Monday, February 29, 2016

Sunday 6 on Monday....
1. In keeping with my bringing more African/African-American history and themes to the discussion I just saw this video yesterday about the country's first and only Slavery Museum, called The Whitney Plantation. I had no idea that this place existed, and was surprised and happy to see it was started by a white guy. I am even more happy at his reasoning for it, 'Slavery is not an african-american history, but a national history'. Here is the link to video about this place, which he has spent over $8 million on... a paltry amount compared to the total money spent during the institution of slavery itself....

2. I read this article yesterday about a k-8 afrocentric school in Chicago that is facing closure due to low test scores. What I pulled from this article was that sent me down a rabbit hole is that there are no national numbers on the number of Afrocentric charter schools in this country. I am thinking of all of the ideas that could be shared if the schools were to start a community or network, especially since many Afrocentric schools share the same problems.

3. Thank you to Robert at sharbotini for posting the short essay written by Gail Farmer, Director of Education at the Schuylkill Center, I learned more bout the Nordic idea of
friluftsliv, which translates to 'free air life'. The idea of nature as home and a place that should be returned to on a daily basis. Students in Finland are given 15 minutes of this 'nature play' after each lesson to help recharge! Once again I see how contradictory things are.

4. Did anyone post this article from Slate Magazine two weeks ago? I hope not, because its talking about some of what we are all trying to figure out now, how to incorporate more technology into the classroom (yes I know we are always talking about equity, but this was a magazine guys...) and the lack of true support from districts in terms of training.

5. While on twitter I saw this link to a program that trains youth workers and counselors to lead independent outdoors trips with inner city students. I can remember being a part of different programs that took us on nature hikes, rafting, and skiing and remembering how cool it was getting out of the city. I also remember taking students on a hiking trip 2 summers ago and for all their complaining at first, how into the walk they were.

6. Right as I was about to post something else for my 6th and last point I came across this article that talks about the just published Facebook report on connectivity. It says that there are 4 problems as to why more than half the world is not connected, "availability, affordability, relevance and readiness." This report just highlights all we have been reading and saying about connectivity. Check it out!

Friday, February 26, 2016


10 questions I have about Education

1. What is the connection between connectivity and the struggle for racial freedom?
2. How can connectivity link past and current movements in an engaging and meaningful way for my students.
3. Can connectivity be equitable with web restrictions for students? Specifically, with web restrictions how can connectivity truly be equitable?
4. How can connectivity better shape the African-American educational experience, for both teachers and students?
5. How can we use connectivity  for parent voice?
6. How can connectivity affect students growing up in isolated environments, and how can we provide equitable connectivity for them that is affordable?
7. Could connectivity lead us to a star-trek like existence...(serious but joking, lol)
8. How will connectivity shape higher education and access to it?
9. How can connectivity improve/shape curricula for American history and other non-dominant courses.
10.  How can I combine connectivity to my lessons to help differentiate them between grades and student learning styles?

10 questions I have about myself

1. How can I combine my crafts, my degrees and fight from freedom to sustain my family?
2. Where do I see myself living in 5 years since I hate winter?
3. How can I use connectivity to grow my business as a designer, and curriculum developer?
4. Given my personality quirks, how can connectivity help me better work with colleges, while still connecting with students?
5. Should I listen to my husband and pursue a PhD? (It would be cool to be Dr.'s Amenra, lol....)
6. How do my students honestly see me in the classroom?
7. How can I meet the demands of being a teacher while maintaining my own mental health?
8. After taking the blue pill, as a mother how can I support public schools and provide the best education possible for my daughter?
9. Will I die with student loan debt?
10. Could I ever be the teacher in my dreams? The one who gets to take her kids out of the class everyday and go out into the world with her students learning, or was that only the magic schoolbus?

From what I am reading and learning  equitable connectivity could really change the education game. I would consider myself a huge SCIFI geek, so I am constantly thinking/dreaming about the future and see so may doors that can open. Heck the worlds I have found by simply joining twitter....However having access simply isn't enough. Lana commented on her blog, "It doesn't seem wrong to encourage the rich districts, the rich students and their parents to donate some money to buy the poor districts some computers, help to improve their library, or  buy new equipment in the gym, ...etc." While the idea of this is nice, without the proper questions and guidance the new computers, equipment, etc. would only go so far. Neither side would be completely changed. The poor students would have new computers for a while...the rich kids would feel good for a while. But how does this help the longterm goals of equity? This is the question I am pondering...

