Small Moments, No Filter #1: To Future Teachers

Over the past month I’ve had the privilege to work with a Kindergarten team on non-fiction reading with their kiddos.  This past week we moved into the next phase of the unit.  Here students progressed from asking questions and making connections in the text, primarily through the pictures, to noticing moments where their thinking caused a big reaction–WOW! GROSS! NO WAY!

To teach this lesson we watched a particularly compelling Venus Fly Trap video that certainly lent itself to students having big reactions. We used the chart below to help us think about those reactions in two ways.

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One way was by simply noticing when we were learning a new and amazing fact like, Venus Fly Traps produce a sweet nectar that lures flies into their trap.

The second way was to notice when a new fact made us have even more questions because the idea was so strange or foreign to us.  For instance, did you know the Venus Fly Trap has six hairs that serve as sensors and when a fly touches one it sets off a 60-second time within the trap?  If the fly doesn’t get out in time, it’s usually doomed.  Not only did students have a big reaction to this fact, but also many questions.  A Venus Fly Trap is a plant! How does it have a timer?  When it traps the fly how does it “eat” it?  Does the trap have a stomach?  We pulled in question words to help us pause and think about what we’re still wondering when we learn new information.

The lesson must have gone well, at least for one little girl, because the next day she came to school with this:

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She had gone home and done this same work, making a chart to notice when she had a “reeakshin” and a “qechin”.  Her reaction column includes, “That cnat be!” and “inposubl!”  Her question column, “Maby?” and “Oh my” and “code thay…?”  She was so proud to show her work and I was humbled to be a part of this moment with her.

I was recently asked to consider how I know I’m effective in my job. I’d say this sweet moment hits the nail on the head.  Now I just need to ask if she’s willing to be my assistant.

 

 

 

 

Must Listen! Lift Every Voice Podcast

 

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Last week, on the heels of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the President’s “shithole” comments, New Jersey Senator, Cory Booker did something important.  He gave an impassioned speech denouncing the “amnesia” and “silence” of his fellow government officials.  His words were pointed, speaking truth and transparency, and imploring others to do the same.

His words matched my thoughts and feelings so precisely.  His words were igniting, elevating.  I needed more of them.  I started to seek him out on Twitter and Instagram and his Senate page.  Through this search I discovered his podcast, Lift Every Voice.  I listened to the first episode.  I became hooked.

The premise of his podcast is to highlight overlooked issues of injustice and inequality, and provide an outlet for voices to share their inspiring stories of change and action.  The first episode featured Civil Rights icon, Representative John Lewis.  He is the only living member of the “Big Six”, the group of leaders who organized the March on Washington in 1963, in which Martin Luther King paid his way to help get this movement in motion.

There are so many moments in this podcast I could quote, but I’m simply going to leave these words on the page and let you discover the rest.  I hope you will.

“You gotta cause some good trouble.  I believe in stirring things up to make it right. To help educate people, inform people, sensitize people.  Because you, too, can do something.  You cannot sit on the sideline and be silent.” 

Representative John Lewis

 

“Love is work.  Love is struggle. Love is hard.  I’m working to try to live your example, and King’s example, and Christ’s example of radical love.  Love that is risky.  Love that is dangerous.  Love that is hard.  Love that gets mocked.  Love that gets heckled.  Love that gets beaten.  But to continue in the way that you do every single day.  I witness it and I watch it.  That you live with that humility and love of all, and that strident activism to cause good trouble.” 

Senator Cory Booker

Radical love.  Good trouble.  Words to live by.

 

In Honor of Martin Luther King: Teach Us All Documentary

 

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Our lives are ending because of silence.

If you think that statement is overly dramatic, it’s not.

 

Facts:

  • For black students, the US is back at school segregation levels not seen since a year before Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, and 1 in 7 black and Latino children attend “hyper-segregated” schools.
  • Nationally, we spend more money incarcerating minority youth than educating them.  It costs $90,000 to house individuals in a juvenile detention center. It costs $10,000 to educate them.
  • Students of color make up 75% of the student population at the lowest performing high schools in the United States.
  • Children in segregated schools earn an average of 25% less income in their lifetime.
  • If you’re poor and not reading at grade level by 3rd grade you are 13 times more likely to not graduate high school.
  • If you are an African American you are 4 times more likely to not graduate high school.

Think about those last two facts.  Combined they paint the reality that our African American poor students not reading at grade level by the age of 8 are doomed to incarceration.  Their path in life has been determined by age 8.  They will likely fall victim to double segregation: race + income, and the political systems at play will ensure they never become productive citizens of society.

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On Saturday I attended a showing of the Teach Us All documentary that is currently touring nationally on many college campuses and it also now available on Netflix.  An African American man with two Masters degrees stood before us to tell his story.  During the 1950’s-1970’s as Kansas City was immersed in unprecedented racial migration due to White flight imposed by J.C. Nichols and Co. and their racially charged real estate practices, schools at the city’s core began to get shut down.  With all the white people moving out to the suburbs they were no longer needed.  Simultaneously, prisons were taking their place in the areas African American families were moving into.  Coincidence?  No.  From that time African American females became 6 times more likely to get suspended or expelled from school than her white counterparts.  Essentially, an action that communicated the message that just because the courts say we have to let you in, we’ll still find a way to keep you out.  African American males were not overlooked either.  They became 4 times more likely to be recommended for Special Education services.  The man standing before us telling his story had spent his entire elementary experience in Special Education, and ultimately obtained two Masters.

