inheritance

my two greatest fears for the future… are both related to the only constant in the universe that i know: change.

the first that causes me to lose sleep is the hyper reality of violence towards women in the world, as i attempt to raise two precious little girls within that same existence. it is a plight that i do not understand completely, masked by my masculine privilege, a patriarchal residue acting simultaneously as a protective armor and destructive weapon, unintentionally and absolutely wielded. i am reminded of this every time i suggest to my wife that she go for a jog as the evening sets in, every time my father (and almost every other family member) attempts to connect with his granddaughters by immediately complimenting their physical beauty instead of their personalities. i am reminded by the media that my students consume, misogyny disguised as music, every time my female students become a spectacle for the campus when fighting with the physical fury i have stereotypically reserved for my brethren. i am reminded by the headlines that i seek out. and although i am hopeful to see the inherent resilience that comes along with recognition and respect for femininity, i am a new father… and fear is not above getting the best of me. it scares me to read posts like this on a friend’s (nemesis’s) blog about the nature of YA literature’s treatment of the female protagonist, as well as the ever present parental paranoia of attempting to mitigate the powerful presence of princess archetypes. what can i feed my children that will nurture more than harm their wonderful feminine spirits? i just don’t see this system of subjugation, no matter how subtle these days, changing as quickly as i, a privileged man would demand for “my” daughters. i am scared.

the second fear that constantly raps its knuckles on the window of my distracted mind is the certainty of change. one that we are in complete denial about despite being in the midst of its absolute reality. the climate is changing, faster than we are. i am reminded every morning i commute to work, reviewing a lesson plan that i hope plants seeds of consciousness as well as tools of practicum that will combat the cancer of denial, every time i listen to the radio. i am reminded every time i breathe the air in Los Angeles, void of rainfall so desperately needed. i am reminded every time i bike over the concrete river that is our very own LA. i must keep the hope, this i know… or there is nothing left. and although there are many examples of the resilience of life (human and otherwise) to breathe faith into the future, the slight mathematical mind in me worries greatly about scale and impact. reports like this and this do not help quell the fear. i wonder, as a father, how will i prepare my children for a world that is on the verge of so many tipping points? this plays out in my teacher mind as well.

change. that is what we all want to affect. positive change in the world. and it is a process, an act. fear stands in the way of any act, renders us inactive, paralyzed. facing our fears is the first step in overcoming them. i guess this is my attempt tonight to do that.

the drawing below was co-created by myself and Niloufar Angel Gomez, my eldest daughter. she taught me that even scribble scrabble on daddy’s new notebook had possibility embedded within, creation can be flipped from destruction, with the right perspective. you could tell what was on my mind… what still is. i hope Nilou’s lesson holds out to be true.

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true struggles… revisited

as a teacher i must never let my own struggles cause to me to lose sight of my students and their struggles. one is in the position of teacher in order to empower others to overcome their own strife. assuming that we as educators are empowered enough in our own lives to help guide others…

i wrote those words on january 21, 2008… at 11:28pm. this has been sitting in my drafts folder for over 6 years. and although i cannot remember the exact circumstances that initially prompted this exercise in writing, i can relate to these words just as if they had been uttered last week. come to think of it, they probably were.

what i have learned in what has almost been a decade now in the classroom (i realize that there are many a talented educator to whom a decade now seems like a drop in the bucket… but for my generation X’rs who have switched careers an average of 2 or 3 times within any given 10 years… to be doing the same thing, though not in the same way, for almost a third of your life?! com’n that’s INSANE!!!) – oh yea, what i have learned: it’s not about me… and then it is.

trying to qualify this paradoxical statement. having many conversations with educators, whether they be graduate students or student teachers of mine, colleagues in their first or fifteenth year, or administrators, a common and reoccurring theme has always been the need for each individual educator to recognize that for true, meaningful, and lasting learning to happen… the teacher must GET OUT THE WAY! our notions of why students are acting out, underachieving, what not… usually has less to do with what WE are thinking than what and HOW they are thinking and feeling. if what a teacher did or said was the catalyst (which it often is) that does not mean that we could have controlled everything else leading up to the materialization of struggle in the real world… nor does it mean we could have changed our limited role and expected an entirely different outcome. so a student curses you out? behavior that should not be tolerated, but probably not entirely brought on by your actions alone. i am not arguing for a lack of reflection on the educator’s part. more so what i am discovering is that failure (a necessary and integral part of the learning process) met with forgiveness after critical reflection is the best way for an educator to approach and model true learning. it isn’t about what we, as educators, did or did not do AS MUCH as it is about what the student did and WILL DO in the future. how will they re- build? how will they re-create? how will they solve life’s inevitable and abundant problems?

