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I’m coming out of blog hibernation (yikes, over 4 months!) to see if any of you reading this have a negative memory from childhood which still burns as vividly in your mind as if it happened just yesterday? Ever wish someone had done something about it or had let you know things would be okay? If so (or even if not), PLEASE take the time to follow the links I’ve included and DO SOMETHING about this most atrocious story I just heard about this morning. I honestly could NOT believe there was a chance ANY of it could be true–but it is. Instead of going into all of the details myself, the story/video link takes you to an in-depth interview with Harry Smith (CBS news) and the mother of Alex, the kindergartner who was “voted out” by 14 of his 16 classmates.
I do have to say that as an aunt to two nephews I could NOT love more (one of which has been dealing with emotional/behavioral issues for most of his young life–at one time having been considered to have Asperger Syndrome such as little Alex is being tested for), and as someone who is still hoping to one day complete her teaching credential (two more classes ;)), it disgusts/shocks/saddens me to see such a ridiculous and cruel event be inflicted on such a young child, especially by a teacher who is entrusted to care for, educate, and nurture our children. Not only will it more than likely have a long-lasting effect on Alex, but it sends the most intolerant of messages to the classmates involved that they do not need to understand and embrace the differences amongst us, and can instead simply “vote” someone out of their surroundings. If we are teaching this to kindergarten children, imagine how they will think they can deal with those they don’t care for as they get older? Don’t like that person because of their sexual orientation, religious affiliation, skin color, then “vote” them out. And trust me, folks, “voting” will NOT be the way they handle it; violence will be. Sigh.
I hope you’ll all take the 6 minutes needed to watch this video (if anyone finds it on YouTube, please let me know so I can post it here…thanks!), then also please, PLEASE, PLEASE take the time to click the photo of Alex and send a card to the address listed to let him know he IS uniquely special, beautiful, and loved just the way he is–we ALL are! Feel free to re-post this blog or to contact me regarding how to add the links/photo to your blog or email, and by all means do all you can to get the word out about this situation and the card campaign.
Thank you for your time. 🙂
PS I hope to get back to a “somewhat” regular routine of blogging again. Goodness knows there’s enough going on in the world today which I definitely have opinions about! 😉
I’m feeling a strong need to seek out some uplifting and positive news stories. Maybe it’s just my personal frustration with several things in my own little universe or the bigger frustrations I feel with everything from this inexcusable, disgusting, and sad war to the ridiculous amount of time a not-to-be-named hotel heiress is garnering for being a spoiled brat. Who knows what exactly it is that’s sticking in my craw, but it’s got me having a mad desire to do something proactive to change my mood and hopefully change the mood of some of you as well. So in my sudden quest to seek out something (anything!) that is making this world a better place I decided to add a “Doing Good” regular feature to this blog. Okay, first step taken (truth be told, the first step was popping iTunes on party shuffle since music is usually my panacea for a cruddy mood), next step was to set about the internet seeking out positive sites. Easier said than done, sadly. Ultimately I found myself smack-dab on my MySpace friends list, which is mostly full of causes and bands I support, so it makes sense I’d find my first “Doing Good” subject there: The New Orleans Kid Camera Project(their MySpace page).
I’ll introduce this great organization by posting their mission statement:
The New Orleans Kid Camera Project was created to address the psychological and emotional impacts of Hurricane Katrina on children returning home to New Orleans. Through the use of photography, creative writing and mixed media, children from flooded neighborhoods explore their environment and express themselves, their stories and feelings with their friends. This project provides a venue for growth and recovery. By teaching the children tangible skills and exposing them to new means of expression, we hope to empower them to impact their lives and environment.
Those of you who have been frequent visitors to this blog are well aware that I’m working toward getting my teaching credential, and with my minor being in Visual and Performing Arts, it goes without saying that ANYTHING which involves children in such a productive and creative manner, such as The New Orleans Kid Camera Project, is going to be something I wholeheartedly support. My disgust with the lack of support by George Bush’s administration for those affected by Hurricane Katrina is something that still gets my blood boiling. Just thinking back on those first few days of the catastrophe, with our own citizens being disregarded in the degrading manner they were, the people and animals scavenging for safety and food, the buses and trailers sitting empty, all has me going between sadness and fury in a matter of minutes. And to think apathy on the part of our government still continues–appalling. So to see a group of people in New Orleans addressing the various needs the children in the area are facing, and will continue to face for some time to come, is something which definitely brings a smile to my face and warms my heart.
I hope many of you will visit their site, read their fantastic Philosophy/Visions/Goals page, share in the fine photos and videos created by the children, and especially donate any time/money/equipment that you can. I also hope that everyone’s mood is a bit better now–mine is! 🙂
(***Added 6/15/07:UNSEENAMERICA “New Orleans Kid Camera Project”
310 West 43rd St New York
Admission: FREE. Exhibition from Wednesday, June 6 through Friday, June 29, 2007.
Reception- Thursday June 21, 2007 from 5:00 to 7:30pm
As I scurry about getting things ready for tomorrow, my first day of the last semester of the teaching credential program, I find myself wondering about my future students.
