language

The R-word.

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Disclaimer:  Racism, police brutality, and racial profiling are not always connected topics.  Each can be as dangerous with or without the others present.  This post is in reference to a particular book and specific incidences of the three intertwined.

 

“But here are the words that kept ricocheting around me all day:  Nobody says the words anymore, but somehow the violence still remains.  If I didn’t want the violence to remain, I had to do a hell of a lot more than just say the right things and not say the wrong things.”  Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely, All-American Boys

It’s easy to sit in my culturally diverse suburb, and teach at my 40/40/10/10 school, and feel like a well-adjusted, culturally blended, superior-minded adult.  I, thankfully, grew up in a home that didn’t judge based on things the eye could discern.  And I sit in my house as I write this with my sweet black widow neighbor to the left, an Asian family across the street, a black couple next to them, and a multi-generational Hispanic family to my right.  AHHhhhh, what a lovely world it is that the pot is finally melting us all together!

But what about when the news stories hit.  What about when another case of police brutality involving an unarmed black man, or child, tops the headlines.

What then?  Oh, we don’t riot or vandalize each other’s lawns.  But our neighborhood quietly, politely starts to show lines of division.  Helen next door solemnly dons her “Justice for Michael Brown” shirt, while Dan down the street quietly applies a “Back the Blue” bumper sticker to his new truck.  Helen probably feels like the police are the new KKK, and Dan down the street can probably quote you all the times police have shot unarmed white men who don’t make the news.  And the family of the cop around the corner probably looks over their shoulder a little more for a while.  But neither will engage the other in any sort of debate.  Neither will call the other foul names.  Because nobody’s racist anymore.  Right?

I just finished reading All-American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, and I’m not sure why this isn’t required reading.  Right. Now. (For the record, I hate required reading…but hear me out…I’m making a point.)  Probably for the same reason the teacher in the book was discouraged (by administration) from continuing The Invisible Man after a student at their school was beaten by a security guard.  It’s too much.  It gets students all fired up.  Last year in the classroom across from me, an actual fight broke out after an essay about police brutality was assigned.  Oh, people talk about it all the time in one-sided discussions with like-minded friends.  But it’s no wonder people avoid the topic in mixed company.

For people like me, the “Oh I can see both sides and I know people on both sides so I’ll just stay quiet unless someone asks and then I’ll make it clear I see both sides” people, there is a lesson in a quote that expresses what has been tried and tested throughout history, through religious persecution, the civil rights and women’s rights movements, in times of war, and certainly amid the horrors of genocide:  IF YOU ARE NEUTRAL IN SITUATIONS OF INJUSTICE, YOU HAVE CHOSEN THE SIDE OF THE OPPRESSOR. – Desmond Tutu.  So, in essence, “seeing both sides” is the same thing as not standing for either, including the one you think is right.

Just as there are non-violent ways for police to apprehend innocent-until-proven-guilty-subjects and place the alleged crime in the hands of our multi-cultural justice system, there are ways to go about reading books like this one and discussing these topics with young people in a non-provoking way that promotes unity and affects change.

Just like this book.  Two writers from two different sides of American culture, who came together to write a book where the characters’ worlds were pretty well blended – much like the high school where I teach – but were fiercely divided in a time when headlines pit one against the other.  To them, and in the real world of 2017, being racist didn’t necessarily mean overtly hating other races…it meant subconsciously siding with your “own kind” regardless of the facts, or what is right.

And if you don’t think real old-fashioned racism still exists, ask yourself this:  Did your parents ever give you the speech?  The list of ways you have to behave if the cops stop you?  Never fight back.  Never talk back.  Keep your hands up.  Keep your mouth shut.  Just do what they ask you to do, and you’ll be fine (pp. 50, 289)…?  Just checking.

This chapter in American history has to end someday, right?  And it’s clear it’s not going to end with the older, scarred and divided generation. And it’s not going to end with or because of the polite generation I’m in.  It’s going to end with our kids.  Our students.  Our future.  They have to learn how to argue without fighting.  They have to learn how to disagree without hating.  They have to learn how to be different without excluding.

