Archive for the ‘Education’ Tag

Rap and Hip Hop’s Dark History: Anything For Money   Leave a comment

I want to preface this post with these two videos:

 

…Let’s be honest: This was what fueled the sharp rise of Hip Hop in the U.S. in the 1980s, the deaths of The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur in the mid-1990s, the industry’s implosion during the mid-2000s and the mostly watered down stuff we see in the mainstream today.

Now me, I’m old enough to both remember and appreciate The System (The Government) and the Music Industry’s carefully laid out plans to indoctrinate, manipulate and brainwash the unsuspecting masses with African Americans as the primary focus. Most Blacks stopped listening to and playing Rock and Roll after Elvis Presley and Jerry Lewis made it famous among White Americans during the 1970s. The politics of the time and the start of Reagan’s “War on Drugs” during the 1980s left many African American youth without a healthy outlet to ease pent-up frustration.

That all changed when Hip Hop was “re-discovered” in The Bronx in the early 1980s. Its popularity in African American cities exploded almost overnight. It came in at just the right time: Many young African Americans were researching their ancestors. Hip Hop, which survived in Africa was virtually unknown in the U.S. The self-appointed keepers of Hip Hop Lore, the original grandmasters and DJs of the early 80s still living in the Bronx often talk about how far Rap and Hip Hop has gone from its early years.

Here’s Kool Moe Dee’s Wild Wild West:

…And N.W.A.’s Express Yourself:

One thing both songs have in common is they tell a clear, concise story or message. THIS was Rap and Hip Hop’s original purpose. It’s like I said before: Rap is poetry over beats. Like other genres of music, Hip Hop is used to tell a story or message, usually about the times or who you are as well as uplift and empower.

…How then did we go from the above to this:

 

…Given I talked about the first song two years ago, my opinion of this type of music has changed since then. I now consider both Silento’s Watch Me Whip/Nae Nae and Soulja Boy’s Crank That to be fake Hip Hop and actually do more harm than good to the history of the genre. Why? Because they’ve become the blueprint for how to make “Safe Hip Hop”. You know, stuff that won’t offend privileged White Americans who don’t want to be reminded of how good they have it compared to many African Americans.

The real problem with both of these “songs” and the copycats they spawned isn’t the dancing. The dancing is freaking awesome. The REAL problem is both “songs” are not real songs. I mean that literally and that’s why I threw in the quotes. Recite The Alphabet. Now Recite The Birthday Song (“Happy Birthday To You”). Notice how both songs don’t just have rhythm but have subtance and is purposeful. The above songs lack both substance and purpose. The focus of both songs is the dance and this is why they’re both so “simple”. All you hear is what would be the chorus in a normal song the whole time.

Let’s take a look at PSY’s Gangnam Style, which was recently dethroned on YouTube for Most Watched Ever:

Yes, it’s goofy and in Korean but this is still a full song. I’ve seen the lyrics translated into English so I can say that. Yes, the focus is obviously on the Horse Dance but it’s still a full freaking song.

All that said, let’s now look at the song the put the U.S. Government on edge:

…I decided to go with the full version so you have the full, political context of the song. Public Enemy put both the U.S. Government and the Music Industry on notice with this song: To empower young African Americans to become politically involved, politically engaged and demand change from both themselves and the system. Believe it or not, this scared The System even more than N.W.A.’s F*** tha Police. They shut down that song by simply saying anyone who listens to it hates police and the mainstream ate up that lie like candy.

As the 1990s began, Hip Hop Artists realized they were being forced to do one of two things: Avoid politics and increase their chances of making alot of money or dive into politics and risk not just being blackballed but even killed. Most picked the former. All you need to do is look at popular rap music from about…I wanna say 1992 to now. Most of it is about glorifying money, sex, drugs, violence, alcohol and guns. It wasn’t until about…I wanna say 2007 Artists started to avoid the subjects of drugs, alcohol and especially guns. They knew the history so…yeah.

