Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Spirit!!!

In front of a wonderful bookstore in Austin, Texas!

Just in case you did not know, I feel incline to tell you that my spirit is very, very important to me. I pay very close attention to my spirit, and I make sure that my spirit stays in good shape by doing things that give me the kind of joy that the world just can’t take away.

Now, everybody knows that I love books and writers and cycling and plays and folks AND where I live. Yes, I am madly in love with the DC area, because every single thing that I love is readily accessible, and therefore my spirit gets fed quite often with things that bring me "unspeakable joy!”

I want to give you a peak into things that feed my spirit and bring me complete joy:


Working with teachers..... I absolutely love working with teachers!


This guy right here... I got a rejection that crushed my soul, and this guy put me back together and sent me along my way: Cornelius Minor! 



So, I love this guy, because he writes great books about teaching:The Kelly Gallagher!


I was on a panel with these two ladies. FUN FUN FUN!!! Rose Brock and Elizabeth Partridge!


My student wanted to go inside the African American Museum, and my friend, Carolyn, and I were able to make that happen....



So, the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl celebrated its 60th anniversary this year, and YES, there is band that is made up of police officers, and they are GREAT! 



My dear friend Sonya, worked some magic, and at the last minute, I was able to do a seven day cruise with these awesome folks..... You got to love your friends who bring you on at the last minute. Thanks Sonya! 



Cycling, Cycling, Cycling... I love cycling, and I really love it when I get to cycle with great folks. The DC area cycling community is AWESOME!



Writer, Writers, Writers... I love writers. And these two....Clint Smith and Darnell Moore. (SWOON!) 



Yep, we scored tons, and I mean tons of AP literature papers, but we also made time to connect and have fun. Love these ladies! 



Went to a book signing, AND in the audience was The Corey Booker....



These two at the same time: Clint Smith and Judith Soriano.... A writer and a person who loves writers as much as I do.



I stumbled across this wonderful book store in Charleston, WV, and lo and behold, I got to meet this Vietnam Veteran, hear him talk about his book, and get his autograph. 


Yep, his book is titled I Can’t Date Jesus! His book talk was delightful just like him: The Michael Arceneaux!


My Tuskegee Folks.... FAMILY!



The Jesmyn Ward..... I think that’s all I need to say. She is THE TRUTH! 

Y’all, I know we are all busy, but don’t ever forget about your spirit!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

10 to 40 Book Challenge (School Year 2017 -18)

The Tayari Jones

This school year was the second year that I challenged my students and my Facebook friends to read 10 to 40 books from September to the last day of school which is mid-June. I got the idea for the book challenge from Donalyn Miller and her wonderful book, The Book Whispers. 

Y’all, it really is TRUE; we can develop new habits. The key is to stick to the habit. Last school year, I read forty-six books, and I could not stop and so I read fourteen books last summer while maintaining quite a busy summer schedule that included quite a bit of work travel.

I went into the school year 2017 -18 completely energized and with a new reading habit that I am completely addicted to. I read fifty-six books all while teaching, riding my bike, stalking writers, and consulting. We can and will make time for whatever is important: PERIOD!

Right now, the literary world is ON FIRE which helps to fuel my love... Y’all, some incredible books are out there in whatever genre that you prefer.

Here is a list of the books that I read this year, and I have tried to do some type of classification:

The Writer that I Just Can’t Enough Of: Roxane Gay. I love her honesty, rawness, the cleverness of her writing, the way that she has her thumb on the pulse of right now. Below are the books that I read that are written by Roxane, and I loved every, single one of them.

1. Bad Feminist: Excellent collection of essays that made me do a lot of thinking about Feminism.
2. Hunger: Memoir about Roxane’s body... This book made me think about a whole lot of things differently.
3. Difficult Women: Wonderful collection of short stories.


Non-Fiction Books that tremendously increased my knowledge base!

4. Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo: Courageous stories of women from the continent of Africa.
5. Promises to Keep by Sharon Robinson: The story of Jackie Robinson told by his daughter Sharon.
6. Evicted by Desmond Robinson: If you want to build your empathy for those who are struggling, read this book.
7. The Awakened Woman by Tererai Trent. You talking about a story of resilience and possibilities....WOW
8. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. A true story of a child soldier... heartbreaking!
9. When They Call You A Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors. This is a memoir about a courageous life... I realized from reading this book that The Black Lives Matter Movement is all about LOVE.
10. Revolutionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton: Gave great insight into the Black Panther Party.
11 and 12 Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper: Read it twice and will read it over and over. IT. IS. GOOD.
13. May We Forever Stand by Imani Perry: Excellent overview of an important song in the African American history.
14. The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison: What a good look at a different perspective on some of those “classic novels."
15. We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates: Eight essays over the eight years of President Obama’s presidency.....AMAZING!
16. The Courage to Hope by Shirley Sherrod: This lady was wrongfully fired by the administration of President Obama. What a great story of courage; she should run for the office of President of the Unites States. REALLY!!!



Non-Fiction Books that read like novels:

17. Gucci Mane by Gucci Mane: This is a well-written, though-provoking memoir.
18. Born A Crime by Trevor Noah: Incredible, Incredible memoir.
19. The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton: Y’all, this man was on death row for thirty years for a crime he did not commit... Amazing.
20. Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston: Love this story about the last living man who was turned into a slave: Cudjo Lewis.
21. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom by Amy Chua. Interesting story about parenting.


Self-Help Books:

22. The Will To Change by bell hooks: Great reminder that Black men and women NEED each other.
23. Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix. Trying to make sure that I stay on track with getting the love that I want.
24. Rising Strong by Brene’ Brown: A book about vulnerability... How to “gracefully go through it.”



Fiction Books That Are Written In Verse:

25. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur: Wonderful book about heartache and finding yourself. Teens love this book.
26. Electric Arches by Eve. L. Ewing: Collection of stories about Black girlhood and womanhood. I love this book with my whole heart.
27. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds: Great story that will leave you wanting more.
28. The Good Braider by Terry Farish: Great, immigration story.
29. One Last Word by Nikki Grimes: A collection of poetry that gives a new look at some of the great voices of the Harlem Renaissance.
30. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo: A coming of age novel that I think many young adults will absolutely love; it is completely relatable.


Some Good Old-Fashion Fiction Novels:

31. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison: The most wonderful novel that is about so much but mainly love.
32. Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward: This. Book. Is. A. Must. Read. Love those stories that are set in the American South.
33. An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon. A science-fiction novel about life on a slave ship.
34. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: Contemporary story of the American life and its complexity.
35. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. A great story of how our lives are intertwined.
36. The King is Always Above the People by Daniel Alacron. A pretty, awesome collection of short stories.
37. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. A story of folks who immigrant to American and eventually realize that the American Dream may not be for everybody.
38. Augustown by Kei Miller: Amazing Carribean story.
39. Long Divison by Kiese Laymon: One of my students read this book and loved it so, I tried it. It is good. Laymon is a Mississippi writer who is putting a contemporary spin on many societal problems.
40. Underground Railroad  by Colson Whithead. A very good look at The Underground Railroad that is written in a very engaging manner.
41. The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel: This book is all about LOVE.


Young Adult Novels:

42. Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown: A true story about boys trying to get the Olympic Gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
43. Dear Martin by Nic Stone. This is a good look at the life of a teenage boy who wants to know “What would Martin do?"
44. The Brief and Wondrous Wife of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz: The protagonist in this story wants to fall in love.
45. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle: A science fiction novel about fighting a good fight.
46. Children of Blood and Bones by Tomi Adeyemi: This is Black folks Harry Potter and so much more.
47. After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay: A book about friendship, basketball, and fitting in.
48. Black Panther by Ronald Smith: T’Challa is sent to The South Side of Chicago because of a conflict in Wakanda.