when it IS about you:
i recently read an article about social workers, stress, and burn out that reminded me of my campus schools for community action. not only because we have a school that is dedicated to building the next generation of community health advocates but because of how true these themes are in the teaching profession as well. It is about you when you are working through your own personal or professional issues, when you are finding out your own balance of bringing work home, not taking on another project to avoid burnout… Yet there are very limited contexts and manners in which students should see and be a part of our personal struggles. Community building circles, educational 3rd spaces where the teacher learner roles are flipped and the humanity of all is the front and center focus…

What I’ve learned is that this is one of the most simultaneously challenging and rewarding fields there is, that anything worth doing is hard. And that I have to live by those words if I espouse them to my students. That’s the beautiful struggle.

When students return…

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Every teacher gets tremendous joy wen a former student returns for a visit, an update, a little piece of gratitude. It’s one of the most cherished and non quantifiable perks of being an educator, to finally see the difference.

What could possibly top that however is when that former student, troubling and challenging at the time, has made a transformation that inspires him or her to realize their calling, that of a teacher helping students…

When I saw Pierre again I wasn’t shocked but pleasantly surprised. I had seen him frequently since the days of middle school where we were first introduced in our 7th grade world history class. My second year of teaching came with its foreseeable challenges. But no one had yet warned me about students like Pierre. The amazingly gifted and talented, resistant students. He challenged me and my team at the time to further develop our skills to meet the needs of extremely intellectual gifted students. I saw him rather frequently when I made the move to Manual Arts and got to see him walk the stage and graduate. By this time I knew that great things were already within his reach.

The fact that he had returned to help out students at Augustus Hawkins by being a mentor was not a surprise. He had matured far beyond his middle school days and I was proud to see him recognize the value of giving back. What was a surprise was when Pierre told me he wanted to become a math professor. His middle school math teacher would be thrilled and shocked!

I won’t hold the fact that he’s a Trojan against him. He still young and has a lot to learn. But I’m very inspired by this young man. Always have been. And I’m glad he is here to help teach this next generation of students.

announcements… SXSWedu > SouthCentralLAedu apparently (courtesy of Pearson’s Foundation)

6 hours later... my school's most vital partner gets the axe... where is that story on twitter? oh, write here
6 hours later… my school’s most vital partner gets the axe… where is that story on twitter? oh, write here

it has been awhile since i have posted anything here… too busy creating and sustaining our brand new school. creating, aligning and articulating visions. dreams that play out daily at an innovative inner city school where students and teachers are inspired to learn new ways to better ourselves and our communities. in the process, only a year and a half in the making, (the single most challenging/rewarding year and a half of my career) my particular small school, C:\DAGS, stumbled upon one of the most inspiring professional partnerships i’ve had the honor to participate in… one that became fundamental in defining who we were and what C:\DAGS was attempting to become… a school of critical designers. this partnership was with the D3 Lab, and was facilitated by the New Learning Institute, an evermore publicized arm of the Pearson’s Foundation (the largest education company in the world and not without its problems, the most pertinent to this post being their inconsiderate and inaccurate announcements to expand their NLI programs to support “innovation.” 6 hours after tweeting this celebratory news, my staff had the displeasure of hearing from our design partners that Pearson’s had decided to end our innovative collaboration… no reason. no explanation. no tweet.

what message does it send to our community when the powers that be can simultaneously and publicly pat themselves on the back for expanding programs elsewhere on the same day they shut down a vital partnership in our school? what schools are worthy enough (read lucrative enough) to warrant this expansion? why is our school not worthy enough? where was our say in this partnership? our community is no stranger to the silencing of our voices… the preclusion of our participation at the decision making table… but we are not about tolerating it a second longer, for we are schools for community action… and yet ironically, it was this actual partnership that helped C:\DAGS to empower students in a civically engaged curricular experience. the struggle continues, with the added challenges thrust upon inner city public schools like mine, courtesy of the likes of Pearson’s and their decision makers.