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sunday 6-Communities

1. Shout out to Danielle over at for introducing me to Nings. I am still lost about the definition. Why is it named Ning?1 Anyway, because of her blog I signed up to be a part of two new teacher support communities; Classroom 2.0 and Curriculum 21.

2. Because I love science and making a mess I often use ScienceBob, as well as this site.  I even had a young lady and her family take a picture after every experiment they did on the other site. I can say I saw at least 10 pictures from her during the course of the school year. Are you all a part of any science communities I should know about? I love a good project, and want to create the same love of science and mess making for my daughter that I have.

3. Through Twitter I am constantly reminded that this country has a huge problem with supporting urban schools. I follow @detriotteach and am constantly seeing pictures showing buildings 100 times worse than the ones we house our enemies in. How can we expect teachers to produce quality results when they are battling for basic human rights? How can we as an enlightened society accept children being taught in moldy schools? Oh yeah, they are OTHER peoples kids, many who don't look like those in schools where this would never happen....


4. So I have been the owner of a crockpot for 10 years but have only used it twice. My girlfriend  Jasmine, who is vegan, makes the best soups, dinners and deserts, restaurant quality. Meanwhile I make horrible science experiments. Determined I joined this board on Pinterest to get my life together. I'll let you know how my first soup, which will be butternut squash, goes.

5. I am always on the lookout for the telling of black history form our own perspective. So with that said, and it still being Black History Month I figured I would let you all know that John Legend has produced a tv series called Underground, which looks like it will follow a group of slaves as they flee on freedom. The preview looks interesting, as it seems fast paced and is showing it from the perspective of the slaves, the slave masters, abolitionist, and those in between. We shall see, the opening in the preview in which each slave was described was very forward, and I am appreciating more stories of resistance being told from the perspective of blacks...

6. Lastly as we talk about communities what do you guys think about paid communities such as ABCMouse and such? I see their commercials ALL the times because of my daughter, and they are seriously rubbing me the wrong way. In most of the commercials that feature parents they say things like, 'this has helped me lay the foundation for his success'. What?! The parents take much of the learning from themselves and place it on this paid learning subscription. I have tried looking things up about the company, but stopped when I saw articles with people trying to link it to scientology...I have other yellow brick roads to travel down.....

Lastly...can you tell I am learning how to use more buttons on this blogger, don't laugh at me, but i hate just looking at words ALL the time and could use the introduction of pictures more in life. We all could...

Friday, February 19, 2016

Why I love Teaching
In thinking about communities I am in, or looking to join,  for another class I got involved in ITAG. If you are not familiar   ee, itag unites teachers, nurses, and any adults who believe in quality education. The educators form action groups who then work on a particular issue or challenge bringing forth an action to improve that area. group that I have joined is working around African-American history that is being taught in Philadelphia. Black history is now a graduation requirement for all students in the city, yet there is no set curricula and only one book for the entire course. The district has one page dedicated to the course with a download. As a city with a large black population this community group will work on the formalization of a standard curricula and supporting texts that include space for a social activism. The goal will be to complete this curricula and present it to the SRC for approval....
As a former teacher of this course I find this wonderful and exciting. I remember having to create EVERYTHING for this course myself, with only a month before school started. Oh yeah, and I had just graduated college. I taught this course in 2005,the first year it was being mandated. Luckily my degree is in African/African-American studies, and I had taught Saturday school, or I would have been completely screwed. I learned after at the end of the school year from my social studies support coach that the district was offering teacher support for this course, but by then it was too late.
I can say that I am excited, and a little scared to be joining this group. I noticed that everyone joined the group because they were each doing something in their own way around black history, and just like myself wanted to make a larger impact. Many of the people are social studies teachers, so what we plan to do could directly impact their work. For myself, curricula development is what I would like to continue doing so to be involved in a project like this is awesomely inspiring. You could even say this is a dream project (for my education half of life). As I said I taught black history when I first graduated. I felt so nervous and unsure, not in my knowledge of the information. It was the connecting the why this is important, to their lives through lessons that were interactive. Until this point I had never taught high school, so the flow I had developed as described by Csikszentmihalyi in this awesome weekly reading we had was disrupted, and spent the remainder of that year wobbling through with very limited help and resources. I hope that through the joined efforts of this group that we could offer the guidance and support for a subject that has been under-supported by the district for quite some time. What we are attempting could be huge for the city. Its implementation varies from school to school, so no one really knows what the students are learning. Which means that the students are missing out on being able to discuss, and strategize solutions to current problems as they relate to them. 
Before the first meeting there were two articles offered to begin discussion. I am already learning more about the struggle for rights here in our own city. This article, explains the history of the course, including the protest and the polices response. This is something I had no idea about before, but as a teacher and am already making connections between the similar response of the police then versus now... I have also clicked on all of the attached articles and looked up so much reading this, that I now feel like I could answer any question asked. I am really looking forward to getting more involved!
If you are interested more follow @TAGPHILLY or

