Covid-19 aka Coronavirus is currently sending an enormous ripple across the globe. Oddly enough, I happen to be living here in what is now considered the American epicenter of the virus, New York City. Brooklyn to be exact.
Its amazing to know that the last post on this platform, in December 2019, was in a world where I was not sitting here amongst billions of people impacted by the appearance of a new global threat. I could have never imagined there was a “thing” so powerful that is sent shockwaves through the entire planet like this.
I sat and watched, really listened (I have a free subscription to the Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal via audible. You should check it out) to the outbreak begin oddly uniquely in China. How back then there were small percentages to the story, usually one sentence or so, to the idea that Corona virus would indeed impact the world. And that American ought to get prepared….
Its amazing to know that in 3 months time or so…. the impact is now being felt more amplified (do we know that? I don’t believe Chinas #’s… just saying) here in the states.
Life has changed. Drastically. The animal piece of me, worked to live in the shock. To realize it. To allow it to stimulate my senses. For the past 2 years or so I’ve been so focused on that for some reason. The ability of my sense’s to pick up messages along different frequencies… My senses told me to feel and receive the different messages sent up into the air. Process them and evaluate what you deem true, what you deem important, what you deem relevant to you in this time of shaking Earth. And now my brain is telling me to reset, to ground, but also be in action of moving my life along and forward in calibration to the shaking ground.
I’ve done a lot of breathing. I’ve fallen victim to a lot of sleeping. To which I lean in to. I’ve been untethered to many avenues in which I received life sustaining funding and income. I’ve been freed.
The response – now – is to germinate the Earth with what it tells me it needs.
I hope you find this message in peace. In a time of protection and personal stability. If not, that is ok too.
Allow your sense’s (sight, smell, taste, feel, hearing, and beyond) to feel the air. Taste it. Take it in. Hear it. Sense it. Feel it above you. As it passes through you and under your feet. And flows past and around your skin. Determine what your body needs. What your human package needs.
Give yourself permission to bring it here. To create it.
Surround yourself with the resources that will make it so.
In response to the Covid-19 interruption of daily living we here at MyEdgeMedia want to encourage you to be safe. Encourage you to stake claim to what you need to thrive. And wish to partner with you in bringing it to fruition!
Stay tuned as we re-calibrate and reconnect a strengthened and more steadfast signal.
We welcome comments and connections below from those interested in bringing their voice back to the Earth.
Here is the post about the training I’m going to. Have to head out – would love to type more.
What do YOU think about the idea of Community of Peers? Do you have one? Do you view your community of peers as a POSITIVE source of influence? Or do you view them as a negative or neutral influence on your life?
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I haven’t posted in a awhile – A few folks I know have been contemplating joining the NYC Teaching Fellows. I did some rummaging through my email and found my application from three years ago. I shocked at how much I knew back then. I definitely think my application speaks true to who I am as a person and an educator.
I wonder if the person that wrote this application would be happy with the teacher I am today…
Provide Academic Details:
Why do you feel that your GPA is not indicative of your future performance in a rigorous Master’s program? (278)
My GPA is in no way a true measure of my academic prowess. I have always been a good student. My cumulative GPA reflects an aberrant shift in priorities and an untimely bought with academic immaturity. In Spring 2005 I pursued joining a social organization, as a result my GPA dropped to a 2.9. During my remaining years at Indiana State University I unsuccessfully tried to retake the classes I previously failed, yet my drive to raise my grades in the classes wasn’t there. In other words I tried to retake them before I was ready. This was truly a juvenile move on my part. However, it is because of my regrettable performance in those classes that I learned the importance of pushing myself in all academic situations.
I am currently enrolled as a part-time MPA student at Northeastern University. I am proud to say that I enjoy the challenge of learning foreign subject matter in an effort to make myself a better person and professional. Currently I have received stellar grades on all assignments in my Functions and Techniques of Public Management course, and would be more than happy to share a proof of my transcript and/or assignments with the review board upon completion of my semester in December.
Now, years removed from undergraduate distraction and malaise I am confident in my motivation to be a successful educator. I hope that review board will view my GPA for what it was, blind immaturity from a young adult that prevented me from seeing how my inaction could affect my future. Please feel free to contact me if you would like a more in-depth explanation of my academic history.
Please provide an essay of between 400 and 600 words that addresses both of the following questions:
Nearly all Fellows are hired to teach in ‘high-need’ schools that are located in low-income communities. Why do you want to teach specifically in a high-need school in New York City? Why do you believe you will be an effective teacher in a high-need school? (451)
I have had the pleasure to work for an amazing alternative education and job training nonprofit for the past two and a half years. During my time with YouthBuild USA, I have gained heartbreaking knowledge about why many low-income youth and young adults leave or get kicked out of school. Some of the reasons can be attributed to not getting the academic support necessary to learn new material, problems stemming from the student’s home life, criminal behavior, and pregnancy to name a few.
None the less, many of the young leaders I work with have expressed that a caring and thoughtful adult/teacher can make a world of difference in a student’s life. It is my mission to develop youth into young leaders. Personal experience has shown me that many youth, specifically young males of color, benefit from having someone that looks like them mentor and support their personal, academic, social, and professional development.
Working with low-income youth in NYC will give me the opportunity to move from a reactive and corporate role in fighting education disparity to a more front-lines spot in this war. I love the work that I get to engage in as the Graduate Education and Policy Coordinator for YouthBuild USA, but I yearn deeply for the opportunity to take action in a classroom setting every day to help make the lives’ of my students more bountiful.
To me, NYC is the personification of diversity, eccentricity, resilience, and strength. The war on education inequality can’t be fought on a more important battleground than the streets, homes, and youth that inhabit NYC. I want to learn and be a part of the solution, and I believe that solution will be uncovered there.
There are many reasons why I feel I will be an effective member of the Teaching Fellows team. Number one is passion! I have an intense desire to help youth, specifically low-income, realize their potential that lies within, so they can have an easier transition into the professional and scholastic world. I believe the combination of my passion and professional experiences will help push me to become an effective NYC special education teacher.
In addition to my passion, being an African American male in the classroom will help me connect with my students. It will also show them another example of a positive role model that they may not get the opportunity to see often. I aim to be a supportive teacher that values the opinions of my students. I am also patient, a problem solver, and a good communicator. Overall, I am looking to be fully engaged in the learning cycle – as a contributor to my students’ development and as a beneficiary of the teaching experience.
What is the greatest challenge you expect to encounter in raising student achievement in a high need school (400-600)? What do you believe would be your role, as a teacher, in addressing this challenge? (573)
Academics will always be a challenge. However, the biggest challenge will be changing the long standing beliefs and pre-conceived notions that affect low-income communities, particularly their students. I want to create a culture of student achievement, and great possibilities. However, having that permeate my students is not enough. It has to penetrate other classrooms, teachers, faculty and staff. The students have to believe in it enough to take it home and trust in it when they have to face their challenges alone, or when staff is not available to help walk them through. Students have to buy into it so much that it affects their parents, siblings, families, peers, neighbors, and communities of support. If I can’t get my students to believe in themselves, then raising their achievement levels will be extremely difficult. It seems like an impossible task, but it has to start somewhere. I believe I can be an affective agent of change through my own classroom work.
