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Maybe you get your school involved?

April 15, 2014

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.


This Year’s Speech

April 14, 2014

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

April 2, 2014

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

March 27, 2014

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.

March 6, 2014

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.




Using My Voice

February 18, 2014

“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.

February 9, 2014

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.


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