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Back then, those who did weave politics into their music had some success early on but not for too long. The lucky ones survived the 90s. The unlucky ones…well, this brings me to Biggie and Pac. Let’s be honest, Tupac Shakur was killed because of his mother’s affiliation with The Black Panthers first and his early political messages second. The Notorious B.I.G.’s death was also politically motivated, as was the “so-called beef” between them. THAT was carefully orchestrated to ensure whichever was killed first, the other would automatically blamed so their death could be written off as “retaliation”.

…And both of them knew it. Listen to The Notorious B.I.G.’s last album Life After Death. At a glance, it can easily be written off as your standard rap beef mixed with sex talk. It wasn’t until AFTER he died people began to realize he’d actually foretold not just his death but the reason why he would be killed. Look up Notorious Thugs, My Downfall, What’s Beef?, You’re Nobody (‘Til Somebody Kills You) and Somebody’s Gotta Die on YouTube as I won’t post them all here to be nice to those who don’t have high-speed internet (LOL!). Overall, there is a reason it is considered his greatest masterpiece and one of the greatest Hip Hop Albums of the 1990s. Yes, it’s the same one Hypnotize is on as well (third song on the first disc).

All that said, sadly the overwhelming majority made their choice: They chose profits over principles. They chose to give in to the system they knew could care less about them or their fanbases. There is a certain irony with most of those rap videos of the 1990s and early 2000s: The jets, cars, mansions, clubs and and jewelry prominently featured in them? They were all rented. The scantly clad women and backup dancers were hired or volunteers to shoot the videos as well.

For what purpose?

Simple: The system wanted to present a false narrative and a false reality to African Americans. The reality of the 1990s: Bill Clinton’s Mass Incarceration Policy. It wasn’t until during his wife’s Presidential campaign last year he admitted it did more harm than good as African American men were unfairly profiled in large numbers. The rap videos and music glorifying guns, violence, drugs, alcohol, sex and money were all things many African American youth desired but felt would always be out of reach unless they pursued one of two paths: Music or Sports. Again, the irony being few actually made it in either. I see young artists trying to sell their music in Downtown Boston, Dudley Square and Grove Hall almost every day and have for 15 years.

The sad truth is there are no guarantees in either. While it IS true some of these artists used to sell drugs, the overwhelming majority of them never have despite rapping about it. It IS true some artists recorded while high on drugs or while drunk, though. Most out of their own admittance years after the fact.

It wasn’t until the late 2000s artists in general realized The Industry was taking a bigger and bigger cut of the profits from their music. Some artists didn’t write their own music and that made it easier for record labels to “own” an artist’s blood, sweat and tears. Turns out being indie or starting your own label is the smart thing to do. Few artists in general could pull it off and it was virtually unheard of in Hip Hop. Artists like LL Cool J and Ice Cube reinvented themselves as actors, leaving music entirely. The advent of social media changed the game. Now, artists could cut out the middle man and get their music to fans directly, keeping 100% of the profits.

This actually proved to be an interesting and unexpected perk for indie, underground and new artists as now they could record a song and sell it online by themselves. At the same time, established artists use Social Media to connect with fans and promote their music. Hip Hop and Rap have certainly come a long way. Given the recent politics of America, the time is right for a true revival of the genre with a new generation of promising talent driven not by greed but by passion.

In my next post on the subject, I will talk a bit more about how much Hip Hop has changed since 1979 and where it may be going. Here’s a video to check out you may find interesting until then:

…That cover picture. Really is something, isn’t it?

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On this MLK Day, there is a renewed need for national protests and boycotts   Leave a comment

In other words: Do what MLK would actually do if he were alive today.

https://i0.wp.com/www.history.com/images/media/video/history_black_history_march_on_washington_sf_1126200/History_Black_History_March_On_Washington_SF_still_624x352.jpg

A few months ago I recorded and put this video on You Tube:

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…By the way Selma is a good movie to watch today despite being snubbed for awards (which was expected). Anything that rubs someone the wrong way is always worthy of your time.

