Some call me "Flem"

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B.S.Ed, M.Ed I'm a passionate, purpose-driven, public school teacher! Here I write about teaching, learning, public education, public schools, the African American experience, and whatever else might come to mind.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

#PopeInPhilly Thoughts

I love learning about other cultures. It began when I was in 5th grade (Hamilton) and had a classmate who was of Asian decent. In middle school, I was privileged to be acquainted with children from many backgrounds. My lessons in cultural competence didn't come through formal lessons, but in the friendships I formed in middle school (Masterman Middle) and in high school (Bodine High).

Ever since, I've enjoyed learning about people of other backgrounds and persuasions.

I've traveld to England and France ('97), Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, and Switzerland ('02) and Canada (I forget the year, lol, smh).

I recently renewed my Passport and have plans to travel to Jamaica next March.

The Pope is in the United States. Even though I'm not Catholic, I do not have to be in order to recognize the historical significance of his visit to the United States and in particular, my hometown of Philadelphia. I also don't have to be Catholic to sit, watch, and learn something about a religious culture different from my own.

I've been watching the coverage in the weeks leading up to this and am doing so as I type and am learning quite a bit.

Switching gears a bit...

Admittedly, I was one of the critics about how Philadelphia was preparing for this event. The attack was not intended for the Pope or on the Catholic Church, but more on the irony of this city that included long walks for the feeble, the whisking away of the homeless, and how many very small businesses (taxi drivers, vendors, small cafes) would lose out on significant weekend money to make ends meet, all in the name of the Pope who is considered the people's Pope.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Hiatus

It's been just over a month since my lost post. I love writing and have often said on twitter than when I get frustrated, I write. And have. And do. And love it.

Just a few days after my last post on 8/21, the man who had been my Pastor for more than 28 years passed away and that knocked all of the wind out of me. He had a heart attack and there was no way you could get me to believe that he wasn't going to recover from that. People have heart attacks all the time and survive. Well, Bishop William Fleming Todd, Sr. did not survive.

I cried, a lot. My writing...wasn't on here.
Instead, I wrote for others, with others, and from a place I hadn't been in a very long time, grief. Real, genuine, authentic, and I'm going to use the term audacious, grief. My posts on other platforms were random and incoherent blather! That's why my grief was audacious, I let friends and family into a world of mine normally guarded, where words about thoughts are carefully chosen, precisely picked, and very intentional.

I've had thoughts on many topics, events, and the such, but could only manage 140 characters at a time unless I was writing about Bishop Todd....Pastor Todd, my beloved Pastor, a man I've known all my life and a man whom I will miss dearly!

I've said that going back to work will definitely be a distraction in more ways than one and the School District of Philadelphia has definitely not "disappointed" at all.

So that's been the hiatus, my longer than usual gap between ">140 Characters" posts.

Friday, August 21, 2015

First time for everything!!

So, I went on and did something for the first time!! Though not particular to bathroom mirror selfie jawns, (because it's like narcissism to the 2nd power) I actually took one! Not gonna be a regular thing at all. Felt self-conscious.
 Wassup? #Blackmaninblack

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Working with Adjudicated Youth Part 8: The Goodbye

Que the Boyz  II Men goodbye song...
"How could I say goodbye...?"

Like this,

I jest. It wasn't as simple as I thought it would be to say so long to these young guys with whom I had been working! Throughout the program, kids had come and go without warning. Some went back home while others went to more confined settings. Some came for a day, others for a week and a couple for the entire summer! So saying "peace out homies" should've just been part and parcel of the culture of the environment. But for me, it wasn't so simple.

No, I did the break down and tear up or anything like that.

I like to stay in touch, go to sports games, contribute to their causes, support presentations, talk to their parents, text parents back, and the like. Well...this was different. No parents, games, presentations, nothing. They are in a detention facility. I couldn't visit their homes, call home, meet parents/guardians or anything like that.

