Voting day

Today is here. And tomorrow will come. In the meantime it is our duty to engage in our democracy. On the best days, our country and its systems of rules and laws is the most diverse body politic ever unified in the history of the world, often championing civil rights, freedoms of speech, religion, and generally espousing tolerance. On our worst days, people die and we lose our humanity. We have not had so many best days of late. As a history student and now teacher, it’s clear that the divisive (disgusting) rhetoric of fear and intolerance has not been seen at these levels since Andrew Jackson’s presidency. The white male supremacy that this country is founded on has never ceased to exist. But despite it, or perhaps in-spite of it, our greatest examples of social justice have been born. And yet I have to believe that our best days are still ahead.

As I wait in a church parking lot for my polling place to open, I’m reminded of all that drives me to vote today; my identity as a son of immigrants, married to a daughter of immigrants, father of children, two of whom are daughters, and my membership in this American society. We, the people are the institutions. It is only us that can change their design and direction. Am here to do just that this morning. Join me. And not just today, but tomorrow as well. And everyday forward that you can and are able. This is our duty and our freedom so long as we will act it out.

Year 2… a “new” chapter

It has been a little over a year since I left Los Angles Unified and joined the Salinas Union Hig School District.  Jumping back into work last week as well as a package I recieved in the mail prompted a pause for reflection, something I hope to do more of this year, while simultaneously encouraging teachers of my district to do the same.  Leaving Los Angeles was difficult, having had so many powerful and transformative experiences “as an educator” over the past one and a half decades.  And yet, last week I was refreshed to remember how much of that work and many of those experiences have transcended their original and originating geography.

Many moments have sparked this realization. Working again with my long time friend and now director Antonio Garcia is very exciting. In working here in Salinas I know that both of us harken back to our work in South Central Los Angeles, carrying our scars (both emotional and some physical) born of both victory and loss. I know these help orient our collective efforts here. Memories of when we were young and impatient with the educational system. I remember meeting in my small apartment, organizing with other like minded social justice educators towards visions of our own school. These memories play just in the back of my mind every time I walk into our office space. It is a good feeling to know that he once again will be pushing me to be my best self as we collaborate towards improving educational and life outcomes for students in Salinas.

Another reminder of the connections across time and space came last week as I helped ground the work of our new social studies teachers in the district. Many of my workshop participants were my former CSUMB students from last fall. We picked up almost right where we left off, connecting the theoretical foundations of equitable education with their pedagogical practices. It was exciting to have this energy and momentum, built on relationships and trust. This same trust allowed for an open invitation into one of my new teacher’s classroom space where I got to observe some (very much needed for me as I adjust to my new work/learning space of the #cubiclelife) student interaction: a dialogue centered on students’ expectations of their teacher. This brought a smile to my heart as I struggled this week to find my own rhythms without the aide of the young people around me. It was an important signal to appreciate the power of moving forward.

Meeting with some of our district’s amazing educators and learning about the work they have been undertaking was inspiring. It was also a pleasant surprise to again see connections to people and places from the past, realizing that many of the people and practices that were foundations for the development of our new ethnic studies program were indeed familiar and shared. As is often the case with educators in “LA to the Bay,” we too in Salinas share a community of progressive practice.

Yet the most powerful reminder that some of my life’s previous chapters are not closed per say but instead are directly connected to the work I am still doing cane in the form of a written and published chapter. I must say that I was both excited and nervous to see my name alongside that of my brethren educators and close friends for many reasons. One being that although we did our best to capture the narrative of our collective journey and include all of the multiple voices that were part of it, there is always an apprehension that something important was missed. And for sure there most likely was. But in my heart I know we gave everything in our attempt to capture the important history of our work with Schools for Community Action and represent the collective experience.

