Category Archives: Masters Portfolio

Behind the scenes: Schedule of a spectacular day!

BEHIND THE SCENES: SCHEDULE OF A SPECTACULAR DAY!

I’ve had such a powerful day! I have one more thing to do on my to do list to really knock today out of the park. But before I do that, I wanted to come and lay some track for anyone reading.

Today is the type of day to document, because, it already comes on the heels of a powerful week. Monday, I was able to deliver an amazing day of coaching service at a local non profit after school program. Tuesday I was teaching my graduate-level Teaching Strategies course, and Wednesday I was teaching my graduate-level Teaching Seminar course. Each time getting positive feedback back from my students. I’m always surprised when students praise my teaching practice.

Teaching practice and coaching practice is hard! Shit! I’m finding in my entrepreneurship and research that teaching and coaching is about constantly evolving, and challenging yourself. It’s about communication. Its about the transfer of knowledge, and the equipping of tools.

That’s hard, but we here are EDGE-ucational Media Company, LLC believe it to be possible to strategically equip yourself with tools and lived experiences, in an effort to craft the leadership journey you want to live here on Earth. We believe that is possible and curatable in the living moment. We believe you the reader in this moment holds the power to determine your programming and ultimately where your path will lead, and the impact you will have.

Getting back on topic – as a company we had one of the strongest days of the year today. And we’re still conquering items on the to do even down to this post. the to do list we start the day with is the guide for what can be a powerful day of creation, or a wasteful day of consumption.

Today’s to do list – written during our morning journal time:

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Capstone: Social Commitment

Capstone: Social Commitment

The price one pays for pursuing any profession or calling is an intimate knowledge of its ugly side. (Baldwin, 1961, p. 240)

For me, social commitment is self explanatory. As Elder Baldwin highlights, while my knowledge of this great field of teaching and education grows, so does the trauma I face as I begin to unravel the shortcomings we (un)knowingly push forward onto our students, their teachers, and the communities they jointly represent. As I grow in skill and scholarship, I’m ever more encouraged to meet the repulsive side(s) of education head on, as opposed to the relative indifference I am led to believe I must helplessly wade through until met with retirement. This growing dedication and desire to battle and triumph against the challenges of my beloved field represent a commitment to see social development within my lifetime as a result of my specific and consistent efforts to be the change agent I know my communities need.

“It was this everlasting thinking of my condition that tormented me… It was ever present to torment me with a sense of my wretched condition. I saw nothing without seeing it, I heard nothing without hearing it, and felt nothing without feeling it. It looked from every star, it smiled in every calm, breathed in every wind, and moved in every storm.” (Douglass, 2003, p. 46)

Part of the suffrage I endure thanks to my education is that I am never actually able to release myself from the perceived injustice I feel this craft is doing to its teachers and their students. The burdens are quite comprehensive. Yet, I haven’t felt weighed down. Oddly enough, I feel empowered. Throughout my short life I’ve learned to trust myself in being able to create an answer where my peers and colleagues may not see one.

Contextually, as a newly minted urban education master, being committed for me means giving myself the space to be that entrusted revolutionary. It hasn’t been easy articulating that capacity to critically think about my own ideas as opposed to the ideas shared with me by well-meaning pedagogues. I actually still encounter doubt as I often disagree or at minimum have a vastly different opinion on everyday classroom scenarios and education theory. However, I’m getting to a place where I feel comfortable with this distinction. I’m in a place where my values push me to always act out of integrity and purpose, not only in my classroom and in my scholarship, but also in my social and private life. I commend people that are able to flip a switch to shift from one aspect of their identity to another. Personally, I’ve found that I’m most dynamic and effective when I bask in my self-hood as not an, but THE advocate for my students and other less fortunate individuals. This is something I aspire to do all of the time, even when it means slighting myself in the short term.

“My name is Amara Enyia,” she began. “I live in East Garfield Park. I work in Austin. I met Arraon a few years ago. Arraon’s been doing this work in theater for years, I always respected, always enjoyed it, and I am running for mayor of the city of Chicago.” The three dozen teens applauded. “I wanted to say a few words to encourage you,” she continued. “As someone who remembers, not too long ago, when I was your age, I know what it’s like. I know what it is, in the community here, and I want to encourage you, all of you, to do what you’re passionate about, and not to let anyone tell you anything is impossible.” (Steinberg, 2014)

One of the practices I’m socially committed to within my own development is creating positive/asset based forms for viewing the world and its challenges. I actively seek out positive, developmental, encouraging gospel to aid me as I sculpt this frame through which all phenomena can be met via a conquerable context. It sounds complicated in academic form. In my head its normally as simple as a “Self, we got this!” mentality. One extension of this has taken shape through digestion of commencement speeches from those that I admire. I recently watched Oprah Winfrey’s commencement speech for Spelman College’s 2012 graduating class (Spelman College, 2012). Winfrey, an Honorary Doctor from Spelman herself, imparted three pillars of knowledge upon her audience which I’ve decided to infuse into my own explanation of the social commitment domain:

(youtube.com/watch?v=Bpx8uNzRdew)

1 – Know who you are, and know what you want:

Who am I? I’m an honest and hardworking educator. I teach the same community that when boiled down equate my own sons, daughters, nieces, and nephews. If expanded out, these same youngsters morph into my parents, my neighbors, and my ancestors. I view myself as the contemporary intermediary between the Harriet Tubmans and Duboises of yesteryear, the Barack Obamas and Aja Browns of today, and the Laquan and Sakeenah’s of my tomorrow. My community entrusts me to see them out of the predicaments they’re in, and through that trust I draw focus and power.

Oprah states that her defining moment was when she realized that she needed to use television for good, as opposed to being used by television. I can relate in that I feel that teaching, at its core, is commonly used as a destructive force for marginalized communities; though its warning label for the uninformed public and teacher would never say so. My mission is to use these tools given to me by LIU to truly educate my pupils and peers about their ability and destiny to define their place in that world. I feel as though I have begun to decolonize my mind from the years of propaganda used to limit my existence to a simple middle class citizen destined to live life as it were defined by someone else.

