When you force me to choose- I fall decidedly into “Person of Color’

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I came across this article this morning on my way to 6 am yoga, ok no not like while I was driving but when I was in the parking lot trying to get up the courage to go inside, this is a daily occurrence at yoga.

I found this article and was immediate sucked in, it was like my soul mate the other half of my thoughts was living in Washington D.C teaching middle instead of Elementary school and had the wire right into my brain. I read every word and then took the brave move and shared it on facebook, now this is something that I normally reserve for cute videos of animals and occasionally  selfie of my new hair do, but never politically posts. . . I mean never. I am an avid facebook debate watcher. . but never a participator. But this spoke to me in a way that I cannot express.

Today is another day that you force me to choose which race I am and every time you make me choose I fall decidedly in Person of Color, I am a privileged person by any standard, not from the upper class but solidly privileged, I never had to worry about food at night, I was always feed, and had any opportunity that I wanted I played club volleyball at 2,000 dollars a year for 5 years. I graduated undergrad with zero school loan debt, and when I wanted to apply for a 30,000 dollar grad program my mom said, “Ok we will make it work.” I fully understand my privilege.

But I am also half black and this is the part of me that people see, this is my first impression, the black girl, I will still be greeted with the “You are such a white black girl” and ” you are really well spoken, where are you from.”

I will still be looked at differently when I walk down the street in a predominantly black neighborhood, or a white one, whether I am alone or with my very very white bearded fiance.

So I am privileged and I am black, that is the race I am forced to choose, I am forced to check a box over and over to choose my race. And this decision has been made more and more important in light of recent events, I can feel the pain of my students, when they run to me, and only me, the only black teacher at their school to tell me that Johnny called them a Nigger and that is why he punched him and got suspended.

I cry at night for the boys that I know that are already understanding the systematic movement from a general education classroom, because as a black male, the are more scary to their teachers when they get mad,

Because no matter how easy I had it growing up. People still view me as  a Black citizen, I am a statistic, my Black father walked out on us and left me with a single mother, I grew up in a town full of KKK members,I attended a good university and have move easily through life.

Some people want to attribute my failures to the color of my skin, but they also want to give my skin color my successes, I also got into that school because of affirmative action,  I only got that job because they needed to meet some arbitrary quota.

So if being black gets my successes and my failures, what do I get? I get to support the feelings of the rest of Black America,.

If this i the case I must choose being a Person of Color. And I must try and force all of the people around me to see the feelings the VALID feelings of this entire race of people. They cannot be swept under the rug, and turned into only a reason for violence. They cannot be labeled as Thugs and criminals for trying to express themselves in the only way that they know how, because they have been systematically taught that no one will hear them when they speak. They have not been taught the proper way to communicate, to debate, to speak on a politcal framework, because there is no one there to teach them, there are people there to shuttle them through 12 years to get them to the street or prison. To create a culture of Thugs.

So as an educated, privileged, BLACK women, I believe I have to, I have to say I choose you! And because someone taught me how to have these conversations because I was allotted these things from happen chance of birth, that I was born to a white single mom in a state where my color was subtly scoffed, and not openly punished. I have to take the time to stand up and say I hear you, at the very least I hear you!

Please Please Take the time to read the original article. she just wants you to listen. . . that is the very least you can do.

http://www.salon.com/2015/04/29/dear_white_facebook_friends_i_need_you_to_respect_what_black_america_is_feeling_right_now/

❤ Kelsi Rae

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An Open Letter to the Bad Kids. . .

This goes out to the student who sat down today and with a straight face told me, ” I am a bad kid.” When I asked why he thought that he told me that is what the assistant principle said. This comes after the assumption that this student took his Ipad home, because there was a picture of his mother on it, when in fact he was just smart enough to figure out how to Google his mothers name. Something the administration couldn’t figure out, when this fact was pointed out to them they refused to apologize to him, 10 year olds don’t deserve apologizes do they?

This goes out to you. . . because someone has to tell you

I want you to know that you are smart, and funny, and most likely way to witty and creative for people to handle. That you are an outlier not because you are bad but because they can’t hold you down, you do not assimilate to the classroom culture and you shouldn’t let that discourage you. Keep it up.

I want you to know that you can do the work in your classroom, that sometimes you just want to demonstrate the little power that you have in anyway that you can, While this may seem like a show of strength to you, by not doing your work you are only hurting yourself. Demonstrate your strength with your knowledge.