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Week 4 Friday 5

1. I read this article on yahoo the other day that shows some of the negative responses to Islamic immigration. My heart hurts for my fellow brother and sisters who have had their lives completely changed forever through no fault of their own. It angers me how innocent families, children who have just fled war have to then deal with ignorance. These children and their families still have to think about education, and as a Muslim parent I would be horrified sending my child to school in Germany given the current climate of hatred.


2. I made the above pendant after watching this video on youtube, the above stool as a housewarming gift for a friend after looking at this picture on pinterest. Its so interesting how I never saw the connection between me watching videos from people all over the world, then taking that knowledge and applying it to my craft here in Philly....amazing! I am wondering if there is a way to maybe work some of this into my project somehow...

3. I read Laceys' Blog the other day and had no idea what she meant when she mentioned the adult coloring craze.  I typed that phrase in google and burst out laughing reading about this new craze. Partly because I am sure we all have some sort of daily doodles or makings so this idea is not new. The other reason for my laughter was because something else from my childhood has now been made dirty by this phase....

4. A friend sent me this video that shows a mother forcing her daughter to apologize to a girl she bullied in front of the entire class. So, I agree with the mother, and appreciate
the teacher in allowing the apology to happen in front of the whole class. I can even admit that I would have probably responded in the same manner to some degree as the mother. No one likes a bully, however one could argue that the mother is bullying the daughter...

5. Finally, in an attempt to post something related to this weeks theme, play, I read this article on NPR. regarding kids and play. I found it interesting that the person interviewed has had issues regarding race with her older students. However I agree with a lot of what she says around the lack of play our kids receive and the implications. I also liked how  she states that we are forcing students to live in an adult world, but not respecting their ability to make decisions (she didn't say it in this order). I remember having this exact sentiment last year while assisting a teacher. She expected her students to think, be respectful, and a bunch of other ideals but she offered no opportunity for her students to practice this on their own. As a mom I think about this and came to realize, for me, that fear could maybe be the reason for not allowing these opportunities for students. What do you guys think?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Playing with Playful Ways of Knowing and Thinking

I mentioned in my 'About me' post that I have a 10-month old baby girl, so play is a part of my everyday routine. It happens whether I want us to be playing or not and is often the source of my daily laugh and annoyance. We play just because, we play to learn something new, and we play to deepen our bond as mother and daughter. As with most babies she is curious about the world, and wants to be involved in everything. So as she learns to walk I entice her with a toy, and do a lot of smiling when she gets something right. I think what I am doing with my daughter to encourage her learning through exploration is exactly what was described in All I Really Need to Know (About Creative Thinking)I Learned (By Studying How Children Learn) in Kindergarten posted on our blog. I am encouraging her to be active in her learning, although a result often means a mess, noise, or an 'uh-oh'.

I am able to be as active in my daughter development as I am because I am a stay-at-home mom. My daughter I home with me, as well as being in daycare therefore I have more options. This is where the divide begins for many. For many families, including mine growing up, everyone has to work. So although my mother wanted to be more involved at times, the bills and her sheer tiredness prevented her from doing so. Many times educators look at children and their families and are so quick to throw an absent mother or father under the bus. They forget how hard it is for many families to survive.

