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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Reflections on Reading and Resiliency


There’s a lot to be said for inner strength, a third eye, a gut feeling…but how do you strengthen your resiliency muscle? How do you make yourself keep going when it is so easy to give up; to not become paralyzed by 100 ‘no’s’ when you’re waiting for a single ‘yes’ , to keep getting up when you fall on roller skates every time you go around the curve.

I began writing this blog as a way to make sense of my daughter’s seeming inability to use her resiliency muscle in some situations. She is on the opposite end of ‘eye of the tiger’ and would rather ‘give up and go along’ just to avoid having to really struggle with something. Yet, as a write this, I am forced to think about my own resiliency muscle (something that should probably go in my journal and not on a public blog). However, here I sit about to have a brain dump on wordpress.com.

I have vivid memories of always reading as a child. I honestly think that the percentage of time that I spent reading positively correlated with the amount of chaos in my life. I read a lot.  I could sit in the middle of an emotional hurricane and read, and I did. It is often said that reading takes you to another place. That is true but for me, it was much more. Reading could make me disconnect and served as a safe-haven of sorts. I still love reading as an adult, although now it really is pleasurable and not just a get-away. Although I must say that I do use my book-within-an-armsreach deal as a crutch if I’m feeling overwhelmed emotionally I can stop, drop and roll right in the middle of an argument and go get a book. And I have. Disconnect in full effect.

I wonder if I could have built up some more resiliency muscles if I wasn’t reading so much as a child–if I was forced to deal with problems and issues straight on instead of ignoring them. As an adult, I’m rather tenacious in most situations but when I am really really really up against a wall, I’m an emotional wreck and often feel paralyzed. I tend to acquiesce, avoid conflict, cry but I don’t fight life back. Inevitably, I lose some of my spirit and I come out the other side rather dented and yup, with a headache.

So, as I think about what I can do to help my 11-year-old daughter build her resiliency muscles, I should probably start with myself first or at least simultaneously. Maybe 2 more aspirin will help before I get started.

* dear friends and readers-special note* this is not a doom and gloom post. Just a reflection of what and how I choose to deal with the inevitable stuff that comes with life once in a while. no pity parties needed. Peace out.

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2011 in life freestyle

 

I love The South but….


UUUGGHHH ! I love the South but as you can see I have to reopen options  -text message from an unemployed black educator in the South

When I parodied the ‘white guy with a sign’ ad with my own sign stating: educated black woman seeking job in education, I was half-way joking. I was being coy. However, since that blog post a couple of months ago, gone from hopeful and excited to depressed and angry to, my current state of peace and patience (crossing my fingers that it will last).

Since that blog post, I’ve just used just about every page in my sky blue ‘contacts’ notebook.  I secretly hoped to have found a job before the notebook ran out of pages. Don’t think it’s gonna happen. But, I have been busy. I’ve met provosts, presidents of organizations, school board members, superintendents of school systems, business leaders and shortly will be working on the mayor…yep… I have met a bazillion people, through people, through people. In other words, I’ve met people through 1st-4th level connections-people I personally know and people who know people who know people who know people. In other words, I’ve met with and submitted my CV to A LOT of people.

Everyone agrees that my CV is fabulous; yeah, yeah… lots of meaningful experiences in teacher training, curriculum development, research, writing, teaching and yet…here I sit 4 months later-nothing. (yes, it often takes 6 months to find a job and that’s without the added issue of haven relocated. yes, I’ve seen the news reports that unemployment numbers are down-that’s good right?).

With some tough love and a friendly consultancy session, I’m now I’m even keel and just enjoying the time ‘off’ and being patient that ‘something’ will turn up. I do have to say “thank goodness” that people have stopped asking me, “did you find a job yet?” I have decided to walk in the mornings, write for most of the day and spend time with my daughter after school–not a bad deal and surely I’ll complain about not being able to do these thing when I do land a job.

However, as I reflect on news reports about people of color moving to ‘the South’ to find work, I can’t help but wonder–in what industry????  I personally know 2 people of color (I know, small sample size). They are both highly qualified educators who cannot find work in the South. Like me, my two friends have considered and/or do work at Pier I, a pizza place, etc. Why is this so? Why is this happening? hmmmmm

One of these friends is a fierce sister-educator, who, like me, has her terminal degree (PhD) in ESL. ESL no less. Who can’t find a job in ESL these days???? Isn’t ESL the new Black, the new hot topic, especially in the South. But alas, since she is unable to find a job in her home state (for 2+ years), she has had to make the very difficult decision to work in the Northeast while her family (husband, mother and children) continue to live in the South. She commutes every other weekend. sigh….parenting by telephone and computer.

Similarly, I just received a request for a recommendation letter from a top-tier university in the Northeast for my other teacher-friend, who just happens to be an accomplished teacher and author. He too, cannot find work in his home state in the South.

While there may be a proliferation of people of color moving down here, could there also be a proliferation of educators of color moving (back) to the north-abandoning their love of the south, their desire to live close to family in order to work in their field. I’m hoping that I don’t have to make that decision.

Dear God, Thank you for the blessings you have bestowed upon us. Please grant us peace when we worry, patience when we rush, gratefulness when we complain and joy when we praise your name. Amen. Good night. 

–text message prayer from an educator friend who cannot find employment in the South.

–just a note for readers–I rarely go back and edit my work. I sit down to write and 15 minutes later, I have a piece. Hopefully, my ‘shooting from the hip’ makes sense. 

