Maybe you get your school involved?

I just sent this email to my school.  Sometimes I feel nervous emailing all the employees but if I am saying that conversations like this are what I want to happen then I need to be okay with making them happen.

 

Good Morning,

Tonight I am hosting an online talk by Jose Vilson an educator and activist in NYC.  He has just written a book called “This is Not a Test.”  That looks fantastic.  It’s a new narrative on race, class, and education.  If you are interested in attending you just go to this site tonight at 9pm.  If not I still highly recommend his writing.  His post on the Michael Dunn verdict is outstanding.

Hope to see some of you there.

Annie

This Year’s Speech

This morning I had the opportunity to speak to my whole school.  Probably for the last time. Here it is.

 

There is this really important question that as an adult and even as a teenager you should ask your self every once and a while.

Why are you doing what you do?

The answer I like best comes from Bryan Stevenson at the Equal Justice Initiative. He works with death row inmates to try to either get them off or just make sure they have the best defense possible.

He says, “I don’t do this work because I think it’s important. I don’t do this work because I think I have to do it. I don’t do this work because I think I have skills. I don’t do this work because somebody has to do it. I don’t do it because I even get to talk to wonderful people like you. I don’t do it because I feel like I was programmed to do it. I don’t do it for any of these reasons. I realized in that moment that I do the work that I do because I am broken, too.”

I realized this summer that my brokenness led me to working with teenagers.

That it threw me across the country to  [our school] and gave you to me.

That it sent me to the Stanley King Counseling Institute and made me a better listener.

That my broken lead me to apply to graduate school.

I’ve spent a lot of this year feeling like a high school senior. While writing applications I was grumpy and overwhelmed. While waiting for responses I was terrified and prone to tears. (Sound familiar?) And finally while receiving responses I was simultaneously thrilled and devastated. It is a lot to feel both of these at the same time.

The fact that I am not perfect, that I am not 100% solid, allowed me to decide that even though I got in to graduate school I didn’t have to go.

You see if I was perfect then I would have a plan. I would be sure of what was happening and next and I would be already booking plane tickets and hiring movers. I would know if I had to drive my car across the country or sell it. I would know what to do with Mulligan. I am real worried about my cat.

But not being perfect allows me the opportunity to decide what is right for me instead of what is the right thing.

Now feel free to groan a little bit because one of the things that has got me through all of this is Mr. J. He doesn’t know this so he’s probably a little embarrassed but the thing he says about college being a match to be made not a prize to be won applies to life too. It is about finding your own match.

At this point I have applied to 6 colleges been rejected by 4, accepted by one and am still waitlisted at the last. I have interviewed in person at 5 schools and have been rejected by 1, offered a job by one and am waiting on three. None of these are impressive stats. None of this makes me sound really awesome but that’s okay. I am in fact going to find the place that is right for me. I am going to make a life that is right for me.

I didn’t want to give this speech today. I seriously considered calling Ms. B and opting out. I considered faking sick. I considered actually getting sick. Like breathing really hard near a super ill person and then not exhaling so the germs would get me.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk to you. I always want to talk to you. It was more that there were too many expectations. There were too many stories I could tell and to many people I could thank. Seriously I could stand here from now til the end of the day and thank people. There were too many feelings. All of the feelings. And while my natural inclination may be to lean back from the feelings I am going to try to not do that. I am going to try to lean in.

I am devastatingly sad to leave even knowing it is the right thing to do. I am going to miss your daily stories, your pleads for candy, and even your totally unjustified test anxiety. I am going to miss the way this community takes care of its own and allows for both sadness and growth. I am going to miss dorm duty check ins and sporting events I don’t understand. I mean seriously, why do they blow the whistle in field hockey? They do it all the time. I am going to miss these speeches. Even the badly prepared ones like this.

I am going to looks for ways at my new school to emulate [our school]’s innate kindness, courage, and community.

Here’s the thing I have learned about  [our school] though. It doesn’t let people go. The Alumna come back in droves. Teachers leave and return (Just ask Ms. M) and even students who have not even been gone a year come back to visit.