With this I also see many students being left behind simply because getting connected is expensive for many. There are programs that help poor families, but when you get to much of the fine print a family that should qualify doesn't. (Comcast is a prime example).

I read this article the other day, which just so happened to be connected to what we are discussing. Why does it always seem like we KNOW what works, but refuse for one reason or another to do it?! Finland understands that allowing kids to play works, forcing them to sit doesn't, so they left well enough alone...Its seems for all of the areas this country is advanced, we are pathetically stunted in others.

Another way that I 'play' that just hit me, that i never thought about in this regard is my jewelry/accessories making. After reading  Tinkering and Thinking with Maker Kylie Pepple posted on our class blog I made the connection. Not only am I play learning when I manipulate designs, bang and burn stuff, it happens when I watch videos, post my own diy's, and attend classes and workshops. Doing all of the above feels fun, relaxing and engaging; hence the reason why I do it. As an educator I wonder how I can create an environment that makes my students feel the same way as I do when I create. How do I help students see the connection between their dreams and the idea of knowledge as a means of fulfilling them? 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday 5

I am hoping that you all had as wonderful and productive a week as I have. Here are five things I found/saw/did/randomly popped in my head this week regarding education/learning.

1. This weekend Community College of Philadelphia will be hosting a African-American Book Fair. We all know that black authors are ignored in the class, so if you are free go and check this out!

2. I re-read Creating Classrooms for Equity and Social Justice edited by Wayne Au Bill Bigelow Stan Karp for another class I am taking. As a teacher/educator I always strive to create a student center inquire based room. However I often find myself fighting against the administrators, the curriculum, and my need to make a living. As teachers who value our students, and know what they face, how can we truly create these classrooms under this current system.....

3. The Washington Post released a report by the Network for Public Education (NPE)  giving each state a grade regarding how the treat children. The report is not surprising, and is still saddening, as no state received an A, and Pennsylvania received a D.

4. Vulture Magazine did a story on Paul Mooney entitled The Curious Decline of Paul Mooney. I have always loved Paul Mooney's cutting honesty, and wonder if any of what the author says matters. Paul Mooney has always been unapologetically himself, and has always done what he wants, so I am not sure if it is a decline or a matter of 'I'm old and I do what I want'.

5. I saw this video today called, Ten Rules for Survival. I HATE it, and want to spit just thinking about it. This video puts the responsibility of humanity on the victim, and takes all of it away from the dominant force; the police. As a mother, I want my child to be able to make it home from an interaction with the police, but lets be clear; my child can still be shot while be respectful. She can say 'please' and 'sir' and still be manhandled...where is the video for police officers?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

                                                         Honoring our Interest

As a young person I was really interested in two things. Ancient Mythology and handmade items. Specifically I wanted to know how things are made, which explains why I can watch hours of episodes of that show on the Science Channel.

My interest in ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology came from the books we had in our house when I was little. My mother is a big book person, and can remember looking at the pictures and reading the stories and imagining how the various gods interacted with people. This love of history, and specifically mythology was not supported or encouraged in school at all. It wasn't until 8th grade that I had a teacher, Mr. El-Mekki, that my love of history and mythologies was shared. I evened learned mythologies from other african tribes! Other than this class I fed this interest at the library and with cable t.v. I am not sure what originally drew me to these stories, but my mother did everything she could to make sure I had the books I needed in the house to continue reading...It is obvious to see the connections that could have been made to between this love and school that were missed by my teachers. Reading, language, historical context, poetry...the list goes on. And this does not include all of the projects and STEm activities that could have went alongside my reading. But none of the teachers I had for a long time really took the time to know my as a student. And there were 2 years when I had a long term sub the ENTIRE year...

