Sunday, November 4, 2018

I See You

Yesterday I attended an event where Jason Reynolds spoke to teens. I admit freely to already having an "author crush" on him.  His books have spoken to me in a way no others have. And, he is beautiful. Yup, I said it. My husband, who is also a successful writer and graduate of the University of Maryland, knows that Jason is my second choice. And, being the wonderful man he is, he accepts it.

Jason shared his story and he said so much. But what spoke to me as a school librarian and teacher was the part about how he needed see himself in literature.

He mentioned his well meaning teachers who couldn't make him read. It made me think back to my early teaching career in St. Louis where I worked with drop outs. I have long considered this part of my career the most meaningful part  -- but I also know that I probably did very little to help the kids I served.

Yesterday wasn't the first time, recently, that I've reflected on my work at YouthBuild. When Michel Brown was killed, I thought of my students, any of whom could have been him.  I grappled with a silent grief that anything like that could happen at all and  that it happened in my "home town" and that I felt sad for every. single. person. involved.

Jason's books, in particular, All American Boys, brought those memories flooding forward.  Yesterday, he also reminded me that I love to write poetry. I don't share my poetry much but since no one is reading this anyway (yet?), I thought I'd share this one: 

I see you
I hear you
I've taught you
I've failed you 

It sits heavily on my mind
It sits heavily on my mind

When I can't teach
When I can't reach 

Not far from where Michael Brown 

Was murdered

I started my career with
Were different from me

I walked into a room young, shiny, and white
To teach

Every single day I got taught

Ms. Crews "you one of tha niggas"
Crews, "I don't like many white folks"
Crews "why we gotta do that?"
Crews "why is everything we read so dark?"

Julian with his "intimate contemption"

Sean calling Reno* a dude

Donald Brown graduating
Glowing on stage

Reggie telling me he stashed his drug money
For later
Telling me he was going to be all right
Convincing me
Convincing himself
He was going to be all right
Going to be all right

Everyone showing me "where I got shot"
Everyone telling me "when I got caught"

Laughing about jailhouse bologna
But not really laughing 

Laughing about being 'fraid of possums
Afraid of possums
Laughing, really

I know who the teacher was
I know who learned the most

I still fail
I fail the Donalds, Reggies, Julians and Seans
I fail

I see you
I hear you
I've taught you
I've failed you

It sits heavily on my mind

*true story, Janet Reno visited YouthBuild on MLK day in the 1990's

I welcome encouraging and constructive comments. But, I'm not in this for hate. Save hate for some other place or better yet, work on it!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

F is for I Told You So*

Funny, right.  Crazy school librarian lady wants to tell the testing company to f off.  But, she's too scared to just post it already and puts all kinds of code in the text.

OK, I was clearly feeling cruddy about P3arson in last post.  Their faux nice e-mail promising to make the testing experience better if I complete their survey had me muttering and spewing and even f-ing.  Once I vented, here on the blog that no one's reading, I felt better -- but I worried about the internet trolls.  I've been told they're out there by reliable sources, even though my logical intelligent self was like "really? That's a bit over the top." Still I did my fancy home grown encryption, just in case.  Well then, today I read this.  Should I take my post down?  Will it disappear? Will I get fired?  All good questions.  But none of those is the most important question.  The most important question is this: Should this company in the UK be allowed to administer hours and hours of tests to US students and keep the content top secret?  Further should this very profitable company be able to intimidate teachers?  Have I mentioned tenure? Now who is fighting for your kid? Guess I'm still feeling cruddy!

*I told you so, has nothing to do with F, but I've been liking the "F" titles. It reminds me a bit of my neighbors and I when we have "Wine Wednesday" it's almost never on Wednesday, but we like the alliteration of it!  Amused?  Follow me!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Just F


I'm on a roll with F posts.  In fact, I've got some more in mind.  F is for Friday -- I love Fridays!  F is for Fantasy -- only I'm not writing *that* kind of blog.  At least not yet.  F is for Fat -- I actually think I kept a Weight Watchers blog with that title for a while, but as I've done many times in the past, I quit before it took off.  I could go on all night, but the stated purpose of this blog was a bit more than just ramble.  I promised (among other things) to provide a place for more serious discussion of the issues and challenges facing public education in 2016.

So, in the spirit of being true to my word, I thought I would share this.  I received the following in an e-mail this week.  But I should caution, I do sign some sort of non-disclosure paper each year but I don't pay too much attention to it.  I sign it every year, reluctantly.

