Saturday, November 29, 2014


I am so sick of hearing people use the death of this poor man to attempt to invalidate claims of racism.

His death is tragic in its own would you feel if your child, unjustly killed by police, were talked about in the news only as a perverted "proof" that race wasn't a factor in the death of Michael Brown? Or in the lack of an indictment for Darren Wilson? It's the more "murdery" version of "I can't be racist, I have a black friend." The headline...

Unarmed White Man Shot By Police: No Riots, Al Sharpton Silent, Obama Keeps Golfing

And then...

The St. Louis County prosecutor just charged a black cop with felony assault for using his baton too aggressively. How can you still think race isn't a factor after that?! It's not just about Michael Brown. It's systemic.

White people who kill black people rarely get the death penalty, yet black people who kill white people very often do.

Want to come back with "but what about black-on-black crime?" It's irrelevant. Also, if you're not also yelling about "white-on-white crime" then you're a hypocrite.

When allowed to do "random" searches like in the Stop and Frisk program, cops choose to search people of color 85% of the time, even though white people are more likely to have contraband on them.


Black people are significantly less likely to face an actual jury of their peers.

1/3 of all black men will be put in jail at some point in their lives, statistically. We jail more of our minorities than any other country. Hell, we imprison more of our people than any other country, proportionately, but we target minorities while doing so.

Want to say "well it's all about the kind of family you come from, your values, if only their fathers stuck around, etc?" When we, as a country, take 1/3 of the men in a group away, how can you blame them for their children growing up without a father? No one should have to adjust to your idealized way of living, comply with your fashion sense or idea of family or anything else beyond "don't try to hurt others", just to stay alive.

And you sit here using your time to try to disprove their complaint because makes you uncomfortable to think that racism isn't over? Because you are inconvenienced hearing about it? Because traffic? Because businesses you don't patronize are suffering loss? People are being killed, being oppressed, being kept in poverty, robbed of the "ideal family" we all cherish so much. And it's because of race. Not the in your face KKK cross burning kind of racism, but subtle, systemic, insidious racism.

The kind of racism that allows a white cop to kill an unarmed black man, get a 3/4 white grand jury to do extraordinary things just for his potential indictment, then a white prosecutor tells a room of almost all white reporters why the cop won't be charged, sounding like a defense lawyer instead of a prosecutor. After which the white cop gets a TV special where he reveals his desire to teach others about use of force, says he regrets nothing, and complains about having to wear a beard.

And then through all that, what you find most outrageous is that the people who loved Michael Brown aren't protesting the death of some other person they didn't know. Or the people who loved Eric Garner, or Oscar Grant, or Tamir god, Tamir Rice, that poor poor kid. Why aren't you up in arms about that? Just...why? Or the people who loved Dillon Taylor, even...why AREN'T they protesting?

I can't understand the lack of outrage. I just can't.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Privilege

This morning I can hardly think of anything but Michael Brown's mother. How she had to raise her boy with a different set of rules than I have to raise mine with. How that didn't work, and how her son was killed for an offense so minor that people get away with it all the time. How her boy has been villainized since his death, and how anguishing it must have been to listen to the prosecutor, THE PROSECUTOR!, demonize him in that press conference last night, sounding more like a defense lawyer than anything else. How helpless she must feel...helpless to protect her son, helpless to get justice, helpless to prevent others from misdirecting their rage and undermining the story of her child's killing.

I compare myself with her. What would I do, if I were her? Her composure is more than I can imagine having. And that is my privilege - I can be, could be, hysterical, angry, pleading, enraged, without being seen as the spokesperson of my race. Without being blamed for the protests that followed, as she is being blamed. Her anguish, so powerful, so representative, so gut wrenching...I wanted to throw things after that press conference last night, and that was not my son that Bob McCulloch was talking about. And yet she still didn't tell people to rise up. She could have, and they did anyways, but even though she refrained from doing so, she is being blamed. "Michael Brown's Mother's Tears Turn Crowd From Agony to Action."

I can still tell my boys to go to the police for help. I could still buy them toy guns without fearing the police would kill them for having one. I can write about this from the comfort of my home, safe, educated, far from protests or riots. I can argue about it with those who believe race wasn't a factor, but I won't ever have to experience what it's like to have my race work against me with law enforcement. If my child is killed, he won't be demonized. In fact, it's likely that even if my child were to kill others, he would be treated with more kindness by the media than Lesley McSpadden's boy has been.