Do they have any idea what a curvy path this road to being a teacher has been for me? Yes, the path started back in 1980 right after high school, but that thing called life got in the way. Then the dream of being a teacher fell by the wayside, only to be picked up, brushed off, and presented to me by some fantastic teachers I worked with as an Instructional Aide in Los Angeles. Were it not for those incredible women telling me what a great teacher I would be and questioning me as to why I wasn’t one—well, who knows what road I might have taken after the divorce. So yes, back to community college getting my AA in 2000, then after another few see-saw years, back to university to get my BA in 2004. And now, just a few weeks shy of forty-five (when did THAT happen?!), I’m finally finishing up the teaching credential program.
Do my future students have any idea just how much it costs to embark on this adventure? The student loans I’ll be paying off for ages, the never-ending state or federally mandated exams I must pay to take, and keep taking until they are passed. I honestly wonder how many of those who legislated for some of these exams could actually PASS them! (Gee, can you tell I’m a tad bitter about the cost of the CSET and the fact that it’s virtually impossible to “really” be prepared for since it covers pretty much anything and everything under the sun. See for yourself here by trying the online sample exam…good luck!) Let’s not forget the ridiculous skyrocketing cost of textbooks, which seem to have a new edition each semester, so there’s no way to make any money selling them back or saving any money in buying them used.
Will my future students have any idea that the reason most of us enter the profession (that sincere desire to truly assist students in achieving their full potential educationally and as productive, happy members of society), quite often gets lost in the reality of what teaching has become. The politics of what to teach, when to teach it, how to teach it. The way in which classrooms have become standard-driven instead of driven by the needs of the individual student. The time spent trying to remain professional when dealing with well-intentioned (and some not-so-well-intentioned) parents who think they know better how to handle your classroom than you do.
Nope, my future students probably will never know any of that. But you know what? That’s okay. I know that while there were many bumps in the road on my way to becoming their teacher, my passion for this profession never waned and hopefully never will. All they need to know is there is no place I’d rather be.
Not sure how many of you have heard of a FANTASTIC, MUST READ book called “The Freedom Writers Diary .. How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them”, but you may have seen a trailer for the movie, “Freedom Writers” based on the book and out in theaters now. The movie stars Hilary Swank, and for you Grey’s Anatomy fans, Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey. I don’t know how closely the movie will follow the book, but I am hoping it stays true to it.
So let me back up and explain just why this book strikes such a chord with me. The first reason is a no-brainer: it’s about my passion, teaching! And not just about teaching, but about REACHING your students. One would think that all teachers do that, but unfortunately that’s not always the case. The main thing drilled into us during the credential courses I’ve been taking is that you MUST meet your students where they are. In other words, not every student is going to come to you with the same amount of knowledge, the same socioeconomic situation, the same family make up, and so on. And in this day and age ALL of that comes into play with how you will best serve your students with teaching strategies to help them not only achieve the stated-adopted standards (and hopefully EXCEED THEM!), but more importantly for helping them grow as social beings. Erin Gruwell saw the diverse and special needs of her students, was creative with her strategies, and more than succeeded in her endeavors. I am truly in awe of this woman.
The second reason I have a special place in my heart for this book, this project, this teacher, and these students, is that I had the good fortune to meet Erin and a couple of her students from the book. I was attending the California K-16 Partnerships & Student Success conference at California State University, Long Beach, in June 2002, and Erin Gruwell was the closing Keynote Speaker. I had heard bits and pieces of her story, but hadn’t seen the coverage of it on many national television shows. Boy, was I caught up on everything that night! You could have heard a pin drop when Erin was speaking, and at various points you also heard more than a few folks sniffling and saw lots of dabbing away of tears, especially when they showed parts of the Prime Time Live segment done on the Freedom Writers. What was especially touching was when some of the students were in the audience and she had them stand…talk about getting a HUGE round of applause!
After the closing speech there was a reception in CSULB’s exquisite Japanese Gardens. What an incredible location for getting to meet some incredible people, including Erin and several of her students. Getting to chat with these students and seeing the incredible strides they had made gave me goosebumps. One of the best surprises of the evening was talking with the mothers of some of the students, and boy did the moms have some great stories to tell me of their chaperoning duties on trips with the students! Of course the most inspiring being their trip to Europe where they visited Anne Frank’s home, and also the concentration camps in Germany and Poland. You really need to read the book to fully understand how incredible this was. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE read the book. I’m sure your local library has a copy of it if you don’t want to spend the money, although you can get it on Amazon.com for less than $12. I would just love for you to have the joy of the book in your heart like I have, especially before seeing the movie adaptation since the movie may or may not be a good thing.
The entire experience that night, from hearing Erin speak, to getting to meet her and having her sign my book (along with one of her students :)), from meeting other future educators and feeling energized about teaching, to hearing the mothers’ perspectives of the effect the Freedom Writers have had on one another, and to ultimately being reminded that all of this is precisely why I’ve chosen the path of an educator: to change lives. It was all truly one of the most incredible and memorable experiences of my life. Hmmm, think it’s time to take the book out and give it another read. And Erin, I’ll make sure to pass the baton as you have. 🙂