Some call me "Flem"

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I'm a passionate, purpose-driven, public school teacher! Period! I hold both a Bachelors and Masters in Education and am a certified Elementary K-6 and English 7-12 teacher as well as a certified Reading Specialist! I love teaching! I love learning! I love what I do and will defend it at all costs!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My Lesson in Diversity!! Back when I...

Growing up in West and Southwest Philly in the 80s, I was not too familiar at all with many other cultures outside of "white", "black", and "Chinese". (Chinese being in quotes because in my young mind everyone who was from the continent of Asia "had" to be Chinese, no one presented any other Asian possibilities to this young kid.)

My first real experience interacting with a kid from another culture came when I was in 5th grade at Andrew Hamilton Elementary School in West Philly. To me, he was Chinese. (Sadly, to this day I'm not sure where exactly my classmate was from.)

Going through middle school at Masterman opened up an entire WORLD to me, literally. There, the kids were descendants from many cultures and creeds. I even learned that not all white people were the same. They came from different cultures too. Some were Irish, others Polish, some were Jewish, others from Russia and from every surface area of the Earth!

I even learned that there were other blacks! I grew up with friends from Jamaica, so I knew about Jamaicans, but I didn't have experiences with kids from countries in Africa, Haiti, and other places! 

Bodine High School for International Affairs, further opened my eyes, offering me a choice of about 5 languages to learn as I matriculated through those years. There were also opportunities to travel to a different country every spring break! (I wish I would have gone on those trips!)

I yearned to learn more about other people's cultures, beliefs, traditions, language, etc. I read, asked questions, listened attentively, sat with a diverse group at lunch (middle school), and even schooled a few on what life was like in the "hood" (middle school) and that yes, there were (are) many intelligent kids who walk the 52nd Street strip or who frequent "The Bottom" and who eat entire meals from the corner store or Chinese store!

My point? I wanted to learn more about other people and their ways of life and didn't mind speaking of my own. This whole Ebola nonsense (the virus itself not being nonsense, but the panic, the fear, the coverage, the subtle "be wary of black"), has brought people's ignorance to light.

No, Africa is not a country, it's a continent!
Africa consists of more than 50 countries, that span thousands of miles of rich real estate collectively!
There are thousands of languages spoken in those more than 50 countries, with many people being AT LEAST trilingual!

Encouraging children to remain home for 21 days who are from Rwanda or recently traveled from there? Ignorance!  Canceling an appointment for a woman who traveled from Uganda? Ignorance!
Both of those countries are thousands of miles from the concentrated media coverage and from the epicenter of the outbreak, as it's being called.

Just as I was willing to learn about other people's cultures, ways of life and background, it wouldn't hurt for some of these adults who wear their ignorance on their sleeve to learn a thing or two!

As teachers, we have a golden opportunity to defy the fear-provoked ignorant tendencies of policy makers, school districts, and even the lawmakers who propose bans on travel from some West African nations. We take advantage of the chance by framing classroom conversations and lessons accordingly. Despite our inordinately busy schedules and overwhelming amount of material we must cover, we relent and take advantage of several teachable moments throughout the teaching and learning experience. Let this be one!

Such moments could include discussions about diversity, an intense look at African geography, a study of the many political boundaries that separate nations on the continent, individual projects on particular nations or regions, delving into the art and music of particular countries or regions, and a potpourri of other possibilities that lend themselves to true teaching and learning experiences!

How about we take advantage of the "Africa Is Not A Country" challenge and find a way to counter the ignorance and shape this generation to be better than the one that is!

Barbershop PhDs might call the events in Ferguson, MO and now this whole Ebola thing a conspiracy of some sort, since everything in the barbershop is a conspiracy. #JustSayin

Cultural diversity is not to be tolerated, but respected or even appreciated and embraced!




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

3rd grade debate -- Topic: Luck!

Reflecting on yesterdays literacy block...

We read an interesting Chinese folk tale on a kid's lucky walk home from school. After the traditional questioning, conversing, etc. I decided to hold an impromptu debate on the idea of "luck". I thought this would be interesting since I came from middle grades ELA classes, where "deep"debates and discussions (of the NON-Common Core variety, since I could care less what governors want) were the order of many days!

First I asked them whether "luck" was real. They were to discuss their positions with whomever they wished in the classroom. I allowed the discussions to go for about 5 minutes as I sat on my perch (or book case), listening to each conversation, reading lips, honing in, zoning out others, and the such.

Once the conversations ended I asked the class to first put their thumbs up if they believed luck was real.  Many of them held that position. I then asked for a show of thumbs from those who didn't believe luck was real. Two bold students!

