By TEACHED intern Zachary Dorcinville
When President Obama was elected back in 2008, I was elated because I had a feeling that our country was entering a brand new era in which equality would be a priority. Fast forward to 2016, and it's a totally different ball game.
By TEACHED intern Zachary Dorcinville
Justice, self-healing, and cultural expression were some of the main themes along with many others presented at the inaugural Uptown Short Film Festival last month in Harlem, NYC. I walked into the theater with my expectations through the roof, however they were still shattered by the impactful vibe of all of the films.
One of the short documentary films centered around a woman who was sexually molested as a child and terrified of being involved in a relationship ever since. In search of a solution for her chronic depression and anxiety, Anita Kopacz turned to alternative therapeutic interventions and self expression, conquering fear and opening herself up to healing. This film sent a strong message to others who have been in a similar circumstance.
The film that left the biggest mark on me however was "Think of Calvin", a short film by Loudspeaker Films' Kelly Amis about the harsh reality of racial profiling for African Americans (you can watch the trailer here). As the film progressed, I was easily able to identify with the crowd which was mesmerized by the provocative and surprising story. As facts were presented at the end of the film, there was a chilling effect felt throughout the crowd, me included. Film director Kelly Amis received a well deserved second place trophy at the end of the festival, and as an intern I was honored to walk up and congratulate her in a big moment.
By Angelica Flowers
One of my favorite Loudspeaker Films video is called "Like Father Like Son." I believe this video should be shown at schools in urban communities to have a positive influence on the young black men in my generation.
The area in which a child lives should not determine where he/she goes to school. After watching the our new video entitled "Because They Can: A Parent's View", I realized that the methods of teaching carried out in the area that a child lives may not match his/her learning style or satisfy their desire to learn different things.
Some of the highlights from the TEACHED film series in 2015 include:
An Interview with DeRay Mckesson
New Team Members
The Atlantic's Race & Justice Summit
Sharing the Code of Oakland
Introducing the Future of Tech
Suicide among young people is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., and most are linked to poor mental health. Adolescents dealing with mental health issues simply aren't getting the help they need, especially in educational settings. I believe that if schools would take the initiative to incorporate mental health services for young people suffering in silence, suicide among teens would drop dramatically.
In so many ways, the TEACHED film project is about the importance of teachers: the crucial role they play in the lives and futures of our children at the individual level and, when you zoom out, the role they play in the nation as a whole in maintaining and imparting the values and dreams of our democracy and beautiful melting-pot of our citizenry.
Think this is overstating it? For some perspective, there are more than 3 million public school teachers serving our children and youth today. This is more than TWICE the number of active military personnel in all the U.S. armed forces combined (1.4m)! Looked at this way, teachers represent an "army" of citizens who have taken on the responsibility of protecting the American Dream and our shared values of equality and justice via knowledge. From the inside out!
Lofty words for a Thursday morning, but sometimes given today's heated debates around the how/why/who/what of teachers in America, we might need a reminder of what an important job this is -- the power and responsibility that teachers have! We believe it should be a difficult job to get and keep, and it should be compensated and honored as such.
For National Teachers Appreciation Week, some of us here at TEACHED wanted to share our thoughts about the teachers who impacted our lives the most. Feel free to add your own teacher-appreciation-story below!
Honoring Joel Plummer
by Ashley Johnson
My life would be completely different had it not been for the influence of Joel Plummer, a teacher at Plainfield High School in New Jersey. Mr. Plummer was my U.S. History I teacher, my African American History teacher, and my basketball coach. Inside the classroom, I will never forget how he instilled in me a sense of confidence and pride about my culture. He was adamant that his students, nearly all of whom were African American and Hispanic, understood their heritage and past and were able to think critically about racial and social issues. However, my bond with Mr. Plummer grew much deeper. He became my mentor, and I looked to his advice on everything from family issues, work issues, and relationships.