It is this giving of everything that had me feeling a mixture of things as I opened the package, for it prompted a painful but necessary reflection on my only my professional journey but my personal life as well. For in giving your all to something, you often fail to realize that you are taking some from another. This was indeed the case for myself and my family. Despite our best attempts at Hawkins to create and institution that respected and tried to integrate family into the core of our being, the work often required that our families make great sacrifices of time and presence. It was these sacrifices that I was unable to see clearly, even in my last days in Los Angeles as we were both metaphorically and literally finalizing this chapter for publication as well as my family’s chapter in LA. It is not an exaggeration that this inability to see this reality almost cost me my marriage and family.

And it is this complex perspective that I gaze back on the last year, several years with, knowing that all powerful learning is a struggle. But the act of critical reflection is indispensable. As I look forward, I am excited by the opportunities with both former and new colleagues. I am even more excited to work towards mastering sustainability and dignity within my family and work communities of practice. In this work I take everything that I am and all that I have been in order to create and refine who I will be in this uncertain future. Year 2, here we come.

The Disruptor and Chief

I do not want to spend my time writing about our nation’s current leader.  I feel that our first year under his presidency was dominmated by an endless cycle of comsumption of the most ridiculous, abusrd, offensive, and flat out scary stories that I and many others have read about in recent memory.  This morning’s addition to this never ending stream of assaults on humanity and the earth disguised as tweets struck me in a way that I felt the need to reflect and write on.

I got the chance to catch up with an old friend, who was going to take her sons to the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico this past weekend.  As I was responding to her instagram post of success in the underground caves with kids, my phone was alerted of this story.  I found it a sobering and sad juxtaposition of child/adult realities of our complex world.

These tensions and complexities are my trade as a history and geography teacher.  It is my aim to help future generations identify and understand not only the broad themes of history covered in my classes such as power, conflict, and change but I also strive to have opportunities for students to deeply explore the details and nuances contained in everyday narratives.  It is ideal when I can coax students into believing their own personal stories are worthy enough to bring into classrooms as authentic academic explorations.  Yet in taking this approach to educating young people, it is often challenging to seperate the personal from the academic.  Especially when national and global stories have direct implications on not only student populations that I have taught in the past… but real human beings whom I’ve developed relationships with.

Today’s episode of The Daily Podcast struck such a chord (defintely worth the 22 minute listen as it is on most days).  As I drove tp work and listened, I couldn’t help but thinking of the many Salvadorian students that had an impact on me over the years, their families, and their now uncertain futures.  It was upsetting to be reminded of the all too real history that I of course know and try to illuminate for student when I can in classes where America’s history and policy in Latin America presents itself as a focus.  What was harder was to visualize the students whom I’ve known in my career who have been or were actively trying to be a part of MS-13 or who’s journies out of their war torn country was unimaginably terrifying and traumatic.

And although these realities have always been there… it is just slightly more demoralizing and difficult when you realize that our “leader” is purposefully disrupting people’s lives just because he can.  Because he feels threatened and invulnerable all at the same time, byproducts perhaps of his sick conception of what it means to be both stable and a genius.  Or perhaps this is just a newer version of what has always been a brand of American politics and culture.  Either way it weighs heavily on the mind and soul.

The question for this year, and most likely for many years to come is: what to do about it?  How will we sustain in the face of contiued callous attacks on humanity?  One thing that continues to provide me strength is recognizing the seemingly infinite resilience of those who are under attack and continue to fight.  Young people who find ways to grow despite the situations that would dictate otherwise.   Though I think it is somewhat dangerous to disregard the realities and history of systemic oppression and inequality; I do think that the following tweet by Neil Degrasse Tyson is worth serious consideration… as are the commentary of responses lol.

What are some of your ideas on how to sustain mental and spiritual sanity as well as remained empowered in the face of so many challenges in the coming year?  Would love to hear… #staystrong peeps!

Peaks and Valleys, Journies of Juxtaposition and healing…

I would be remiss in my responsibilities to share all of the positive that goes on amidst the daily struggle. And however real the negative pulls on us we know that if we focus 4 times as hard on the good, we can counteract destructive forces and change our realities. Here are some of the things that helped change my reality today. 

