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.

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Working with Adjudicated Youth Part 6: The Research

Only in the dusk of my days this past summer as an English teacher in a program for adjudicated youth did I even think to go all "Geeky" and look up any research on the effectiveness of juvenile detention-type educational programs. It hit me like a ton of bricks one night, so much so that I stopped the eye-lid closing process, pulled my Samsung tablet to me and started looking to see what was out there.

Not much came of my cursory search that night. I did come across this (!po=20.1613) and started reading before I ZZZZZZzzzzzed!

I also started following the twitter account below. As a newbie to teaching and working in juvenile detention facilities, albeit for a month, I wasn't aware of any of the discourses surrounding these spaces nor of any possible sound pedagogy or even hints at implications for teaching in these spaces.

The Quasi-Corner Store Approach: District and Charter Schools

Growing up in Philly, corner stores are really the corner stones of neighborhoods!! So much so, that as I was looking to relocate to where I'm living now, I drove around the blocks of my new hood in my father's car looking for where the corner stores were because I was "in between cars" at the time. There were NONE to be found and I almost didn't move there because of that. With no car, a corner store was going to be important to my very existence!!!! Ok, a bit hyperbolic, but you get my drift.

Prior to moving, I was used to corner stores being everywhere and wherever I lived in Philly from childhood through adulthood. Two were sometimes on the same corner, with one around the corner, a Chinese store or two down the block, with a 7-Eleven nestled up in there (because Wawa--my fav--refuses to come to the 'hood').

My point is, corner stores were everywhere and if they played their cards right, the majority were and are successful. I go to 'hood' of my youth near 54th and Baltimore and still see some of the same corner stores my siblings and I would stop by on the way home from Harrington Elementary (although that water ice place in/around the old furniture jawn is now a Rite Aid---somebody knows what I'm talking about lol)

Charter schools in Philly seem to take what I'm calling a quasi-corner store approach. They seem to be popping up everywhere, including right across the street in some cases from district schools. "Quasi" because corner stores offer pretty much the same thing and tend to do well even if there are two on same corner. I cannot say that our charter operators are offering the same "thing" or even a better "thing".

In general, charter school operators tend not to serve as many children with special needs, as many children with behavioral difficulties, as many children with academic struggles. I don't have to quote anybody's research, I've seen it in action as a teacher in a public school. I've taught the students who were straight up put out or were "encouraged" (counseled) out. Within minutes I was able to understand why they were now in my class, and that was OK with me in the sense that I welcome a challenge. It wasn't OK with me that the charter miracle workers that so many make them out to be couldn't turn the water into wine or calm the raging sea!! (Many of my colleagues around the district can testify of these truths as well. I hear the stories all the time.)

"Quasi" because while there are those who would look at this post to bolster the whole "choice" argument (since I'm using corner stores as a metaphor), let me remind you, we are dealing with children not chips! If I don't want salt & vinegar chips, I don't pick them up. If I pick them up by accident, I put them back. Hmmmm, now where have I seen such actions before? Children are NOT commodities!

We are and have been dealing with the unfortunate and racist realities of a dreadfully underfunded school district that serves many children in this region with the highest needs. Stepping out of my public school advocacy role for just a QUICK second, even charter operators understand the impact of underfunding; irony personified. So much so, that everyone stopped fighting for a moment and came together to send a letter, petitioning Harrisburg for funds.

With each new corner store opening, that's additional money syphoned away from already underfunded schools. How and why is that fair?

Wait!! I'll ask for you, "well, how is it fair to kids and families that they get stuck in a failing school?"

1.  What exactly is a failing school?
2.  Why is defunding the school the solution to whatever problems you may see?

This post comes on the heels of my learning that the closed Leidy Elementary School on Belmont Ave, here in Philly, will reopen as Inquiry Charter School, right across the street from Discovery Charter School and around the corner from BLAKENBURG ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, where Global Leadership Academy moved right across the street. Too much? Yupperz!!

The quasi-corner store approach!