Friday, December 11, 2015

Achievement gap at infancy...What?!?

I used to want to teach kindergarten.  Since Little Miss TJ has entered my life, my interest in early childhood education has been reignited.

My husband and I trade child-rearing and educational articles for sport.  He sent me this article, and it has been circulating in my education social media feeds all day. It sent me over the edge in a way that I didn't expect. I think the title is what triggered me. It is rooted in deficit thinking and language.

I call BS on some of this article. I get the point of it and the intention, but I still call BS.

If you've been reading for a while, you know I can't get into achievement gap rhetoric in the first place.

Achievement gap in infancy? Get out of here.  What about honoring the knowledge that children bring with them to school, and what about addressing issues of longstanding social injustice? Time and time again, we've seen that when we (1) address social issues AND (2) equip parents with knowledge and skills, kids thrive. Folks always want to fixate on Step 2 and ignore Step 1.  I think that's why I'm so annoyed.

We're forcing too much inauthentic learning down kids' throats anyway. Who gives a damn if your baby can read? If they were meant to read, they'd have fully developed language. Besides, experts in early child education have said that PLAY is the best way to grow little minds.  You mean to tell me the little ones referenced in the article don't have imagination and know how to play? They have to learn how to do a lot with a little, and if that isn't imagination and innovation, I don't know what is.  There is a "gap" because people are putting too many academic rigors on babies and not addressing larger social and institutional forces at play. And while we're on gaps, lets talk about opportunity and exposure gaps instead of achievement gaps that put the problem on the shoulders of kids.

Here's the thing, and I don't know how to dress this up nicely - They (meaning the systems that be) will never give poor, Black kids the kind of play-based education research has shown that young kids need and that affluent parents pay top dollar to give their kids (I'm presently on the hunt).  They'll keep forcing reading down 4-year olds' throats and calling them dumb when they don't rise to the occassion. This isn't to say some little ones don't have the natural desire, inclination, or ability to do so, but it's ok if they don't. Some children need more time than others.  We have to learn how to let children develop on their own terms (barring any serious issues) and stop panicking every time they don't hit some developmentally inappropriate target.  CAN THE KIDS LIVE?!?!

After reading the actual report the article cites, I feel a little more at ease, but I'm still coming down.

Until next time . . . let's encourage policy makers to read some early childhood research.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Guest Post: Hubby's Musings on ATCQ

Hey, y'all.

I'm still here.  Just trying to figure out how to juggle it all.  I won't even fix my fingers to write about balancing it all, because I think balance is a farce, at least for me.

My husband stays on me about blogging.  I miss it.  I love it; I've just got to figure out how to juggle it.  In the meantime, he had a little something on his mind about the A Tribe Called Quest reunion tour that he needed to get off of his chest.  Remember, we're hard core music lovers.

This is serious business for us. So here's the scenario:

If you want to know more about his musical tastes, follow him here or here.


I know there is a lot of energy around this Tribe Called Quest reunion and what might happen afterward. I will saythat I am conflicted on some of the aftermath from this reunion. Here are a couple of things I do and don't want to see:

I DO want to see a tour. I attended the shows they had for Rock the Bells, and both years they put on great performances. Similar to Outkast or even Lauryn Hill, the nostalgia bump always makes what could be an okay show seem great when you start reciting Check the Rhyme or Bonita Applebum. There was animosity during one of the tours as seen in their documentary, and shows were still dope. I believe the continued beef will not affect them having a great show (but it may cut the tour short).

I DO want to see an album of unreleased material. I know that tracks like these are usually leftover for a reason - they were subpar to the actual material that was released. However, Tribe was so ahead of others that their sh!t still sounds better than 70% of the sh!t out today. I will bump that number up to 80% if you are between 29 and 34 and 95% if you are 35 and older. I am sure amongst these tracks are some gems. Couple that with possible unreleased Ummah tracks (check Wikipedia if you don't know who that group is), that makes me even more excited at what's floating around in that vault.

