Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How To Proceed?

Olivia came home about two weeks ago with her first 5th grade writing assignment.  She was asked to write an I Am From poem.  I was pretty psyched for her because I often use the same as a writing prompt in the workshops I facilitate with young people.

The assignment included three components:

1. completing a graphic organizer                       due Sept. 18

2. rough draft                                                      due  Sept. 23

3.  final draft                                                       due Sept. 25

Olivia dove headfirst into meeting the requirements and crafting a poem, which represents how she sees herself and our family.  She met all of the deadlines and was looking forward to sharing her creation with her class when I dropped her off at school last Friday. But, when she got in the car at dismissal time later Friday afternoon, I could tell something was wrong.  Olivia explained that everyone enjoyed her poem, but her teacher would be taking 10 points off her grade, because she hadn’t submitted her graphic organizer with her final draft.  I listened, and assumed maybe she hadn’t read the assignment directions thoroughly and thus, was forced to deal with the consequences.  I repeated the mantra Loverman and I had heard just days before at Back-to-School Night… “Your 5th grader is growing up and will face new responsibilities as a middle school student.”  I went on to preach the importance of reading and re-reading the assignments to make sure she has a full understanding of what’s expected.  Olivia listened, but was still obviously disgusted with the hand she’d been dealt.

When we got home, Olivia headed right for her homework box and grabbed the assignment and after checking the fine print, she victoriously announced that nowhere did it state that she was supposed to attach the graphic organizer.  I reviewed the assignment and my girl was absolutely right.  Loverman and I suggested letting it go for the weekend, but once she returned to school on Tuesday, she could present her case to her teacher. 

Once again, my daughter got out of the car this morning confident of her position, and yet again when I picked her up this afternoon; I knew all had not gone well.  She jumped in the car hoppin’ mad because her teacher refused to change her grade.  I explained that even though I disagreed with the teacher’s decision, it really isn’t much more she can do, but my internal dialogue was singing another tune and I’ve been debating whether or not I should contact the teacher myself?  Fair is fair and girlfriend followed the directions, how was she to know that all of the elements should be submitted with the final draft? In spite of his not budging on the grade change, maybe this exchange with Olivia will encourage him to provide more detailed instructions next time? Overall, she’s been really enjoying the new rhythms of being a middle school student and I do want her to know how to address issues that pop up on her own… not every situation requires my mama bear routine.  To be honest I really don’t want to start the new year off on a cantankerous note with this teacher, but fair is fair, right?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Put On Blast

Earlier this week, PA Human Relations Commission (HRC) released a report on its investigation of the Creative Steps Day Camp’s claim of discrimination against the Valley Swim Club.  The HRC’s findings pretty much confirm the camp and the campers’ families charge of discrimination by the club and its members, but what’s most disheartening is the role of Michele Flynn in all of this mess. Flynn is a club member and teacher at Laura H. Carnell Elementary School, where many of the campers attend. 

A few of the campers reported hearing Ms. Flynn asking, “What are all these Black kids doing here?” during their ill-fated visit to the school.   The HRC report includes email exchanges between Valley club members and their board, as well as between Valley’s board president and the camp director, and paints Flynn as one of the ring leaders in squashing the contract between the club and the camp.  Flynn goes as far to slander one of her former students who is also a part of the camp, telling fellow-members this young boy was a known thief who had stolen from one of the teachers at Carnell.  The HRC reviewed all of the campers’ school files and no such claim can be substantiated.

Now, Creative Steps and the campers’ families are considering filing civil suits and the federal authorities have opened a civil rights investigation against the swim club.  Pending civil suits, a federal investigation and a suggested fine of $50,000 by the HRC will probably force the club to shutter its doors for good.  

I’m not sure how I feel about all of this resulting in the pool closing, because more than likely it will only deepen the resentment between the two sides.  Club members who didn’t participate in this mess will lose their safe and welcoming respite and the campers will always be seen as being the catalyst of the demise of this private pool. Sure, the camp, the kids and their families can take comfort in knowing they righted a wrong, but I’m not convinced losing the pool is best outcome.

