Who Do You See? The Conversation of Identity…

Multiracial individuals are more likely to have a heightened awareness of race as a social construct than monoracial individuals. (Shih, Bonam, Sanchez, Peck, 2007) With research also showing that racial identity is directly linked to ability and that Asian/White and Black/White multiracial individuals were less susceptible to racial stereotypes than monoracial individuals because of how multiracial participants view race as a social construct and are not assigned one set of stereotypes due to being more than one race according to the authors. When a person’s race becomes, salient or made relevant as part of who he or she is, that person is directly affected by that and the stereotypes that come with their particular race. Whether it be high performing, educated, and affluent versus low performing, uneducated, and impoverished. These are the stereotypes that can follow someone their entire life and yet through it all it does not define who they are and or who they will become.

mixed

S.J. is a rambunctious, smart, funny, beautiful, happy, loud, and sassy 4 year old little girl who at a very young age knows who she is as Skylar and a soon to be big sister! What she knows is that her mother and father love each other and love her unconditionally. She knows that she has a Mimi and a Nonna’ a Paw Paw and a Poppy. She has an Aunt Allie, Ashleigh, Lizzy, and a Titi (me). What she does not know is that the world will initially see that she is a product of an interracial marriage and is a bi-racial or “mixed” child and how the world might judge what she can do by that label.

Skyby

She does not know that the world will remark her beauty and then feel uncomfortable or unsure of whom to assign it to. Her Caucasian mother or her African-American father. She does not know that she will be judged by those who oppose interracial relationships and the children that they create. She does not know that she will be asked and in some ways told to choose a side, pick an identity, be one and not the other.

 

sky_w_mom_and_dad.jpgThe conversation that will happen and have already started happening about who she is primarily as an individual and that her race is secondary and that her race has nothing to do with her ability and who she will become. We continue to show and tell her that she can be whoever she wants to be with no limitations. Looking at her face when someone refers to her as “mixed” I cannot help but notice the look of confusion that comes across it, and as she often looks to me for an answer, I simply tell her she is “Skylar”. As we do not categorize her or allow others to, she will not either. She will then have to be ready to educate those around her, some may be strangers and others may be her friends and in some cases her own family.

 

Sky_and_Sasha

Take these two beautiful girls, who are second cousins. Both girls are bright, beautiful, and come from highly educated backgrounds and parents and are inseparable, however the world around them has already separated them and deemed them as unequal to one another based on their race. Skylar will never worry about the things Sasha will worry about, she will never second guess herself when she walks into a room, if someone stares at her for a moment too long it will not be because they think she is too dark or different. Skylar will not be marginalized based on her race. I would love to be a fly on the wall in one of their conversations 15 years from now.

 

Sky_Titi

Most of all I am doing what I can to prepare her for the conversation she may one day have about her own identity. I will tell her that my racial identity and that of her father’s is one with stereotypes that she may never experience or understand. The world she will know and experience will be vastly different from that of what I knew then, know now, and experience today. I cannot wait for the world to meet Skylar Jade who is already a force to be reckoned with and not a “pretty little mixed girl” to be categorized.

 

M. Shih, C. Bonam, D. Sanchez, C. Peck (2007) Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, American Psychological Association

 

 

 

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Embracing Culture and Diversity In The Classroom

America has always been a land of varying cultures. It’s classrooms, unfortunately, have not always reflected that. Today, when the US is home to more ethnicity and cultures than ever before in history, that diversity of cultures must be reflected in the classroom. Why?  Because children are learning more than reading, writing, and arithmetic in school. Think of a classroom as a tiny society. This tiny society represents the larger society we all live in. In this tiny society, children are learning how to navigate the world inside and outside of a classroom setting. They are learning how to get along with others. They are learning how to embrace differences and how to handle them. In short, they are learning how to see differences and how to un-see them.

Most of us were in awe the first time we were old enough to understand the beauty of our first snowfall and snowman, our first springtime and new flowers poking their way out of the ground, our first summer of sandy beaches, and our first autumn with its turning leaves. Just as we were in awe of the first time we were aware of the changing seasons, we soon came to take them for granted without ignoring them. That pretty much sums up how diversity should be taught in our classrooms not “the way we do things around here” (Deal, Peterson, 2016) attitude.

