Thursday, November 14, 2013

Race: Card or Reality

I am a former employee of the Ferguson Florissant School District and I can't recall too many times when the discussion of RACE failed to enter one of my personal or professional rants about the climate and culture of the district. Though the district made attempts at facing the elephant in the classroom through such vehicles as "Higher Achievement for All", "Courageous Conversations", or Dr. Hollie's Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning (all euphemisms for RACE), a good-old-boy system prevailed and  returned to school politics as usual.  As far as the Ferguson Florissant School District's current decision to get rid of its first African American superintendent, I am NOT surprised! I am only sick and tired of being sick and tired of the black community's reactionary behavior to racially-charged injustices. Moreover, I am annoyed by those in leadership roles who wait until catastrophic events before addressing the issue of RACE.

I have been a Dr. Art McCoy supporter since the day I met him. Before his official superintendency, he would frequent the McCluer North building and never hesitate to drop by my office to offer words of encouragement and inspiration. I respected his down-to-earth and student-friendly style so much that I even considered staying another year in the district just to serve under his leadership. However, RACE appeared to be his Achilles Heel. And very similar to President Obama, he did not deal with issues of RACE boldly and "courageously" enough for me. I liked him as a person and I respected his passion, but I suspected his credentials, charisma and connections would all fall short while trying to appease a district more interested in maintaining the reputation, wants and desires of its stakeholders (white property owners) than meeting the wholistic needs of the students and families it serves.

The FFSD's decision to relieve Dr. McCoy of his duties may have nothing to do with RACE or the school board being all White, but clearly the all-White school board's lack of respect for his leadership and handling of the situation do! Unfortunately, the elephant will continue to remain in the classroom unless parents and students make a daily commitment to education and district missions. Otherwise, the reality of racism will continue to be perceived as just a playing card .

"If only this same number of people actually cared as much about their childrens educations as they do about the race card.." -Rich Akins

Friday, November 8, 2013

What's your philosophy?

How are you teaching without a philosophy? 

If you don't have one or remember the one you wrote during your teacher education program, you better create one right this minute!

Your philosophy is your gut-guiding belief system that governs everything you say, do and feel about teaching!  Yes...pretty powerful stuff indeed!

I would like to  recommend the following books for your professional library.  May they serve as resources as you write, tweak or update your teaching philosophy.

Yes....I have included many titles by Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu.  I consider him the "Godfather of Educating Black Boys" and the educational guru for how best to teach black children in the classroom.

However, before any author's "Black" authenticity is questioned, please be reminded that these are  suggestions only.  I have not personally met any author listed (except Amos Wilson), but I have made an informed decision to choose what best suits my PHILOSOPHY.  As I recently quoted to a reader of my "Books Like Me" post, who commented and questioned what really makes a book black and whether or not quality is considered or just a black author's skin tone, "we should swallow no one whole" even when they come in blackness.  

That gives you one more reason for having a philosophy:  It will help you to stand for something and prevent you from falling for anything!  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Books Like Me!

I am feeling rather nostalgic...where have all the black book stores gone?  I can't think of one local, black-owned book store where I can "shoot the breeze" about the Black experience and purchase Black-made products.  I am especially concerned about the lack of black children's books readily available.  I have a pretty huge collection of black children books and I often share them with the preschool through sixth grade students I tutor.  I am discovering, however, that they are sometimes reluctant to embrace books with faces and names that reflect their own.

Somewhat similar to the black doll test, they appear to shy away from books with pictures that  look like them or validate their experiences.  Instead, they make requests for books related to cartoon characters, television series or Dr. Seuss.  Though the cause of their preferences may be due to inferiority, self-hatred, white washing, commercialization or simply familiarity, I am more concerned about helping teachers and parents find stories and illustrations that racially and culturally connect to them than I am analyzing the reasons for their selections.  There is plenty of research offering analysis and explanations for why black children do what they do but not enough being done to destroy and rebuild educational systems that continue to teach them to do what they do.

You can start by "blackening" your own home library and demanding your child's school library and required reading lists contain black books.  In my former position as a high school librarian, I  intentionally purchased books written from an African American perspective in order to balance the human story as well as represent the school's student population.  Some teachers thought the books failed to support the subjects/units they taught and others either quietly protested or secretively supported my efforts.  Unfortunately, it is rumored that the present librarian weeded or discarded many of those black books.  The point being, you will need to arm yourself with knowledge and supportive parents before attempting to change a white standardized system of education that preaches about practices of cultural relevancy, but rarely makes "courageous' cultural curriculum changes.

Though you might be forced to deal with staff-- and even student opposition-- when making demands or changes within a public school setting, you are in complete control of determining which books you buy for your child's personal book shelf!  Hopefully, if not now, your children will one day proudly proclaim and comfortably describe their collection as, "Books like me!"

Please contact me if you are interested in building your child's personal or school library.  I am a teacher-for-hire consultant working as a free agent to empower our Black book at a time!  

I may be reached at: 424-777-5107 for fees and details!