As a teacher, I will have to set high expectations in my classroom for myself and my students. I would like to incorporate past and present accomplishments of the students’ peers into our daily activities. Seeing what my counterparts and ancestors were able to achieve serves as a huge inspiration for me. I want to introduce my students to similar experiences in an effort to support their own dreams and goals, and show them that if it was possible for (blank), then it is possible for you as well.
Many of the young leaders I work with through YouthBuild say that a major reason they have changed their lives from dropouts to high school graduates is that our programs create a family vibe that they may not be receiving at home. I want to recreate this atmosphere for my students so they will know that they have a safe place to learn. Creating a safe environment starts with respect. Everyone in the classroom needs to support the learning of their peers.
I want to introduce my students to the concepts of self-doubt and self-sabotage. Self-doubt is a counterproductive mindset that inhibits one’s productivity due to a lack of belief in their own abilities. Self-sabotage is a fear of the unknown or uncommon success, generally resulting in the derailment of positive behaviors that lead to one’s own defeat. I will work within my classroom to set up early warning systems to alert me when one of my students enters into one of these detrimental spaces.
Many people allow both of these subconscious behaviors to inhibit their potential, particularly low income students. By labeling, I will draw their attention to these concepts with the hope that they will be more equipped to persist through these challenges to success. I will also work to develop a culture of student leadership in my classroom.
I want to be a mentor for my students. I plan to be an ever-present helping hand that will support them through their challenges in the classroom. I recognize that most students may not feel comfortable doing this at first. This is why it is important that I set up a safe learning space and relationship, so that my students will feel comfortable reaching out to me.
Last, but not least, I will have an open door policy for parents and guardians. I want the families of my students to know that I will always welcome them to engage in their child’s learning.
Explain how your past experience informs your response to these questions. If applicable, please include relevant personal, work, or volunteer experience with high-need communities. (311)
I’ve peppered many of these essays with knowledge that I’ve gained working with YouthBuild USA and a lot of its student and alumni representatives. YouthBuild is a national nonprofit that focuses on helping low-income young adults, ages 16 – 24, return to school to obtain their high school diploma/GED and job training skills. Many of the students who enter YouthBuild programs across the nation have left school for a number of reasons which can include but are not limited to not getting the academic support necessary to learn new material, problems stemming from the student’s home life, criminal behavior, transportation issues, being expelled from the local school district, or even an unexpected pregnancy.
As the Graduate Education and Policy Coordinator for YouthBuild USA I get to work closely with many of the students and alumni who are involved in our young adult policy councils or our National Speakers Bureau. I also work with our students that attend our national events such as Conference of Young Leaders which takes place annually each March in Washington, DC. In this role I work under two departments, our Graduate Leadership Department and our Postsecondary Education Department.
In this capacity that I get to hear many best practices on how to support the development of disengaged youth from our students, alumni, program staff, and partners across the nation. This knowledge has given me valuable ideas about how to make a difference, but only the Teaching Fellows will allow me to put these ideas into action.
I truly enjoy working with the students to transform their best practices into national policy suggestions. However, I feel the need to have a more direct role with students in a classroom environment. Many of the ways I plan to support student development inside my classroom are indirect representations of advice, practices, and tools I have heard throughout my time with YouthBuild.
In no more than 400 words, please briefly describe your specific interests within the NYC Teaching Fellows program. While not required, we encourage candidates to respond to these essays as they will help us to understand your Fellowship preferences.
3. Why do you want to teach Special Education? If applicable, please include relevant personal, work or volunteer experience with populations with special needs. (372)
I feel the natural next step in my professional career is to become a teacher. One of my future goals is to be an education administrator supporting the development of strong students, alumni, teachers and support staff. I have gained valuable administrative experience in the field, but now it is time for me to venture into the realm of teaching and educating in a true classroom setting.
Graduating from college with a degree in public relations has made me a strong thinker and communicator. However, my degree limited my immediate options to enter the realm of traditional teaching. I actually investigated getting an alternative teaching certificate a few years back. But, I became discouraged when I realized that I could never teach science, history, or English.
Eventually I realized that working in for an education nonprofit was not close enough for me to feel as though I was making a real difference. Around the same time I saw an ad on idealist.org asking for teachers in New York City. It was then that I understood that I was still eligible to become a special education teacher, and I have been re-energized ever since.
To me, special education has a strong correlation to the student population I was working with at YouthBuild USA. I do not claim to know all the answers, nor the unique challenges this subgroup of students face on a daily basis. However, I understand that this classroom environment will be made up of an eclectic group of learners. This tells me that the classroom will not lend itself to using one approach to ensure all are learning the same content.
It is my understanding that this group of students would benefit from highly specialized and individualized instruction. This groups of students more than likely faces a wide range of disadvantages, and needs someone who is in tune with those, and willing to work around and through these barriers to help them find success.
I know that I will be a strong advocate on their side. And I am eager to couple my knowledge and the best practices from YouthBuild students and staff with the tools and tips I learn from teaching fellows to be a successful special education teacher.
The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,–this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not African-ize America; for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face. (DuBois, 2003, p. 9)
P L U R A L I S M
Pluralism, as DuBois points out, consists of a bounty of dials that one must set out to align if they want to unlock their growth. The first level of pluralism is recognition: recognizing that multiple dimensions consistently interact within ourselves and the world in general. Recognition is important because without it people are not able to go on to the second level of engagement. Once we understand that all entities in this world consist of multiple layers, a reflective person works to establish stasis amongst these levels in an effort to learn and project the most perfect unification of self. The people who are the most successful at this must be honest in the review of themselves and said entity they are analyzing. They must understand what inherent biases, strengths, weaknesses, and learning opportunities are embedded in each dimension of these entities, in comparison to themselves, to see where balance should be pushed.
The most dominant sides of our identity quite naturally get the bulk of our attention. Therefore, explicit and vigilant practice and exercises are needed to facilitate the process in which internal saturation of all layers happens regularly. Individuals that are comfortable living and engaging in a pluralistic world often seek out additional stimuli and points of view to help them broaden their own internal compass that guides their daily interactions.
In this way, I believe that pluralism is essentially tied to empathy, as in it comes from a place where you see the experiences and thoughts of others as valuable cultural commentaries that can contribute to your own sense of self. The frame of correlation, rather than differences, helps us act from a place of integrity and inclusion. All of which help build the people we interact with and ourselves as more conscious contributors to society.
By integrity I mean whatever wholeness I am able to find within that nexus as its vectors form and re-form the pattern of my life. Integrity requires that I discern what is integral to my selfhood, what fits and what does not-and that I choose life-giving ways of relating to the forces that converge within me: Do I welcome them or fear them, embrace them or reject them, move with them or against them? By choosing integrity, I become more whole, but wholeness does not mean perfection. It means becoming more real by acknowledging the whole of who I am. (Palmer, 1998, p. 3)
Accepting pluralism as an important and viable concept/task in your life shows that you value integrity, and work to actualize it in your selfhood. What I love about pluralism, as Palmer points out, is that it stems from the acknowledgement of difference. This acknowledgement can come from identifying incongruous internal and external aspects of our own identity. These variables can be scary, intimidating, seem beneath us, or better than us; the manifestations are unlimited. It is this revelation that allows pluralism to develop our psyches into states of depth.