In fact (if I may digress) every year, I imagine myself brave enough to refuse -- I picture myself standing up in the middle of the staff meeting and ripping it up and starting a chant "no, no, no."  Then my colleagues would stand up with me and rip theirs up (or if we were brave, burn them) and we would end testing as we know it.  Only that wouldn't happen, my colleagues would just stare at me or maybe even avoid eye contact.  My boss would look bewildered, because even though he doesn't completely disagree, he isn't willing to risk anything.  I'd probably be offered some faux empathy and another copy to sign when I calm down and feel better. It's possible the people in the room would never speak of it or at least whisper.  I don't work with Norma Rae, that's for sure.

After that fantasy, I have one where I sign "Mickey Mouse" to the agreement then I leak all of the information I can and the Washington Post or the New York Times publish it and they are grateful to me for exposing the dark secrets of the testing world and when my district realizes it was me, and they try to fire me for violating the non-disclosure,  but they are humiliated because I signed "Mickey Mouse" and they didn't catch it and they have to let me keep my job.  Yes, I know that's a run-on -- dramatic effect!

But this won't happen either.  Because despite a really competent Civics teacher, I'm just like so many other teachers I know, I need to keep my job and I can't justify putting my family at risk to take on the testing system.  In fact, I don't know if I can risk what I'm about to paste.  I got this e-mail.  I read it.  I've spent the last 30+ days supporting and administering tests that I don't believe in -- that are used to gather data that I don't think is accurate -- to kids who aren't learning what they need to learn because they're spending so much time taking the tests that don't mean anything.  Again, I could go on and on.  Anyhow, I got this e-mail.  And my (unofficial) answer to the people who sent it to me is.... F is for Fuck You!

*Thank y0u for partic1pating in the Spr1ng 2016 xxxxxxxx M####### of AcadeXXX ##ccess (C#####): EnXXish LanXXXge AXXs/M-atics and ScXXX/S S a**essment admin1stration.  The XXXXXXXXXXXXX Survey is now ava1lable.
The purpose of the survey is to gather feedback that will help us to create system-wide 1mprovements for future adm1nistrations.  A!! survey resp0nses will be an0nymous.  Feed6ack is requested by Fr1day, May 2-th.
Thank you, aga1n, for all of your hard work throughout the spring ass3ssment admin1strations.  If add1tional ass1stance is needed, p!ease contact...

But on Monday, I'll probably just go fill it out and be as honest as possible without getting in trouble. And next year I'll probably sign my real name again and make sure it all goes smoothly just like I did this year.  Did you ever wonder why Teachers used to have Tenure?  This is it people.  This is it!

*and yes I altered the text because we've all heard that p3arson has trolls that surf the net looking for people who violate the terms.  While they probably are looking for actual test items and not the survey e-mail, I still feel the need to be cautious!

Tune in for my next blog post, F is for Fired!

Please share your thoughts on testing.  I would especially like to hear from people outside of the US!  But any testing discussion is appreciated!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Finding my Flourish

I am devastated that there are so many blogs titled "F is for Failure" already.  I wanted to be original, but I admit, I didn't try too hard.  Nothing worse that writing that sounds like the writer is trying too hard.  But then, there is the writer who doesn't try enough, too.  I'm just getting started (did I mention you should follow me).   I feel like I'm floundering too much.  The thing is, if I don't flounder I will have to quit.  So, on I go.  Failing & Floundering and trying to find my flourish.  Perhaps  F should be for flourish, but can flourish happen without failure, floundering and fretting (like this post seems to be)? Awe, forget it!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Follow Me

You should follow me.  Why?  Well because I'm new at the blogging thing and aside from begging, I'm not really sure where to start.  Also, because, admit it, you're fascinated with a 46 year old Librarian who sneaks into the Men's room from time to time (only to avoid long lines!).  Or perhaps, you just can't wait to hear about the tongue disease or that night in 1984 when I didn't quite get to meet the Ramones or the time in the 1990's when I did meet Greenday.  Everyone likes the librarian who met Greenday. Right?  Follow me, get your friends to follow me, get your European relatives to follow me.  I promise my friends like these stories, you will too!  Oh and if you are my friend, like irl, and you've figured our my true identity, shhhhh (I'm a librarian, I can shhhhh you if I want!).  I'm way too insecure to be that public!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

F is for Female

F is for Female (or Male who really cares when you need to pee!)