Because what if they don’t?

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ENFP -Why it’s fun/terrible being one

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One thing my boss learned about me in my final weeks at my job is that I’m a tightly-wound ball of loose, fun, colorful, frazzled yarn.  Or maybe I’m a loosely-braided ball of really hard, tough wire.  I don’t know…Who knows?!?!  She looked at me with great sympathy and said, “It must be really stressful being you – you’re a walking contradiction of OCD and ADD.”

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I was known as the free-spirit, the hippy, the rule-breaker, the “what box?” person in our office of 16.  So it seemed strange to her when I melted down in my office and busted out with the admission that my house was in disarray because of the reno, my treadmill was out of commission, and it made me feel like my whole life was falling apart.  Okay now that does sound dramatic.  However, I thrive on structure and schedules and to-do lists, yet I operate in un-structured spontaneous irreverent ways.  I finally realized that the lists and order are coping mechanisms I’ve developed to survive in the real world.

This got me thinking…Is there any part of me that is wholly and completely any one certain way?  (These things are probably not unique to ENFPs, and certainly not unique to me…just a little self-realization at 40, that’s all.)

Political views:  With regards to taxes, government-involvement, economic policy, domestic and global protection…completely Republican.  With regards to personal decisions …completely Democrat.  I realize this pretty much makes me a Libertarian, which pretty much makes me screwed.

Religious views:  My dad, grandfather, and uncle are/were Southern Baptist ministers.  I was raised in the church and am so thankful for it.  I like believing in the things the Bible teaches.  I like the way I feel/am/behave when I leave church.  I think a lot of the world’s problems would be solved if more people knew and followed Jesus.  I don’t believe everyone else has got it all wrong and are doomed to hell.  I don’t believe science had no part in this.  I don’t believe we should look any differently at people who don’t believe like we do.  I don’t believe what Christianity is taught to be, in most cases, was what was intended. And even if I’m still afraid to be so brash as to claim that any parts of the Bible are wrong, humans are.  All the time.  And we’re the ones trying to read/teach/impose it.  Language and metaphors and translations and interpretations are real actual things.  Jenn Hatmaker says it best in her book, For the Love…”If it isn’t also true for a poor, single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.”  Fact check, mic drop.

Career:  I need someone to tell me exactly what to do, and then I want to do it completely differently and them not get mad.  Good thing I’m going to be a teacher again.

Homosexuality:  If you’re going to use the Bible for reference to claim something as a sin, you have to use the same Bible as your reference that God created everyone in His image.  Never met a gay person who was faking it.  Never met a gay person who hadn’t tried to be straight.  I have lots of friends who are gay.  Some of them are the very best at showing God’s love – why should I care who they show it to?

Gun control:  Guns should be controlled, but if I want one, please sell me one.  I don’t care about privacy when it comes to this topic.  I believe in lots of regulations here.  But I think the sudden surge in taboo-izing guns is part of the problem.  I want to be the one to decide who gets to buy guns and who doesn’t.  I think that might help.

Marriage/Family/Divorce:  Going to have to make this one a separate post.  Stay tuned.

Parenting:  I want to give them tons of structure, bedtimes, schedules, rules to follow, expectations to meet, with tons of independence, freedom, and self-expression.

Media:  I hate the media.  100% completely.  There!!!…I found something without a “but”.

**The Myers-Briggs Personality test categorizes ENFPs (Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perception…also known as Campaigners, Champions, Idealists) as constantly contradicting themselves because they genuinely see multiple sides to most situations.  Sorry not sorry.

Quixotic (ABC Challenge)

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Full Definition of quixotic

1 :  foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals; especially :  marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action

This is me.  In a nutshell.  Emphasis on “nuts”.  Actually, maybe it’s a Nut’s Hell…hmmmmm…?

