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SkoolHaze’s 5ive Sources of Inspiration
What makes me tick? Well, there’s a large combination of things that keep me focused and help me push even when I don’t feel like being bothered. Oprah has her yearly favorite things, I figured I would share my Inspirational Things for anyone interested in diversifying their own sources of inspiration. I have allowed these things to have power over me in a way that is a bit fanatical in the sense that they give me the one-track mind that I feel has helped me get to where I am today. That’s not to say that on the surface I agree with everything that is presented here. But it is to say that on a deeper level, these things continue to push me to question my own motives and actions toward those motives and goals on a fairly consistent basis.
Black Scholars and Historical Figures
From Booker T. Washington to Thurgood Marshall to Malcolm X to Carter G. Woodson to Dr. Juwanza Kunjufu to Marva Collins to Barute Kafele to Lisa Delpit – there is nothing more enthralling to me than learning what these Black scholars and, in my mind celebrities, have to offer. I can honestly say that I didn’t know anything about Malcolm X until perhaps 4 or 5 years ago when in one of my nightly Youtube trances I stumbled upon some of his speeches. From that moment on I was captured by his eloquence and capacity to string a lethal combination of words together that clearly conveyed his non-restrained message. I don’t know if it’s the fact that Black history and knowledge is in a way hidden from mainstream grasp, or that the characters involved are filled with the same blood and roots that I am that empowers me so. But, all in all, I love finding new pieces of information and knowledge left by my predecessors. Most of their messages, warnings, and predictions are still quite true today, decades and even for some even a century after that fact. I’ve actually amassed a personal library that far exceeds my capacity to download and process the information contained within the pages. Part of me wants to one day be one of those books on someone’s bookshelf that made them think more critically about the world and their responsibility to change it.
Life Coaches and Motivational Speakers
Over the past 3 years I’ve worked with, or at least connected with 3 different life coaches/motivational speakers. I’m drawn to people that are go-getters and have the ability to remain positive all of the time. I like to think I’m a glass-half-full kinda guy. But I absolutely don’t think I would be where I am today had it not been for these particular people in my life. About 2.5 years ago I somehow ran into an ad by my frat brother Darius Gant who was looking for new clients for his life coaching business. At the time I knew that change was in order and that my days at my non profit youth development job were numbered. Working with Darius on a weekly basis helped keep me accountable to clarifying my goals and finding the doors that I once thought were hidden from me. I looked forward to our phone calls, the homework he would assign me, and the ability to just talk my plans through with another motivated young professional. To date, I’ve run into quite a few similar characters who have helped me in varying ways keep my eyes on the prize when it comes to my own success as a person and professional. If you’re at a crossroads, or just need some extra motivation to see your own goals through I would definitely look into life coaching from a peer OR searching through youtube and Google to find easily accessible motivational tools. I actually am still benefiting from the residual connection(s) with these individuals and hope to one day show them that I was serious about finding my own way to success.
www.dariusgant.com – Darius Gant’s Website
www.sidehustla.com – Jullien Gordon’s Goal Coaching website
Specialized Media Consumption
I don’t know what to call this one… I was trying to think of a fancy title, but I really just carefully choose the media and messages I allow myself to consume, consciously and subconsciously. There is power in the messages we hear and surround ourselves with on a regular basis. As the old adage goes, if you tell a child they’re stupid long enough, they will eventually believe you. Better yet, if you’re never exposed to success then you never quite understand that it is always possible. Donald Trump once said that in order to become a successful business executive you first have to visualize yourself flying around in your private jet closing million dollar deals. If you don’t visualize it, then you’ll never work hard enough to make it happen. That’s not quite the life I want for myself. But, I am crafting my version of success, and in order to do that I purposefully surround myself with media that either agitates or develops my mind toward that direction. I don’t want to come down on people that watch TV. But, I’ll say this, an overwhelming majority of the images that are on tv aren’t positively framed images of people of color. Somewhere I read a study that said the only individuals that can watch tv for X amount of hours and come away feeling better about themselves are White males. If you’re going to spend your time watching tv, you also need to supplement those messages with more positive and developmental images and messages that represent characters that look, think, and feel like you. Below are some of the links I visit regularly.
