Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lex, the kid that makes my life hell

I have a new student, Lex, who in my eyes, lives to make my life hell. He is a student I have no answers for in my bag of tricks. He got me. He gets deep under my skin. To make matters worse, he somehow convinced the rest of the class (which for the first week and a half of school has been a dream class to teach) to join the fire. On his very first day he tried to punk me in the classroom. He stole my cell phone. He talked about my mother. Dropped my personal laptop on the floor. And whatever I would say, he would respond, "blah, blah, blah." Then this fool had the nerve to spit in my face when he got sent to the Dean's office.

About ten minutes ago, I woke up and realized I was dreaming, or rather, 'nightmaring'. I'm going to go into work today thankful that I don't have Lex to make my life hell, but I feel for all of the teachers that have a 'Lex' because I know he exists.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The first day, for the second time.

Breath in, breath out.
Breath in, breath out.

‘Breath in, breath out’ were the words that I told myself all day today. Prior to this morning, I told myself that if I could just make it through the first day, than I would be good. Thankfully, I am happy to say that I feel good with how the first day went. But I definitely need to figure out ways that I can walk away not feeling so drained. This job is not easy. And nobody said it would be. Many times I had to tell myself to lower my voice and change my tone. In fact, I told my students that if they hear me raising my voice to put me in check, because I would most definitely be checking them if their voice was raised and their tone was off. They laughed. In fact, “Mark” said hesitantly- “You mean.. um.. we can.. uh… tell you to uh… lower your voice?” “Exactly”. But today I really made a strong effort to focus on how I say what I want to say. The power of communication is so strong, I have to not let my message get mistaken due to the delivery. This year I’m going to focus on being as deliberate as possible.

Moving on…

The day was, much like last year- a blur. The periods were shortened due to an extended 1st period where I met my advisees and despite a few schedule overlooks on my part, the day was very smooth. I am excited for the possibilities that this year brings.

Breathing is everything. I am just so thankful that I have had the opportunity to add this experience to my life’s continuum of events, people, jobs, and stories.

Today was a great day, and I am looking forward to what lies ahead.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

today is yet another day

(A Train from BK to the City to link up w/ my brother who is visiting)

It needs no mentioning that without question, as I approach year two of teaching in New York City, that I have become a better teacher. However, it is only through reflection that I will truly be able to gauge my true success as an effective educator.

I always kick myself in the head for not keeping up the type of journals that I always envisioned myself keeping- with the hopes of one day turning my notes into a book- a novel, a memoir. But, that never seems to be the case. Either laziness takes over- OR I don’t even attempt to capture the emotional rollercoaster of experiences that my day-to-day brings me too. So I just think about them. I match different experiences to eachother. I imagine where they exist on the continuum of events within my life. I evaluate them. Become frustrated by them. Laugh about them. Sometimes cry. But what I don’t do (usually), is keep them. They are often forgotten memories, sometimes awoken when triggered by other events/people/situations.

I need to be better at putting everything down. Out of fairness to these vignettes- I ought to record the living and working history of myself.

I want to put more poetry in my life. I don’t know why I haven’t allowed for my creative energies to script the pain and beauty into powerful lines of poetry and prose. But I’ll get back into it, I swear ..

A major component in my life. The first thing I do whenever I walk into my apartment in Brooklyn, is turn on the lamp that sits on the mantle above the fireplace, and then go straight to itunes on my MacBook. Sometimes I’ll throw on Femi. Sometimes Miles. Usually, these days, it’s Nas. That Untitled album is THE ONE!!!!

I don’t have many. Well, I have many of not much substance. And only a few that I actually value and appreciate and love. I need to do more to show my appreciation to the few people in my life that I actually and truly have.

I’m on vacation right now, and I cannot imagine what it will be like starting off yet another year of 8:00-3:00 M-F. Well, no sense in debating it. It is the life I chose.

I’ve been going back and forth- should I grow my locks back?. Should I grow an afro? For now, I'm sportin a low Caesar with three 1982 parts on the left side of my head. Lol. I’ve seemingly phased out the Mohawk. But I can see it coming back at any given moment.

I only have one. I am blessed to be a part of mine.

Still looking for it...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Pit of Death

One of my students, “Nick,” told me that if I don’t give him a birthday present, that he will send me to the “Pit of Death” in Sparta (think the movie 300), to burn and rot forever!

We shared a good laugh.

Needless to say, I’m gonna get my man a birthday gift- lol!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Kinda Sad

Kinda Sad..

“Kisha’s” last day was Friday. As of Monday, she will be going to another school in the Bronx. I was shocked and saddened by all of this. I asked her why, and she said because her mother wants her to go to another school. Damn. I had looked out for her, and in many ways, she had looked out for me. When I had a death in the family, she was the first to notice that something was wrong, and asked if I was all right. She was not one of my CTT students, but she needed to be- for she has major learning disabilities that have gone undiagnosed for years. She has exhausted her education like being drifted in a river, going with the current. On Friday I was real sad and disbelieved when she told me that it was her last day.

I’m sure it is for the good.. I wish her the best. It was a sad moment. She’ll be all right.. I hope and, I know…

Monday, February 4, 2008

A great day...

I have a student who I am so thankful for. He is the hope, the future, and the prospect of what it means to be young and Black. My man is intelligent beyond means. His purpose and his desire to be a King in the modern world is undeniable.

