A classroom and email conversation with two Black-Male students
I recently received an email from a Black male student asking me to explain life to him. He’s an older student and this is the first time I’ve taught him at the school. This was a first time I’ve had a student reach out for such poignant information. The following day, before I could respond, he told me that he and a friend, also in my class, were riding the train the night before talking to each other, and they kept saying the word Nigga.
Somewhere through the journey they confessed having made an older woman cry due to their reckless public vulgarity. It was then that I found out why my student had reached out to me about life the evening before.
Both students told me inconsistent stories about the events as they happened in real time, jokingly placing blame on each other, in a denial-deflection-comedic-confession with each other.
In the moment, there was work to be done, so, I expressed sincere dissappointment in their actions and inability to manage their behavior in context, and specifically with regard to the elder, then redirected them to their work with intentions to reply in detail via email.
The following was my email response:
What’s up y’all.
Ok, my bad that it’s taken me so long to respond. I wanted to make sure I sent something thoughtful back. Here’s some feedback.
Nigga Response –
It’s a dreadful word. It’s used to describe a group of people stolen from their land, and bred to be enslaved-captured people here in the American continents. The African people when I visited don’t call themselves nigga. The enslaved Africans were renamed Negroes by the European and other geographic people. It has been so ingrained that those African people have now taken to calling themselves Negroes instead of what they truly were and are. That’s why it’s a bad thing to hear so many Black/African people say Negroes/Nigga/Niqqa/Nicca. It’s a word of negativity and weakenss. The moment you stop calling yourself and your loved ones that word you start to get a stronger grip on the world, your history, and your role now in it. I hope that made sense. Here is a link to some phrases/meanings of negro throughout our recent history. I found this really useful for my own knowledge about 4 years ago.
Negro stereotype (the black brought over to be run over by society.)
I view y’all as so much more than niggers, niggas, you know all the spellings. In real life, I view myself as a young King. Everyday Paladin, the young King walks into the classroom. Everyday I’m greeted by young Warriors [Student 1] and [Student 2]. But as long as you’re calling yourself a nigger you’re never going to realize that. Nigger and King are opposites. Nigger and Warrior are opposites. Nigger and whatever you want to be known as are probably opposites.
The lady was probably mortified that y’all couldn’t edit the word out even if you tried. I get really sad too when I see kids out and they just can’t control it. We’ve been taught to say it. It has power over you. And that’s not good bro. But the good thing is it’s easy to stop. You just have to choose a different word to say. In college my frat brother started saying ninja, then we all started saying ninja. Then somewhere along the line I started saying homie. Now I even say bro. I say fam. I even say King. Choose something and roll with it. I try my absolute best not to call people that I love nigga.
Y’all ask me and I never really remember in the moment. I get a lot of stuff from thrift stores. My regular stuff is from Levis, American Apparel, Uniqlo, Urban Outfitters, stuff I see on Instagram, and sometimes the vendors on the streets. I normally check the sales. But will spend real money every once and a while for stuff that will last like jackets, bookbags, and boots. I rarely pay over 50 for a shirt or pants. Normally never more than 70 for shoes. Anything more prolly just isn’t worth it. Watch your money and save your money. A lot of my stuff is like 5 to 10 years old. When you buy stuff that fits well it lasts longer in my opinion.
Tutoring Time –
I’m available everyday during lunch:
Monday/Wednesday/Friday – [Location] – Lunch
Tuesday/Thursday – [Location] – Lunch
I also try to stay after school for at least 20 to 30 minutes trying to cool down and wrap up loose ends of the day. If no one comes I bounce. I hustle outside of work and get tired if I’m not on the move. Trust y’all are always welcome to tutoring and after school-time. Just come, and we’ll find something to do.
Y’all are smart. Y’all run the yard and I love it. But I need you both to step it up. You both set the tone for everyone else. I need you guys to work with me & [Co-teacher] in the classroom. Drive the attention to the learning. You aren’t horrible, but you aren’t hustling either. I need you both grabbing these knowledge points. Right now and even if you don’t have me anymore. You both have talent and like a team I need you to push your squad, and me and [Co-teacher], the coaches. Push your talents on the basketball court and in my classroom please. I definitely am trying to bring you my A+ work and I need y’all to help me be great by doing the same please.
Empathy:the confrontation that takes place when we realize we have all been reared in a universe where racism is real, depends on unconscious biases, and can only be arbitrated when beseiged by direct and transparent restoration methods.
As I’ve reflected on this traumutizingly edifying portfolio process, I thought, for a second, that perhaps my observations were a fabricated manifestation, built from the mental anguish experienced through teaching and learning for two years with only an iota of a break. Luckily, I’ve been filling the long pauses between writing with episodes of the 2013 documentary series – The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The documentary takes us through 500 years of African and African American cultural contributions and developments that impact and dissolve into the very soul that nourishes (present tense) our country. Sectors of the soul-baring culture have without a doubt spawned programs, such as this one, in which we seek to be privileged with the distinction as being teachers, masters, doctors, and professors of urban education practice. Validity in us as a distinguished practicing class has yet to be established in lieu of the great academic and critical thinking gains absent in the audiences we wish to teach.
I’m supposed to begin this piece, by defining Empathy as I’ve come to understand it, followed with multiple examples of how I’ve demonstrated this skill with my students. The latter is fairly simple, and a natural sentiment that I extend to all people. In many ways, my own personhood is founded on extending conscious courtesy as often as possible. Call it my midwestern upbringing; call it my compassion for my fellow human beings; I’m almost tempted to call it my minority privilege, in that I’m biologically gifted with the foresight that connects me with and causes me to pause in authentic reception and service to my fellow marginalized man. This process has been incredibly rich for me. I now, thanks to LIU, know so much more about the way things work here on Earth. However, another equally invested part of me is disappointed in myself because I feel I’m anguishing over this far more than my peers. I love them and have been built by them as well, but I assume they’re knocking this project out, while I’m sitting here fumbling through my bookshelf finding resources to highlight my authentic journey through this process. But, at the end of the day, none of that even matters – we’re all leaving here with the same shit attached to our names…
The passing of Elder Maya Angelou was heartbreaking for me. She spoke with so much poise and wisdom. Luckily, her fossilized words will continue to highlight for people the true strength we wield as a humanity. One of the more popular quotes people shared from Elder Angelou after her transition was “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but will never forget how you made them feel.”