A school’s culture is a combination of countless attributes that create the school’s “experience” (Kuntz, 2012).  Teachers must find a way to make the common, uncommon and the ordinary, unique. The goal is that when Sabrina and Tommy meet Abdullah and Ricardo they learn about the differences in the family each child represents. They learn about the varying diets, customs, faiths, and cultures of each other, while finding a way to share their own stories in a safe environment. The teacher, who is the leader, or president, of the classroom, is responsible for the “political climate” created there. They can help the children learn to learn.

Part of what gives cultural differences the potential to be scary is a lack of understanding. Create a safe, trusted atmosphere. True North by George Daniels teaches us the importance of being self-aware and comfortable in your own skin.  Peeling back the onion and begin looking at your outer layers.  Embrace change by inviting children and their parents to bring in a dish that represents their family, photos of ancestors and short selections of music.

Children are actually quite natural at accepting differences. Think about it. They don’t question why Muppets come in all different shapes, colors, and sizes. They simply accept that they are different while still being part of the same species. What teachers really need to do is teach them to accept each other as readily. These simple things go a long way in creating a place where the children who will grow up in, and one day lead, our society learn more than tolerance. They learn trust, appreciation, camaraderie, and respect.

          Cultural Video :  Being Different is Beautiful

Deal, T. E., & Peterson, K. D. (2016). Shaping school culture. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Brand.

George, B., & Sims, P. (2007). True north: Discover your authentic leadership. San Francisco,

Calif: Jossey-Bass/John Wiley & Sons.

Kuntz, B. (2012). Create a Positive School Culture. ASCD, 54(9).

 

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Everyone Matters In The Jungle

There has been much debate and discussion about who really matters? Do black lives matter? Do blue lives matter? One of Aesop’s fables, the Lion and His Army, seeks to answer these questions.

In the jungle, there are a diverse group of animals. There are tigers, giraffes, elephants, monkeys, hares, donkeys and clever foxes. Fighting has occurred among two groups of animals. The lion, the leader of the army, is wise. To prepare for battle, he assigns tasks to the animals according to their skills and abilities. Despite being challenged, the lion gives tasks to everyone. The moral of the story is that no one is useless, everyone has a skill, everyone matters.

Educational leaders should embrace the lion’s leadership philosophy. They should build relationships with each staff member. When principals are caring and supportive they talk to every faculty member and get to know them personally. Therefore, they are able to assign tasks effectively. This is the true essence of leadership( Northouse, p.69)

Principals must be aware of their school’s culture. When conflict or fighting arises they must address the issue immediately. Like the lion, principals must be fair and dismiss any bias statements by faculty members. They must bring their faculty members together as a team. Everyone must feel that they are valued and supported.

Teachers, especially African American teachers in predominately white schools, want to be valued for their talents and skills.  As one teacher reported in an independent school survey,  ” the school is interested in my expertise in literature and that makes me feel valuable”( Kane & Orsini,2003).

Principals who adopt the the lion’s philosophy of being fair, assigning tasks, addressing faculty bias, building relationships and simply making everyone feel valued and supported are the most effective. They realize that everyone matters not only in the jungle, but in their schools as well.

References:

Northouse, P.G.(2015). Introduction to Leadership: Concepts and Practice. Washington, D.C: Sage Press.

Kane, P.R & Orsini, A. J ( Eds.) (2003). Colors of Excellence: Hiring and Keeping Teachers of Color in Independent Schools . New York:  Teachers College.

The Lion and His Army. Retrieved April 16,2017, from https: http://www.youtube.com

 

 

 

 

 

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The Selfie Generation Learns to Lead (or Not)

My four children who are now in their twenties and early thirties belong to the last generation who grew up without owning or being surrounded by cellphones until they were in late high school or even college. They, like the generations before them, did not spend hours in high school checking their social media to see who was having more fun than they were, and who might be having a party to which they were not invited.

Today’s children are growing up surrounded by people for whom cell phone (now Smartphone) use is a daily, or even hourly event: parents who document their children’s every move and development by taking and posting pictures online; teachers who send home to parents pictures of their offspring engaged in some fun/educational/ amazing activity; grandparents, who instead of actually watching the soccer game or the dance recital, are instead, staring through the lens of a smartphone or i-gadget to record the event.

