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!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: The Year of Harvest

Mom and Me!

Tomorrow, will be 2018, and it seems like the past seventeen years hurried by like a woman scurrying to pick up her child from daycare before those late fees kick in. Yep, it has felt like that type of hurrying; hurrying with a purpose.

My Dad us to say that time waits for no one, and you know, I am in the years of getting answers, and now I see clearly just what my Dad was talking about... Time waits for no one!



To prepare to write my annual end-of-the-year blog, I went back to read a few of my previous blogs, and I realized that in quite a few of my blogs, I was believing God for something. 

Now, in 2017, all praises to God and hard work, many of my dreams manifested. So, in 2018, I am going to do a whole lot more Giving Thanks and Surrendering and Trusting and Giving Thanks and Surrendering, and Trusting, and Giving Thanks and Surrendering and Trusting.....

My cycling teammates!

My bookclub!

A few summers back, I had this strong urge to work on literacy, especially for children of color. My readings and conversations with other passionate educators confirmed some things that were placed on my heart. So, I went to educational consulting camp and did just about every single thing that the leader of the camp told us to do. This past year, my company, Stallworth Educational Consulting Team, was formed, and I was able to work with two school districts on literacy. 

You know how God works, there are many more opportunities coming. All I need to do is Stay Ready, Surrender, and Trust. 

With my dear friend Kathleen and the writer Ibi  Zoboi

My cycling teammates!

I was advised at consulting camp that I needed to get my writings published in a literary magazine. So, I reached out to International Literacy’s magazine, and I wrote a proposal for their “What’s New In Literacy,” edition, and my proposal was accepted. Y’all, my piece was published in the magazine.


I also applied to present at the International Literacy’s Conference in Orlando, and my proposal was accepted. My current school district paid all related expenses, and I went to do what I am called to do. My session was packed, and folks seem to really be engaged. I had soooooo much fun. After I finished, I wanted to run around like we do in African American churches when we are in the spirit. However, I was not in that type of environment, so I had to forgo on the running.


Y’all this was fun!
Can you tell I was having a good time in my session?

While I was doing my thing, a wonderful lady was in my session from the company Booksource. Booksource provides schools with classroom libraries. This wonderful lady asked me if we could talk later about me doing some literacy work for Booksource, and NOW, I am a peer advisor for Booksource. This mainly means that Booksource open doors for me to go to schools and conferences to talk about my love for books and my love of getting children to love them as well. 

Bo Bikes Bama ride!
My favorite writer Jason Reynolds!

For the past few summers I have been training teachers to teach Advanced Placement (AP) Literature for Texas Christian College. However, my desire was to be a full time AP Literature Consultant with The College Board. I completed the application, emailed a few folks, talked to a few people, AND I am a endorsed College Board consultant. My heart leaps for joy when I think about the influence that I can have on college board literature classes; I want to see those classes be more inclusive of children of color, and now I am in the door. 



AND, I actually opened a spam email, and I actually acted on it; I am one of the teachers selected to serve on the National Humanities Center's Teacher Advisory Council for the 2017-2018 school year. This experience has been very rewarding, and I have met some wonderful, inspiring educators. Y’all, this was not an opportunity that I saw coming, but I am appreciative and humbled to serve.



In Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison there is this quote: “If you surrender to the air, you can ride it.”  Y’all, I have been riding the air, God, and... I was about to say it has been scary, but it really has not been. I’ve been preparing for every single thing that came my way this year...




So, I did not write all of this to boast; not at all. I wrote all this to remind myself of all of the doors that have opened for me. I am also encouraging you to write down all of the things that God has done for you, so you can see that you really are moving forward. AND, if you see that you are not moving forward, GET ON IT!!!



Today, I was thinking about all of the books that I have read over the last year, and in every story, fiction and non-fiction, people end up right where they are suppose to be and things seem to work out for their good.

However, you know how the mind works, and I thought of the story The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs. Robert Peace was a student from the inner city who attended and graduated from Yale without paying one penny. After graduation he was studying cancer cells for Yale. However, he eventually moved back to New Jersey, started selling drugs, and ended up being tragically murdered. Now, I have to ask myself, did Robert Peace have the ending that he was suppose to have; was this God’s doing?



I think about Robert a lot, and I believe that we all have free-well. Robert Peace could or could not have gone to Yale, it was up to him. The doors opened for him, but it was up to him to walk through them. Maybe, he could have capitalized on the research that he was doing on cancer cells or did something else? I believe that Robert Peace had free-will just like you and me.



I think what I am trying to say is that when we have that pull on our hearts, we can answer or not. We can run towards it or away from it; I think that we have a choice. When doors started to open for me, for some reason, I knew they were opened just for me, and I felt peace and excited, and I boldly walked in. Sure, I was surprised each and every time but READY!



Now, for 2018, I already have quite a few things lined up, and I have other things that I am working on, and instead of believing God, and being that child or spouse who never seems to be satisfied, I am going to try with my whole heart to not ask for more but to EXPECT more.





Not sure what season you are in, reaping or sowing, but know that there is a harvest with your name on it.

Consider writing stuff down and speaking it as well!


Happy 2018!


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Autobiography of Gucci Mane by Gucci Mane with Neil Martinez-Belkin


The Autobiography of Gucci Mane is generating a lot of excitement in my classroom. So, I borrowed a copy from a student and read it. Y’all, I love this book...