And there are those, so many, who don't see this privilege. Who don't want to see it. Who can't see a bigger picture than this one botched investigation. Who ignore systems, who negate privilege because of individual disadvantage, who say "not me," who demand respect while not giving it, who just won't listen. Or won't care. And that's almost more infuriating than those who know they're racist and embrace it. Because it's easier to write them off, the "real" racists. They're a joke, mostly powerless. Who listens to the KKK? Only idiots....but I know so many smart people who discount race. Who advocate colorblindness, and show their privilege blindness by doing so. Who say that Michael Brown should have just cooperated with the cops, and don't see that people of color "just cooperate" all the time and who can't imagine having to live like that, under constant scrutiny, constant surveillance, constant suspicion. Because they don't have to.

I wish that today every white person would just listen to what the black community of Ferguson is saying. To the people of Oakland, of New York, of Chicago. Hear them. Really listen. Don't ignore because their anger is coming out in inappropriate ways. They have been polite for so long, and nothing has changed.

If You're More Focused on the Looting Than the Lack of Indictment...

"Let's say you're at a shindig of some sort - an office holiday party, a department function, the post-lecture refreshments, a gallery opening, a con, any place where there are a lot of other people, most of whom you don't know personally or well, and a lot of milling around.

In the course of this milling around, someone steps on your foot. Someone very much larger than you, wearing big, heavy shoes. And doesn't move off. You can't pull your foot out from under theirs. They're talking to other people and don't even notice through their thick soles and distraction, what they not only have done but are continuing to do.

You go "Ahem," and "Excuse me," and "Sorry, but you're standing on my foot," in a polite if urgent tone, but they can't hear you, partly because they're too tall, partly because of the party hubbub, and partly because they're not listening to you but instead the sound of their own voice and the appreciative remarks of their friends.

Your hands are full, so you cough louder, but it doesn't get any results. At this point, you can't even feel your toes any more. In desperation, you awkwardly shuffle your drink onto your plate and tap gently on their shoulder, but they don't notice it either. (Perhaps a couple of their friends have, though, and are discreetly trying to break into the monologue, but having no luck.)

Finally, in desperation, you raise your voice and shout "EXCUSE ME!" The foot-trapper turns their head to look over their shoulder, without moving their feet, and goes "What?!?" (Perhaps they brush their elbow against your arm, making your drink splash and scattering a cheese cube or three.)

"You're standing on my foot," you point out. "Can you get off it?"

"You're rude!" says the foot-squisher. "You shouldn't interrupt people in the middle of a conversation. Now I've lost my train of thought!" or maybe "It's rude to shout at people!" (Perhaps even, "Look what you did to my coat!")

And then they turn right back to the conversation they were having, without bothering to move.

When you point this out, again, they say smugly, "If you'd asked politely, I would have.""


When people complain about the looters and the riots more than they do about the miscarriage of justice that happens over and over again in our country, this is what I hear. I hear a demand that the oppressed just take it politely and put up with it for as long as it takes for this who are uninterested in changing to change. I hear a demand to assimilate. To join the dominant culture. To be better than human, because what human can suffer indignity over and over again without lashing out one day? Who can stand to go unheard for so long without finally yelling?

This is not to say I approve of riots or looting. I don't. And the people who turned peaceful protests violent should be prosecuted. The police who handled things with restraint should be commended for doing their job well. But when we deny a community justice, then also deny them the right to anger, misused as it may be, we are saying we have no respect for their humanity.

Monday, November 24, 2014


Police should be held to higher standards than civilians, not lower ones. They have a greater duty to protect life, not a lesser one; an expectation of more bravery, not more reactions based in fear. I can't imagine the devastated and powerless rage and loss Michael Brown's mother must be feeling.
This statement, too, is infuriating. The internet and the media are not at fault for the frustration of people over the killing of an unarmed man...the killing of an unarmed man and the incompetent handling of the investigation following it is why people are so frustrated, so enraged, up in arms.

Michael Brown, even if he stole things, did not deserve to die. He should not have been left out, uncovered, in the street for 4.5 hours. The investigation should have been done properly. The secrecy surrounding this will forever leave doubts in people's minds. Who are these corroborating witnesses who've never spoken to the media?

And so many questions unanswered. Why does the government and police force of Ferguson have so little understanding of the racial undertones of our society? How can anyone think that racism is over in the United States? Why are white people so unwilling to hear and believe the experiences of people of color in the United States? Why did Michael Brown turn back? How can Bob McCulloch be so tone deaf as to think that the fact that his job has been hard lately is something we care about? Of course your job is hard, dude. That's the job you have, and right now, you are not the focus. How can his perspective still be that the social media caused this outrage? How can he really believe, in light of the many things that have happened lately, that young men of color are not being killed with impunity? How can cases like this be reviewed without prosecutors and grand juries believing that there was a likelihood that a crime was committed? How can he say that what needs to happen now is that people of color need to speak up on behalf of their communities? Does he not hear them? I'm baffled. 

