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!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Importance of Black Male Teachers

I am grateful for Dr. Mike Robinson (@DrMikeRobinson on twitter) and Forest of the Rain Productions: An Education Affairs Organization (@anaturalbridge on twitter) for giving me the chance to record a 3-minute mini-talk on an educational topic of my choosing. I chose to speak very briefly on the importance of black male teachers in our schools.
There is so much to say and so much that can be done nationwide and I did my best to summarize some of my ideas in three minutes! This was my first time doing something like this and again, I'm grateful for that opportunity.

Just as a side note: I'm the only black male teacher at my school and one of only two male teachers, period. Our current principal is a black male and there are other strong black men who work in various capacities in our building. So our approximately 700 students do see some positive male role models.

So, yes I am a proponent of higher numbers of male teachers at the elementary level, no matter the race. But speaking for my race, I'd like to see more black men teaching at the elementary level across the country and in different geographical settings. Here are some of my thoughts...(click the link)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Our waiter-teacher

Today I took a former supervisor of mine, who was like a mother to me where I used to work, out to lunch. As a retired teacher turned director of early childhood education for a large nonprofit organization, we most certainly started talking education and schools.

Two of my rants included "I'm going to speak up for my kids no matter what" Rant and the "I probably would've have been fired a long time ago if it was up to _____" Rant. While talking, our waiter, a younger black male, overheard me talking.

"I know that's right! Are you a teacher?"

From there, he began talking of the work he does in the community and all that he does with youth sports and how he wants to be a positive influence to young kids. Boss Lady and I informed him that he already is a positive influence. We also began to speak of how more black males are needed in our school systems. We also asked whether he was going to go back to school.

From our conversation, we could tell that he was passionate about his work and his insatiable desire to do more! Before we left, I made sure he had my contact information. We must support each other in this work...ministry!

At this juncture I should insert some statistics or some inspirational proverb about the importance of effective black male teachers in our schools, especially in elementary schools. I should probably insert the fact that only 2% of the nation's public school teachers are black men. I should probably also include how much of an impact an effective black male teacher can have on an entire school and not just his classroom. Maybe I should mention that some of our colleagues start to get a little uncomfortable when black teachers start talking like this because "we shouldn't see color" or "a skilled teacher can be effective no matter what color he or she is."


Monday, August 25, 2014

Encouraged by a former student and parent

When teachers are demonized as the source of the problem for all of society's woes, it's tweets and facebook messages like this that really are encouraging!!

From a parent on the page I set up for former students and parents:
I love u as a teacher!! I admire the love u have for our children I wish there were more like u educating them u care so much keep doing what ur doing God Bless U!!

I replied to both student and parent! THIS is what keeps me going! The accolades of principals doesn't impress me. I don't need my back patted on by district officials. I'll be polite and say thank you. But when former students and parents, and even current students and parents can tell you mean well by their children??? Then my teaching is not in vain!

Mayweather can't read? Says who?

Last week, while in the barbershop (where else?), one of the barbers played an audio clip of rapper 50 Cent's challenge to Floyd Mayweather to read a page from a Harry Potter book. He then switched up and changed it to a Cat In the Hat book. Jimmy Kimmel's name was mentioned somewhere up in there too. The barber then played a radio station's segment on that challenge and a clip of Mayweather reading something for them some time ago. You can Google search and find the clips for yourself.

What I chose to do was type out the text of what he read, then do a cursory analysis of my observations, forcing myself to assume that the audio clip is authentic and hasn't been doctored for the benefit of the listeners of this radio show out of New York.

Here's a pic of that cursory running record:

Everything is about perception and perspective.
Here's mine:

1. Context: He's preparing for the recording of a commercial to be played before thousands, if not more, listeners - You wouldn't be nervous?

2. He rereads in an attempt to get it "right" (a strategy)

3.  He self-corrects (another strategy)

4.  He checks for comprehension (as particularly indicated by his constant rereading of the word "show" after the article "the", which, in this case, would normally would be read as a noun and not a verb considering that most words following the definite article "the" are direct objects/nouns)

5. He omits the "I" in "I Heart Radio" for reasons that can be explained. His brain is likely processing "I" to mean himself (and why shouldn't it). In this case, however, the "I" is *not* talking about him, Floyd, but is rather used as a part of the proper noun for some entity followed by the word "heart".
I heart?? Yes, another irregularity.