My Wednesday morning at Hawkins began when Ms. Englander handed me this note. She told me that our student Alberto wanted to give this message to me. It could not have come at a better time. Just moments later I would be in front of the entire graduating class of the Critical Design and Gaming School (CDAGS), the last set of students I taught in the classroom at Hawkins, attempting to help them through the healing process of yet another loss. It’s important to understand a little about Alberto. He is high functioning autisic. He is a living embodiment of the mission and vision of the Community Health Advocates School (CHAS). And he encompasses all of the CORE values of Hawkins. He is also a yogi in training, the most committed member of our collaboration with the People’s Yoga. A true CHASvocate. 

I then entered the library where our seniors were again gathered, just having been in the same space the day before to celebrate their approaching graduation with breakfast and friends, only to find out right afterwards about the loss of our friend and student Eric “E” Thompson. Our objective for this meeting was seemingly simple: to communicate that we had their backs and that we would indeed get through this together. When it was my turn to talk, I thought I had it, but was overcome with emotionality. After fighting through the choke and tears I had to dismiss myself from the space. I immediately felt as if I’d dropped the ball, fumbling the drawn up play to demonstrate compassion and strength through resilience and resolve.  I returned too late to show a more composed demeanor, and was about to kick myself again were it not for my crisis team letting me know that our students seized the opportunity and the space to continue speaking from the heart, listening from the heart, and bringing their very best selves – not only for themselves but for the benefit of everyone in the community. Words and embraces were exchanged. People began the healing process together and reoriented and re-energized their efforts on preparing for their own exit from high school, their new beginnings of life. 

Later on in the day I was asked by Ms. LaMar if I could assist with being on the judging panels for the senior defense presentations.  I was so blessed to have said yes. During these presentations, the reasons I teach, the types of learning my pedagogy strives to encourage,  and this was reaffirmed by seniors who demonstrated how they have internalized and expressed their understanding of design thinking, growth (gamer) mindset, systems thinking, and professional comunication. Students took ownership of their own narratives, drawing from the family backgrounds, personal interests, migration stories, and future plans for the world. These students reminded us what is possible with adequate preparation and suppport. These were presentations of possibility. 

My day ended with a celebration that took place at the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Justice.   The very location where we first brought together community members to dream with us around what the Schools for Community Action at Augustus F. Hawkins High school would be.  That evening, like many others, we gathered with students, families, friends, colleagues, and community members to acknowledge what’s possible at the intersection of art creation and community organizing in the efforts to educate towards equality and justice. 

I was so honored to share the stage with my students who had once again conceptualized big ideas like “restoration” and “justice” and transformed those ideas into an art piece that touches the soul. It was also an amazing feeling to be able to collaborate with some of my favorite people who have been the most profound and exciting to collaborate with as we imagined so many different ways to unlock the creative and transformative potential of our youth. 

I’ve said it before and it continues to be more true every time. My time dreaming, creating, and working at Hawkins has been simultaneously the most rewarding and challenging work I have ever done. I could not be prouder of this. 

Somewhere in this extremely emotional day I was afforded time to check in with one of the district’s psychological crisis response counselors. She helped me to realize what is most difficult for me personally at this moment. Recognizing the impact one has had on others means understanding what that impact requires. Another way we often talk about impact is in terms of touching someone’s spirit or soul. In doing so, there are actual pieces of ourselves left in these communal spaces. These are pieces of me that I’m leaving behind. Losing parts of me, is proving to be difficult to manage at his time with all the other types of loss. Yet this is the risk we run when we engage others around us in building community.  This is the loss we have to work through, knowing that what we gain through this process will amount to so much more.  This is what we see from the mountain tops. A brighter tomorrow built together. Built by all of us… for all of us. 