Pride in our people shouldn’t stem from the fact that we used to be a great empire before the white man came, but from the fact that we stand as a great empire regardless of that conquest… [D]ecolonization should be a process of changing the way we view the world… Frantz Fanon wrote, “Imperialism leaves behind germs of rot which we must clinically detect and remove from our land and from our minds as well…” Sometimes in our urge to break free from mental colonization, we become ensnared in the same thought processes of the people we despise… The residue of colonization allows for the continued stratification of people. Rejecting labels, selfishness, egotism, a black and white binary, discrimination and judgments are, instead, traits of the decolonized…A person with a decolonized mind accepts their past, loves their present and creates their future, regardless of what stands in their way. (Giron, 2009)

As I continue to embark on this journey I aspire to create a new vision of this world. This vision includes showing those that I’m entrusted to educate the power in creating their own futures. This will help lead them to a success that is established from within their own internal being. I am ready to make these moves independently, and create the change I want to see myself, and alone if necessary. However, I understand, respect, and encourage the power that we all can have in creating a utopian society together.

2. Find a way to serve and be significant:

Many people work tirelessly to become famous and well known by society. Oprah states that fame, although easily accomplished is not long lasting, and isn’t the true way to find success. A life filled with purposeful service is the quickest way to be deemed significant by your peers and is the way to true immortality.

Negroes often do themselves harm when they actually believe that they are doing good. Under their present teachers they cannot easily learn to do any better, for such training as we undergo does not open our eyes sufficiently for us to see far ahead of us… If we can finally succeed in translating the idea of leadership into that of service, we may soon find it possible to lift the Negro to a higher level. Under leadership we have come into the ghetto; by service within the ranks we may work our way out of it. Under leadership we have been constrained to do the biddings of others; by service we may work out a program in the light of our own circumstances. Under leadership we have become poverty-stricken; by service we may teach the masses how to earn a living honestly. Under leadership we have been made to despise our own possibilities and to develop into parasites; by service we may prove sufficient unto the task to self-development and contribute our part to modern culture. (Woodson, 2012, pp. 84-85)

For me, my service begins as I commit myself as viewing the schoolhouse as the absolute place of hope and opportunity for all. I understand that statistically, socially, and institutionally speaking this may not seem feasible to some. However, those things are abstract and do not directly impact the very tangible process of teaching and engaging with my student population each and every day. My classroom door IS the barrier between cultural expectations/limitations and my teaching to my students’ highest possibilities. [You must view your classroom door as THE barrier between cultural expectations/limitations and your teaching to your students’ highest possibilities.]

LIU’s claims are a great beginning tool to guide our cultural scrutiny as graduate students. However, they miss a monumental opportunity to push us to challenge our own thinking and furthermore to try, ourselves, to breed the new and useful additions to global canonical research. Part of what I’ve worked to uncover through my LIU products, teaching products, and SkoolHaze (my personal blog where I reflect on my teaching practice) products has been an effort to contribute to what I consider my own modern day Library of Alexandria. The more I seek to break new ground and shine new light on Afrikan accomplishments, the more I see the need to lay down the seeds of my own pilgrimage to this place of wisdom.

Such has been the education of Negroes. They have been taught facts of history, but have never learned to think. Their conception is that you go to school to find out what other people have done, and then you go out in life to imitate them. What they have done can be done by others, they contend; and they are right. They are wrong, however, in failing to realize that what others have done, we may not need to do. If we are to do identically the same thing from generation to generation, we would not make any progress. If we are to duplicate from century to century the same feats, the world will grow tired of such a monotonous performance. (Woodson, 2012, pp. 138)

In my mind, I think about the generational transformation for LIU and its teachers as they work purposefully to pollinate their urban youth using seeds of their own dedicated and intimate research interests. LIU, as a socially committed and connected organization, should reach out to its “talented tenth” in an effort to review where the program stands in it’s strengths and areas of immediate development. This think tank would be an amazingly authentic opportunity to use your own expert practitioners to innovate from within. We must all remember that we lead from the front. When we work to serve our communities and fill in the clear gaps that exist, we become significant in their eyes because they see our efforts to continuously add value to them and the people they’re working so hard for.

3. Always do the right thing:

If we know it takes overt excellence for our urban students to reach success, let’s not set them up by training their teachers that anything but is acceptable. Excellence should be the target all of the time. In fact, excellence should be our baseline. Part of my Marginalized privilege is that I have internalized that the standard for my productivity must always be excellence – always. I would venture to say that my graduate school products have shown this better than I can explain it. Keeping classroom expectations into perspective, we know as educators that its not uncommon for us to push our students for even more than what we envision is possible – and we do this purposely to stretch our pupils into giving us their best as opposed to giving us their scraps.

We, as leaders, must take that first crucial step to do what we know to be right, even if society has coded it as impossible or fruitless. Impossibility is in the eyes of the beholder. Impossibility/implausibility is only so until we see someone has accomplished what we had never thought of before. Understandably, this puts us on the stage for the world to see and ridicule. But, that quickly changes once they see what dedication to justified and equalized education can do for its teachers and their students.

“Many an able leader is lost to his race because of this fear, and sometimes we must admit the reasonableness of this argument; but as I have said leadership means martyrdom, leadership means sacrifice, leadership means giving up one’s personality, giving up of everything for the cause that is worth while.” (Garvey, 1967, p. 48)

I recently watched a video delving into the power of pulling on our ancestral knowledge produced by the Stanford Graduate School of Business. The compelling piece, features graduate student Aulani Wilhelm as she discusses her connections to ancestral knowledge, and how we seamlessly shift from being descendants of our ancestors to ancestors of our descendants. When we come to recognize this shift as meaningful, looming, and prescribable, we realize the power we have to create the very fabric of our childrens’ futures.

