gullah language and culture? If not, pls search for an audio file. Or ask, and I will send you a link. The best I can do to describe it is "lyrical"

I do a fair job of speaking Gullah- but it took me a decade to have the courage to ask the kids how I was doing.

Anyway, I wanted to apologize again. I read a few teacher blogs- but I don't comment-or come back as a regular reader unless I think that teacher is doing a great job. (as you)

One more aside... the kids I didn't reach..they are the ones who haunt me in dreams and thoughts.. still. They vary as to gender and race.. but I can say, that the kids who irritated me The Most were those who came from (supposedly/seemingly) stable families yet still pushed opportunities away with both fists.


Chris said...

I don't see racism in your annecdote. I see a teacher speaking inappropriately- regardless of the student's race. Why make race an issue when it's not? People with attidudes like yours just drive the racial divide further and further apart.

In addition, while you did not specifically write about equality, you wrote about your frustration with racism. Inherent in this is a desire for equality, a desire to be treated with equal rights and respect equal to what you deserve as a person.

I stand by my position that the Jena 6 should be punished for the assault. As I stated before, those involved in hanging the nooses should also be punished. There are any number of civilized responses to the injustice carried out by the school, including a civil suit against the school--something that would have brought media coverage to the incident, and criminal charges may have been brought based on pressure from the media. Two wrongs don't make a right, but that is the message anyone supporting the Jena 6 is sending.

laniza said...

You stood by your convictions. What's that phrase "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything."

NYC Teaching Fellow said...

@ Mex/SL

thanks for your response, and I'm sorry for the tone of my original response to your comment. i was speaking on pure passion. sorry for the crude language and rude tone that i used. you are right- i guess we must agree to disagree! i think race is extremely important. i think it always has been and always will be. just my personal opinion. please do send the link with information about gullah language and culture. lata..

@ chris- i will agree to disagree with you and keep it moving.

Jose said...

I hate when people just think that it's cool to be angry and not do anything about it. A lot of people get angry for no apparent reason, and in turn act against all reason. I'm still considered a new educator by NYCDOE and UFT, so there's no reason why we can't focus on positivity, and actually taking action. In any case, :: shrugs::.

Speaking from experience is real talk.

ala (or anonymous) said...

Why do you assume that every comment is by a fellow teacher?

Unfortunately, you misunderstood the points that I was trying to make... I apologize for not being clear.

I commented about frustration because the things that the teachers said about the one student sounded like they were coming from a place of frustration (and I was implying that you, too, will think mean things about students in times of frustration). (although you will probably have the good sense not to voice any of these negative thoughts out loud... at least not to people you don't know well.)

The white teacher/school comment was simply meant to get to the point that teachers say these things about all kids... which isn't a good thing at all, but not necessarily racist (but clearly, in writing, intonation and context is lost... nuance can clearly give more information as to intent, so maybe the comments were clearly racist). I wasn't making a judgment on the racial make-up of a school, positive or negative. (Clearly all schools have their own issues... and racism in schools is a HUGE problem everywhere- i don't dispute that.)

And yes, I can say how this blog makes ME feel. If you do not want to have an effect on others, I am not sure why you have a blog at all and don't simply write in a personal journal. Did I say that you should CARE, no. Did you say that you care, no. But you have the comments section open, so I assumed that you were open to comments... not only glowing ones.

And why did you bother "sitting on this" for a day if you were simply going to resort to name calling? (I guess my teaching career IS both unimpressive and unimportant since it is NONEXISTENT...) Was it supposed to hurt my feelings, that you tried to put me down without knowing anything about me? What point does that make?

I did not put YOU down- I said how I felt about the blog. I would hope that anyone reading this blog would not assume to truly know YOU.

(I posted as "anonymous" because the computer I was on would not allow me to do otherwise... why does that matter... for all intents and purposes, you post anonymously as do most of the commenters)

Brooklyn said...

@ "anonymous" i will not dedicate any more energy and or effort on you. you make me tired.

Margaret said...

I came over from Hugh's blog and obviously have missed a lot. Race, religion, sexual orientation are the main divisive issues I see in my school. I wish I didn't have to write divisive, but that's the way it feels much of the time. As for me, I have lesbians, different races and all religions, and although I can't always understand them as perfectly as I would like to, I try to learn from them because culture and differences are fascinating to me. (I'm a World Language teacher)

Rebecca said...

this whole thread of discussion has been very helpful to me. I'm a young white woman from the 'burbs of Dallas now working in a library that serves a culturally diverse and impoverished demographic. my biggest sources of stress are my inability to effectively reach our youth patrons and to resolve differences with colleagues in the process. behaviors amongst our teenage patrons can range from mildly disruptive to petty criminal. but at the end of the day, I know I have recourse to ask them to leave if they refuse to obey the rules. I'm terrified to be the teacher responsible for these kiddos and yet I have a crying jag every other week when I think about my own cowardice. I acknowledge all of the comments about racism in education (and other social services) and yet I don't know how to best treat these youth with my perceived handicap of not being a member of the African-American community or a recent immigrant. being young especially does not help as a regular adult patron(who happens to be African-American) witnessed me speaking to a teenage girl from her neighborhood and explained that the girl sees me as a "girl". I'm not interested in excuses or denial. but I don't know how to bridge the gap of understanding with these youth when I feel like I'm either too harsh or overcompensating in any given circumstance. I leave most days heartbroken because these kids stay as long as we're open, they're hungry, they're tired, they are under 10 and have a toddler sibling in tow, they cuss at each other, they talk loudly about sex, and if I try to get a hold of their parents... well, I would rather the kid be in trouble with me than with some of their parents. I want so badly to be a teacher for underserved youth and yet I wonder if I will ever have the perspective and the skills that would matter to their lives.