Showing posts from 2017

Via Instagram 12.19.17

There is nothing wrong with us. There is something wrong with thinking there is something wrong with us.
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Johns Hopkins University. 2010. I did not want to "sound dumb" in front of "them." No confidence in my ability to articulate myself. Inadvertent lessons learned by way of my grandma cursing me out one minute and answering a random phone call with her "high-class" tone the next, taught me that there was only one way to "sound" intelligent. So, before my very first graduate school presentation, I spent hours in the mirror, annunciating my words to mimic the intonation and cadences of "their" accents. Here I was, earning straight A's on every one of my written assignments, a well versed scholar, adept in my content but still, not enough. 
Writing this to clarify the intended message of my last post. My students are EXPECTED TO SPEAK/WRITE STANDARD ENGLISH in my classroom, PERIOD. However, I do not …


No more. In a society that continues to herald the infamy of our communities by brainwashing mass audiences through media that depicts our 'hoods as wild and dangerous, we say, no more. It's as if the hood is synonymous to the jungle. But wouldn't we ALL, not just those of us who are "woke" but all! of us, have to mentally and financially be freed in order for us to be akin to the creatures in the jungle? Are we America's zoo animals? Socially and economically, caged and marginalized by the control of "their" meticulously allocated resources. The direct result of systemic redlining by the various housing acts and the big banks of America, positioned our neighborhoods to be doomed. With no jobs in the early to mid-nineteen-hundreds for many of our youth, they took to the streets. Convinced that drug money was going to save our souls, when in actuality it created an even bigger market for us "zoo birds" to become domesticated "jail bird…

The Sound of Dead Leaves

when im riding my bike under the full moon i ask my great grandma, whom only i can see, why?why you start this?why you leave your babies when they was only babies?"embarrassment," the wind whispers to me through dead autumn leaves. "the voices,the blue eyed ghosts,the light skinned long haired singing girls who never let me even hum their pretty little tunes.the promise of hard labor.the regret of being alive. i wanted freedom. i wanted to die but instead i chose to run. the south was no place for me. the south was for mamas and yes, i had 6 babies but i was never a mama. and i knew this so i ran. i never slept. i never slept alone. kept my bed filled. kept my distance from the truth. kept my lace-veiled hat cocked to side covering the tears that fell on Sunday mornings because i missed what i could have had and when it came to me... when my babies came to me, all grown and tall, i spat at them instead of saying sorrybut i promise, it won't meit won't my heart. 

12:24 AM

My gran is explaining the story of how she found out my mother was on crack. How she thought my mother was just sick and she called the ambulance. They took her to the hospital and one of the nurses said, "Lord! I'm so tired of chasing these crackheads!" And my grandmother asked, "What is a crackhead?" I asked my gran how she felt when the nurse said that about her daughter, her first born child, and she said, "I didn't feel nothing. I didn't know nothing about crack. Had never heard of it. But I ain't have no time to feel. Social services was ready to take y'all and I said, 'No, I'll keep the kids.' I was in and out of court. It was hell. My life was hell." She said this was the fall of 1986. 
Anyways my mom called over here today and she didn't ask about me or my siblings. I ain't seen her in 3 years. And I didn't want to see her today so I'm glad I didn't have to be phony. I don't hate her. I just …

Love Rampage No. 5

I love.  I love.  I love. 
I love how vivid my dreams are.  I love how I saw myself exactly where I want to be.  I love how my loved ones were right there with me.  I love how easy it is to make my dreams my reality.  I who who I am this morning.  I love how my week ended.  I love how my sweat shirt fits into my sweat pants into my boots.  I love my denim jacket.  I love my big wild hair. 
I love my classroom. I love not having first period.
I love breathing.  I love relaxing. I love letting everything happen. 
I love seeing my lover in my dreams. I love waking up next to him, up under him.  I love seeing Tay on the side of us. 
I love that Tay knows I am his home.  I love that I did not get angry with Tay today for being disobedient.  I love how he has taught me to be a better mom. 
I love knowing.  I love not knowing.  I love sleeping.  I love good meals. 
I love seeing everything from a beautiful perspective. I love how I handled this rude woman last night.  I love that I knew it was her anxiety that made her …

of a young bird

there's this theory 
when the seasons change our internal moods shift as well. felt myself..  
like watching waves crawl back into the ocean  under a dark mooned night.. like the lone white feather that trails in the shadows floating below summer blue leaves  felt it coming to a slow burn like the tip of my black  crushing against my gold asher crashing. 
but it doesn't hurt doesn't even tingle 
my steps were inches apart  to go home to an empty place  to be home in a desolate space  movement along the streets became such a struggle   i hailed a car  justified because the A train was the last place I needed to be under these conditions  underground  too dark under  too low 
but  avoiding it is as impossible  as not avoiding it 
still low in this window  this one candle lit room living space for one
sounds like a phone off its hook
no one to hang it back up no silence in this cave but it's without a voice  without an answer   aching  empty veins
heart beat moans  songs of Billie or Nina to escape the mad wal…

How to Thrive:

Meditate  Opportunities are outside of your comfort zone Visionary not victim Educate yourself 


We viewed prints from Kerry James Marshall's self portrait series. Then, we watched Oprah interviewing First Lady Obama. They were talking about the term, "angry black woman..." We went into a deep discussion about being mislabeled and how it affects our self-esteem. 

