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Showing posts from January, 2016

8:16

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Dear Valencia, 
I can see you.  And I love getting to know you.  Thank you for the one on one time.  Thank you for turning your phone off for a day and just listening to me.  Thank you for making space for me and not complaining about my ways.  Thank you for teaching me that it's okay to be/love me. Thank you for making me comfortable around you.  Thank you for your patience.  Thank you for investing in me with all of the books and documentaries and travels and museums and talks with elders. Thank you for teaching me new things.  Thank you for holding my hand.  Thank you for loving me unconditionally.  Thank you for being intentional with your love for me.  Thank you for recognizing the times when that love is not as intentional as I desire but not beating me up.  I am glad you stopped beating me up.  I am grateful that you learned to meditate.  I am grateful that you don't lean on others or substances for healing.  I love your strength but I also love your areas that are in need of growth.  I…

6:56

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Tall and strong Black and brown boys in tears, crying and explaining the correlation between their grades and their absent fathers ... Saying things like, "I will work hard so I can provide for my mother when I get older. I don't want to watch her starve again." 
When you hear mothers explaining sacrifices they made, working menial jobs and taking sh't just to buy her son a pair of boots because he said his feet were freezing on his way home from school. 
When mothers call you telling you that they can't come to the conference because they don't have money for a metro card so you do a home visit instead. 
When you hear a father name all the family members that his son has seen get killed or get locked and start crying and telling him that they, including himself, went through that so his son won't have to. 

When little girls translate every assignment in Fulani because they are first generation Americans. 
When grandmothers pull you to the side, thanking you f…

Puddle Reflection No. 1: My Hotline Don't Bling

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Wednesday, Jan. 27th, 2016 8:16AM NP: Phony Ppl - That's Why I Love the Moon
Last night, or this morning rather,  I started something new. It was a quarter past three, which quickly became 4:20... I couldn't sleep. Spent an hour in my thoughts. Even got up to meditate but there was too much on my mind. And no one to talk to. Ain't nobody on my hotline. My line actually can't even be considered hot. So I had a little idea. Might work. Might not. I decided to call myself. I went to the voice notes in my phone, pressed record, put the phone on my pillow, and just talked about everything that was on my mind. When I woke up an hour later for school, I realized I fell asleep on myself. The phone was still recording. 
A satisfying pride filled my smile when I looked at my reflection. I made it through the night, on my own. 
Thing is, I'm not even in a dark place. Not experiencing a low. There was just a lot on my mind. 
Right before going to bed a former student called me with …

7:26 PM in My Classroom Window

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Interesting things that happened today:
1. My principal randomly asked me to start leading PDs of my choice ... Withno explanation as to why... It was weird. It was as if he's been reading my rants. 
2. A young white teacher (who is very strong with management and has a great fashion sense...not sure how much that matters) asked me for guidance on leaving our school to teach at another or staying at our school and stepping into a leadership position and my advice was to spread her wings and garner more tools elsewhere before stepping into a leadership position (only been teaching 5 years). I think it's funny that I told her to stay in the classroom when I am struggling to stay in... Maybe I was speaking to myself as well. 
3. One of my girls called another girl a hoe in front of the boys and I found myself telling her about the time I called a girl a hoe and was then called a hoe by the same guys that I called the other girl a hoe with. I gave her "The Coldest Winter Ever&qu…

NP: Sade - Tattoo

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10:56PM
It amazes me how much time I spend alone... how much I like it. I remember crying about being alone in Baltimore when my friends moved away. I cried for a long time and would always cry whenever they left after visiting me. Now, it's all blur under the memory of my spirit assuring me that those nights alone were preparing me for something. I always thought it meant I would move even farther away and have no friends and be able to handle it. What I have come to realize is, it was preparing me to be closer to Spirit - to get to know myself, every part of me. It was those nights that taught me how to accept my solitude. Taught me how to enjoy and love and find the makings of me. 