Preparing to exit…

Today, the Community where I have learned and taught for the past 12 years laid to rest another young soul. Our student Kevin Cleveland Jr. aka “Doodie” as he was affectionately known as was murdered April 4th on the corner of Vermont and 60th. 

This would be my 5th student in less than 2 and a half years, who I have had to help lay to rest. First there was Elijah aka “Yellah.” Then Patty. I then found out about Eric. And this past summer, our boy Sergio. Today: Kevin.  Each of these moments, communities coming together to recognize “exit” are a painful balance of celebration and sorrow. Each time, a struggle to learn the same lesson again. And again. 

And what of remembrance? The act of forming memories into a sequence of comprehension, all the while knowing that what begs this remembrance is an incomprehensible cycle of violence. Trying to make sense out of the non-sensical. Making meaning. It’s what is at the heart of all learning, even the hardest of life’s lessons. And yet it is ours to make, in the image of what? Or who? Or… how? How shall we remember? 

As a history, teacher part of me wants to respond that the only true benefit to the act of remembrance is for the purposes of critically analyzing past events in order to make meaning; for the present and future. But in times like these this intellect will only take me so far.  This type of remembrance does not satisfy the soul. Healing needs more than this. And so we come together, because healing is social and communal. 

Sitting today in the Grace Memorial Chapel was another sobering reminder of how much trauma certain communities are faced with while some are lavishly and ignorantly shielded from the realities of others. As I watched students and families that I’ve worked with laugh and cry, celebrate and grieve… I was once again awed by the resiliency of people who face strife in everyday life and continue to keep on living, despite or perhaps in spite of it all. I was once again brought humbly before myself and others, honored to be blessed with the opportunity to serve the community of South Central Los Angeles. 

In this service, I have learned so many lessons. Some I’ve written about here, others have been tucked away, awaiting the day when I can properly contemplate their true meaning.  Some of these lessons have had to be framed within the profound contexts of life and death. As was today’s lesson. It was facilitated by our very own Pastor Cagle, who’s work and spirit I have been blessed to have been touched by this year. As he and other former gang members have helped me to intervene and at times prevent our children from going down the path of violence, he has also reminded me of the power of prayer and faith. Regardless of religion, the ability to find the profound and spiritual side of our work, so often necessary to continue to struggle. 

In Pastor Cagle’s eulogizing of Little Kevin, he offered a theme that has been resonating with me ever since. He said “we often prepare to arrive, but we don’t prepare for the exit.”  These words can do no justice the spirit and reverence with which they were delivered on this day. For they were designed to help heal a grieving mom, a hurting community, one willing to go to war as a response. His words were designed and delivered to bring out the fire and righteousness of peace. And yet these words also offered a window into my own soul as I gaze out onto the path set before… as I contemplate my transition out of South Central Los Angeles. 

As I attempt to prepare for my own exit out of a community and region that has become such a part of me, I’m momentarily lost despite having a clear direction. I’m unable to fully grasp how to prepare for my exit as I simultaneously plan for my arrival in another space. I’m as torn and saddened by my decision to close this chapter of my life as I am happy and certain about moving forward. 

PAUSE…. wait a minute. Let me catch my breath

The above words were written over two weeks ago. 4 days ago I found out that one of our first Hawkins freshmen students was shot and killed early Monday morning, an attempted armed roberry gone really bad. One of his best friends, another student of ours, was also involved and is now encarcerated. 

It’s is hard to process these events in such rapid succession. It becomes exponentially difficult when you are charged with helping others process their grief and manage tragedy and traumatic loss, when you are in crisis response mode.  

I was awoken this morning by a nightmare. Two students were walking around our campus. They had several guns placed at different points throughout the school, which they would pick up and fire randomly, at items and twice at students, killing them both. I was following them but I was ignored.  They didn’t turn to me and respond in anger. They didn’t respond to my pleas to stop. I was helpless to stop the violence. 