Neither of my parents, or any of my siblings, made the choice to attend college. I was determined that I would be the first in my family to do so, but was quickly overwhelmed by the process. Mr. Plummer was instrumental during this time, helping me look at schools, editing my admissions essays, and helping me apply for financial aid. Without his guidance, I would not have been able to attend New York University.
Mr. Plummer has inspired a lot of students at Plainfield High School, but the effect he’s had on my life has been immeasurable. Today, more than 7 years since I’ve left his classroom, I still call him at least weekly to chat, catch up, or ask advice. I cannot let Teacher Appreciation Week pass without honoring the man who has impacted my life so greatly.
Honoring George Evans
by Vanessa Mehaouchi
My outlook on writing and my education in general was certainly enriched by my professor George Evans. Professor Evans frequently introduced me to the beauty of writing and sharing ideas, developing a voice and respecting the right and ability to write whatever we want for everyone to read and, as a result, respecting and cherishing our literacy. Prof. Evans always encouraged us to write in a way that we would be proud of seeing published. Keeping that idea in the back of your mind changed the way I wrote everything.
Prof. Evans is with the times, encouraging us to blog our ideas and read other blogs, and understand that our right to a lack of internet censorship should not be taken for granted (we may have to fight for it someday!) Anyone anywhere in the world can now post pictures, videos, and ideas from anywhere exposing the truth and documenting the whole truth. Evans encouraged us to read broader news and be aware; staying away from too much partisan news like CNN and FOX and consider other large scale news like Al Jazeera and BBC. Awareness and the ability to share go hand in hand, so thank you George Evans for not only being an excellent writing professor who never wasted a minute of class but also for putting my university experience into a different perspective with new feelings of anger, frustration, appreciation and curiosity.
Honoring Ogden "Yogi" Martin
by Kelly Amis
Today is a very special day: I'm taking my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Martin, to lunch. I have not seen him since I was in junior high in a small town in Nebraska, so I am really looking forward to telling him in person what an impact he made. The timing of National Teacher Appreciation Week makes this even more special.
Mr. Martin was one of those teachers who was so clearly and perfectly made for the job. He was smart, entertaining, fair, hard-working and fun. I remember many of the lessons he taught distinctly, mostly in science because he made it come alive (sometimes, almost literally: we dissected quite a few critters that year). I appreciate so much that Mr. Martin pushed me to my limits in math. Especially realizing now how rare that was (and sometimes still is, sadly) for girls to be pushed to achieve in math, I credit Mr. Martin with the fact that I ultimately reached AP Advanced Calculus in high school (yes I'm bragging a bit - that was probably my greatest accomplishment in high school)! It also helped me to believe I could and can do anything I put my mind to, even in areas traditionally dominated by men.
Living in a small town with one elementary and one jr-sr high meant that everyone pretty much knew everyone, especially all the teachers. They weren't just part of the community -- they WERE the community. They were our heroes and they were like family. When I became an elementary school teacher, I looked back to my own-- at the top of the list was Mr. Martin--to try and be as good as they were.
Thank you Mr. Martin - I know I speak for MANY others when I say, you are an exceptional teacher and we love you!
This speaks for itself:
Rest in peace, prayers go to the Martins.
Racial profiling, that's the way that it started.
You say it's not a problem,
it happens way too often.
Don't believe me? Then here's a story that I took part in.
I remember I was brought in.
Death threats is what they was talkin.
One of two students accused,
but I was slightly darker.
We in a room with an officer for questioning.
The focus was on Keenan, not the kid next to me.
Only elementary, the cop had turned and said to me,
He knew I was lying the moment I walked in, and I did it most definitely.
With no proof, the man assumed..he didn't have no evidence.
Said I was guilty without investigation, if that's not prejudice,
someone tell me what the definition is.
Cuz when I don't look like them other kids,
I'm treated differently.
It's in my history.
When they say that it's a myth it really gets to me.
To say it doesn't exist that really don't make sense.
To say we are all treated equal, is not the way it is.
