Sunday, October 30, 2011

"The Woods"

Today, I did a  four mile run on a trail across the street from my house. Here are two things that really made me wonder:

Two men were praying in the woods :)
What a great day and place to pray?
What beautiful colors; God was everywhere :)

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, To put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die Discover that I had not lived.”   Henry David Thoreau


Saturday, October 29, 2011

"Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death"

"I don't even know,
where my life would be,
if you hadn't shown,
shown your love for me,
broke the chains,
chains that were binding me.
Gave me liberty.
(Myron Butler and Levi)

The song, Set Me Free, whose words are above, is a song that I listen to often. Everytime that I hear it, I am reminded how great it feels when the chains are broken. LIBERTY BABY!!!

One 4th of July, I sent Valarie Boyd, the author of  Wrapped in Rainbows, (You must read "Wrapped in Rainbows." It is about the life of Zora Neale Hurston and so much more. Every single word is a joy to read.) an email message to wish her well. When she responded to my note, she wrote:

"Freedom is a beautiful thing, ain't it."

All I could think about after I read her words were: "Yes it is."

In Beloved, by Toni Morrison, the main character's story is based on a real life story.

Sethe is a former slave, and one day, Sethe saw a White Man approaching the place where she currently lived. She had some type of slip of the mind, and she thought that the man who was approaching was her former slave owner coming to take her and her children back into bondage. Sethe grabbed her children and tried to kill them, because she would have rathered for her children to be dead than not be free.

For a woman to want to kill her children, rather than have them put in bondage, must mean that freedom should be cherished and/or being in bondage is HELL.

A few weeks ago, we had a pep rally at school, and the children were so FREE. They were dancing, singing, shouting, leaping. They SEEM to not have a care in the world. We all know that teenagers have many things going on in their lives; however, at that pep rally, they really were a perfect picture of freedom.

Often, if not everyday, I think that it is important for us to exam if there are any CHAINS that are holding us back. If we are not doing some sho' nuff good belly aching laughing, doing some real hard dancing, experiencing peace and joy that passes all understanding, or doing whatever else that makes us feels free every now and then; then we must ask ourselves WHY NOT!

Are we worrying about the thoughts of others? Are we worried about what others might think if we take the road less travel? Are we afraid to get out of the box that we have been in forever? Are we guarding our hearts expecting pain and hurt?

Remember: "Whom the SON sets free, is truly free indeed!"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Marigolds" by Eugenia Collier

For the last few years, I have been analyzing a short story with my students titled "Marigolds" by Eugenia Collier. With this story, we focus on the terms internal and external conflict and epiphany.

The main character, Lizabeth, lives in rural Maryland during The Great Depression, and for fun, she and the children in the neighborhood, bother Miss Lottie, one of their neighbors, and her beautiful marigolds.

Lizabeth is caught between being an adult and a child: "And I remember, that year, a strange restlessness of body and spirit, a feeling that something old and familiar was ending, and something unknown and therefore terrifying was beginning."

Her internal conflicts surround whether or not she should join the younger children in making fun of Miss Lottie. She succumbs to the peer pressure and joins the other children in throwing rocks that severed the heads of several of Miss Lottie's marigolds: "The child in me sulked and said it was all in fun, but the woman in me flinched at the thought of the malicious attack that I had led."

Lizabeth overhears her father crying and exclaiming: "It ain't right. Ain't no man ought to eat his woman's food year in and year out, and see his children running wild. Ain't nothing right about that." Not knowing what to do with the emotions that hearing her father crying evoked, Lizabeth goes out and destroys Miss Lottie's beautiful marigolds.

While in the process of destroying the marigolds, Miss Lottie approaches Lizabeth looking broken, and Lizabeth has an epiphany moment: "that was the moment when childhood faded and womanhood began." Lizabeth goes a step further and acknowledges the fact that becoming an adult means having compassion and "one can not have both compassion and innocence."

I went through this whole discussion with my students about compassion, and we discussed things that a kindergartner might say to his teacher, compared to what a ninth grade might say to his teacher. A kindergartner may say "your hair is ugly," but a ninth grader would never say something like that. Right?

So, I was teaching my class on yesterday. We were having a great lesson on adverbs, when a student raised his hand.

He said:

"Ms. Stallworth, what kind of shoes are you wearing?"

I lifted my pants leg and showed the students my shoes, and I told him that they were clogs.

My clogs

He looked for a minute and said very seriously:

"I don't like them; they are funny looking."

I broke out in a gut wrenching laugh.

The entire class broke out into an entire discussion on which pair of my shoes they liked the most.

All I can say is either the lesson on compassion was unsuccessful, or they have not made that transition from childhood to adulthood like Lizabeth from "Marigolds."

Thank God that I have tough skin.

Long live the clog, or maybe not!!!!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Are YOU a Dreamkiller?

Being a teacher, I constantly remind myself not to be dreamkilller.

A dreamkiller is a person who always thinks of the negative aspects of every situation and feels the need to actually speak the negative thoughts out loud. (As if a person really cares.)

For instance, if I say:

"I am going to buy a new house."

The dreamkiller might say:

"Have you thought about how much the property taxes might be?"


You might say:

"I really want to go back to school."

The dreamkiller might say:

"Are you sure that you want to do that, you're going to be the oldest person in the class, I won't want to be the oldest person in the class blah, blah, blah"

Lately, I have been noticing that there are lots of dreamkillers in the world. (They are not in my life, because I think that I have removed ALL of them.)

When I explained this to my students, they said: "You can't blame someone because they listen to someone else."

I agree with them but don't agree with them.

It's true that we should all have our own minds, but one little seed of doubt, planted by a dreamkiller, can grow into a WHOLE tree in someones' mind.

