My Volunteer Lens

Today  marks the 6th month of my working as an AmeriCorp Volunteer under the auspices of MN Reading Corps.  I was placed in a Robbinsdale Elementary School in Minnesota, where I have been tutoring Kindergarten – 3rd grade students to provie them with a little one-on-one reading assistance. My students are as diverse as the world we live in, I mean in every aspect of the word diverse. The definition of the word lends greater meaning to my usage of the word.

I have enjoyed teaching and learning so many different things about not only my students, but their teachers. The unique part of this is that I have 2 children who attend the school as well. I have grown to like the school I was already in love with even more, this love now spreads through out the entire district.

In my tutoring I have used the same skills I use on my children to assess where they are academically with the children I tutor daily. The only addition is the motherly instinct and love that is always within me. I adore children, their minds, the freedom with which they are able to express themselves without concern for preconcieved notions and judgements is a breath of fresh air to me, I also enjoy the same lack of judgement from them as I am trying to aid them at being better readers. I use materials that expand the mind. Generally we read about different countries and cultures from around the world. Many of those same cultures are amongst our staff and student body. I have enjoyed encouraging the children to think ahead of their current schooling. When I say schooling, mean career wise. Many of our children are not being motivated to think past their current situations or even Video games sadly. So as a part of my literacy tutoring, i have incorporated that as a means of motivation to reading and thinking of exciting careers and jobs they probably have never even heard of. Which is similar to what I do with my own children.

Too much is unknown to thos who are outside of the realm of public school education like Mrs. Betsy DeVos. People who have spent their lifetime in private sectors having the ideals that they know public school education and the schematics of funding etc, when infact they know absolutely nothing at all. I don’t mean to insult Mrs. DeVos or others like her I do challenge them to visit school district meetings and PTSO/PTA Meetings and hear the discussions amongst parents and administrators to fill in the blanks they are not aware they may be missing.

This year Robbinsdale Area schools is in the process of making many changes, among them are their Unified vision statement, which is currently “Excellence for all.” I have enjoyed watching the district apporach equity and inclusion to satisfy the state standards while now incorporating college and career readiness with our middle school students. Our children have enjoyed an annual civil rights tour where they visit various states with an agenda of educating them about the past. They have been referred to as “Freedom Fighters“as in an article about them by Alan Singer in a Huffington Post article. his article introduced an ideal which Robbinsdale district has regarding education. Children are learning about history and not his story. They are regularly educated about the lives of Christopher Columbus, George Washington, The battle of Little Bighorn from a different perspective and narrative. One that is less whitewashed than that which is dominant in the history books. This teaching seems to encourage the students to look more into a brighter future than the blique one the previous narrative suggested they take. Children of color and those who are of European descent are learning the same history together. As this change was not enough we now have the up coming changes to address the disparity of children of color being educated and encouraged to be career and college ready. Refreshing! As a woman raised in the city of Newark, NJ who had an outstandingly diverse learning experience. I am pleased to see the steps and strides for excellence and equity that are afforded to my children with and without my 2 cent contribution. Thank you Robbinsdale District Administrators and Staff. You are a wonderful group to work with and support.

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Generlization is too much!

A few days ago I came across an article which made it’s way to Facebook by way of New York Times. While the title was interesting, “Stop Beating Black Children,” by Stacey Patton. As I suspectd that the title was to catch attention of those who would normally bypass said post. I wanted to see what it was all about. While I am usually one to support many narratives about African American expereience that serve to educate others of our culture. This one seemed more negative and biased. It generalized and used skewed information to highlight a point that really was not totally factual. I was so surprised.(insert straight face emoji)

I am an African American woman…I was raised by my mother who is also African American and a former Marine. What this means is that my experience is my own. When I talk about who I am and how I got to be who I am I try very hard to do it in a nuetral fashion as possible (a lot of editing goes into what I write to maintain the netruality while telling my story). I digress …

While it is true that the discipline form of spanking in many ways that is perceived as a norm in the black community is a large part of what has been recognized as Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, it is not 100% due in part to slavery. Many other cultures embrace spanking from long before colonoialism. Africa’s form of corporal punshment made colonial “spanking” look like a literal slap on the wrist. It is more severe and handled swiftly and painfully. It also entails having other ways of correcting things such as taking away privleges which many seem to have forgotten are not compulsory needs for kids. I worked in the field of Foster Care at some point and while the abuse that children of color endure is greater in the inner city more than any other demographic, much of the abuse is not physical. The children do not end up in under the care and jurisdiction of DYFS (Division of Youth and Family Services) by accident due to “spanking.” Many of them end up there via their parents being addicted to drugs, alcohol, victims of abuse whom is not getting the assistance they need for their own issues while trying to raise children usually in a single parent household.

Many of those families whom she refers to that are engaged in said PTSS  “whuppins” and caught up in the CPS (Child Protective Services) DYFS (Divisivion of Youth and Family Services) systems are not black american middle class  families either. A large majority of them if not all are lower class, single parents, older siblings charged with the care of younger siblings before they have attained the wisdom necessary to raise a family successfully or otherwise.  Caught up in a system which is based more on color than absolute guilt. Please note the same happens to single families living within and under the same economic situations and education levels. However she makes her sole argument about Black American parents.  There are folks who engage in the “whuppins” out of frustration, anger and the like, but not every single one of them.

I grow weary of those who have been abused making excuses and broad generalizations and explanations about their abusers. Not every one handing out spankings as a form of discipline are abusing their children. That is the reason many can say “I turned out fine”. What is clear is that the level of spanking is based on culture, African American, African, White American and the like have broad levels from disciplinary to corporal punishment extreme. All based on individuals who dole it out. I would appreciate greatly if people would stop skewing facts and making African Americans look as though all we know is violence mixed with weak parenting, After all during the age of Slavery the nannies, wet nurses and folks charged withe responsibility of day care were black women (slaves who were beaten regulalrly by master) as they doted on master’s children by misteress and them. There is nothing weak about us or our past.

Not every person with ability to procreate is capable of being a good parent, which is to say honestly the ability to reproduce does not change young ladies into mothers like the knoweledge wisdom understanding and maturity one would have does. Many have been abused in the name of discipline and many have been saved by the same form. To condem what works for some and not all is partaking in fruit of the poisonous tree. Live and let live.