Moving on, the next two to four years will be very interesting for a variety of reasons. The last few years have seen the revival of a movement not seen on this scale since the 1960s and 1970s. I’m talking about the spirit of protest in the name of civil rights.

The anger in this country is real.

The incoming Trump Administration was voted on to “put a lid on the unrest”. Trump said throughout his campaign he will be  “A Law & Order president”. He will “Establish order” in the places where protests occur. The Law Enforcement Community is happy because they know it means they have a boost in funding to look forward to.  Weather you agree with the protests or not, you should be concerned by this. More so given this is one campaign promise the GOP has already be moving to keep.

If you truly want to honor the legacy and memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, educate yourself on the issues of today first and foremost. Second, raise awareness of what matters to you. Dr. King once said “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.” All you need to do is look at what I have been talking about for most of the last three years to know what has been on my mind alot lately. I have no problem calling the elected officials I support. I have no problem calling the elected officials I didn’t vote for. I have no problem letting policy makers know what matters to me and why.

Do I think Black Lives Matter is the face of the New Civil Rights Movement? Yes and No. Yes, it can be a force for change but No, it’s nowhere near where it could be. While I do support what the BLM Movement brought back to this country–calling on ALL Americans to raise their voices in protest in the streets–they lack clear leadership and focus. Until those two things are addressed, I will not be all in with BLM.

Do I think New York Daily News and Civil Rights activist Shaun King is a strong leader? Yes and No. Yes, he’s a good leader and has demonstrated he can force change but No, he’s not good enough. If he truly wants to come into his own as a Civil Rights Activist, he needs to drop the beef he has with Trump being president, cook it and eat it. This is my biggest problem with what he is trying to do. Not Injustice Boycott (which is already getting results) but his anti-Trump Facebook movement. He needs to focus on Injustice Boycott and let the chips fall where they may.

…There is a media blackout on this but I have been hearing through the grapevine both BLM and the NAACP have scheduled meetings with President Obama after he leaves office. It goes without saying President Obama will no longer be bound by obligation come Friday to restrain himself. Even so, unlike the previous two presidents he will probably need a security detail for at least the next 10 years because he was America’s first African American President. The media hasn’t touched on this but President Obama got more death threats in just first first term than last 6 presidents COMBINED. That should tell you how real the hate many have towards him is.

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President Obama is a symbol of what is possible but unlike Dr. King, others have picked up the torch to continue his work. See, unlike Dr. King–and please don’t read into this too much–killing soon to be former President Obama would be pointless: King’s death created a power vaccum within the Civil Rights Movement. The Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam and the remnants of Dr. King’s friends moved to seize the political power and influence he commanded.

The 1970s to 2007 tell the story: The dream died when King died. The War on Drugs (1980s) and Bill Clinton’s Mass Incarceration Policy (1980s) were both a thinly veiled renewal of insitutionalized racism and war against African Americans. Mass Media (Mid 90s to late 2000s) did its job of keeping African Americans distracted with materialism and false realities. Those who pursued and became successful in Music (Specifically Rap/Hip-Hop), Acting and Sports were seen as “The only way for Blacks to be successful. And it worked. Two whole generations of Blacks were brainwashed into believing these areas were the only things they were good for.

Then Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States.

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That changed everything. The dream MLK once spoke of was once again in sight only this time, President Obama would live to see the results of his work. The last few years have seen a revival of the aspect of Dr. King’s kids don’t learn about in grade school: Using your voice to bring attention to injustice and demand change. America has always struggled with doing the right thing right away. I’ll speak more to this in regards to The African American Experience next month in a series of blog posts.

Getting back to the main topic, did you know colleges and universities across America are dropping African American Histories and other related courses even as electives? It’s not bad enough Black History is no longer formally taught in most public schools. I’d know having worked for the Boston School system. Keeping people ignorant makes it easier to control them, after all.

