I Just Finished Reading

I just finished reading Dr. Christopher Emdin’s ‘For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Ya’ll Too.”

Full disclosure: As much of a culturally-aware and embracing educator as I am, I would not have known about this book had my new job not required I read it.

But am I happy I did (even if annotating it took WAY longer than a 208-page book should).

I’ll admit I have certain reservations about the title, his use of “white folks,” and some of his assertions; namely, the classifying certain practices Emdin assigns specifically to the “neoindiginous,” or black urban youth that are universal of youth. However, the text also validated many of my beliefs about educators and the education they must provide for our students, regardless of their backgrounds.

I intend to expound upon the above in a series of blogs – some based solely on education and Emdin’s thoughts; others based on basic human dignity inside and outside of the education realm. For now, though, I want to leave you with this quote/wisdom from Emdin in concluding For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Ya’ll Too“:

The effectiveness of the teacher can be traced directly back to what that teacher thinks of the student. If the teacher does not value the student, there is no motivation to take risks to engage with the student. It is easier and safer to remain in the traditional model – even though that model has failed the student.

Traditional is easy.

For you.

Now, think about the kids.

Which you should have been doing from the jump.

Throwback Thursday: The Value of Companionship

Originally posted on November 20, 2017, Throwback Thursday: The Value of Companionship analyzes this major theme from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men in relation to my relationship with my wife and friends.

While I don’t know much, I know this life’s not meant to be lived alone. And I’m sure I wouldn’t be in a position to start this new job without the guidance and support of those closest to me. 

John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men remains one of my favorite texts to teach, for in less than 110 pages it offers hundreds of pages of depth. Whether it be examining the historical context – Great Depression/Dust Bowl – or the plight of people of color – see Crooks – or even the ranch as its own independent society, the text offers months of interesting discussions and learning opportunities – months unfortunately no one has.

Alas, there’s never enough time to discuss good literature.

‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck via Amazon.com

Through Chapter 3, now, we have arrived at the venerable Slim and his inability to understand Lennie and George’s relationship. In Chapter 2, meanwhile, we witnessed the callous Carlson’s pushing to shoot Candy’s dog.

What’s the connection?

Companionship – its importance and the inability of many of the ranch workers to understand it. So, it got me thinking about companionship in my own life…

My wife, obviously my ultimate companion and partner in crime – my everything, my always, my forever – has made an honest man out of me in our almost a decade together (that’s a scary thought, in itself).

With her I’ve overcome personal tragedies, written books, learned how to detach myself from work, and discovered that I do not always have to have a solution to a problem – I just have to listen (take notes, guys).

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Throwback Thursday: We’re Getting Old

Originally posted on March 7, 2018, “We’re Getting Old” reveals my coming to terms with an unavoidable reality:

I’m a lot of things – an educator, a professional, a husband, an adult – but a kid is not one of them.

And I have no complaints about that.

Gone are the weekday hangovers where you’re hiding behind a computer screen or pulling a Costanza and sleeping under the desk, just counting down the seconds till the acceptable time to jet out of work hits. Or in my case, standing before my students with sunglasses on getting pegged with questions of anonymous origin like dodgeballs in the dark.

‘Old School’ photo via IMDB

Those were the days when I could shake off late nights and still have the energy and motivation to provide my students with the best English education one can offer. Not anymore. Now, I just wear sunglasses because my eyes have become overly sensitive to bright lights, which segues perfectly into the Fairfield Alumni event I attended last night. As I caught up with ’08, ’09, and ’10 grads, a theme of the night quickly revealed itself: WE’RE GETTING OLD.

I don’t know if it was that we were vigilantly monitoring our alcohol consumption despite today likely being a work-from-home day. Or maybe it was that we were talking about being or becoming homeowners, having kids, or even getting a dog. Maybe it was that we were there interacting as professionals, not because we wanted the open bar. And we actually discussed ways to improve the alumni’s connection with the University – I mean real discussion, not pithy, frivolous nonsense. People were thinking and engaging, not just throwing pleasantries at each other and uh-huhing the night away.

My, my how the times have changed.

In a good way.

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Summertime

“Summertime, and the livin’s easy.” Whether Ella Fitzgerald or Sublime is singing it, the words could not be truer this summer.

Since my wife and I moved June 14th, the summer has been a nonstop go-fest. Except this time around it’s not the wedding gauntlet we’re running. It’s actually something for us – for once.

Buying new furniture.

Unpacking boxes and boxes of our lives.

Receiving deliveries (and dealing with the various hip and trendy stores that apparently cannot properly track or deliver their goods).

Testing the limits of Amazon Prime’s free two-day shipping. Because who doesn’t need a new tv remote, a six pack of loofas, a 12-pack of potato chip clips, a sound bar – it goes on and on and on and on.