“We inherit molecular scars from our ancestors, not only do our weaknesses and deficits get passed down. but so do our strengths and our resiliency. We inherit loving behavior, we inherit kindness, we inherit positive outlooks. So that eternal optimism that you have, that ability to overcome to persevere likely came from somebody in your family line who overcame something and then passed those awesome traits on to you. So I started thinking what kind of ancestor do I want to be? What kind of negative things am I carrying around or things that I’m creating that I don’t want to pass on. Conversely what are those positive things, those awesome traits, or those things I have yet to create that I want to make sure that I do… Simply thinking about our genetic origin can help us perform better… Imagine what ancestral wisdom is stored up in you from the thousands of years since your ancestors were born. Imagine if we could tap into that ancestral databank to help us make better choices now, to help us perform better… What kind of ancestors do we together want to be to leave society better. We start off as descendants of our ancestors in life, but at some point either directly or indirectly, we end up as ancestors for our descendants. Our choices, our decisions are going to affect what happens to future generations.” (Stanford Graduate School of Business, 2014)

(youtube.com/watch?v=YfeqU5nnOPg)

In closing, I seek to draw attention to our imperfect humanity. I seek to draw attention to our continued and contemporary agency in defining the immediate and distant futures for ourself-singular, and humanity-the whole. The more I teach and engage with my students, the more I see that energy does, infact, transfer, it never dissipates. Therefore, I am gladly able to state that my mission, my commitment to myself and this world, is to continue to exude the energy and force of justified development of all members of society.

crown

“Your crown has been paid for, put it on your head and wear it.”

(Spelman College, 2012)

————— Sources

Baldwin, J. (1961). Nobody knows my name: more notes of a native son. New York: Vintage Books.

Douglass, F., & O’Meally, R. G. (2003). Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Classics. (Original work published 1845)

Garvey, M., & Garvey, A. J. (1967). Shall the Negro Be Exterminated?. Philosophy and opinions of Marcus Garvey or, Africa for the Africans (2d ed., ). London: F. Cass.

Giron, I. (2009, January 1). Decolonize your mind: A decolonized mind defends its cultural roots. Decolonize your mind. Retrieved July 25, 2014, from http://web.utah.edu/venceremos/Articlesix.html

Spelman College. (2012, May 22). Oprah Winfrey Delivers Commencement Address to Class of 2012 [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/Bpx8uNzRdew

Stanford Graduate School of Business. (2014, April 28). Oprah Winfrey on Career, Life and Leadership [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/6DlrqeWrczs

Steinberg, N. (2014, July 31). Does “Amara Enyia” ring a bell? It will.. Chicago Sun Times.

Woodson, C. (2012). The Failure to Learn to Make a Living. The MisEducation of the Negro. Buffalo: EWorld Inc. (Original work published 1933)

Capstone: Pluralism

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)

The Allegories

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?

Male Privilege

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.

Institutional Responsibility

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.

======= SOURCES

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.

DystopiaUK. (July 20, 2014). PLATO Allegory of the Cave Animated) Retrieved from http://youtu.be/_dlmsULpgjI

Palmer, P. J. (1998). The Heart of a Teacher Identity and Integrity in Teaching. The courage to teach: exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San Francisco, Calif.: JosseyBass.

X, M., & Haley, A. (1992). The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: One World/Ballantine Books.

Capstone: Empathy

—- E  M  P  A  T  H  Y —-

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.

When you look at this map what do you see? clash_of_civilizations_map

(The Clash of Civilizations, Abagond, 2014)

 “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)

======= Sources

Angelou, M. (Performer). (1997). OPRAH’S LIFECLASS: When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them USA: Harpo Studios.

Dennis, D. (2013, May 15). Why isn’t New Orleans Mother’s Day parade shooting a ‘national tragedy’?. theguardian.com. Retrieved July 18, 2014, from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/15/neworleansshootingnotnationalnews

Delpit, L. D. (2006). Other people’s children: cultural conflict in the classroom. New York: New Press :.

Garvey, M., & Garvey, A. J. (1967). Shall the Negro Be Exterminated?. Philosophy and opinions of Marcus Garvey or, Africa for the Africans (2d ed., ). London: F. Cass.

LYDERSEN, K. (2014, February 20). Who’s Afraid of Rahm Emanuel?. . Retrieved July 18, 2014, from http://inthesetimes.com/article/16321/amara_enyia_rahm_emanuel

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: Enquiry

Capstone: E  N  Q  U  I  R  Y 

I shouldn’t feel the need to apologize for my feelings or my thoughts… So I wont – The following is a synthesis of where I currently stand in regards to enquiry – henceforth known as inquiry. My understanding, again, has developed far beyond the scope of just the LIU teacher training program. This is actually a compliment to how much I’ve received in the short 2.5 years here through LIU and the NYC Teaching Fellows program. It is through this deep appreciation that I position the following comments as expressive, and not offensive to whomever may receive these words.

When I first started writing this piece, I welled up in angst. I’m extremely sensitive to the mood(s) people project into our combined space. Hence, with the end of this program nearing, my peers haven’t held back in their desire to be done with all graduation requirements. More than ever they’ve showed their disappointment in having to partake in a low-cost masters degree program that was requiring consistently rigorous work from them. I can’t say that I’m super excited to be tied to my computer everyday either, but it wasn’t until I felt the deluge of their cries that I, too, just felt like being over it. However, each time I think about inquiry, I can’t help but compare myself to my peers in evaluating my performance throughout this program. I’ve worked through the entirety of my years here to draw parallels between the student-to-teacher relationships and dynamics I experience in my 9 – 12 setting, and the very same thing that I imagine plays out between the LIU-Brooklyn staff and myself and peers here as graduate students. Even down to the day I saw the new LIU fellows come in and I had a slight feeling of upperclassmanship when I got a quick “Who the hell are these kids walking around my halls!?” thought bubble next to my head.

