Some call me "Flem"

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

Thursday, April 13, 2017

It's About Service

We don't do it for the recognition, but for service-sake. Still, let me tell you what we in the 5th grade wing are all about.

"Reading Buddies" at the local nursing home
Every first Monday of the month a few of my students and I head over to a local nursing home after school to read with the residents. The intergenerational bond we've formed is real. Our last visit was "Bring A Classmate Who Had Never Been Before" Day

Autistic Support classroom volunteers
Two of the students volunteer in Autistic Support classrooms twice a week for about a half an hour. One of them got started when he stared into one of their classrooms. I asked if he wanted to volunteer. He consented, so did the teacher. The other got started when she snickered at the students. After nearly jumping down her throat, I asked the teacher if she could gain a different appreciation and respect for her classmates by volunteering to work with them. She's been volunteering willingly ever since.

Leukemia Research fundraiser
In a school-wide effort to raise money for Leukemia research, one of our 5th grade homerooms won the competition. Truthfully, we forgot that there was a prize. The focus was on helping.

10th Annual Philly Spring Clean Up
Getting 5th graders up and out by 9am on a SATURDAY is no small feat. And to CLEAN?? "Mr. Flemming, you out yo mind!!" But about 5 of them did! They showed up at the school to help sweep, pick up litter, plant raspberries, and dedicate new signs for the school's pocket/urban meadow. Two of the students are also Reading Buddies every 1st Monday! Service is in our blood!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Remembering a Titan

No five words send shivers down my spine like the words, “I regret to inform you” do. Life stands still while my heart sinks as I learn that Mr. McInnis, one of our beloved colleagues, had passed away. He wasn’t sick that we knew of and it hadn’t been long at all since I last interacted with him, maybe a month ago or so. Today, we'll interact for the final time at his funeral, remembering and reflecting at Pinn Memorial Baptist Church in West Philly.

A retired Philadelphia public school teacher, Mr. McInnis continued to teach as a guest teacher at John B. Kelly Elementary. The thing is, he was not your run-of-the-mill guest teacher. He taught. He had control. He arrived early. He was there. He was prepared. He cared. He called and met with parents. AND he never went above 2nd grade! {insert a smile emoji here} Choosing not to go above 2nd grade (although I think he’d compromise on 3rd, but not often) was certainly his right and one in which not a single person in the building had a problem with, because we all loved our Mr. McInnis, a patriarch indeed! Well, maybe one person took issue, but jokingly, which you’ll see. He’d be a teacher for grades K, one, two, our autistic support classes, gym, and maybe a couple of other “prep” classes.

Being an admirer of seasoned and older people, those who’ve gone before me, who helped pave the way, Mr. McInnis and I would always have a “moment” whenever we encountered each other in the office or in the hallway. It usually went something like this.

“Mr. Flemming!!” {smiles/laughs}
“Mr. McInnis!! Always a pleasure sir!” {smiles/laughs}
“That Mr. Scott tryna give me 4th grade! I told him I’ll go home!” {smiles/laughs}
“Mr. McInnis, you’re retired, you can do whatever you want!” {smiles/laughs}
“I’m tryna tell ‘em!” {smiles/laughs}
“Come on Mr. McInnis,” inserts Mr. Scott. “You know I take care of you! I got a good class for you! I’m taking so-n-so and giving him to Mr. Flemming for the day, so it should be good.” {all of us enjoying a snarky laugh while Scott prepares McInnis’ schedule and day}
“So who are you today, Mr. McInnis?”
“I’m ____” (or) “I don’t know yet, but that Soctt tryna give me _____. I’ll go home.”

Later in the day...

“Mr. Flemming, I still get your emails!” He’d be referring to my forwarding of PFT union emails to an exhaustive list of John B. Kelly faculty and faculty around the district.
“Always somethin’, isn’t it?”

In the beginning of the school year...

“Mr. Flemming, got any of them PFT calendars left?”
“Anything for you Mr. McInnis! Who are you today?”
“I’m ______” (or) “I don’t know yet, but that Soctt tryna give me _____. I’ll go home.”

It gets more personal. One day when we were chatting in the library at a PD, (yes, he attended those to keep his certificate current), I learned that he retired from Roberto Clemente Middle School. Small world. My aunt retired from the same school. Guess who were colleagues at Clemente? Yup, Mr. McInnis and Ms. Lewis! And for the Philly folks, I’m talking about the old Roberto Clemente at 5th & Luzerne, which would later become the Book Bank; the Clemente I remember visiting once or twice as a kid to see my aunt and being scared of the building because it just was a scary looking place! He’d ask about my aunt often. I’d relay the message. I made sure my aunt had his number and all.

You can imagine then, the shock to my system, when I learned that he passed.

And suddenly.