…That didn’t stop the rise of what I called The New Civil Rights Era a few years ago. A new generation of protesters and demonstrators stand ready to rise to the challenges of today. Just in time, too: Most of the leaders of the Old Era have passed on or are too old to carry on (except John Lewis, Bernie Sanders and probably Jimmy Carter). A generation ready, willing and able to hold our elected officials accountable is finally ready. It only took 50 years to get there.

I actually showed you mostly images of MLK in color for this reason: History books and posters used in schools depict Dr. King as “tanned” and with “European” facial features. Dr. King had very dark skin. Look at the below picture. Dr. King also has facial features only present in men of African descent: The wide nostrils and flat bridge of his nose are both traits you will only find in someone of African decent. Of course, there are some whites with these and other features. There’s actually a VERY simple reason but that’s a subject for next month.

I’ll close with this:

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Ask any grade schooler who Dr. King was and they will give you the generic “He was a black hero who fought against racism. He gave speeches and marched to get people to listen to what he had to say.” Dr. King was much more than that. First and foremost he wasn’t just “a black hero”. He was a true American Patriot. He did not ask for the burden he would bear but he readily accepted it with a grim determination. He did not “ask” for change but he demanded it. Not for himself but for those who would come after him.

Dr. King was no fool. He received death threats on a regular basis. He was arrested several times and survived an assassination attempt before his actual assassination in 1968. The night before he was killed, Dr. King gave this speech:


I want  to focus on what he says at 58 seconds: “Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for rights.” Dr. King was alot of things. One thing he certainly wasn’t was a “friend” of the U.S. Government. The FBI tracked his every move, his phones were wiretapped and J Edgar Hoover labeled him “a trouble maker and an agitator”.

Sound familiar?

Just like back then, you have Americans literally telling other Americans not to exercise their 1st Amendment rights. “Stop making a fool of yourself and do something with your life.” “You’re wasting your time.” “That’s not the way to get what you want.” “You’re setting a bad example.” I could go on and on.

What I find most disturbing: Those who have the audacity to say “This is not what Dr. King was about.” Quite the opposite. Anyone who personally knew MLK would tell you he would be right there in the streets with the protesters or offering them words of encouragement. So don’t DARE let anyone tell you “Protesting is Un-American”. On the contrary, there is nothing more American than a well-organized resistence movement advocating for and demanding rights for ALL people.

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Black Lives Matter under attack; support building to get it classified as a Hate Group   Leave a comment

https://i1.wp.com/thatmakessense.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/WorthyLIFE.jpg

 

…Right.

It’s been two weeks since the 1-year anniversary of the incident that sparked the creation of the movement–the death of African American teenager Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri at the hands of a white police officer–and the anti-black power movement has been ramping things up. It’s no conincidence the sudden interest in destroying the grassroots movement comes weeks after leaders of BLM met with Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Now that BLM wants to become more politically active, they’re viewed as a threat to White Power in America.

Notice I used the phrase “White Power” and not White People. I don’t know a single white person who disagrees with what BLM is about young and old. The racist establishments feel threatened so they’re simply reacting accordingly. Donald Trump suddenly pledging alliegiance to the Republican Party is more than just a political move: He did the GOP’s dirty work this summer and pulled all the white racists out of hiding and got them to pledge their votes to the Republican Party. THAT was why the GOP kept him at a distance up to now. When the RNC chairman said in July he wasn’t worried about Trump running as a third party candidate (which he still could if he wanted to), THIS is what he meant. They know they can’t control him so they figure at least they can use him. LOL.

Speaking of Fox News, Bill O’Reilly said the other day he’s making it his personal mission to destroy BLM. This comes a week after a BLM activist jokingly said online there is a petition to get Fox News classified as a hate group. The truth is there actually IS such a petition and I have signed it. Of course, Fox News took issue with that and reacted accordingly: Any police-involved shooting is now considered BLM’s fault even if the suspect is white or the suspect is an unarmed black person shot by the police.

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As of this picture I randomly found, I now officially support BLM.

