Some call me "Flem"

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B.S.Ed, M.Ed I'm a passionate, purpose-driven, public school teacher! Period! I love teaching! I love learning! I love what I do and will defend it at all costs!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Jacked up though it may be...

As a black man living in the United States of America in 2015, I could enumerate a dozen or more reasons why I hate America! Except that, I don't "hate" it. "Hate" is too strong a word in my opinion. I could opine on all that I'm dissatisfied with here in this country; the sickening miscarriage of justice in more than a few instances, the human/financial/racial inequalities in our public schools, the overall treatment of our poor/working class, etc. etc. etc.

Except that every family has that member (or two or three or four) who is the one that causes you to bow your head in shame and reluctantly admit that not only you know him/her, but that you're related. America has its issues. Issues that leave that sour taste of disdain in our mouths, cause our blood to boil and our blood pressure to rise!

The origin of this country is rooted in extreme racism and violent acts of imperialism and terrorism. It has many-a-fault and many-an-injustice! These are facts and they must be taught! (Including, not only the facts that we love to hate, but the facts that gave our own ancestry pain--the fact that Africans sold each other into slavery among others).

Jacked up though the past and present may be, you must admit, there is something about this country that causes many to flock here, legally and illegally.

Here, we can criticize our government, protest, rally, march, write whatever we want in the press, be a Muslim, Jew, Christian, Buddhist, or have no religious affiliation at all.

If we're hungry we can do something as "simple" as, go to the store and grab a bite to eat. Perhaps a lil somethin wit salt, pepper, ketchup, and hot sauce! Fried onions and mayo on the bread? Yessir!! We can turn on a faucet and clean water comes out. Hit a switch and "let there be light", or air, heat, a ceiling fan, garbage disposal, trash compactor, ice or water from the 'fridge.

There are no sirens ringing every few seconds because where you are just might be on the receiving end of a bomb or rocket, though other real dangers persist.

No, America isn't perfect and she/Uncle Sam, whichever designation you want to give it/us, has a long way to go!! I have been to places where life is much worse, however! Where crowds of children surrounded our vehicle, fingers to their mouths, indicating they want something to eat and me wishing I had the world to give them!

Today is Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor the fallen men and women of the many wars that involved the United States Armed Forces. Politics aside, they did as they were instructed and fought. And died. Men and women of all colors and creeds. Died.

I salute all of our fallen soldiers.  I especially want to salute those who were my ancestors; the brave black soldiers in each of America's wars. You fought for this country and yet were continually mistreated  and regarded much differently than your white counterparts. You clung to the possibility that maybe, just maybe things at home would be different. Perhaps your gallant efforts would return the same in legislation, policy, and overall perception.


You bequeathed to us your spirit, your disposition, your will, and your drive. The blood that runs in my veins, once ran in yours. Blood, that once spilled, spelled determination and resolution.

Thank you!

First Time for Everything

This year was my first year for many things.
1st time teaching 3rd grade
1st time as a self-contained teacher
1st time teaching math for an entire school year
1st time working with just 26 students
1st time moving classrooms
1st time (in a few years) not having the level of technology with which I've become accustomed to teaching
1st time with one accordion-style and 3 cinderblock walls and no bulletin board (several brands of tape and I still don't know how to get stuff to stay on the walls for more than a week)
1st time with cubbies in the classroom
And it's the first time I noticed a couple of grey hairs (wish this was a joke, but it's, smh)

If my brain was functioning a bit more normally, I'm sure I could think of many more firsts.

I've learned quite a bit about this age group and about me. Because I am a real teacher and because this is not community service nor a resume builder for me, I'm committed to reflecting and learning.

Reflecting on what went well and what didn't.
And if given this teaching assignment again, I'll build on what worked and improve on the areas that may not have worked so well.

Having taught 3 different grades during the past 3 school years and being in the #phled elementary school culture, it's not weird nor is it uncommon to not know what grade you'll teach the following school year, but in many instances, you may not even know what school you'll be at. I've taught 3 different grades in 3 different years, but there are some teachers who have been at 3 (or more) different SCHOOLS in 3 different years!

Friday, May 22, 2015

"It's the culture you create..."

"It's the culture you (universal 'you') create..."
"It's the culture you create..."
"It's the culture you create..."
"It's the culture you create..."

A fragment frequently whispered by someone with whom I'm very close throughout any given day of the week.

"It's the culture you (universal) create..."

If you create a culture where kids feel comfortable roaming around, that's what they'll do.

If you create a culture where kids feel comfortable using profanity then storming out and making their way to once sacred areas of the building, that's what they'll do.

If you create a culture where kids trash a room, use profanity, assault other kids, then storm out and make their way to once sacred and revered parts of the building, that's what they'll do.

If you create a culture where the adults are forced to think twice before defending themselves against a violent, rage-filled kid for fear of being written up, people will end up hurt

If you create a culture where, no matter how much kids don't do during the year, they know they'll be pushed ahead? Then they won't do.

If you create a culture where adults are publicly humiliated and disrespected, then the kids will follow suit.

If you create a culture that includes a laissez-faire philosophy, more will ultimately have to be done.

If you create a culture where adults feel nauseous whenever they enter the building, they'll do exactly what's required.