To this day Missouri remains the #1 state for out-of-school suspensions.  Not Texas.  Not California.  Not Florida.  Not New York.  Missouri.  How can we bring up a community and a nation when the next generation is being denied their education?

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Today is about action. About voice.  About getting loud and using your place of privilege to stand up and be heard on behalf of those who are continually ignored and dismissed.

Our silence–our inaction–is killing us.

Just ask Jordan Russell Davis, or Eric Garner, or John Crawford, or Michael Brown, or Laquan McDonald, or Akai Gurley, or Tamir Rice, or Walter Scott, or Freddie Gray, or Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, or Cynthia Hurd, or Susie Jackson, or Ethel Lee Lance, or DePayne Middleton Doctor, or Clementa Pickney, or Tywanza Sanders, or Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. or Myra Thompson, or Sandra Bland, or Jamar Clark, or Alton Sterling, or Philando Castille or Jordan Edwards, or Trayvon Martin, or…

Oh, wait.  We can’t.

_Unity is the only plausible path to justice.

Ways to get involved:

The most impactful way to get involved to speak out on policy.  Who we put in power politically matters!  So, whether it’s Trump’s latest remarks or this post or something else altogether–find the fire the belly, the passion in your heart, and get involved.  There is no time to waste.  People are dying while we sit in silence.  GO!

One (or four) Little Words for 2018

 

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Last year at this same time I reflected on on my one little word for 2017.  This is an idea I learned about through Two Writing Teachers and have loved its impact on focusing my year.  Last year I broke the rules and chose two words–radical presence.  This year I’m breaking them even more, and choosing four words:

small moments/no filter.

A trifecta of realizations in 2017 have led me to this.   

One, sadly, being inexplicable tragedy that surrounded so many in 2017.  Whether in our world or the lives of  those close to me, I learned a more profound level of love and gratitude as so many in my inner circle were faced with adversity beyond comprehension.  Some were expected, foreseen.  Others not.  Regardless, you were at a loss.  No words could fill the space.  So love had to.  They say life happens in seasons, and I know this is true.  2017 was that season that deepened roots with so many friendships where love was all that could be given.  However, that also meant recognizing others were dying.  Sad, yes.  But recognition demands we look through new lenses, and you suddenly see so clearly how your lives’ paths have diverged.  No one person’s is wrong, the puzzle just doesn’t fit anymore.  As I grappled to find peace with this I wondered what attributed to the difference.  The answer:  small moments/no filter. 

Those friendships that found new roots were real.  There was no show.  No expectations.  No trying to fit in boxes that didn’t fit.  This authenticity jarred me from time to time.  It was not something that had been common in many of my previous female relationships.  That’s when I began to recognize, to see more clearly, to know it was time to walk.  Liberation.  What’s left standing is one hell of a group of women that I would walk to the ends of the Earth for.  And they’d do the same for me.  You know who you are.  I love you and our unfiltered small moments.

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The second and third reasons occurred simultaneously.  I was going through all the pictures of the kids in 2017 and I noticed that most of them were big moments with filters.  I got itchy.   If what I valued so much in my friendships was authenticity this wasn’t it.  This was staged–“smile for mommy” and then let me ignore you for the next ten minutes as I post to 8 different social media outlets and make sure to get the right filter on there so we look good.  Nope.  In the words of Lillian, “That’s not right!”

I remembered their journals from their first years of life and how I intentionally took weekly pictures of our little moments together.  I pulled them back out and cried.  I had lost complete sight of this in 2017.  Shame on me.  They change so much every day and I am missing it.  So, I am recommitting myself to our weekly small moments/no filter Life as we are living it and loving it or hating it or struggling with it.  But life.  Life as it exists from day to day.  Because as so many of my friends learned (and taught me) this year, it can be gone or challenged in an instant.

While looking through pictures of these big moments a word that kept entering my brain was “conventional.” They looked like carbon copies of everyone else’s pictures.  Go here, get the big cake, overspend, over plan, over stress, shove yourself into an overcrowded space.  Frankly, I’m over it!  When I look back at our pictures I do not want these words connected to our memories.  I have always been the person who wants to do it all right now–I’m very impulsive in that way.  Kyle has helped me immensely in this area, but I’ve still got a lot of growing to do.  I’m stepping back this year.  I want my family to have our own traditions–the small unfiltered kind, not the big, over-hyped kind.

This year we’re minimizing, which is in turn, unconventional.  That feels right.  In a world that needs so much, it feels wrong to keep serving ourselves.  This year will be about small unfiltered moments of serving others.  Maybe they’ll show up here.  Maybe they won’t.  But my small moments/no filter focus will also be the theme of the blog this year.  That’s all I can manage, and I’m finding that’s where the power and meaning lie anyhow.

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Stay tuned.  I have no idea what will show up here.  I’m letting life take the lead.  The possibilities are thrilling!