Hey team. I’m working on a new project. A book for student athletes. Which will…
Focus on their success!
Were you an athlete in college? -or- Do you know one?
I’m looking for 100 Former Collegiate Athletes to participate in a survey uncovering the powerful lessons we learned of the world as student-athletes. Feedback will go into a Student-Athlete Success Guide I’m currently drafting.
Could you support me with your feedback and 10 minutes of your time.
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.
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.
*Another facebook snatch, thank you to whoever I got this from*
Elijah’s classmates only wanted better for themselves and their families. What happened to paying it forward, and giving back?
There are no role models in their neighborhoods right now. All of the “successful” people leave the community and never return. They’re taught to leave the community.
When will be begin to combat the selfishnesses WE ALL have been taught and unconsciously display?
What is the common thread between Mother Theresa, Ghandi, and MLK Jr?
They all had an extreme love for people and fought for them even when they didn’t want their help.
Allow our students/mentees/family/friends to be angry, BUT direct their anger to the fact that someone taught them it was ok to behave like that (hurting other people). Direct their anger to the fact that someone taught them that its ok to think that it’s every man for themselves.
The people that put them (us) down, were put down. The people that hurt them (us), were hurt. When are we (you) going to take personal responsibility to change this?
I’ma change that! You need to too!
Teachers, instead of making sellouts, we need to realize that we’re the main people who can change the community, by building its leaders. Yes academically, but more-so spiritually, socially, and emotionally.
The world doesnt have to be every (wo)man for themselves. We can have everyone fighting together and set on one goal. That goal is to make our communities better for the people coming up after us.
Teachers job is of extreme importance. Are you sure you know and are pushing for the full scope?
It’s bigger than me, it’s not about me. But I can change that.
I believe in you
And don’t give up
Tags: Video, education, Teachers, Teach For America, Baltimore, Elijah Miles, Higher Education, Public Education, Teaching
Here is another paper I turned in for one of my graduate classes earlier this summer. Thoughts and comments are welcomed and encouraged below.
Dressed within the Cloak of Privilege
Throughout my life I’ve seen that it is uncommon for black men to receive their bachelors degree, hold self-sustaining employment, pursue a graduate degree, and understand their culture in a way that pushes them to give back in a focused and direct way to their community. Being a special education teacher for a high school with a 55% Black and 45% Latino student body, I see younger versions of myself each day. It’s empowering and devastating all in the same breathe. My students come to me older than the average high school freshman. Most enter my school as freshman at 16 years old, two years behind their age peers, many years behind academically, and are expected to earn their high school diploma at 20/21 years old. Approximately 50% of our students have Individual Education Plans (IEP’s). Most students I have come across present as learning disabled, emotionally disturbed, and many struggle to maintain regular attendance.
The student I chose to focus on for this project is the son of Jamaican immigrants, and moved to this country himself at a young age. I’ve taught Keanon each trimester this school year and have been frustrated, disheartened, amazed, inspired, and humbled by his ability to make a fortified stand in various situations. The once standoffish young man has come into his own and begun to play with knowledge and academics in front of my eyes. I see Keanon anywhere from 1-3 times each day throughout the week, so I benefit from getting to observe him frequently and often.
Growing up in the midwestern version of the Cosby house in Chicago’s south suburbs afforded me countless opportunities that my peers didn’t have. My father, is a retired Illinois State Police Officer, part-time community college professor, two-time small business owner, and nonprofit volunteer. I fondly remember watching my mother, a devoted Illinois Department of Children and Services social worker, sit glued to the dining room table into the wee hours of the morning where she completed schoolwork toward her two masters degrees in Social Work and Education. Being first generation college students completely shifted the trajectory of my parents’ lives, and resultantly the lives for my sister and I. Growing up I was told I was going to college. This expectation, so heavily ingrained in my adolescence, makes me feel unaccomplished even today. Earning my first graduate degree serves as the first major accolade I will have conceived and achieved on my own accord.
Understanding how class, sometimes known as privilege, can unfairly shift one’s trajectory of life is a common realization in the black community. It is apparent to the individuals that find successful ways to enter and flourish through class mobilization, the family members they leave behind, and most importantly both groups’ children, which is where I myself fall.
I’m from South Central, LA, a place that’s historically impoverished and pretty marginalized. I come from a low-income family, I’m a first-generation college student, and I’ve kind of seen how just by the fact that I left for school, in another neighborhood, I got access to all these other opportunities, and just sort of had had a different trajectory. And I’ve known that both, from on the ground level and becoming a researcher and understanding the policy level, sort of the higher level. That there’s sort of a system that’s in place that works against what it is that you would want everybody to be able to obtain, which is success. So, the way that I’ve kind of framed success for my own personal use is the ability to influence and impact that system from a lot of different vantage points. (Gordon, 2013)
The blazing contrast between my childhood, neighborhood, and education compared to those of my cousins is etched in my memory. Each time I went to visit family members we departed on an hour-long excursion out of the suburbs, past the large ominous rows of government housing (projects) as they cast down shadows on the expressway to my family members’ homes. That exit out of, and entrance into – always triggered my senses in a way that was foreign from my suburban haven.