The reasons for believing in luck were based on their individual experiences. I don't know why I didn't see it coming, but I guess that should be expected from 3rd graders. None of their reasons was general enough to explain this abstract (and debatable) concept of "luck". That's perfectly fine and I wasn't disappointed. It's 3rd grade! (Can you hear me you Common Core folks, IT'S 3RD GRADE! SHEESH!) I did value each of their responses and indicated so as they shared!

The two who were bold enough to go against the grain, *did* offer more "concrete" support for their argument. "Somebody was probably running and dropped the dollar" "Mr. Flemming, the dog was already sleep. That wasn't luck."

The discussion continued with more follow up questions and to gauge how they would respond if someone attempted to counter their arguments! It was very interesting and different being on the primary grades side of such debates and discussions!

Good Question!!!

Yesterday during our math class, I was reviewing place value with my kids. Our "Do Now"s are quick reviews of concepts previously taught. While working, one of the kids asked, "Mr. Flemming, is there anything on the other side of the ones?" Coming from a 3rd grader, this question made me light up with excitement. True inquiry! I walked through that door and quickly drew a diagram in his math notebook that included a decimal point and labels on numerals as tenths, hundredths, and thousandths. I further explained that he'll begin to work with those numbers in the future!

Robert Meehan, whose educational, teacher, and student quotes of inspiration, often calm me down when I need calming after a twitter war of words, tweets out a quote about student questions! The quote in essence speaks of the measure of teaching and learning not being found in the questions that a teacher can spew out, the answers to which a student may regurgitate, but in the types of questions the KIDS ask!

When that 3rd grader asked me whether or not there was "anything" on the other side of the ones, my inner teacher leaped with excitement at the brain action that was going on!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Why I don't believe the SRC, part 2

Recently, I blogged about why I don't believe the SRC in the case of resources making their way into classrooms as a result of them cancelling the contract between them and the PFT.

Well, I was wrong. Or was I? This past week money was forwarded to Philly schools to the tune of $15 million. They say it was from the savings to health care thanks to the teachers (or nah?).

Not one dime has been taken from us. Soooo, where did the money come from and so quickly?

I've tweeted the district and Dr. Hite a number of times. I'll resort to email when I get home from the barbershop!

Hmmm, something rotten on the state of Denmark!

I smell big money that stipulated that the union contract needed cancellation and teachers need to come out of pocket...again, for something!

WHEN we win in court, here's how I see it playing out:

1. Money taken back out of school budgets
2. Teachers and PAT overall will be blamed in commercials and commentaries
3. Fodder for reformy folks

But we CANNOT be deterred!! We already sacrifice.  We know it. Parents know it. The community knows it. Five and Dime, Target, Dollar Tree, they ALL know it! Even reformies know it, but don't want to tell the truth and the whole truth!

The courts need to rule in our favor, AGAIN!!

Friday, October 17, 2014

From hip hop to waltzing

Today I had my students clean out their desks. As thy cleaned, I played some Disney tunes among other types of music. As High School Musical 2's "Summertime" was playing, they were just a hip hopping, as only 3rd graders can do. I just sat and watched them enjoy a Friday afternoon after a week of hard work Mr. Flemming-style. After this I played, Aladdin's, "A Whole New World". From hip-hopping, it was intriguing to see the girls grabbing hands and attempt waltzing. They were moving and swinging and from where I sat, it looked OK to me!

THIS is why we need music in schools along with other expressive arts forms!! The arts make for quality learning and positive overall educational experiences!!! Music and art in schools everyday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As a classroom teacher, I do my level best to infuse these and other artistic forms into the reading, math, and content area teaching and learning experiences!!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Why I Don't Believe the SRC! Part 1

No doubt, I'll have more to say. But right now my kids are at lunch so I have but a quick sec!
They say that by canceling the contract between the School Reform Commission and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers that more money and resources will go back to the kids, back into the classroom.

Here are just two quick reasons I don't trust them! One, when more than 30 schools closed and more than 5000 employees were laid off, we thought we'd be getting more resources poured back into our classrooms then! We haven't seen it!! Even worse, those charged with cleaning out closed buildings reported to some of their teacher-colleagues that tons of books, paper, supplies, etc were being tossed! They called teachers up. Teachers reportedly went up and through dumpsters to salvage what we could! So, no I don't trust them!

Here's another reason why I don't think we'll see the resources:
Uhh, this isn't what we *get* from them, that's for sure!!

Charter Schools: $766.7 million Debt Service: $280.4 million

Things may have changed since April. But certain you can understand my hesitation to believe them!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Check out one of my 3rd grader's book reviews. I gave him a book to read and wanted his opinion on it. He read it in a day. Gave him a little guidance on writing a review for me. This is what he did.