Normally, I’m not the type to draw comparisons between myself and others. Growing up, jealousy and envy were words we weren’t allowed to say in the SkoolHaze household. And thankfully so, because those concepts and that language has remained foreign to me. I’ve made it far in life trying to push myself based on my own aspirations. This has been increasingly difficult as it has called for the continued need to find mentor-like prototypes to help me craft my own goals and successes. However, if I were an LIU employee reading this very project, the inquiry question I would love to answer right now would be – what has the final positioning [of students] and the end products of this educational program shown me about this cohort of teachers, and my effectiveness in teaching and preparing them to “close the achievement gap?”

Inquiry:

Inquiry, to me, is the process of trying to understand something. It’s an active process. I don’t have any scholarly research to back this up, or any children to say I’ve learned from first hand. However, I would say toddlers/babies are in a constant state of inquiry. They’re constantly on the look out to find and play with something – play with for the sake of learning. Conversely, as adults/caretakers, we are consistently in a state of vigilance and surveillance – blocking what we deem as unsafe or hurtful experiences for ourself and others. I imagine babies are fearless in their desire to discover new ground. As adults, we often lose that drive to find what hasn’t been found before. This makes me wonder – What may I be preventing my students from experimenting with in my classrooms? How can I stay vigilant as I become more of an expert, to create space for exploration that I may view as unimportant? How can LIU as a teacher education program continue to incorporate new stimuli to enculture its students with? How can it be a self-sustained repository of innovative theory and practice development?

Observation as Inquiry:

As I mentioned in my Introduction to the Knowledge Claim, I’ve always been the type of person that tried to observe situations for what they were. What’s been helpful about being an observant person is that once you get a handle on what is taking place it’s fairly easy – if being honest – to see what is not taking place. Herein lies the power of inquisition. What is not happening in this situation? What can be introduced to shake things up? I’ve found that many times a slight reorganization/reprioritization can align situations to a more developmental/progressive state.

This need to question drives me as a professional and an adult as I carve my way through this world. To what end, I don’t know, but I find that by inquiring into the fabric of all situations I’m generally happy with the result. It’s nourishing to see myself think problems through as wholly as possible. I’m constantly stuck in this model of needing to find the answers to more questions as a means to employ this information into my professional and personal practice.

“The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated. The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself… To ask questions of the universe, and then learn to live with those questions, is the way he achieves his own identity. But no society is really anxious to have that kind of person around. What societies really, ideally, want is a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society. If a society succeeds in this, that society is about to perish. The obligation of anyone who thinks of himself as responsible is to examine society and to try to change it and to fight it – at no matter what risk. This is the only hope society has. This is the only way societies change.” (Baldwin, p. 47)

Inquiry as Lifestyle:

Inquiry for me is a lifestyle, one that I was endowed with as a young Black boy growing up in this United States of America. Thusly, it leads me to my frustration with my peers and my academic leaders at LIU. My peers don’t see the need to question themselves, their motives, the world around them, and how they can be true allies and supporters of a “more perfect global union.” To many of them, this is a paycheck; a teacher training program fit to prepare them to teach our Black and Brown citizens the status quo. One that clearly isn’t working at its current state. [Think – Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell. We even live in a world where the Black President of the United States isn’t safe, and this man is considered the leader of the free world.] I wouldn’t be realistic if I placed blame on them for experiencing this program as it was destined to be experienced by its creators and their institutional and bureaucratic leadership. My frustration with my peers stems directly from their comfortable, privileged seats, which have virtually remained unaffected throughout this process. Thanks in large part to the handlers of the LIU program. As a Black, I literally feel as though I have to question and reflect on every single move I ever make, in public, in my home, in my dreams, in my conversations, period. The result of me not questioning will undoubtedly leave me in a position of comfort or more realistically statistical failure and death.

African-American men need to recognize how a little concern and attention paid to boys may make the difference between becoming a man or remaining a boy. America’s propaganda is quick to sell us on blaming the victim, and to determine the system exempt. We are quick to argue, “I had to pull myself up by my bootstraps.” America’s propaganda, and specifically capitalism, has developed a game where ten people play, but only one wins (the prize can only be big if there are fewer winners). If the nine players ever assessed their situations, and either did not participate or changed the rules, the game would end. A sophisticated marketing apparatus continued to provide the illusion that at some point you will [win]. Why would we allow ourselves to play a game that theoretically has more losers than winners? (Kunjufu, 1985, pp 28 – 29)

Dr. Kunjufu’s words speak to the reality of what it means to be a Black man walking this Earth. As I’ve grown, I specifically feel as though I’ve witnessed my peers be tugged away as we all tried to walk the same journey. I constantly feel as though I’m the last one standing from my immediate peers in what began as a gloriously bountiful race for personhood 28 years ago.

Questions for LIU:

Through consistently asking more developed questions – I’ve developed a deep understanding of my role as a classroom teacher, but also the systems that interact and affect my teaching inside and outside of the classroom. As a result, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated with the theory and pedagogical practices used to imbue my peers and me. One of the questions I’m asking myself in the moment is, why would my “urban” teacher education program allow my peers and I pass through – to completion – if we have not demonstrated dexterity as classroom leaders, specifically with regard to for Black and Brown students, and/or students with disabilities. My frustration stems from the realization, and unfortunate acceptance, of the fact that although I have sought to enlighten myself outside of the confines of this program, I would assert that my peers have not, and have skated through having done exponentially less reflection of themselves, and most importantly the broken systems that govern this country, specifically the academy which we have been encultured through LIU to perpetuate.