Graphic Novels:

49. Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates: I read all three volumes and the images are AMAZING.
50. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang: a story about identity and fitting in.
51. March One by John Lewis: A refreshing look at the Civil Rights Movement.


Professional Education Books:

52. Readicide by Kelly Gallagher: This book made me change the way that I teach novels...we don’t want to over-teach or under-teach.
53. Embarrassment by Thomas Newkirk: A great book on how embarrassment may be hindering people, particularly students.
54. No More Independent Reading Without Support by Barbara Moss and Debbie Miller. A good look at how to help students as they read independently.


Books I Could Have Skipped:

55. The Leavers by Lisa Ko: A mom leaves her eleven-year old son and the book SLOWLY unfolds.
56. We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union: A collection of stories about Union’s life which really did not tell much.



I hope that this list will inspire a whole bunch of folks to pick books from this list or a book from any other place and READ, READ, READ... and Inspire someone else to read.

We can start A READING REVOLUTION!

Holler, if you want to know more about any of these books.
















Thursday, April 26, 2018

Seven Years Y’all!

It’s My Anniversary! 



Earlier this week, I walked into the gym and said to Berhane, my trainer, “Our anniversary is on Thursday.”

We talked about how time really moves fast, and change seems to happen really slowly, because most changes do not happen overnight. I told him that I would love to see a picture of the inside of my body when I first started working out with him to compare that image to how the inside of my body looks after working out with him and being mindful of my diet for SEVEN years. Yes, I’ve been working out with Berhane for SEVEN years.



Sometimes I am not as mindful of my diet as I should be, and that’s when he states “We need to work on your diet, and a new diet shows up in my email.”

One thing for sure... If I make up my mind that I am going to do something, I go ALL THE WAY.  I don’t test it; I go ALL THE WAY. When I started working out with Berhane, I decided that I would go ALL THE WAY. I do ALL of the crazy exercises that he want me to do, such as, lunges the length of an entire football field in the middle of Virginia's, HOT summers.

I watch my diet most of the time. However, I went through a period where I thought I could introduce wine back into my life, and lo and behold, my stomach started showing it. So, now I am not drinking alcohol unless it’s Tuskegee’s Homecoming or some other occasion where I will drink alcohol without an ounce of guilt.



Y’all, this is a journey that I love, and I don’t do it for nobody but me. I DO IT FOR MYSELF. I get up every, single morning, and I look at my naked body in a full length mirror, and assess my stomach, thighs, and butt. Normally, with no judgment, I just get a good look at myself daily, and I start my day.

When I started working out with Berhane SEVEN years ago, I did not think about how long I would be with him. But, I knew that I was committed to my health for a lifetime.

SEVEN years later, and I am still committed!

Y’all, don’t be afraid of committing.....

It’s My Anniversary.

One Year Anniversary
Two Year Anniversary
Three Year Anniversary
Four Year Anniversary
Five Year Anniversary
Six Year Anniversary

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Dawn....


"It is said that the darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn."
                                                                The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

For folks who are not educators, I want you to know that school starts and it keeps going and going, I mean it just keep going and going. Before you even realize it, it is the middle of the school year, and many folks who work with children are tired to the bone. 

This school year has been rolling, and I looked up to catch my breath, and it was the end of the first half of the school year. Students wanted to do make-up work from three weeks ago: NO! Counselors were moving students into my classroom one week before the end of the quarter: NO! And, parents wanted to meet: NO! 

Yall, I felt a lot like this: 


have been practicing sitting with my feelings instead of acting out or telling everybody and their grandma. I did pretty good, but I did call a friend and say something like:

Im done with teaching.

“Teaching is for young folks.”

I noticed that being in this state caused me to push my students even harder, and you know how that goes; The harder you push, the more they resist. I finally heard this voice loud and clearly: “This ain’t about the kids, this is about you.”

Yep, I need to work on not being influenced by outside forces.