When I think about my own Empathy practice, I envision it embodies Angelou’s words. My students, like my young brothers and sisters in this world, are my responsibility to protect in the broad sense of the word. Fundamentally and minimalistically, I require my students to enter my classroom space in a place where they contribute to the safety and patrol of our close knit community. In other words, Paladin’s classrooms at the bare minimum require students to 1) respect their fellow brothers and sisters in the class, and 2) restrain from creating environments that threaten or tarnish the safety of that space. I believe it is a privilege for students to have me as their classroom leader in this regard, and don’t hesitate to communicate that to them. The rest, such as effective instructional and behavior management techniques are mine to push.
However, boxing out peer-to-peer/adult-to-peer negativity to help my students feel comfortable is only a small part of my empathetic role as an instructional leader. My main role, is to make my students feel/see their intelligence. I’m effective [edit: I’m developing] at this, but am eager to still drastically grow in this regard. I try to push my students to truly learn themselves. I do this by pushing them, as family does, to not settle for what they know or have been told; to reach. To reach deeper behind the veil to find even more of themselves than they knew existed. My ultimate role as a classroom leader is to plant the seeds of trust, security, belief, and esteem deep within my babies. It’s not that important to me that the seeds germinate in my presence. I’m more interested in my students realizing later, when confronted with adulthood, that they know who they are, and are able to stand firm in that foundation rooted in the seeds of empowerment and freedom planted so long ago.
My mentees, as I see them, will be amazing leaders in the future. I see it in their eyes every time I challenge them to push their leadership to the front. These kings and queens are nowhere close to being perfect, but hopefully in me they see a model of love, nurturing, and support that worked to push them toward their successes so long ago in life.
Initially, this post was far more angry. It still may take a sharp left down Embittered Ave. But, I know the most immediate thoughts would be, what is this Black boy talking about? He must have graduated from troubled and finally reached his full Black-brute state. Thanks to some self reflection, I’ve come to better understand that I do in fact have the right to be upset and downright irate and here’s why:
I’m angry because I’ve realized that all of us, like fools, have continued to participate in systems that ensure our oppression. And when I say our oppression, I mean the oppression of everyone who believes they act out of free will in this country. Most importantly, we people of color, minorities, and people labeled as having an ability difference – we are marginalized sectors of the population. Additionally, and maybe more invisibly, each member of institutional employment participates as well. [Teachers, Police officers, etc…]
Allow me for a second, to give an unauthorized history lesson. I don’t quite remember where our education began as teaching fellows, somewhere along the lines of the 1800’s up through the creation and implementation of IDEA and other forms of the law. This was all somewhat helpful in becoming a empathetic Special Education practitioner. However, let’s also think of perspective and the history of humanity in general. Education practice and law has been around for centuries, long before America had even been thought of as a new world. Did not the Native Americans teach the first settlers how to tow the land to reap the best harvest from the soil they knew so intimately? Reaching back even further, must not someone have taught the Egyptians and their servants/slaves how to build pyramids aligned to track the cosmos? Education as a practice has been here since day one. How did the gift of fire or the dissemination of the plans for the wheel get to us now, if others had not sought to show their peers what they were doing? How much care, appreciation, and authenticity are we showing for this education process if we haphazardly choose to only recount the last few seconds of what has been a truly epic tale?
Take a second and contemplate this question – As an industry entrusted to educate the urban masses, where are we headed? What is our/your end goal? Most probably don’t have a clear answer to these very basic questions. Do you? Who is setting our educational agendas from pre-school to the Ph.D? And what are their motives in the standards they choose to push? Do we know? Do we care? Perhaps that is all part of the design.
“The leadership of the Negro of to-day must be able to locate the race, and not only for to-day but for all times. It is in the desire to locate the Negro in a position of prosperity and happiness in the future that the Universal Negro Improvement Association is making this great fight for the race’s emancipation everywhere and the founding of a great African government…” (Garvey, 1967, p. 49)
The above map (Abagond, 2014), highlights an estimation of the major civilizations as of 2014. I would draw attention the sections highlighting the African, Latin American, and Western civilizations as those three regions represent the bulk of the stakeholders in my school setting. Garvey states it clear and he states it well. Let us take stock of what is going on, not just with the negro people, but with humanity in general. Once we know where we are, we can plot an effective plan for our futures. One detrimental fact of our scholarship at LIU is that it never, successfully, approaches the true role of state-funded education (preschool through the PhD.) or our roles as facilitators to these various levels of education and training. Our industry, public education, and ourselves as educators play the most critical role in creating a future society in our own image. We, almost solely are responsible for showing our youth pieces of a culture deemed acceptable to perpetuate and habits that are not. This social programming, aka education, is helpful because it develops us from reactionary persons to a more proactive, thoughtful people. We think about what we do before we do it. We plan. We wish for certain outcomes and work to make them happen.
Something I’ve stumbled upon through my scatter plot research this year was the recognition that the era of civilization(s) didn’t stop with the fall of the Roman, Greek, and Egyptian empires. One would imagine that this would be open and useable knowledge to draw upon as we develop the people of our future. Yet somehow, even in what we care to call this advanced state of civilization, we still struggle to identify and codify what it means to be a living, breathing, modern day humanity. Struggling to come to grips with that explains, partially, why we as Americans don’t often talk about the leading civilizations of our time, and how precariously and maniacally we retain our seat at the top, for the moment.