“In my particular view, my frustration comes from the reality that the school still does not address many of the lived problems that our students face. In casual conversation with other African-American male teachers, it’s a pretty ubiquitous sentiment that we’re here, we’re working hard, but at the end of the day, the life chances and the outcomes of our students aren’t where we’d like them to be and that’s in part because it’s bigger than a person. The system seemed ill-designed to seriously and immediately ameliorate what our students are experiencing and their future outcomes in terms of employment and education once they leave secondary school. The larger questions aren’t being addressed sufficiently and that leaves some frustration at the ground floor.” (Brooks, “How To Increase The Number Of Black Male Teachers In Boston Public Schools”, 2014)

I’m eternally grateful for the education I’ve obtained through LIU’s bidding. However, that education has caused me to cast a doubtful eye on the very institution that served to give me such powerful wings. The Malcolm X in me says, “Why aren’t more issues of race, culture, classism, lack of effort, effective teaching practices from Black and Brown scholars being purposefully and excessively used to help educate my peers and I? Using a theoretical lens, I understand most of my peers and educators are White. Therefore, culturally relevant resources for them would be something that mirrors a more mainstream, White-flavor. Could this be why students haven’t been challenged to look deeper than surface level and labels to identify how their specific practice can be revolutionary to the practice of education? Probably so. The public relations professional in me would spin my question to read, “How, specifically, are we going to address the issue that this LIU program [and truly teacher education programs in general] is under-utilizing educational research reflected from African, Latino and Disabled scholars?

Carter G. Woodson called for similar pedagogy almost seventy years ago. He extolled teachers in 1933 Mis-Education of the Negro to teach African –American students not only the language and cannon of the European “mainstream,” but to teach as well the life, history, language, philosophy, and literature of their own people. Only this kind of education , he argued, would prepare an educated class which would serve the needs of the African-American community. (Delpit, 2006, p. 162 – 163)

As the flood gates open, please keep in mind that these questions stem from a genuine desire to see my students, and people like them, aka people like me, prosper, and grow outside of the confines that have been unfortunately taught by the mainstream education scholars leading these efforts to date. Personally, what has helped me remain sane, and highly effective [<self evaluation] has been my independent desire to seek out resources from African-American scholars who could better speak to my own strengths and views inside the classroom. When meshed with the mainstream resources provided by the LIU program, I know that I’ve grown into a well rounded and highly capable educator. However, I’m increasingly distressed at the blatant disregard for people of color and their contribution(s) to society. Educators generally code this as culturally relevant education. However, few programs, including LIU, seem to truly saturate their theory, practice, and students with relevant and culturally diverse education theory. One could make a strong argument that the other sciences and practices suffer from the same staleness, and I would probably agree. To be more direct – it’s evident to me that teacher education programs are implicitly racist as they aim to teach equality, diversity, and justice, yet struggle themselves to incorporate it in their curriculum packages. The resulting omissions are glaringly clear examples to all students that respect for the rainbow variation of cultures and experiences is frivolous in comparison to the almighty mainstream (read: White) scholarly gospel. If I understand this as a new member of this industry, why then would my professors, administrators, deans, presidents of colleges, government, officials, and all others far more experienced and knowledgeable than I… allow this to continue to happen? How then, as an institution of academic quality and integrity, is LIU going to respond to this frightening evidence (Cohort 23’s Teaching Fellows) that they are playing their part, well, in producing lemmings programmed to push forward the continued obliteration of urban and engaging communities?

{{[“If we happen to be members of the same organization, and the illiterate man tries to embarrass you, do not become disgusted, but remember that he does it because he does not know better, and it is your duty to forbear and forgive because the ends that we serve are not of self, but for the higher development of the entire race.” (Garvey, 1967, p. 49)

As Elder Garvey points out in his speech Shall the Black Man be Exterminated, I’m frustrated with the current situations we find ourselves in as a practice. However, I love my brothers and sisters that I am on this journey with. Therefore, I find it partly my duty to help inform and problem solve to a better tomorrow, and that practice must always start by reaching for a better today.]}} Re-read!

If you’re following the root of this piece, you’ll know that it started with wondering if I could think and reflect on my teaching practice. Quite obviously yes, as will be demonstrated in my interpretation of each claim. More importantly, right now I’m focused with finding out how I can continue to invest myself in a system of state mandated education, when so many of my peers and leaders don’t care enough to authentically research and address any of the issues facing the marginalized communities they seek to teach. How do I move in a world that is set up for robotic compliance of all, and even less than for its colored people? Scholarly works I will quote speak most directly of White people and their explicit and figurative power over people of color. But, its actually quite deeper. The very same people in power at these institutions are moving through life robotically themselves, too ignorant or scared to provoke the exercises truly needed to move this world.

“To what extent do you find this true in your own writing, in terms of the self consciousness of being a Negro and a writer, the polarity if it exists.” Well, the first difficulty is really so simple that it’s usually overlooked. To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost all of the time. And in one’s work… and part of the rage is this, it isn’t what is just happening to you. It’s happening all around you, all of the time in the face of the most extraordinary and criminal indifference. The indifference of most white people in this country and their ignorance. Since this is so, It’s a great temptation to simplify the issues under the allusion that if you simplify them enough people will recognize them. I think this allusion is very dangerous because its not the way things work…(Baldwin, 1961, [Radio broadcast])

As I can speak about inquiry forever, I will move forward. In closing, I think I’m leaving this domain as someone who questions abundantly. I love the push and the drive to continuously uncover more. My quest to inquire is bound to my drive to acquire more knowledge as well. It’s difficult when your quest to find out more is not pushed and supported by your peers or your program of study. To me its a sign of completion and transition. I’m enthralled by my growth and ability to seek out truth and change. Equally though, I’m disheartened by the realization that my peers, my program and most everyday citizens, are less so interested and aware of the power we hold as classroom/community leaders and historians.

