* Nonsensical?

Many thanks to Ronovan for his Décima Poetry Challenge! Usually, I read his challenge, putter around a bit, and then give up. Today, I decided to tackle this one. The topic is SENSE.

Image by cafepampas from Pixabay

Sense

If I had any sense at all

I’d never write a décima

Instead I’d sigh, try to recall

The purpose of this teaching blog:    

To clear the smoke and rid the fog

Of cloudy thoughts that hinder all.

Of course, since I spent 5 minutes on this, I need to examine my own head for foggy ideas!

Honestly, though? I am writing this because I have no hope of writing sensibly about George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery’s murders. I am still trying to put something together that would encourage educators to teach ALL children. The fact that the average black high school graduate reads at an 8th grade level is nonsensical. So are the ubiquitous, racially predictable test results at EVERY level. White American teachers, WE MUST DO BETTER!

* Weekend coffee share for tea drinkers

Hola! Hello! I have not felt like blogging much lately, as you may have noticed. Sometimes I feel so excited about blogging and at other times, I shrug it off like a wet coat. I’m in a tea-drinking-chocolate-eating mode right now, so I’m joining the weekend coffee share hosted by Eclectic Alli. She’s in the field of library science, which looked to be a dinosaur at one point. But it’s reemerging through technology and that kind of degree can now open more than library doors.

The point of this blog is to share what’s been going on in my life, so here’s a glance.

I was looking worse than this in many ways, but fortunately, hair salons opened Friday at 5! I was first in line.

The honeysuckle and privet hedges around here have been blossoming, their fragrances assuring me I don’t have the virus. Sadly, spring has started drowning in early summer heat and humidity. Speaking of drowning, I’d love to go swimming instead of walking, even with a hole in my head ear, but who knows when indoor pools will reopen? I do know that my knees can’t take much more walking.

On the topic of “can’t take much more,” how will students and families and school districts solve the conundrum of back-to-school in the fall? From an equity standpoint, we already poorly navigate educational waters with students of color and families in poverty. How much more have we curtailed their prospects now that learning is remote? What good is a Chromebook if there is no connectivity? That begs the question of how well students work in small quarters with larger families whose parents are unemployed or working long hours out of the home.

In my neighborhood, we had teddy bears in windows so that kids on walks with their parents could wave. Just saying.

My dearest teaching widower has a week of radiation under his belt. He’s still as sweet as ever. My great nephew is continuously looking for ways to help around the house. They watch tear-jerker movies together and I join them to watch action flicks. They drink coffee and I drink Tetley’s English blend. We all eat chocolate.

Thanks for joining me!

*Thanks, Scholastic!

Scholastic’s ScienceWorld is a terrific, teacher-friendly resource for hands-on and digital resources.  Sure, there’s a paper magazine version with your subscription, but the online goodies make the magazine even better!  And ScienceWorld is already amazing.  The magazine covers a wide range of middle school science topics from around the world, saving teachers much-needed time for collecting lesson plans, materials, and inspiration.

Scholastic makes a strong appeal to kids who are traditionally low in STEM careers: blacks and girls.  For instance, this month’s edition for middle schoolers features D-J Comeaux and his Black Panther app called AfroBot Boyz.  The main article in the magazine focuses on a student who participated in the Hidden Genius Project in Oakland, California, which supports black high school dropouts.

I also love this magazine because it keeps on giving, especially to special needs kiddos.  The online teacher resources provide multiple cool projects and experiments, available by intelligent searches, including archived versions of the past three years of your subscription.  A subscription to ScienceWorld supports struggling students by linking some of them to their narrow range of interests, providing multiple means of access, supporting hands-on activities, and opportunities for partner or small group learning.