Of course he is misunderstood. He was suspended the other week from school. But like I told him, this is what they want for him.

He is part of the alternative, Afro-punk crowd. He is somewhat of a mis-fit, much similar to how I was in middle school. Fully aware of who he is, yet he is utterly confused with how he fits into this systemized edifice. But I learn from this cat, everyday. He and I have been challenging each other to read a book a week. We meet every Monday to discuss the book we read the previous week. Our books are fascinating. We sometimes read eachother’s books- and always suggest new ones to read.

He just finished What is the What, a powerful book about Sudan- and I am finishing an incredible Octavia Butler piece, Wild Seed. He sent me an email a few minutes ago with a link to a DOPE Barack video called YES WE CAN.

To me, he is the hope of the future- my comrade and a powerful young revolutionary.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Last week

Walking down the hallway on Friday to punch out, I was a walking zombie. Last week was probably the toughest since the 1st. What made it so difficult? I guess while I have been continuously defining the teacher within me, I have had some major developments, or realizations recently. Not only do I have to work much harder with the teachers that I am working with to make sure that I am fully co-teaching, but my whole take on teaching has to shift. Tonight I made several phone calls to parents. My students are quite comfortable with me. And that has worked to my advantage for the first few months, but is seemingly back-firing. I have to be a more strict, more definitive, more controlling teacher.

This process of becoming the teacher I want to be is no joke. Middle school is no easy feat either. I am trying to rewind my mind- taking it back to being 12 years old. Acne, girls, farting inappropriately, not wanting to be smart, fresh clothes, clean sneakers, poor body odor, not turning homework because I thought I would “look better”, multiple school suspensions: Middle school was some of the toughest times of my life:-a time period I could never relive and a time period I wish so desperately to re-live.

What would I do differently, what would I omit?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

My Revelation, My Dilemma

This week I had a revelation. In order for me to be a successful teacher (and to feel good about my work), I have to be more involved in the design of the courses that I am co-teaching.

Easier said than done.

What it means, is that I must be a much more active participant in the construction of lesson plans and in the delivery of instruction. It is not enough to simply assist the teacher, or to work individually with the special ed students to make lessons more accessible. I must assert myself as a ‘strategy specialist’ (whatever that means) for the course, not just a disciplinarian in the class.

The problem is time. Planning time. How is it at all possible to successfully plan three different course with three different teachers with limited co-planning time? I am trying to reach for the ideal, but the reality is hitting me in the face. I’m also dealing with working with teachers who are insensitive to the needs of Special Ed students. It’s not like they (the gen ed teachers) chose this field- so on many levels, I cannot blame them. However, I cannot bear witness, or co-sign on inappropriate teaching to students with special needs.

So it appears like I need to somehow slip in some sensitivity training into my fellow colleagues.

So yea, this is my revelation, but also my dilemma.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I teach kids about the Jena 6, you call me the n word, and I am the racist?!?

Unfortunately, I have to start moderating my comments on this blog, because of the utter ignorance that is starting to be apparent with people making comments on my blog. I have no problems with comments that pose an alternate view to my postings, however, ignorance and racism will not be tolerated!

How can I be called a racist by someone who is calling me the n word? And for the other cowardly anonymous commenter to "agree with the above (racist) post"??? Co-signing racism? That's a new one.

So sad, so sad.

In case you are wondering what this is all referring to, check out the recent anonymous comments to my post from October 22, 2007 "Young revolutionaries".

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Tomorrow, yesterday, and today

I am feeling the pain of tomorrow.  I am feeling the throbbing sting of yesterday.  Sometimes I wish the pain could numb me.  But it doesn't.  My young brothers and sisters- caught in between the crossfire of a war that is not their own; Unfair recipients of the vicious 80s.  Children of drug infestation, black on black gun waving.  Disease and sub-standard housing.  Building overcrowding.  Dead bodies on door steps.  Gun in face on the way to school.  Students scared to go home.  Students scared to be in school.  Fear of disability exposure.  Fear of fear.  Fear of "Mr.- when you gonna leave, just like the rest of them?" relationship closure.  Fear of greatness because that becomes expectation. 

Eyes do not lie.  They never have.  Words lie, but eyes tell the truth.  In the eyes of many of my students, I see the pain of a generation scared and scarred with the past to haunt them, and the future to not believe in. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Teaching inclusion is extremely difficult.  Teaching in New York City is difficult period.  But teaching in an inclusive environment is proving to be extremely challenging.  I'm constantly trying to gauge my students' aptitude and learning, their evolution and progress (as well as my own).  What makes inclusion so challenging is in part the obvious: extreme abilities, extreme levels of confidence, extreme emotional levels; all put into a system that is based on uniform learning.  Differentiation only goes so far, especially when they take standardized tests!  I'm trying to put my feet in the shoes of my students.  What would I need?  What would I want to hear?  What would I want to do?  As much as I try to empathize my way into their experience, I can never really know, but I can try to understand. 

But again, there are so many factors involved.  How can I even ever truly understand?  Everyday I'm reminded of how much I don't know.  The power is definitely in the hands of my students.  More than any one factor, they turn it on and off.  I can only try to do my best to keep the 'on' switch 'on' as much as possible.