I have two things to say about this word – this word that I didn’t know until our band’s leader and songwriter wrote a song with the line, “So quixotically we press on toward the sunset” in a song called “Eden for Our Time”.  It’s stuck in my head, and since I’m trying to quickly catch up to where I should be in the alphabet by now, I’m going with it.

1st – I don’t care if the words “foolishly”, “impractical”, and “rash” are used to describe this trait, I like it.  I don’t want to change that part of who I am.  What I can and should change is the reaction I tend to have when my “lofty romantic ideas” don’t pan out.  I mean, it is kinda why I’m leaving my current job and going back into the classroom (aka, Angie-land), but I think leaving is better than getting upset (which is still the feeling I’m having every day that I’m finishing out current job).  Can I have these two things simultaneously?  Can I be a dreamer and a visionary and still learn to not get upset when the rest of the world doesn’t follow?

2nd – I need to learn more words.  I love words, and I love writing, yet I’m not particularly adept in the area of colossal superfluous colloquies…and I wish I was.  (I have to use the word “somnambulating” in a song on our upcoming album, and I had to ask what it meant AND how to say it…ugh.)

Cheers to Jack:

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The Academy for Inappropriate Reading Levels and Writing Topics

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Pardon my rant and my break from this blog’s purpose, but maybe – if you read all the way to the end – you’ll make a connection like I did.

If anyone knows if such a school exists, please let me know so I can send a resume.  I want to work there, I want to send my children there (re-send the oldest one), and I want to watch the students blow the kids from Appropriate school districts out of the water on all things related to Life.

Who wouldn’t love for their child to be immersed in a culture- and vocabulary-rich novel, and watch them Skype with students from other states and countries so they could discuss the different ways to view the character and the problem from other points of view, and hear them discuss with their friends how a book and an author helped shape them into the person that they always knew they needed to be…?

Oh, sorry.  You can’t.  The title has the word “ass” in it.  Throw it out and ban it from any future conversations.  But continue on with your television, commercials, movies, and video games where violence and murder are the vehicle for entertainment at the touch of a button.

I’ve recently downloaded the podcast “This American Life” on my phone and I listen to it in the car constantly now – I kinda short-circuit if a call comes through or I reach my destination because I have to put the stories on hold temporarily.  It is a series of collections of short-stories, read by their authors…it’s SO great in so many ways.  I just finished #379 Return to the Scene of the Crime, and I can’t help but think of my junior high students and the writing experiences that could come out of it if only the language was more appropriate.

Apparently the kids at one local Appropriate middle school had been reading “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” but just had it ripped out of their tightly gripping hands because it was deemed “not an appropriate reading level for Advanced 6th grade students”.

I’m tiring of the word “appropriate” these days.

I went to a writing conference this past Tuesday and learned more, internalized more, and have done more with what I got from the presenter than EVER before in 17 years of being in this profession and going to conferences (zzzzz).  One word to describe this presenter?….Mildly inappropriate.  (okay, two.)  And he worked magic.

The students at The Academy for Inappropriate Reading Levels and Writing Topics really learn stuff.  I can only assume that their understanding of deeper and greater things and their desire to take risks and communicate significant (and insignificant) things in clever and crafty ways might outweigh the severe emotional damage done by hearing the word “ass” or learning compassion through children who knew no prejudices during the Holocaust when they’re 12 instead of 13.

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NEW THOUGHT, RELATED TO OLD THOUGHT

Maybe this is what’s happening to me:  I subconsciously know I’m going to make an exit from this job one day, sooner rather than later.  I always thought I wanted to have a school named after me.  Still not an unpleasant thought, and still not out of the question if I start my own school one day.  But it’s a long-shot, and I don’t even know who the people are who our schools are named for, nor what they did to get it there.  MAYbe, I want to go down in a blaze of glory.  On my way out the door, I want to shake this place up, poke the bear, stir the pot – pick your idiom – so much that this district will never be the same, and there will be folk-tales whispered about me in Language Arts classrooms when their doors are shut.  That would be much more my style.

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