Perhaps it’s because the powers that be are scared that if people understood the world from its global perspective, they would wake up and begin making the small independent changes that would lead to revolution and dare I say it – spontaneity.
What is empathy?
The surface answer would be attempting to understand the emotions, feelings, and situations of someone that is experiencing a dimension of life that I, myself, am not experiencing. Empathy is not simplistic in its practice. Considering the cultural fabric we’re all crafted from, I claim that most people, in fact, do not empathize with their students. Especially if those students are of color and lack the radiant entitlements ascertained by those in privileged groups in the American/Western caste system.
“Anthropology is the study of the colored peoples of the world. They don’t study anybody else. Social Studies itself was founded and funded by the Mellons and the Carnegies, and those people who were interested in the deviates who were not like them. It got its first money from those people and they never studied themselves. Urban studies is the study of black people. And the approach vigorously held to in these studies – Blacks as wards of the state, never as its pioneers. It does take two to hold a chain – the chained and the chainer. And its takes two to make anthropology, the student and the studied. And although no group in the world has had more money spent on it, to have it genetics examined, its fecundity stopped, its intelligence measured. Cross acculturation is consistently neglected. And I would like to know who are these people who know our sperm count, but they don’t know our names? That being the case. It is time, it is way past time for the study to examine the student, and to evaluate its own self. And the fruits should be immense value to us, to all of us.” (Morrison, 1975)
Thusly, sympathy as opposed to empathy, is often employed when dealing with individuals that society has deemed as worthless and forgettable. I regretfully claim that my peers sympathize with my students. My professors, sympathize with our students. Our teacher education programs, sympathize with our students. I, however, live, breathe, and bleed empathy for my students. Sympathy views people as weak, dependent on support, and as victims. Sympathy takes the power away from the individual affected, and puts it in the hands of the privileged assessor. Empathy, recognizes value in all experiences, places equal value in all points of view, and actively makes space so those experiences can sit side-by-side in an effort to build a new product from their interaction. Empathy seeks justice. Empathy is sleepless when it senses perpetrators on the loose raping the world of its most glorious future.
>>>>One can not be empathetic to an urban school population if one is not willing to proactively verse themselves in that culture by seeking authentic learning opportunities and progressive solutions to alleviate the symptoms of a plagued urban education industry.<<<< [re-read] My peers, my elders, my neighbors, for the most part know naught of African/African-American culture and history. Why does this matter? To feign care for me, yet ignore and actively disconnect me from my parents and my lineage is malpractice. Marginalized communities have long fought to be recognized as valuable contributions to society. Unfortunately, our (their) self-hood is continuously cast aside as nonessential specks to the racist White-savior slant time and time again. As Elder Angelou teaches, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” (Angelou, “OPRAH’S LIFECLASS: When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them”, 2014)>>>> I therefore have been forced to deduce that you, my esteemed professor(s), have no interest in supporting the development of individuals that represent the Afrikan, Latin, and Disabled-American diaspora.<<<< [re-read]For if you did, surely you would work more diligently to shine light on the African, African American, Latino American, and Disabled American contributions and points of view in educational and sociological research.
To begin with, our prospective teachers are exposed to descriptions of failure rather than models of success. We expose student teachers to an education that relies upon name calling and labeling (“disadvantaged,” “at-risk,” “learning disabled,” “the underclass,” [“urban,”]) to explain its failures, and calls upon research study after research study to inform teachers that school achievement is intimately and inevitably linked with socioeconomic status. Teacher candidates are told that “culturally different” children are mismatched to the school setting and therefore cannot be expected to achieve as well as white, middle-class children. They are told that children of poverty are developmentally slower than other children… In other words, we teach rationales for failure, not visions of success. (Delpit, 2006, p. 178)
One of the first things I remember hearing as I entered the fellowship program was “Teaching is a very difficult job, and you shouldn’t expect to change the world.” To be fair, said person was just trying to frame our feeble idealism within the boxed-in a context commonly referred to as “realism”.
The strong idealistic force within allowed me to shake the bulk of this declaration off, as evidenced in my work ethic. >>>>However, as we can deduce, teachers of urban/disabled students, from day one, are never expected, or rather pushed, to make lasting/large scale impact on their communities!<<<< [re-read] How then, is one (teachers/teacher education program leadership) empathetic to the urban community if they implicitly condone the continued failure of the community in their watch?
The Danger of Realism and How it Codes Marginalized Despair –
The long reaching power of a community built on the pillars of empathy and support can be seen in my own peer group. As a Chicago native, born and raised, I had the pleasure to attend Crete-Monee High School with 2015 Chicago Mayoral hopeful Dr. Amara Enyia. Having graduated high school in 2003, it’s sobering to see Dr. Enyia now, roll out her powerful and confident Mayoral campaign. Especially considering she graduated high school a mere two years ahead of me in 2001. The cavalier holds a Ph.D. in Education Policy, and a Law degree from the esteemed University of Illinois. On the campaign trail, Enyia was asked how she could realistically win against a politically popular nuisance such as the current Mayor, Rahm Emanuel. Dr. Enyia’s answer sheds light on her spirit and her own Opportunity Paradox I spoke to in my Knowledge Domain:
“[Lyderson] – Realistically, do you think you have any chance to win the mayoral race?
