A Child

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

I Corinthians 13:11

I held her hand as we both sang together. I looked down into her bright bold eyes and thought, what is going on in this 8-year-old head right now?  She was full of smiles and I could see that she thought something of me.

As we marched around and sang, us in our own world, I couldn’t help but wonder why children would give up their childhood for adulthood. It seemed to me at that moment that childhood was the best thing there could be.

I held up my fingers for him to count with and he put up his so he could shoot my fingers down. Making his hand into a gun he begin his mission to get the answer:

Boom! One, BOOM! Two, Boom! Three, Boom! Four!…

I know the answer!  He said. I drew my breath. Not knowing whether to use this  moment to teach him about the dangers of guns or get upset at the computer gaming system he loves so much. I made sure I didn’t encourage it.  Laughing was the last thing on my mind. But the children around him seemed to understand and laughed with him. They laughed so much, he began to mimic a robot.

As I sat there with her and her brother, they traced the designs on my clothing and couldn’t stop touching the buttons on my hat. I wondered what was going through their heads. But couldn’t wonder for long. I like the buttons on my hat to much to leave them to little Curious George and his sister.

When she came up to me with a bright pink diamond like button and offered it to me to add to the collection to my hat, I couldn’t help but laugh. She clearly thought I put those buttons on myself. Do they look that out-of-place?

“For now we see though a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

I Corinthians 13: 12-13

Mind the Gap

“If you get to know your learners… you can get them to walk on water, you can get them to do anything.”

Today I spent my afternoon listening to a program on the radio called Mind the Gap: Why Good schools are failing Black Students.  This was my first time listening to this program. It is a documentary by Nancy Solomon who is a profound journalist.

While listening quite a few things ran through my head.  For example, I thought about my upbringing in the Bronx, my childhood experience  in  both the public school and the private school, the way I always felt in school and my personal thoughts I had about teachers and even college professors. Just like love is strong and know no boundaries, you can always feel hate and it hurts really bad when the one who you are suppose to look up to and learn from is not treating you like the others.

I often try to show my students  that regardless of what they do or what happens, I still love them and I want them to succeed. I know how school can be. I understand favoritism and how it can destroy a child on either side of the spectrum.

Miss Solomon’s study takes place in a high school in a suburb in New Jersey. The students seem to be in two worlds, especially the African-American students. They can choose whether to participate in school and get good grades or give over to the ‘thug’ life. One of her main comments was that their decisions to go either way doesn’t start when they get to high school but rather it starts in kindergarten. And this is something I truly believe. It all goes back to how you are treated,  especially students who are easily influenced. It may be hard for them to ever get on or back on the right track. So when you are a teacher, the child’s future is definitely in your hands.

This is why I love working at the library. I am not literally in a classroom; therefore, I am free to show all of my students that I favor them. It is a good amount of boys and girls for all of us to get along and really understand each other. Of course there are days when everyone feels like fighting but in the end, we can all manage. I know that all my students love me back. When ever they get a chance to work with me alone, it’s like a prayer answered for them. When they don’t have any homework and we all can play a game or read a book together, its like a prayer answered for both of us! We have fun regardless. And we all learn. Since I don’t always come across as a ‘teacher’ they are able to talk to me about anything.

Because of how other teachers treated me when I was younger, I know why I love children today. I learned from their (my teachers) mistakes and learned not to take their love and power of teaching for granted. What I learned from them I now use or don’t use.

Yes, indeed, when you learn, you do teach.

check out Miss Solomon at http://nancycsolomon.com/mindthegap/

psst…hold my eyes…

Why should it matter to us if a model is ugly?

Why do we look at a picture and say things like Man, she’s Ugly

She or  he is just ‘working’ the clothes

Yet, man always look at the outward appearance, literally.

Why is it so hard to forget his face; yet, I do not even know his name?

Why am I attracted to him before I know him?

What is it that makes me want to know his name?

Why did that girl just look down on me like that? She doesn’t even know me!

Why would you tell someone they have androgynous features?

Shouldn’t we be looking at the heart anyway?

I can feel his eyes on me, is he looking at me or trying to read my heart, trying to understand my ways?

Oh Gosh, It’s so hard to look at the heart!

Can we follow the heart also- or it’s just the Spirit?

So, we look at the heart and follow the spirit?

Or look at the spirit and follow the heart?

But is it our job to look at the heart or look at the outward Eyesappearance?

After all, Man does look at the outward appearance.

…Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth: for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart. I Samuel 16:7

Brown Skin & Long Hair

Today I made the mistake of telling one of my students to take his little black arm out of his shirt.

I’m not black, I’m brown

Okay, brown arm.

What difference did it make? I don’t see a problem in calling anyone black. He got all defensive.

I looked across the table heard this conversation between two students:

Wow, your hair is long. My hair is long too. You look different with your hair out. You should wear it like this.

Look, Look. Look at her hair!

Aren’t you suppose to be working. Not trying to look different?

Time passes. Another student walks by.

Look at her hair! Doesn’t she look different? She’s got long hair just like me!

YourAmerican Issues? hair is not long like her’s. It’s up to here. (Student puts her finger above her neck)

At this point almost all the girls are talking about their hair now.