So, this weekend, I got some much needed rest and church, and I went to school and changed my attitude. No lie, my students have been reading and asking questions. We had a great classroom discussion based on this incredible short story, and overall, things went well. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was tested a few times, but I focused inward, and....everything was all good. 

"It is said that the darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn.”

Today was DAWN!

One of my co-workers came in EARLY this morning to let my students and me know that he had finished his first book of the school year, and he wrote it on his reading log:



DAWN

During study hall time, I had a table full of students who came to get help with their writings; I thoroughly enjoyed working with that small group who would not allow me to take a picture of them. 

DAWN

As I was working with this group of students, one of our counselors came in to add two books to her reading log, and she would not allow me to take a picture of her either.

DAWN

Right after talking with the counselor and working with the students, one of our assistant principals came in to write book titles on her reading log and to talk about books. 



DAWN

While the assistant principal was in the room, two other teachers came in to get book suggestions for some of their struggling readers, and you guys know how much I love talking about books and reluctant readers.

DAWN

Finally, my last class came in, and I have a few reluctant readers who actually read today and were visibly engaged. At the end of the class, one of the students even came to talk to me about the book that he is currently reading.

DAWN

I swear, If you had asked me a few weeks ago about teaching, I’m sure I would have stated quite a few unpleasant words; however, 

"It is said that the darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn.

To all of my people out there who feel like you are barely holding on....

"It is said that the darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn.







Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Alabama, Selma, and Black Women!



Alabama....

Alabama spoke up for the world. However, folks acted shocked about the outcome of the recent, Senate election, including me. I guess we had forgotten about the successful Montgomery Boycott where people did not ride public transportation for 381 days. Yes, you read that right, 381 days. And, their efforts also caused the Supreme Court to make a federal decision that Montgomery HAD to integrate those buses, and Black folks could sit anywhere that they wanted to.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

Now, let’s talk about not riding those buses. What did that mean?

That meant that folks had to work together to get people to work, home, to the grocery store, to doctor’s appointment, and anywhere else that folks needed to go. I’m thinking about that Alabama heat and long dirt roads and many folks probably had to walk. Just knowing folks like I do, I know there were many days when people were like “Man, I can’t take this no more; I am getting on that bus.” BUT, they held out.

Selma...

The images of Dr. King and all of the other servant leaders trying to cross that Edmond Pettus bridge still horrifies me. To see those open water hoes being pointed directly on people can be a bit much to take. Yet, the folks went back and eventually successfully crossed that bridge.

Resilience.

Alabama has a history of resilience...

The stories that are coming from that November 12th Senate election are so inspiring. People deciding that they could and would be heard. I watched a video of one lady crying after voting; it was her first time. Another man who voted for the first time talked about how good he felt after he voted.

Y’all, it feels like an uprising in our country...

Black Women....

I can’t say enough about them. We show up, work our butts off, and never complain. It’s natural for most of us. When I see woman whining and complaining, I am always confused, especially when the women who are complaining just don’t carry some of the burdens that we carry.

Black Women Rock....

I love being a Black woman.

It’s Good!



Monday, January 15, 2018

Kind, Servant-Leader, Resisting.......


Recently, I read an incredible Young Adult (YA) book titled Dear Martin by Nic Stone. At the very end of the book, Stone posed a question: “Who would Martin BE???”

I know we talk a lot about the things that Dr. King would do or say if he was living, but today, I want to image who would Dr. King BE he if was with us today?

I believe that Dr. King would be kind, saying and doing the things that are needed, but in the spirit of kindness. I believe that he would be kind to all kinds of folks, even those who would spiteful come against him.

I believe that Dr. King would still be a servant-leader. A man who would continue to serve and serve humbly. You know, I think a lot about Dr. King being murdered while he was in Memphis, Tennessee to march with sanitation workers. I want to believe that he did not go into their meetings acting like he knew all of the answers, but I want to believe that he got to Memphis and listened with an empathic ear and took orders and did what the folks needed him to do.