I refused to support the group/movement if they did not speak out against the African American Community’s OTHER Elephant in the room: Black on Black crimes. Black people kill more black people than they do any other ethnicity. White people have no need to worry about being randomly shot in their own homes. Black people do and 90% of the time, the shooter is black. So all this time and energy being poured into making it sound like BLM is telling people to kill white people is just playing on emotions without a shred of proof or evidence.

That said, it’s also true that for a long time in this country, black lives don’t matter in this country. The focus right now is on police brutality but I am almost certain education will be next. You can’t tackle unemployment without first going to education. And I am ready for it.

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Now let me explain something to people who do not get WHY BLM considers the phrase “All Lives Matter” offensive: It’s because it’s simply not true and hasn’t been for decades and centuries. “All Lives Matter”, huh? Take a look at the refugee crisis in Europe: The western world is saying to the Syrian and Iraqi refugees coming in droves “Go away, we don’t want you. It’s your fault for being born there.” Americans did and continues to say the same thing to Latin American immigrants going on 40 years now under the guises “They took our jobs!” and “They’re criminals anyway!”

Before I change the topic, I will say if you believe the government has too much power in certain regards, you should feel obligated to support BLM. If you don’t want anyone to have to wonder if they will die if they are spotted by police, you should support BLM. If you don’t know “what the big deal is”, educate yourself.

This is a bit off-topic but it’s been 70 years since World War II ended. World War III is not too far off. In fact, I predict it will come within the next 5 to 10 years. The conditions for it to happen are already in place. All that’s missing is the catalyst. I also don’t expect America as we know it to survive, either. Folks around the world have NO IDEA how little faith most Americans have in their own government to look out for them when it counts. It’s not like it was back in the day if you know what I mean!

In an age where elections are bought and you can become president without actually being elected (2000 election says hi), America is a shadow of what it once was. Since 9/11, it’s been made painfully clear it might actually be in America’s best interests to split up. The Democrats and the Republicans are deadset on destroying America despite the founders being against a 2-party system in the first place. Unpopular presidents are viewed as evil dictators (Bush 43) or the Anti-Christ (Reagan) while popular ones are encouraged to have family members run for office (Clinton). It’s a broken cycle that needs to be brought to an end.

The question is does the American government have the guts to rewrite the constitution.

This is where keeping your options open comes in handy   Leave a comment

As you all know, I took the last two and a half months of the 2014-15 school year off due to stress. As I mentioned in my June 30 post on the matter, I left the door open to returning to BPS just in case. In light of the fact I’ve been unsuccessful so far in securing new employment that has a decient/reliable Health Insurance coverage, I will begin the process of ending my long-term leave of absence in the next day or two.

I missed the excess pool and will pick from what’s left before the remaining open positions are made available to new hires. I got the notification as well as a spreadsheet containing a list of the open positions at the time two weeks after the excess pool already happened. It happened because at the time, the BTU didn’t have my current home address on file. A problem I fixed as a result of that XD

Health insurance and obvious income needs aside, I have a more personal reason for returning to BPS: My 6-year old niece. Last week, I became aware of concerns around her comprehension and fliuency as a reader. Due to my background, I agreed to take over as her tutor for the long-term . I plan to meet with her teacher when the school year begins to make sure she gets a well rounded education plan. Plus I did tell her I would teach her to read like a boss.

…Those who’ve had the honor of working with me know The Aurabolt’s dedication to Education is not to be underestimated Of course, I’m obviously very passionate about it =D

This time, it’s personal for me. I plan to work part time during the next school year so I can still focus on other things. If things go as planned, I should finish the whole school year this time! I will provide an update on the subject once my employment and school assignment have been both confirmed, likely in a few weeks. Before my fomer collagues from my previous school get too excited, I am not returning to that particular school next year. I do plan to visit at the end of the month, though.

Look forward to it ^_^

This is going to be a very challenging second half of the school year   Leave a comment

For various reasons, I won’t get into the specifics of what’s on my mind in regards to work. Mainly for the sake of being professional and also being mindful I know some of my coworkers do read my blog. I do want to share some of what I said in a blog post from two years ago.


