Posts tagged school.

I had to have conversations with 3 different POC students about self-advocacy today. All 3 of them were in situations where, for example, they didn’t get a copy of the homework the day before, and then used that as an excuse for not doing it and handing it in. Things like that. Where they had been taught so few times to speak up for themselves in school that it didn’t even occur to them that it was a possible solution. So we had to talk about what self-advocacy means, that it’s their education and no one’s going to chase after them to get their stuff done, and they need to figure out how to handle their situations or who to ask for help in handling them. But sitting around hiding silently doesn’t get you anywhere, but lets kids of color slip under the radar and just get passed up.

And meanwhile when things like that happen, kids not speaking up, I hear teachers ranting about how they’re lazy and about “learned helplessness,” which I don’t even yet bother pointing out they only label that way with youth of color. And wonder if they’ve ever thought really hard about where that comes from. Like when school has always been disempowering and a place that fucks you up and calls you a failure, there isn’t much point in speaking up.

I just got permission to start a mostly-POC girl gang in math class specifically to have a space for my girls to feel confident and start to speak up.

I’ve been having a good & productive & restful spring break, but I’ll be glad to go back to work tomorrow and see all the kids who will be grumpy about being back in school. I got another lip piercing yesterday and almost passed out after and went back inside the parlor to puke, and my lip is still a little swollen so kids will get to tease me about it.

Later in the week I start my last round of teaching zine class for the year. I’m not sure which kids are gonna be in it yet, but I put in requests for some of the kids that I already yell about racist jerx with and some of the kids who I hear want to yell about racist jerx but are too shy. I just finished a book about leading question-based discussions, it was pretty cool, so I can be more serious now with analyzing hip-hop videos in class.

And I’m reading a book about Ebonics and cultural languages, and ways to affirm students’ home languages in public schools. It looks specifically at the Oakland School Board’s treatment of Ebonics in 1996, and also a lot of info from a linguistics perspective on Ebonics/AAVE being respected as a language instead of an incorrect form of English. The essay I’ve been really psyched on, and am passing along to my students’ teachers, is by Lisa Delpit and is online here.

I did manage to do a couple stupid spring break-ish things and yell “Woooo spring break!”, in addition to reading education theory and writing a little of my zine and going to an anarchist bookfair.

"What’s the life expectancy for black guys? The system’s working effectively, that’s why."

I am getting really fucking stressed out for my students, most of whom are black and/or latino young men, compounded by the world + working 10 hours at school + a fucked up faculty meeting where I spoke up tho for the kids I work with because I was too tired at that point to give a shit about pissing off white teachers who say derisive things about hip-hop while asking “What does success mean to our students” and then referencing Kim Khardashian who our kids do not give a shit about.

And I don’t want to be a sucker for the old stand by your man shit but I also don’t want to do a politics that abandons men of color and especially young black men. I don’t want to do a feminism that doesn’t get why so much of my energy is spent on worrying about black and latino men in my life who I have this urge to protect while knowing that it’s probably a losing battle.

And white teachers scoff at “rappers” as their only answer to “Who do our students think of as successful?” and after subbing 4 classes, 3 of which involved me being the asshole giving them busywork, I don’t have the energy to go into a character evaluation of Kanye West whose music I am listening to right now and who speaks to me far more than that room of white teachers ever could and same goes for those students who they don’t know how to communicate with but do know how to scoff at behind closed doors.

And then a white lady writes off the smartest kid in the school, the kid who comes to me to borrow books on black history because he isn’t getting it in school and who isn’t afraid to call a pompous white teacher a stupid asshole, and also writes off a kid who has amazing but completely uncontrolled energy who has fucked up things going on that I’m worried will wind him up in the same spot as Trayvon Martin but without a march for him. And another afterschool staff person runs in looking for me to tell me how fucked up it was and I start yelling in the afterschool office and cannot handle all this shit. Just yelling, and someone has to close the door because I’m yelling things like “THEY DON’T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT SHAKESPEARE”

and I cannot handle the erasure and history and am suddenly furious when I’m at school in a bad mood without the kids around. Cause when I’m in a bad mood, the kids who know me recognize it and usually try to help me out on it.