Finally, I DO NOT want to see a new album from ATCQ. Sure we yearn for this like a new Outkast or Lauryn Hill album; however I will point out exhibit A (like that subtle Jay Electronica reference?) as to why I don't want to see this. Gentlemen of the jury, I present the recent Dr. Dre release, Compton. We have been fiendin' for the follow up to Chronic 2001, and this what we got. After the hype and social media over reaction wore off, what you were left with was a lackluster effort from the good Doctor. While I hate to compare albums, I will compare an artist's output and this just didn't meet his previous work. Maybe it was the ghost writers or "co-producers" but the album just isn't very good to me....Back to Tribe, I want to keep them off the mic and not sully their legacy. Think about how disappointed you would be if you didn't get that same thrill and feeling you had when you listened to Low End Theory or Midnight Marauders. Hell, even The Love Movement and Beats, Rhymes, and Life were great albums; they unfortunately followed two all-time great records. I would equate this to Nas's Illmatic vs. It Was Written. Listen to It Was Written now and you will realize that it was an amazing album that rightfully would have a hard time eclipsing what people consider the greatest hip hop album of all time. Tribe would have the same issue only worse because of the lapse of time in releases.

So to wrap up, stay out of the booth but take your act on the road, ATCQ. Couple yourselves with De La Soul, and that would be a well attended show. Team up with Outkast, and y'all are selling out arenas. A man can dream.

Until next time, my wife and I will leave you with our unwavering love of ATCQ and each other - our first dance to Bonita Applebum.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Black Joy

I ran across the most beautiful hashtag today.  In the midst of so much Black pain, @ReignofApril asked people to post pics that are examples of #BlackJoy.

I don't have a picture, but at the moment, I can't stop watching this video.  It gives me complete #Blackjoy when I watch it. #LittleMissTJ is now 10 months, almost 11, and she has become quite the character.  Here's a snippet of how we spend our time as we wait for Hubs to get home from work.


Until next time...I'm racing home from the coffee shop to go snuggle with my nugget!

Prayers Up

This has been a tough week.

The farce of the woman whose name I refuse to say. Guess I'll go pull out my flat iron and be a White woman tomorrow. NOT.

The deportation of those of Haitian ancestry in the Dominican Republic. The DR will NEVER make our list of places to visit ever again.

But last night, I lulled off to sleep with the news of a church shooting.  Too tired and in need of some decent sleep (says the mother of an infant - ha!), I decided not to delve head-first into the news.  When I awoke this morning and took it all in, I was outdone.

I've shared numerous times on here that I'm a church kid.  My dad is a pastor, and my childhood memories are full of Vacation Bible School, church lock-ins, and choir rehearsals.  The Charleston shooting hit me hard.  The fact that I spent time on the phone this morning discussing church safety with my parents is so disheartening.

While everyone is posting about sending prayers up, and I fully believe we should, I'm in more of an action space today.  As long as there is breath in my body, I will fight against racism, and more specifically anti-Blackness. Whether it's with my students in class, in a conversation with friends, colleagues, or strangers, or in social media and blog posts (that I'm reluctant to post in fear of how I'll be perceived).

Y'all keep praying.  I'll be sending some up as well.  But my prayers won't just be for Charleston, they'll be for the courage and the right words to prick people's hearts against anti-Blackness.

Until next time. . . I'll be over here reminding folks that we matter.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Mama's Think-Aloud about Baltimore

A little mood music:  Momma by Kendrick Lamar.  His new album is so timely given all the injustice and frustration of the moment.

This post is about the love of a mother and my conflicting feelings.  I needed a space to think aloud, and Facebook just isn't the place. It's way too volatile.

I'll start this post by stating that I am anti-spanking. Yes, I know my little one is still an infant, but trust, she's starting to test the waters.  Her father and I are committed to trying to go a route that detours corporal punishment.

Over the past few days, folks have been posting the Baltimore mom. The posts have had a "LOL, get him, girl!" tone to them.  She's being heralded as a hero.

I had a new revelation this morning as I watched the Baltimore mom again this morning, and tears started to roll.  There's NOTHING like a mother's love.  NOTHING.  I told my mama I love her in a new way since having Little Miss TJ. The sacrifices I make with no thought about making them astounds me when I step back and really think about it. I know that what that mother did, she did out of love and fear - an immeasurable amount of love for her son and fear for his future. I get it.  I really, really do.  I understand going into the trenches for your child.  I'm not here to judge. As a matter of fact, as first I was like, "Go, head, mama!!!" and wondering if I'd do the same if I were in her shoes. Then I kept watching the news and they showed the news clip over and over and over ad nauseum.

Here comes the however . . .

The more I see the Baltimore mom being lauded in the media for smacking her son around, the more questions I have.  I'm starting to wonder why so many people are cheering, especially people in the media who typically eschew violence and are asking people to remain peaceful in the midst of the chaos.  Do people think Black kids are inherently deserving of physical punishment?  Research shows that Black children are generally exposed to harsher punishments (even our babies), particularly at school, so has society just come to the conclusion that Black children need to be handled in tougher ways.  Would the pundits who are cheering beat their children? Are they cheering due to the context of the situation?  Would they cheer her on if she was beating him for some other infraction?