 

When this school year started I lost much of my confidence in the classroom due to some things the happened with me the previous school year at another school. Those collective things (which I will not discuss in detail either here or in my longer explaination) were the reason I decided to leave that school community after one year. Going into this school year at the Mission Hill School gave me the fresh start I was in need of in the aftermath of the previous school year. If I had gone to MHS last year instead of this year I would have stayed on for longer than I did.

As I hinted at above several things happened last year that led to me leaving the school where I was after just a year. By the end of the first week of school this year I had made the decision to part ways with Boston Public Schools at the end of the school year. The little confidence I’d been able to muster was swept away by the end of that first week. I’d been working with children 11 years going into this is school year. For the first time since my time in City Year I found myself doubting myself and my ability to be productive in the classroom more times than I’m willing to admit. Not just that first week throughout the year. In every other area I was fine but once I stepped in the classroom I could literally feel the confidence in my skills shatter to pieces. I consider myself fortunate I not only realized it so early on but I was able to kept the cloud from ruining what was otherwise an opportunity of a lifetime.

The Mission Hill School is known to education communities all over the world. I have wish only continued success to the MHS community moving forward.


…Note the part I bolded.

The circumstances are very different this time but the feelings are the same. When I re-read that blog I wrote two years ago, I remembered what I was dealing with at the time and I why I felt so self-conscious and why I felt such self-doubt.

Like I said above, the circumstances are different. One take away I have from meeting other folks battling depression last summer is the hightened awareness. You’re more conscious of how you feel others might interpret the things you say and do. For me, this year has been an uphill battle just to get out of bed and get to work.

I quoted my past post because I know it will provide some context for those who talked to me about it two years ago. I know it’s not fair to those who will have no idea what I’m talking about and to you, I apologize. I simply can’t say anything more specific than that at this time. There are colleagues I need to talk to first and I will speak no more on this until after I’ve talked to them.

What I WILL announce now to everyone is this will be my final year at my current school.

I made that decision official last Thursday and filed the necessary paperwork. Unlike two years ago, my decision is permanent. None of the unncessary drama I caused for myself two years ago. I talked to my family about it and they agreed this is the right decision for me. As for what I might be doing next year, I’ve set aside some time this weekend to work on my resume. Ideally, I’d like to avoid the excess pool entirely if I can. Open Paraprofessional positions in the district will be made available online on March 1.

In the meantime, I will be looking for new employment opportunities elsewhere. I’ll be much more open about my job search this time around while I’m at it. In the event I find work before the end of the school year elsewhere, I will immediately file my 2-weeks notice. I know I’ve said this before to many people but this time, there the feeling’s much more urgent.

Memoir out, Public Education In   Leave a comment

As we enter the second full week of school here in Boston, I’ve had an Epiphany of late.

I’ve thinking about what’s become my life’s work over the last 14 years now and that has been what I’ve called this blog many times “The Great Work” that is teaching the next generation of childen and young people. One thing I’ve learned over the years is you don’t need a Master’s Degree in Education to teach a student. You don’t even necessarily need to be a student. I have seen many different types of education models from my old school days to the present. I am by no means an expert but one thing I am good at it putting things in an easy to understand language.

This is why I’ve decided to put my plans on an autobiography on hiatus indefinitely. I know that there were some who were legit looking forward to me finally writing and publishing a book about myself and to those folks, you have my apologies. My feelings on the current state of public education are much stronger than even my desire to write a book about myself.

The book will be titled Public misEducation: The Struggle for Justice. The last 20 years in particular haven’t been very kind to Public Education in general. The way it’s portrayed in the media certainly didn’t help. The 1990s in particular were turbulent. No Child Left Behind brought a much-needed layer of accountability to our public school system. Despite this and a few parts of Brown v. Board of Education being overturned (happened in 2010 in case you didn’t know, more on this in a bit), the Achievement Gap is still far too wide for too many students nationwide.

While some with the means (and some without) would either put their kids through private school or home school them, for the vast majority of our nation’s youth, public education is the only choice for American families. It’s for this reason they should be given the education they deserve, not just what we’re willing to pay for.

