Urban Educator in the City!

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When I was growing up, every child had the oppportunity to take music in Elementary, Middle and High School. In the third grade, my music teacher thought that I would make a good drummer, I wanted to hang around my friends and play the violin!Had I known what I know now – Sheila E! – I would have stayed in the Percussions Class.


Fast Forward————————————>Now my students don’t have the opportunity to take any music classes during school. Sure, the magnet schools still have their music program but that is a different blog entry. The elementary school that feeds into our middle school taught violin—-just violin, no trombone, saxophone, percussions, tuba, clarinet—-just violin, and the music teacher was teaching music at three different elementary schools. The elementary school no longer has a violin music class. So now kids get to beat on desks with pencils! I know an educator who allows his class to become the “pencil percussion band”  for the last five or ten minutes of class just to let the students blow off a little steam! Also it has stopped the students  from beating on desk during class!

There are definitely children in my school that would benefit from taking  music classes. Recently, I watched an episode of “Making His Band”, where musicians from all across the world were auditioning to be in a band for Puff Daddy, P-Diddy, Sean Combs!  His name is not important! What IS important is the number of musicians who made the first cut because they played by ear quite well but couldn’t make the second cut because they NEVER had any music classes. Again, students from poor neighborhoods are being left behind because even though they might possess the raw talent, without the music classes to teach them proper techniques, that is all that they will and ever have…….RAW TALENT!

Collage 003Collage 001Students created Collage Folders from magazine pictures and articles. Students can choose as many pictures as they want but they have to find 25-50 words and/or phrases that describes who they are.



Collage 002The laminated  folders look great during Parent Teacher Conferences—->Writing Workshop Folders.

My All Girls class decided they wanted to make Purses – Bookbags out of the Collages…Now that was interesting….but they turned out great!









Collage 004


1)Engaging the Learner

2)Organized Chaos

This teacher uses somes techniques and teaching strategies that I use in my classroom.  Students love learning in new and exciting ways. The only thing I would worry about is what the kids are ACTUALLY saying to one another. I would definitely have to walk around the classroom to make sure the kids are not saying “Blah..Blah…Blah…Charlie Brown talk!” to one another!

What do you think about the techniques and strategies used during this lesson?

As we start a new school year I want to introduce you to a student that most inner city teachers have experienced. A student who works for a D in your class. Personally, I don’t allow those types of students to thrive in my classroom. My students know that anything below a B is good enough! And towards the end of the school year, you can over hear students telling other students that a C isn’t good enough and they could have done better.

In my classroom, students are allowed to do F work over. My goal is that the student learn the objective more than receive a higher grade. Students can receive peer tutoring and/or afterschool tutoring to improve their grades in my classroom. By working with the students one on one or in small group settings, I can pinpoint where the student started experiencing problems in my classroom. Sometimes this means that the student has to learn some objectives from the previous grade during the afterschool sessions so that they will feel confident in my class. Sometimes it means assigning the student a peer tutor. Someone from my class who will work with that student to help to improve their grades. Let’s face it, some F students don’t know how to study and prepare for a test. They don’t know how to take notes, etc. They might have a reading problem but we work through all of those problems afterschool.

I am a teacher who believes that if a teacher has too many F students in their classroom, that they might be an F teacher.  This school year, let’s think of solutions to solve the problem when we encounter one of these F students in our classroom. If you can’t think of any solutions, work with your grade level or subject area team to come up with solutions to help this child to learn. If that child is doing F work in your class but doing A work in another class, find out what teaching methods that teacher is using to get that child engaged in their lessons. If you still can’t think of any solutions, send me an email and I will be happy to help you out! We can not continue to leave the F students behind!

Together we can Find our way to a D!

                          Dig our way to a C!

                          Carve our way to a B!

                          Bounce our way to an A!


Yesterday I cried watching the Michael Jackson memorial.

I cried for a little black boy who felt the world didn’t understand him.

I cried for a little black boy who spent his adulthood chasing his childhood.

boy on basketball

And I thought about all the young black boys out there who may feel that the world doesn’t understand them.

The ones who feel that the world does not understand their baggy jeans, their swagger, their music, their anger, their struggles, their fears or the chip on their shoulder.

I worry that my son, may too, one day feel lonely in a wide, wide world.

