Category Archives: Culture

The hardest job…

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Cameron Diaz in Columbia Pictures’ film “Bad Teacher”.

“As in any profession, there are teachers who need to receive more training, work harder, and/or move to another job, but if most teachers are doing a pretty good job, then we should probably spend a little more time praising them, a little less time decrying the fate of the teaching profession, and refer to bad teachers as the exception rather than the rule.”

Education Policy Thoughts

I never really gave much thought to the quality of public education in our country because I never really had a reason to. I mean as a 20-something, my focus was self-centered and the happenings of the children (and to a larger extent community) around me was low on my priority list. Post-30, and 4 years into motherhood, and my perspective has radically changed. The education of my child, and by extension the children around her, is one of my highest priorities. I care about what type of education she will receive, but it is not just about her. Actually my interest in education piqued several years before joining the parenthood club, when we graduated college and many friends entered education as teachers. That interest swelled in later years as our “job talks” shifted from being about them being tolerant and optimistic about helping our young people just because they were the “Talented 10th” and wanted to pay it forward, to frustrated wine downs (emphasis on the wine) about lack of parent participation and in many cases interest, administrators who were out of touch with their employees, and pulling triple duty as teacher, parent, and child psychologist. Then those friends got married and began having children, who then entered the education system and my interest grew even more as they dished about balancing home lives, babies & toddlers with work demands, lack of sleep, and the like.

I thought parenting was hard, and yes it is, but I never imagined that teaching is probably a million times worse—for the good ones that is. And trust me, there are more good ones than not. Fact, in a recent study (2011) by TNPT, a national nonprofit committed to ending the injustice of educational inequality founded by teachers, only 1 percent of teachers are rated unsatisfactory, and 94 percent of principals agree that teachers in their school who are under-performing are rated as such. In short that means that a sweeping majority of teachers actually give a damn and put forth at least average to better effort to educate our youth. So what’s my point? This, a teacher friend, an almost 10-year veteran of a public school system in a non-unionized state is catching hell and I’m offended for them.
I am offended because this teacher I know misses her own children’s events for parent-teacher conferences and mandatory staff meetings. This teacher I know spends her own meager salary buying extra paper, folder, crayons, pencils, etc. for students who don’t have them because their parents can’t or don’t send them to school with supplies. This teacher I know, spends the time at her own children’s team practices grading papers, and stays up nights and weekends doing the same. This teacher I know spends the over-lauded “summer break” in development classes, grade meetings, planning lessons and setting up their classroom. In the decade they’ve taught, I’d say they get an average of one week—ONE WEEK—where they are not planning, grading, or otherwise doing something school/work related, and that’s being generous. It’s for those teachers, the good ones who stay late after school to help students who aren’t getting it, and swallow the comments of idiot administrators, who think it’s right to suggest they consider being stay-at-home-parents if the ever-increasing workload (which is often accompanied by an ever-shrinking salary) is too much for them to bear. Forget if you have a husband or a wife, and children of your own, your job comes first and everything else be damned. For all the good, committed, dedicated, non-unionized teachers who don’t have the muscle of a centralized organization and the persuasive influence of a strike threat to help protect reasonable job benefits I just want you to know that there is at least one (I know there are more out there) who gets it and sends her massive appreciation your way for all your that you do!

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I Cried…

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This morning as I was driving to drop my daughter and nephew off to school, traffic came to a stop in front of me and because the cars on both sides of the road paused, I was sure it was because of a school bus. But when I looked at the clock, I realized that it was too late for that, and saw the man in the car in front of me get out of his vehicle and approach what I now recognized as two young black boys—teenagers I’m guessing—fighting in the street. The black male driver got in between them and attempted to break them up, and then I heard the sirens and my first reaction was, “I hope they send a black cop.” And then I cried.