For those who are not quite familiar with Gucci Mane, he is a rapper who is known for Trap Music. According to Gucci Mane himself: Trap Music is “something raw. Something that has not been diluted. Something with no polish on it. Music that sounds as grimy as the world that it came out of.” (P. 52)

Also, after a little research, I also found out that Gucci Mane has a reality TV show and lots of lots of fans, including a new fan, Jacqueline Stallworth. Yep, I’m a fan.

This story matters.....

I was not reading this book, just like with most of the books that I read, to disagree or agree, but to get an understanding, develop a little more empathy, and to enjoy. AND, with this book, I did all three.

Here are some things that are on my mind after finishing this book:

1. “I was playing around with my voice, my cadence, and my diction and after awhile all those reservations I’d had slowly started to fade away. (P. 51)

Gucci Mane may have been born with a gift for rapping, but he had to work to cultivate that skill. Gucci Mane worked on his voice, studied rap, and practiced. Overtime and with lots of work, he became Gucci Mane the rapper and created music that folks love.

Now, doesn’t that sounds like most of us? We have to work at things in order to get better and maybe even good. I hope that when the youth read this book, and they are reading it, they understand that we have to put in work to achieve dreams. This man was writing music relentlessly while in prison... and produced projects as soon as he was released that received a lot of praise.

To develop our skills; we have to put in the work....

2. “I was rapping for the young boys on the corner with dirty T-Shirts on. The ones cooking up in the kitchen. The car thieves. The shooters. The n-----ers breaking into houses. I was rapping my reality. (P. 110)

Stories matter... Whether or not I like what he says in his rap, he is rapping his reality and the reality of folks similar to him. I think that many of us love stories that we can relate to, and we have respect for folks who courageously tell their stories, because it gives us courage to tell ours.

Recently, a student gave me a book that she really connected to, and she wanted me to read it. Well, I read the book and found the student and desperately wanted her to tell me that this extremely sad story was not her story, and it was. This book helped me to connect to this student, and I am grateful that the writer wrote that story. Telling our stories matter...

So, Gucci Mane’s story matters, and him telling his story may be helping a whole bunch of folks, and maybe giving folks courage to speak their truth.

3. "This would become a trend throughout the course of my career. Whenever the music wasn’t going right I would fall back into the streets. Maybe it was a coping mechanism. Going back to something I knew I’d find success in when I wasn’t experiencing it elsewhere. Whatever it was, it was a habit that went on for much longer than you’d think." (P. 119)

I read this and thought: “Yes, Yes, Yes!”

Under stress, many of us go back to what we are familiar and comfortable with, and it seems like what we go back to are things that are not good for us: folks, food, drink.... and a whole bunch of other stuff that is within our comfort zone.

I want Gucci Mane to know, “Brother, you are not alone."

4. “... freestyling proved to be much quicker way for me to knock out songs. So that’s what I started doing and did so relentlessly. I became a machine. I would record six or seven songs a day. Easily.... My work ethic paid off.” (P. 140 -141)

Hard work pays off... PERIOD!

5. “It did not sit well with me that I was this gangster rapper talking about hitting licks and moving bricks in my music, but then I was hiding with rats when I got locked up. I wanted to be treated like everyone else. So when I returned to Fulton County in the fall of 2008, I signed a waiver to be in the general population.” (P. 145)

I totally respect the fact that Gucci Mane did not just “talk the talk but he walked the walked.” He was not writing one thing and doing something else.

At the end of the day, “To thine Own self be True.” I can’t tell my students that reading is important, and I not take the time to read. Folks are watching... “Walk the Walk."

6.“With all I’d been through of late I’d never felt more alienated. I was an outcast, a rebel, a weirdo. More than anything I was tired. Tired of running away from my reputation, tired of trying to convince people I wasn’t a bad person. I wanted to embrace the villain. (P. 191)

I’m wondering how many of us are living out what we believe people think about us....
How many folks are pretending to be things that they are not, because that is what folks expect...
What if we could be free of other folks' thoughts or what we believe they are thinking, and live our lives?

7. “Prison is time. I tried to use the time to better myself. I kept up the exercise... I lost nearly eighty pounds... I was able to work the cafeteria staff and eat a little better....I followed changes I’d made to my body by working to strengthen my mind. I was devouring books. A lot of self-help, inspirational stuff. Tony Robbins. Deepak Chopra. Malcolm Gladwell. James Allen. The biographies of Pimp C. and Jimi Hendrix. Mike Tyson’s autobiography.” (P. 254)

Discipline and Reading, Discipline and Reading, Discipline and Reading........
I truly believe that the amount of discipline that a person has, has a lot to do with his/her success.... AND, reading saves lives, reading changes lives, WORDS matter!

8. “If you keep lookin’ back you gon trip going forward.... I’ve taken heed to that. To start a new chapter you’ve got to turn the page on the last one. Still, every now and then I do think it’s okay to stop and look back, just for a moment, before continuing on your way. Especially when it’s a hell of a story.” (P. 270)

Not much I can say after that.... Gucci Mane basically summed it up!

I am excited about this book, and I can’t wait to get back with my students to hear their thoughts and takeaways....

In all of your getting, get an understanding....

Consider reading this book!


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