And I’m here reading about violence that young men of color are hunted down by, because what else is there to read about? That’s the news. People are marching for Trayvon Martin, and I am marching for my students and thinking it would be great if I were sure their teachers were too, and hopefully all of us will get somewhere and tht somewhere is JUSTICE and ends with Trayvon and Troy Davis and Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo and Malik Jones and Oscar Grant and all my students who I no longer need to worry about just COLD CHILLIN.

Tomorrow we are doing some basic media literacy by looking at portrayals of black men in the news and talking about youth voices and playing a round of Tell Em Why You’re Mad and I’ll admit to them that I’m PISSED.

oo wanna share more about this tutoring project?

Sure! (I don’t know why I was so sparse with the details before, sometimes I get paranoid about saying too much about my students but I don’t think talking about our tutoring project is identifying information, really.)

I was asked to start a writing center staffed by students. So kids come through with essay drafts (they need to have an essay draft already done), and the tutors help them revise & strengthen the draft. What’s hard is the tutors aren’t supposed to just give advice or criticism, but start a discussion about how to strengthen the writing.

Our first run was pretty sloppy, but it was still really good, and it was awesome to see a couple kids step up and take on that role, and see what it’s like to deal with the goofy things teachers deal with. I’m only gonna be in with them for another week or two, and then they’ll be running it on their own (and then I’m startingyet anotherafterschool program).

There’s a lot of cool research about writing centers and similar projects being empowering for students, especially when the tutors are their peers or when it’s a space that focuses on marginalized voices, and knowing the tutors I hired I think we can move it in that direction.


op + pose

In my afterschool program, we’re working on learning word roots & prefixes, and how to pick apart a word you don’t know to figure out the gist of its meaning based on word parts you do know (I could go waaay into this if anyone is interested) (I have neon flashcards) (and cluster diagrams). Today one of the roots we were working with was “pos/pose,” as in expose, impose, propose, dispose, etc. We set up cards to say “oppose,” but once we got the definition sorted out, my students were still confused about how to use it. So I asked if we could come up with examples of how they’d heard the word used before.

A freshman gave the example of Obama getting elected saying he opposed things like the war in Iraq, but he actually didn’t really. Then we got totally off topic talking about politicians being hypocrites, saying they oppose something when they won’t actually go against it.

Then we were working with the word “reform,” again looking at other words with that root and talking about possible definitions. I gave examples of places they might hear the word, like school reform, immigration reform, welfare reform, and again we got off topic because that got them pissed about immigration reform and US immigration policies and, again, Obama’s hypocrisy.

So instead we (they lead the conversation, really; I just listened) talked about how racist immigration laws are, and they brought up rad things like how it’s fucked up for Americans to say anti-immigrant stuff when Europeans showed up in the Americas in the first place (“This was our land first, y’all just showed up”). And how Puerto Rico should be independent of the US. And how bogus Taco Bell is, and how bogus US food is in general (“Here, you go in a restaurant and they just give you meat, microwaved meat, and that’s it. Where my family’s from, they give you vegetables.”). It was amazing. And somehow, we got ourselves back to talking about word roots again, and how to make learning them useful.

Then I got into an argument with one of my favorite students about homophobia and whether it’s cool to say “no homo.” It went on til the afterschool session was over and I had to send them out to get snack, so I told him we’d keep fighting later and he just said, “Okay, bye Miss Camille!” cause it was still a cheery fight. He was scandalized that I’d 1) said fat people can be totally cute, and 2) used a fat woman as an example. We had a good afternoon.

i am a person!: exciting new developments ›


so! i suppose they are less exciting for me and more exciting for my sister. my sister is going to try and go back to school. you may be thinking college but, no. my sister was pushed out of high school. yes that’s right she didn’t merely drop out, she was pushed out. i’ve heard of this term…

This is something I’ve been mulling over every day for the past bit. Chelsea posted this the very next day after one of my students dropped out. I really felt this same way, like he was pushed out, or at least didn’t have reason to trust we were trying to do what he needed in his life (which I would say counts as a pushout). Then immediately after that, the local paper ran an article about students being pushed into alternative schools.

