Divine in thy youth…

Last night i was lucky enough to attend the final night of the brave new voices poetry competition for young people with students from Manual Arts. The night was an amazing reminder of the power of words… As young people from Denver, Albuquerque, NYC and the Bay Area competed for recognition as national slam champs, my students and i were inspired by the breadth and depth of literary masters young in their career as words smiths. My students were especially impressed and surprised by how much they enjoyed watching youth their age take the mic and address issues with such passion, openness and wisdom. issues that we have just begun to explore in our community studies class; racism, domestic violence, access to healthy food, the destruction of public education, cultural hegemony, war, environmental degradation, loss of childhood, gang violence, youth drug addiction, consumerism, body image, true activism and social change and the list goes on…. Touching every human in the house through threads of universal themes that help to make up who we are as individuals and as a collective species. The sharing of these diverse yet interconnected experiences, and more so the manner in which the gravity of each theme was communicated, made for an absolutely delicious evening. Walking away more confident that they had a voice, my students were definitely glad to have been in attendance… And so was i to watch them and listen to the power of when youth speaks…

Now go forth and create your own poetry…

Ideal Communities…

watching a colleague teach the same course that i am teaching – community action research – today students were asked to describe their IDEAL and REAL communities…

Teacher: what does your ideal community look like
Student: a white person’s neighborhood

later on…

Student: you know what would be tight?
Teacher: what?
Student: if white people went to this school
Me: so you mean you want to see more diversity?
Student: yea…

still later…

Teacher: who do you think has the power to create change in your community?
Student: the whiteman!

this is where we are starting from… so excited to see where we end up at the end of this class…

friday class
friday class at manual arts

Why my job is awesome…

after thinking about my earlier post today i felt somewhat ungrateful and a bit too negative. i didn’t want to convey the impression that i was less than happy with my decision to leave john muir and travel with my former students up to high school. nothing could be further from the truth. in the first 7 days of teaching a 9th grade course on community action research i have had nothing but purely positive experiences with my students and the colleagues that i knew i would be working with directly… that being said, in working with students whom i have had the honor of teaching more than once has been a great joy. and being able to see other amazing teachers help inspire some of my former students has truly been enlightening… to see the growth… to feel the pride that you had a hand in helping to sow seeds and watch them grow…

in our class so far we have explored the concept of IDENTITY, what helps to construct it, how it is influenced, why it matters… with her permission Maria has allowed me to post what i consider to be a wonderful reminder as to why we do what we do.

Where I’m From

i am from sacrifices and love, from my mom’s hard work to feed 8 mouths
i am from “hechale ganas y portate bién”
i am from little money and lots of gambling even though that means no christmas presents
i am from tacos and soccer partidos, from “goooooaaaalsss” and “let’s go mexico!!!”
i am from rancheras to oldies, from Chalino Sanchez to Brenton Wood
i am from misa every sunday and candles for those who aren’t here
i am from a family of friends that are always there to pick me up
i am from ILy Chunty to ILy Rose, from let’s die laughing to i’ll always love you <3
i am from drive bys around the corner, from “where you from?!” to “what you write?!!”
i am from lots of courage and lots of perseverance cuz i never give up
i am from low vocabulary but high achievements
i am from stereotypes and mouthdrops!! :0
i am from pasisas and cholitos, from botas de avestrus to nike corteses
i am form hot cheetos and lots of chocolate but also lots of trips to the dentist
i am from fiestas on saturday to chores all week!!
i am from screams and violence to wishing i would die
i am from blades and scars to finally seeing the light and feeling a hand over my shoulder
i am from faces that hide the sadness with a big smile
i am from voices that cry and voices that laugh what i really wonder is if its really worth it??!!

it is our students’ identities that should be at the center of our practice. honoring them and helping them to grow…

The Library: A safe place?

of all the things that get in the way of me ever completing a book that i start, the last thing i thought would be a barrier is the library at the high school i work at. yet that has proven to be the case. upon entering this supposedly sacred space my attention was drawn to the few kids that were in the library. some on computers to take an accelerated reader test. one student waiting at the check out line. another searching the shelves for that literary interest that we as educators always hope our students eventually find… she was soon to join the girl at the front of the check out line (obviously a well experienced seekers of stories, or a student with a plan and intent, equally inspiring)

i was soon after questioned with a tone of urgent accusation. “can i help you?” i replied no and that i was just there to read. “oh (surprised) well you are in the right place.” ok, good. i thought so…

but i have been wrong before. as i proceeded to open i book i have been trying to complete for awhile. yet i was soon distracted (i know right) by the same student who was standing without being acknowledged in the same spot at the front of the waiting line. by this time estimated that 5 minutes had passed from my entering the library, an estimation reached by observing how much (or little) i had read. i mouthed a question through the air to her as she seemed to be fidgeting and uncomfortable. she mouthed a silent response confirming that she indeed was not lost and then pointed to the sign below:

at that point i became curious as to why there was no interaction between the librarian and the student who had been waiting there patiently and silently. the librarian was typing on the computer at a next to furious rate. was she engrossed in some very important work that was on a strict and immediate timeline? my curiosity prompted me to pull out my phone and time just how long this situation was going to persist unchanged. at that point of course the situation did change and the experienced seeker of books proceeded to check out her book by walking up to the counter the librarian was nervously typing behind… she was quickly shooed away (hand gesture and all)… “there is a line, a line… go to the back of the line.”

my curiosity quickly evolved into an uncomfortable frustration. unable to read any more i picked up my pen and jotted down notes in the back of another book i rediscovered in the hope of finishing it to help inform the teaching of my new community action research class. i found it ironic (if i recall the correct meaning of irony) me jotting down observations and scribbles in a copy of Teaching Community by bell hooks of these interactions in my school library that i can only assume normal, meaning that they occur more frequently than just today… i began to formulate questions as to the reasons of such interactions. did the librarian intend or realize her tone? was she hoping to accomplish something by such treatment of students? was their waiting in line without acknowledgement meant to teach them some valuable lesson? patience? perseverance? did she want to make sure that they really wanted to check out the book that they chose? did these students have a class that they were supposed to return to after checking out a book?

the second student to join this line decided that it would be more comfortable to begin reading their book on the chairs where i was sitting observing. the other (seemingly younger student continued to wait in the front of the line and also read from her selection… yet was as unfocused as i was. 10 minutes passed before i word was uttered by the librarian to break the unilateral soundtrack of her typing. “almost ready…” the tone continued to be one that did nothing to build community nor comfort.

when she was finally ready, the gatekeeper decided to help the gentlemen at the computers first. she quickly pawned them off to another adult in another office. “go down the hall and ask for so and so and they will help you.” this was repeated emphatically about two more times in response to clarification for seemed to be a simple password issue. she then proceeded to check out the books wearing plastic gloves, simply stating with a mechanical precision that spoke to her expertise in this role, “july 26th… two weeks.”

shortly after another class arrived, met with the same frigidness and dismissal. the same scene was about to unfold when i decided i had already seen this show. i left having read less than a page. more questions floated around in my head. but the main one that i couldn’t shake was…
who does this librarian serve?