I cried for whatever they were fighting for in the first place. I cried because I felt like only a black cop could safely contain the situation. I cried because I even felt that way. I cried for all of the decent officers, of all cultures, races, and backgrounds, who get the blow-back every time one of them does something wrong. I just cried. And as the babies got excited by the sounds of the sirens, and exclaimed with joy over the first pair of lights popping into view, I cried even harder. I cried because it was a black cop who jumped out and calmed one boy, but then had to wrestle with the other who refused to be contained. I cried as another non-black officer arrived, skidded to a stop and hopped out to help his comrade slam and pen this boy to the ground, and still he struggled with them. I cried because the baby boy in the back, in his innocence excited by the sirens will very likely one day not be so excited to see or hear police lights and sirens. I cried because my baby girl had to ask what they were doing with that boy on the ground. I cried because as I inched past to continue my journey, the emotions of this week flooded me and I just couldn’t stop.

I couldn’t stop my heart for hurting for the family of Trayvon Martin and all of the circumstances that led up to his death. I thought of his family and the prayers I’ve muttered for them, for God to heal their places of hurt, and not allow them to get caught up in the wrong things, but that ultimately he’d give them wisdom on how he’d have them to proceed. I thought of George Zimmerman, and wondered even in light of his obvious culpability, what brought that man to this point and how does he feel right now. I thought of all the hateful comments and messages I’ve read about him, and most shockingly, about Trayvon, and thought how could people be so hateful when an innocent life has been taken.

I wondered how people could spin his murder into a political jump-off, arguing how liberals will use this to try to push through stricter gun control, or how conservatives don’t care about “us”, see how they let his killer walk free. I read hateful language and speech be tossed around message boards as casually as ‘Good Mornings”, and “How ya doings”. And I listened, watched, and read commentators, and “experts” volley about how the situation would’ve been different if the child, yes child, as 17 is still defined as by law, had been white and Zimmerman black. And it hit me, that wrapped up in emotional turmoil, our true colors always shine through.

I recent blog post suggested that this was different from other perceived injustices. That somehow Trayvon’s death has galvanized the community to long-overdue action, and proposed the question why? Why is his death the rallying point for so many? Sure, there was outrage over Amadou Diallo’s murder, but it felt nothing like this. Is it because Trayvon was a child? Is it because he was armed only with examples of the innocence childhood represents—candy and a drink? Is it because the shooter still has avoided police custody? Why him? Why now?

All things being related, we are in a dangerous place in our society. We have the luxury of sitting anonymously behind computer screens and inciting actions that can easily snowball beyond our control. From the obvious racial attacks on our (meaning the American) President, and the accompanying ignorance of those who perpetrate it, to the blatant disregard of due process in apprehending a person who should be the prime suspect in a homicide, and our educators showing a lack of common sense when dealing with students from varying backgrounds, the facade of years of forced and faux equality and justice in this nation is cracking and the flood of racist vitriol, heated actions, and non-unifying behavior threatens to drown the very spirit of freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness we hold so dear.

So I cried, and sometimes that’s alright.

Now That’s (Black) Entertainment!

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The BET Hip-Hop Awards went down in Atlanta this weekend. The city was surprisingly tame (no shoot outs, no arrests). Yes, it is unfortunate that those types of occurrences have become synonymous with these events, but I’m proud of my folks. Way to hold it down!

On a totally unrelated subject (but relevant to my obsession) @paulwalker47 is also in town with his Fast Five crew. They’ve been tweeting all about their exploits (apparently @Tyrese and @Ludacris are in it too!) I would say I’m on stalker duty, but I’m a professional! Still, Paul is quite lovely to look at (like really lovely…like if I saw him again and him smiled like he did and he conversed like he did, and touched my back in the familiar, friendly way he did, I just might embarrass my mother…It’s the eyes, they’re like ice blue or some craziness you don’t see ’round these parts.)

But I digress. Enjoy the pics of the show and make sure you tune in to support your fave Hip-Hop artists on Oct. 12 and tune in to @BET for the show. Special thanks to @Stefan78239 for the flixs and facts.