I cannot guess what goes on in Keanon’s head. However, he is a proud Jamaican, first, and American second, if at all. He describes Jamaica as 3rd world, but pulls strength and energy from his heritage. It is a badge of honor for him; and it empowers him socially, which helps him push for achievement academically. Keanon, as many of my other students, doesn’t believe he can trust people. In fact most of my males felt as though they couldn’t trust people. Growing up, I never knew a world where I didn’t feel safe, largely because everynight I went to sleep with a police car parked infront of my house. The privilege of growing up in the middle class has in many ways blinded me to the strife and challenges the many black young men must overcome to succeed. This thought repeatedly plays in my mind as I create my teaching identity.
I am the product of gifted/honors/and AP program at my school. It was there that I was exposed to class disparities in education. Obvious to me then were inequalities in rigor, expectations, and the resulting productivity of general education classes as compared to more challenging courses. I was one of the few Black representatives from 4th grade, and watched subconsciously as each year fewer minorities filled the classes with me. One of my most memorable experiences occurred during my 9th and 10th grade years in high school. I decided, as a young adult, that I didn’t feel like doing math homework every night anymore – a staple in the honors math courses. My unrelenting rebellion caused me to fail Honors Algebra my freshman year, and half of my sophomore school year. The administration and my parents moved me to a general education algebra class. I was shocked at the culture of low expectations, rowdy behavior, and slow pace of the class. Here, I sat, having bought into my label as talented and bright and I still struggled to pass a general education course several times less rigorous and structured than my otherwise full load of advanced classes. I ended up going to summer school to earn my math credit through an insultingly elementary computer program.
Keanon like many of my students has low math computation skills. At 17, he again like many others, struggles with his basic times tables, mental math, number sense, and confidence with identifying and applying key pieces of information. My co-teacher and I try to keep an orderly classroom, but our more expressive students work their magic and ignite nonstop disturbances that must be managed and extinguished throughout instruction and independent practice. I can imagine this having a negative effect on Keanon and his peers. This trimester we have covered factoring, factoring and graphing, trigonometry, area, perimeter, and volume. Keanon is one of two students set to pass the course this cycle. However, deficiencies in his basic arithmetic are still present, and are being addressed in a separate computer math course that I also teach for Keanon.
As I develop my teacher identity I rejoiced at having built a connection with a student like Keanon. His strength, curiosity, steadfastness, and nobility emit from him each and everyday. Earning his acceptance has made me feel validated within my own self. He and I both respect what it took to grow our relationship to where it is. I am older, but I view Keanon as my partner and equal. In my mind we are currently in a space where we share knowledge and beliefs with one another. Keanon has begun sharing why his Rastafarian spirituality is so important to him. He allows me to respectfully receive his message, which in turn seems to make him even more comfortable being himself, and testing his own skin.
There must be a meeting of the minds if educators are to play an influential role in the development of their adolescent students. This meeting can occur around formal social interactions, depending on the goals for the “meeting.” They key is that the educators’ thinking be made as transparent as possible in order for students to access and connect with it or for them to contest and reject it in an informed manner. (Nakkula & Toshalis, 2010)
However, I can’t be blinded by Keanon’s social transformation in the school. His math skills still require serious development for him to enter this world fully suited to succeed. As a teacher it’s disheartening to know that throughout the school year we never created the opportunity to develop many of our student’s subpar foundational skills on top of their functional skills. Framing this positively, I feel empowered knowing I can use these growth areas to develop more specialized understanding of my craft including new and targeted instructional methods for next school year.
My parents made sure that I grew up with a strong foundation in humility and servitude. We understood that we experienced privilege. However, there are many people who do not, like my family members, many of my peers, and the foster children and families my mother often exposed us to. The fact that it is a rarity of African Americans to have consistent exposure to supportive educational, social, and class privileges such as these is mortifying to my soul. This serves as the primary motivation driving why I must always try to build others as long as I’m able. To many, this may seem disconnected, unrealistic, or too kumbaya as I like to describe. However, for me it is the foundation for why I am an educator, and the doubts serve to reinforce my fortitude for the craft. My life experiences have brought me to a place where I am knowledgeable, both theoretically and experientially, about privilege as a member of the minority group in observation. Through school and work experiences I can guess how those more closely positioned to the dominant class experience and are blinded by privilege. I know first hand how difficult it can be with and without a solid education for minorities that are expected to navigate their way, successfully, through institutions that fortify such privileges by luck, grit, and pulled up bootstraps. I try not to judge, but I do wonder how others, more heavily layered in privilege come to develop their own understanding of this issue, and whether it festers within their souls as it does mine.