As I try and think through my life as a teacher in South Central Los Angeles and the lives and deaths of students like Alex… I am stricken by a sadness that bears the weight of responsibility. It’s a version of guilt but it’s not the same. Alex, like many of his friends, were very clear about the path “they chose.”  Understanding all the systems at play from my vantage point as an elder now (in comparison to my junveniles) I would often contest the amount of choice in these types of tragedies, but to a certain degree Alex and his friends were right. No matter what we still have a choice in the matter. Some choices unfortunately reflect more death then life. 

In our last text message communique a few weeks back, it was clear our philosophies were at odds but we were not. It was hard for me to see his path so clearly laid out before us both. But I appreciated his candor and the level of mutual respect our lives as student and teacher had born out.  

PAUSE…. wait a minute. Let me catch my breath

I’m being called back to the Hawk’s nest from my UTLA meeting for yet another tragic loss. I’m returning because I have a responsibility to be there for my young folks during crisis. We are on crisis overload and I don’t know how to manage. But we have to. I have to. 

Why is this happening? This kid was 2 weeks away from graduation. Eric. I can’t believe. Not yet. I’m not sure how much more our school can take. 

Eric was full of life and light. I would come across him and his girlfriend often these last two years in the hallways. I never really tripped too hard because I still remember what it was like to be young and in love. And they were always respectful.  He was always respectful. The way he said my name, “Ok Gomez.”  His sense of humor always got me. He could put a smile on my face with ease. Not insignificant given my rehearsed new age dean deadpan stare. In the classroom I always appreciated his negotiating skills. But I was also impressed by how confidently he could ask for help. This is a skill that is often underestimated by staff and students alike. 

When Elijah died, Eric took it hard. As did most of the football players. Yet again our young man will have to rally around each other and support. Especially as we approach that culmination that these two young men had been working so hard to get to.  And as much as graduation is the end of one chapter, we must remind ourselves that a culmination is a beginning. And it is in this where we might find hope in the hard times. 

Today was difficult. Many days have been difficult as of late. And yet there are so many examples of young people leading themselves through the most arduous of circumstances.  Demonstrating our 5th school wide norm, RESILIENCY.  We remind ourselves and acknowledge when we are “being resilient.” This is my favorite norm.  Because it puts me in the space of learner, fully and completely.  

In the last 12 years I have learned so much from the community of South Central Los Angeles. I’ve learned about true resilience in the face of struggle. I’ve been schooled on sacrifice. I’ve been tested in faith and have had to reassess my own aspirations and dreams. The children on this great place have taught me about the true meaning of love and it’s importance in the learning process. And it is this learning that I will take forward with me as I prepare to continue teaching in another community. 

As I traverse this city of Angels, from edge to edge… I cannot help think about how much this land in particular is a part of me. The geography of my own existence has been so altered by my time in Los Angeles. The geography of my family, my friends, my students and colleagues is forever etched in the contours of my heart, within the expanse of my soul. And even when this spirit pains, I know I can depend upon the many of this city that have touched me, the better Angels of their nature. I can only hope that those whom I’ve attempted to impact feel somehow similar.  This is how I have to prepare for my exit. It will not be easy, but… it never was. With you all, I know I got this. 

The above post was written over a period of two months… Two of the most difficult years of my professional career. 

Notes from a future feminist… 

This evening at dinner, my youngest daughter and middle child Melody Ray asked a question. 

“Why is there no men’smarch daddy?” – Melody Ray

“Everyday is a man’s march.” – Mommy

This question, was posed by the same little girl who a few days earlier had stated the following in response to her mother’s horror and subsequent questioning of her book choice at the local library. 

“I like Snow White’s techniques. She makes friends and goes out into the woods by herself. She’s an adventurer.” – M. R. 

Her initial question about why men don’t hold their own march, answered by my wife’s deadpan sarcasm with a heavy dose of truth insulating that everyday men march across this planet in attempted domination of everything they encounter, including our Mother Earth… was not lost on me, neither the innoncence or seasoned calculated jadedness. And yet it did prompt me to dig a little deeper into history to genuinely attempt an answer at least for myself. 