So, I know I promised thought provoking stories about public education and the tongue disease.  Unfortunately I'm currently irked by the on-going bathroom wars in the South (not that I ever go there unless you count Disney World or Universal).

Anyhow, being a liberal, I am, of course, terribly offended by the whole idea of singling out transgender or any one group and making up silly bathroom rules.  However, being a WOMAN I'm even more offended that the legislators have entirely missed the REAL AMERICAN BATHROOM issue.  I'm positive you know where I'm going with this (no pun intended).  The REAL issue is the line for the ladies room.  Right?  We ALL know this.  It's 3 to 5 times longer than the line for the men's.  And, when you're middle aged like me, you really can't just hold it.

That's where these bathroom wars come in.  The Southerner's keep warning people about all of those transgender people coming into the wrong toilet and starting riots.  Clearly they've NEVER met a 46 year old mom (with a fierce diet coke addiction) with tired kids who are whining about standing in a bathroom line forever. Right?

So here's the truth, I doubt any of us need to be afraid of transgender individuals in our bathrooms; but MEN, please be warned, I sneak into your restroom ALL of the TIME because, well there isn't a line and I just can't wait.  And truthfully it's only scary when I have to wait!

What do you think about the bathroom wars?


Here is a list of  the classes I've failed and the brief explanation of why.  You might see the explanation as an excuse, and while they're (excuses) not popular anymore, I use a fair amount of excuses and clearly it's not my fault if you don't appreciate my excuses!

Math - Grade 4 this was a huge embarrassing ordeal, my parents blamed Mrs. Lawrence.

Math (7th or 8th grade) - I actually think I just got D's, this wasn't my fault because Jr. High, according to my mom, was just a big waste of time. And Ms. Van Buskirk.

Sewing - 7th grade - this definitely was not my fault.  I got the wrong teacher (one from the High School came over to cover just one section, in hind sight I'm realize it was because of overcrowding) and SHE was pregnant* and grouchy. However the real reason I failed was because of my boobs.  I know you're laughing, but this was a serious traumatic event in my life.  Really.

Social Studies 7th** - This was also a D.  It's only relevant because of the irony it represents, which I will explain later.

To the best of my knowledge I didn't fail any classes in high school.  That whole idea of a transcript, credits, getting into college and summer school kicked in.  Once I could see what I was working for I didn't mind working.  The really sad part, was that by this time I was already way behind my peers and sort of had to work twice as hard to just get C's.

Algebra -- Harris Stowe State College -- if you're reading this whole blog, by now, you know I had fallen severely behind because of my elementary and middle school experiences.  I entered college terrified of math and also stubborn.  My university only required college algebra, but the truth was that I hadn't had enough prerequisite classes to succeed. That didn't stop me from signing up and trying.  There was a rumor that the 2 week summer session of College Algebra at Harris Stowe State college (a mostly black college*** next to my university) was both cheaper and easier.  I signed up, it wasn't easy if you had slept through virtually all of your high school math.  I failed but it wasn't completely my fault, since I got the tongue disease that summer!

Statistics -Graduate School -- SIUE -- Did I mention how I fell behind in math?  Enough said.  But there was more to it.  In the 1990's AIDS was killing people at alarming speed.  Both my Cousin John, and Freddie Mercury died of AIDS.  I was crushed, barely navigating the dark tunnel of life that seemed so cruel and unfair, I couldn't begin to think about statistics.  My professor offered me a "you really need to handle things better" lecture when I asked to drop without penalty (seriously, learning statistics in a world without Freddy Mercury!?!).

So, that's it. My F's and most of  My D's. I felt it was only right to disclose everything.  You will have to decide, now, if I'm credible.  Can I call myself an expert on education?  Am I any more or less qualified to say what I plan to say.  You decide.  But I hope you come back to read more, because the tongue disease is a very funny story and I think many of you will find truth in my analysis of modern public education. And finally the whole reason I got into education 22 years ago was so I could make it better.  It's just taken me a very long time to realize I can't do it alone.  So, one last truth: I need you to read this!

*Some 20 years later I was teaching 7th grade Language Arts while pregnant with my first child -- I probably owe my sewing teacher at least a modest apology!

**I'm a state licensed Social Studies teacher now!

***Seriously, at age 21, I didn't even know there was such a thing, quite a valuable life experience despite the F.