Some call me "Flem"

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B.S.Ed | M.Ed | Ed.D student | Passionate | Compassionate | Purpose-driven | PUBLIC school teacher | There's a lot more...

Friday, December 8, 2017

What are you passionate about?

It's Friday.
It's a half day.
I wanted to wrap up the week on a slightly different note, taking a detour from our regular grind. Since we have an adjusted schedule anyway, I figure it'd be perfect.

Mini-passages and short open-ended questions on Barbara Jordan and Crispus Attucks awaited the students as "Do Now"s on their desks as they entered. The goal: complete this short assignment, move on to discuss the causes for which they have a passion, followed by a discussion on the 1967 Philly student demonstrations, and end with the Fresh Prince of Bel Air episode "Those Were the Days". Here's YouTube's description of it:

When radical activist Marge Smallwood visits old friends Philip and Vivian Banks, her stories about the civil rights movement inspire Will to lead a student protest of his own at school.

We only watched 1 minute of the episode. The discussion about their passions was extended and well-informed. Here's a list of some of their passions:

1. De-emphasis on grades by parents and schools
2. Colorism (a student actually used the term...#winning)
3. A true desire to learn (they named the classes where some form of it actually exists)
4. Teachers and their management
5. There was also a discussion on feeling entitled

The conversations were real and were mostly concentrated on teaching and learning. Let me say that I did NOT provoke, evoke, or whatever other 'voke' we can use here, I had nothing to do with it. {snickers} To know me is to know that it sounds like something I would do. THEY pushed the conversation in this direction. The students were very critical of teachers, teaching/learning, the school system, and our school itself. They expressed a burning desire to learn and to grow beyond whatever growth they may be experiencing (or not) at the moment.

Every point was valid and well-taken. Their words were a reflection of their experiences as freshmen to this point. From the proverbial balcony, from a slightly different perspective, I did seize the opportunity to be critical. I do teach that it's OK to be critical, to question, to prod a little and even to disagree. Me to them, "Is this a two-way street? Do we ALL not have a part in this teaching and learning thing? Do students bear any responsibility at all for their learning? What can YOU do?"

Everyone's voice was heard. Everyone's voice was respected. Everyone's voice could have gone on for another hour or two. Easily.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

It's a Rap

I couldn't think of a better way to end an 8-week accelerated semester than the way it ended tonight.

Several weeks ago I wrote about one of my college students who asked if he could write a rap for The Soloist by Steve Lopez, our course text for the English part of the Reading course. Tonight, after a few more Article Articulation assignments, also discussed in that previous post, I informed the class that after he raps, it's a rap.

He set up his background music and with such finesse he
spit them barz and lyricals
quick as carz, satirical...

In church, we give the benediction.
His rap was something like that. And it wasn't a corny jawn either. He did the thing. There was nothing left to say.

So let the class say, "AMEN!" (Except for the part that I still have to report to work next week, but it's cool though)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Don't Sleep on Community Colleges

I'm not sure just how widespread the idea reached, but at one point in the "hood" (and perhaps beyond), many thought of community college as "13th grade", just an extension of high school. Where the idea came from, I have no clue. This post centers on a complete reconsideration of those past thoughts that many of us in the hood had. Forget whatever biases we/you may have had about community colleges as a teenager or even as an adult! They definitely have a place in the lives of young and older adults alike!

Recent events in the lives of two 20-something year old Black men in Philadelphia have put both their accomplishments and at least one common experience they both shared in the limelight. They both attended the Community College of Philadelphia. Those two young men are Mr. Quamiir Trice and Mr. Hazim Hardeman. Both in their early 20s, their experiences with some of life's toughest enigmas aren't unlike those of many other young people of color in the 'hood' and elsewhere. Also like many other young people of color, young brothers and sisters, they're winning!

The success stories of Quamiir and Hazim are circulating local and social media, print and digital media, the Associated Press, everywhere! They're taking the narrative by storm; that of the success of young Black men! Quamiir, in a reply to a tweet I mentioned him in, wrote,

If you're unaware of their stories, check out their twitter feeds. Nothing that I can write here will do it justice. Hear them in their own words.