I’m more concerned with Michelle Flynn’s actions and her continued employment as a teacher.  Yeah, I know all about Flynn’s right to exercise her freedom of speech, but she’s a teacher of children of color in the Philadelphia School District and she should have used better judgment.  Flynn allowed her personal biases to cloud the fact that her actions (and words) would be extremely hurtful to her students and then she was careless enough to spread her hatefulness through the Ethernet in those damning emails she exchanged with other club members.

I wouldn’t want this teacher teaching my kids, not because she’s a bad teacher, but because her actions and attitudes reflected in those emails are that of a straight-up racist and I’m not confident she can unload that baggage before she walks through her classroom door.  She may be a fine teacher and until this unfortunate incident, she may not have even recognized herself as a racist, and in her daily interactions with her students what subtle (or not so subtle) messages is she channeling to her students?  Does she see them as full of boundless potential, or does she see herself as their great savior on a mission to help little colored children learn how to read and write? Does she encourage them to exceed expectations and do their absolute best under any and all circumstances, or does she simply go along to get along so she can continue to collect a paycheck and the ample benefits package offered by the school district?  Whatever her m.o., she didn’t count on her personal biases being put on blast for the entire world to see and judge. Well, for me the verdict is in and maybe she should reconsider her career choice, because honestly, she’s probably doing more harm than good.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Peeking Back at Me

This morning as I was rushing to get the Mango Tribe out the door and on our way, I caught sight of my big toe peeking out from my shoe. I was taken aback because for a split second instead of my toe, I saw my grandmother, Nina’s, toe staring back at me.

Nina died 29 years ago and as I get older, I recognize more and more of her physical traits in me and even some in Miss Olivia. I’m built like Nina… short in stature… busty… with small hands and feet, and like her I have to buy my pants, skirts and dresses in the petite shop.

Nina and I were close… we were buddies, thick as thieves and seeing her (or my) toe this morning was such a welcome reminder of who/where I come from.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Catching a Glimpse

I had a fabulous weekend in VA Beach with Loverman! We drove down there to attend the Mid Atlantic Black Film Festival. The festival was ok, but what I got a kick out of the most was getting away for just 48 hours with my husband, sans the kids. We never take time away like we did this weekend. We always travel as a tribe of four and although I’m told all the time about the importance of spending time alone with your mate, these moments have been few and far between for the two of us. Well, no more! I’m absolutely giddy about how much I enjoyed myself with my husband. We had a great time talking about tons of things, not just about the kids… work… mundane stuff. We unexpectedly caught up with folks we haven’t seen in years, met new people… sort of felt like who we were before becoming parents to Olivia and Yannick. On our way home this afternoon, I felt completely sated because in those few hours away I was reminded how much I really dig this man and caught a glimpse of who we are in addition to being mom and dad.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Feeling Mean?

O.k., I know it was unsports(wo)manlike behavior and no, I wouldn’t want to catch either of my kids using the words Serena used publicly Saturday night at the U.S. Open, but damn, I did feel especially gleeful when I saw Miss Serena get up in the ass of that mistaken lines-woman.

I’m trying to understand why I had such a visceral reaction, but I do think it may have something to do with the lack of civility demonstrated by that jerk Rep. Joe Wilson at last week’s joint session where President Obama once-again laid out his case for healthcare reform. I also wasn’t feeling too keen about the crowd at this weekend’s U.S. Open and their cheering against Serena, an American and last year’s reigning champ of the Open. Finally, right before I caught the match, I had just returned from a train ride from Washington to Philly on an Amtrak train crowded with a bunch of folks returning from their protest of Obama and his recent policies. Let’s just say I spent most of the ride biting my tongue as they loudly continued their protest on the two-hour train ride.

Yes, I am an Obama supporter and as much as I appreciate his elegance and civility, I’m with Bill Maher and think it’s time to let folks know that like Serena, he can get up in that ass. It’s been my experience that folks will only dish out as much as they think they can get away with, and assholes like Joe Wilson think they can handle the heat thrown their way for disrespecting the nation’s first African American president.

Serena has publicly apologized twice and got right back in the saddle and won the doubles championship with her sister Venus, and after a strong directive from his party leaders, Wilson begrudgingly apologized to the President via Rahm Emmanuel. Why he refuses to apologize again, but this time on the House floor, probably has something to do with the fact that he really isn’t apologetic and is quite proud of his mean-spirited remark.