Yesterday I drank a bunch of coffee (thanks, Mom!) and started over on planning the next issue of my zine, which I’d been stumped on. I want to let it be halfway personal, something I’m very bad at—I tend to keep anything I’m talking about removed from my own (muted) feelings. So, bringing together these sorts of dynamics of education and my own experiences with my students, plus women of color lit as always, I’m working out a new issue finally. This is gonna be a space to put all those things together in the next couple weeks.

Today one of my students finished reading a book for the first time ever, at least as far as he could remember. It happened during my program after school. I made everyone in the room cheer for him, and I was so excited for him because I’ve seen since last year how difficult reading is for him. We were talking recently about the trouble with finding books that you can relate to and stay interested in, but he’d told me he really liked this one.

I told him I’d get him a present because I was so happy for him. I had to do christmas shopping anyway, so I got him a notebook and a sketchbook (he’s a really good artist) and a set of decent drawing pencils. Proud afterschool lady!

Awesome conversations I’ve had with my students in the past couple weeks

  • Someone who works at our school has been telling students not to bother taking the SAT because they won’t do well on it, and same with where they should apply to college. So far I’ve only heard this from black students, and they’re on top of it enough to take the SAT anyway and apply to the colleges they want to. I’m gonna help them do a call out and also study for the SAT.
  • I got to watch a student do a play-by-play of that same staff member’s racist behavior—“Nah it’s cool, go next door to all the white kids, you weren’t helping us anyway.”
  • Multiple conversations (5 or 6?) about how hard it is to find books, especially young adult books, about young people of color and that my kids can relate to. I’m giving out books as I find them.
  • Also had a conversation about how sometimes it’s useful to read books that they specifically can’t relate to, as a means of escape.
  • Got some good tips about how to play pranks on your parents and grandparents who are learning how to text and what internet abbreviations mean. Like if you tell them WTF stands for “welcome to facebook,” they’ll use it in the wrong context and it’s hilarious.
  • Couple of my friends are making plans for linking up community gardens in a couple POC neighborhoods to distribute food better. When I talked about it yesterday with one of my students and he was into it, he pointed out that it might also be a way to make some money off gentrifyers in your neighborhood.
  • Taught that same student the word “gentrification” the week before, when he read it in a book. I had worked on a campaign against Yale-New Haven Hospital gentrifying his neighborhood, so that was an example he knew firsthand and has brought up a few times since.
  • Grandmas rule.
  • Also, Nas rules.
  • Light-skinned black women are assumed to be prettier than dark-skinned ones but that’s bogus.
  • My zine class is doing projects mostly on violence in their neighborhoods and in some cases linking violence to music, in both positive and negative ways. Like figuring out how to be a black woman who likes hip-hop but recognizes negative stuff going on in it too.
  • My zine class also did most of the work of calling out a student who’d called classmates queers as an insult.
  • Trying to figure out how racism made a foundation to justify slavery and genocide.
  • Tried to give a quick explanation of who the Black Panthers were/are.
  • Really draining conversation with a student who’d getting really frustrated with his academics, because he’s really struggling and isn’t sure what else to do, which it’s my job to support. Toward the end of it when I didn’t know what more to say, I told him, “I don’t care about your grades, I care about your awesomeness at life!”
  • Black kids using the n-word is really complicated, and too many white teachers don’t understand it and are intimidated by that, so they just respond by banning it or disciplining students for it.
  • Academic awards based just on your GPA are kinda bogus.
  • At the same time, it’s nice when the kids who win those awards aren’t pompous about it and can still get along with the rest of the students.
  • Students at our school making a curriculum for anti-bullying education can also use the same words and ideas to describe the US.
  • If you learn a decent number of big words, you might win more arguments with your parents.