This older Black man who I came to love and admire at John B. Kelly over the years. One who always wore a smile on his face. One who was old school and played no games with the students or their parents. This man who was a gentleman and a scholar indeed, a phrase of endearment I also use for another older gentleman I admire. One who will be missed and dearly. One to whom I expressed my gratitude and appreciation for every time I saw him.

I’ll always remember and cherish our exchanges of laughter and our collective digs at Mr. Scott for trying to give him 4th grade. I’ll remember the lines of boys and girls he insisted on being straight and quiet as they passed through the corridors. I’ll remember the little boy or little girl whose phone number he’d get and whose parents he’d call. I’ll remember him being at the copier, getting his lesson and copies together to teach for the day. I’ll remember him sitting in the office, if he got the call early enough, waiting to see who he was going to be for that day. I’ll remember me passing him in the hallway, having not seen him earlier and him digging at Scott for texting him late. I’ll remember me being the teacher for the day for a kid in a compromise so that Mr. McInnis would stay {smile}. I'll remember other little chats we'd have here and there. I'll remember me saying "Great day in the morning!" and him responding, "Mr. Flemming, I haven't heard that in a long time. Great day in the morning." I’ll remember this titan of John B. Kelly Elementary School. I’ll remember the incomparable Mr. Len McInnis. It was a pleasure, sir!


Friday, March 3, 2017

Mutiny in the Classroom

Maybe 'mutiny' is a bit strong. This past week I wanted my students to view and discuss SELMA. Upon viewing it again last weekend in preparation for a discussion, the "I-don't-feel-like-a-fight-with-higher-ups" part of me thought I'd better not, namely because of the f-bombs and sh-bombs, *not* because of the content.

When I mentioned what I had intended to do with one of my classes, they rose up in opposition to my having changed my mind! Actually it went more like this.

I'm explaining to one of my classes why the classes won't see SELMA in school.

Kid interrupts, yells out, "We don't care about the language!!" Loud chorus of "yeah"s from those who agreed! Same kid then turned around and said something to the effect of, "Who still wanna see it, raise ya hand!!" AND THEY DID!! The whole class!!!

I said,"Hold on a second!!" Not angrily at all, just intrigued at this little leader rising up! My look said, "Ohhh, so that's how it's gone be?" Lately I've been teaching them that their voice and writing can get results! I guess he was applying what he learned. Ha!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Hey! What's good? Many of my colleagues call me "Flem" (sounds kinda gross, but it's short for Mr. Flemming...not that you asked, but the gross kind is spelled p-h-l-e-g-m). In any event, it's been about two months since my last post. No. I haven't gone anywhere. Yes, I'm still passionate about the things I tweet about. I'm just choosing to take notes. There has been a lot going on that I could write about and discuss, put on blast and reap the consequences. Most of it dealing with some "random" (cough) school district, other dealing with the 45th, and other stuff about leadership, and the like. But nope. I'm sitting back in the cut. Watching. Observing. Note-taking. When the time is write---ooops----right, the flood gates will open. My advice? Watch how you treat people. That's it for now.


Friday, December 16, 2016

"Teacher of the Last Abyss"

(drafted yesterday)
What kind of a title of a blog post is THAT?
Let me explain.

There are moments and experiences during the teaching and learning journey that are difficult to put into words. Today, and all throughout today, that occurred.

We're publishing a class book. Today we continued idea gathering. As I've done in time past, I modeled for them the thinking, drafting, idea-gathering process. I asked each class (I teach 3 ELA blocks of 5th grade students) to give me an idea. They had ideas up the wahzoo! In one of the classes, one student gave me the idea of "the last teacher on Earth". BAM! From there I demonstrated my thinking in coming up with a title, characters, setting, and major conflict. (That last sentence seems so blah #boring, but it really was fun!!)

Based on each classes ideas I, with their influence, came up with the following titles in order to walk them through a possible creative avenue or stream of thought for their individual narratives.

Class 1's Title: Let Me Find Out! A tale of a battle for popularity among students, the Tablewares and the Appliances. Setting: Kitchen Middle School

Class 2's Title: The Teacher of the Last Abyss - A tale of the last teacher...ever. Chapter One, The Last Lesson Plan, Chapter 2, The Teacher of Ruin. Setting: The South Pole and the darkness of the abyss

Class 3's Title: The Year Christmas was Kidnapped - December 24th came and went without a single issue. Kids were excited. Parents were content. Everything was going well until the calendar switched to December 2------SIXTH! Wai---wha???

To be continued...

Saturday, December 10, 2016

This Week in the RearView...

Every now and then I sit and reflect on the day or the week gone by. Not all the time do these thoughts make it onto a page or onto Twitter. This time they will.

On Monday a few of us made our way to the Maplewood Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center to make new friends and read to them! We went after school and had a great time. We plan on going back.