Education, as a function of the state, has historically been anti-pluralistic. In the infancy of modern American public education, school theorists battled with how to socialize immigrant families, while still teaching to what the ideals of an American life would be in the future. As a result, this called for the unilateral prioritization of American values and communication strategies. Many European immigrants, dreaming of the successful images advertised overseas, entered this country and gladly assimilated into the culture. Resultantly, and phenomenologically, the immigrants received access into dominant society, thusly acknowledging the validity and necessity of their values and personhood. Furthermore, they were given access to help facilitate the very processes that determine educational and cultural acceptability for others to come in the future (now the present). What’s interesting is that we battle essentially the same policy issues today in NYC and across the country. However, the immigrants of today face far more difficulties assimilating into a culture that much more easily can identify their otherness based on outside factors, such as hair texture, skin color, home language, income levels, etc…
As an educator, this process of self-reflection is infinitely important. Personally, I feel as though I seek to find answers in everything I encounter. Framed a different way though, I know that this can make me susceptible to thinking I will be able to find answers to my questions through my own impetus without seeking input from others more knowledgeable than myself. Thankfully, pluralism as a concept coaxes its employers into a constant state of critical thinking. I believe the true practice of pluralistic thinking must extend outside of the classroom to have the desired effect inside. It’s not a practice that can be easily turned on, and therefore, shouldn’t be viewed as something that can be turned off outside of our hours of professional duty. Pluralistic thinking requires us to authentically engage all learning opportunities, when and where they meet us, even at 3am on a restless evening. The true curator of the skill is able to take a bounty of experiences and turn them into something purposefully and immediately useful professionally, academically, and personally.
Pluralism, is therefore an internalized structure to establish and ingest sources of social and cultural strength. I view pluralism as a tool in which I overlap other’s schemas of knowledge over my own. This expands and multiplies my scope of connection to the world and its many different shades of people. Sometimes I feel as though the majority of educators emit low-frequency pluralism wavelengths, as though their antenna were calcified over. They diddley here, daddley there, yet never truly internalize the importance of stepping outside of themselves to expand their teaching scope. This important skill should be mandatory in order to show and teach our students how to be loved and accepting in the universe. To purposely not seek to learn your students is negligence incarnate:
“A heavy and cruel hand has been laid upon us. As a people, we feel ourselves to be not only deeply injured, but grossly misunderstood. Our white country-men do not know us. They are strangers to our character, ignorant of our capacity, oblivious to our history and progress, and are misinformed as to the principles and ideas that control and guide us, as a people. The great mass of American citizens estimates us as being a characterless and purposeless people; and hence we hold up our heads, if at all, against the withering influence of a nation’s scorn and contempt. Frederick Douglass, in a statement on behalf of delegates to the National Colored Convention held in Rochester, New York, in July 1853.” (Alexander, 2010, p. 140)
The Allegory of the Cave
As I become more enlightened about the way the world works, I find myself fighting constantly with how to internalize what I’m uncovering, and how to share this new information with my peers and loved ones. I recently found Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, in which he describes how humanity basks and boasts in the ignorance of what they don’t know. When an individual is called to a higher plane of consciousness, they first struggle to understand it as reality, then work to a state of clarity that challenges, but eventually comes to coexist with their identity in some form. However, it is the duty of the enlightened individual to return to his peers to help them too become more knowledged. His peers, absent of the same stimuli will question, taunt, and even condemn their adventurous comrade. However, thus is the onus and opportunity of insight.
“It is the task of the enlightened not only to ascend to learning and to see the good, but to be willing to descend again to those prisoners and to share their troubles and their honors whether they are worth having or not. And this they must do even with the prospect of death. They shall give of their help to one another, wherever each class is able to help the community.” (DystopiaUK, 2014)
Watching this powerful parable made me think of three of my own short stories that help to explain how pluralistic thinking, or a lack thereof, truly does impact our world in ways we can’t imagine. The following three allegories have helped me contextualize why it is always necessary to root my own knowledge development as something that is ever-growing. These allegories serve to challenge us to go beyond the comfort in thinking we know enough about life as is, or that my status quo is good enough for another man.
The push of competition
Imagine for a second that you are running a race against four other people. You represent all of the people of privilege in this race. At some point you take the lead and have held that lead for many centuries. Someone who is new to running may think this is the best position to hold, the front. And those that support you hoot and holler each time you complete another lap in front of your peers. You have internalized the applause so long from your supporters that you begin to assume that your place in the lead is the best position and the only position to be in. Experienced runners though, know that this is the most precarious position to hold, as you have no one else to help you gauge your own pace nor the energy expending. Nor can you truly gauge where you are in relation to your competition. Relying on yourself for so long, you become exhausted and careless with your form. You sloppily continue around the track working ever-harder to hold your lead, recklessly blocking those who work to pass you, even though they would help push the pack to an even greater pace.
While others behind you can easily see your waning form and strength, you assess yourself solely as the leader, and are unable to realize how this artificial pace causes more chaos than good for all stakeholders in the race. In life, many people assume we’re running a sprint against each other. This may have been true millennia ago. The reality is we’re running a marathon, and need to rely on the talents of everyone involved to run the best race possible.
The power of the uninformed/unbothered decision maker
Now, imagine for a second that you are a female. You have your own value and idea system as a fully capable and willing adult should. Suddenly, you are abducted by a nearby tribe of barbaric men. After being transported to their home territory, you find out that they not only disrespected your right to choose where you live, you no longer have any legal protections under their law. You are forced to live a life according to patriarchal rule and views, which differed dramatically from those you had shaped and developed to enhance your own vision of life as a woman. Without your input/guidance, the system run by those barbaric men would probably have no contextual lens to make progressive and supportive systems to protect your well being as the sole woman. Using that same lens, how do you respond when I tell you that as an Afrikan American adult male, it was devastatingly painful to have participated in a teacher training program that left abundant opportunities to incorporate perspective from overtly Afrikan, Chicano, and Disabled communities. Luckily, we live in a world where both contexts exist, and we see clearly how that is shaping out for women. We look in disdain as our male leaders continuously make ill-informed decisions about matters that only affect them during the workweek, but devastate and uproot the stability and comfort of our female counterparts lives’ in entirety. Most people understand the recent abortion legislation deemed acceptable by all male Supreme Court Justices as being asininely detached from what any woman would ever consider a responsible use of judicial power. How, then, could you, as a pluralistic person come to understand our continued oversight in regards to the education and support of our students and their teachers from Afrikan, Chicano, and Disabled diaspora?
I remember being given privilege for being born male in my own household at an early age. Having a sister that is approximately three years older than I, there were constantly things I was allowed to do/experience that she herself was not. Many times my own mother would chalk the difference up to me being a boy and not having to consider the same security concerns in mind when thinking about me as opposed to my sister. Part of the reason I enjoy teaching in my classrooms is because, as a male, I also never fear for my safety. I use my gender, physical presence, spatial movement a lot in my practice – and specifically because I am male. There are many times I’ve had to posture to prevent an outbreak in my classroom by physically making myself bigger or smaller depending on what the situation calls for. I also invoke my vocal register, normally by lowering my tone and slowing my speech when absolutely needing focus and order. In these moments, I specifically think my students respond to my maleness more than anything else. I use my body language to show them that I’m the leader of the pack, and when they cross the line they must defer back peacefully into the troop. I also am quite comfortable walking home at 1am from long nights studying simply because as a male, I rarely ever feel unsafe out on the street.