I have spent the last 10 years amassing a wealth of knowledge on public education and dozens of different classroom, school and district models. The major thing left for me to do are interviews. Interviews with educators, students and families and non-profit organizations with a stake in public education. I expect this part of my research to take at least two years. The planned career change I have in mind will help with that–I feel it would be a conflict of interest for me to do some aspects of my research while still employed by BPS. Some of it has to do with equitiy and studeny privacy concerns while the rest are reasons I will share at a much later time to be decided.

Asking about the book’s planned subject matter is fine. For example, parts of it may been perceived as an attack on the very foundation of the American Public Education system and deliverate shaming of our country’s refusal to hold itself accountable of its obligation to our nation’s students.

That’s because it is.

The National Education Policy and what actually happens in classrooms nationwide are so far out of sync, unless you’re well-informed on the issue it’s really hard to figure out what the best course of action should be. Much of this is because of the language used and the invisible walls that separate familes, educators, schools, districts and policies.

Does Public Education matter? Why is it relevant to me? When does a child’s learning truly begin? In Public misEducation, we will explore possible answers to these questions and others.

 

 

Putting My Cards on the Table…   Leave a comment

I edited my last post so you can consider this a followup to that.

 

So basically, I received a memo at work from BPS Headquarters stating I would continue on at my current position starting September 2, 2014. Unlike the last 5 times I received this memo there was a catch attached to this one: Depending on what happens between now and then, my assignment may not be guaranteed. My opinion of the matter aside for a moment, there are two facts I want to share first:

  1. As of right now, Boston Public Schools is still looking for a new Superintendant. At the time the previous Superintendent left, the previous mayor of Boston announced he would not seek another term, which set off the election to replace him. The position of Superintendent is a politically appointed position–one usually made by the city’s mayor. Due to this, prospective candidates decided to wait until the new mayor was elected–in this case Martin “Marty” Walsh–before making a bid for the position. As of right now, Boston Public Schools does not have a permanent Superintendant.
  2. As a side-effect to the transition between mayors, almost everyone working at BPS Headquarters was let go (read: Fired) though some were offered their old positions back. This has had a ripple effect to the schools themselves, many of which are still adapting or recovering from the changes made by the previous administration. One sad outcome from this is as of right now, there are 263 Boston teachers unassigned to a school or classroom. These teachers are stuck in limbo and it is of no fault of their own.

My situation is similar to the last part of Point 2 and it’s the second time in three years I’ve been in this position. There are a few differences from both their situation and the last time I was in this position. For one, the last time I was in this position my position had been cut in half two years prior. Finding out my position was being eliminated from the school’s budget (along with another staff member’s) didn’t surprise me at all. Yes, I was upset but I wasn’t surprised. Another difference between then and now is this time I currently occupy a full-time position at my current school. Before, I was part-time.

Another thing that makes then different from now is unlike back then, I feel like where I am now my evaluator didn’t let their personal feelings effect their role as my evaluator. Of that there there is no doubt. It’s not as easy as it sounds to separate your personal feelings for someone you’ve come to know for two years from doing what’s expected of you as a school administrator and doing an impartial evaluation of someone you’ve come to know during that time. There’s more I’d like to say but before I do, there’s a conversation I need to have with someone first. It wouldn’t feel right if I spoke on what I have in mind until then.

One thing that is the same from both then and now–and I don’t mind saying this knowing there’s a 50% chance I will be back in the fall–is in both cases, my evaluator had mostly positive things to say about my candor and my interactions with staff, families and students. My attention to detail and work ethic are obvious from the moment I step into the building to the moment I leave at the end of the day.