You need to know that compared to most of your suburban, educated, mostly white teachers you are a foreign entity. The stories you tell about the life you have to live outside of school probably astounds them. No matter how many classes you take on being culturally responsive, when you watch a 10 year old take care of his little brother and sister day after day, walk them to class, make sure that they get picked up. When you hear the stories about the 6 extra people living in your apartment it is hard to handle, and some people handle it better than others. Some people see your potential your grit, and resiliency that you show just for showing up at school each day and producing some work. Some people see how these skills will make you more marketable in the work force, some people will hone these skills with you and teach you how to regulate all of the many emotions coursing through your brain at anytime.

But some people will see a problem to be fixed, they will see a situation that must be diminished and overcome. They will see you as a deficit already, at 10 years old they will wash away all of your potential. And because of that they will write you off, they will call you a bad kid and keep a running record of your grievances in their mind. They will let your get away with not doing the work, not because they care about your situation, but because they think that is all you can do.

Accept this challenge! Rise to this occasion, to prove them wrong!

When those few teachers yell at you and sit you down one on one and make you do the work. When those teachers allow you to sit in their rooms for hours on end when you have been removed from another classroom. When you think that teacher couldn’t be any harder on you, just know it is out of love.

These are the teachers that know what you can do, they yell at you because it isn’t acceptable for you to not do the work they won’t accept anything less than the best from you, because to allow the circumstances outside of school to affect would be doing all of your amazing qualities a disservice. They are yelling and not taking your shit because they love you.

They know just when to give a little to not push to hard, but to still get the most work done.

My worst fear is that you will adopt that label of a “bad kid” as the truth. As I have already seen you doing as an amazing 10 year old. There is absolutely nothing inherently bad about you, sometimes you make bad choices, but someone has to teach you why they are bad, the choices you make are not you!

I want you to know that SI SE PUEDE! No matter what anyone, even yourself tells you. You can do this. You can overcome a system that was never designed to benefit you. but at its core, at the root of it was designed to keep you out of it. This system is yours, you are the future.

And the only thing Bad about you is how Bad Ass, you are going to make this world when you show everyone what you are made of.

❤ Kelsi Rae

The insights of my children.

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I have no children, or I have anywhere from 32-100 on any given day, just depending on your definition of “your child” If your definition falls in the you conceived this child and gave birth to them, or even adopted them into your family and you feed and cloth them on a daily basis, then I have a whopping 0 children. But if you define your children based on the number of children you nurture, care for, find yourself staying up all night thinking and praying for, hoping more for their future than for the grade they get on some standardize test, if your children are defined by the amount of love you hold for them and how much potential influence you have over their life, than I have upwards of 35 children or more. I happen to define my children based on the latter.

I see these children for 8 hours a day 5 days a week, caring for their social and academic well being, I find myself thinking of them on my nights and weekends, to the point I was at the zoo taking pictures of the snakes, which I hate, because I knew they would motivate one of my children. I see an opportunity to teach them in every moment of my day, even when they are not with me I am thinking of ways to incorporate things into our lessons. I wish that I had more than 8 hours with each of them so that I could learn the intricacies of their personality all of the things that get pushed aside during the academically driven day. And while I am not say that reading, writing, math, science and social studies are not important, they are but I want to truly know all of my children as well. And if that does not qualify my to feel just like 1/4 of a mother to all of my students, than I guess I am in the wrong profession, but I don’t think that is true.

But than something happens everyday my students teach me something, they teach me how to operate some form of technology, they teach me about the ways that social relationships in fourth grade have not changed that much in 15 years and who the stars of the new Five Nights at Freddy’s game is, ( For more on that see this post https://myhairenvy.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/what-can-you-teach-ms-magisano/)  But every once in a while, a student says something that makes me truly stop and think, how are you in fourth grade and why does our world make you so acutely aware of these things at such a young age.

Today was one of those days. One of my few Black boy students was getting into a disagreement with another student who happened to be Mexican, both boys told each other to Shut up and I stepped in to tell them that was not respectful language and we do not treat our classmates that way. The Black student looked me dead in the eye and said, ” I am just getting pay back for what he said to me.” So with this student in is often better to just give it to him straight, without the teacher mumbo jumbo surrounding it.

So I stated, ” Who is going to get in trouble if you get payback, you or him.”

Him: ” We both should get in trouble, but I will get sent to prison and he will go to school.”

