5 minute child chats about social justice

The other day I realized that it only takes 3-5 minutes to begin to teach our children about social justice and equity.  As a female social work educator of color raising a brown boy in the U.S. this is very important to me. But I also realized ALL parents can do this. And the way to do it is very simple. In the next few blog posts I will be sharing examples of how I have done this. Our son is very curious and is a keen observer. He asks lots of questons which provides opportunity for us to teach him about diverse populations, inequity, justice, acceptance, and social action. 

Stay tuned for specific lessons. But for now, here are a few tips to get you started:

1. listen to your child and answer their questions. Invite them to ask questions. Peak their curiosity. 

2. Don’t ignore them or brush them off. 

3. Don’t hush them. 

4. Don’t shy away from uncomfortable topics. 

5. Don’t be afraid to look up what you don’t know or refer to a friend. 

6. Keep it simple. Use a children’s book or story to help you. 

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The Young Girls in My Class

Afro shillouetteI have the insane and unashamed pleasure to teach a class full of young girls with black and brown skin who are first-year college students. In my 15 years of teaching, I have not ever had more than 2 or 3 girls of color in 1 class at a time. And today I almost cried in class at the sight of them with all their color and beauty and focus. They inspired this little ditty (it needs a beat behind it):

The young girls in my class make my heart sing, my face smile, my toes tap, my belly tickle, my fingers snap, and my head…click to the side in joy & pride

The young girls in my class got sass, beauty, brains, intent, power, glitter, focus, confidence, steadiness, and all that is #blackgirlmagic

I could not have been the young girls in my class. I was shier, quieter, homlier, maybe I was as smart, but couldn’t do my hair, I had no style or sass – not at their age, and I rarely spoke up or talked back…or at least that is my recollection when I look at the young girls in my class – they amaze me and daze me and I can’t wait to hear them speak about whatever and everything

The young girls in my class will run the world. I will learn from them as much as they will from me. They are bold, empowered, educated sisters on a mission and they make my heart sing, my face smile, my fingers snap, my belly tickle, and my head…click to the side in joy & pride.

To the bad ass young girls in my class – go ‘head and do your thang!

 

Whimsical Wednesday: Is there a secret Code for academics that I missed?!

Preface:  I am working on becoming more intentional with my posts. Tuesdays or Thursdays I will work towards writing and sharing thoughtful ideas and reflections related to teaching, social justice, and parenting.  Wednesdays or Fridays I will work towards writing and sharing my wacky stream-of-consciousness perspective on parenting, teaching, social justice.  The intentionality I am hoping will help me get focused on a writing schedule as I move closer to some important publishing deadlines!

booksI have been on sabbatical since September. I took a year (at half pay) on purpose.  I wanted to have some time to rest, engage in self-care, spend more time with family and friends, get some research and publishing done (which for me is nearly impossible during the regular academic year), and try something new.  I have managed to do a little bit of all of these things, sometimes in unexpected ways. Throughout all of my adventures I have been observing my family, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues watching me.  Me watching them watching me could really be an interesting research project (for a Social Psychologist maybe)!

One idea that stands out from those two-way observations is that there is a (maybe more than one) unspoken or unwritten (that I know if) code of conduct for academics when not on campus teaching, researching, writing, etc. Not the type of Code of Conduct that a religious school might ask you to sign promising you will behave morally at all times and if you are caught off-campus being immoral you could lose your job. No, a more subtle Code. That Code of expectations that you will:

  1. Listen to NPR, read a variety of newspapers, don’t watch mindless t.v., or no t.v. at all, unless it is PBS.News1
    1. If you do watch mindless t.v. write extensively about how you will use the show in class and describe in detail how the show will be deconstructed and analyzed.
  2. Not talk about your personal life, especially not your spouse or children
    1. Definitely do not be absent for your sick child, spouse, in-law…
    2. AND, if you’re sick some in and teach your class anyway
  3. Reject gender stereotypes (gender-neutrality = good; 1950s gender roles = bad)
    1. SO back to #2, don’t complain that you have chosen to have a child, cook and clean, etc.
  4. Be liberal (see #1-3) AND be as post-modern and pro-feminst as possible, rejecting labels, identities, etc.
  5. Not discuss religion, especially not my religion, unless I’m bashing the oppressiveness of religious institutions and their doctrines
  6. Be frugal (and look as if you are frugal)
    1. Shopping malls are bad…
    2. Do not talk about any privilege you have
  7. Reject capitalism and consumption (see #5)
  8. Eat organic – Shop at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods
  9. Embrace the outdoors (that way you won’t be tempted to watch t.v.)
  10. Always use the English language properly – no slang or abbreviations, or acronyms…not even on social media!
    1. I kinda agree with this one AND I violate this often and freely joke about my personal editor (who is currently on vacation)!