So let’s not pretend,
and not be colorblind, cuz that ain't the way.
Cuz we must recognize the race,
Embrace and celebrate.
Yet, not separate ourselves from one another
And not be afraid to love each other for our differences.
The next week they discovered a different kid that was guilty.
Yes, another kid that definitely was not me.
I didn't get an apology from the police,
and I was never in any court room,
but from the moment I walked in,
that police man he was judging me.
And from that day on it stuck with me.
And it still does this day too.
So to say there isn't an issue with race,
is simply not stating the truth.
Maybe one day we can live King’s dream to the full extent yes, you and I.
We've come a long way, but we've got a ways to go and I still have hopes to unify.
- Keenan Trevon Serrano, July 13, 2013
We had the great honor and joy to screen one of the TEACHED Vol. I films--The Path to Prison--at the Friendship Schools Convocation in August. This annual event brings together all the 1,000 or so teachers who work in Friendship Schools, an excellent group of charter and traditional public schools in Washington, DC and Baltimore (which are featured in our other short film, Unchartered Territory, along with their inspirational leader Donald Hense).
Friendship Schools prove that it's possible to serve both students and teachers well. We knew the students were doing well, but WOW at this convocation did we some happy, joyful teachers! This is what teaching is supposed to be! Sometimes I think we all forget that. These days it seems like it's all arguing about how bad the job is, how hard the kids are, how terrible the parents are, etc. Hopefully schools like Friendship will light a fire to treat all teachers like professionals, let them work together and bring out their passion and JOY.
Ok, off my soapbox to let our fabulous new INTERN Josh Saunders tell you about his experience at the convocation. We are so happy to have Josh on board!
INTERNS SPEAK! From Joshua Saunders
The tenth Annual Friendship Public Charter School Convocation was held on August 22, 2012. It was a wonderful experience. While I learned a great deal on the errors in the school systems and observed everyone's appreciation for education, I also had a great time. I enjoyed the music and the entertainment. This event was a fun learning experience. I met Donald Hense, chairman of the Friendship Schools, and Kenneth L. Campbell, founding member of the Black Alliance for Educational Options. The speeches made, especially by Howard Fuller, opened my eyes to the reality of educational issues and how they affect students all over America including me. I also had a great time with Ms. Kelly Amis. I'm really glad I went to the convocation.
Check out photos from the Convocation HERE.
My new 3QuarksDaily.com column (posted today) talks about Malik Smith, to whom the TEACHED project is dedicated:
Twelve years ago, during the last days of a Washington, D.C. summer, I met a tiny boy who left a big impression.
I was volunteering at a day-in-the-country event for low-income D.C. kids; Malik was one of many who had climbed on a bus that morning to spend a day chasing ducks, dipping his feet in a pool and eating lunch on a vast green lawn.
Malik had just turned five. He was ridiculously cute, with a round little head and huge dark-brown eyes. We hit it off, and at the end of the day the event director asked if I would be interested in becoming Malik’s “big buddy.” A short time later, it was official. We were buddies.
For the next few years, I spent two or three weekends a month taking Malik, and usually his two sisters, all over the city, to parks, movies, the occasional heavily-negotiated museum. I had been a teacher and tutor before becoming Malik’s “big buddy,” but this program was less about academics and more about getting kids out and about to have some fun while giving their families support.
I had never thought to visit Malik’s school or meet his teachers, and was angry with myself for not doing so when I learned that he was in a special education class at school. I only discovered this because he happened to show me his class photo: there were only five or six children in it (a regular class would have had 24 or more) and one of them had Down’s Syndrome.
I tried to hide my dismay from Malik. I knew the Washington, DC school district was notorious for over-identifying students—especially black boys—as “special ed” but it had never occurred to me that Malik might be one of them. Why was this perfectly intelligent and capable little boy in what appeared to be a special-education-only class?
Malik’s mother (who assumed the school was doing what was best for him) gave me permission to investigate and helped me set up a meeting with his teacher.