"Heart" used here defies the use of the word as a noun and makes it a verb, which is commonly used in youthful colloquial conversation (i.e. I heart you). That said, it's not uncommon for his, or any, brain to initially omit "I" because of the perception that it's an error and "doesn't belong" next to the noun-turned-verb "heart".

No doubt there is much more that can be said, particularly about his fluency, whether or not the script he was given was on a teleprompter or not, whether the script he was given was written using punctuation, whether he needs glasses to read (not normally used for boxing, but I digress) or whether the writers used title case for "I Heart Radio", etc.

The logistics of reading aside, what is most troubling is the exploitation of a perceived inability to read by a radio personality and that radio segment going viral on social media. While one star's calling out of another star on social media is not uncommon, it's reprehensible that a radio station decided to dig into its archives and air what they called an "unedited" (though I believe it was doctored for this particular segment) drop of Mayweather's reading of this script.

Assuming that the tape isn't doctored and assuming that Mayweather does have some reading difficulties and assuming that it wasn't just his nerves getting the best of him as he was preparing for this radio commercial (those are a lot of assumptions and there are more), illiteracy isn't a joking matter. Laughing at another's inability to read is what kids do before a responsible adult corrects the behavior. Furthermore, as if black men in America don't have enough problems, one of the last things we need is for "brothers" to be calling out other "brothers" and mocking the other's perceived illiteracy (although this script is hardly the basis for a diagnosis) and going to great extents to do so!

I admire the courage of the other radio personalities who at least said something in opposition to their colleague's choosing to air the segment.

At a time when the funding of public schools is low, particularly in urban areas where there are large numbers of blacks, Latinos, and other minority groups, this could be any. of. our. kids!!!

That said, *if* Floyd Mayweather is having reading difficulties, I challenge him to hit me up. I'll be more than happy to provide some remedial instruction! And I don't need his money. That's not the point! If there is a problem, he needs help. If he doesn't have any reading challenges and this is all pure 'bafoonery', well...people have sued for less!

A set of statistics can be found here-->
I cannot speak to the accuracy of the stats, but they are starting/continuing points for discussions and debate.

Friday, August 15, 2014

My letter to a state rep

Dear Rep Roebuck,
The school funding crisis is beyond out of control and tragic. Students died last year. A school police officer suffered a heart attack in school after breaking up a fight. He died. Another faculty member was jumped and hospitalized. Yet they propose to cut additional services and are constantly asking for teachers to give up money to save the district despite the fact that we didn't contribute to its financial ruin.

PLEASE keep fighting for us!

Also, PA's version of Value Added Measures, VAM, or PVAAS, that needs to be thrown out! They want to make teachers more accountable, but are totally stripping us of what we need to be as effective as we possibly can. It's not right, it's not fair and there needs to be an immediate cessation of such an ill-conceived, illogical, unfair, and insidious law.

I'm an elementary school teacher at John B. Kelly Elementary School. I'm committed to teaching,  to learning, and to the realistic, not idealistic, notion that our kids can have the best educational experiences that our schools have the potential energy to provide but a lack of a kinetic, consistent,  and equitable distribution of funds and resources to do what we all love!

There's so much more that I can say and I would love to have the opportunity to sit and meet with you and discuss the issues and real solutions!

Yours truly,
Stephen R. Flemming

Thursday, August 14, 2014

I'm finally included...or am I?

"Earlier today, we heard the beginning of the preamble to the Constitution of the United States, "We, the people." It is a very eloquent beginning. But when the document was completed on the seventeenth of September 1787, I was not included in that "We, the people." I felt somehow for many years that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton just left me out by mistake. But through the process of amendment, interpretation, and court decision, I have finally been included in "We, the people.""

These are the words of, then, Representative Barbara Jordan out of Texas, who, I should point out, was the first black male or female to represent Texas in Congress.

How poignant and appropriate her words are today, especially given the unrest resulting from the recent slaughter of unarmed blacks by police (against Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Ezell Ford) and by gun-toting vigilantes (against Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride).

It seems like our inclusion is being tested by events like these, proposed voting laws, and often separate and unequal public school funding and resource quantities.

"We, the people" huh?

Children's innocence

"Daddy I want to ride the bike."
"OK baby, maybe when we get home."
"His bike," as she points to a teenage boy riding his bike across the street."

{Insert a smile and a slight chuckle here}

This kind of stuff just makes you temporarily forget all of the insanity and foolishness all around us, if only for a moment.