** This is where the conversation took a serious turn I was stunned jaw hanging open when this occurred**

He continued to state that he would go to jail, but when he got out he would find the other student and wack him ( I do believe he meant I will hit him, he is not in the 1960’s Italian mob telling me he is going to kill him)

We had an entire conversation around this, how he thought it was more likely he would get sent to prison while the other guy would get away with it. This comes after two separate instances with this student where a student has used racist language with him, he retaliated and he was sent to the principles office while the other student suffered no consequences. At one point the teachers on duty did not even know who the other student was, these racist statements were not seen in any way as a problem that merited a talking to with that child.

So yes this student is probably right, this comes from a student who is growing up in a world where Black Americans make up 30% of the population but they make up 60% of the incarcerated population. According to this article http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/07/18/chart-of-the-week-the-black-white-gap-in-incarceration-rates/

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my student as well as other Black men are 6 times more likely to be incarcerated in their lifetime than white males. Given these statistics are comparing White males and Black Males and no statistics in this particular study comparing Hispanic Americans’ from other work I have done the numbers would fall somewhere in the middle of the two.

But for me the sentiment is the same, why is my 4th grade student aware of these problems with our society, does he even realize he is voicing the concerns of many others much older than he is? probably not.

He probably feels like these things are isolated to this elementary school setting,

He probably has not even started to think outside of these walls that are supposed to be a safe and nurturing space for him, a space where all of his teachers claim him as a child, where they all feel like they are 1/4th of his Mother, and if that was the case these things would bother them as much as they do me, they would all be calling for a change in the system, a change from a system that systematically creates the school to prison pipeline for these students, that funnels them through till they are 18 and they can become a ward to the state, they would be outcrying to the district that has a 60% disproportionality rate of Black males in the emotional disability centers.

But that is not happening, instead I am having a much to mature conversation with my fourth grader, with one of my children who has way to much insight for his own good, trying to get him to see that this is not the way it has to be.

❤ Kelsi Rae

The Joy of Spring Break, teacher style

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Remember that feeling the last day of school before a break, whether it was Christmas break, spring break, Summer break, or even just a long weekend.. . the anticipation of not learning for an entire week, for some students it means a week of relaxation and video games at home, maybe you are at a day care for the week, and yet for other students it means a week of being home a lone and maybe not eating consistently because normally you eat two meals at school 5 days a week.

This has been the biggest shift that as a teacher instead of a student, my students are stressed out by spring break, several have begged to stay here with me at school, ( because clearly I stay at school all week, you know teachers do live in their classrooms), they have asked to come home with me for the week, and one student asked my teammate if he could crawl in her suitcase and head to Chicago with her.

Now the spring break I remember meant either being at my friends house most of the day or remaining quite as a mouse while I often played games by myself, I grew up with a single mother and she worked nights so day times were quite in our house while she slept. but I was always excited about breaks, I always knew I would have more than enough food to snack on endlessly I knew that my mom would always be happy to see me when I woke up, I cannot imagine the stress that my students feel around spring break. To be so young and have to worry about such large things breaks my heart, If I could load you up with a suitcase full of food for the week I would!!

Now back to that anticipation and excitement you used to feel around a break from school, now imagine that now, imagine you were getting a week long break from work built into your year, no vacation days used no consequences  for not showing up, just a week where the entire company took a break, that feeling is infinetly better than the feeling as a child.

This year with grad school and teaching I was not sure I was going to make it to Spring Break, this week has been a major trial to get through, the students are in rare form, either because they are stressed about the break or excited, or a mixture of the two.

But here i am just counting down the hours until I don’t have to teach another thing for 9 days, no more instruction of the LEAP indicators, no more grading papers, I get to relax and then it is the last big push till summer which is full of testing, testing and more testing, so really your final push for instruction is over and now we have to get to Summer, just get to summer!

Hello March, please be damn beautiful!

February has been especially hellish for me! Denver has had record breaking snowfall and I hate the cold! I have been finishing the third quarter of my grad program and it seems to be especially terrible! Last week I had 4 papers due in 4 days. It is also hiring season for the public schools for next year! Luckily I was able to get a job quickly but to add insult to injury from everything else now everyone else gets upset because they have not secured a job for next year yet! So please please God le March be beautiful!

It is March, which means my birthday is in 6 days, I will be 24 years old! What is exciting about 24? I can’t think of a damn thing, except that I have landed my dream job and that I am getting married! These all seem like very adult things to be excited about don’t they?