One of many salient points included in their narratives is the time they spent as students at Community College of Philadelphia, anything but 13th grade.

On Hazim's experience, Susan Snyder writes on, "...he went to community college, and his life as a scholar took off. He got into the honors program, for which he had high praise, and served as vice president of the student body." In an interview posted by Temple University on YouTube, Hazim speaks about how attending CCP allowed him the "opportunity to reorient myself and really focus myself..." He speaks of his learning how to be a scholar and how to interact with his teachers and professors. Hazim also makes it a point to note how the opportunity to attend CCP, knowing he could transfer to a place like Temple, was "something significant not only to me but to people in my community" This was, in his words, "an opportunity that not a lot of people in my neighborhood have."

He's Temple's first Rhodes Scholar and is headed to Oxford University.

Quamiir's road to and experiences at CCP also debunk previously held 13th grade mentalities!

In a Philadelphia Tribune report, Quamiir speaks of his experience in a program at the Center for Male Engagement at Community, “For the first time, I was watching four Black educators making a difference in my life and other students lives,” Trice said. “It was an eye opener for me. I was inspired by what they were doing, how they were carrying themselves, and how they were dressing." Kristen Graham notes on how Quamiir excelled at CCP, graduated and headed on to Howard University to complete his studies in education. Personally encouraged by former mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, Philly schools superintendent, Dr. Hite and a man you may have heard of, Barrack Obama, "Mr. Trice" is now an educator here in Philly, a Black male educator with great promise.

More and more, students and families are finding community colleges to be viable, affordable, and meaningful postsecondary experiences in preparation for even more exhaustive postsecondary learning. 

In a cursory search for research on the topic, a few articles at the top of the search engines and databases yielded research on how several who start at places like CCP don't do well in 4-year universities, if they finish at all. I was a little disheartened, until...duhhhh...I'm writing a blog post about two brothers whose stories are counter narratives!! HA! How 'bout them apples!?!

During a recent trip with my students to CCP, one of the faculty members and I were chatting during lunch. He spoke of his long career there and I spoke of my coming up on my one year anniversary with Delaware County Community College as an adjunct reading professor teaching at night. He spoke of the whole 13th grade mentality. I asked this older brother very frankly if from his experience, people still think that way. He said "no". I echoed my agreement with that sentiment based on my experiences as an adjunct and based on conversations with youth and adults alike!

In a separate, unprovoked conversation with a fellow church member, who had no idea what my thoughts were, she commented on the quality of education she is receiving at a local community college. She already has at least a Bachelors, but decided to take (or took) a course in business. She commented how she likes it and how courses, overall, are being taught by experts in their fields and PhDs. (Note the *and*, because a PhD does not necessarily make you an expert)

In another unprovoked conversation, this time with a local school superintendent, we spoke of our support for the education that community colleges have to offer. She spoke of the dual enrollment program her district offers and the increasing success of such. I spoke up Quamiir and Hazim.

The mentality towards community colleges is changing. From my view, many no longer consider it "13th" grade but the next logical step to their long term goals in life. At the end of the day, whatever post-secondary goals our students have, whether community college, 4-year universities, trade school or otherwise, let's encourage them in their pursuits! Let's help them see the forest for the trees, the certificates, and the degrees!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

All I gotta do is...

A catered lunch for a field trip.

Chicken salad and turkey sandwiches on kaiser along with Herr's chips, a cookie, and water.

Excellent reviews from the kids who had the same options during our last trip. They looked forward to it, again.

Kid wanted turkey, so he threw the whole chicken salad sandwich box and contents away.

We were outside having lunch in the Spring Garden section of the city. So, quasi-public trashcan.

I couldn't keep it together.

Obviously annoyed with my beffudlement and rambling, the reply to me, "All you gotta do is take it out the trashcan!"

Mr. Flemming, back away slowly. Get your lessons and videos together. You're a teacher. Keep calm and lesson plan. ALL I gotta do is...???

*feverishly plans a series of lessons that goes along with those little teaching standards*

Friday, November 3, 2017

What They Whisper, Matters

I firmly believe that what students say when the teacher is not around or when they perceive the teacher is inattentive, may be their most honest statements. This certainly does not suggest that they aren't truthful when we are engaged in conversation. Yet and still...

