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!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Johnson House

I sat and pondered about some of the "Black History" significant sites that I'd like to visit at some point, some  this summer and others throughout the school year to come. Some included places where tragedy struck including the Lorraine Hotel (now a museum) where Dr. King was killed and the16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, the site of the September, 1963 Sunday School bombing where four black girls were killed.

As I sat, thought, calculated, I decided that I would jump in my car and head about 20 minutes (on a good day) up the road to Germantown Avenue right here in Philly to the Johnson House, a well established historical site and former station on the Underground Railroad. I'm glad that I did.

I even lent my voice in knowledge of my ancestral heritage to the two ladies with whom I was touring; very nice ladies from Montgomery County.

It was a great learning experience and I'd love to revisit, learn more, and even take a few folks with me! (You ready 207?)

Check them out here --

Thursday, July 2, 2015

"There is such a thing as 'free lunch'"

When people casually or irreverently speak of or address certain subjects, it will offend me. A lover of words and language, I tend to listen carefully. So when a local reporter, when reporting on the Wawa Welcome America celebrations, particularly today's Free Hoagie Day here in Philly said, "it turns out there is a such thing as free lunch", I got perturbed.

Excuse me Miss, you're a reporter. In Philly. On TV.

You don't have to tell the kids in this city that "there is a such thing as free lunch." WE know it!

YOU may speak of free lunch lightly while reporting on the free hoagies that Wawa gave out today, and you may even take a joking tone. However, free lunch for many children in our public schools is a serious thing. Many depend on the free breakfast and lunch that their neighborhood public school provides. For many households, these are the only meals they receive.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sweet and Bitter Irony: Music From A Closed School

That could be the name of a song, or did someone already copyright that? Sweet and Bitter Irony: Music From A Closed School

Earlier today, and clearly in my summer "chill mode", I was enjoying a cup of coffee, resting under the foliage of a small tree, in my car when...a sound....a sweet sound....a soothing sound.....a saxophone sound!!

It didn't take long to realize that there was someone playing their sax somewhere near the shuttered George Pepper Middle School out in Southwest Philly.

The music was....mellow....soft....nice!
And in front of a school that likely did not have a vibrant music program in the years just preceding its closing. Unfortunately it's vibrant music and other arts programs that the majority of our schools wrongly settle without.

As a classroom teacher, I do appreciate music and the visual arts and do my best to incorporate them both into the 207 experience. But I have no issue with admitting that I don't have the extensive creative background or experience to make the most of integrating such media into the teaching and learning event.

Yes, Sweet and Bitter Irony indeed!! That such beautiful music now IS and, then too, from the outside of the school!

Pictures of Pepper -
One account of Pepper's history -

Friday, June 26, 2015

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled today that same sex marriages can be in all 50 states.  Those so-inclined and so-desiring and even well-wishers erupted in congratulatory cheers, hugs, and high-fives. A historical moment here in the states!

That same Constitution, upon which the decision was made, allows for a rule of law in this country where people can freely express their opinions, beliefs, and even petition the government, which we’ve seen.

Just as so many have expressed their beliefs, I have one and it’s that I disagree with the decision. (I felt that collective WHAT???????!!!!!!).

Do not misinterpret disagreement for hatred. I do not hate anyone. I just disagree, just like some people are disagreeing with me right now, as is your right. That’s one of the nice things about living here in the United States.

This is also one of those times when most seem to refer to the Bible to both defend their position and to cut at contrasting views. Well, it is the Bible upon which I base my beliefs; beliefs that should not misinterpret disagreement for hatred. I do not hate anyone. Living in America, we’re all entitled to a belief system, religious or otherwise, or no religious belief system at all, and we can disagree.

We can disagree! Or can’t we?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Lessons from "A Bug's Life"

"Silence gives consent." No doubt you've heard it, albeit not always true. But silence can provide the fodder of false assumption to principals, policy makers, law makers, and district officials that all is well. It can also solidify fear!

Sometimes the onus is on a few individuals and organizations to speak up, be the voice of many, and risk distorted classroom observations, censure (whatever that means...ha), daily classroom visits, ludicrous write-ups, etc. etc. etc. to say what is often spoken of behind closed doors, at dinner tables, in cafes, at the copier, and other private/not-so-private places. {Except that I/we cannot say what you can say, how you can say it and from the place and experience through which it is said. As a black man, I have particular experiences and places from which I speak. Your experience is not mine.}*

(Although I must say, Pennsylvania and Philadelphia voters have CLEARLY made their voices heard during the past two elections!!!!!!!!)