Simple google queries with the words (men’s, marches, history, etc.)  yielded not much more beyond the many “March Madness” articles, many articles on Women’s marches, and the occasional noteworthy example of men (especially white men) well… being men. In particular here and here were two anomalies. The last one being eerily prophetic when considering our current geopolitical context post Trump. I did learn something new about the fact that there is indeed an international men’s day… but did not dig deep into that rabbit hole. 

What was reconfirmed for me was the reality that my wife’s answer eluded to… that to bring into the discussion the existence of “men’s marches” in juxtaposition to marches scheduled for tomorrow’s International Women’s day is not something that would help us honor and recognize the plight and might of women all over the world, all throughout history. 

Suffice to say that I am excited by the prospects that my daughter asks questions about the world and forms her own opinions about things. I’m also ecstatic about her ambition and the possibilities of breaking through the molds and stereotypes that lock young girls and women into oppressed ways of thinking and living. 

Our dinner conversation continued into the political sphere, talking through tonight’s local city elections, and contemplating tomorrow’s marches, strikes, and the conspiracies to distract from and deter them. A colleague later texted this article that continued to provoke my own thought around how I, as a man, can continue to support the feminist struggle in these challenging days. As the female energy hopefully rallies with support from its male counterpart, I’m hopefully amused by the specter of possibility positives by my four year old daughter in her statements of questions and ideas like this:

“Oh yea?! Well Dad, one day I’m gonna be a big football player and you’re going to be terrified of me when I run at you!” – M. R. 

However she charges at life, I will be there to support. And I am indeed terrified of anyone or anything that gets in her way. I love you Melberg! 

Things I need to keep in mind…

Are the things that many of our students might like to forget. Reading the latest article in the New Yorker (please read it) by friend and writer Daniel Alarcón was yet another reminder as of late about how much more complex educating young students in South Central Los Angeles, many of whom have recently migrated from El Salvador. If they haven’t recently immigrated, then they have family there, coping daily within nightmarish landscapes of political corruption, gang violence, drug wars, and seemingly hopeless cycles and downward spirals. 

Much like the warring local gangs, corrupt institutions, and cycles of violence in the community they’ve migrated to, only not as bad. Maybe. The point is that it’s really hard to concentrate on school; learning a new language, a new culture, and your own place in the world as a young person. 

In the classroom I had to remind myself of this constantly. Not even a couple months out of the classroom and there have already been more reminders of how serious educators need to help our students deal with the often trauma that is at the center of who they are, where they come from. Making this last push of summer reading all the more relevant for my new intervention position. 


And although I’ve always worked to help students write different narratives that counter the often deterministic and disparate stories of futures many see for themselves… It is imperative that we all face the truths that are part of who we all are. This is the only way we move forward.   Nobody said it would be easy. 

Follow up to Resiliency…

first off I can’t tell you how much more I can get done on the bus. Why would anyone drive in this town?! #GoMetro. Ok, now that I got that out of my system….

When I speak of resilience, how to build students up socially and emotionally enough to bounce back from the inevitable life knock downs that get us all on the ropes but really do students of color wrong in a way you can’t understand unless you lived some of that life of a young person of color, I am really thinking about resistance. This is a theme I try and draw it in my history class, one of 5 (power, resistance, change, perspective, choice.) All of these are what I’ve termed the hand of history, the things that move time and space for humans. Resilience, part of it at least, is to fight back the forces of domination. To speak back a counter narrative, your own story and lived experiences, to the dominant tales and myths we tell ourselves about the world and others. How do you empower students to critically understand their own life and take control back of their story?