As I age, I grow ever more comfortable in my gender-identity and the privilege and opportunities it has afforded me. Even through my own privilege, it has been only recently where I began to realize sexism and how I unknowingly perpetuate it by simply assuming as a biologically stronger male that I can do whatever I want, whenever I want to, because of the relative safety given due to my sex. As I’ve internalized this, I’ve also come to understand that some females don’t have the same luxuries I take for granted. Furthermore, to even assume they don’t perpetuate this very same oppressive mind state that labels them as something less than I.
The most important breakthrough I’ve had in this realm has been my complicit comfort and absolute non-desire to give this inherent maleness up. I was born with this and didn’t choose or work to have this. In many ways I’m supremely oblivious to the privilege I receive from it on a daily basis. In this way I yield to racisms truest power. If, my White brothers and sisters experience any type of awakening as I’ve had in my own male privilege, I can understand their ambivalence in knowing which steps to take to eradicate something they themselves seem to have little to no control over. And, to be frank, something they wish not to lose on their own behalf. I, for one, would only be interested in walking this Earth as a female for a short time to see what I cannot see in my male-tinted glasses. The combined lack of knowledge and desire to eradicate my maleness, seems like the strongest parallel between what my White brothers and sisters may experience in this globally radicalized debacle.
Race plays a major role – indeed, a defining role – in the current system, but not because of what is commonly understood as old-fashioned, hostile bigotry. This system of control depends far more on racial indifference (defined as a lack of compassion and caring about race and racial groups) than racial hostility – a feature it actually shares with its predecessors. All racial caste systems, not just mass incarceration, have been supported by racial indifference. (Alexander, 2010, p. 203)
Understanding that gender dynamics play a large role in the world and in the classroom, I work endlessly to identify and squash language/slang that perpetuates the gender biases that my students are exposed to everyday. I work diligently to make space for my female students’ voices, ideas, and comfort in classrooms that stink of the explosive and spontaneous displays of masculine bravado of my young men. I work to create space for them to be themselves, but to also imbue within all members of my classrooms that females are to be respected. Disrespect has no space in my classrooms, nor in the world. I am a bit biased in my discipline in that I go harder on my young men when I feel they are perpetuating negative stereotypes against women and young ladies in my classrooms. I don’t think they yet understand, or have even heard of gender bias, but I hope that my consistent and strong response to what I deem as repressive gender theory soaks in deeply enough for them to internalize and gain from when they grow into productive citizens.
What is the responsibility of an institution charged with protecting and educating all of its citizens? I believe it is up to us as the institutional cells to seek out what the representatives of our target cultures have to say about themselves. We must do the work of incorporating culturally accountable research, narratives, and opinions into the lay of our curriculum, and the scope of our own thinking. And when we think we’ve done enough, go back to do even more.
The third problem I believe we must overcome is the narrow and essentially Eurocentric curriculum we provide for our teachers. At the university level, teachers are not being educated with the broad strokes necessary to prepare them properly for the twenty-first century. We who are concerned about teachers and teaching must insist that our teachers become knowledgeable of the liberal arts, but we must also work like the dickens to change liberal arts courses so that they do not continue to reflect only, as feminist scholar Peggy McIntosh says, “the public lives of white Western men.” These new courses must not only teach what white Westerners have to say about diverse cultures, they must also share what the writers and thinkers of diverse cultures have to say about themselves, their history, music, art, literature, politics, and so forth. (Delpit, 2006, p. 181)
There seems to be a small handful of my peers that are capable of bringing more from outside experiences to help frame their teacher training. I, for one, would be extremely interested to see what type of round table could be established to gather our ideas, hear our challenges, and see where growth can be had. This could be scholarly debate in its finest form. This Innovation Council of Educators (ICE) could consist of first-year, second-year, graduating-fellows, and students from the traditional education program. If I were a student with autism, from Chicago heritage, learning disabled, or an English language learner, I wonder what my assessment of this program would be. I also wonder what resources I would have begun to find on my own that would flesh out my own canon of theorized tools to use in my classroom. I look at the Teacher Resources Center on campus and see such a beautiful compilation of resources. However, LIU could work wonders here in expanding its own library of resources by adding first person accounts of theory, practice, and foundational skill development, etc… I believe this to be a very doable adventure into developing innovative responses to what has been systemic negligence in the urban education and disability fields.
One of my own hesitations to criticize is that I understand that the student population of most urban education programs is overwhelmingly White, therefore using culturally relevant texts for them constitutes a mostly white index of research and authors. However, using basic education theory, do we push student growth by continuously giving them stimuli they’re used to, or by pushing them to decipher sources they find difficult and foreign. I believe the program could use some concerted focus on scaffolding up as opposed to what it used with us. One place where that growth can be pushed is by using a more difficult set of texts. LIU can be a leader in this field if they were to massively expand the official texts used to push and challenge their students’ thoughts and foundations for their teaching practice.
I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me. I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life. As I see it today, the ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive. I certainly wasn’t seeking any degree, the way a college confers a status symbol upon its students. My homemade education gave me, with every additional book that I read, a little bit more sensitivity to the deafness, dumbness, and blindness that was afflicting the black race in America. (X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, 1992)
In closing, we still must rely on ourselves first to do that work required to enlighten ourselves beyond the constraints of our own singular identities. Even with a simple homemade education, one could begin to dive into a world where their perspective alone didn’t frame the values of life. It is through these pluralistic contexts that we will begin to reach our fullest potential through humanity and it’s weaponized use of public education.
Alexander, M. (2010). The New Jim Crow: mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. New York: New Press.
Delpit, L. D. (2006). Other people’s children: cultural conflict in the classroom. New York: New Press :.
DuBois, W. E., & Griffin, F. J. (2003). The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Barnes & Noble Classics.
Empathy:the confrontation that takes place when we realize we have all been reared in a universe where racism is real, depends on unconscious biases, and can only be arbitrated when beseiged by direct and transparent restoration methods.
As I’ve reflected on this traumutizingly edifying portfolio process, I thought, for a second, that perhaps my observations were a fabricated manifestation, built from the mental anguish experienced through teaching and learning for two years with only an iota of a break. Luckily, I’ve been filling the long pauses between writing with episodes of the 2013 documentary series – The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The documentary takes us through 500 years of African and African American cultural contributions and developments that impact and dissolve into the very soul that nourishes (present tense) our country. Sectors of the soul-baring culture have without a doubt spawned programs, such as this one, in which we seek to be privileged with the distinction as being teachers, masters, doctors, and professors of urban education practice. Validity in us as a distinguished practicing class has yet to be established in lieu of the great academic and critical thinking gains absent in the audiences we wish to teach.