To make a final comparison I draw on a textual source used in this final capstone course. In what began as a truly compelling text scraped to a halt as we’re introduce to the author’s strong language detailing the benign burden of double-consciousness:

“I realize that the idea of a teacher within strikes some academics as a romantic fantasy, but I cannot fathom why. If there is no such reality in our lives, centuries of Western discourse about the aims of education become so much lip-flapping. In classical understanding, education is the attempt to “lead out” from within the self a core of wisdom that has the power to resist falsehood and live in the light of truth, not by external norms but by reasoned and, reflective self- determination. The inward teacher is the living core of our lives that is addressed and evoked by any education worthy of the name. Perhaps the idea is unpopular because it compels us to look at two of the most difficult truths about teaching. The first is that what we teach will never “take” unless it connects with the inward, living core of our students’ lives, with our students’ inward teachers.” (Palmer, 1998, p. 16)

Parker Palmer, a seasoned White-male educator, challenges us to step outside of ourselves and search for the truth and for leadership out of whatever current state society has us locked within. I remember fondly in Inquiry I (TAL 830), the fierce push back many of my White peers gave when they learned they were being called to think about the act of teaching as they taught their students. To them, this was an impossible feat, to reflect – while in the act of doing something. [Neverminding that we accepted the responsibility to teach, train, grow, develop, and really accelerate these young Black/Brown bodies here.] I tried, half-heartedly, to explain to them that this phenomenon was not new to humanity. Famed American sociologist, and perhaps the most academically revered African-American in history, W.E.B. Dubois, introduced the world to his concept of double-consciousness long ago as a process of necessity for negro survival in this American land back in the early 1900’s. Surely, if marginalized communities must live daily, from inception, with the burden of “the veil”, we too their teachers, and as their entrusted instructors, could partake in a similar process to authenticate our own teaching, and to give us a more personal connection with the contextual frames that our students bring with them into our classrooms from the outside world. Needless to say, they weren’t impressed:

…the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,–a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,–an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. (DuBois, 2003, p. 9)

Perhaps it’s only clear to me, but Dubois’ introduction of double-consciousness, is a direct ancestor to its modern offspring known as code-switching, personal/teacher inquiry, urban socialization, urban education, and various other layers that affect and teach to minority/[casteamerican] identity. Yet, my peers, and most troubling perhaps, my instructors, don’t know of his value to this craft. This is the most disrespectful piece of trying to authentically take part in a program claiming it is preparing me to teach students of color, and actually makes me want to evaluate what our teacher education programs portfolios of academic integrity and standards should look like… What compelling evidence would/could such an urban education program show… if it can’t even show respect for American scholars of yesteryear who simply don’t represent the White/Western/European iteration of education theory. If I had my way, I would take part in the accreditation boards that review and certify such institutions just so I can have my opinions be heard. But I know that’s not necessary. I, unlike most, attend a prestigious, reflective organization. One that I have faith in, as a teacher education program to hear the cries of my peers and my students and push to make the consistent, although drastic, changes necessary to make Elder Toni Morrison’s scowl go away once and for all.

The Negro author is no exception to the traditional rule. He writes, but the white man is supposed to know more about everything than the Negro. So who wants a book written by a Negro about one! As a rule, not even a Negro himself, for if he is really “educated,” he must show that he has the appreciation for the best in literature. The Negro author, then, can neither find a publisher nor a reader; and his story remains untold. (Woodson, 2012, pp. 81)

Remember Momma Morrison punching us in the face with her diatribe about racism? I can’t help but see the author, dangling her Pulitzer, Nobel, and Presidential Medal of Honor for all to see, holding her brazen truth onto the table, daring us to act as though we see otherwise. Here we are in 2014, still unapologetically raising a White man’s projections to guide a staggering number of White teachers how to teach children of color. Meanwhile, the more effective and powerful argument written over a century ago by the pre-eminent Black scholars of modern history, W.E.B. Dubois, goes unnoticed, unappreciated, and really more audaciously missed as a true and authentic “urban education” teaching opportunity. Yet here we stand, still having to answer inquiries as to why our citizens, students, and their semi-professional teachers alike don’t see the value in education.

Where do we go from here? How do we move forward?Why are a founding father’s scholarly tributes being overlooked, ignored, when they’re so clearly central to not only education, but to the proper and strong development of all individuals in this society? How and why have my instructors at LIU let this continued omission take place? As a Black, what am I to take from this animalistic show of disrespect for my culture? More importantly, what indirect lessons are my less conscious European brothers and sisters pulling away from displays such as this? Program leadership’s choice to enculture we students with the offensively simplistic and barbaric texts seems like malpractice that I dare not mimic in my own classroom, for my own even more impressionable high school youth. See – “Tal 854 Reading Response 1?” [<<not linked]

This pushes me to ask – Who then is serious with their claim to nurture us into capable and knowledgeable educators, moving swiftly to the front lines of the public school battle grounds?

Still… I stand impressed by where we have traveled as a peer group. We have moved far from where we began in 2013. But all of us on the leadership spectrum have light years to go if we are to really call ourselves a group of effective educators in these urban(warfare) classrooms.

How do we move forward to begin effecting a better today?

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Sources: 

Baldwin, J., Hansberry, L., Hughes, L., Hentoff, N., Kazin, A., & Capouya, E. (1961, January 10). [Radio broadcast, Retrieved from http://www.digitalpodcast.com/items/868536]. New York:

Baldwin, J. (1961). Nobody knows my name: more notes of a native son. New York: Vintage Books.

Baldwin, J. (1963, December 21). A talk with teachers. Saturday Review

Kunjufu, J. (1985). Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys. Chicago: African American Images. (Original work published 1985)

Brooks, A., Chakrabarti, M., Bristol, T., & Frederick-Clarke, H. (2014, July 10). How To Increase The Number Of Black Male Teachers In Boston Public Schools. How To Increase The Number Of Black Male Teachers In Boston Public Schools Radio Boston RSS 20. Retrieved July 16, 2014, from http://radioboston.wbur.org/2014/07/10/black-male-teachers-in-boston

Delpit, L. D. (2006). Other people’s children: cultural conflict in the classroom. New York: New Press :.