For instance, have you ever been minding your own business and someone says something like: "Are you going to eat that, the last time I ate that I was so sick. Girl, I couldn't keep nothing down on my stomach for a week."

Next thing you know, your desire to eat that BIG, juicy piece of steak is gone and everytime you eat it, the comment from the dreamkiller pops in your mind.

The dreamkiller just killed your love for steak.

Everytime someone tells me something, especially the students, I try to let the first thing that comes out of my mouth be something positive, something encouraging or an ahh haaa.

Believe me, when people make decisions, the devil has already planted many seeds of doubt in their minds, so you can stop being the devil's advocate; he doesn't need any help.

My momma is trying to live her life and people are saying: "What if you die?" (She is going to die just like everybody else, and so what?) "Do you have a will?" (If she does, your raggedy butt might not be in it?) "Have you thought about blah, blah, blah...."

Enough dreamkillers,

Kill your own dreams, but PLEASE allow others' to grow.

If you ain't got nothing positive to say, then keep your damn mouth closed.

Sorry readers, but I had to get this off of my chest.

Do you know any dreamkillers, or are you a dreamkiller?


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"Song of Solomon" by Toni Morrison

I really feel the need to apologize to my readers. Please don't think that I have just neglected blogging. When I start something, I stick to it, unless it just doesn't work. So, here's what's been going on:

It's been a little over a month since school has started back, and life has really picked up for me. No more early morning workouts, naps during the day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner whenever I feel like it. I am back on a schedule.

I am still doing ridiculously, difficult workouts with the greatest trainer in the world, Berhane, working out on my own when I'm not working out with him, meeting friends out, reading for pleasure, and doing LOTS of reading for school.

I have been reading my students' writing to assess where I need to start and where I need to take them. Today, I read so many thesis statements until I finally told the students, "My brain is tired, and I can not read another one." They laughed, but of course, they still wanted me to read just one more.

I have been reading lots of short stories including "Thank You M'am" by Langston Hughes, "Marigolds" by Eugenia Collier, "The First Day" by Edward P. Jones, "The Worn Path" by Eudora Welty, "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker and many, many more. I have also been reading The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which I must say is going really well; the students really love this book. We are having interesting discussions, and this book is also generating some great writings from my students.

However, the book that has consumed most of my time is Song of Solomon by one of my all time favorite writers, Toni Morrison. I am starting the discussion of this book with my students tomorrow. So, I had to read it AGAIN (This makes the umpteenth time) so that I can have a fresh perspective of the discussions.

With Song of Solomon, Morrison has strung together so many different stories in a way that is very intriguing. The names of the characters is enough to stimulate nine weeks of discussions: Ruth, Milkman, Pilate, Hagar, Empire State, Macon Dead, First Corinthians, Guitar, Saul etc. If you notice, the names of many of the characters are taken from the Bible, and most of the characters are related to their name in some way.

I'm going to leave you with one of my favorite passages from Song of Solomon:

"You think because he doesn't love you that you are worthless. You think that because he doesn't want you anymore that he is right -- that his judgement and opinion of you are correct. If he throws you out, then you are garbage. You think he belongs to you because you want to belong to him. Don't. It's a bad word, 'belong.' Especially when you put it with somebody you love. Love shouldn't be like that. Did you ever see the way the clouds love a mountain? They circle all around it; sometimes you can't even see the mountain for the clouds. But you know what? You go up top and what do you see? His head. The clouds never cover the head. His head pokes through, because the clouds let him; they don't wrap him up. They let him keep his head up high, free, with nothing to hide him or bind him. You can't own a human being. You can't lose what you don't own. Suppose you did own him. Could you really love somebody who was absolutely nobody without you? You really want somebody like that? Somebody who falls apart when you walk out the door? You don't, do you? And neither does he. You're turning over your whole life to him. Your whole life, girl. And if it means so little to you that you can just give it away, hand it to him, then why should it mean any more to him? He can't value you more than you value yourself.” 
Toni Morrison is DEEP, DEEP, DEEP! WOW!!!!!!!!

If you have not read Song of Solomon, I recommend that you pick it up tomorrow or download it RIGHT NOW! But listen, this is one of those books that makes a person think, so you can't read this book while you watch television; it requires undivided attention.

But, believe me, it's so worth it!

Happy Reading!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

One of the Many Things That Makes My Heart Glad!

Image of Langston that I projected on the Smartboard!
People, just know, that I love Langston Hughes. I teach a short story by Langston titled "Thank You M'am" to my 9th grade students every year. Not only is it pleasant to read, but there are so many good lessons in this very short, short story (Two pages).

Before, we read this story, I tell the students about Langston Hughes, and know that, just talking about him makes me happy, and this joy normally rubs off on my students.

I projected his picture from the Smartboard, I recited his poems to them, and the class did a choral reading of one of his poems. (They really got a kick out of that.)

This year, I told them about this restaurant in DC that is named for Langston Hughes called Busboy and Poet. I told them that Langston was a busboy/poet right here in this great city of Washington D.C.

A few of the students had been to the restaurant before but did not know the Langston connection.

So, Today, one of my students came to my desk smiling real hard.

She said:

"Ms. Stallworth, I went to the restaurant Busboy and Poet this weekend."

My heart did a flip. I asked her many questions, and she was very excited to share the experience. She even shared the experience with the entire class.

She said:

"Ms. Stallworth, I have proof that I went there."

I said: "Show me."

She pulled out a picture of her with her brother at the restaurant and a picture of her holding The Selected Poems of Langston Hughes in the bookstore that's in the restaurant.


I am so happy that I was able to pour my love for Langston onto this child.

I really hope that she passes the love on.

(Can't show the picture that she gave me; I must respect her privacy.)
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