Here’s a photo of extracted strands of strawberry DNA from a recent experiment in ScienceWorld.  Very cool!  Couldn’t do it without you, Scholastic!

dna strawberry

* How does he feel?

portrait-of-a-black-boy.jpg

Is this a look of hostility?  Concentration?  Daydreaming?  If you are a white teacher, you may think he’s angry.  Research suggests that black boys are more likely to be seen as hostile, even when they are not.  Researchers at North Carolina State University found that preservice teachers were more likely to accurately identify emotions of white adults than black adults and three times more likely to see a black expression was angry when it wasn’t.  The results with videotapes of misbehavior in classrooms also showed strong racial bias. Black boys were seen as much more hostile than whites.

My personal experience certainly confirms this.  And Wake County, the largest school district in North Carolina, has very clear data that shows a wide racial discrepancy in out-of-school suspensions.  Black students missed 65% of days suspended in 2015, while white students accounted for only 13% (black kids make up only 24% of the district’s population).

This implicit bias, as it is termed by researchers, has been a troubling issue throughout my entire career.  (I’m still teaching after 47 years….)  I’ve participated in weeks of staff development on this topic and felt that the sessions were more likely to empower teachers to speak with “political correctness” than to change hearts and minds.

One potential solution may be the use of this type of research protocol in developing racial equity sessions in schools.  Trainers could provide this tool as a benchmark for personal assessment and growth.  At the least, it could delay a teacher reaction to student behavior long enough to clearly understand student intent.  That kind of focused observation would benefit many special needs students, too, especially those on the autism spectrum.

* “The Great Shelby Holmes”

ShelbyBookPage

The Great Shelby Holmes,” by Elizabeth Eulberg, is a terrific mystery for upper elementary and middle school students.  It’s a semi-spoof of Sherlock Holmes, but the characters and plot are definitely a stand alone.  Set in Harlem, John Watson and his mom (former army doctor in Afghanistan) are starting a new civilian life.  John’s parents have just divorced, he’s living off-post for the first time, and their arrival at their new apartment is met with a BANG!  Shelby Holmes, a 9-year-old prodigy going into 6th grade, has conducted a “harmless” experiment in her apartment at 221B Baker Street.  And it gets more complicated from there!

John is a budding writer who will be attending an arts-focused charter school.  Until he met Shelby, his journal had been bare for the past few months.  The changes in his life have been painful, he hadn’t made any friends, and school will start in a few weeks.  He is amazed at Shelby’s deductive abilities (so was I!) and ends up entangled in the mystery of a missing dog.  Their adventure reignites John’s interest in writing as he chronicles the amazing ups and downs of this complex mystery set in New York City.

John and Shelby could not be more different.  He is a social kid, eager to make new friends, and Shelby is an odd individual who appears to disdain social norms.  This mystery, with its hilarious events, uncertain relationships, and tender moments, is a life-changing experience for both Shelby and Watson (a moniker used by Shelby since he’ll be the third John in their class).  John must come to grips with his parents’ divorce, caustic remarks by Shelby, and the conflict surrounding this unusual mystery.  Shelby is also forced to confront her asocial behavior and perhaps admit that she actually needs John’s help.

One aspect I especially enjoyed about this book is its racial perspective.  Readers with the “white privilege” perspective may be surprised that John is black.  And just as I often hear white folks describe that “black doctor” or that “black kid,” John does refer to “white kids” but makes no special reference to black folks.  It would be perfect if none of us felt the need to make those distinctions, but it’s refreshing to see the world through nonwhite eyes.  More on that in the next book in this series, “The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match.

I highly recommend this entertaining and thoughtful book.  It will keep you guessing- and laughing- throughout!

* Black

Color Your World: Black

If only.  If only seminars and politically correct talk and the best intentions could change hearts.  Not that intentions and hope aren’t important, but test scores and graduation rates are still racially predictable across this country.  As are incarcerations and segregated neighborhoods and white privilege.  But, on a brighter note, I still know that teachers can make a difference.  We can do our best for ALL kids.  Don’t be “colorblind!”  We can delight in the brilliant colors of all our kiddos.

black costume

 

* Hidden away

Color Your World: Manatee

This manatee-colored room was a slave’s quarters in a Colonial Williamsburg home.  It seems that the enslaved of this town were routinely required to live in the attics of houses.  I assume that’s so no one would EVER think they were members of the household.  Heaven forbid!