Garvey, M., & Garvey, A. J. (1967). Shall the Negro Be Exterminated?. Philosophy and opinions of Marcus Garvey or, Africa for the Africans (2d ed., ). London: F. Cass.

Palmer, P. J. (1998). The Heart of a Teacher Identity and Integrity in Teaching. The courage to teach: exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass.

DuBois, W. E., & Griffin, F. J. (2003). The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Barnes & Noble Classics.

Woodson, C. (2012). The Failure to Learn to Make a Living. The Mis-Education of the Negro (47-48, ). Buffalo: EWorld Inc.. (Original work published 1933)

Capstone: Demonstrating the capacity to improve urban communities

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.

developingcommunitiesproject

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.

Capstone Portfolio Works Cited Page –  (linked)

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.

Evidence – Intellectual Context TAL880 File (Not linked)

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)

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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.

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Sources

 Fox, T. (1992). Repositioning the profession: Teaching writing to african american students . Journal of Advanced Composition12(2), 291-303. Retrieved from http://www.jaconlinejournal.com/archives/vol12.2/fox-repositioning.pdf

I’m a Cohort 14 NYC Teaching Fellow. (2007, August 11). : On meeting Fellows who just finished their first year. Retrieved August 4, 2014, from http://imacohort14nycteachingfellow.blogspot.com/2007/08/on-meeting-fellows-who-just-finished.html

Woodson, C. (2012). The Failure to Learn to Make a Living. The Mis-Education of the Negro (47-48, ). Buffalo: EWorld Inc.. (Original work published 1933)

Capstone: Knowledge and the Opportunity Paradox

Knowledge and the Opportunity Paradox

I’ve been an observer since before I could remember. Academically, this skill has helped me take quality notes that pushed me through many a test. Being observant has helped me shield my way through life to get to where I am today. Now, and embattled with my former self, I am far more assured in my knowledge. To be particular, I have better control over my ability to use my knowledge to lean in most instances toward the side of action.

Many times I find myself having to be the first to make the movement amongst my peers. I prefer to think of this movement through a leadership tinted frame. I haven’t had to kick any doors in just yet. But, I am normally the first to grease myself up to meet a problem head on, and have found a cosily anxious place for myself in doing so. Earlier this year, I watched a panel discussion hosted by the New School titled “Are You Still a Slave?” featuring activists and authors Janet Mock and bell hooks. In it Ms. Mock powerfully states, “this little space that I have in this world, is mine.” (Mock, “Are You Still A Slave @ 27:00 mins”, 2014). Janet lets us know that she has control of the space she inhabits, and whether or not we accept it is an issue she’s not concerned with.

Feeling empowered, and in control of my own space and trajectory in life is an extremely fortifying feeling. Janet shows us that it’s ok to take ownership of the space we individually control in this world. As a minority, taking ownership of that space professionally and academically constantly puts me in situations where I’m left feeling exposed and erosive. The unwanted texture is also apparent in many of my long running personal relationships as well. Its something I’ve battled with as I’ve come to understand and play with knowledge, thankfully at this more receptive stage in my life. I’ve tried to make it clear to everyone that my aim is to engage in this fellowship and get every last drop of worth out of this personal investment that I’m embarking through.

What else but a controlling emotional “devil” so blinded American white intelligence that it couldn’t foresee that millions of black slaves, “freed,” then permitted even limited education, would one day rise up as a terrifying monster within white America’s midst? The white man’s brains that today explore space should have told the slavemaster that any slave, if he is educated, will no longer fear his master. History shows that an educated slave always begins to ask, and next demand, equality with his master. (X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, 1992)

The battle between dynamic confidence and neutral observance is perhaps the current zone of proximal development for me. This space is ideal for my role as an educator, academic, and burgeoning activist. What space does one who appreciates education occupy, when they have tried so earnestly to use the tool of education to enlighten and empower himself? The pull, for now, has eroded my surface, exposing pores filled to the bristle with newly molten passion seeping out and messing everywhere I move. I’m at a state where I feel I’m constantly exposing my knowledge and leaving its unwanted residue behind in my daily interactions. Nonetheless, these interactions serve as evidence of my growth as a man over these past few years.  Even now, my observing eye, casts a frictious gaze upon my words – calling me back to the rubric tasked to assess the credentialed value of my scholarship. Yet with every word typed I feel lured further away, allowing for a freedom of space to let my piecemeal stories tell their tale as personally and satisfactorily as possible.

At this point in my life, passion is the pheromone that greets my peers before I even step around the door’s edge. I feel, on right now. My navigation and GPS are perfectly targeted at the moment. I don’t exactly know what that means, but I have progressed, I can feel it, and that’s a powerful bath that I want to bask in for the moment. It’s difficult to craft words clear enough to explain my concepts of teaching and learning. For me, it’s far easier to find words for these situations once I’ve removed myself from the context for a while. Only then, am I fully able to benefit from the experiences, activities, cognition, metacognition, emotions, interactions, etc… that contributed to my growth in that moment.

Knowledge, as a concept, is boundless. It’s almost crippling to be tasked to boil down what I’ve learned into words for this analysis. To be concise, knowledge can be represented through infinite numbers of schema that we lay on top of each day, like maps. These schemata allow us citizens to interact with, and maneuver through, the institutional landscapes of our societies to meet our daily needs and wants as we please. There are probably more schema than there are grains of sand on the globe, but some examples may include: privilege, high fashion, urban education, gender, gender-bias, poverty, opportunity, etc…

I wouldn’t define knowledge via claims, see common core standards, explainable through definition, always accessible through current assessment, or self-stimulating. The closest I will come to defining knowledge is the process in which an individual lives an experience where skills are gained, understanding of something is accomplished, and/or curiosity for more interaction with said experience is demonstrated in any combination of social phenomena. I also want to make the declaration that knowledge is contextual in that societies deem certain knowledge as meaningful and others as less so.