Now, as an educator, a huge chunk of my identity is tied into my own experiences and benefits from privilege. I therefore see and weigh a lot more of my performance with my students based on the person I am to them and for them, on top of the role I play as their academic and social educator over the next few years. In many ways, as is evident with Keanon, I’ve learned that I have focused more so on my students’ social development, than their academic development. Keanon himself has shown that even with his natural gifts for leadership, compromise, and inquisition, he still needs the basic academic skills to navigate the modern world, successfully, and out of harms way. As with Keanon, my own identities often shift between student of education, professional educator, and that same little black boy that absorbed so much inherently from my surroundings in Chicago.
Currently, I feel like I must show all of my students and peers that I/we can accomplish anything we set our minds to. I frequently identify the links between them as high school students, and myself as a graduate student. I show them my frustration and unconditional love for them in the classroom. I let them know when they’re letting me down and vice versa. I show them what difficult assignments and work looks like for me, and discuss why its important that they persevere through their own complaints about scribing as little as a paragraph. I explain how my job and life intertwines with theirs’ and how the 10 years they view, as a separation in age is more of a proximity that should be explored and utilized to their advantage. I definitely use them to foster my own growth and knowledge development.
This summer, my challenge is to strengthen how I stimulate and support my students academically. Similar to Keanon, I enjoy the feeling of being roused into action. I enjoy the idea of constantly polishing myself into an even better teacher. This year I’ve seen Keanon go from being extremely closed-minded to being prophetic about the importance of school, teachers, and learning. I’ve tried to make the connection for my students that they are role models for their younger brothers, sisters, and cousins as I undoubtedly am trying to be for them.
My students are creating and experiencing foundational events that shape their adolescence and will guide their adulthood. I am no different, even at the current stage of my life as a young professional. As students and teachers, we are co-creating our identities. Interestingly, I view myself as the student, or rather, feel that even as a teacher, I have a need to be educated and nurtured by experienced veterans and mentors. I am a teacher, and I teach everyday as my profession, but my role in life is that of the student. Like Keanon, I am challenging assumptions and learning how to create an image of myself that most closely represents my idea of self.
In short, adolescents [and adults] are in a near constant state of constructing their lives. Far from assuming or growing into a particular stage of development or simply adapting to an environment that determines development possibilities for them, [people] are actively creating development itself. It is largely this process of creating [oneself] and the worlds [we] inhabit that we call the construction of [life]… Ultimately the meaning [you] make of [your] experiences is [yours], regardless of how it may match or conflict with ours… Given the magnitude of the consequences involved in self-construction, especially as [you] come to be realized in schools, the constructionist perspective is anything but academic or abstract. It is, rather the real-life heart and soul of [life] itself. (Nakkula & Toshalis, 2010)
– We often focus on our challenges, but have you taken a second to think about your privilege(s) and how they shape your view of the world?
– Privilege is just that… a privilege, something that not everyone is privy to. I’m not saying you should feel bad for the privileges you’ve attained or been born into. But, I do believe that it’s our duty to create a space for other people to benefit from the “access” our privileges have afforded us.
Be purposeful with your privilege(s), pay that shit forward!
This is something I saw on facebook and I wanted to share it with people. Don’t let the fact that many of these are national scholarship deter you from applying. You never know what you can get when you take the time to put a nice presentation together.
Please Share: AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDENTS ARE NOT APPLYING !
Even if you do not have a college-aged child at home, please share this with someone who does, pass this scholarship information on to anyone and everyone that comes to mind. Though there are a number of companies and organizations that have donated monies for scholarships use to African Americans, a great deal of the money is being returned because of a lack of interest.
No one is going to knock on our doors and ask if we can use a scholarship. Take the initiative to get your children involved. There is no need for money to be returned to donating companies because we fail to apply for it. Please pass this information on to family members, nieces, nephews, friends with children etc. We must get the word out that money is available. If you are a college student or getting ready to become one , you probably already know how useful additional money can be. Our youth really could use these scholarships. Thanks! (If clicking on the link doesn’t work, copy and paste the URL in your web browser.)Link back to the facebook post here – http://tinyurl.com/cpz55ug
Here is a tool I found explaining how to make a Google Survey. I’m personally more used to using SurveyMonkey. But my co-teacher suggested Google Survey. So I figured it would be cool to learn another online tool for my own personal toolbox.. Here is a quick little site I found that describes how to create a Google Survey.
I’m using the survey to get feedback from our technology class on the content, speed, and their time with teachers in our class. Check the screencap to get a peek at the questions I decided to use. I’ll see how the students do with this. Depending on the feedback we get I may try to incorporate these on a regular basis.