It makes me feel a bit better about leaving and it should probably make seniors feel better too. We aren’t really saying goodbye we are really saying, “see you at next Revels.”

I want to go back to the beginning and finish this quote from Bryan Stevenson he says, “But I also know that it’s in brokenness that we also hear the things we need to hear. It’s in brokenness that see the things that we need to see.”

So I am asking you to do this for me, allow yourself to live in the brokenness. Allow for indecision and possibly failure. Let opportunities pass you by in order to find the place that is right for you.

 

 

Small Pieces of Privilege #2

I watched a video of myself teaching yesterday.  I am, finally, after 28 years pretty okay with my voice. I actually like the way I sound when I teach. I am charismatic and silly and fun.  But they way I look? Well that’s a different story.  I have solid self-esteem stemming from a mother who never spoke about body issues and a self of style I like a lot but damn, I looked fat. (Here’s where I state that I know I am not and I like myself but in the context of honesty that was what I thought when I watched the video).

My privilege comes: I am comfortable in an airplane seat.  I can walk for a few hours without ankle, knee, or back pain. And, most importantly for me, I can shop where ever I want.  I mean I’m not on the small side of the normal section but I have never had trouble going into a store and finding things that fit.  This is huge.  There are jeans that exist that fit my body (and look pretty cute). This is privilege. It’s one that I experience everyday. 

Small Pieces of Privilege #1

I have never seen an episode of The Cosby Show.

In Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum’s Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria she discusses how her college-age students identify themselves.  The students are given a set amount of time to write down personal descriptors.  The long-and-short of it is that students of color almost always write down a race descriptor while white students almost never do.

One of the first things we do when we see people is decide if they are like or different. Children are especially good at this.  They separate friends into boys and girls, short and tall, old and young, able bodied and not, and  skin like mine or not like mine.  This is not a bad thing.  The bad part comes when they judge based on these things. But I digress, my hope in this series that I am calling “Small Pieces of Privilege” is to examine simple privileges I have in my life.

So I return to the fact that I have never seen The Cosby Show, you know why? At least in part because I didn’t need it.  There were tons of shows on TV with families that looked like (prettier) versions of mine.  There were a million little white girls to choose from.  To the point that there were ones with my same haircut.  I didn’t watch a show about a Black family because there were lots of White families to chose from.

Job Hunting. A Major Life Update.

Back in summer I decided that I wanted to get a PhD.  I spent this fall filling out applications, six all together.  Then I waited.  As my seniors stressed and cried, I stressed and cried.  It was a lot.  It was terrifying.  It was awful.

Here’s the thing: I love my job but  I am ready for a new adventure.  Honestly though, if I could take my department with me, I would.

Then something happened and I was sure I was not going to get into a PhD program so I put my name in with the private school head-hunting people.  If you teach at an independent school you know what I am talking about.  I had a few phone calls, talked about teaching, and generally got reenergized math.

So, umm, then I got into a fully funded PhD program.  Then I reevaluated and I am not entirely convinced its what I want.  I know, I’m crazy.

Since then I have had really good interviews at really good independent schools but I am still deciding, as are those schools.

Here are the certains:

I am definitely leaving here next year.

I am definitely job hunting.

So, if you are hiring or you know a school that I would be a perfect fit for here are my credentials:

I am in my fourth year teaching, one year public co-ed middle, three years single sex independent high school.  I can teach 6th grade – calc (although have I never taught APs).  I have a masters in Educational Psychology with a focus on adolescents and the internet. My top skill is connecting with kids. That contributes to the fact that I am a fantastic teacher.

I am looking for a school committed to collaboration and a deep evaluation of curriculum.  I could teach public school in NY or CA or independent school anywhere and by anywhere I mean I am really looking to teach in a large urban area.  I am looking for a school that is deeply involved in conversations about diversity and social justice.  I am looking for a school that provides opportunities for advancement and professional development. I am looking to teach at a place that most importantly makes decisions around what’s best for kids.

I think there’s a good chance I’ll get a job in the traditional manner but this worked for me last time and it can’t hurt.