Her hair is not long as mine…

Why are y’all talking? Listen, do your work….

I don’t know if the Harriet Tubman show that they saw today and this black History month education is breaking them or making them. They worry about their looks and how they are accepted while I worry about their grades. Each of them waited for me to help them instead of doing all of their homework on their own. Yet, had a lot of information on hair and skin.

The Core Making Of Me

I started reading The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. along with the recordings of his speeches and I feel a feeling of SOMEBODINESS from listening to his words and the music  and to the voice of Levar Burton and the voices of the audience’s reply to King. The concept of Black Social Gospel becomes new and rewarding. Something not only of the past but also apart of me.

I owe it to myself to become better and also to those who fought so hard and long for me to use every part of me to help my community succeed to higher heights.

For a while, I did not feel the need to learn about the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Simply because I thought I knew enough about him. I felt that all my years of school I have always learned about King and never about Malcolm X or Medgar Evers. However, it wasn’t until I started forcing myself to read about these people when I found out that I knew nothing much about Martin. I am glad that I have decided to listen to his speeches and read his books. The words are potent. His diction is strong. It makes me wish I was there. And at one point (when he was speaking of the beginning of the Bus Boycott) he said No historian would ever be able fully to describe this meeting and no sociologist would ever be able to interpret it adequately. One had to be a part of the experience really to understand it. I understand my lost of being born in a different time and place but I also understand my gain from their suffering. And my gain is not free.

Not only did reading about others and their works force me to study the life of Martin Luther King Jr. but also because I realise that I am given over to  my surroundings to the aesthetics of  music and art during the mid to late 20th Century; therefore, I should know more about this period. Reading about the life of great  photographers like Gordon Parks and Moneta Sleet, Jr and listening to music by Mahalia Jackson only gave me half of an idea about their lives and this moment. To say I love the principle sound of the organ or piano that is backing up Mahalia Jackson’s voice and the textures and prints of Mrs. King’s clothing without knowing why is not enough for me. Just like the movement did not happen because of King, the music did not sound this way because of Mahalia.  And I may not know the answers to many questions of this period but with patience and personal study I seek to find out. Because there is something about this period that makes me who I am.

Planting and Watering Seeds

Because its Black History Month and I know that most schools are now teaching their children about African-American History, I am also taking time to play fun games like Brain Quest with my students. I realise that not only is it helping them learn about History but it is making them read and best of all its fun. But of all the things that made my day the following story made me question my want to learn.

A little boy who I never had as a student today came up to me and asked me if he could ask me a question. He seemed like he was on the look out for someone . He kept looking over my shoulder. When he saw the coast was clear. He first hesitated and was about to walk away then I encouraged him to talk.

Do you know anything about the Mayan Culture?

Yeah, you mean the M-A-Y-A-N culture?

Yeah.

Yeah. Not that much but I know about it. Why?

Because that is where I am from. That’s where my people are from.

Oh, you are doing a school report?

No, it’s where I am from. I just want to know.

Really?

So we went to look for some books. It turns out he just wanted to talk to someone about it. He had a book the library he used to go to gave him. He didn’t want a book. He was still acting like he was on a look out.

What grade are you in?

Me? I’m in the fourth grade. (He said this while holding up skinny fingers).

You are very smart.

What do you mean by smart.

Well, you are very mature.

Another student called me so I left him for a while. But didn’t get to continue talking to him. The person he was looking out for, came. His mother.

But I hope I see him again. He was hungry for knowledge about his History. And wanted to talk to someone about it.

And that’s a seed that needs water everyday.

Reasons why I feel Old

Tonight my sisters and I all stayed up talking about getting older. We all had reasons why we all of sudden felt we were getting old. Here are some.

We watch  what we eat and what our parents eat.

I don’t like my high heels the way I used to.

The ” Lets see how late we can stay up” game is not fun anymore.

To go to Daddy  begging is not as easy… We may not get what we ask for now. Before it was just a quarter.

Now homeless people look at us and beg.

The internet.

Older People are starting to treat us like we are grown. Without saying “You are not a child anymore”

Grown folk or older folk I should say- really care about my opinion. Or act like they do.

I am  starting to care more about everything around me. I feel I am aware of my surroundings more.

A lot of people our age are actually getting married and having kids.

Our  friendship cliques are not the same.

We share.

The younger generation look up to us and follow us.

I know very little if any ebonics. I am always asking younger folk to explain a word.

The noise teens make on the train or bus annoys me.

I enjoy school.

The saying “Time goes by fast” is actually true.

24 hour days are never  long enough

Chores are not chores any more – just things to do around the house

The “remember when” stories are more serious and bring tears- always ending with “I miss those days…those were the good ol’  days!”

If I call someone a name- good or bad- I mean it.

The saying “I’m not her friend anymore” really can mean “I’m not her friend anymore”

I have less best friends than five

I listen in Church

Saying “no” to an adult doesn’t end in a slap.

We are grateful for the slaps.

care less about what negative people say

Our dressing style is not the same anymore. We all have different taste.

Creating a list about why I feel old and having more to add…The old looks at the future, The young looks at the past

Well, I am getting old. I am still young though. That’s the good thing.