This past week, I also taught the classes some self-regulation strategies, mainly for fluency. I wasn't required to do so, but since the school district makes us "AIMSweb" the kids and makes major decisions about them based on it, I decided to teach them how to monitor their own fluency. They actually liked the exercises we did. They've been partnering up all week as an extension of our pleasure reading time.

Thursday I noticed a student was peering for an extended time into one of our autistic support classrooms. Instead of "Can you keep up with the class," I pulled him aside and asked if he'd like to volunteer in there from time to time. He said "yes" excitedly. After school I spoke with the teacher and she, too, was onboard. So we'll be working something out in the days ahead.

Friday was writing work day. Let me add that this was the plan, not an after-thought; this dedicated time to write. (I could say more, but real teachers know how it is sometimes...*wink*) As one who loves to write, I understand the need for time just to get thoughts down onto paper. Since we'll be publishing books through Studentreasures Publishing, we dedicated time to brainstorm ideas and begin drafting. This was an extension of a previous homework assignment. The time was also used to fine tune our understanding of poetic devices like similes and metaphors. Many took great advantage of this work time.

As I reflect further on the week gone by, there are lots of moments that occur each and everyday, such that if I were to enumerate them all, we'd be here for a minute! There were, however, some things that kids said that were memorable for one reason or another. It's important to note that I overheard much of what they said. The statements were not directed to me, making them all the more genuine.
  • Student whispers, "Yes!!" when I called him over to the table for some one-on-one reading/instruction with me.
  • While listening to a Flocabulary video, a kid whispers, "Oh I get it now!"
  • Student, while at the nursing home, "Man, this place is way cleaner than John B. Kelly!"
Also memorable were some funny moments we had. Like the few who made up some LIES about my hairline! HA! First, close followers of my tweets know that I don't play about keeping my jawn sharp! Second, I had just got a fresh boi the day before. Third, I ain't some wack teacher who ain't gonna come back with a bangin' teacher #clapback! This teacher right here will grind you all the way up!! Bruh! AND I did!! LOL!! Shoot! Got me chop! You know it's good when the class goes "OOOOHHHHH" Then we got back to work now that we all had an understanding what the deal was! 

Then there was one day I did a lil something different with the lay. Kid, "OK, Mr. Flemming, I see you with the fresh lay on! Let me find out! You look more educated." lol

There are some moments that I'd like to forget or would rather not deal with, but we see too much of that in the media especially for kids who look like me. So no, you won't hear a lot at all from me about those moments (except in cases of systemic injustice)! We have them. I deal with them as a concerned educator and human! #ByeFelicia

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

New Friends at Maplewood Manor Nursing Home

When I get the chance to sit and think, that can be a good way!

Yesterday, a few of my students and I, along with a few of my colleagues, went to Maplewood Manor Nursing Home to read to the residents there. We went to read and came out smiling!!

The facility is about a 15-minute walk from our school, right there in our community. It began as a thought about a month or so ago. I called Maplewood, left a message, received a call back and we set up a tentative date. We spoke of the possibility of making this a once a month thing as well. I sent out a survey to parents to gauge the interest level. There was interest.  Permission slips were sent out, I spoke with the principal, and boom!

The idea hit me like a ton of bricks that it would be better to go after school. Why? Just because. That little blurb was in the survey too. Still, there was great interest on behalf of the 5th grade families. (There were some kinks on my end that I'll have to fix for next time.  Long story short, me being too hype, I got unorganized and quickly)

We left the school around 3:15pm. But before doing so, the kids and I had a little chat. "This is the first time your teacher has done anything like this. We'll see how it goes. No matter what, just go with the flow. We'll speak, be polite, introduce ourselves and why we're there and enjoy ourselves."

On the way I allowed them to snap pics, and to snap, as in....this. Why? They're "snapping chatting" (lol) about going to read! Why not?!?

The staff was very warm, gracious, and welcoming! We entered the recreation area and immediately we all got to work introducing ourselves to the our reading buddies and the kids got to reading. My colleagues and I would only step in for a sec to move a kid closer or to slide the book between the two reading buddies. #SmilesAllAround

The kids loved it! They'd read to their new friend and in a couple of cases their new friends took the book and read back to the much younger buddies!! I even got the chance to read to a couple of the residents, "Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes and "Green Eggs and Ham". Both were a hit!!

We stayed for about a half hour before heading back to school to the waiting arms and cars of parents! Wow! That's all I can muster right now. Wow!! It was one great experience for us all!

Today, during one of the classes we had a panel discussion. The students ran it. The panel (the students who went to Maplewood) took questions from their classmates about the event and they responded well.
The student panel

More than 24 hours later, I'm still sitting here reflecting in rapture! There isn't a test in the WORLD, no benchmark, no Pearson, no PSSA, no PARCC, nothing, that can capture the essence of that and myriad other experiences!!