I’m supposed to begin this piece, by defining Empathy as I’ve come to understand it, followed with multiple examples of how I’ve demonstrated this skill with my students. The latter is fairly simple, and a natural sentiment that I extend to all people. In many ways, my own personhood is founded on extending conscious courtesy as often as possible. Call it my midwestern upbringing; call it my compassion for my fellow human beings; I’m almost tempted to call it my minority privilege, in that I’m biologically gifted with the foresight that connects me with and causes me to pause in authentic reception and service to my fellow marginalized man. This process has been incredibly rich for me. I now, thanks to LIU, know so much more about the way things work here on Earth. However, another equally invested part of me is disappointed in myself because I feel I’m anguishing over this far more than my peers. I love them and have been built by them as well, but I assume they’re knocking this project out, while I’m sitting here fumbling through my bookshelf finding resources to highlight my authentic journey through this process. But, at the end of the day, none of that even matters – we’re all leaving here with the same shit attached to our names…
The passing of Elder Maya Angelou was heartbreaking for me. She spoke with so much poise and wisdom. Luckily, her fossilized words will continue to highlight for people the true strength we wield as a humanity. One of the more popular quotes people shared from Elder Angelou after her transition was “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but will never forget how you made them feel.”
When I think about my own Empathy practice, I envision it embodies Angelou’s words. My students, like my young brothers and sisters in this world, are my responsibility to protect in the broad sense of the word. Fundamentally and minimalistically, I require my students to enter my classroom space in a place where they contribute to the safety and patrol of our close knit community. In other words, Paladin’s classrooms at the bare minimum require students to 1) respect their fellow brothers and sisters in the class, and 2) restrain from creating environments that threaten or tarnish the safety of that space. I believe it is a privilege for students to have me as their classroom leader in this regard, and don’t hesitate to communicate that to them. The rest, such as effective instructional and behavior management techniques are mine to push.
However, boxing out peer-to-peer/adult-to-peer negativity to help my students feel comfortable is only a small part of my empathetic role as an instructional leader. My main role, is to make my students feel/see their intelligence. I’m effective [edit: I’m developing] at this, but am eager to still drastically grow in this regard. I try to push my students to truly learn themselves. I do this by pushing them, as family does, to not settle for what they know or have been told; to reach. To reach deeper behind the veil to find even more of themselves than they knew existed. My ultimate role as a classroom leader is to plant the seeds of trust, security, belief, and esteem deep within my babies. It’s not that important to me that the seeds germinate in my presence. I’m more interested in my students realizing later, when confronted with adulthood, that they know who they are, and are able to stand firm in that foundation rooted in the seeds of empowerment and freedom planted so long ago.
My mentees, as I see them, will be amazing leaders in the future. I see it in their eyes every time I challenge them to push their leadership to the front. These kings and queens are nowhere close to being perfect, but hopefully in me they see a model of love, nurturing, and support that worked to push them toward their successes so long ago in life.
Initially, this post was far more angry. It still may take a sharp left down Embittered Ave. But, I know the most immediate thoughts would be, what is this Black boy talking about? He must have graduated from troubled and finally reached his full Black-brute state. Thanks to some self reflection, I’ve come to better understand that I do in fact have the right to be upset and downright irate and here’s why:
I’m angry because I’ve realized that all of us, like fools, have continued to participate in systems that ensure our oppression. And when I say our oppression, I mean the oppression of everyone who believes they act out of free will in this country. Most importantly, we people of color, minorities, and people labeled as having an ability difference – we are marginalized sectors of the population. Additionally, and maybe more invisibly, each member of institutional employment participates as well. [Teachers, Police officers, etc…]
Allow me for a second, to give an unauthorized history lesson. I don’t quite remember where our education began as teaching fellows, somewhere along the lines of the 1800’s up through the creation and implementation of IDEA and other forms of the law. This was all somewhat helpful in becoming a empathetic Special Education practitioner. However, let’s also think of perspective and the history of humanity in general. Education practice and law has been around for centuries, long before America had even been thought of as a new world. Did not the Native Americans teach the first settlers how to tow the land to reap the best harvest from the soil they knew so intimately? Reaching back even further, must not someone have taught the Egyptians and their servants/slaves how to build pyramids aligned to track the cosmos? Education as a practice has been here since day one. How did the gift of fire or the dissemination of the plans for the wheel get to us now, if others had not sought to show their peers what they were doing? How much care, appreciation, and authenticity are we showing for this education process if we haphazardly choose to only recount the last few seconds of what has been a truly epic tale?
Take a second and contemplate this question – As an industry entrusted to educate the urban masses, where are we headed? What is our/your end goal? Most probably don’t have a clear answer to these very basic questions. Do you? Who is setting our educational agendas from pre-school to the Ph.D? And what are their motives in the standards they choose to push? Do we know? Do we care? Perhaps that is all part of the design.
“The leadership of the Negro of to-day must be able to locate the race, and not only for to-day but for all times. It is in the desire to locate the Negro in a position of prosperity and happiness in the future that the Universal Negro Improvement Association is making this great fight for the race’s emancipation everywhere and the founding of a great African government…” (Garvey, 1967, p. 49)
The above map (Abagond, 2014), highlights an estimation of the major civilizations as of 2014. I would draw attention the sections highlighting the African, Latin American, and Western civilizations as those three regions represent the bulk of the stakeholders in my school setting. Garvey states it clear and he states it well. Let us take stock of what is going on, not just with the negro people, but with humanity in general. Once we know where we are, we can plot an effective plan for our futures. One detrimental fact of our scholarship at LIU is that it never, successfully, approaches the true role of state-funded education (preschool through the PhD.) or our roles as facilitators to these various levels of education and training. Our industry, public education, and ourselves as educators play the most critical role in creating a future society in our own image. We, almost solely are responsible for showing our youth pieces of a culture deemed acceptable to perpetuate and habits that are not. This social programming, aka education, is helpful because it develops us from reactionary persons to a more proactive, thoughtful people. We think about what we do before we do it. We plan. We wish for certain outcomes and work to make them happen.
Something I’ve stumbled upon through my scatter plot research this year was the recognition that the era of civilization(s) didn’t stop with the fall of the Roman, Greek, and Egyptian empires. One would imagine that this would be open and useable knowledge to draw upon as we develop the people of our future. Yet somehow, even in what we care to call this advanced state of civilization, we still struggle to identify and codify what it means to be a living, breathing, modern day humanity. Struggling to come to grips with that explains, partially, why we as Americans don’t often talk about the leading civilizations of our time, and how precariously and maniacally we retain our seat at the top, for the moment.
Perhaps it’s because the powers that be are scared that if people understood the world from its global perspective, they would wake up and begin making the small independent changes that would lead to revolution and dare I say it – spontaneity.
What is empathy?
The surface answer would be attempting to understand the emotions, feelings, and situations of someone that is experiencing a dimension of life that I, myself, am not experiencing. Empathy is not simplistic in its practice. Considering the cultural fabric we’re all crafted from, I claim that most people, in fact, do not empathize with their students. Especially if those students are of color and lack the radiant entitlements ascertained by those in privileged groups in the American/Western caste system.