If you create a culture where kids who behave badly are treated to cookies, cakes, fried chicken and all day movies, then their brain has been wired to continue in their wrong. Only when they become of age and commit a crime, they'll be confused as to why they must face a consequence and not a commendation.

"It's the culture you (universal 'you') create..."
"It's the culture you create..."
"It's the culture you create..."
"It's the culture you create..."

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The ((((BIG)))) Reveal!!

Since the fall, the 3rd grade students of room 207 at John B. Kelly Elementary School (my kids, ha..duhh lol) have been exchanging correspondences with the 3rd grade students of Mr. Shankle's 3rd grade class at Meadow Point Elementary School in Aurora, Colorado!!

On average, twice a month, we would write each other. And on average, twice a month the students in both classes would anxiously await a big brown envelope with their teacher's name on it.

Today was the day that the students finally got the chance to meet face to face with their pen pals. No, we didn't travel to Colorado (what a field trip that would've been). And no, they didn't make their way to Philadelphia. We harnessed the power of technology and the internet to converse via Google Hangout!

The experience was a great one overall, with each child getting the opportunity to speak for a few seconds with his/her pen pal. The combination of excitement and nervousness may have been too much for some of them as their often active mouths suddenly became mute!! lol It's OK.

They all shared the same sentiments; that it was nice to write letters to each other all year, that it was a pleasure to meet them, and all of them ended with a quick discussion of summer plans. It really was nice. (Next year I'll have to plan what the other children will do while the others are meeting their pen pals...the teachers out there can understand what I'm *not* saying aloud)

Aside from reverting back to a fun, old school method of communicating (which, by the way, included both teachers hand writing letters---a challenge for me for sure--), both of us noticed changes in our students' writing. Changes that may not have come without this pen pal experience!

I urge you, go old school with your students! Write a letter or two and send it! (Maybe next year, it's almost summer and to be honest, it's about time! For me it's not the kids or colleagues from whom I need a break, it's....nevermind)

I was informed later that there was news coverage of the event on my colleague's end! Denver's NBC affiliate covered the story!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What Bill Green said!

I went to NewsWorks website to read a story on Jim Kenney's victory!! Congratulations Jim!!

Here's what the former School Reform Commission (SRC) Chair, Bill Green, had to say regarding question #1 on the ballot about the elimination of the SRC:

"Regarding the SRC-abolishment ballot question, he said it would be "disastrous" to have a mayor and school district run by the teachers union."

So, I'm guessing it would have been better if we had a mayor and school district run by billionaires from Montgomery County!

What concerns me most is that this guy, Green, is a member of the governing body of our schools.


This just underscores the need for an elected body (whether partial or full---that can be debated) that is responsive to the people of Philadelphia, NOT big money or people who make STUPID statements like that!

On the Williams Watch

So, this is just my humble opinion, but I say we should watch the legislative agenda of State Senator Anthony H. Williams now that he lost the Mayoral Primary Election. He's already proposed and supported legislation that would further decimate Philadelphia's public schools of the necessary finances and resources that make public schools, schools.

Unlike Kenney, he was not required to resign his office as state senator in order to run for mayor's office. Therefore, his job in Harrisburg, yup, he still has that.

Despite being backed by very wealthy people and organizations, the Associated Press called the race in Jim Kenney's favor.

He doesn't seem like the type of person who will loose gracefully. I hope I'm wrong. But if working for the School District of Philadelphia hasn't taught me anything else, it's to be skeptical! VERY skeptical!!!

A "Primary Election Day" convo on KYW...

Traveling home from a rally in Chestnut Hill, listening to KYW News Radio's election day coverage, the conversation between Larry Kane and Terry Madonna---why such a low turnout? (~28% or so I think---for what in actuality will likely be for the next Mayor of Philadelphia since registered Dems outnumber registered Repubs in Philly 8:1)

One of the possible reasons for very low voter turn out during this particular election they discussed was the absence of a big "thing" and single big "issue". They said that for the most part, the candidates all generally agreed on the broad issues du jour.

They said that education seemed to be the biggest issue, but that such issues are up to the state and school officials to handle anyway, so candidates for Mayor and City Council running on those issues is for all intents and purposes, fruitless. (Their commentary, my emphasis)

One, I'm a voter and tax payer and in the grand scheme of things, I may not be able to do much, but that doesn't stop me from speaking up and speaking out on behalf of my students, colleagues, and the community at large. Neither has it nor should it stop a candidate for elected office. So I understand  their point, but I want to refocus the narrative a bit. I digress...

My real reaction comes in response to the possibility that voter turn out was low this time because "education is the only big issue there is" (emphasis mine).

One, I hope that the education platform is NOT the reason why voter turn out was so low this time.
Actually, I don't want there to EVER be a reason for voter turn out being low, but I digress.

Two, if it is the reason, then shame on us Philadelphians for not seeing such an issue as big enough to make a statement on!

If education in Philadelphia is the big ticket item of the past several months (and I believe that it is), the improvement of a system ought to be the TOP priority of all of us!!

And as I finish up this post, the tweets are coming in, the Associated Press is calling it! Jim Kenney winning the Primary Battle, the mayoral candidate endorsed by the TEACHERS of Philadelphia!!