I pay attention to what the kids say underneath their breath. I recently blogged about purposeful ear-hustling or eavesdropping.

I hear the profanity which draws an automatic but simple response from me. "Language!" (Or my threat to play gospel music!) I also hear the moans and groans when there's work to be done. There's the occasional, "I hate this class" or "He do the most". I try to read between the lines and where I can tweak a lesson, I do. Not always, but sometimes.

But every now and then, I also hear feedback that let's me know I've penetrated the multilayered Teflon that some of them have built up over the years.  I hear something that lets me know that I'm on the right track. Tired and drained though I may be, I continue on.

In one instance, one of their classmates was starting to cut up in class. Another classmate quickly checked him, "Yo, this not the type of class we can wild out in!"


Then there was a group of girls who were discussing our latest "Do Now" series. "Yo these Do Nows be fun as *bleep*!! I be writing a whole page and *bleep*!!"

"Real *bleep*!! Me too. So-n-so be asking why I'm writing all these sentences!"

Confession: I'm not a "Do Now" fan, but the years when I was expected to do one, it's writing and it's on topics similar to the ones in the pics, below.

There were years when after my version of SSR, I did SSJ, Silent Sustained Journaling. It was a hit then and I'm glad it's still a hit now. The key is to get them to write without judgement and to develop a love for it. There will be PLENTY of times when they will have to write and be judged for it. It's important to create an atmosphere where not everything is about a grade and an environment that reiterates the understanding that yes, we sometimes write so that our work can be graded but also writing can be fun! Today, I asked them to submit their top three journals, the three they felt as though were their best. We've been preparing for this for a few weeks.

I'm looking forward to getting another  glimpse into their inner-9th grade!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of K-12 Reading Instruction

As I mentioned in my last post I have a part-time "gig" as an adjunct reading guy at a local community college. I recently asked my college-aged students to tell me what they loved and/or hated about their reading/English class experiences K-12.

Here's some of what they enjoyed throughout the K-12 pipeline:
1.  When the teacher read aloud (even in high school - a lesson I learned very quickly, btw)
2.  When the teacher would stop, pause, and discuss what was being read, "that way we can keep up with what's going on."
3.  Explanations of the text
4.  When "we were asked to keep notes"
5.  When teachers "actually taught" and not just assign work and leave "us" to do it

Here's some of what they did not appreciate throughout the K-12 pipeline:
1.  When teachers showed favoritism and only worked with those who seemed like good students
2.  When teachers made students read aloud (the person mentioned this in the context of herself...when the teacher called on her to read aloud)
3.   When high school teachers didn't explain things

Aside from the simple things of what they liked or didn't like, my college students also mentioned "affactors" I definitely did just make up that term (I think). But it makes sense for the point I--ahem--they wanted to convey.

affactors (n.) the lexical coalescence of affectfactors to mean the emotional components of
(me trying to be "deep", but I digress...)

Without knowing my thoughts, opinions, and approaches to the classroom and teaching and learning, in addition to all of the reading "stuff" they liked/hated, THEY mentioned how they learned more when the teacher CARED, an affactor.

THEY mentioned how they learned more when the teacher CONNECTED with the students, an affactor.

And one had the unmitigated gall (*wink*) to mention her positive experiences with a "guy teacher who was like you, he made it interesting!" Piquing interest? An affactor.

Ayyee!! #dontjudgeme lol

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

"You think I can rap...?"
I'm a public high school English teacher by day and an adjunct reading professor at a local community college by night. As my accelerated reading course began recently, I assigned an article for my students to read that we'd later discuss. I was demonstrating an article discussion assignment that would be required of them soon when one of my students whispered a question to me. "You think I can rap about what we're talking about one day?" I can't begin to express my excitement! This young man didn't realize that the instructor before him TOTALLY believes in multi-modal teaching and learning experiences! Needless to say, my answer was a resounding YES! We then discussed how his rapping could be incorporated into some of the lessons and his class presentations. I think this young brotha is hooked!