It comes natural to me so, I don’t even think about it anymore. In this case the “it” being just being kind to people. I’ve heard it so many times over the last 14 years professionally, it’s like a broken record. The flip side to this is when the topic comes to weather or not my skillset fits with the needs of the school, historically from my perspective, things tend to get murky. Before I continue I do wish to stress I want to say I mean my entire career working at BPS and not just this past school year and the previous school year:

  • On the one hand, at all three of my schools certain things were verbally promised. Things ranging from consistent time to lesson plan with my classroom partner to opportunities to fine-tune things identified as what I need to work on to training for working with students with specific types of special needs. At all three schools, most of these opportunities are offered as external workshops or courses, which is fine for an overview but not as helpful for the specific type of support one might need. Only at my current school was lesson-planning with my classroom partner actually common practice and expected.
  • On another hand, I am 3 points shy of having my Associate’s Degree. Technically, the highest level of education I’ve completed is still High School. Like it or not, this is a factor I actually do think about that must be taken into consideration on the subject of bring back next year or let go. While experience is something that should not be taken lightly, other credentials (degrees, licenses, certifications, etc.) should be factored in addition.

That said, it’s been my experience at my first and third (current) schools it’s not so much the lack of the latter of the above itself but really I haven’t been able to prove my particular skillset is beneficial to the school’s needs. That’s the bottom line and the only thing I really care about. Only at my current school did I have someone willing to tell me that. My second school doesn’t apply since I was only there for a year.

That said: One thing many folks outside the industry don’t know about many career Paraprofessionals is they’re prettymuch self-taught. That means they learn the job as they go along. This was the case with me prettymuch but when I started, I also had 5 years prior experience working with children with special needs at a summer camp as well as my two years working in a classroom during the two years I was in City Year.

I’m going to wrap up and do something I’ve never done before and talk about two things very quickly. One of them is for my school community while the other is more general and for everyone. Both of these were originally going to be in my book Aurabolt Unleashed so you might want to pay attention:

The first thing I want to say is I want to make something perfectly clear about my approach when working with students: I exercise restraint during all of my interactions with students. I wasn’t kidding when I said in a YouTube video that when I’m on my own time, I live in the moment. I don’t think about the past or future. Only the present. At work, I have the awareness that what I do or say can be seen as a reflection of the school and do I take this detail very seriously. It’s for this reason I put a mental lock on my big personality to keep my impulsive side under control. At my second school, I told the principal due to my own cognitive disorders I’m always working twice as hard as everyone else to make sure that aspect of me does not impair my judgment.

That said, I have no problem admitting to having done or said some things that looking back, I would have definitely handled differently. Some folks may wonder why I’m so critical of the mistakes or slip-ups I make at work weather it’s pointed out or not. It’s not just because of the things I just mentioned but because historically, when I make a mistake there’s usually a discussion about it and due to what I view as a belief on the person pointing it out that I don’t fully understand what I did or said. I view this as a challenge to my intelligence first and an insult to me as a person second. I’m not saying there can be no discussion but if we’re going to have one, both of us should walk away feeling like the issue was resolved. This past year was the first school year I actually felt that way and that’s saying something.

The other thing I want to say is by nature, I’ve always been more comfortable working with kids than adults. My first job ever at age 16 was working with children with special needs in Boston at a summer camp. Part of it is never really fitting in with folks my own age at the time and the other is not wanting ANY child I worked with to feel left out.

This, ladies and gentlemen is why I’ve done what I’ve done these last 14 years.

I know what it’s like firsthand to be looked at differently because of what I’ve been disagnosed with. All kids with special needs do even if they don’t show it or can’t directly communicate that awareness. It is my firm belief that our job as adults is to help them find their way. Once that understanding is mutually established, you will have earned a permanent spot in that child’s heart. All of the adults who meet this criteria of mine are educators or are current or former City Year members.

One thing I always asked of my teachers when I was in grade school is if he/she would be the one who would recognize, tap and draw out my full potential. Only four teachers can make that claim: Jane Harper (K2 and 1st Grade), Jane Holliman (4th and 5th Grade), Richard Webber (7th, 8th, 9, 10th, 11th and 12th Grade) and Carolyn Tracey (9th-12th Grade).

At the very least, I want it to be said that I did the same for someone. If not, I’ve failed at my life’s work. My life’s work is to inspire people to do the same.

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