This generation of children knows just how to pose for the photos or video recording. They can make cute fishy faces or stand with hand on hip in a pseudo sorority girl stance. They take for granted that they are often the center of attention. They are learning about their own importance, not in the way Mr. Rogers or a character on Sesame Street might have explained it, but instead in a way that could easily give them a falsely inflated sense of their own importance. Then, once these oft-photographed children get their own Smartphones (which is happening at a younger and younger age), they move on to documenting their own life by taking selfies and posting them online.

I worry about this current generation as they grow and develop into young adults. Are they being set up to think of themselves only as leaders, not followers? Ninety-one percent of teens have posted a selfie. Each of those may have hundreds of followers. If you have “followers,” then, by definition, you must be a leader. Right?

In Piece about millenials written for Slate magazine, James Rosebush writes,

“The Selfie phenomenon might have us becoming so mesmerized by our own images that we may actually think that we are our own leaders — our own individual startup enterprise — and that we don’t need to listen to anyone else for guidance, adhere to orders, or to ever be subordinate to anyone.”

Rosebush recounts a story of seeing a sign in Trader Joe’s which read “Leaders wanted.” What they actually wanted was stockers for the frozen fish department. In this world where every person in the center of his own universe who will be a follower? Who will want to help and support the true leaders. Leaders need followers and vice versa.

An article in Slate calls the selfie, when taken by a girl or woman, “A tiny burst of girl-pride.” But is it more self-absorbtion than self-esteem? When a person constantly puts herself front and center, something about her feeling of herself in the world changes.

When the focus is on the self there can be no common goals. When self comes first, self -confidence gives way to something that does not allow for an ethical and thoughtful group effort. Energy spent on promoting oneself, is energy not used in making the world a better place. Is the current generation of children being raised to see themselves as deserving to be always front and center, always the funniest, the best, the smartest…the Leader. If so, what do we do about that?

selfieReferences:

(2014, March 11). Why Companies Must Discourage ‘Selfies’ Retrieved April 13, 2017, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/85broads/2014/03/11/why-companies-must=discourage-selfies/

Rosebush, J. (2014, September 30). Why Selfies Are Degrading Leadership. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from http://www.businessinsider.com/millennials-selfies-and-leadership-2014-9

Simmons, R. (2013, November 20). In Defense of the Selfie as a Tiny Burst of Girl Pride. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/11/selfies_on_instagram_and_facebook_are_tiny_bursts_of_girl_pride.html

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“The Homework Ate My Family”

The above title is a quote from the video (shown above) produced by the Bookings Institute: Homework in America.  I came across the video while researching the impacts of homework.  As a parent, I hate homework.  It controls what we do every evening.  Everything depends on the amount of homework my children were assigned each night.  It causes my children to make sacrifices with their sleep and their own interest.  Most of the time I do not see the relevance of my children’s homework – it appears to be busy work. Technology and creativity are often lacking in the assignments.  As a teacher, I hate homework, as I think it contributes to the achievement gap.  Homework is completed outside of the school environment which is not controlled by the teacher and is different for every student.  Teachers assign homework thinking or hoping that every child goes home to a happy family with emotional and physical support.  That just isn’t true.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep is “food for the brain” and “skipping it can be harmful.”  The National Sleep Foundation recommends that teenagers get 8-10 hours of sleep per night.  Do teenagers have enough time to get the recommended amount of sleep?  If a teenager gets up at 6:30 am and requires an average of nine hours of sleep, the teenager needs to go to bed at 9:30 pm.  Teenagers who participate in sports or after school activities arrive at home just in time for dinner (6:30 pm in my house).  That leaves only two hours until bed time.  Should all of this time be spent doing homework?  Teenagers need time to relax, read a book, and enjoy life.

I often hear “Maybe they should give up volleyball or being in the youth symphony.”   I remind them that it isn’t a question of handling the rigor of homework, but finding the time to do it.  Teenagers already put in nearly eight hours at school, so why do they need to do overtime?  Are we required to do overtime at our jobs in order to be successful?  Do we do that overtime right before we go to bed or sacrifice sleep to succeed?