 

 

Thanks for being here for the next part of the adventure.

Love,

me.

 

Using My Voice

“Talking about race makes white folks feel sad, they’ll say. ” - Jose Vilson

This Saturday Michael Dunn was convicted of three counts of attempted murder for opening fire on car of teenage boys.  One of the boys, Jordan Davis, was killed but the jury was unable to convict on that count. Dunn faces up to 60 years in prison.  None of that for murdering a 17 year old.

“Talking about race makes white folks feel sad, they’ll say. “

We live in a country where we teach black boys in our classrooms and then are afraid of them in the streets.

“Talking about race makes white folks feel sad, they’ll say. “

We live in country where when a unarmed black girl comes to your door for help you can shot her in the face.

“Talking about race makes white folks feel sad, they’ll say. “

I live in a place where every conversation about racism is about one person’s statements or feelings.

“Talking about race makes white folks feel sad, they’ll say. “

You are damn right, Jose, talking about racism makes me sad. Because it fucking should. We should fucking be sad. And disgusted.  And disappointed.  And honestly, white people, if you’re not all those things you are not paying attention.

Spoken Words.

I think words are important.  Not just what you say but how you say them.  Also, when you chose not to say them.

If you follow me on the twitters or in the facebooks you have probably seen some of these but here is a collection of poems that I think are both hugely important and beautiful.  A good way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

1.  This for me is #1.  I have watched this one a least a thousand times.

“My bank keeps calling me and telling me it’s best for me to go fuckrupt.” -Shameaca Moore Give a F#ck

 

2.  This is a recent one.  This guy is just so good.

“Let me tell you about the struggle of Asian parents not knowing the language so we ate pet food because it was cheaper.” -Alex Dang What Kind of Asian are You

 

3.  On rape culture.  On raising sons.  On point.

“It teaches us that it is not wrong unless someone comes to arrest you.” - Terisa Siagatonu & Rudy Francisco  Sons

 

4. Some history for you.  Did you know Bayard Rustin?  I didn’t.

“Your skin the right color.  Your lover the wrong sin.” – Danez Smith  For Bayard Rustin

 

5. Last one for today as five seems like enough. On eating disorders. On girls.

“There are some accepted ways for white girls to deliver poems on eating disorders.” -Janani Anorexia

 

 

Maybe this post is not for you.  Maybe it’s just for me.  These poems are important. I need this to remember.

When I write something I think no one will care about.

Last week I wrote a post that I actually didn’t think that anyone would care about.  I wrote about taking body image and selfies.  Honestly, it wasn’t much but it garnered more feedback than I expected.  I’ve come out of this these thoughts:

1. When I say I am hot I don’t mean in comparison to other or by judgment of others.  I mean at 28 I like myself and my body.  That I dress is a way that makes me feel good about myself.

2.  I think all that is worth sharing and demonstrating to teenage girls.

3. I think selfies are silly, fun, and harmless.

4. I certainly don’t need anyone else’s permission to celebrate myself. So, you know, shove off.

 

Okay, Instructions:

For the next month I will be taking selfies and posting them on the internet. I’m using Instagram and the hashtag #shutupandduckface.  You need an instagram account to do this.  I am 90% sure to have instagram you need a smartphone or tablet.  Just download the app and get on it.  If you just want to do this on the twitters I’m into that, too.

There are no rules.  A selfie is what you make it.  Really love your shoes today?  Take that.  Mastered eyeliner?  I wanna see. Ran three miles and are a sweaty mess?  Rock that shit. I’m impressed.

Here is my first entry to soon be on instgram.  I call it, “What Saturday looks like or I haven’t showered since Thursday.”

Photo on 2-1-14 at 3.06 PM

 

I’m hot. (And a challenge)

This is not something I talk about here much. But did you know I’m hot?  I dress well, sometimes wear make up (look equally good without), and I make sweatpants look like a deliberate choice.

I think about body image a lot.  I spend my day surrounded by teenage girls and well that’s what happens.  We talk about things.  I didn’t really know about body image until high school.  You see my mother doesn’t wear makeup and never ever body shamed.  It just wasn’t a thing.