I believe that he would still be resisting. Resisting with Kaepernick. Resisting with Immigrants. Resisting with Educators. Resisting Injustices in this country and other countries.

So, if Dr. King was living, I definitely could not put the pressure on him to be someone that I am not striving to be.....

I could not ask Dr. King to be kind, and I am not actively working to be kind.
I could not ask Dr. King to be a servant-leader, and I am not actively working to be a servant-leader.
I could not ask Dr. King to resist, when I am not actively resisting.

A question that I am asking myself is “Am I being what I would want Dr. King to be?”

For those of us who are on this side of the dirt, we still have time, and we may want to ask ourselves who are we being during our time?

Kind... Servant-Leader.... Resisting!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Grace and Mercy...



I got a lot of things on my mind, and I am not particularly in a happy place. So, if you are feeling really happy and want to stay there, skip this post......

Assumptions!

Today, I have been thinking a lot about assumptions, and how sometimes we make decisions based on assumptions, instead of facts. You know, the bible speaks of always getting an understanding, and so many times, we make decisions without getting an understanding.

For instance, I do no necessary talk about my cycling workouts that I do during the winter; it’s really nothing special. It’s just what I do. Just like I brush my teeth, go to work, and pick my afro, I do my cycling workouts. So, when folks say things that allude to me not riding, I want to punch folks or scream. I wonder why they won’t just ask... Get An Understanding.

However, then it goes back to me, and me being responsible for my response to folks. I’m thinking that maybe I could kindly say with a fake smile: “Man, I’ve being training.” Or, I could absorb folks assumptions the same way that the ground absorbs rain water?

Now, you know I am not a saint, and there are tons of decisions that I make that are based on assumptions, but know, I am trying to do better. This mindful living can be HARD! I am hearing God say Grace and Mercy, Grace and Mercy and not just for other folks, but for myself as well.

Last school year I did not challenge my Advanced Placement Literature students to do the 10 to 40 book challenge, I assumed that they were readers. Now, I know where the assumptions came from, but you know that I had no proof that my AP seniors read more than my tenth graders. However, after much discussion, I realized that the AP seniors needed to be challenged to read more just like the tenth graders. Now, everybody is encourage to go higher; there is always room to go higher.

Yep, I am guilty of acting on assumptions! Grace and Mercy......

Teaching!

Last year I spent a lot of time focusing on reading. I knew that many of my students were not readers, and I know that I was playing a part in doing full out Readicide. Yep, I was teaching books that I love, thinking that I was reaching the masses and was actually committing Readicide; killing kids love of reading. Gave the students choice, and it totally changed my classroom for the better.

This year, I needed to get that writing going along with the reading. After following, on twitter, a whole lot of folks who are farther along than me and taking their advice, I have been focusing on helping my students to get their thoughts out without the pressure of me and that red pen. We have been responding to the texts that they are reading through writing. I read their responses and respond, but I do not correct for grammar errors. However, I am noticing that I am not seeing many grammar errors, and I have some thoughts about why, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog.

Their one big writing piece was to fully develop whatever they wanted to write about. And, they have been writing. When they said they were finished, they would come and sit next to me, and we would talk through the papers and make correction as we went along.

Y’all, I have cried and cried and cried. One student sat next to me, and I read her story, and I wept, and she wept. When I finally was able to speak, all I could say is “I'm sorry.” We talked about it, and we both cried and cried. I read many more papers and asked questions and listened and cried.

The funny thing about my crying is that all of the students saw me crying, and you know, they were quiet and somber. No one laughed or asked what was wrong... They were just quiet and somber; we were sharing a moment.

Our young folks are courageously dealing with a lot, and I get the feeling that they do not want our sympathy; they want us to hear them with an empathic ear. I pray for them a lot and think about them a lot and cry a lot. Then, I try and meet them where they are....

Our Youth... Their Lives Matter!!!

That’s all I got!
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