Categories
African American History Civil Rights Education Education Reform Equity and Justice

Black History: Every *GD* Month

Black History: Every *GD* Month

This time of year is always hard for me.  February is Black History Month, and I don’t celebrate it.  It’s not because I don’t embrace my history. And it’s certainly not that I’m not grateful for the 28 days, sometimes 29 days that we’ve been given to celebrate.  I don’t celebrate Black History Month because I know the truth.  The truth is, there would be no American History without African American History.

images-10

So, rather than celebrate them month that has been allotted, I celebrate African American History every day. February is just another month for me to continue doing what I always do, embrace the energy of our ancestors, with the hopes of one day making them proud.

If you are celebrating African American History, do it in a culturally responsive manner.  As you embrace the present, do not ever forget what it took for us to get to this point.  Do not forget about the trauma that may still exist.  This trauma should never be undervalued.


Energy in the Classroom:

Moreover, as a former classroom teacher, one can empathize with the struggles experienced by K-12 teachers.  There are tons of extraneous factors that play into how successful one may be in the classroom.  These factors are heightened when teachers are placed in Urban school districts, forced to deal with students that have been inherently disenfranchised, and suffer from systemic trauma.  Some of the trauma associated with our students dates back to over 400 years to slavery.

Anti-Trauma:

Notwithstanding, there are people that will be unapologetically against the notion that slavery plays a part in common-day trauma.  To those people one asks, were you forced out of your country, shipped to a foreign land and made to work for free? Did you read books designed to lead you to salvation galvanized to trick you into thinking what occurred during slavery was your destiny?  Did people feed you food high in sodium, which in turn made most of your race susceptible to cardiovascular disease?  Were your women raped?  Have you been separated from your family? Did times exist when you’d rather die than to be living in your current circumstance?


If the answer to these questions is no, I’d highly suggest you take a seat.

If the answer to your question is no, but you’d like to learn more about how to best help my students that carry this hurt and pain, pay close attention, because it’s a mindset.


Here are some ways to better engage African American parents in February and beyond:

1. Black folks don’t want your handouts. We just want to be recognized as 5/5ths a person. That’s right, a Whole person.
2. We don’t want you to feel sorry for us, we want you to teach us. I don’t know a more straightforward way to put this.
3. Treat us like you are preparing us for college, and not prison.
4. Engage with parents like they are allies and not enemies. PoC want what’s best for their children.

Categories
Bullying in Schools Education Equity and Justice Parenting

There is a Seven Bridges in Your School, Protect Him!

Seven Bridges Remembered:

There are many things we take for granted. Sometimes that includes life itself. My life has become centered on being selfless, bringing light to issues that affect our community, and helping to develop strategies to prevent future trauma.

seven-bridges-e1548451181602

With great sadness, I write to you about Seven Bridges. The name itself screams of originality.  I’ll never get to meet Seven Bridges in person because Seven killed himself.  Classmates bullied him at school.  His parents alerted school staff, and his parents even made a move to change his school.  Alas, not even the change in schools would prevent Seven from taking his own life.


Bullying in Schools:

These types of events happen way more often than we are comfortable speaking. I understand why, but not talking about the problems won’t make them go away.

The problem, in this case, is bullying. How can we address bullying in our schools?

Whether through social media, mental or physical, bullying is on the rise.

Here are ways to address bullying in schools:

1. Awareness. Take a learning inventory of your students and your parents. Many don’t understand what bullying is nowadays. Many parents think about what they went through as students in school. We have to bring them full circle so they can understand the type of trauma students go through currently.
2. Have social workers and educators that are culturally competent. Cultural competence ensures students have space and opportunity to talk things through in what they feel is a safe space. Having trusted members on staff is helpful to the vulnerable population.
3. Have workshops with parents about how to identify the signs. If a student is out of sorts, or they aren’t acting like they usually act, parents and educators need to have a heightened sense of what support the child needs.

Bully Prevention:

Incidents like this can are preventable. Educators have to be vigilant. I for one would not want an incident like this to occur on my watch. To prevent an act like this from occurring, I’ll do whatever it takes. Will you? Join me in ensuring bullying ends with Seven.

If this story resonated with you, please share. We have to protect these kids!

Categories
Civil Rights Education Equity and Justice Parenting Politics

Tone Death to Blackface in schools

Tone Death to Blackface:

Aren’t you tired of reading stories about white students in blackface? Don’t they know how offensive and hurtful these actions are? Do they even care? Are the tone death?

Blackface is the act of impersonating black people by painting your face black. Blackface became prevalent in the 1830s. Whites and other non-blacks used blackface to perpetuate stereotypes, many of which still exist today. Are we tone death to this type of racism?

The practice as a whole lasted until the early 1980s but has creepily become popular due to a sort of tone-deafness that is running rampant in our country. It’s not okay for you to use blackface to reenact the experiences of people of color. That’s our energy, let us have that.


And if you are questioning why blackface is offensive to PoC, you’re a “low key” racist.