I cried for young children of all colors who may live their life feeling like a misfit, feeling like no one understands their perspective, or their soul.

What a burden to carry.

As a mother, I cried for Katherine Jackson because no mother should ever bury a child.


And I think about all the pain, tears and sleepless nights that she must have endured seeing her baby boy in inner pain, seeing him struggle with his self-esteem, and his insecurities and to know that he often felt unloved.

Even while the world loved him deeply.

 How does it feel to think that the unconditional love we give as mothers just isn’t enough to make our children feel whole?

I wonder if she still suffers thinking, “What more could I have done?” Even Moms of music legends aren’t immune to Mommy guilt, I suppose.

When Rev. Al Sharpton (who always delivers one “Awesome” funeral speech), said to Michael’s children “Your Daddy was not Strange . . . . It was strange what your daddy had to deal with”

three boys

I thought of all of the strange things of the world that my children would have to deal with.

Better yet, the things I hope they won’t ever have to deal with anymore.

And as a mother raising a young black boy, I feel recommitted and yet a little confused as to how to make sure my son is sure enough within himself to take on the world.

Especially a “strange” one.

To love himself enough to know that even when the world doesn’t understand you, tries to force you into its mold or treat you unkindly, you are still beautiful, strong, and Black.

 How do I do that?

Today, I’m taking back “childhood” as an inalienable right for every brown little one.

 In a world that makes children into “booty-Shakin”, mini- adults long before their time, I’m reclaiming the playful, the innocent, run-around outside, childhood as the key ingredient in raising confident adults.

Second, I will not rest until my little black boy, My Michael, knows that his broad nose is beautiful, his chocolately brown skin is beautiful, and his thick hair is beautiful.

And nothing or no one, can take that away from him.

Now, ain’t we Bad, ain’t we Black, and ain’t we Beautiful!

african american boys

Maya Angelou July, 2009


How do you make real life connections in the classroom?

How do you engage the students?

One of the things that I like to do to establish  a relaxing environment in my classroom is to have light jazz or classical music playing when students first come into classroom. Students know to enter class, turn in homework to Homework Monitor and  immedicatedly start on Bellwork, Journal Time, Do Now or Accelerated Math . The music relaxes them and it definitely relaxes me… Sometimes when students are coming to school from a stressful home, walking through a stressful neighborhood or having a fight with BFF right before they enter your classroom, they need a minute to transition from that environment to the classroom environment.

Try it! You might like it!

Students will beg you to play R&B and/or Hip Hop instead. DON”T DO IT! Unless of course you want your class to turn into an Americn Idol competition or Class Sing-a- Long!



As I am enjoying my summer vacation, I love to observe people and all of the vitality that surrounds them. 

As usual, I noticed little boys flipping at the festival that I attended today. Flipping OUt  without any padded floors, Yes they had grass but as one parent informed one of the flippers – “The hospital is NOT close!” – LOL.

Whenever I see little boys flipping without fear on grass, mattresses or off of fences, I can’t help to think – How their life would change if there was just ONE gym in the area that prepared kids like these for competition or the OLYMPICS?

Some people might think that ALL Urban children only enjoy basketball and/or football but that is not true. I know children that would enjoy gymnastics, swimming, tennis, racquetball, golf, rowing and the list goes on.

I remember a former colleague sponsoring one of her former students so that he could attend a Gymnastics Class that prepared students for the Olympics. She noticed his gift of flipping after watching him flip from the monkey bars on the playground outside of her classroom window. In order for him to stay in the Gymnastics Program, the teacher’s only stipulation was that he kept a 2.5 gpa. She offered to tutor him afterschool, pleaded with parents to make sure that homework was complete and turned in—-but in the end she decided to  stop sponsoring him because his gpa never reached a 2.5.

Now if what @irasocol says is true that ” Some people are Gifted in areas and Special Ed. in others”, then this potential gymnast’s gift was definitely Gymnastics.

Posted on: July 31, 2009

Welcome to the World of an Urban Educator!

school room

You might not be able to see the words on the door but  the banner says

“Welcome Back Students”

I always have a last day of school party but recently I started having a beginning of the school year party. I want the students to know that they will learn a lot during the school year and hopefully most of it will be fun and engaging!

Data is My Friend. Data is my Friend.

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