http://addicted2success.com/ – Website filled with motivational content for everyone
http://atlantablackstar.com/ – Black news outlet with Buzzfeed-like content
http://abagond.wordpress.com/ – Blog that posts critiques of history from different vantage points.
http://www.yourblackworld.net/ – Black news outlet headed by Dr. Boyce Watkins
http://thegrio.com/ – Online Black News Magazine
http://theroot.com/ – Online Black News Magazine
It’s sort of a gift and a curse, but I’ve always been the type of person that wants to be the absolute best at what I do, whenever I do it. I can remember early on in grad school people I knew would say that at some point you just have to find a balance between getting enough done to survive and doing a good job. For the most part I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job at trying to push for excellence in every action I make with teaching, graduate school, and my personal life. Of course excellence isn’t always what is achieved. (just ask my supervisors) But, I do appreciate the little engine in me that expects to go all out every time I’m called up to bat. I’m not quite sure what process I went through to make this happen. But I’ve gotten to a point where it is ingrained into my system to go hard and don’t go home. As I mentioned in a previous post, being an athlete I learned the difference between coasting and training. Now, I purposely try to direct my energies toward things that are difficult or that don’t immediately peak my interests. The practice of doing what I can’t do and don’t want to do is the sure fire way to make myself grow into a better and stronger person. When I was younger and first starting to understand what growth truly meant I likened it to being a robot, and not having any weapons to fight with. However, the more experiences and challenges I go through in life, the more I weaponize my person into someone who is more capable of handling and conquering grander situations.
All of this work would be pointless if I was only doing it for myself. Realistically I am indeed focused on being the absolute best version of myself I can be for myself. But, in reality the benefit to pushing for the best version of myself will, or rather should, spill over onto the communities and individuals I come into contact with each day. For that reason they serve as a huge source of inspiration to me. Its difficult to quantify how much my students, the neighborhood(s) I represent, my family, peers, etc… get from the work I do. But, the driving force for me is to be so good at what I do that the people around me benefit through proximity or through more direct influence and actions I have taken for those individuals. There’s nothing like being tired, exhausted, upset, drained, whatever, and thinking about how my audiences rely on me to deliver a purposeful and quality product to them regularly. I think people often feel they’re too small to truly impact their communities, but I don’t agree. I do have an actual impact on what people believe they can do and achieve. And much of that belief is ingrained when I keep pushing even when I’m ready to say Fuck It.
BONUS: My Peers and their projects
Looking back, its amazing to see how peers groups work together in unison and in conflict to move themselves forward. For instance Martin and Malcolm were peers who for the most part stood on opposite sides of the same coin. But part of what makes both of them so great is that they in a way worked together to help bring change and revolution to the world. Booker T. Washington had George Washington Carver and W.E.B. DuBois. Even Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen on his side, and people like Magic Johnson across the aisle. I’m not quite sure who my peer group is as of yet. Its something that I’ve searched for and haven’t quite found yet, which is irritating to say the least. But, I do appreciate that I have found some figures out there who are doing some amazing work in their own communities. At the very least it shows me that I could be doing a lot more than I’m doing now. And for that I respect them!
Brandon Frame – Founder of TheBlackManCan.com, and author of The BlackManCan Presents: A Guided Journal for Black Boys and Men. Brandon a former teacher has his hands full with his Black Man Can Institute that has made stops in Baltimore, New Haven, Atlanta, and New York City. While I’m struggling to wake up on time for work Brandon is working non stop to educate and empower youth of color… in multiple cities. *Respect* Check out The Black Man Can’s facebook page.