Also, I’m not going out ‘looking for a bear’ as they say. I’m content with where I am right now and I don’t want this blog post to be seen as a compliant in any way. Just wonderings. I’m good — Went on a great walk in the park in the middle of the day yesterday with the one person on Earth that keeps me grounded and sane. What could be better ?!! 

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2011 in life freestyle

 

Race, Equity and Access : Being a Parent and an Educator: Do I really have to choose?


The burden is heavy for us educators (and I dare say, even heavier for us progressive educators). Traditional, progressive or somewhere between, all of us who are educators and parents have to think about when and how we will interact with teachers and in particular, the ways in which we ask questions; is there a slight lilt in the voice, eyebrows up, fingers on chin, smiling, etc. We have to be mindful of asking authentic questions but sometimes we just want to parents or be educators but most of all, to be blunt.

For me, being a parent and an educator is complex enough without the added issue of race. Perhaps this is just my issue because I am  acutely attuned to issues of race, equity and access. Somehow though, I have a sneaky suspicion that it’s not just my issue.

Issues of race, equity and access come up often as a parent of a school-aged child and in these times, it’s much more difficult to choose between being a parent and an educator. You have to be both.

I remember vividly last year when one of Danielle’s teachers requested that she come in for remedial math support. When I asked the teacher to show me the data which suggested that Danielle needed this support, all she could do was admit that she was incorrect and in fact, Danielle was doing well in math. How does this happen? How does the teacher assume that the student of color in the class needs remedial help without first looking at her data? Why can’t the kid of color be assumed to be amazing in math first and not deficient? How does the teacher’s perception affect how she/he interacts with Danielle and with the other kids of color?  Does the teacher ask the same open-ended, higher order questions to Danielle that she does with Danielle’s white peers?

In another instance, I had to talk with to a principal about why only the white kids in the school received awards at an end-of-the-year celebration. Not one student of color received an academic award. Not one. Surely, there are students of color in the school who fulfilled the requirements of one of these awards. How does this oversight happen? Don’t teachers talk about students and issues of equity? We did at the Westside Community School and at the Muscota New School. This is when it becomes hard to choose between being a parent for one’s own child and being an educator.

All of this stuff is emotionally draining and yet, if unchecked-could mean the difference in your child’s education. Yet, your kid pays the price for this kind of involvement. It’s almost as if they have a target on their back. Danielle, I’m sure, worries about when and where I will unleash the educator parent on the teacher. I don’t want to be THAT parent but I have to advocate for my child because lord knows, it might not happen any other way.

 

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2011 in parenting

 

How to Choose a Doctor


(PG13) So, I’ve been in Richmond for going on 4 months and I had to break down and go to the doctor, not just any doctor. I wanted to go to a gynecologist. I didn’t need my annual exam. I simply wanted to reconnect with this type of doctor on the most basic and vulnerable of levels so when I really had to go in to be dipped, dabbed, swapped and well…., I’d already have a relationship established.

I’m not ‘free willy’ with my doctors. In fact, I’ve only had 2 gynecologists in my life, one in New York and one in Boston. They both know every little itty bitty thing about my body (and my life) and served not only as doctors (one was actually my mid-wife playing doctor) but they also served as therapists, confidants and sounding boards for all my questions, fears and excitments-yes, there have been some.

A lot of people think that relocating is all about moving one’s household. I say that moving, physically moving is the easy part. It is much, much harder to re-establish your connections-find friends and of course, doctors. For me, the new doctor thing has been a scary prospect. It is embedded with trust, vulnerability and a delicate relationship in which you often have to divulge stuff to get help.

So, knowing that I had to jump this hurdle, I put my mind on finding a doctor. I asked a few people, but that’s kinda weird, right? Then I decided to Google It. So….decisions—man or woman, white or black, older or younger…hmmm, too much to deal with. I decided to read the bios of doctors that sprang to life on my computer screen. I found that I was less interested in where these doctors received their degrees or where they did their residency. I honed in our what experiences they have had.

I settled on a OB/GYN who was from Colorado, worked in Florida and Hawaii before moving to Virginia.I figured, if this doctor lived and worked elsewhere, she has most probably seen some different people and had a variety of experiences. This was my lady ! (Biased, yes, PC, definitely not and P.S. I was the one fighting about how wrong this was this when we talked about selection criteria for ESL residents in my former job!)

Then I got really crazy and found a dentist that goes to a Caribbean country to provide free dental care. but…I digress.

Even though I was happy with my-little better than ‘spin the wheel’-approach to choosing a doctor, I was still nervous. Just before going into the doctor’s office, I sat in the car and spoke with my friend, Marcie who told me to ask the doctor the craziest, most uncomfortable thing that I could. Then judging by her response, I’d be able to tell if it was the right place for me. We laughed so hard at my new-found way to choose a doctor:

#1 make sure that they have lived, or at least traveled elsewhere and

#2 ask the most uncomfortable question, then sit back and see what happens.

I went in, with tears of laughter still in my eyes and I asked the most uncomfortable question that I could think of…to everybody I encountered. My questions were like common fodder to them (it was almost beauty shop-ish but super professional).  We all ended up laughing about speculums and looking at gross pictures in books (educational and with a purpose, of course). At the end, we had a big laugh fest in the hall and I said, “I’ll see you in June for my real annual appointment. Can’t wait to have a Pap Smear.”  (that  last part was gross and not needed to enhance this piece but I’m laughing and I guess, in the end, that’s all that really matters!)

;0

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2011 in life freestyle