Students of Color Step Up:

I commend these Brooklyn prep school students for using their voice to bring attention to these racist actions. No child should be subjected to this sort of trauma. We have been experiencing these types of trauma and systematic racism for over 400 years. Is there any end in sight? Why don’t our minds and lives matter?


Covington, Kentucky:

Insert the students in Covington, Ky. Much attention has been made about the standoff between Nick Sandmann (student) and Nathan Phillips (elder), that has received a ton of media attention, and one blog post won’t do it justice. However, what hasn’t be spoken about enough is the culture of the — school. We’ve seen countless pictures circulating that show a clear view of the disdain these kids and their school have for black lives, as they attend sporting events against African-American athletes while in blackface. Why aren’t we talking about this?


Selective Outrage:

I know it’s not all white people. I have some excellent friends and colleagues that are white. Their hearts are true. But honestly, these events are happening so much; I’m starting to lose track of who is who. I need more people, all people to speak up when events occur instead of remaining silent. Silence often equates to acceptance. I know most of you don’t accept some of the things that are happening, but why aren’t you speaking more loudly about these things?

Unfortunately, we live in a tone-deaf society. Often when we don’t address situations correctly the first time, we experience revisionist history. As a country, I don’t think we’ve ever effectively treated racism and injustice. Currently, any mention of racism and prejudice gets met with apprehension. There is this reluctance in our society to call things what they are. In turn, we dance around difficult conversations, until events come to a head and we’re forced to talk about things.

Categories
Charter Schools Education Education Reform Equity and Justice School Choice

The Anti-School Choice Noise

Anti-School Choice:

Currently, there is much animus between traditional public-school pundits and advocates of school choice. School choice includes charter schools.  In today’s society, I’m not sure how you can be an anti-school choice advocate.

images-5

Admittedly, those that oppose and advocate against charter schools have some legitimate concerns. I consider them Anti-School Choice.

This post serves as advice on how to address the major concerns of those that are anti-charter schools.

Concern One: There is a shortage of African-American school leaders that run charter schools in urban areas. The lack of PoC in leadership positions is indefensible. Some folks are doing some great work around supporting leaders of color. One group that comes to mind is the National Charter Collaborative. This group’s very existence is to help charter schools’ leaders of color navigate in this space. I have not taken advantage of the NCC’s offerings.


Extending on Point One: A Charter School Rooney Rule:

The Rooney Rule requires that an NFL team with a head-coaching vacancy must interview one or more minority candidates for the position. Given the NFL’s woeful history of considering and hiring minority candidates to fill head-coaching slots until the implementation of the Rooney Rule, the question asked was whether Pittsburgh would have even considered Mike Tomlin as a candidate for the Steeler head job without the Rooney Rule (Proxmire, 2008).

Moreover, what about a Rooney Rule in public education? Meaning– really, organic, purposeful conversations centered on school leadership in areas that serve high poverty families of color. Urban school districts would benefit greatly from having more minority male candidates as teachers, leaders, superintendents.

Consequently, what if for every principal and school superintendent vacancy, urban school districts had to (in good faith) interview a qualified minority candidate? The action alone would mean the world to minority families that have lost faith in the system.


Addressing Concerns:

Concern Two: Two: Some charter schools are ill-equipped to deal with the psychological trauma experienced by its student body. No charter school is perfect, and yes, some schools are tone deaf when it comes down to measuring the needs of students beyond academic requirements.

Mental Health has been making headlines as of recent. It is particularly important for schools to equip themselves to handle all of the needs of the students beyond just their academic requirements. Charter schools should employ multiple Social Workers. If budget cuts are on the horizon, the last cuts are the school counselors. Often they are the first to be cut.

images-4


Recruiting Diverse Staffs:

Concern Three: Charter School staffs do not reflect the student body of the students they serve. Charter schools are doing a better job with trying to recruit for diversity, but “trying to do, and doing” are not the same thing. Charter Schools need to commit to diversifying, and then become relentless about doing it. Diversifying is no easy task, but given the importance of the work we do, one can see the importance of hiring a diverse staff.


Concern Four:  Charter Schools have high teacher turnover.  images-6As a charter school leader, one thinks about teacher turnover a lot.  Leaders want teachers to be in good mental space.  Having a healthy work-life balance helps this tremendously.  For example, when we see teachers working late, we send them home.  There has to be some time dedicated to not thinking about work, to re-energize and center oneself on the difficult work that a teacher does.

Beyond teacher exit surveys, “WE,” need to do a better job at taking the pulse of teachers, and ensuring they remain happy in our schools.  Students thrive off of consistency.  Having a consistent face for students and families is meaningful.

Works Cited:

Proxmire, D. (2008). Coaching diversity: The Rooney rule, its application, and ideas for expansion. American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, 1-9.

 

Categories
Civil Rights Education Reform Equity and Justice School Choice

Freedom Schools: Future, Present, and Past

Freedom Schools, Future:

Freedom schools represent educational freedom.

Firstly, we can do more for the Black Community. What if members of the Divine Nine, Historically Black Fraternities and Sororities all pledged to fund an initiative? The initiative is to run charter schools based on the principles that govern their organizations.