[Dr. Enyia] – No one in history who has changed things did it by being realistic. My dad always said revolutions never come from people in the status quo; they come from those on the outside. You can’t be “realistic” when it comes to these things that are truly transforming. There’s a certain “delusional” quality that you have to have, because you see something that other people don’t see. For me, being realistic is being mediocre. It’s telling the guy on the street in Lawndale that this is it—this is as good as it’s going to get. I’ve seen otherwise. By running for office I want to reveal to him what I see, with the hope that he sees it too.” (Lyderson, 2014)
Speaking of Chicago, the violence there holds an immaculately grim mirror to our faces as we work to decode for ourselves how to create and innovate (see maintain status quo) every aspect of the institution of education from the teacher education programs to the scholarly work used to inform our practice. Thinking of the atrocities taking place everyday in my homeland, no one in their right mind can justify how or why a city of officials charged with protecting their public has continuously allowed vagrant violence to overtake the terrain. However, the media and propaganda machines work not-stop to ensure that the blame for the chaotic city is placed on one public, and one public alone.
Unfortunately, though, I’ve learned to redefine what constitutes an American tragedy. American tragedies occur where middle America frequents every day: airplanes, business offices, marathons. Where there persists a tangible fear that this could happen to any of us. And rightfully so. Deaths and mayhem anywhere are tragic. That should always be the case. The story here is where American tragedies don’t occur. American tragedies don’t occur on the southside of Chicago or the New Orleans 9th Ward. They don’t occur where inner city high school kids shoot into school buses or someone shoots at a 10-year old’s birthday party in New Orleans. Or Gary, Indiana. Or Compton. Or Newport News. These are where the forgotten tragedies happen and the cities are left to persevere on their own. (Dennis, 2013)
Are we to believe that the violence occurring in Chicago is innate to individuals in which it is consistently occurring? In being realistic, do we shrug our shoulders and hope they see the light on their own? Are we to believe that the current abysmal education curriculum, statistics, and theories utilized by education “professionals,” from Pre-K to Ivory Tower, are all we have to offer?
Would we, the educators entrusted to bring equality to this land, stoop to codifying urban and disabled student failure as merely the way life works? Somehow, we see that the urban classroom, its teachers, and their urban teacher education programs have distanced themselves from ensuring the proper and effectual fertilization for all of our young marginalized citizens. To be an urban educator, and to only care about your students from 8am-3pm is the microaggressive posture that prepares our students to be overlooked, and further castigated, in this American culture. To keep status quo infuriates the empathetic citizen.
As a tactful and fully capable core, we must show true empathy for our students young and old. To do this, we must start by revamping how we educate the future teaching force about the long and compelling history of the marginalized people that represent our student communities. A truly empathetic and knowledged professional would find a way to make innovation happen as they seek to continue to create the history that makes our country and our lived experiences so rich.
It’s time for America, the country where every dream is possible, and where everyone is born into this world an equal, to show us who they are, and this time we can feel at peace in believing in them.
I get scared, overwhelmed, shaken, and defeated when I think about how far we have to go. There’s just so much that hasn’t been accounted for. It’s devastating to understand the complexity of life, but I just can’t pull myself away from what I know I can do to make a change. My most esteemed elder, Malcolm X, eloquently describes how I felt/feel upon discovering the educational injustice smothering my people out of future existence.
“…if there is a rattle snake in the field who has been biting your brothers and your sisters, and you go and tell them that that’s a rattle snake and all of the harm that has ever come to them has come to them from that particular source. Well then that rattler will think that the warner is teaching hate. He’ll go back and tell the other snakes this man is teaching hate, this man is teaching hate. But its not hate, it’s just that when you study people who have been harmed and discover the source of their injury, the source of all of their defects, and you begin to point out that source. its not that you hate the source, but your love for your people is so intense, so great, that you must let them know what is wrong with them. What is the cause of their ills. This is one of the basic factors. I believe involved when people think or when the propaganda is put out that Mr. Mohammed teaches hate. He teaches black people to love each other, and our love for each other is so strong we don’t have any room left in our heart.” (The Hate That Hate Produced, 1959)
Angelou, M. (Performer). (1997). OPRAH’S LIFECLASS: When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them USA: Harpo Studios.
Morrison, T., St. John, P., Callahan, J., Callahan, J., Baker, L. (1975, May 30). A Humanistic View. Black Studies Center public dialogue. Pt. 2. Lecture conducted from Portland State University, Portland, OR. Retrieved from https://soundcloud.com/portlandstatelibrary/ portlandstateblackstudies1
The Hate That Hate Produced. Perf. Malcolm X, Mike Wallace, Louis Farrakhan, Louis Lomaxis L omas and Elijah Muhammad. PBS, 1959. Television Documentary.
Ok, so my goal is to actually get this post out. I’ve tried to write this two times before this and I just ended up trailing off in a blur.
Life is so different for me now than it was for two full years ago. You see, I’ve realized that the time I spent in Boston is a memory now for me. For so long Boston was my life, it’s finally dawned on me that I’ve been in NYC long enough to have created new memories. And in order to do so I often pull back to my time and experiences in Boston. The Bean really was a starter city to prep me for East coast living. Now, being a near two year resident. I can even begin to pull on early experiences living in the city to help push me through to bigger and better with my future. I know that sounds weird – but I want to create history. I’ll say it, even though I feel like its one of those things they don’t like to hear black people say. Of course, my boy Kanye agrees.
We read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass in my Sophomore English class this cycle. I love reading about Black/African history. It enriches my soul. Imagine that we’re all sitting around making our own history, stories that people will read and learn from and engage with and write about…etc… LoL. I mean, I definitely want this blog to be a part of that history. Y’all can think I’m crazy. I don’t even care anymore. #Kanyeshrug
I read it (The Narrative) for a second time this summer during my reading marathon. That was really dope by the way, and I can’t wait to do it again this summer. One of the books I’m really excited to get into is Introduction to African Civilizations by John G. Jackson. I got to steal some time and read the first two chapters a few weeks ago during winter break. I was a HUGE Discovery/History Channel/Documentary person growing up. I’ve heard stories about the evolution of humans, but conveniently I’ve never heard much about how this evolution took place on the African Continent. The early chapters of the book discuss this evolution and actually use really engaging language that is easy to understand and follow. In a nutshell it talked about how pre-humans evolved into barbaric humans. Then how barbaric humans turned into civilized humans living in ever growing groups that turned into actual civilizations. It also talks about how humankind went from being a matriarchal society to patriarchal society.