I knew based on getting no help with my first interest would mean I would be on my own for my second, handmaking items. I always wonder, if I had been guided in school and home if instead of finally pursing my love of history in college, I would have pursued Arts-N-Crafts, and become a bench jeweler.. My mother and everyone I know always said I had a talent for making things, and I usually make something new once a week. But I never really saw that as a way of making a life for myself. I always say, "I wish I went to school for jewelry, I could see me living that life". But I was too difficult for me to visualize because i never saw anyone like me doing it. So everything I learned up until a few years ago I kind of hobbled together. A couple of years ago I finally decided that I needed to see if I could make a living doing what I loved and began selling my items.I still think about where I could have been if I had had the school support and background, but why cry over spilled milk, right?

However as an educator both of my interest reminds me to try to expose my students to as much as possible. I want them to feel like they can do anything! I also want them to feel prepared to do anything by helping them figure out what they need to do to pursue what they like seriously. Whether its getting math grades together for a career in Architecture or Culinary Arts. It also reminds me that students have their own likes and we as educators make a world of difference when we include that in our lessons.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Naming Equity and Inequities

This semester I would like to focus on Racial Justice as my 'topic'. This is something that connects deeply with me being an African-American who has been discriminated against because of my skin. Because of social media the hatred that many african-americans face daily in this country is being highlighted. Hastags such as #blacklivesmatter and #sayhername are just two examples of movements that have brought issues that many of us face in our individual lives to the collective forefront.

Racial Justice encompasses all aspects of life, and a topic under this idea that I think I would like to focus on further is racial educational justice. All of the stories and reports I have read leads me to the conclusion that America does not care for the education of poor students and students of color. This post I read from the class blog helps to further my point. How can we say we want all students to succeed because thats what makes America great when we have students learning in conditions where mushrooms are growing?

How can we push our students in poor schools or students of color when a majority of their schools hire teachers who do their 'Give back' time with us, then leave for greener pastures once they are done using little brown bodies for the experience they need...

I read the NPR story that highlights the disparity between people of color and women in the tech industry. I think this story is yet another example of the issues of diversity, access, and sexism we are facing as a nation.

As an educator I am always telling students that they have to learn what they can to fight for themselves. However I often have to remind myself that all information and institutions aren't equal. It is up to us as educators to help our students find the right concepts to continue the fight for equity and justice. This is where this idea of connectedness and equity come into play...
My Monday 5

Happy Sunday everyone. I am playing catch up with a 10 month, and a small business, so please excuse my lateness with Friday 5...hence Sunday 6.

Here are 5 things that have been buzzing in my ear,

1. So I read this opinion piece the other day in response to a major last minute decision being made by the SRC. I've been following whats going on with the schools for a while and am completely disgusted at the abandonment of our students. Something that gives me hope and I think is awesome is the students who are fighting for themselves. I checked out the philadelphia student union and was amazed by all of the work these young people are doing. I would encourage you to check them out and support!

2.Ron Clarke academy...

I saw this video clip of the Ron Clark Academy. This is a private middle school in Atlanta, Georgia. I watched this video and walked away with mixed emotions.

On the one hand, I think this is totally awesome. The school is painted like a castle, technology and random slides are integrated into the building. Teachers are smiling and the kids are engaged. Who wouldn't want their child in a school where learning literally is fun?

On the other hand I am getting this Michelle Phiffer, Dangerous Minds vibe. I often wonder what makes Mr. Clark different from the thousands of educators of color who are creating the same environments who go ignored. Just my randoms thoughts....

3. So the The Birth of a Nation was released at Sundance this year! As a teacher of African-American History i think this is important for a variety of reasons. Much of the history of blacks in america centers around slavery, and the story of blacks fighting for themselves has never been told. It is also important that this movie is coming out as this country begins to take a hard look at its racial history with African- Americans...

4. I joined twitter for the first time for this class! Don't laugh at me me, but i feel so overwhelmed :) It is taking me a while to figure out how to work some things, but i am already learning so much that i would not have know already. Some for the good, like Kayne West I can never erase from memory...

5. I read Daryl's i didnt realize that I was as connected as I was. I stay at home with my infant daughter, so  i often feel isolated from the world. However I am connected through facebook to friends, and to support through mom groups. Im also connected through Etsy to local groups of handmakers who share similar interest, and then there is pinterest...

So although I am slow to the party, i think i am starting to get the hang of it!