“Anthropology is the study of the colored peoples of the world. They don’t study anybody else. Social Studies itself was founded and funded by the Mellons and the Carnegies, and those people who were interested in the deviates who were not like them. It got its first money from those people and they never studied themselves. Urban studies is the study of black people. And the approach vigorously held to in these studies – Blacks as wards of the state, never as its pioneers. It does take two to hold a chain – the chained and the chainer. And its takes two to make anthropology, the student and the studied. And although no group in the world has had more money spent on it, to have it genetics examined, its fecundity stopped, its intelligence measured. Cross acculturation is consistently neglected. And I would like to know who are these people who know our sperm count, but they don’t know our names? That being the case. It is time, it is way past time for the study to examine the student, and to evaluate its own self. And the fruits should be immense value to us, to all of us.” (Morrison, 1975)
Thusly, sympathy as opposed to empathy, is often employed when dealing with individuals that society has deemed as worthless and forgettable. I regretfully claim that my peers sympathize with my students. My professors, sympathize with our students. Our teacher education programs, sympathize with our students. I, however, live, breathe, and bleed empathy for my students. Sympathy views people as weak, dependent on support, and as victims. Sympathy takes the power away from the individual affected, and puts it in the hands of the privileged assessor. Empathy, recognizes value in all experiences, places equal value in all points of view, and actively makes space so those experiences can sit side-by-side in an effort to build a new product from their interaction. Empathy seeks justice. Empathy is sleepless when it senses perpetrators on the loose raping the world of its most glorious future.
>>>>One can not be empathetic to an urban school population if one is not willing to proactively verse themselves in that culture by seeking authentic learning opportunities and progressive solutions to alleviate the symptoms of a plagued urban education industry.<<<< [re-read] My peers, my elders, my neighbors, for the most part know naught of African/African-American culture and history. Why does this matter? To feign care for me, yet ignore and actively disconnect me from my parents and my lineage is malpractice. Marginalized communities have long fought to be recognized as valuable contributions to society. Unfortunately, our (their) self-hood is continuously cast aside as nonessential specks to the racist White-savior slant time and time again. As Elder Angelou teaches, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” (Angelou, “OPRAH’S LIFECLASS: When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them”, 2014)>>>> I therefore have been forced to deduce that you, my esteemed professor(s), have no interest in supporting the development of individuals that represent the Afrikan, Latin, and Disabled-American diaspora.<<<< [re-read]For if you did, surely you would work more diligently to shine light on the African, African American, Latino American, and Disabled American contributions and points of view in educational and sociological research.
To begin with, our prospective teachers are exposed to descriptions of failure rather than models of success. We expose student teachers to an education that relies upon name calling and labeling (“disadvantaged,” “at-risk,” “learning disabled,” “the underclass,” [“urban,”]) to explain its failures, and calls upon research study after research study to inform teachers that school achievement is intimately and inevitably linked with socioeconomic status. Teacher candidates are told that “culturally different” children are mismatched to the school setting and therefore cannot be expected to achieve as well as white, middle-class children. They are told that children of poverty are developmentally slower than other children… In other words, we teach rationales for failure, not visions of success. (Delpit, 2006, p. 178)
One of the first things I remember hearing as I entered the fellowship program was “Teaching is a very difficult job, and you shouldn’t expect to change the world.” To be fair, said person was just trying to frame our feeble idealism within the boxed-in a context commonly referred to as “realism”.
The strong idealistic force within allowed me to shake the bulk of this declaration off, as evidenced in my work ethic. >>>>However, as we can deduce, teachers of urban/disabled students, from day one, are never expected, or rather pushed, to make lasting/large scale impact on their communities!<<<< [re-read] How then, is one (teachers/teacher education program leadership) empathetic to the urban community if they implicitly condone the continued failure of the community in their watch?
The Danger of Realism and How it Codes Marginalized Despair –
The long reaching power of a community built on the pillars of empathy and support can be seen in my own peer group. As a Chicago native, born and raised, I had the pleasure to attend Crete-Monee High School with 2015 Chicago Mayoral hopeful Dr. Amara Enyia. Having graduated high school in 2003, it’s sobering to see Dr. Enyia now, roll out her powerful and confident Mayoral campaign. Especially considering she graduated high school a mere two years ahead of me in 2001. The cavalier holds a Ph.D. in Education Policy, and a Law degree from the esteemed University of Illinois. On the campaign trail, Enyia was asked how she could realistically win against a politically popular nuisance such as the current Mayor, Rahm Emanuel. Dr. Enyia’s answer sheds light on her spirit and her own Opportunity Paradox I spoke to in my Knowledge Domain:
“[Lyderson] – Realistically, do you think you have any chance to win the mayoral race?
[Dr. Enyia] – No one in history who has changed things did it by being realistic. My dad always said revolutions never come from people in the status quo; they come from those on the outside. You can’t be “realistic” when it comes to these things that are truly transforming. There’s a certain “delusional” quality that you have to have, because you see something that other people don’t see. For me, being realistic is being mediocre. It’s telling the guy on the street in Lawndale that this is it—this is as good as it’s going to get. I’ve seen otherwise. By running for office I want to reveal to him what I see, with the hope that he sees it too.” (Lyderson, 2014)
Speaking of Chicago, the violence there holds an immaculately grim mirror to our faces as we work to decode for ourselves how to create and innovate (see maintain status quo) every aspect of the institution of education from the teacher education programs to the scholarly work used to inform our practice. Thinking of the atrocities taking place everyday in my homeland, no one in their right mind can justify how or why a city of officials charged with protecting their public has continuously allowed vagrant violence to overtake the terrain. However, the media and propaganda machines work not-stop to ensure that the blame for the chaotic city is placed on one public, and one public alone.
Unfortunately, though, I’ve learned to redefine what constitutes an American tragedy. American tragedies occur where middle America frequents every day: airplanes, business offices, marathons. Where there persists a tangible fear that this could happen to any of us. And rightfully so. Deaths and mayhem anywhere are tragic. That should always be the case. The story here is where American tragedies don’t occur. American tragedies don’t occur on the southside of Chicago or the New Orleans 9th Ward. They don’t occur where inner city high school kids shoot into school buses or someone shoots at a 10-year old’s birthday party in New Orleans. Or Gary, Indiana. Or Compton. Or Newport News. These are where the forgotten tragedies happen and the cities are left to persevere on their own. (Dennis, 2013)
Are we to believe that the violence occurring in Chicago is innate to individuals in which it is consistently occurring? In being realistic, do we shrug our shoulders and hope they see the light on their own? Are we to believe that the current abysmal education curriculum, statistics, and theories utilized by education “professionals,” from Pre-K to Ivory Tower, are all we have to offer?
Would we, the educators entrusted to bring equality to this land, stoop to codifying urban and disabled student failure as merely the way life works? Somehow, we see that the urban classroom, its teachers, and their urban teacher education programs have distanced themselves from ensuring the proper and effectual fertilization for all of our young marginalized citizens. To be an urban educator, and to only care about your students from 8am-3pm is the microaggressive posture that prepares our students to be overlooked, and further castigated, in this American culture. To keep status quo infuriates the empathetic citizen.
As a tactful and fully capable core, we must show true empathy for our students young and old. To do this, we must start by revamping how we educate the future teaching force about the long and compelling history of the marginalized people that represent our student communities. A truly empathetic and knowledged professional would find a way to make innovation happen as they seek to continue to create the history that makes our country and our lived experiences so rich.