Now, I’m 28 and a sort of role model for girls I teach so I feel as though I should do/say something.  Today I read this (trigger warning: eating disorders) I thought about how I need to be more visible about positive body image.  But also, I don’t.

Because I promote this by just being me.  I am supporting my girls by not body shaming, dieting, or worrying over food.  I am promoting healthy.

So here is my ridiculous challenge.  For the month of February I will be taking a selfie a day.  And I will post the first one I take.  Because here’s the thing:  I’m, just like J.Lo, real.*  I am hoping you will join me.  Pick the social media platform of your choice, I think I’m going with instagram, and let me know.   I have a lot of hot readers and I want to see you.

 

I know this is silly but you know what?  It’s the dead of winter and I need some silly.  So shut up and duck face.

 

Love,

me.

 

Happy February.

 

*bonus points for getting the reference.

Seriously People, Do you Forget?

They are teenagers.

I’d like to start with this:  I think teenagers are the best.  Truth be told I almost unilaterally like people but teenagers in particular.  They do the coolest things and they are pretty much just, not completely formed masses of potential. But then shit like this pops up my facebook (6 people posted this, 6 people I like a lot):

4 Apps Teens Love that Parents Need to Monitor

The basic premise is: There are four apps out there that teens are doing the worst things ever on. Things like bullying, sexting*, and asking anonymous questions.  For Shame!  Damn you cell phone! You are ruining the chiddlins!

Here’s the thing though, of course they are.  Of course they are bullying on their cell phones because they bully in real life.  Yes, I understand the internet creates a platform that allows bullying to happen in an easier non face-to-face way but teenagers bully.  It happens.  This is obviously not the answer parents want to hear.  Parents/ Adults want to hear that if they delete these four apps that your child will be perfect and no more bullying will happen ever.

And sexting**? Teenagers have sex!  Although less of them than in the past (this video is great go watch it now).  Teenagers also watch Game of Thrones, Girls, and pretty much anything that you watch because well, access. If you can get it off the internet so can they.

I can’t even talk about anonymous questions except to say, Seriously?  This scares you? Are you also afraid of feet?

Okay, so, now that I have ranted here’s the real piece of this.  A very small part of my job is educating teens on internet safety and digital footprint and from that I have some small pieces of advice that are based entirely around personal experience.

  • Education has to be developmentally appropriate.  Telling 8th graders that what they put on the internet will effect their chances of getting into college is dumb.  They don’t have context for that.  I also believe this is true for 10th graders, they don’t really understand consequences 2 years out. Heck, sometimes I don’t.  Talk to them about their friends.  Talk about what it feels like to read stuff about themselves.  Talk to them about vagueness and tone.  And the question I like the best, ask them if they read their own stuff if they’d want to be their friend.
  • This needs to happen outside the home, too.  Find out what your school is doing in terms of digital citizenship.  Ask if your school has anti-bullying rules and how they extend to the internet.  Ask if your school or district or local library has adult education on this. If you don’t feel like you know enough to talk to your kid about this then educate yourself. The easiest way to do that is to ask your kid. What apps do you use?  What the heck is snapchat?
  • Talk to your kid everyday.  Maybe we move beyond, “how was your day?”.  Maybe it’s time to start asking, “What’s happening on tumblr?” “Did you get funny snapchats today?” “Do you use that secret sharing app?” Yea, I think these questions sound awkward, too. Cause they are.  Cause we’re all just gonna have to get in to the place of awkward and be okay with it.

I was most frustrated by the article linked above because it plays on fear.  Fear that teenagers are doing all the terrible things we think they are and fear that we don’t understand them.   The best way to quell this fear is to talk to them.  As your mother probably said, “Use your words.”

Final note: This is written by someone who has no teen children and also has 324 teen children. So take from it what you will. Just remember the medium itself is not evil it’s all in how we use it.

*Can we just take a minute and appreciate that my spell check thinks sexting is a word.  I love the world.
** I really can’t get over that this is a word.