Speaking of making history…. I mean making historically wise decisions for myself. I’m facing a tough situation at work – again (see Schoolhouse Blues). Long story short I feel like admin has taken aim on me over some bullshit. She wasn’t happy with my peroformance, and as a result gave me some very low marks on my evaluation. The difference between this time and last time is I was actually prepared to talk about it and call her evidence into question. Our last few meetings have looked like this –
I feel like I’ve stepped into a battlefield over the past two weeks, and most folks are recklessly aiming somewhere in my vicinity. Work is a mess man. Classes are ending, Classes are starting, teams are changing to frame a bit of it. The amazing difference is that I actually know my value now and have been far less hesitant giving my opinion on why things that affect my work are the way they are.
I made a conscious effort to wake up and have an amazing and jam-packed Friday. And I was pretty successful. Outside of all of the other trimester ending activities listed about, I had an early morning IEP meeting that almost didn’t happen do to scheduling and communication challenges. IEP’s were one of the most daunting things to figure out 2 years ago. The paperwork behind the scenes is still a nightmare – and to be honest one of the few areas where the powers that be try to act as though I’m incompetent. None the less, the meeting went very well and was probably one of my strongest to date. I made a quick smartboard presentation that helped the fluency of the meeting. I may try to upload the pres once I wipe all the personal information.
Most importantly… and the only thing I’ve really been trying to share over the past few weeks is that I’ve FINALLY made my first curriculum. My post graduate prep course has finally finished its first iteration. I remember back in Boston there used to be all this talk about making a curriculum or finding curriculums that spoke specifically to the students were dealing with back then. Talk about being lost! I’ve finally made my first real curriculum and it feels great. The curriculum as is is far from perfect and there’s plenty of room for growth. But having the skeleton feels amazing! Some of the things I’m looking forward to incorporating this time around is more creative writing, more critical thinking, more activities, more take home resources, more technology skill development, and… better resources in general. If you know any 😉 def send them my way.
I cant think of much more to say. And of course, this was sooo much better in my head. But oh well. Just like the gym sometimes you just gotta get in there to get the kinks out so that next time things turn out even better.
Tucked away in the SkoolHaze back alleys are about 15 drafted reviews for the books I read this summer. I was on a reading binge from July to September. Initially it started as a #Read40ADay challenge. I was doing pretty well, reading on average about 70 pages a day until maybe… early August. My mind and eyes got tired and…. the world started to slow down. I was still able to get through quite a few books, many of which expanded my thinking and gave my brain great distress. For example, Paul Robeson’s Here I Stand and W.E.B. DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folks were extremely tedious and difficult to get through. Not only did I have to translate their formal language into something I could comprehend, but I also had to try to put myself in their time. The Souls of Black Folks was written in the early 1900’s and I felt the need to put myself in Dubois’ world in order to truly understand his story. This is sort of how Lisa Delpit’s Other People’s Children felt when I tried to read it before having taught a day in school. I picked it back up right after finishing my first year and it felt like Ms. Delpit was speaking to my soul. Other books like Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow forced me to analyze every word of every sentence that described the evolution of our criminal justice system. It became a sad soap opera that I couldn’t put down, and recommend everyone read.
Thankfully I’ve used a lot of what I consumed in my teaching practice and grad school papers. One day I may actually finalize the reviews and post them for your all. Until then check the list out below.
What are you readin?
Recommended Books – I highly recommend these books. These are all titles that I ended up creating my own table of contents as I knew I would be returning back to the book years later for sources and tips.
The Mis-Education of the Negro– Foundational Text for anyone educating black children or people. If you haven’t read this book and you teach African American students you should really take a second to see what Elder Woodson has to say. Its probably the most profound things I’ve heard about education theory for Black students, and it was written over a century ago.
The New Jim Crow– Great read for anyone who’s work or life is impacted by the criminal justice system. Compelling argument that highlights how the criminal justice system for over 200 years has worked to create poverty and a caste system in minority communities.
Trying to Get There– Great story about fighting for your own success in a market that isn’t used to your culture. I just loved being able to get a piece of Roderick’s story. And have actually taken to wearing bowties at work because of him.
Eleven Rings – The master coach. I admit the sexy cover sold me! Phil replays his youth as a basketball player and how it helped turn him into one of the most successful coaches in history. It was great seeing him make teams from players of individuals. I’m still hopeful I can use some of his tribe influenced techniques in my classes.
Other People’s Children– Amazing read that puts cultural communication differences into perspective. I would say read this if you have at least taught 1 year in a school setting. It made so much more sense once I was able to recall my own work-related situations where communication just simply wasn’t the same between my students and coworkers.
A Handbook for Teachers– Fan of Baruti Kafele’s work. He actually came and spoke at one of the conferences my old job put together. Motivational book that gives the reader so implementable tips for working with Black students.
Good Reads – Outside of The Narrative, these books are all a bit more specialized. I recommend them if you’re looking for specific tips and strategies in the areas listed.
Teaching Reading to Black Adolescent Males – Great book that highlights some strategies on working with Black male readers. As a Sped teacher its been a bit more difficult to implement these in an ICT setting. But I do feel like this book gave me a better perspective to assess my student’s literacy skills.
