Category Archives: Trends

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!

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,

Get ’em Started…Right

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I never really ate school lunch. Sure, I remember the compact little tin foil dishes and the line of kids in elementary school queued up for sustenance. But it was never me. I came up during the era when Lunchables were first introduced, and between those and whatever lunch goodies our regular weekend grocery trips yielded, I was covered. Even in high school, school lunch was a RARE occurrence. Sure, our open campus policy helped contribute to that, but even when I did hit the lunch line I kept it simple: tater tots and grilled cheese sandwiches.

I was not, then, very conscious about what form my nourishment took, so it never dawned on me that there was a bit of self-preservation at work. After coming across this blog though, mine eyes have been open(th).

The site validates my obsession with packing my baby’s lunch/snacks and milk everyday for daycare. And if that is what she’ll be looking forward to in a few years, I most certainly will be doing it when she hits elementary school too!o

The blog, written by an Illinois teacher highlights her “adventures” eating school lunch everyday and blogging about it–and it’s not a good look! The blog is interesting though (read the American Teacher in Japan post…I’m trying to send my child to school there!) No offense to my teacher friends, but you know I want to my child to attend high school in another country anyway and your stories don’t go a long way to sell the American public school system. Some of the charter schools and magnet programs yes, but public education overall? Not so much.

With my baby, I don’t get absolutely everything organic and you don’t need too. Foods like bananas don’t usually have high pesticide residue, but apple, grapes, potatoes, thin-skinned fruits and greens (kale, spinach, etc.) do. Focus on those. There’s a list “The Dirty Dozen” that has the produce that is the dirtiest/most contaminated with pesticide residues, etc.

Produce is one thing that I may be flexible with, but I don’t even want to LOOK at non-organic animal products. Milk, meat, yogurt and I’ve been on the prowl for cheese (which a friend found recently. Yay!), whatever I can find that is wholesome and good and not loaded with unnecessary preservatives and sugar (stay AWAY from high fructose corn syrup, and it’s in just about EVERYTHING! I just read that it was in my beloved Wheat Thins a couple of weeks ago and I’m hesitant to even read the whole grain Ritz ingredients! We’ll have to find a new snack.)

It’s not just food though. It’s a lifestyle change we’ve been working on to just live better overall. Dr. Oz said (yes, I’m quoting Dr. Oz), that we’ll either pay for it now (yes, organic does cost more) or pay for it later by way of increased health-care costs, declining health and lower quality of life.

Most of the things I buy are available at Super Target, WalMart, Publix and Kroger. And if you PLAN you can find sales and use coupons: Kroger had Horizon milk boxes (organic milk that doesn’t require refrigeration. It’s all an interesting process-heated at extreme temps to pasteurized then packaged and sealed, making it shelf stable…(check this link for more details) on sale recently, 10/$10. I tried them with my child and they were highly convenient and good for her. And though we moved to almond milk almost five, six months ago, I would still use the milk boxes for travel and in a crunch.

Need more examples of the practicality of living better? I went to get charcoal for from Publix. As a joke, and a way to discourage the menfolk from asking me to pick up extra stuff from the store, especially since this was the third pass, I got the Publix Greenwise (organic) brand all natural wood charcoal. But the joke ended up being on me–not only was the BIG bag of that charcoal CHEAPER than the Kingsford and other brands, but all of those die-hard grilling men LOVED that stuff and now don’t even want to use the other charcoal anymore!

One of the best tips I’ve ever received was to buy in season. It seems logical, but how many of you knew that shrimp isn’t a year-round food? I didn’t. It’s in season in the Summer (June-August!). That’s also when it will be the cheapest. And buy wild caught seafood, not FARMED. Farmed sound better, but it’s not. Check out www.sustainabletable.org/shop/eatseasonal, for what’s in season when and what’s in-season in your area.

There is a plethora of ways to make it work within your lifestyle. These ideas will get you started or one of my fav sites, The Daily Green.com has thousands of tips and the dirty dozen list is on there as well). It only take a little bit of effort and some of you have it easy (The City of Chicago PICKS UP recycling, I have to load the car and drop mine off or pay an extra monthly fee to have it picked up. It may sound easy, but when the closet drop station is only open during the week until 4 p.m. and closed on the weekends, not so much.

You decide what works for you-don’t flush the toilet every time after using it unless it’s really necessary. Don’t let the water run when you’re brushing your teeth. Wash your clothes in cold water (really, only linens and greasy/oily things need hot water). Use vinegar and baking soda to clean. Whatever it is, just do something.

Owning Up

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Nothing on here shocks me, since I knew about most of them. I am always surprised, however, at how we (read: black folks) respond, when we find out that what we thought were black products are not owned by us. Some of it is bad financial management, but I believe majority of it is a result of our lack of support of one another and our ventures.

I have never been a supporter of the idea of buying black simply for the sake of it being black. As I look around however, and increasingly see us losing more and more control over the images and ideas that uniquely represent us, I’m compelled to adjust my original stance. It is important for us to support each other, and yes, just for the sake of being black. It’s not a color thing. It’s a culture thing. We often gripe about the way other communities stick together, but it is because we have literally given up our power to influence industries to do otherwise.

Intellectuals griped about the quality of Tyler Perry’s plays when he begin to gain notoriety (I admit, I did too). But I also pitched and got him his first major national magazine coverage in an article back in 2004. I even go buy movie tickets to stuff I KNOW I don’t want to see, because I think the diversity in voices are important and necessary. I don’t dig “urban lit” in the base sense of the word, but if I have a platform to promote it I will, in most cases, because it is important to have ALL aspects of our experiences told.

You don’t have to be interested in EVERYTHING, but sometimes we have to step out of ourselves and realize that it really isn’t about us. There is a bigger picture here. Keep in mind that Tyler starting out on Chitlin’ circuit allowed him to start a cultural revolution, resulting in him being the ONLY black studio owner in the WORLD. Oprah didn’t even swing that.

Don’t complain about the circumstances if you have done nothing to change them—even if it is a decade later (shout out to my big sis for FINALLY discovering Lauryn Hill!).