Well welcome to March, I decided to do a protective style for March, my hair has been whispering at me to big chop or mini big chop, and I just can’t get myself to do it so away the hair went. I went with box braids for this month! They are medium length I like them well enough I hope that will be able to keep them in until the beginning of April, I plan to take them down and reevaluate cutting my hair over spring break, which is the first week of April!

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I ended up cutting some of the length off of the ends because they were just too heavy, now they are choppy and uneven and I think I like it even better that way.

Yesterday, one of my students was having a rough day with behavior! By rough I mean I had to pick him up from the office for group time, he was crying and had apparently pushed another student. This particular student happens to just own my heart! He is one of the 5 black boys at are school and he is one of the 3 that are continually fighting off the Affective Needs center ( which serves students with severe emotional disabilities) There is a high disproportionally to the number of black boys in these programs and I am doing everything I can to make sure this student is not wrongly labeled.

So yesterday he enters my group and asks to look up George Washington, Beethoven, Mozart, Abraham Lincoln and finally George Washington Carver. Now the first 4 I could understand, all fairly well known names in history. But George Washington Carver stumped me. why did my 3rd grade student even know his name, let alone want to look him up. So together we started dong some research, and we cam across this image

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Where there is no vision there is no hope. Now this was a big statement for this student, but we broke it down into student friendly language. We made a deal that whenever he was having a rough day, he would remember to look towards the future, have vision for himself, and that would bring him hope to change whatever is happening. I printed out the image and hung it above my desk. Whenever he is having a hard time he can come in and remember to have hope!

We had to check back in with the principle after group, when she asked him how he was going to turn around his day he turned to her and said, “No Vision, No Hope.”

I don’t think I have ever been more proud!

This is why he owns my heart.

So I had to remind myself, that even though February has been especially hellish, March is here, and spring is coming! I have to look to Mr. Carver and remember. “No Vision, No Hope.”

❤ Kelsi Rae

Dreams and Debt

Dreams

Do you have a dream job?

I don’t mean like I want to be a famous actress or a Kardashian ( is that really a job even?) But a job in your field that you could potentially actually obtain. Maybe the job that inspired you in the first place, the job that when you think of yourself, doing what you do, that is where you are doing it? (Does that even make sense) Well I hope everyone has a dream job, even if it seems impossible right now or far off from where you are in your career, but it is attainable. I believe that everyone needs to have positive mental imagery in order to keep moving forward in your personal and professional life.

Well I have a dream job, and my dream job i dangling right in front of me, I am a finalist in the interview process and I do my teaching demo next week ( the final step in the hiring process in my district) I worked in this school as an assistant teacher before I entered my masters program, I have been removed from the school in order to fulfill the requirements for my residency year and now that that is coming to a close, I am back applying for lead teaching positions. The position that I have envisioned myself doing all year, the thing that kept me going when I was at my lowest with mild/moderate education. I was not feeling fulfilled, I didn’t think I was truly making a difference and was unsure if I would last the entire residency year in the placement I had been given. I thought of this job, I thought of what it would be like if by some miracle the teacher left and I could work with my team in my school with those students. I got through the residency and now here I am applying for jobs, when I get the call, that job the one I had been dreaming of, is opening up. . it could really be a possibility for next year.

There is just one catch. . .

As a part of my residency program we are offered full tuition reimbursement if we meet certain qualifications after we finish. . one of which is to work in Title One school in this specific district. . my dream job is not at a title 1 school., not even close. . But the program I would be teaching is still one of the hardest to staff positions in the district, working with the students with the highest academic and social needs, but I will still not qualify for reimbursement. . So here I am stuck in a pickle.

If I was single I would say, done I will take the job, I was lucky enough to only take out a few thousand in loans and the district still offers loan reimbursement so those would still get paid for, I would have to pay my Mom back for the help she gave me. . and my mom is way less scary and interest ridden than the federal government.

But I am not single. . or at least I won’t be officially by the time my next job starts in August, I will be a married a married woman with a family of two to think about. So the pickle gets worse. . .

I know that my fiancé will do whatever he can to get me my dreams, just like he knows that I would do for him. So it is not about permission it is about commitment and compromise. We have to look at our finances and make sure that this is something we can reasonably afford to do. That on top of the new higher rent we will be paying and his existing student loan debt we can take on another large amount of debt. I have done the math for my single income and I believe I could do it.