Really good (sometimes bad) two weeks.

Open Textbooks and Resources for Open Source Education ›

Whole bunch of links to online textbook projects; digging through this for stuff to use at school.

Yesterday at school some of my kids were asking what was up with Occupy New Haven, and what was gonna get accomplished by camping on the Green. I told them about my experiences with it. One of them had heard me vent about it before, and was one of the students that was supposed to be speaking at one of their rallies before they flaked out on him. One has been telling me about working on a music video, because he passed by ONH when they were having a march, so he filmed himself rapping in front of it. I told him my friend filmed a hip-hop video in front of OWS recently, but then I wasn’t able to find it. Instead I pulled up the video above, made by the same film-dude friend, of another friend of ours doing a poem about police brutality. So we all watched that together and they liked it.

Also during that same period, I helped a girl with an essay about To Kill A Mockingbird, and how literature relates to culture and ethnicity. Little did she know that’s my jam! We were talking about the book, and which characters were allowed full development and which were not, and right away she said, “This book is racist,” so I said, “Okay, cool, I didn’t want to be the one to say that, because I didn’t wanna force my opinion on you, but I’m glad you’re being critical of it too.” We talked about what culture means and who gets to define literature and history. It was rad to see a high schooler (one who gets in trouble a fair amount, too) get really critical about things like white heroes in supposedly anti-racist novels, and who gets to tell stories that are then called anti-racist and why are those people so rarely women of color, and the rare appearances people of color make in American history textbooks. I taught her the word “marginalize,” and because I’m working on etymology in my afterschool program, we went through margin—>marginal—>marginalize.

Oh, there was also a good quip from one student about how he could record a song that was just him saying, “bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch” and get it on the radio as long as he puts it over a good beat, because people play all sorts of stupid stuff on the radio. So we talked about how, yes, that’s true, but also women in hip-hop are tired of being called bitches either way. But totally reminded me of that Dead Milkmen song, “You People Will Dance to Anything.”

So, all around really really good period.

Inclusive Teaching Resources from CIDR UW ›


The Center for Instructional Design and Research (CIDR) at the University of Washington has extensive information and resources available on inclusive teaching:

Inclusive Teaching means teaching in ways that do not exclude students, accidentally or intentionally, from opportunities to learn. On this web site we have collected resources, examples, insights from faculty, and stories from students in order to help members of the University of Washington teaching community accomplish their goal of teaching more inclusively.

Highlight of my day subbing

  • student: Miss, what are you doing tomorrow, going out with your boyfriend?
  • me: No, he's out of town on a road trip.
  • student: Ohhh, I wanna go on one of those...BUTT NAKED!

Miss Camille, you DO need a nap!

my students today, toward the end of my 11hour shift. I subbed two classes for one teacher, emergency subbed another class for a different teacher (and was so fried I went to the wrong class), had a study group, had my tutoring program, had some potential tutors sitting in, and covered someone’s bus stop duty while the bus was really late and kids spent their whole wait swordfighting with tree branches and pretending they were gonna get into fights with each other.

My kids realized how fried I was when I pulled two of them aside to break some news to them about tutoring, only to realize that I actually meant to pull aside someone else and had no idea why I was making that mistake.

In case my students didn’t know that I love them and am awesome

I set up a comic making workshop for them with my friend who makes really cool comics and flipbooks, got supplies for the workshop, and then let my students skip tutoring today as long as they were at the workshop. Plus I’m not having them make up their tutoring sessions. Because I am cool like that.

jk I only wish I was awesome, but I did send them all off to make comics instead of doing math problems.


Youth, Social Justice, and Communities: Toward a Theory of Urban Youth Policy Shawn Ginwright; Julio Cammarota; Pedro Noguera Social Justice; 2005; 32, 3; Criminal Justice Periodicals ›

Reading this today. I want to make a proposal about some discipline issues at my school and how we might be able to use a restorative justice approach.