Potential Initiates:

Similarly to the Freedom Summers, potential initiates would dedicate a summer to the organizations’ Freedom school as an Assistant Teacher. These assistant teachers learn under a Master Teacher.  Also, candidates learn more about the principles of their possible organization, but what better way to set potential members up for a lifetime of service?

As graduates, members of the Divine Nine are offered paid internships at their organizations’ respective school. If members become teachers, the organizations could build partnerships with the local universities to host classes on site or come up with a business model to help defray the costs of becoming a teacher.

These thoughts are in the infancy stages. Once built out, it could benefit everyone and could be the catalyst to increase the less than 2% Black Male teachers nationwide.


Freedom Schools Presently:

Notwithstanding, imagine schools where scholars do not have to fear to embrace their culturally rich heritage.  Schools where Black Americans hear the truth about their impact on society and what PoC have meant to movement throughout history. Institutions where one can feel safe to be oneself, and not have to acclimate to what society has deemed acceptable.

Places where academic excellence is the norm and not the exception. Schools where they talk about college as the derivative for success, with no constant reminders about prisons or criminalization solely based on the color of one’s skin. Given these points, this is the kind of school I want for my child, if you agree, keep reading!


Five Components of Freedom Schools:

In essence, CDF Freedom Schools are doing this. Their website posts, the CDF Freedom Schools program enhances children’s motivation to read and makes them feel good about learning.

Similarly, the program connects families to the right resources in their communities. Freedom School students engage in a research-based. They participate in the multicultural Integrated Reading Curriculum that supports them and their families through five essential components:

  1. High-quality academic enrichment
  2. Parent and family development
  3. Civic engagement and social action
  4. Intergenerational servant leadership development
  5. Nutrition, health and mental health
    Students also receive two nutritious meals and a snack daily, as well as a book each week to build their home libraries.

Other key takeaways from Freedom schools are as follows:

• Parent involvement.
• Staff diversity. Many Freedom school employees parents are involved in the movement. That means the passion for these types of schools was passed down.
• Social Action. Stakeholders are not only alarmed by the social strains on, and they are actively engaging in coming up with solutions.


Freedom Schools of the Past:

Consequently, in the summer of 1964 establishes that educational choices in the Mississippi Delta were deplorable for young PoC. Increased hostility existed towards blacks in the post-Jim Crow era. However, through SNCC and the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), the Freedom School Movement was born.

Generally speaking, Freedom Schools primary mission was to provide alternative schools that ‘‘Could supplement what Black students were learning in their high schools, give them a broader intellectual and academic experience that they could take back to their regular classes, and form the basis for statewide student action such as a school boycott’’ (Ligon and Chilcoat, 1999, p. 45).

Moreover, to reiterate: Poor schools as identified by (SNCC) and (COFO) is what spurned one of the most historic African-American led school reform initiatives, Freedom Schools.

Approximately 41 Freedom schools operated in the South. Many of the teachers in the schools were well-intentioned white college students. Again, many heard of the conditions and treatment of black folks in the South. After experiencing it first hand knew the racism prescribed to PoC in Mississippi was unlike anything they’d ever seen.

In summation, this Blog post highlights the visionary Charles Cobb.  His forward-thinking centered around what is known as Freedom Schools. We’ve spoken a lot in my inner circles. We need innovative ideas that will work to help motivate and sustain a quality education for Blacks.

Works Cited:
Ligon, J. A., & Chilcoat, G. W. (1999). Helping To Make Democracy a Living Reality: The Curriculum Conference of the Mississippi Freedom Schools. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 15(1), 43-68.

Categories
Charter Schools Education Education Reform Equity and Justice School Choice

Principal Resigns Amidst Video Surfacing

Principal Resigns:

Amistad Academy, located in New Haven Connecticut is a school that gives me mixed emotions.

Amistad High 2013 Signing Day

On the one hand, this school proves that if you pour resources into Students of color, they can achieve, and achieve at a very high level. Amistad is the number one ranked high school in Ct. It’s also the number 55th ranked high school in the US, and the 19th ranked charter high school in the United States, according to US News and World Reports.

Our (Riverhead Charter School’s) 9th grade starts in 2020-21. Amistad was definitely on our list of schools to visit.


Moreover, Amistad High School recently made news for a different reason. A video surfaced showing the principal of the school, physically accosting one of his former students. According to witnesses, this event took place in October; however, the principal stayed on the job sometime after that. That’s my concern. If someone poses a threat to students, schools can’t be in a wait and see position. The Amistad board should have placed its principal of paid leave until they thoroughly investigated the incident.

Many of my posts are pro-charter schools. I feel charter schools give SoC the best opportunity to succeed in education, but I have no problem calling out people that don’t act in the best interest of students. So to be clear, I’m an advocate for charter schools, but I put the interests of students before anything else. Parents and administrators have to defend the students over the institutions.


The video is graphic. Please keep that in mind as you view it.

My significant takeaways are, adults have to model the behavior that they expect from the students. Adults also have to allow “cooler heads to prevail” in times of high stress. How could this whole situation be avoided?