But is that what is best for my family? Will that be the way that we are the most fulfilled in life and able to begin saving for our long future together?  Is it completely selfish of me to put this on my new husband to burden him with this debt so that I can what, be in a school I know? What if there is another school that I will do just as well at? Is it ok for me to ask for something this big? As much as I want this job, I want a happy marriage more, I want a life that we can say we are both fulfilled and please with the decisions that we have made as a couple. I want us to be able to tackle whatever comes our way together, and I don’t want to start our relationship off with resentment.

I don’t know if that would happen, he loves me more than money I know, And he wants me to be happy but I am just so torn on what is best. We are supposed to sit down and talk about it soon.

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But is this what American higher education has come down too. .Dreams and Debt?

Do they have to go together, even with this debt I will have less school loan debt than most of my friends that only have undergraduate degrees? How is that just in a world where a higher degrees is becoming more and more necessary that this is what it comes down too

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Neutral is not Neutral.

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Neutral, that is a good place to be right? When I am neutral I cannot be held accountable, I am not saying anything one way or another. I firmly believe in nothing.

I can claim neutral for anything right? I am neutral about that girls jeans, I mean they don’t affect my life one way or another, I am neutral about the weather today, I can put on a lite jacket, I am neutral about the presidential debate, I mean my little voice isn’t going to make a difference anyway. I am neutral about the racial gaps in education, I mean I am making the difference in my scope of influence but I cannot change the entire world. . .I am neutral. .  no one can fault me for that right?

WRONG! 

Someone told me recently . . .

Neutral is not Neutral; prior to this explicit statement I had been proud of my many neutral stances.

I had often shied away from an uncomfortable conversation or political stance in order to remain in the neutral group. This group could not be held accountable for the actions of the extremes right? This statement and discussion following truly made me see that a neutral stance does not separate me from the issue. Many times since this began I have found myself leaning into the uncomfortable conversations

I have found myself being the one to bring up the,” That could have sounded racist conversations,’ with friends. I have found myself, blogging about the challenges that are faced in urban schools; digging into how uncomfortable it is, becoming strongly not neutral.

The farther I find myself from neutral the more I find myself wanting to engage people in these discussions, find a way to make other educators other people see that none of us our neutral and that we cannot remain neutral if we want all of our students and children to succeed.

Part of this pull has made me realize that if you are neutral you are truly promoting the majority. Your neutrality does not affect the majority but the minority will see if as a strike of offense. If you do not stand up for something then you automatically say that you agree with the status quo.

This hit me with the #BlackLivesMatter campaign. If you sit back and say nothing, the majority does not care that you essentially don’t care about Black lives, because hell. . neither do they.

But those people standing up, fighting for equality for people of all races, they see your neutrality as equally offensive as the active participants against them, If you stand by and watch these people be abused and oppressed you are oppressing them, by not taking a stance. Nothing is neutral, you are not Switzerland, you cannot stay out of the uncomfortable places without making a statement.

If you simply stand by, you are not showing people that you are neutral, you are showing them that you are either not strong enough to take a stand or that you agree with the majority.

So find something that you believe in. . anything really and take a stand!

Push into the discomfort, it will make the world a better place!

❤ Kelsi Rae

What can you teach Ms. Magisano?

This quarter I have been taking a culturally responsive pedagogy class, we talk a lot about the racial and economic achievement gap that is widespread throughout this country. We discuss growth mindset, and things like the school to prison pipeline. Over all this class talks about a lot of things that I would hope new educators coming into the field especially in urban settings would see as common sense, things like . . believing all my students can succeed, and identifying the value in having a multicultural classroom, engaging families of students from different backgrounds. And a big one is ensuring that you are nurturing the whole child it is true that sometimes my students come to school hungry, or unclean, they come to school off of four busses to get here, after waking up at 4 am to get their little sister ready for school. Sometimes it is true that one of my fourth grade boys is in charge of his household when his mom is at work until 10pm, he walks his 3 little siblings to and from school makes sure they get fed and to bed before taking care of any homework, , and we wonder why the homework doesn’t get done.IMG_0735

But most importantly, more important than all of these things combined, more important than all of the obstacles that face these children everyday are the things that these students can teach me.

They have so much knowledge that I just try to soak up, everyday I can learn something new from them and that is what gives me the fire to teach them as much academic knowledge as I can, so that they can go out into the world fully prepared to teach everyone what they know.