Etta Kralovec and Hohn Buell, co-authors of the book “The End of Homework:  How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning” and that “Educators should stop squeezing time out of family life for the questionable benefits of homework.”  In the article, End Homework Now, they explain the myths that surround homework and how families need time to teacher their children too.

Teachers across the nation are starting the trend of “no homework” and are in support of kids being kids.  In the article Down With Homework:  Teacher’s Viral Note Tells of Growing Attitude, Young, a second grade teacher, informs the parents of her homework policy.  In the note Young said, “After much research this summer, I am trying something new. I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success.  Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your children to bed early.”

Results from a survey done by the Today Show in 2014 showed that 75% of parents support a no homework policy.  The segment highlights some of the homework policies of schools across the nation.  While some school have switched to no homework, other schools have switched to no grading homework policies.  Most schools have done nothing, because it is a “contentious issue among parents.”

Not only does too much homework create less time for families, it could be making children ill.  In the article, Is Homework Making Your Child Sick?  Amanda Enayati states that “research shows that some students are doing more than three hours of homework a night – and that all that school work may be literally making them sick.”  Enayati discusses research that showed the correlation between excessive homework and physical health problems.   She also reported that the study indicated that “56% of the students in the study cited homework as a primary stressor in their lives.”

Is homework really necessary?  Is it worth out children’s health?  What is more important in the long run?

References:

[Brookings Institute]. (May 17, 2014). Homework in America:  The Homework Ate My Family. [Video File]. Retreived from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArKr1exR2rg.

Enayati, A. (2014, March 21). Is homework making your child sick? Retrieved April 12, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/21/health/homework-stress/

Kralovec, E., & Buell, J. (2001). End Homework Now. Educational Leadership, 39-42. Retrieved April 4, 2017, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/apr01/vol58/num07/End-Homework-Now.aspx

National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2017, from https://sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times

Pawlowski, A. (2014, September 08). How a “no-homework” policy is working for these schools. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from http://www.today.com/parents/schools-try-no-homework-policies-amid-complaints-about-overload-1D80128324

Slotkin, J. (2016, August 24). Down With Homework: Teacher’s Viral Note Tells Of Growing Attitude. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/08/24/491227557/down-with-homework-teachers-viral-note-tells-of-growing-attitude

Teens and Sleep. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2017, from https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/teens-and-sleep

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A New Standard of Service

If you would indulge me, I’d like to tell you a brief story.  In 2006, a high school student made a very poor decision (as teenagers often do) and decided to drive after she had been drinking.  It was New Year’s Eve and she had just left a party with friends when she ran a red light and hit another driver killing him instantly.  She walked away from this accident and has had to live with this terrible tragedy every since.  It wasn’t 24 hours before the local news outlets began blasting the story all over the print and media formats in Richmond.  The unfortunate side effect of this coverage, aside from the grief held by both families involved, was the dark cloud that settled over the school this young lady attended.  For months, there wasn’t a positive comment made about her school and the incident was attributed to the ‘type of student’ who attended this relatively new high school.  Fast forward 6 months and a forward thinking educator by the name of Kathleen Kern decided enough was enough.  She was sick of the negative cloud that hung over her place of employment that she decided to do something about it.  From this tragedy, grew a sense of purpose.  From this purpose grew a dedication to serve others.  A need to show the community what great kids attended this school emerged.  What followed over the next 11 years is an example of what service and transformational leadership is all about. The Deep Run Marathon Dance has become a way to not only give back to those less fortunate in and around central Virginia but it also became an avenue to teach young people the power of altruism.  www.marathondance.org

DRMD-904

As a secondary teacher, there is a lot of conversation about apathy and how it has become a commonly observed trait of young people.  Many teachers often talked about where this apathy started and how to we combat it in high school.  Analysis of a 2009 climate survey in Maryland for the target school revealed that 43% of the school’s total student body and 62% of the fifth graders scored in the “highly apathetic” range (Maryland State Department of Education, 2009).  One could argue that there are many contributing factors to this rise including but not limited to;  rise of high stakes testing, over exposure to technology (desensitization), and even drop in participation of extra curriculars. Many schools have put programs into place to try to alleviate the rise of this apathy like PBIS, anti-bullying programs, and more inclusive club options to try and engage more student involvement.