If you are in academia you know what I am talking about. Some of this is poking fun of the community to which I belong and some of it is awareness. Do you stigmatize or distance yourself from or roll your eyes at colleagues who in some way violate the Code of Conduct for Academics?! I became an academic as a third career. I had been a clinical social worker and was doing student affairs work in a School of Social Work. I was asked to teach a course and I was bitten by the teaching bug. I was told that in order to teach full time I needed to earn a Ph.D. So I embarked on that journey and in 2007 landed my full time tenure-track teaching job. A few years later I finished that dissertation and a few years after that received tenure.  In between all of that I lived a full life.

HairAs a woman of color (who wears make-up & heels, cooks, cleans, mothers, as high regard for her husband, and attends church…) with a family here and abroad who prioritizes that family and self-care, I am most concerned with how the unspoken code does not allow for socio-cultural nuances, autonomy, and individuality within the academy. As liberal as the academy tends to be (there are many articles stating the contrary…that’s someone else’s blog…), the supposed liberal horn-blowing/sign-carrying/feminist/post-modern academics also create a specific set of criteria for fitting in that is not inclusive.  I am old enough to not really care if colleagues think I am not a proper academic because I do not follow the Code. I know my worth and my priorities!☺😛

I am concerned for my newer and younger colleagues who feel they must be in their offices even during semester breaks.  I am concerned for my colleagues who feel they cannot seek support within their departments when their child/spouse/parent is sick. I am concerned for my colleagues who feel they cannot pursue non-academic interests without shame or fear of being stigmatized. I am concerned that the very people who criticized the old academic guard for the homogeneous environment that they had created, is creating a new type of homogeneity. Academics should be encouraged to be diverse not just in their social identities but also in their interests and ways of expression.  Our students are not homogeneous and we encourage them to get out of their comfort zones and think outside the proverbial box and so should we. #JustSayin

 

YAY for Malala: Honoring My Mom Day 13 (or there abouts)

teacherAs a woman of color living in American I never take my education for granted. The two oldest siblings in my grandmother’s family were the only two who were allowed to & able to go to college. They are proud Tuskegee and Fort Valley State graduates. My mom, who did not grow up in the south but still faced obstacles as her New York guidance counselor told her she should go to trade school. She ended up earning a Master in Social Work degree from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). My path was made easier through the scarifies and struggles of my grandparents and parents, although not without challenges. Like many 1st year students I goofed off a lot and skipped some classes and that first report card shocked me back into shape!

Each academic year in one of my books I put a picture of Charlayne Hunter-Gault;  in another book I put a picture of the Little Rock Nine; and in another book a picture of James Meredith.  The pictures are my inspirational reminders.  I think I am going to add a picture of Malala Yousafzai.

Today I sent all my students an email and challenged them to:

  1. appreciate fully the privilege of an education,
  2. come to class prepared,
  3. not procrastinate,
  4. be engaged and proactive learners,
  5. think critically,
  6. inspire someone else to pursue a higher education or complete high school,
  7. pledge to tear down any obstacle they see for others in receiving an education, and to
  8. hold me accountable for facilitating discussion and learning.

I, in return challenged myself to give them 100%+ each day I meet them and to hold them accountable for being responsible for their own learning.

We should ask ourselves “What would Malala do?” http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/10/10/355054344/pakistani-teen-malala-yousafzai-shares-nobel-peace-prize?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=2034

Day 1 of 75 to honor my mom

Today was convocation. The official beginning of the academic year. It’s full of activity, a little fan fare,  some crazed last minute prep. It’s also the first day I’ve seen most of my colleagues since my mom passed away earlier this summer. I started the morning meditating and praying and asking for God to give me a few ounces of my mom’s calm demeanor, political savvyness, and great teaching skills. She never seemed nervous in front of her class, despite the fact that she was essentially an introvert. I also never saw her use any notes, and she taught before the invention of the Internet and power point. She spoke with ease and authority. Her students hung on her every word. She was always well prepared. She returned papers on time with lots of constructive feedback. She was a master teacher. She rarely if ever worked at home, she wisely used her time and did almost all her prep, grading, etc at her on-campus office. She also didn’t have convocation or tons of meetings.  She taught at a community college and spent the majority of her time focused on students and their learning. She was student centered before it was a cliché term. She had fun teaching and spoke of her job with joy and pride.

I usually make resolutions at the beginning of each acaddmic yeaf becausd it’s always a new beginning for me. I’m pledging to:
1. Be proud of what I do.
2. Enjoy what I do.
3. Be prepared so I can be calm.
4. Focus on my students and their learning.
5. Not procrastinate, use time wisely and bring as little work home as possible.
6. Rely on my notes less.
7. No promises about a clean desk…apologies to my office mate!

I hope she’s looking down and feeling proud as I begin my 10th year of full time teaching.