Aaron Mallory – I actually went to school with Aaron way back in the 90’s. He was a few years younger than me. But I remembered him because his mom was a substitute teacher at our school, and his family lived across the street from the school. Since those years Aaron has become a motivational speaker, author, graduate student at the prestigious University of Chicago, and has even built great community organization for the Chicago community – Guide Right Organization. *Keep it up homie*
Antoine’s Five Steps
for Pursuing Your Passion
1. Take risks– Pursuing your passion means making yourself vulnerable in every aspect. You must become emotionally naked, allowing yourself to make mistakes and risk being terrible. Even if you don’t desire fame and grandeur, pursuing your passion means that you want to be good at it. It means that you want to excel in it; and excellence only comes with de and re construction and you cannot be deconstructed without exposing and becoming vulnerable. Risk also involves opportunities; seizing every one that is beneficial to you and the pursuance of your passion. Read up on the stories of the people who excel in your passion, whatever it may be, and guaranteed that the level of success they achieved is almost directly associated with the level of risk they had to take to get there. Its not easy and can even be as serious as violating the values and priorities to which you adhere. But, it is necessary and it is ultimately this that distinguishes the difference between a hobby and a pursuance of passion. Do what no one else would and become what no one else can.
2. Remain Teachable- One of the hardest parts of being a human is pulling down your ego and learning from and listening to someone else. As hard as this is it is integral in pursuing your passion. You must be able to accept what you are not good at and listen to people you respect on the road to change and growth. Defense is an enemy; you must listen to criticism and be able to be broken down and take any criticism objectively and use it to your advantage; appreciate it. Now, there are people out there to whom you shouldn’t listen, as their intentions may not be genuine or they could be haters to put it plainly. These people are to be nodded and smiled at and their “criticism” taken in one ear and out the other. Discerning between them and true friends may be difficult, but with common sense and evaluation of character, they will be found out.
3. Make complacence your worst enemy- In your passion there is ALWAYS room for growth, always. Whether you grow vertically and improve on what you already do or horizontally and switch lanes to tackle something different or use a different approach to what you already do, growth is possible. With this said, it is most definitely ok to be happy with something and to leave it alone. When a song I have finished gives me that complete feeling, I leave it alone. There are times I even have to be told to leave it alone, but, nonetheless, I do. Sometimes things are perfect just the way they are; but, holistically, as far as my vocal ability and the way I sing and how my voice sounds, there is no limit to how much I can improve. It is easy to become happy with where you are and dwell on that but just know that you can go higher. If you’ve conquered a city, focus on conquering the state, then the region, then the country, and dare I say the world? And yes, the universe as well. It all lies in the balance of knowing your limitations and not having any at all.
4. Research and analyze- As a musician I no longer listen to music, I analyze it, unconsciously sometimes. When a song enters my brain I almost automatically hear harmonies, tone, technique and how the singer hits the notes, and everything in between. A passion consumes you and you cannot be afraid of that. In whatever your passion is you must research and analyze the best of the best. It is necessary to get yourself familiar with what makes the greats great. Watch their interviews and how they work. Research their stories and their history. In an age of ubiquitously available information, you have your passion at your fingertips; take full advantage.
5. Don’t be afraid to be great– An unknown fear of greatness is what I believe hinders us all. There is comfort in mediocrity and people don’t realize how limited their mentality is and how they hinder people from their own greatness. In short, Mothafuckas are haters and in most situations their hate is a reflection of their own limitations, doubts and fears. I used to be afraid to say I wanted to perform like Michael Jackson or I wanted my vocal tone to be as pure as Whitney’s in her prime. I used to be afraid to have standards higher than those around me for fear of standing out. In pursuing your passion you have to have the confidence to RESPONSIBLY associate yourself with the greats. I say responsibly because we all know someone who LOVES to do whatever it is they love to do and claims they’re the best at it, but in actuality they suck, morbidly! If you’re a painter, set Van Gogh or Warhol as your standard. If you act, aim to be as good as Meryl Streep. If you are a film director, be Michael Bay and nothing less, but do it responsibly and in your own manner of course and know the work that’s set out for you to be that great. Above all, prove it! Don’t just talk about it. Greatness speaks for itself. Know internally what your standards are and claim them commandingly. Know that you are and can be THAT GREAT and let the work speak for itself.