I don't have any answers, just questions.

Until next time . . . I'll be over here trying to do the hardest job in the world - parenting. I'll also be lifting all of the mothers and fathers in Baltimore.  I have no idea what it feels like to be in their shoes.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Me, My Angels, and My Laptop: A Random Rant on Renewal

A little music to accompany this post, Private Party by India Arie

Ain't nobody here but me, my angels, and my guitar laptop, singing "Baby, look how far we've come!" 
Celebrating the woman I've become. 

I am away from my husband and the baby on a work trip. It is midnight. I should be asleep.

While sleep is a commodity these days, so is the ability to just lie in the bed and think and dream and strategize and plan. So while I have nothing pressing on tomorrow morning's agenda, I'll use my favorite space on the web to think aloud with you all and do a little sleeping in tomorrow.

Let's go back to the first sentence of this post.

I am away from my husband and the baby on a work trip. 

I wonder what shenanigans these two will get into while I'm gone
This is my first time being away from my little peanut, and while I've been crying off and on today, I'm also realizing that when I signed up to speak at this conference at 7 months pregnant, I didn't realize that I'd be giving myself a gift: some solitude and quiet. Some time to think about being a better wife, mom, and academic. I'd be giving myself a space to renew my mind and spirit.* And, of course, this wouldn't be possible without a husband who gladly jumped at the opportunity for some daddy & daughter time.  He balked at the idea of getting some help while I'm gone, and our daycare provider has christened him the Patron Saint of Daddyhood. He rocks.

Back to me: I have never been more exhausted in my life. I am burning the candle at both ends and then some. Being far away from my extended family makes rearing Little Miss TJ a mostly 2-person job.  Her daddy and I juggle her and two very demanding jobs.  We live by a calendar and work closely with her daycare provider. Sometimes that isn't enough. Thank God for a job where I can (occasionally) give a talk while bouncing a baby on my hip. A little daycare snafu found me presenting to a group of prospective students the other night with the baby in tow. Y'all know she stole the show, right?!?

Anyway, getting back to my point: exhaustion. I was telling my friends the other day that sleep deprivation makes me hopeless. You should hear me on a tough night with the baby.  I slip into despair and begin replaying over and over everything that is wrong with me, my mothering, and my career. It's a slippery slope that leads me to be frozen in fear of the unknown. This isn't going to work, because I told y'all Year 38 is all about regaining my footing and balance.

Sometimes I forget that in the midst of feeling like there is no certainty, the uncertainty can be a gift if I allow it to be. Uncertainty and the willingness to delve into the unknown led me to quit a great job and jump into being a full-time student.  Uncertainty and embracing the unknown led me down this career path. Dancing with the unknown and unfamiliar gave us our baby. I have to remind myself that being open to not having it all mapped out leaves room for the unexpected, and the unexpected is often better than what we plan.

So while I have some time to myself, in the midst of working and networking, I'm going to use some time to renew my mind. I'm going to meditate on being open to the uncertainty of new motherhood and a new career. I'm going to spend some time celebrating in the midst of what sometimes feels like upheaval. I'm going to spend some time rethinking how I spend my time. I'm going to SLEEP, dammit! I'm going to enjoy the company of good friends who live in the area - folks who knew me before the degrees and the husband and the baby.

And when I board the plan to go back to my favorite folks, I know that I won't have it all together, but I'm promising myself that I'll have taken a little time to refuel to keep on fighting the good fight.

Until next time . . . I'll be missing my family but focusing on me!

*The body is still up for debate. I brought my gym clothes, but see the way my fatigue is set up . . . 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Her Laugh

Hey y'all.

I'm drained. The baby is asleep (hallelu!!!), and I'm about to join her in doing so, but I wanted to just put this here for your enjoyment. It's poor quality but all cuteness. Pardon my bathrobe!

I am so fascinated by Little Miss TJ's sense of humor.  I am always amused by what makes her laugh.  In an effort to make sure she and Tyson have quality bonding time, I've started letting her feed him snacks (with my assistance of course). Well who knew feeding the doggy could be so much fun!

I live for that little snort in between her giggles.  She makes everything brand new. Even feeding the dog.

Until next time . . . I'll be watching this video over and over.