I left my journal in school. I thought about starting a new one because I really didn't want to type anything tonight. I prefer to use pen and paper when I just have these kinds of random but not so random thoughts. Maybe that's why I don't mind being alone. I never feel alone. I always fee…

I Gave My Number to a White Man

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Thursday, Jan. 21st, 2016
9:09 PM NP: Plastic - Moses Sumney
People always ask me, Have you ever dated a white guy? or Would you consider dating a white man? 
I think its a stupid question. 
Im pro-Black but Im not against bi-racial anything. Just because I believe in Black love doesnt mean I dont think white and Black people can be together. I fight in my classroom and with my words bearing the message that we educate our selves, not isolate ourselves. 
About an hour ago, after spending the evening reading in Starbucks, the man sitting next to me asked for my number. This was, of course, not until after a short conversation we shared about education and books. I gave it to him.  He asked if we could get together for coffee sometime. (I don't publish dating-life posts on my website anymore but I felt compelled to publically note this encounter.) Cool beans. I dont quite plan on dating him - not because he was white but because I don't have the time to invest in another person right …

3 Plus 1 Ways to Finish a Book: For People with Low Attention Spans

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Ever since I started posting my reads, I am finding more and more people asking me: How do you find time to read so much?
Here are the answers:
1. Carve out time in your schedule every day
Example:  -15 minutes in the morning before you get out of bed  -15 minutes during your lunch break at work -30 minutes before bed -an hour and a half on Saturday and Sunday mornings 
My personal favorite is 2 hours on Friday nights... (Dear Future-Lover, take note. That's what we'll be doing on Friday nights LOL) 
2. Set a timer and do not stop reading until your timer goes off
You ever start reading and then find yourself on the gram before you even finished 2 pages? I have! But now that I use a timer, when I get distracted and pick up my phone, the timer is right there - reminding me to keep reading. 
3. Set a goal for the number of pages you want to finish
I usually do 30 pages in 45 mins depending on the level of text. Studies show that number to be average for adults. But don't get crazy with …

Dear Future Daughter: Thoughts on the Queens' Round Table

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Dear Future Daughter, 
Today was a dream come true. 75 women came together to celebrate and uplift one another at the Queens' Round Table - which intentionally took place on King's Day. I don't even know who captured the Sun shinning like that, but right under it is me looking in the window at the Harlem Blossom girls, waiting inside of the library to greet the Baltimore Blossom girls - who woke up and took the bus at 4AM to come here to NYC today. It was my greatest joy to connect these groups of girls together and to expose them to so many powerful Black women. I cried as childhood friends entered, your aunties were there too, and even women from Instagram whom I never met - not only came but embraced me with the warmest hugs as if we'd known each other for years. (I've written to you about how I much I hate social networks before, but I was wrong. They are proving to be effective in connecting me with the most beautiful, beautiful souls.) I want you to know, I di…

When I Moved to Manhattan

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when i moved to manhattan i put my bed against the window so i could easily pretend 
i am laying in pastures of grass  as i obsess  over the sky i imagine the unspoken conversations that take place up there the birds conspire  always in such a race against the clouds.  i wonder if the clouds even notice they never change their pace.  the birds flutter and flap vehemently  while the clouds just glide appearing to know exactly where they are going  paying absolutely no regard to time and certainly not worried about anything beneath them.


Light Skindid

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via instagram  January 14th, 2016 11:49 PM
i hated, i mean utterly abhorred being light skinned (or "light-skin-did" if you have southern roots like me) when i was a child because all of the elders in my family could not stand light skinned people. it wasn't my fault that i am half dominican. but it didn't matter how my face became this fair, they simply did not see me as one of them.. to be light skinned was to be conceded, stuck up, lazy... "you gon' be one of them dirty yella' heifas that keep a nasty house..." at only 7 years old, i was naive and did not yet know that complexion was a major separation factor amongst them and their classmates during Jim Crow-North Carolina... had no idea what they went through in school with their own Black teachers, who essentially instilled in them, the very theories they forced upon me. i would spend eons under the sun every summer, trying my hardest to get darker. i wanted to fit in so badddd.. i just wanted to …

Throwback Tuesday

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10 years ago. I look at this picture and remember exactly where I was going: The Bronx to see my mom, during one of the only times in my life when she was clean. I'll never understand why she chose to relapse. I threatened her, told her if she started getting high again, I would never let her be around her future grands. Told her if she loved me/cherished our relationship, she would stay clean. She didn't, and I took it personal. I always thought she got high to avoid taking care of me, therefore she didn't love me. Always felt like she was choosing drugs over me, and that I wasn't worthy enough of being loved by anyone else because my own mother (and father) didn't even want me. Took years of traumatic yet invaluable experiences to learn that I was wrong - I am loved, was always loved, will always be loved. But what I value most about being a child of neglect and substance abuse is the natural ability it has given me to understand/connect with the youth, especiall…

Have I Become a Gangsta?!