It’s time for America, the country where every dream is possible, and where everyone is born into this world an equal, to show us who they are, and this time we can feel at peace in believing in them.
I get scared, overwhelmed, shaken, and defeated when I think about how far we have to go. There’s just so much that hasn’t been accounted for. It’s devastating to understand the complexity of life, but I just can’t pull myself away from what I know I can do to make a change. My most esteemed elder, Malcolm X, eloquently describes how I felt/feel upon discovering the educational injustice smothering my people out of future existence.
“…if there is a rattle snake in the field who has been biting your brothers and your sisters, and you go and tell them that that’s a rattle snake and all of the harm that has ever come to them has come to them from that particular source. Well then that rattler will think that the warner is teaching hate. He’ll go back and tell the other snakes this man is teaching hate, this man is teaching hate. But its not hate, it’s just that when you study people who have been harmed and discover the source of their injury, the source of all of their defects, and you begin to point out that source. its not that you hate the source, but your love for your people is so intense, so great, that you must let them know what is wrong with them. What is the cause of their ills. This is one of the basic factors. I believe involved when people think or when the propaganda is put out that Mr. Mohammed teaches hate. He teaches black people to love each other, and our love for each other is so strong we don’t have any room left in our heart.” (The Hate That Hate Produced, 1959)
Angelou, M. (Performer). (1997). OPRAH’S LIFECLASS: When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them USA: Harpo Studios.
Morrison, T., St. John, P., Callahan, J., Callahan, J., Baker, L. (1975, May 30). A Humanistic View. Black Studies Center public dialogue. Pt. 2. Lecture conducted from Portland State University, Portland, OR. Retrieved from https://soundcloud.com/portlandstatelibrary/ portlandstateblackstudies1
The Hate That Hate Produced. Perf. Malcolm X, Mike Wallace, Louis Farrakhan, Louis Lomaxis L omas and Elijah Muhammad. PBS, 1959. Television Documentary.
Capstone: Knowledge 2 – Demonstrating the capacity to improve urban communities
Program Outcome: Students use knowledge of self, theory, practice, and/or child development within sociocultural/linguistic contexts to create appropriate learning environments and to teach in urban settings.
Translation – My practice demonstrates a combination of my personal values, educational theory, and child development practices infusing African, African American, and Spanish American scholarly contributions for the development of urban communities.
Part of me feels the purpose of the claims is to give the students’ power to create their own strand of knowledge development, in addendum to the broad foundation provided by the university approved curriculum. On its surface, I feel the LIU program immersed me in a training program tasked with teaching me culturally dominant basics of education history, practice and development. This track of coursework was successful in teaching me the official language solidifying its institutionhood. Through my interpretation of the claim, I believe that I’ve been able to extend the depths of my training to include a palette of information contributed by people that I felt more closely represented my student body, and my own personal interests. As I journeyed through the program, I wanted to make sure that I developed a toolkit, and a reflective center that leaned toward the inclusion and exploration of more scholars of color.
“In like manner, the teaching of history in Negro area has had its political significance. Starting out after the Civil War, the opponents of freedom and social justice decided to work out a program which would enslave the Negroes’ mind inasmuch as the freedom of body had to be conceded. It was well understood that if by the teaching history the white man could be further assured of his superiority and the Negro could be made to feel that he had always been a failure and that the subjection of his will to some other race is necessary the freedman, then, would still be a slave. If you can control man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature will demand one.” (Woodson, 2012, pp. 84-85)
As Elder Woodson points out, its difficult if not impossible to build a strong person if he has no history of himself and his people to root himself in. I’ve been very fortunate to understand this and use it as a call of action to seek out the information myself. I’ve been on my own journey in search of knowledge for approximately four years now. Finding pieces that speak to my point of view and those of my target audiences has been difficult. Unfortunately history that presents African Americans, their educational attainment, and the issues that prevent them from doing so are usually never written from a positive uphill stance. It would have been very difficult to find solutions in the negation and labelization so often coded throughout popular marginalized studies curriculum. Thankfully, I feel the coursework gave me the opportunity to go out and seek resources that did closely represent the thoughts and ideas of the marginalized scholars themselves.
It was really powerful realizing that I was looking up scholarly journal articles, dissecting those, and using their contents to help inform my own thoughts and practice. That’s something I’ve heard about off in the ether, but never thought I myself would have the opportunity to do it. Part of me is the most sad that now I wont be able to use my library code to have access to the Journal of Negro Education – a scholarly journal disseminated by Howard University. I feel this was a great direction to anchor my learning and reflections. It allows me to take full ownership of remediating my strengths and weaknesses through resources that I can find myself. I now know solid routes to locate resources to help develop and refine my own brand of theory and classroom practice.
This was a last minute substitution into my portfolio. Part of my mission was to show a range in my practice as an education professional. I’m over that now, LoL. I’m just being honest, I have 3 more claims left then I’m done. So… bare with me the end is near. This portfolio has been the unexpected realization that I represent a body of work. One that I am proud of. One that shows a solidity of ideas and practices meant to build communities of able-bodied citizens. Now, hours away from its completion – I can look back from the angry and disappointed person that began this process. There is a battle of confidence that comes with being a young Black man in this country that knows his work. We saw it when Richard Sherman blew up the internet and our TV screens before winning the 2014 Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks.
Sometimes people can perceive your confidence in yourself as a threat or unbecoming in the moment. I’m always one to argue that there is ample space for all opinions. So, let’s set that on the table. However, this program has shown me that you withdraw exponentially more than you contribute in these type of investments. If you put in the time to find the answers, knowledge, and perspective, they will come to you. There IS a power in that. In knowing that you can reap what you sew, in a good way. I think what made me me this summer was realizing what I do now that I see power in. So many other people focus on where they don’t have power, influence, control. Its an inefficient focus of energy in my opinion.
I’ve worked immensely to make the most of this opportunity! To experiment, to ponder, to reach, and to learn. My works cited is the culmination of what that can look like on the ground. I do have a bachelors degree, but I’ve never had to do a focused research project before. Now I can say, I’ve done many. I have created an automatic filter, sensor even, that directs me in the position of knowledge I need to consume as opposed to other less advantageous avenues.
The diversity represented in my Works Cited includes books that I’ve read in the past 3 years and articles provided in class. The remaining mediums: youtube videos, panel discussions, commencement speeches, etc… are elements that i found in my more personal/private browsing and research sessions.
My point is that knowledge is observable everywhere in every medium, and in every situation. By working to open up and be receptive of that concept I do believe my practice has demonstratively grown and blossomed to encompass a variety of competencies. The information I’m exposed to allows me to ask more thorough questions of society and most importantly myself in reaction to it. I absolutely recommend reviewing my works cited page to see if there are any authors or mediums of interest.