The Black Man’s Guide to Graduates School – I read this after I had already finished my 1st year of Grad School. Shout out to co-author Corey Guyton who got his Ph. D. from my alma mater Indiana State University. Great read if you’re thinking about going to grad school but not sure where to start. Book offers multiple perspectives from 6 different guys who all had different journeys to meet their success.
Narrative of Frederick Douglas – I read this in high school, but didn’t quite remember it. Great perspective builder for anyone who needs a refresher of Black/American history – how far we’ve come – and how far we still need to go.
Motivating Black Males to Achieve – Another book from Baruti Kafele. I’m in the middle of reading this now. I love that he approaches this work form a surplus perspective. It shows in his writing and its refreshing reading about Black youth from that perspective.
Unlabel – Motivation Maker. I’ve been reading this book for a while. It talks about Mark Ecko’s rise to fame with Ecko clothing, Complex Magazine and all his other business ventures. I love this book because every time I read it I end up putting it down to go work on SkoolHaze. Definitely worth the money.
Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys – Perhaps one of Dr. Juwanza Kunjufu’s founding works. Dr. Kunjufu is a voice for the Black Male scholar to speak about his own condition in society. The book was written in the 80’s and reflects some of popular black opinion from that time. But overall a great read for anyone wanting a deeper look at issues that may be affecting Black male success.
General Collection – These books didn’t give me groundbreaking new information, but they were interesting reads.
DreamKeepers– So, at one point we were asked to read a book that I didn’t agree with in our grad classes. The title of the book related to scare tactics that I just couldn’t stand behind in class. I went to the professor and she offered to incorporate an additional text for me and others. This is that text. I like DreamKeepers it kind of touches on the teaching and communication differences between White teachers and teachers of color.
Coming of Age: Rites of Passage – I would recommend this for people who have been through a Rites of Passage program themselves. The book gave me a language to use in describing and thinking about the pro’s and con’s of the process. I don’t know if it will be helpful to anyone without an intimate knowledge already though.
To Be Popular or Smart – Easy read. To be honest I can’t remember much from the book.
Motivating and Preparing Black Youth – Easy read. To be honest I can’t remember much from the book.
Teaching Matters – Great book written by two education scholars from my alma mater Indiana State University. They talked about how educators owe it to their profession to be and bring passion to their work.
The Warrior Method – This is a book I just started. It gives basic information about raising strong Black boys. The title is what caught me the most. But I haven’t read enough of the book to really speak about it.
The Alchemist – A book I’ve always wanted to read about reaching your personal legend, and creating doors where there were no doors before.
Angry Little Men – Oddly enough I didn’t have a problem with this title even though its similarly framed from a deficit standpoint. I don’t remember much about this book, but in the margins I wrote “This book answers how African American children (boys) can have a high academic self-concept even if they don’t perform well academically.”
Empire State of Mind – Anecdotal review of Jay’Z’s rise to fame and stardom. The authors interviews people close to Jay-Z and uses old newspaper articles to piece the story together. I wouldn’t recommend this book if you’re looking for more first hand information on Jay-z.
Juggling Elephants – One of the first books I read two or 3 years ago that began my library. It was the beginning of me figuring out how to effectively use my time to get what I want.
Fraternity – I’ve been eyeing this book forever. It’s the story of the group of Black men that were recruited to attend Holy Cross University on scholarship. The class was part of an integration push by the school officials. Some members of the cohort include Clarence Thomas, Theodore Wells a successful defense attorney, and Edward P. Jones a Pulitzer Prize winner. I started reading this book, but haven’t been pulled in by the story yet so I put it down. I plan to return one day.
Prince Among Slaves – Last but not least a book about a former African Prince sold into slavery here in the states. I loved learning about Ibrahima’s story. I haven’t finished the book yet but its historical facts mixed with anecdote.
Even in my own head my most recent post(s) come off as a misrepresentation of what I’m really experiencing this year as a 2nd year teacher and graduate student. By no means have things been easy and just fallen into place properly. If anything I’ve felt as though I have to deal with a lot more chaos than I did at the beginning of last year. However, I’ve been managing it with more laughter and matter of factness, at least in my own head.
This year, I’m working with a lot more freshman students, which is great because its helping me build relationships with the new members of the student body. The freshman class is more independent than previous classes we’ve brought into the school. They seem to be able to work better on their own, and to date haven’t given much pushback when we give them homework or require them to step up to the plate with their work. This has been surprising, but also pretty frustrating when trying to figure out how to bring the same sense of responsibility to our sophomore and junior classes at the school. I’m not quite sure what we can do to bridge the gap for them, but, that will be part of my job next marking period as I work with some of our junior students in the new Post Graduate Prep Elective.
This year’s freshman have been a great social experiment for me. I’ve really been able to push myself and them beyond what I thought I was able to do last year, and with a lot more natural appeal. Had you asked me last year if I was myself in the classroom or some character I presented, I would have answered that I was definitely my genuine self. However, the freshman this year seem to have brought a more relaxed and authentic version of myself into the classrooms as a teacher and my graduate classes as a student. They’ve also helped me realize that no single experience in the classroom starts and ends in that classroom. We live in a world that is constantly pulling and growing on things that have happened previously in all of our lives.
Some of the challenging situations I’ve had to maneuver this year have oddly enough all come from the same classroom. In one class of approximately 20 students on the roster my co-teacher and I have –
A) a student who functionally can’t read (well)
B) a student who for lack of a better term has extreme mood swings within one period
C) a student that has the energy and attitude of a tazmanian devil
D) a student that just so happens to be the son of my barber – which has made subsequent management very difficult do to the inherent conflict of interest.
Dealing with these students in the same classroom has been… interesting. Interesting by the way is my new buzzword for, a fucking mess. I will say though that although these students have kept me on my toes I do feel a genuine love and responsibility to look out for their security, growth, and comfort inside and outside of my classrooms.