I'm in tears.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Undervaluing Teachers and Women

This Washington Post article is making the rounds among my teacher friends lately. They share it to build awareness, to counteract their perception that teachers have a terrible reputation, that we are maligned, that no one appreciates the work we do, that we are "rotten apples." 

…. First, let me clarify what it means to be a public school educator in the United States today. Unfortunately, at college campuses around this country, [education students] are berated by their peers for their career choice. I was told on many occasions at the University of Virginia that I was wasting my time and talent on teaching. 
And in many ways, I agree with that perception, and with the teacher who originally wrote this letter to TIME Magazine, in response to this pretty awful cover.

The article itself is much more nuanced, though still flawed...but this cover is pretty crappy  
(image via Time)

No one does get the work we do, but everyone thinks they do! Because we've all gone through school, sat there for 13 years critiquing our experience, knowing with certainty that we would do better than that crazy lady up in front of the room, we (as a country) think we know what teaching is. Trust me, you don't know, unless you've done it. It's a juggling act that requires constant mental acrobatics. It's being criticized and challenged all day long. It's answering questions with questions, making the worst things sound hopeful, loving those people who drive you crazy, and making the most boring thing in the world seem thrilling. It's being mistrusted by parents, manipulated, constantly censoring yourself. It's running out of words at noon but still having hours of talking to go. 

Also, when I hear the phrase "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." Teaching is a craft, in and of itself. I bet you I could teach biology better than a lot of biologists, because even though I understand so much less of the subject, I understand teaching.  
(image via teachers with a sense of humor)

But it's not the sacrifice of self that this article, and so many others, present it to be. 

Or at least, it shouldn't be. 

Teachers - stop it. Stop doing unpaid work. Stop giving more than your job description requires of you. You are damaging our profession and YOU are why we are under appreciated. 

No other profession claims this...why do we, and so proudly? 
(image via teachers with a sense of humor)
Let me explain - when we go above and beyond, when we work extra hours, when we buy our own supplies, we tell the world that we don't need better salaries, that we don't need better funding. We are making do with less, so we are given less. 

And all the rest of the world sees is that they still don't get enough education or attention for their kids. They don't see that we're giving more than we get, because WE are not their focus (nor should we be). Their children are their focus; their children who are being failed, across the board. 

They are subjected to awful tests that we administer, even as we say how much we hate them and how pointless they are. They are assigned huge amounts of homework, even as we protest the huge workload our students must cope with. We enforce rigid behavioral expectations, inwardly cringing at the ridiculousness of these arbitrary rules that drive our school system. 

We do this to ourselves 
(image via teachers with a sense of humor)
We have the power to change this, and writing yet another article detailing how willing we are to be doormats to ridiculous expectations is not the way to change it. 

Instead, we need to stop. 

Stop bringing in supplies. If our students don't have what they need, bring attention to THAT, not how great you are for bringing them supplies. No one likes a braggart. Also, it's not addressing the actual problem, which is that our schools are underfunded.

 (image via teachers with a sense of humor)

Stop working extra hours. Don't bring grading home. If it can't be done in the time you're paid for, it can't be done. Reevaluate your assignments, your lessons, how much feedback you give. You devalue all of us when you do this and YOU spread the expectation that we all are willing to work for free. You are the reason we earn 14% of what similarly educated adults earn, 60% of what our peers earn. 

I, for one, am not willing to work unpaid any longer. 

And here's the kicker. Teaching is largely women's work. And women's work is always the work that is undervalued, underpaid, unappreciated. We do more housework, more childcare, more eldercare. We manage families while working full time. Sheryl Sandberg has advised us to lean in, and while I see problems with a lot of what she says, I agree with her premise that we should not undervalue ourselves. 

Why not? Some days, I totally do this for the money. Because it's a job, not a hobby!

A stand by teachers, a refusal to sacrifice ourselves for some vague idea of the greater good, may be the reality check the rest of the United States needs. 

Because while we continue down this road of trying to create awareness of our sacrifices, we're only going to perpetuate the expectation that we make those sacrifices. 
I wish.
(image via teachers with a sense of humor)

I'm taking a stand. I won't work unpaid any longer. I will teach, I will grade, I will care and correct and coerce and create passionate learners. But I won't do it at the expense of my self. I'm worth more than that.

Disclaimer:  I work in a wonderful and privileged urban school. My students have more advantages than many, and I am afforded more time in my day to plan and meet and prepare than many other teachers. I work for a wonderful administration who believes in teacher freedom whenever possible. It may be that my stand is a luxury that some other teachers don't have. But if I can do it, and start setting the example, then I should, and hopefully others will be able to follow.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Now You Are Three

I can't believe it's gone by so fast! My dear little first child is three today!

Em - You are one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

You are joyful, funny, fun, conniving in a totally obvious way, precocious, a little rambunctious and the light of my life. You make me smile every single day, and you take great pictures!