Back 2 Music is the motto. Hailing from Baltimore, Md currently living in Boston, Ma, Antoine is an independent artist bringing back real music one song at a time. His style mixes so many inspirations and genres alike. His versatility and appeal as an artist sets him apart, making his style unidentifiable, but his music and performance an identifying unmatched signature in itself. Working to make every record and live performance an unprecedented experience Antoine is sure to entertain and inspire, one note at a time. Be sure to check out Antoine’s latest video for his song Make You Love Me.
McKnight Doctoral Fellowships
Established in 1984, the FEF’s McKnight Doctoral Fellowship Program has increased the number of African Americans who have earned Ph.D.’s in historically underrepresented, crucial disciplines where African Americans have not historically enrolled and completed degree programs. The FEF has awarded more than 750 Fellowships to African Americans and Hispanics pursuing Ph.D.’s, and the Program enjoys an impressive near 80% retention rate. More than 300 Fellows have graduated with Ph.D.’s, in an average completion time of 5.5 years.
Up to 50 Fellowships are awarded annually to study at one of nine participating Florida universities. Each award provides annual tuition up to $5,000 (tuition above this amount is waived by the participating institution) for each of three academic years plus an annual stipend of $12,000. (An additional two years of support at this same level is provided by the participating institution.) The award also includes a comprehensive system of academic support. Each annual renewal is contingent upon satisfactory performance and normal progress toward the Ph.D. degree.
The McKnight Doctoral Fellowship program is designed to address the under-representation of African American and Hispanic faculty at colleges and universities in the state of Florida by increasing the pool of citizens qualified with Ph.D. degrees to teach at the college and university levels. As a by-product, it is expected that employment opportunities in industry will also be expanded.
- Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
- Florida Atlantic University
- Florida Institute of Technology
- Florida International University
- Florida State University
- University of Florida
- University of Miami
- University of Central Florida
- University of South Florida
Black Male Achievement (BMA) Fellowship
The Open Society Black Male Achievement (BMA) Fellowship, powered by Echoing Green, is an innovative partnership between the Open Society Foundations and Echoing Green, dedicated to improving the life outcomes of black men and boys in the U.S. It is the first fellowship program in the world for social entrepreneurs who are starting up new and innovative organizations in the field of black male achievement.
The 2012 and 2013 BMA Fellows are currently hard at work building innovative solutions to the barriers facing black men and boys in the United States: generating new ideas and best practices in the areas of education, family, and work, such as initiatives related to fatherhood, mentoring, college preparatory programs, community-building, supportive wage work opportunities, communications, and philanthropic leadership.
The 2014 BMA Fellowship will be awarded to individuals or partners representing up to eight organizations who will receive:
- A stipend of $70,000
- A health insurance stipend
- A yearly professional development stipend
- Leadership development and networking gatherings
- Access to technical support and pro bono partnerships to help grow their organization and a dedicated Echoing Green portfolio manager
- A community of like-minded social entrepreneurs and public service leaders, including Open Society Foundations and the Echoing Green network of nearly 600 Fellows at Large working all over the world.
*Info courtesy of the Florida Education Fund
Join the SkoolHaze Team
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myself, and others, by documenting my journey in this public space. If you’re a young ambitious professional looking and interested in contributing to our story, input your information below.
Let’s start holding each other accountable for our own growth!
Challenging Students or Challenging Environment
Even in my own head my most recent post(s) come off as a misrepresentation of what I’m really experiencing this year as a 2nd year teacher and graduate student. By no means have things been easy and just fallen into place properly. If anything I’ve felt as though I have to deal with a lot more chaos than I did at the beginning of last year. However, I’ve been managing it with more laughter and matter of factness, at least in my own head.