A few weeks ago, students B and C, who by themselves have the power to completely derail a productive classroom environment came into class and performed the Dragon Ball Z Fusion Dance. For those of you that don’t know it’s a dance performed by particular characters in the popular anime series that allows them to combine forces, strength, and minds to fight stronger enemies. So far this is probably the single most hilarious memory I’ve had as a teacher. I’ve included a quick video showing the fusion process below, and yes the students literally did this in the middle of class, in unison, together. I died a little inside from shear amazement that they even knew of the fusion dance, and second that they were essentially saying in code that they were combining to wreck havoc together.
Ironically, I actually think both students were able to focus and get a decent amount of work done this day. However, I was taken aback by their seemingly freudian slip. I think subconsciously their act was an admission that they both understood that they had the power to derail the class if they chose to. The whole class period I moved in a semi-state of shock, like what the hell have we gotten ourselves into.
Of course, fate decided that I would be in charge of both student’s IEP meetings. Both meetings brought surprises and challenges never experienced before. One student’s IEP is still yet to be drafted… yet another thing I have to complete this weekend… supposedly. One thing I love about my position as a teacher is being able to connect with my students on a simpler level than their educator. In both meetings with the students, I mentioned the fusion process that I saw in class, and how I was shocked that they even knew what that was. It served as a door opener to students who can be particularly difficult to connect with when not in the mood. Even weeks later I still can’t quite get over having two Super Saiyan students who understand their power to support and disrupt a classes progress singularly and even more-so together.
To tie this back to my initial statement, clearly these students both saw the fusion process years ago at home, and brought the idea into the classroom to really just have a good time and share laughs together. I know I haven’t watched Dragon Ball Z in probably over 5 years, and its been a lot longer since I heard of fusion. In the end, I let both students know that their fusion was hilarious, and I respect them for comedically bringing it into the class. I actually think the three of us are the only ones who caught it in the moment and haven’t forgotten it. However, I’ve already put my co-teacher on game, and let the students know that any further fusion activities will be met with equal force from my co-teacher and I.
We laughed… and to this day they have continued to be lovely difficult students to manage in the class.
It seems like its been forever since I’ve even thought I’ve had the time to write something for the site. This school year has been crazy, and yet somehow I’ve managed to be a lot more calm and get more sleep than I did last year. Off the top of my head I’ve managed 5 to 6 hours of sleep a night, which is 2 to 3 hours more than I got on average last year. Instead of stressing and staying up into the wee hours in the morning prepping lessons, thinking about IEP’s, and going over grad school work. I’ve been getting sleep first, and then fitting in time for all that other stuff second.
I don’t want it to seem like I’m not stressed, or “on” as much as I was before. In reality I’m on more than last year. I think I’ve just realized how to manage my time better during the school day and afterwards. Funny enough I remember NYC Teaching Fellows staff and coaches mentioning last year that we needed to prioritize sleep. Back then I never imagined that would be possible. But, this year, it’s become an implicit priority of mine. It doesn’t matter how much I’m behind, or have things to do… when I’m tired, I go to bed. Its such a wonderful feeling.
The school year is just short of being 1/3 of the way done – and I would say that I’ve definitely kept my cool under all of the pressures that have been coming my way. I’ve been taking situations as they happen, as opposed to allowing the randomness of the education system frustrate and confuse me into a panic. My mind is still working overtime, but I would say it’s actually been shutting down a bit too early for my taste. Over the past 2 months I’ve struggled with creating my vision for my teaching and work in education. Last year, as a new teacher I was able to focus on the teacher I wanted to become. Whereas this year I’ve just been acting, with far less thought put into my actions. I’m assuming its due to the fact that I’m not a rookie teacher anymore persay, so my mind is focusing on different and equally important matters.
This actually worries me a bit. Before I came to NYC I promised myself that I would continue to push each step of the way to ensure that I grew into the best possible educator that I could. But here at the beginning of my second year I don’t feel as challenged as I did last year. Things just seem too easy. Or better yet I just seem too instinctual right now. I already know I’m not really conveying the amount of work and thought that goes into each day as a teacher, and we can’t forget a grad student – which is part of why it’s been a awhile since I’ve posted. I mean I feel like I’m working more and trying to produce higher quality everything, both as a teacher and a student. But just like Vegeta up top, the challenges I’m faced with have come and gone and haven’t phased me as much as I feel they should. Maybe its backwards logic, but, it worries me. People may question why that’s an issue… Detectable stress and challenges are what I feel I need to measure my growth by.
As a result, I’ve decided to upload a recent assignment to help shine some light on why the relative ease at which I’m working has me uneasy with my place right now.
This is another article I stumbled across this week. It was inspiring seeing Dr. Dre and his business partner create an opportunity to inspire people out of nowhere. I don’t have $70 million, but I do think I should be just as creative when it comes to thinking of new ways to connect with people and empower them with knowledge and stimulate them into action. I showed this article to my students and had them try to create community programs they would like to invest money into. The assignment went over most of their heads, but a few did give thoughtful responses about community programs they would like to see come to life.
I’ve heard varying reports about how much money Dre donated to the endowment, anywhere from $1 million – $35 million have been suggested. Never-the-less I like that he’s out there creating opportunity for others, and not just himself. I also like that this came out of left field in a way. Prior to this I wouldn’t have guessed Dre would be the type to give in such an academic way.
It’s been really interesting seeing how black celebrities and public figures have gone about their own service projects. I’ve been on a hunt lately for innovative and creative examples of cost effective and advantageous community projects. As my partner and I think about what our next steps our for Creative Dreamers its helpful reading articles like this to help me see where we need to steer ourselves. My only wish is that I could see what some of the behind the scenes meetings and brainstorm sessions looked like. I’ld love to see what it looks like while they’re out there getting the real work done behind closed doors. I know that right now Creative Dreamers Award isn’t going to completely change the landscape of Indiana State University, and its student body. However, its a start. Its going to be great trying to build up to a point where I am able to have a beneficial and impactful (made-up) and exceptionally positive effect on people and institutions like Dre.