The new Kendrick Lamar album couldn’t be more parallel to the themes I’ve been pondering here. Hip hop has always served to assist people of color in this form of resistance. Institutionalized, Alright, and Hood Politics are some of the tracks that voice the pain and the resolve to overcome the systemic push down and push out of young people of color from certain communities.  Throughout the whole album, Kendrick talks openly and honestly about struggles of leaving the “hood” and “making it” only to come back and find “answers” about how to resist in the face of “apartheid” and “war.”   

What makes me so stoked about this album is it’s instructive nature. Stating outright that 

Made me want to go back to the city and tell the homies what I learned… Respect. 

I would also that Kendrick learned the art of resilience through his art form: hip hop. That’s why I LOVE hip hop. #GoHipHop 

Now that I got that out of my system… Time to go teach. 

Building resiliency

After two consecutive days of college campus field trips, the last episode of This American Life really resonated with me. Watching my students negotiate their way around UC Riverside and CalState Los Angeles, I was reminded of the importance of not exposing students from inner city and working class backgrounds to the often overly liberating lifestyles that college campuses provide to varying degrees, but also about the importance of building up their resiliency. 

Every morning on the announcements, our student body representatives end their daily sharings with a reminder to be (intelligent, respectful, dignified, empowered, resilient) one of our 5 school wide norms.  The last one is my favorite. Listening to the stories of Melanie, Racquel, and Jonathan reminded me that we have a lot of work to do when it comes to building a replacement for the school to prison pipeline. I’ve talked to colleagues and school board members about the importance of changing the paradigm from a k-12 mentality to one that embraces the concept of k-16. 

I’ve thought at great length around the complexities of addressing the high school drop out crisis, and then juxtaposing that against the even more alarming statistics around college drop outs. Im currently attempting to address this through things like college planning, exposure, innovative curriculum, and what not.  What this story reminds me of is the importance of social and emotional intelligence and skills development. Things like resiliency are so important in this context, the real question becomes how are we preparing our students to be resilient in the face of institutional and internalized systems of oppression? 

I will continue to ask this question with my colleagues and with my students.  I will continue to expose students to college as well as help them prepare (resumes, personal statements, understand financial aide, etc.) for it. And I will continue to share stories like mine and those in this episode, so that my students can create their own stories… Ones shaped more by resiliency and resistance to narratives of domination, predestined realities, and inequality. And in the meantime I will rely on my students’ reflections and smiles to let me know we are on the right track. 

Am I leaving? Or have I just arrived?

Today I was reminded in several instances about how important my role as a teacher is…

by my cousin in Panama, through a very nice Facebook post porque en Panamá, hoy es el Día del Maestro.

by Eric Mann and Ashley Franklin of the Strategy Center who left a voicemail and personally signed note respectively, each thanking me for my involvement with their youth organizing campaigns over the years.

by the United Way, who informed me last week that I had “been nominated for the 2nd annual Inspirational Teacher Award and identified as a top teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District.”

by the National Writing Project’s Educator Innovator program letting my nemesis and I know: “We are now delighted to let you know that your LRNG Innovation Challenge proposal ‘Supporting Game Design for Students, Teachers, and Parents in South Central Los Angeles’ has been approved for funding!”

And once again by those that are hopefully impacted by my role the most; my students. For some reason, several students had gotten word that this would be my last year teaching at Hawkins. I shockingly replied, “Do you know something I don’t?!” Many replied that I couldn’t do that because, in their words, “you’re one of those teachers that…” (You can fill in the blank)

Either way, I’m here now. And I’m proud to be where I am. Despite the fact that a close friend and former colleague of mine about fell out of his chair in shock and awe (and anger) when I told him what a 10 year veteran in LAUSD makes, including the compensation I get from my other two jobs at other institutions of learning. UTLA’s demands for schools students deserve, including pay that teachers deserve couldn’t come at a more timely juncture… But that’s a post for another day, hopefully when we renegotiate a fair and dignified contract.

Today I’m just honored and proud to be a teacher. Not bad for a Monday returning from a holiday.