On the last day they were giving their counselor grief. I thought I'd attempt to bring them back to themselves by showing them the video presentation I'd been working on about my trip to Baltimore and Freddie Gray's neighborhood. I wrote something about that when discussing the type of teaching that went on. It worked to some extent. After that, we watched and analyzed "The Blind Side". Then it was time for me to go, for the last time.

I went around, shook everyone's hand, gave them my well wishes and all. But two of the kids' reactions stood out. Most just shook hands and that was that. One of them shot me a look that said, "but why you gotta go?" This was the same one who, in a previous post, told me that he liked writing and that it comes naturally to him. He was Donatello in the last paragraph of a previous post. He was one of the few who really showed interest in learning this summer.

The other reaction that stood out was from one who had given me grief every waking second of summer and who was on the short list of those who I'd call the bane of my existence but kinda grew on me! I'm sure we've all had those types. Tap dance on your nerves, but when the dancing stops, you're like, "but...huh...oh, ok." #confused As I was making my way to the door to leave, this kid made it a point to call out from another room, "Ard Mr. Flemming!!"

"but...huh...oh, ok." #confused

I stopped. Turned around. Went to where he was. Stunned.

First, this might have been the first time he said my name all summer. I was used to being called names like "ole  head". On other days I may have been "dis  n***" or someone who was "schemin", but rarely, if ever was I "Mr. Flemming."

Second, he made it a point to get my attention. He, of all people, was one I wouldn't peg for one to make it a point to say goodbye. I shook his hand and again encouraged him to do what he could to get discharged.

Making my way through the door, I looked to my left where there was a window and one of the kids pushes back the curtains and the pic below accurately captures the scene...

I looked back, held my solidarity/power/"right on" fist up and forced myself to keep walking.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Shout out to the admins who....

Shout out to the admins who....

...remember what it's like to be a classroom teacher and lead with that in mind!

...were generally admired classroom teachers and didn't get into admin because they hated the classroom!

...didn't come out of the classroom after a year or two or even three...(a three year old is still a bit of a brat, just saying)

...are proponents for solid teaching and learning, not "yes men/women" for district mandates without at least questioning questionable mandates!

...know that learning will look different in each classroom and that one over another doesn't necessarily denote superior/inferior.

...make the school a welcoming place for students, teachers, staff, parents, and the community.

...are advocates for their schools and will fight to get what's needed for their schools!!

...respect the various qualities that different faculty members bring to the table. appreciation to staff in a tangible way every now and then (lunch, mints, pencils, something)!

...connects with students, parents, and community members!

...breathe life into buildings and make people want to be there and not just there so they 'won't get fired'

...know that it takes a team to make that building run smoothly!

...don't undermine teachers' efforts in front of the kids (pull us aside and talk.....with representation...)

...pour into their teachers and staff, encouraging them to further their career, write, pubkish, speak, advocate, lead, learn...

...are still teachers at heart!!!!!!!!!!

...aren't miserable old buzzards!

I'm sure my colleagues around the country, state, district, and school could opine and add MANY traits of a good leader to this list. And in no way do we purport that the job of a principal or district administrator is simple. Shout out to the good administrators out there......wherever you are!!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Working with Adjudicated Youth Part 7: On 7/27/15 I wrote...


After class I often took notes and journaled, if you can't already tell by all of the previous posts of my summer teaching experience as an English teacher of adjudicated youth. Ha!

Here are the exact words I typed into my phone after class on 7/27/15:

The focus of this class has changed so much. I've really had to be flexible. What I thought would be a traditional English course has turned out to be anything but. No shade and no fault, just the reality and that's OK. Teachers are special people with a special skill set to be able to adapt, adjust, and still aim to be effective and that doesn't come with 5 weeks of "intense" training. I hate TFA and I hate this country's attitude toward the profession!

Click on a post to read:
Working with Adjudicated Youth part 1

Working with Adjudicated Youth: Part 2 - Teaching

Working with Adjudicated Youth: Part 3 - What THEY said

Working with Adjudicated Youth, Part 4: My Old Student

Working with Adjudicated Youth, Part 5: The Connections

Working with Adjudicated Youth, Part 6: The Research