I’ve attached a more detailed New York Times article about the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation below. A pdf version is also available for those of you on a mobile device.
LOS ANGELES — The record producer Jimmy Iovine and his business partner Dr. Dre have a keen eye for talent. After all, Mr. Iovine discovered Dr. Dre when he was just Andre Young, and between them, the two have jump-started the careers of stars ranging from Lady Gaga to 50 Cent to the Black Eyed Peas.
Now they think they can help create the next Steve Jobs.
The music moguls, who founded the wildly popular Beats headphone business, are giving $70 million to the University of Southern California to create a degree that blends business, marketing, product development, design and liberal arts. The gift is relatively modest, as donations to universities go. But the founders’ ambitions are lofty, as they explained in an interview Monday in the elaborate presidential dining room on the lush U.S.C. campus.
“If the next start-up that becomes Facebook happens to be one of our kids, that’s what we are looking for,” said Mr. Iovine, an energetic 60-year-old dressed in his trademark uniform of T-shirt and fitted jeans, faded baseball hat and blue-tinted eyeglasses.
Still, the world of academia is far from familiar to Mr. Iovine and Dr. Dre. Neither went to college. And during the interview, Mr. Iovine confessed more than once that he was “out of my depth” when it came to discussing details of the program. He referred those questions to Erica Muhl, dean of the university’s fine arts school, who will be the inaugural director of the program and in charge of devising the curriculum, selecting professors and reviewing applications.
Dr. Dre, 48, svelte and relaxed in black jeans and a black sweater that just barely concealed a faded forearm tattoo, has an easy rapport with Mr. Iovine, and was content to let him do most of the talking. The rapper nodded often, ate chocolate chip cookies with evident pleasure, and chimed in occasionally. When he did, he chose his words carefully.
As a rapper, Dr. Dre was lauded for his blend of agile West Coast lyrics and rich, blunt beats; asked if he ever expected as a young performer that he would help start a university program, he leaned forward and laughed long and hard.
“Never in a million years,” he said.
But he and Mr. Iovine are betting that their instinct and keen ears — which helped Mr. Iovine find and sign Dr. Dre who, in turn, ferreted out Snoop Dogg and Eminem when they were budding musicians — will help them find future chief executives.
It doesn’t matter whether it is the next Gwen Stefani, Mr. Iovine said, whom he signed at 19, or recruiting and nurturing the next Marissa Mayer.
“Talent is talent,” he said.
The details of the four-year program, officially the U.S.C. Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation, are still being completed. The first class of 25 students will enter in fall 2014, selected for their academic achievement, the university said, as well as their ability for “original thought.”
At the core of the curriculum is something called “the Garage,” which will require seniors to essentially set up a business prototype. It appears to be inspired by technology incubators like Y-Combinator and universities like Stanford that encourage students to develop and pitch start-up ideas as class assignments.
“I feel like this is the biggest, most exciting and probably the most important thing that I’ve done in my career,” Dr. Dre said.
Part of the endowment includes several full scholarships, he said, to help a financially disadvantaged students to “go on to do something that could potentially change the world.”
Still, the $70 million endowment, to which Mr. Iovine and Dr. Dre contributed equally, does not rank high among gifts to universities; for example, in 2012, Stanford raised over $1 billion from donors, $304.3 million of which was designated for research and programs.
U.S.C. has received larger gifts from other donors in recent years. But Rae Goldsmith, the vice president for resources of the Council of Advancement and Support of Education, which tracks donations above $100 million to colleges and universities, said that regardless of the size the donation was meaningful because it was rare for donors to establish new departments and courses of study.
“This kind of gift can be helpful in achieving one overall goal of the institution,” she said. “It’s certainly noteworthy.”
In the rarefied tech world, $70 million is a drop in the bucket. Last May, Evernote, a note-taking app, raised the same amount in a round of venture capital.
But C. L. Max Nikias, the university’s president, said the size of the gift would fully support the new program, and would leave a legacy that would “make a difference in society.”
The idea for the program came to Mr. Iovine and Dr. Dre not long after creating the Beats company, when they found themselves with a problem familiar to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs: the rapidly depleting reservoir of potential employees, including software engineers and marketing savants.
“It came out of us trying to find people to work for us,” Mr. Iovine said.
They hope that the program will supply not only future employees for Beats’ current business, but also for a new venture, a streaming music service, Beats Music, that is expected to make its debut later this year.
Mr. Iovine compared their thinking to the approach to a typical business problem of “how do we make the best product?”
“In this case,” he said, “the kids are the product.”
Mr. Iovine said that over the course of their partnership, he has run many other ideas by Dr. Dre.
“Usually Dre is like ennhhhhhh,” he said, mimicking the sound of a bleating buzzer used to signify halftime or a wrong answer during a game show. But when it came to this idea, Dr. Dre’s curiosity was piqued.
“The last time he reacted like that was Beats,” Mr. Iovine said.
The university has played an important role in both Mr. Iovine’s and Dr. Dre’s lives. Mr. Iovine’s daughter completed her undergraduate studies there; on Friday, he is delivering the class of 2013 commencement speech. Perhaps more important, the school is fewer than a dozen miles from where Dr. Dre grew up in Compton.
Mr. Iovine acknowledged that their plan was ambitious but said the pair were not afraid to take risks.
“We have no idea where this is going,” he said.
Dr. Dre said, “It’s definitely a steppingstone to something.” And Mr. Iovine jumped in, finishing the thought, “We’re not quite sure what it is.”