For Kathleen and the students of Deep Run, it was building the capacity to teach these young people how to utilize skills like collaboration, effective communication, long-term goal setting, problem solving, and the list goes on and on.  It was a chance to give these young people the autonomy to plan, organize, and implement an event that gave back to their community.   Many people in the Deep Run community congratulate Kathleen and she quickly corrects them and directs them to give those accolades to the student committee and the student dancers for their efforts. Her transformational leadership whereby a person engages with others and creates a connection that raises the level of motivation and morality in both the leader and the follower is evident through this event (Northouse, 2009).  To date, the Deep Run Marathon Dance has raised just shy of 2 million dollars for over 80 local non profits.

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Since 2007, thousands of young people who attended Deep Run have participated in this event and learned that in order to be a leader you must first learn to serve.  The best test is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? (Greenleaf, 1977). We can only hope that more building leaders see the longitudinal value in teaching young people the power of service.  The lasting impression this selfless approach has on the individual, the school, and the community will hopefully reverberate through society ultimately giving way to more kindness and a new educational standard for young people…serving others.

Timestamps for 2017 Closing Video

:00 – 4:51 –> Opening Skit   4:52 – 11:48 –> Beneficiaries Speak   11:49 – 16:12 –> Highlights

References:

Greenleaf, R.K. (1977). Servant Leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness.  New York: Paulist Press.

Northouse, P.G. (2013) Leadership: Theory and Practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks: SAGE

Maryland State Department of Education. (2007). Maryland school assessment technical report.  Retrieved. http://marylandpublicschools.org

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Princess Poppy’s Purpose: How movies can teach kids intrinsic motivation exists.

***Disclaimer: When your two and a half year old is sick the urge to give in to their every want is stronger than on any other day. This can lead to an understanding like no other of a children’s movie after an unbelievable amount of viewings.

Princess Poppy is a troll. Not in the ugly creature who lives under a bridge way, but in the extremely happy, dancing, singing and hugging fanatic kind of way. The community of trolls had been protected by her father many years ago from the dreaded Bergens, or so they thought. Bergens are miserable creatures who can only experience happiness when they devour an unsuspecting troll. One night after an extremely loud party to celebrate being freed from the Bergens for a full twenty years, tragedy struck. A Bergen who was trying to get back into the King Bergen’s good graces crashed the party and snatched several of Princess Poppy’s friends from the party. Princess Poppy went after the Bergen to try and get her friends back. She knew nothing outside of their small community of Trolls, only that she had to save her friends.

Despite the obstacles she faced, the largest one being she had no clue what she was doing nor did she have a plan for getting to her friends safely, Poppy remained positive. Her sidekick, Branch, was less than impressed with her preparation and planning for her trip. He was a No-No penguin (Kotter, 2005). Everything was doom and gloom for Branch, he was Poppy’s complete opposite in every way possible. His negativity and skepticism was at times the only thing keeping the two of them alive.

I won’t ruin the whole movie for you but I will tell you the part that you’ve probably already surmised by now which is the heroine of the story prevails and gets her friends home safely. Poor Princess Poppy had no clue what she was doing, she hit obstacle after obstacle and still accomplished her goals. But why? She had a purpose. Pink tells us that having a purpose that is higher than our own can create a sense of urgency and motivation (Pink, 2009). Princess Poppy’s mission was to save her friend’s lives. As the leader of her people her purpose was to protect them. Pink suggests that working in service of a cause that is bigger than ourselves is a motivator. Poppy’s actions were dictated by the need to affect change in someone else’s life in a big way. There was no reward for Princess Poppy, no carrots and no sticks, other than knowing that she was going to make a difference in the lives of others (Pink, 2009). Now while it wasn’t always cupcakes and rainbows for Princess Poppy she not only manages to save her friends, but also changes the way Branch sees life. Her positivity and determination show Branch that life doesn’t have to be void of adventure and happiness.

What is your purpose?

References:

Dreamworks: Trolls

Kotter, J. & Rathgeber, H. (2005). Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Condition. New York, New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

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