Manatee Williamsburg

* Sharing my world

I love Cee’s Share Your World weekly challenge.  Her answers are always interesting; can’t wait to see more nighttime photography.  What about a video of your tripod adventures, Cee?

What one word describes you best?  I used Wordle to create this word cloud.  Simply type in text and it will automatically generate a cool design based upon frequency of words.  You can adjust the color and layout, too.  And it’s FREE!

wordle teacher

 

What is set as the background on your computer?  Oh boy,  I had to look.  It’s the plain old Windows design.  I always have so many windows open that I can’t see the background.  If I make it attractive with horse pictures, I’m too distracted!

If you have been to a foreign country, name those you have been to.  I started off in a “foreign country,” having been born in the UK.  I’m sure my UK readers do NOT think of themselves as foreign!  I’ve also been to Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Austria, and Iceland.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination.  

I was inspired by the artistic performance, “Joy in the Morning,” at Colonial Williamsburg.  The performance celebrates the strength and character of the enslaved people of that era, along with their struggles and despair.  I had a chance to chat with the performers after the show; they are passionate about their work, sharing the story of a population stolen from their homelands and brutalized as slaves.  I find myself focusing on the last names of black people, knowing that the Washingtons’ roots, for instance, most likely can be found in Washington’s plantation.  Good old George did not have any white sons….

* Belief: a lesson from my friend

“I am an A student.”  My friend told herself that after failing her freshman year in college.  She never studied and wasn’t sure what “A students” did.  She asked a med student who was frequently studying, one who appeared quite organized with binders and notebooks.  That kind med student shared her studying routine with my friend, who went on to earn straight A’s.  Teachers remarked that no one else had ever earned 100% on their tests. The college dean requested a meeting with my friend to ask her how she had transformed her grades.

My friend told me that she believed she was an A student.  Even while she still had D’s and F’s, she simply KNEW she was an A student.  Her past grades didn’t define her.  “There was no F hanging over my head,” she told me.

How was my brilliant friend transformed?  To me, the power of belief, the power of faith, the power of encouragement, and the power of mentoring all played a crucial role in her success.  Today, this friend and teacher continues to share her wisdom and to mentor others, including me.

Successful teachers believe in their kids.  They help kids believe in themselves.  Successful and ethical teachers do not look at black kids and think, “Oh well, I’ll do what I can, but….”  Neither do they promote a false sense of “You can be anything you want!”  I don’t think any of us can be whatever we want, even if we are very smart.  My dearest teaching widower would agree that I can’t be an accountant, administrator, or statistician.  BUT could most kiddos be “A students?”  Absolutely.  

To my dearest friend, thank you for teaching me more than I can possibly express.

C and I

More tomorrow on another lesson she taught me.

* Independence Day by Frederick Douglass, Part 2

The fiery speech delivered by Frederick Douglass on July 5, 1852, should have melted the hearts and minds of his listeners.  What hardness could stand before the flame of Douglass’ words?  I urge you to read the speech in its entirety; it is a masterpiece of faith in the face of unimaginable circumstances.  His efforts were not in vain.  By 1865, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery.

Why is Douglass’ speech relevant today?  I believe our nation remains in the shadows of slavery, of its declared message that blacks were not human, not capable of learning.  (Don’t you wonder why whites were so determined that slaves not learn to read or write?)  Douglass was frequently accused of not authoring his many works because it was outside the white experience that blacks would perform exceptionally.  Today, we find select charter schools with low income students far outperforming most public schools.  Why?  We know what to do: provide high expectations, qualified teachers, a growth mindset, and small class size.

Why are we still waiting for nationwide success of all our children?  Do we really believe that black kids can succeed?  Do black kids believe they can succeed?  Black Stanford undergrads scored measurably worse on tests when asked to record their race or told that the test measured intellectual ability.  We can do better.  We must do better because we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all children are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

student 1