It was disheartening to hear the girls talk about being called loud, ghetto, mean or even bougie for getting good grades. What pained me even more was to hear how they have tried to change themselves because of the name calling. 

"Conceded" was the name that bothered them most. Like me, at their age, I was often called conceded and was taught that it was a bad thing to have any form of self love. I was to be humble, modest, and meek. All words that were wrongly defined in my mind, at the time. "Val think she all that!" was the phrase that made me hate the very flaws, in whichI learned as an adult, were my greatest strengths. But back then, I tried my best to belittle myself and dumb down m…

White Teacher Privilege

Nearly 600 teachers at this conference and I could only count 6 who were black. I'm the biggest proponent of solidarity. I truly believe that we are one, however, I was utterly disappointed to find myself at a conference that did not reflect this ideology. 
This was in Philly, where according to my research, "Black and Latino students showed a 29-point gap in reading proficiency rates compared to White and Asian students."

I went to learn from one of my favorite authors, Jenn Serravello. Her books are like my teaching bibles. During the PD she took her expertise from one deminsion to 3-D. Multiple ways to confer with students, seeing data as student work- not standardized tests, and using goal setting to intrinsically motivate students were just a few of my takeaways ... but I was literally in tears, at the fact that other teachers of students who share the same dismally low desire to read as mine (according to the data, Philly children and Baltimore children are pretty mu…

Serve in TRUTH


Reading as an Act of Service

I am an over-thinker. Deeply involved in my own head. Without reading, my perspective would be extremely limited to the messages and ideologies of the mainstream world. So I read to expand my imagination, compassion, and ability to problem solve. The conflict is: not enough people are doing the same. Brains washed and hung to dry and they don't even know it.

Collectively, when we gain new ideas, we all have to begin sharing them with people who don't have them. Whether it's an issue of access or exposure, we that know have to help others who don't know.

I don't want to build a community of educated intellectuals who have meet ups and talk about books and culture. I want to reach beyond those of us that already understand the importance of learning for ones self. Summits and conferences are cute and fun for networking but I am more interested in going into the neighborhoods and spaces that have never even heard of most of the people we look to as public servants. Spen…

Video Lesson: Book Talk - The Hate You Give


Monster: Video Lesson Plan

Email me for a PDF of the lesson:

Rampage: For My Soul

On a high. 
Loving what waking up at 5AM does for my soul. 
Loving what believing that all is well does for my soul. 
Loving what Frank Ocean does for my soul. 
Loving what 90 degrees in September does for my soul. 
Loving what a chai latte with coconut milk does for my soul. 
Loving what a clean back seat of an Uber does for my soul. 
Loving what Sam Edelman clogs do for my soul. 
Loving what Syd the Kid's voice does for my soul. 
Loving what denim on denim does for my soul. 
Loving what telling the truth does for my soul. 
Loving what listening does for my soul. 
Loving what my students working hard does for my soul. 
Loving what a random compliment does for my soul. 
Loving what holding my pup does for my soul. 
Loving what a good laugh does for my soul. 
Loving what therapy does for my soul. 
Loving what my brother's visits do for my soul. 
Loving what Baltimore does for my soul. 
Loving what riding with the new day everyday does for my soul. 
Loving what writing gratitude lists does for my s…

Video Lessons: Student Self-Monitoring


Teaching in the Trump Era: Reflective Practice

I blame Trump. Just talking about him brought the morale of my class down! So serious. 
My plan was to start today's lesson off with the outlandish tweets from the weekend. 

I seriously had it all mapped out. I was excited. 
Step 1: Each student had a cut out of the tweets and was to glue them into their life books.
Step 2: Annotate the quotes. 
Step 3: Complete an Intellectual Reflection. 
I gave them 10 minutes because it was just our "drill" - not supposed to be the entire lesson. 

When they timer rang, almost all of them asked for more time. More time? When you all sat there talking for most of your 10 minutes? Nope. Now, of course the question is: why did I let them talk. Because I was working with a small group of students and no matter how many times I told the other groups to stop talking and get to work, they played. Silent playing is the worst kind of playing. 
I knew giving them extra time would only reinforce the negative behavior so instead, I had them all take a st…