“Maybe I have a leg up. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I didn’t grow very different than most of my students. Maybe it has everything to do with the fact that I was once labeled special ed, and I know the horrors and pains as well as what worked for me as a special ed student. Maybe it is the fact that I don’t look much different than most of my students. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen and been at the bottom of the barrel, and I teach not because I want to, but because I have to. I’m here because a community- my community is dying and suffering, left behind and lost. I teach because so many young people, especially young African American boys do not have any positive male role models. And I’m teaching because I know that until we all make it, none of us have. All but one of our guests were women, and mostly Caucasian. I have no doubt that anybody can make a difference while teaching students who come from mainly African American and Latino communities. However, I do believe that being an African American and a male will help to reduce some of the cultural friction, as well as increase some of the trust that my students will have of me. I am in this for the long haul- student by student, community by community.” (“I’m a Cohort 14 NYC Teaching Fellow”, 2014)
I agree with Cohort 14 Teaching Fellow, the palette of sources we use to inform our practice make and break our experiences in the classroom. Being purposeful in consuming sources the reflect the vision I want to create for the world has been pivotal in creating a pedagogy that I feel proud and supported by.
Again, another piece that I’m really proud of. This intellectual context allowed me to play around and stretch my skillsets as a researcher, a scholar, a critic, and as a creator of curriculum. This project gave me the opportunity to find four research articles all culturally relevant to my student population. Three of the sources were based on students home culture, and the last was based on my student’s generational/technological culture. Its important to note that research foci automatically frame/bias your practice and its implementation. For instance, I explicitly wanted to find research that I felt directly represented my student’s in constructive ways. There are certain types of research that I think can constrict of view of the possibility of being a magician in the classroom. I’m a firm believer that we can use the knowledge(s) we have about our students to help create new worlds for them in the classroom. Paladin, DOE Illusionist is my new title. Oddly enough, one of the through lines I’ve strung through this portfolio is the importance of having texts that represent me, and people that represent the fullness of my culture. Part of my research for the Intellectual Context, a small part of the larger Teacher Inquiry project, argues just how important it is for marginalized citizens to see visions of themselves represented in their curriculum.
For African American students, the presence of African American literature by women and men is a special necessity. African American [AA] students will benefit from exploring the way AA writers wrestled with the problem of authentication, struggled toward freedom through writing, overcame or were overcome by economic demands, and worked toward writing themselves into the center of American culture. For many AA students writing themselves into the history of AA literature is no easy task, for that history has been kept from them… (Thomas Fox Repositioning Writing to African American Students 298) (Fox, 1992)
I also recognize that my students aren’t just Black and Brown kids trying to make it in the work. They need skills too. Writing seems to have been the easiest focus to create more challenging learning opportunities around. I’ve worked to try to allow my students to express themselves in a variety of ways. I want them to get used to the repetition and consciousness it requires. I also want them to be able to define a space for their own voice as they begin to mature into adults.
More than ever, writing teachers need to abandon a simplistic skills approach to writing, which for African American students has meant an unnecessary concentration on the verb forms of standard English. Instead, we need to elaborate a model of classroom behavior informed by the central questions of race and gender relations suggested in this essay. The purpose of this classroom is to build articulate and powerful writers in the university, writers who can participate in and shape an academic culture that desperately needs their presence. The ongoing annoying questions of whether or not to teach “standard English” withers in its significance. (300 – 301) (Fox, 1992)
Overall, I’m happy, again, to see another skillset be etched into my armament. I can’t quite conceive what scholarly research will look like outside of this program. But I’m eager to see how I can continue to actively implement new and additional teaching strategies and theory into my practice.
Ok, so my goal is to actually get this post out. I’ve tried to write this two times before this and I just ended up trailing off in a blur.
Life is so different for me now than it was for two full years ago. You see, I’ve realized that the time I spent in Boston is a memory now for me. For so long Boston was my life, it’s finally dawned on me that I’ve been in NYC long enough to have created new memories. And in order to do so I often pull back to my time and experiences in Boston. The Bean really was a starter city to prep me for East coast living. Now, being a near two year resident. I can even begin to pull on early experiences living in the city to help push me through to bigger and better with my future. I know that sounds weird – but I want to create history. I’ll say it, even though I feel like its one of those things they don’t like to hear black people say. Of course, my boy Kanye agrees.
We read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass in my Sophomore English class this cycle. I love reading about Black/African history. It enriches my soul. Imagine that we’re all sitting around making our own history, stories that people will read and learn from and engage with and write about…etc… LoL. I mean, I definitely want this blog to be a part of that history. Y’all can think I’m crazy. I don’t even care anymore. #Kanyeshrug
I read it (The Narrative) for a second time this summer during my reading marathon. That was really dope by the way, and I can’t wait to do it again this summer. One of the books I’m really excited to get into is Introduction to African Civilizations by John G. Jackson. I got to steal some time and read the first two chapters a few weeks ago during winter break. I was a HUGE Discovery/History Channel/Documentary person growing up. I’ve heard stories about the evolution of humans, but conveniently I’ve never heard much about how this evolution took place on the African Continent. The early chapters of the book discuss this evolution and actually use really engaging language that is easy to understand and follow. In a nutshell it talked about how pre-humans evolved into barbaric humans. Then how barbaric humans turned into civilized humans living in ever growing groups that turned into actual civilizations. It also talks about how humankind went from being a matriarchal society to patriarchal society.
Speaking of making history…. I mean making historically wise decisions for myself. I’m facing a tough situation at work – again (see Schoolhouse Blues). Long story short I feel like admin has taken aim on me over some bullshit. She wasn’t happy with my peroformance, and as a result gave me some very low marks on my evaluation. The difference between this time and last time is I was actually prepared to talk about it and call her evidence into question. Our last few meetings have looked like this –
I feel like I’ve stepped into a battlefield over the past two weeks, and most folks are recklessly aiming somewhere in my vicinity. Work is a mess man. Classes are ending, Classes are starting, teams are changing to frame a bit of it. The amazing difference is that I actually know my value now and have been far less hesitant giving my opinion on why things that affect my work are the way they are.
I made a conscious effort to wake up and have an amazing and jam-packed Friday. And I was pretty successful. Outside of all of the other trimester ending activities listed about, I had an early morning IEP meeting that almost didn’t happen do to scheduling and communication challenges. IEP’s were one of the most daunting things to figure out 2 years ago. The paperwork behind the scenes is still a nightmare – and to be honest one of the few areas where the powers that be try to act as though I’m incompetent. None the less, the meeting went very well and was probably one of my strongest to date. I made a quick smartboard presentation that helped the fluency of the meeting. I may try to upload the pres once I wipe all the personal information.
Most importantly… and the only thing I’ve really been trying to share over the past few weeks is that I’ve FINALLY made my first curriculum. My post graduate prep course has finally finished its first iteration. I remember back in Boston there used to be all this talk about making a curriculum or finding curriculums that spoke specifically to the students were dealing with back then. Talk about being lost! I’ve finally made my first real curriculum and it feels great. The curriculum as is is far from perfect and there’s plenty of room for growth. But having the skeleton feels amazing! Some of the things I’m looking forward to incorporating this time around is more creative writing, more critical thinking, more activities, more take home resources, more technology skill development, and… better resources in general. If you know any 😉 def send them my way.
I cant think of much more to say. And of course, this was sooo much better in my head. But oh well. Just like the gym sometimes you just gotta get in there to get the kinks out so that next time things turn out even better.