So this week I had my students do a project to tell me exactly this, what do they think they can teach me?

I know all of the wonderful things that they teach me everyday, I know that when they wanted to do their project in Spanish I learned just as much that day as they did. I know that when they are light up to tell me about the different ways they are so caring towards each other, the ways they show compassion and empathy, I learn a little bit more about the human race each time.

But what do they think they can teach me? Is it about their joy, their culture or family, do they realize I cannot speak Spanish as well as they do and I would love to learn? Do they know that I am an only child so understanding how to interact with siblings is something I have never had to learn?

So I gave them an open forum to tell me, they were able to write “What can I teach Ms.Magisano?” Color and decorate it and we are going to make a collage of all of the things that my children know. I believe that so many times teachers come into school believing this is a one way street, they do the teaching and the students do the learning, and so students get that feeling too. . . I want them to know that this is a two way street, we are working together in this journey.

Here are just a few oIMG_0737f their answers. ..

IMG_0735 IMG_0736 They did not think of any of these wonderful things that I cherish so much. But seeing how they think, they things that they value is equally as telling. I am a literacy teacher, so many of the responses were that they could help me with math. Lets be real, they probably could. And then there were some banks of knowledge I never would have guessed, I learned about the Freedom Tower in New  York, I learned how to change to oil on a motorcycle, from a 5th grader, Nice! And I learned some fun things too, like that Jupiter has it’s own rings and that I could use help with my hair braiding! It was one of my favorite experiences so far and I can not wait to see what else I learn this year and every year to come.

Take the time to listen to children, so often they are absorbing all of our knowledge sometimes we should simply sit back and let them teach us something, the world will one day be in their hands and it is amazing how much they already know about it.

Dear White People. . . A review through the eyes of the hair obsessed

So when I saw the trailer for the movie Dear White People I was excited,  I couldn’t wait to see this “complex” black movie that had more substance to the characters than a Tyler Perry movie. Something that looked at the relations of twenty something whites and blacks. So when it came out I drug my white boyfriend along and said, come on it will be funny you will like it. Thinking to myself, shit you might hate this but this movie is for me.

So as a self proclaimed hair obsessed I watched the evolution of the four main characters hair throughout the film, and noticed some interesting trends, so lets look at those four main characters.

Sam- the mixed girl that becomes the face of the black power movement at her college through her Dear White People radio show. They make sure that you know that she is conflicted about where she fits in, is she too light skinned to run this movement, does the term Redbone offend her? You bet it does.  So she rocks every updo you can think of. She makes sure that you can tell her hair is natural throughout the entire movie. But you know being a mixed girl her hair might not be as curly as some so she doesn’t go and rock the full on fro, and you never see her hair down until. .. enter the white guy she is seeing on the side. Of course none of her black movement friends know about this.  It is not until she accepts her ” malato” ( as her white man calls her) ways and steps out of the spotlight to do what she loves that we see her beautiful hair out of it’s updo. When she embraces this “true self” of hers she then wears her hair down, and of course walks off into the sunset holding the hand of said white guy.

Leroy- Oh ya you have to throw a gay guy into the mix to make it complicated right? So Leroy the black guy that never fit in with anyone in high school, felt more discriminated against by the black students than the white students. Case and point someone in the movie tells him that ” you are only technically black” he has no home at the school. And is rocking a huge, unkept afro. He slowly meanders his way through all of the houses on campus and ends up back at the traditionally black house, he then finds himself at the most racist party and finds his place in the community. Is surrounded by his fellow black students and oh ya, gets a fresh cut. Now that he doesn’t have to hide behind that fro right, no need for that stereotype anymore. No way he could have just liked it.

CoCo- Oh CoCo, she is probably the one I am supposed to identify with, right, this girl that doesn’t feel strongly about black/white relations. Doesn’t come into college wanting to change the world. And maybe even wants to be white a little to much. And yet here I am writing a very racially fueled blog, guess I don’t fit into one of these pretty boxes, or maybe I am just more like Sam. But CoCo she is the only girl prominent in the movie that has a weave, or straight hair for that matter. You know, if you care about your race you are clearly a natural girl. Because how you choose to style your hair completely defines your stance on political issues. CoCo ends up dressed up at the “black party” in a white wig, and her line that stuck out to me, ” They don’t give a damn about no Harriet Tubman, they buy Jay-Z tickets. . . because they want to be us and for one night they got to be.”