I understand (sometimes) people's desire to remain quiet. There are families to think about. They don't want to make waves. They don't want the principal hovering over them all the time. In some minds, we're all better off leaving well enough alone.

Well, if no one ever spoke up, I'd still be in chains, women still wouldn't be able to vote, neither would African Americans. We wouldn't have the Americans with Disabilities Act. There'd be no teachers of color. It would still be illegal to teach black kids how to read and write and THE LIST GOES ON AND ON AND ON!!

As advocates, we can all stand to improve in our efforts and to encourage others to join us!!
Here to help us, "A Bug's Life!!" This from the desk of Ed-Deformers everywhere...a behind the scenes conversation in board rooms, offices, state capital AND capitol corridors across the country, DC, etc:


*Added hours after the original post as I pondered, staring into the night, consuming my blueberry water ice

Monday, June 22, 2015

Maron/Obama Podcast -- Episode 613 - President Barack Obama

Episode 613 - President Barack Obama
Click to listen.

I decided to listen to the entire Maron/Obama podcast before adding my little opinion to the mix of the potpourri of opinions that I'm sure are out there (most of which I have not read/listened to) regarding President Obama's use of the word "nigger".

While Maron wanted to have a conversation that wasn't policy driven, but more friendly and personal, it's kind of hard to have the President of the United States in your garage and it not turn political.

President Obama did discuss many of his agenda items including some that became more prevalent in the last few years: climate change, the ACA, common sense gun laws, education, poverty, policing, etc.

Then there was the discussion on race and how it's "incontrovertible" that progress has been made since the 50s, 60s, and 70s but that America still isn't "cured" of racism.

I'm sure there's no shortage of opinion out there over his choice of one word out of the many he uttered during the nearly hour-long conversation. I'm sure that many closet racists are now coming out and are low key satisfied that they now have a reason to repeat the word publicly in a feigned attempt at opining over the President's talk with Maron. (Tip from me to you, don't even think about it!)

I think it's important to consider the context in which the President used the word and the what that he was saying. Don't miss the message!

Here's a very small portion of what he said:
"And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say 'nigger' in public. That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior."

The message:
Racism is not nonexistent simply because it's not nice to use the word 'nigger' in public and most may not. Racism is not nonexistent because it's not as "overt" as it once was. Racism still exists and it will take some time to get to a point where it doesn't exist.

I do not take issue with the President had to say, especially considering the context in which it was said and the message he was trying to convey.

And a little 411, a little post-script from the streets and the chairs of the barbershop, there is a difference in the use of the word ending in "er" and "a". That's a whole different post for a whole different day.

$40M Plymouth Whitemarsh High School face-lift

I chose not to play around with the "Whitemarsh" part of the school's name....ahem...

Schools deserve facade-lifts, renovations, improvements and the like! ALL schools deserve that!

No shade thrown at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School out in the Philly 'burbs, but why can't kids who look like me also have buildings that are modernized, comfortable, clean, bright, and welcoming!! There are some buildings I vowed never to teach in because they were so dark and ominous. If I as an undergrad felt that way, I can only imagine how the children and staff who must walk into those buildings feel. (But here comes Charter Man to the rescue, taking money away from said schools. Money that could be used for improvements.)

Folks in Harrisburg, City Hall, and 440 love to put the onus on teachers and our union and love to lay a world of problems at our feet as if we're the cause for all of this city's educational woes. We're not.

Let's try something different, BILLION dollar investments in public education and our schools (modern buildings, technology, real PD by teachers/colleges profs, modern libraries, clean & green spaces to read, study, eat and whatever, etc. etc. etc.)

Here's the thing. All we're asking for at this moment here in Philly, a nurse in every school every day, librarians and counselors in our schools, keeping our guest teachers, and music/art teachers in every school. Of course we have a longer list, but at the moment, these are just some of the basic ticket items that every school should

I have a feeling Plymouth-Whitemarsh (which I happened to drive by this past Saturday) has all of these items and having them isn't considered a luxury.