Asking one’s student to frame his own knowledge while still inside of that context is a bit oxymoronic to me. To contextualize in Big Bang fashion – I will provide a starting point to frame my knowledge development:

In February 2012, approximately 2.5 years ago, I officially received word that I had been accepted into the New York City Teaching Fellows program. I used the remaining four months to pack up my Boston life. It wasn’t long before I was stuffing my two large suitcases underneath the Bolt Bus and heading full steam ahead to New York City for the beginning of the Cohort 23 Fellows orientation. It was at that point that I decided that this would be my very own modern day hero’s journey. I’ve never made a clear version of this lens, and to do so now seems inauthentic. How would I handle this situation if I were an ancient African Prince charged with empowering and protecting my citizens? Through this lens, I’ve worked to soak up everything from my surroundings. Using words to describe the knowledge I’ve gained feels limiting and abrasive compared to how I’ve worked to view this process. However, in service to the program, I would say that the LIU coursework has taught me to consciously engage with my environment in the following ways:

Cultural/New York City – being purposeful and optimally navigating transactions with systems and institutions, proactively aligning energy to support my workloads, exposing myself to globally and geographically diverse cultures, flowing with the developmental power of competition.

Academic/Professional – Theory: African American education theory, Popular/Mainstream American education theory, academic-social-emotional disabilities, prejudice, privilege, various cultural institution(s) of American society. Skills: thinking of and creating thoughtful/scaffolded lessons, units, and individual education plans. Defining a research focus, scavenging for and analyzing resources, implementing changes to my practice through these resources, and analyzing the effectiveness of these changes through my target’s measured performance. Differentiation of materials, Professional and Academic self-reflection, productivity and time management.

Personal – Resilience, Confidence, Empathy, Love, Passion, Strength, Self-value, Self and Cultural Exploration, Personhood, Belonging, Leadership. Networking, Mentoring, and various other social and emotional development skills.

Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot during my two years of treacherous teaching, gregarious graduate school, and nouveau New York City. It’s scary to admit, but I’m not the same Paladin I was two years ago. I mean… I loved who I was, a beaming 26 year-old coming into the fellowship, freshly clipped wings flapping freely and growing strong in my protected Boston shell. Finding comfort in being a different version of myself is probably the force that has been making my personal relationships so texturally different as of late.

I’m a confident person now, and I say this from a humble place, but also having recognized the need to congratulate myself for the growth I have lived through and witnessed. Let me say now, my mission in life is to always be true to that humble, grateful, altruistic boy nurtured in the Chicago suburbs. But, I am not him anymore, and that’s ok. Not long ago my friend from undergrad received her Master’s in School Counseling. One of the first things she said when I called to congratulate her was, “Homie you can’t tell me nothin, cuz Bitch I got a Master’s!” I died laughing… and hopefully you will too.

However, it wasn’t until recently that I’ve realized I can laugh with the phrase as opposed to at it. To be clear, it’s not that having a graduate degree is a status symbol proving to the world that I’m good enough, though for many it can be, as it’s definitely already on my resume. It’s that through this rigorous process I’ve experienced and learned more than I could imagine about this world, this country, its people, their customs, and the ways I can measurably think and produce around through and to these entities. This schema, fortunately brings immeasurable value to the ways in which I can continue to add on to the positive and productive canon that supports our development here on on Earth.

I’ve learned so much through this program. With LIU’s support I’ve gained an understanding of, and first hand practice with, structure, bureaucracy, education, work ethic, creativity, historical pedagogy, Paladin, and of course my own teaching practice. One of the crucial pieces of knowledge I’ve gained, and have tried to infuse into all of my interactions since, has been that opportunity is ever present! I don’t know how I came to this revelation, as we’re not taught not to see opportunity. We’re taught to go against opportunity. We’re taught to be afraid of it and to wait for someone else to give it to us. Those that take opportunities are seen as maniacal and cunning individuals. This understanding of the Opportunity Paradox has helped me push myself to accept all incarnations of opportunity into my life, and to create it where at first there is none. To me, that is the truest realization of knowledge that I’ve come to hold in respects to this graduate program.

Recently one largest insurance companies selected for special training in this line fifteen college graduates of our accredited institutions and financed their special training in insurance. Only one of the number, however, rendered efficient service in this field. They all abandoned the effort after a few days’ trial and accepted work in hotels and with the Pullman Company, or they went into teaching or something else with a fixed stipend until they could enter upon the practice of professions. They thought of the immediate reward, shortsightedness, and the lack of vision and courage to struggle and win the fight made them failures to begin with. They are unwilling to throw aside their coats and collars and do the groundwork of Negro business and thus make opportunities for themselves instead of begging others for a chance. The educated Negro from the point of view of commerce and industry, then, shows no mental power to understand the situation which he finds. He has apparently read his race out of that sphere, and with the exception of what the illiterate Negroes can do blindly the field is left wide open for foreign exhibition. (Woodson, 2012, pp. 47 – 48)

I appreciate that I’ve gotten to a place where I can freely posture, virility exposed and all, thanks to my ability to view all situations through this opportunity context. Being able to create this confident and asset-based frame at-will feels almost dangerous to yield. I wish we all could imagine what this world would be like if more of us were able to view the world from this constructive frame. The more tactile strands of my knowledge have shown me that I can maneuver myself in and out of situations, and when we show up… it pays to be engaged. With this powerful weapon at my side, I am confident in my ability to use my values, skills, and gifts to make something happen for me in this field, and to bear the positive change I so desperately sought during my ignorant beginnings of this journey as an urban educator.

Sources – 

bell hooks – Are You Still a Slave? – http://youtu.be/rJk0hNROvzs

Autobiography of Malcolm X 

MisEducation of the Negro – Carter G Woodson