Troy- Troy the son of the dean of students who has had a grudge with the white president of the school since forever. Troy that dated the presidents daughter because his dad wanted him too. Troy that became just a little bit “blacker” when he was around the white students so that they thought he was the cool guy, but was very “put together” around his fellow black students so that they would respect him or something. He made it clear to everyone that he did fresh cuts, he made it clear that his hair was important to him, important to keep short and clean. But of course gotta keep those waves in it, unkept nappy hair just wont do. Until he begins to stand up to his daddy and embrace himself, then it is a sideways cap and shaggy hair.

It is amazing to me the things I can see through the lenses of hair. And it is not that I have a problem with any of these characters I identify with a piece of all of them. But that is just it, a piece. Making this complex black movie still tried to put all of the pieces of a culture that has changed and evolved into pretty little boxes that are easy to identify. Sam wrote a book in this move that lets people take quizzes and identifies them as, oofta, nose-job, or 100. These boxes in themselves are a problem, what no one can ever try to succeed in a certain way without being an oofta, I can’t love my white boyfriend without being a nosejob?  I have made it a point in my life to stay clear of debates like this one, and here I am. . . so maybe I am more like one of these 4 characters than I want to believe. But here I am and that is not going to change.

If you loved this move that is great, I do not want a debate out of this . . this is just what the hair told me.

Yours truly

The Hair obsessed

Trials of the Hair obsessed. . . You don’t want me here because of my color. . .

Sorry for the double non-hair entries in a row, but this is something that I cannot keep in.

As stated in the last Trials of the Hair Obsessed, I am in a residency year to get my masters in special education.  I am doing this residency in a low income school that serves just over 700 students, last school year, 664 of these students identified as Hispanic, 58 identified as White, and 11 identified as African American. Ok so what do these numbers actually mean, it means that my school is over 50% spanish speaking and has continued bilingual education through 5th grade. It also means that Black students are still hugely the minority, and this makes an impact for our black males especially.

This year I am watching first hand as two of the sweetest, challenging but sweet boys get stuck in the “angry black man” label before the age of 12, they have been suspended multiple times in the last two weeks between the two of them. And talks of moving them into the center for emotional disabilities run wild. A center that is largely used for this purpose, to house “angry black men” to get them through high school, when the public education system no longer has to deal with them.

Today in my reading group one of these boys, who both are admittedly not perfect children by any means and have behavior issues that must be addressed. But one of these boys got in trouble for not listening and choosing to distract others by calling out and singing and dancing, I was having a conversation with this boy after group and it went something like this

Student throws clipboard at me across the hall ( his clipboard is part of a behavior incentive program)

” I am not coming to group tomorrow”

Me” I hope that you do, when you make good choices you learn and you are such a good student, I would miss you if you weren’t in my group.”

” You are lying, you don’t want me here, don’t want me ___( School name) cause of my color”

Me: ( Almost in tears) ” That is not true, I want you here, I believe in you and want you to succeed.”

Even at the end of this conversation I don’t think he believed me, he is maybe 9 years old and he already has it engrained in his being that he is not wanted in the place that should make him feel safe because of the color of his skin. We do not live in a city that is often thought of as having even a strong history of racism but if a innocent 9 year old boy already has this deep feeling then clearly this needs to be something that is addressed.

I am not here to call for a complete overhaul of these institutions, I am asking for everyone to understand that this is still something that is living, something that is affecting our students and taking away possibilities that they don’t even know they have. I want everyone to take the time to think about what your actions are saying to these students.

Maybe this boy heard these things from his parents or outside places, but that in itself it also a problem, these perceptions and feelings have to be stopped. As a teacher I want to make all of my students feel that no matter if they are learning English, if they are from an affluent family, if they are white or black that I believe in them

I cannot change the circumstances of my students, and I cannot change the world  but I can control how I act and the things I do with these students. And I am going to strive everyday to make EVERY student I work with feel that someone cares about them, and that I believe in them. 

I don’t know of a better way to say it than to quote the help,

“You is kind, You is smart, You is important.” 

But I can never just leave it like that so as a teacher I must say

” You are kind, you are smart, you are important.”

Come to think of it, I think I will have that made into a poster for my classroom.

Thats all for now! I will do a hair 10 months post relaxer update next week.

❤ Kelsi Rae