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PICS: Gangstarr’s DJ Premier, Rick Ross, Roscoe Dash, , Soulja Boy, Trey Songz, Twista, Wocka Flocka Flame, , Young Money, Baby, Digital Underground, Shock G, DJ Drama, Lloyd, Mickey Factz, Nelly, New Boyz,

The Others

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Dazed and (Be)Dazzled

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I am late. I know. The Twilight Saga has been a phenomenon for what, five years now? I get it. I’m LATE, but in the words of Celie, ‘I’m here! Thank God I’m here!’  And where I am, I’m actually a little pissed. As fan of most things mythical (I loved reading the Chronicles of Narnia, but only really could get into the first film; loved the LOTR triology and it sparked me to reread the The Hobbit (and then the others for the first time); Star Wars? Check! Harry Potter — read all the books pre-film and love the films!), I was strangely unmoved by the whole Twilight hype.

I don’t know if it was just lost on me, but as one who usually is right there in the midst of all things pop culture and teen/tween oriented, I’m usually the FIRST to jump on the bandwagon. That is when I realized this maturity thing was no joke! I just didn’t have time to really dive into understanding why Miley/Hannah was so popular. Or to keep up with a corny little dude named Aubrey Graham, a Nickelodeon star no less, who  would become the hottest hip-hop artist in the game! And I certainly didn’t even breathe a sigh of acknowledgment in the direction of Justin Beiber until my 1 year old just burst out with (what was to me) a random chorus of “Baby, Baby, Baby. OWWWWWWW!”

But this Twilight thing just wouldn’t go away. My friends were ribbing me about how they just knew Robert Pattinson had made my cute white boy list. And I was befuddled because I had no idea who the guy was. So I caved and rented the original Twilight film, and I was immediately pissed. As soon as the tortured Edward (who couldn’t hold a candle to Brad’s much more alluringly tortured Louie) stepped into the sun, I turned it off. Bedazzled vamps were the single most ridiculous thing in the world!

I justified my anger by reverting back to my understanding on why I’d shunned the hype in the first place—it clearly was not worth my attention. Then the book showed up at the house. I don’t know where it came from, or why I even picked it up, but I did and I WAS HOOKED! I was impressed with Stephanie Meyers’ prose. Though I blushed at the thought pf preteens and teenagers reading some of it, she takes a very responsible stance on premarital sex in the books. But still, it is beyond passionate, even sans the physical act.

I read all four books in one weekend and then rewatched the first movie (it still pisses me off the he’s all sparkly), but I did enjoy New Moon and can’t wait to catch Eclipse on DVD. I also determined that the real reason that the initial film upset me, was that the truncated screenplay didn’t effectively develop the depth of Edward and Bella’s obsession with one another, so it came across as ridiculous puppy love, and not the crazy illogical, passionate real love cum obsession that slowly unfolds in the book. It’s a film, yes I know, but New Moon did a far better job of developing that connection between Jacob and Bella than both of them together did for she and Edward.

The books did an excellent job of conveying all types of emotions the films didn’t, though I blame that more on the directors and actors more than anything. Only Taylor Lautner seems to fit his role, I just don’t get godlike, Adonis and unnervingly beautiful from Pattinson.

Eclipse is certainly probably my favorite book in the series (Breaking Dawn was…until I got to the anti-climatic end) and so I think will be my favorite movie. I will give the Breaking Dawn films the benefit of the doubt, since the author herself is listed as the producer and Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) is directing, but I’m wary.

This whole ordeal has strengthened my resolve to read the books BEFORE I see the films they inspire. Unless, of course, the movie was just so amazing or emotionally potent that I don’t think it would matter (as was the case with Brokeback Mountain).

Next on the book-to-film reading list: The Help, which is stars Cicely Tyson, Sissy Spacek, Viola Davis and Aunjunae Ellis and starts filming soon.