This year, I’m working with a lot more freshman students, which is great because its helping me build relationships with the new members of the student body. The freshman class is more independent than previous classes we’ve brought into the school. They seem to be able to work better on their own, and to date haven’t given much pushback when we give them homework or require them to step up to the plate with their work. This has been surprising, but also pretty frustrating when trying to figure out how to bring the same sense of responsibility to our sophomore and junior classes at the school. I’m not quite sure what we can do to bridge the gap for them, but, that will be part of my job next marking period as I work with some of our junior students in the new Post Graduate Prep Elective.
This year’s freshman have been a great social experiment for me. I’ve really been able to push myself and them beyond what I thought I was able to do last year, and with a lot more natural appeal. Had you asked me last year if I was myself in the classroom or some character I presented, I would have answered that I was definitely my genuine self. However, the freshman this year seem to have brought a more relaxed and authentic version of myself into the classrooms as a teacher and my graduate classes as a student. They’ve also helped me realize that no single experience in the classroom starts and ends in that classroom. We live in a world that is constantly pulling and growing on things that have happened previously in all of our lives.
Some of the challenging situations I’ve had to maneuver this year have oddly enough all come from the same classroom. In one class of approximately 20 students on the roster my co-teacher and I have –
- A) a student who functionally can’t read (well)
- B) a student who for lack of a better term has extreme mood swings within one period
- C) a student that has the energy and attitude of a tazmanian devil
- D) a student that just so happens to be the son of my barber – which has made subsequent management very difficult do to the inherent conflict of interest.
Dealing with these students in the same classroom has been… interesting. Interesting by the way is my new buzzword for, a fucking mess. I will say though that although these students have kept me on my toes I do feel a genuine love and responsibility to look out for their security, growth, and comfort inside and outside of my classrooms.
A few weeks ago, students B and C, who by themselves have the power to completely derail a productive classroom environment came into class and performed the Dragon Ball Z Fusion Dance. For those of you that don’t know it’s a dance performed by particular characters in the popular anime series that allows them to combine forces, strength, and minds to fight stronger enemies. So far this is probably the single most hilarious memory I’ve had as a teacher. I’ve included a quick video showing the fusion process below, and yes the students literally did this in the middle of class, in unison, together. I died a little inside from shear amazement that they even knew of the fusion dance, and second that they were essentially saying in code that they were combining to wreck havoc together.
Ironically, I actually think both students were able to focus and get a decent amount of work done this day. However, I was taken aback by their seemingly freudian slip. I think subconsciously their act was an admission that they both understood that they had the power to derail the class if they chose to. The whole class period I moved in a semi-state of shock, like what the hell have we gotten ourselves into.
Of course, fate decided that I would be in charge of both student’s IEP meetings. Both meetings brought surprises and challenges never experienced before. One student’s IEP is still yet to be drafted… yet another thing I have to complete this weekend… supposedly. One thing I love about my position as a teacher is being able to connect with my students on a simpler level than their educator. In both meetings with the students, I mentioned the fusion process that I saw in class, and how I was shocked that they even knew what that was. It served as a door opener to students who can be particularly difficult to connect with when not in the mood. Even weeks later I still can’t quite get over having two Super Saiyan students who understand their power to support and disrupt a classes progress singularly and even more-so together.
To tie this back to my initial statement, clearly these students both saw the fusion process years ago at home, and brought the idea into the classroom to really just have a good time and share laughs together. I know I haven’t watched Dragon Ball Z in probably over 5 years, and its been a lot longer since I heard of fusion. In the end, I let both students know that their fusion was hilarious, and I respect them for comedically bringing it into the class. I actually think the three of us are the only ones who caught it in the moment and haven’t forgotten it. However, I’ve already put my co-teacher on game, and let the students know that any further fusion activities will be met with equal force from my co-teacher and I.
We laughed… and to this day they have continued to be lovely difficult students to manage in the class.