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Monday, January 11th, 2016 9:40 PM  NP: Mary J. Blige - Changes I've Been Going Through 
An administrator said to me today, "Valencia, you have the potential to be the best teacher in this school."
"I am the best teacher in this school."
Straight-faced and very serious, I quickly found myself juxtaposed with that awkward, nervous laugh he always has when he doesn't know what to say to me. "You have things you can still improve, Ms. Clay."
"Really? How would you know? You've never seen me teach. You've never sat in on one of my classes." Did I just say that? Sheesh! The words were irreversible. The only thing I could do was continue. "This is my first time ever working in a place that doesn't do observations and goal setting throughout the school year to help the teachers improve . . . you know," I couldn't stop myself from adding the unnecessary snark, "so we can all be the best teachers in the building..."

Birds Still Sing

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Sunday, Jan. 10th, 2015
7:07 AM
Tisshh. . .  Tisc-ka-tisss. . . Tisshhh. . . Tish-sha-tishh. . . The tapping was light enough to wake me. But I kept my eyelids sewn. I didn't need to open them to see the secret swarms of swift sepia shimmering under a flash, then becoming magically invisible in blackness. I knew. I remembered. I would hear them most keenly, scheming from the walls, tip toeing around my head. Cloaked by clutter but still engendering plastic A&P, K-Mart, and dollar store bags to whisper in the night. 
A house habited with demons. Those roaches had souls. They crawled on our mirrors, unbothered by their reflections. They loved our home. Made love in our home. Breeding by the day. 
Friends did not break bread with us. But I was only embarrassed when it came to boys. That house was my birth control. 
I went to Rite-Aid and the Goodwill last night. Left the bags on my floor. Too tired to put my new things away. This morning, the tapping was light enough to wake me. I knew it…

Rain

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rain  is god's  sperm falling in the receptive  women how else  to spend  a rainy day other than with you seeking sun and stars  and heavenly bodies  how else to spend  a rainy day other than with you
-Nikki Giovanni 

really? i thought, as Black women, we were far beyond the good hair/bad hair conversations

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Friday, January 8th, 2016 6:36 AM NP: Xplosive - The Chronic
One of the most ignorant things someone has said to me in a long time was said last night... Why do you wear Marley twists and box braids? You got good hair!! I didn't even respond. I really thought as Black women we were far beyond the good hair/bad hair conversations. Thought we all knew: the only good hair is HEALTHY HAIR. 
My kids are working on essays and abstract art pieces that depict the ways in which we are still affected by Willie Lynch syndrome. The statement that young lady said to me is ignorant enough to stand alone as a captivating hook for my model essay.... but i have to get to work this morning... 
to be continued...


My Sentiments Toward Teachers that Don't Return After the Break

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Okay so the truth is, I'm not really in love with my current school. I don't agree with a lot of things that are mandated. I won't enumerate the problems because I work at a charter and I am not tenured, but trust me, it's not as glamorous as you may think. But I love my students with a passion. And any time anybody is having an issue with someone or something in my school I tell them the same thing I tell myself, "You are not here for politics. You are not here to play games. I don't work for not one of these adults, I work for the children. All you have to do is teach the children." They, and only they, are the reason I show up every single day.
So many teachers I know won't be returning to their schools tomorrow. For once, I'm not even going to make this about race or class. The facts around the many reasons why we are losing our young teachers go far beyond Black and white. These reasons range from the lack of curricular autonomy, friction betw…

Best of 2015

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Assata - Assata Shakur 
Autobiography of Angela Davis - Angela Davis
The Souls of Black Folks - W.E.B. DuBois
Siddhartha - Hermann Hesse
Black Women in White America - Gerda Learner 
Giovanni's Room - James Baldwin
The Isis Papers - Frances Cress Welsing
Silver Sparrow - Tayari Jones
A Return to Love - Marianne Williamson
I've Been a Woman - Sonia Sanchez
Teaching Critical Thinking - bell hooks
Drown - Junot Diaz
The Prophet - Khalil Gibran
God Wears Lipstick - Karen Berg
Between the World and Me - Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Road Less Traveled - M. Scott Peck
Black Face, White Masks - Frantz Fanon
This is Not a Test - Jose Vilson
Birds of Paradise - Raquel Cepeda 
Nine Years Under - Sheri Booker
The Other Side of Paradise - Julia Cooke
Black Teachers on Teaching - Michelle Foster 
Ask and It Is Given - Esther and Jerry Hicks
The Fire Next Time - James Baldwin
Bad Feminist - Roxanne Gay
The Four Agreements - Don Miguel Ruiz
Asperpous Artistry - Kondwani Fidel
Love in My Language - Alexandra Elle
Ain't I a W…

Happy New Light

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Dearly Beloved,
I spent the last 7 days of 2015 unplugged from social networks down here in New Orleans. 
Working on some stories but taking my time. 
Enjoy your holidays!
See you soon, V