ICYMI: ‘For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood’, originally posted on August 3, examines author Dr. Christopher Emdin’s use of “white folks” in the title and text and how my initial indignation yielded reflection and understanding.
Originally posted on October 23, 2017, “The Excuse of All Excuses” bemoans the lack of accountability from students and their parents nowadays.
I’ve always said – and I’ll reiterate it here – that I have much more respect for the student who owns his/her behavior and choices; that’s the first step to understanding and improving.
If only all kids were given that chance.
I remember the days when a student misbehaved and you reprimanded him or her. Maybe you made a phone call home. You might’ve even made an example out of the student and kicked him or her out of class. Lessons were learned. Respect was commanded through action. Insubordination and disruption were quelled. And that was that.
Teachers pretty much can’t talk in a stern voice or give detention to a wayward kid. They’re not allowed to demand a student stay on task when working on a laptop or stop disrespecting a classmate they’re trying to talk over because I guess their point is that much more profound and important – trust me, it’s likely not.
That’s obviously a bit played up, but I recently heard an obtuse account of a parent’s complaint pretty much about me because nothing is ever direct from the source where I work. Anyway, what I gathered from it was that this woman felt her son was being bullied by his insensitive teachers.
So now we call being kicked out of class bullied.
Why was he excused exactly?
Oh, because he disrespected a classmate in the midst of an explanation by interrupting him and proceeding to talk until the other student stopped. When called out on this overtly rude behavior, the boy laughed.
That’s when another student looked at him and said, “You’re dead,” as I told him to get out in no uncertain terms. Forget about disrespecting me, which I neither accept nor take lightly, but there’s no place for that lack of concern for peers in a positive learning community.
Getting to see Shakespeare in the Park seems to be a goal every summer, and every summer passes without it happening.
Very excited to see the well-received rendition of Twelfth Night in Central Park tonight thanks to the generosity of two of my former students and their family.
Yes, there are some perks to being an English teacher.
For now, while there is a great production from the Globe on Youtube, I leave you with this clip for a cheap, quick laugh instead:
Now, I just have to make sure I don’t get lost taking the bus and a couple subways.
Update: I DID NOT take the bus or the subway – Ubered both ways – but what a colorful, representative, inclusive show that’s easily one of the best contemporary adaptations of Shakespeare I’ve seen.
Originally posted on March 19, 2018, “It Doesn’t Cost Anything To Be Kind” states something so simple in reaction to RJ Palacio’s ‘Wonder’, which I taught to my sixth grade this past year.
I remember writing this at my desk. It was raining, and I had just finished reading some Jesuit literature. I was about to write my first cover letter in eight years and apply to a Jesuit high school in the city that thankfully did not get back to me.
Anyway, I’d really gotten away from myself as the year progressed; I’d become so negative, even bitter – two adjectives that did not describe me. So, I reminded myself:
It doesn’t cost anything to be kind is a motto my father modeled for me in his dealings with people throughout my life.
That could be in my dealing with the FedEx worker who needed a light for his cigarette, and we ended up chatting about the degree he just earned and his exploring the possibility of changing careers and becoming a teacher.
Maybe it’s the cup of coffee and the two-hour conversation about my current struggles this year at my job I have with my 84-year-old neighbor whose husband recently passed away.
It could be in my chatting up the convenience store clerk who sells me smokes or in my interacting and making jokes with the gas station employees near my job. Or even just having a pleasant, affable tone with the waitress at the diner.
Kids or adults; rich or poor; black, white, Latino, or something else – does not matter what the distinction is – all humans deserve and require one element, and only one element, to connect with them; that is, dignity. All desire to be respected and valued, not diminished or marginalized.
It’s far too easy to take a condescending tone or put someone down just because you can. I saw enough of that from a select few snobs at Fairfield U. I see plenty of that in my current position with teachers ill-equipped – and, in some case, unqualified – to deal with the next-generation student. So, bridging the gap between groups begins with respect on both sides and an acknowledgment that discussing differences does not divide, but instead brings us closer together. For then we are understanding, not classifying or singling out.
Originally posted on January 29, 2018, “The Crux of Education” laments how many schools/school systems – whether private or public – want their students to be independent thinkers without giving them the chance to be.
The timing of this throwback could not be more appropriate as I just recently finished Dr. Christopher Emdin’s ‘For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood…and the Rest of Ya’ll Too.” See my initial comments on his text in “I Just Finished Reading,” comments on which I will expound in the coming weeks and blogs.
Here’s the crux of education: On one hand, teachers and schools want kids who think independently and formulate their own opinions. On the other hand, teachers and schools want students who are docile and pliable and follow orders without questions.
I’ve always strived to guide my students towards autonomous thinking, from the questions I ask them to the writing assignments we tackle to the organic discussions that take place.
Because these kids are going to grow up to be our leaders. And they need to be secure in their convictions and make decisions for themselves, not someone else.
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.
Now, think about the kids.
Which you should have been doing from the jump.
Originally posted on June 24, 2018, “A Past and Present Farewell” is my goodbye message to my current and former students and their families.
While I look forward to this new opportunity, I will miss the students and their families – some with whom I’ve worked for eight years.
How the time flies when you’re having fun!
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.
Because none of that has anything to do with the kids.
And the kids always deserve better.
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,