We even joined Costco to buy a yearly supply of beef jerky, trail mix, Boomchickapop, Spanakopita, chicken and cilantro wantons, and peanut butter – all of which will likely last us until the onset of Christ. Not listed in the membership benefits, but eminently present, is the opportunity to watch adults tussle over free samples of hotdogs and beans; I would’ve broken someone’s hip for that chicken salad with craisins sample, though.

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ICYMI: Words for My Seniors


Originally posted on June 8, 2018, “Words for My Seniors” is the uncut advice I offered the Class of 2018. An abridged version was featured in the back of Thornton-Donovan School’s yearbook. While I originally took the request as an imposition, I realized I had to leave any issues I had with the school at the door.

Why?

Because none of that has anything to do with the kids.

And the kids always deserve better.

So, enjoy!

Throwback Thursday: The Summer Read

Originally posted on August 15, 2017, “The Summer Read” explains why I read so many damn books last summer – partially for enjoyment and partially to research the competition for ‘Knowing When You’re Too Young to Grow Up‘, a whole lot of good that did. 

Anyway, this summer is a different kind of Summer Read, the I’m preparing for a new job summer read of going through some of the summer reading books and the curriculum texts , in addition to modifying and designing new units for the coming school year.

And I cannot wait!

In May my wife wondered aloud why I didn’t take the summer off to focus on my writing. According to her,  teaching full time and carrying a full consulting schedule left me thin to do the work necessary to find an agent.

As is usually the case, she was right.

And, boy, did I have a lot of work to do.

As thorough as I am in my professional life, for whatever reason I had been quite negligent in properly researching the market for my book, its competition, and the specific agents to whom I intended to pitch my book. Unprepared for the task at hand, the same offense for which I fault my students, I myself was.

We call that irony, kids.

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A Past and Present Farewell

T-D’s Graduation with a great kid – Photo courtesy of Judith Lipton

As I leave Thornton-Donovan School and start the next phase of my life, I just wanted to say thank you to Mr. Fleming, Annmarie, Steve Schlitten, and some members of the faculty for your guidance and support over the years. Most importantly, though, I want to thank my students and their families, past and present:

Thank you for being the quirky and talented individuals you are.

For questioning me and my practices.

For making me show you why it was important and why I was the best person to teach it to you.

Thank you for always challenging me to be the best teacher I could be.

Continue demanding – respectfully, of course – the best possible education for yourselves because you deserve it.

That, and your parents/guardians are paying for it.

Do not accept the advice of anyone who is not worth your trust. And do not simply think someone has your best interests in mind. It is up to you to take a stand and do what’s best for your futures.

Because they’re yours and no one else’s.

Do not be bystanders because bystanders have no say.

Lastly, I want you to know that I’m not leaving because of you. All you need to know and all that really matters is that I stayed because of you.

With a heavy heart, I say goodbye for now. However, always remember that I’m just an email away to say hi, to discuss literature or theory, to chat about life – not to have me do the work your English teacher should be doing.

All my gratitude, your teacher,

Andrew Chapin

 

Throwback Thursday: The Last Boy Scout

Throwback Thursday: The Last Boy Scout, originally posted on August 7, 2017, reflects fondly on my time in Boy Scouts. This piece also serves as the perfect segue into Father’s Day weekend. 

Why?

Besides all of the lessons I learned and the leadership qualities I gained and the growing up I had to do because of Boy Scouts, I now see how special those years were to me and my father together.

Because Boy Scouts was our thing. And that means something as schedules get busier and busier and time continues to dwindle. Make time for the memories and appreciate the moments. It all matters even if you don’t realize it at the time. You will eventually. 

Happy Father’s Day to all, in particular my Dad. Thanks for getting up early to drive me and other people’s kids upstate, for coming to basketball and baseball games and having to tolerate people who probably sucked, for putting up with the growing pains, and for showing me how to be not just a man, but more importantly a human. 

In elementary school, I remember friends nudging me to join Cub Scouts. They had weekly meetings, they made fires and played with knives and went camping and did community service. It seemed like the cool thing to do. Kids even wore their uniforms in school sometimes.

Addressing the crowd after receiving my Eagle award.

Then, in fifth grade, we moved up and became Boy Scouts. I remember crossing over that bridge and thinking I had made it to the promised land where all seemed to grow – the kids, their facial hair, the hikes, the knives, the adventures. And, of course, they all brought the nudey magazines, otherwise known as “bass masters,” to summer camp, so that was a plus too.

I was really on a high, strutting my stuff around these older guys that were talking about moves and sensations I could not even fathom at 11 years old. What this one did with this girl by the lake, what the other one did in the wagon, how this feels and that feels. It was a baptism by fire, a coming of age, the corrupting of youth, a rites of passage, a loss of innocence – whatever you want to call it – as I absorbed more dirty jokes about females, the LGBTQ community that wasn’t called it back then, and every culture, ethnicity, and religion you can think of. I was just happy that they let me hang around them and didn’t bully me. Because when you’re younger and they’re older, the greater the likelihood of that happening. Not that it’s right.

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