Today, you like baseball (SO MUCH), dinosaurs, trains, dressing up in costumes (but only for a little while).

Your favorite foods are PB&J, tofu, BBQ chicken wings, french fries, cherry tomatoes (which you call "gwapes"), bananas and yogurt. You steal my toast every morning.
You don't understand pictures that don't move (it's like you grew up in a magical Harry Potter world) and when we FaceTime with Grandma, you always take her on a tour of the house. You introduce me to my parents every time they come to visit.

You want to play with friends but you haven't quite figured out how to do it well all the time, so you spend a lot of time playing chase and taking direction from older kids.

You are so inquisitive! You question everything, which is wonderful and frustrating. And you set me up with your questions all the time:

"Mama, where do rockets come from?"
"They come from NASA, Em"
"No they don't mama. They come from owta space."

"Mama, what's that?"
"It's a tractor, Em"
"No it isn't mama, it's a Bawbcat"

You are so good at riding your strider bike, you can throw a ball better than any other 3 year old I've seen (with your left hand, no less!), and you think you can cartwheel but really, you can't.

You know the letters E, H and O, and you call the letter A a triangle. You have long conversations in the bathtub on your foam letter "W."

When you get in trouble, you often say "honnnnnnnnnk" like the dump truck in "Little Blue Truck" and then you happily sit in the rocking chair in your room until time out is over.

When you count, it usually goes like this: "one, two sree, sore, sive, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, leven, twelve, firteen, fourteen, fourteen, fourteen, fourteen, THREE TWO ONE blastoff!"

You are a big cousin and a big brother now, and you're so good at it. You help all the time, and give big hugs and kisses, and you transitioned so well to having to share all the adults in your life with two babies.

Happy birthday darling boy. I love you so much!!!!!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I Did It!

I earned my National Board Certification! That whole big project, all bazillion pages of writing and hours of recording and months of stressing - it was all worth it!

And the way they tell you...up until a week ago, I didn't even know when I'd know. But then they sent out an email saying scores would be released on the 15th. Naturally, since I knew they ran on east coast time, I logged in yesterday just after 9 to see if, just maybe, I'd be able to get to my scores. And this is what I saw as soon as I hit "login"

Just like that! Ross and I were both shocked. I wasn't sure I'd pass, and I wasn't sure the scores would be ready, and I definitely wasn't expecting to see the congratulations there right away!

A whole lot of yesterday was hard and kinda crummy...but this was the best end possible! And then I got to run across the backyard, to my sister's place, and share a celebratory glass of wine with her and my dad. Hard to beat that!!

I'm thankful today for our crockpot, because it makes delicious food while I'm not home; for my dad, working tirelessly to lift our family up and make sure we know how proud he is of us; for the internet, because it relieved me of that awful "running to the mailbox 10 times in an hour just to see if your results have arrived" feeling that I remember so well from the college app days; for my students - I could not have looked so competent without them; for my sister, for a million reasons, but today because she didn't tell my dad I'd passed, even though she knew, so I got to see him read my text and get all surprised and that was really fun; and finally for my husband, because that man read every.single.word I wrote in my National Boards. And it was not good writing. And he told me it was even while deleting huge passages of useless word soup that I'd written at 2 am. And he kept me supplied in snacks and bubbly water and backrubs while I wrote, and never complained once. Except about how the National Boards don't give you nearly enough space to answer all the questions they ask - he complained about that one a lot, as he eliminated every transition word I'd written. But they earned that complaint. So thanks, babe!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Story Time

I love when my niece visits...she and Em play so well together. Just look at this adorableness!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Circular Conversations

E#1 can't say Rs yet. (E#2 can't really say anything yet aside from "A-goooo" but that's to be expected). Anyways, E1 can't say Rs, but he can hear them. Which leads to lots of hilarious conversations between him and me.

E: I want to build a wamp with my bwocks!
Me: A wamp?
E: No, a wamp!
Me: A wamp?
E: No mama, a WAMP!
Me: A ramp?
E: Yeah! A wamp!

E: Auntie, I want a cwackew!
Kel: A qwacker?
E: No, a qwackew!
Kel: A qwacker?
E: No Auntie, a QWACKEW!
Kel: A cracker?
E: Yeah, a qwackew!

This also happens with the word "spiderweb" and it makes me laugh so hard every time.

E: Look mama, a spidewob!
Me: A spidewob?
E: No, a spidewob!
Me: A wob?
E: No mama, a WOB!
Me: A web?
E: Yeah! A wob!

It was especially funny at Halloween - decorations all over the place, plus the kids dressed up all in things he couldn't pronounce properly, but could pronounce adorably.

An astwonaut, a dwagon and a wobster!