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Showing posts from March, 2018

1986: Negra not Morena

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1986— I’m so broken.My eyes focus and drift and focus again. I see what’s in front of me, as if it’s really there. I see visions from the womb.
I see me in her. I hear her. I hear the door slam as he comes in and passes the living room. He plays a vinyl. Hendrix. Sits in the chair and as she walks by to get him a drink, he grabs her and starts to tongue her neck. Her lips find their way to his ear and she whispers, “I’m pregnant.” “What?” Still kissing her. “I’m four months pregnant, Frankie.” He slides his freshly manicured hand through his silk spun black hair, steps back, and asks, “How?” She looks down at me, then back up at him. “You know how.”
I can hear him. I want him to hold me through her dark brown belly but instead, in his strong Dominican accent, he tells her, “I don’t want a Black baby.”
She stops speaking. Mommy don’t know I can hear her thoughts. They’re racing through her veins from her brain to my ears, screaming at me. Saying everything she won’t say out loud. It’s sca…

2:39 AM

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Penn State for a keynote lecture this weekend. Feeling like a true erudite who likes a good selfie as much as she likes a good book. Every time I speak at a college, I remember when Nikki Giovanni and Sister Souljah spoke at my HBCU. 
I wanted to be them.
A dream manifested.




The Sun of Their Lives

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The bell rang. I was sitting at my desk. A rarity. I made them stay an extra ten minutes to finish their exams. One by one, they each began to submit their papers. The room was empty, save for her and a red-head boy named T.

He was so fixed on finishing that he didn’t notice what was happening. Her face scrunched up, as if she wanted it to sink all the way in, leaving nothing but her brown skin— no features, no expression, no mouth to tell what happened, no eyes to cry out. 
But I could still see her face: hardened by the world. 
“What’s wrong, baby girl?”
She took out her phone, put it near her ear and waited for the person on the receiving end...
“Where’s mommy?  Nothing... where’s mommy? Can you tell her call me back? Nothing. Nothing. Bye.”
She hung up. Still letting her tears paint her face. 
“What’s wrong?” “Nothing, Ms. Clay.” “You want to write about it?” I knew she would say no. She wasn’t a writer. She was always quiet. With a newfound affinity for reading “street novels.” Her attendance…

What If I Be

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what if i be myself? what if i let the world see more than my classroom? even more than my pain? what if they find out what I love? who I love? what if I start dancing more? what if cursed in my writing the way I do in real life? what if they knew why me and my ex didn’t work out? what if they asked me about my early twenties? what if i stopped being a robot? what if i never lost my mind? what if i never lived in Cuba? what if i never moved back to baltimore? what if i stop teaching and go to Harvard or Stanford? what if buy a ticket to India and never come back? what if i sit at my easel and paint all day and write all night? what if I open a bookstore? what if i never read the alchemist? what if ash never put me on to abraham hicks? what if i never went to Malibu with dave? what if never hear music again? what if couldn’t see flowers in full bloom? what if Alex never published words from a wanderer? what if I wasn’t me? what if I knew how to speak French? what if I never read bell h…

On Starting a School

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I keep reading comments about opening a school. I’m going to but first, I want to do a few more things that will directly impact the community. Schools have too many politics and in order for my dream school to come to life, I need just a little more time. Some other things are in the works, y’all! I promise ❤️ (PS: this pic is old ... taken in my fav bookstore, Bluestockings NYC, where my 1st book is currently on sale!)

Extrinsic Motivation v. Intrinsic Motivation: A Testament

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spent my last $90 on their little party yesterday (see previous post) just to wake up to messages like this. They know I don’t ever do awards for doing what’s expected man! To see me make such a big deal about them READING, was a message to them. It was intentional. And it worked. It’s like @thetwentiesgal said to me, “They are children. They won’t always have intrinsic motivation at first.” So true! And I believe once they have the skills to read on their own, it won’t matter if they intrinsically want to read (and change the world one book at a time!) as young adults! They will, at least, have the option to do it! It’s all about having the ability to access the text! I’m supposed to be meditating right now but my concentration has been off lately. Hoping my weekend in ATL gives me some fresh air to refresh my thoughts. Happy Friday family!

In Celebration on My Students’ 1st Novel

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My students know: “Ms. Clay don’t do awards!” but honey, they made me so proud. Finishing their very first novel. I used to be so frustrated at the system when I would find out my 7-8th graders never finished a book! Actually, I used to get frustrated about EVERYTHING they dont know, never learned, and didn’t know how to do — but acceptance is key. And no, acceptance is not the same thing as allowing.
I accept the truth: our children are going through years of school and not learning enough. But I do not allow them to leave my classroom in the same way they came. .


It’s not about what they “can’t do!” It’s about what I need to teach them how to do!!! And these children allowed me to teach them how to read! No fake reading. Really comprehending!!! Really critically thinking!!! Proud! Proud! Proud! Gave some awards and a party in every class today! And for the babies who are still persevering through their first book, I see you and I support you!!!!! Y’all up next! Don’t give up! Love you…

I was 17 via Instagram 3.15.18

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I was 17 ... I remember my guidance counselor at BOCES told me that I would never be broke after high school because I would be able to do people’s hair in college like she did... but what I really learned, outside of doing hair, was that I was able to succeed. I got my first A in math at BOCES because my teacher was a special educator — well maybe it had less to do with her being a sped teacher and more to do with her being able to break it down for me. I literally failed Math B (nyc ppl know what class/regents that is) twice before going to trade school. Grateful. And I didn’t decide to be a full time cosmetologist because I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. Only time I actually find myself using my skills is when I do my students’ hair lol #tbt (most people have no idea I have a cosmetology degree ... that’s that Dominican side of me lol jk)


Building the Natural Vocabulary

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Skill: Acquiring Vocabulary
Strategy: When you find a new word, add it to your sticky note. Then, add it to our interactive word wall. On Monday, present your words to your classmates. On Friday, we have a vocabulary quiz!.
Rationale: Teaching them not to wait for the teacher to give them a vocabulary/spelling list but to be able to identify unknown/unfamiliar words when they read, independently. That way, they’ll continue learning new words, forever and always! This strategy transcends beyond a classroom..
Standard: CCSS Language 8.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words or phrases based on grade 8 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies. (For those that ask how I balance the standards with their independent reading books!)
As you can see, in this video, some of the words are not “8th grade” words.. which is even more of a reason to do this strategy, in addition to teaching them “grade leveled” vocabulary words. They need to know…

On Whole Class Novels

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I was forced to forgo them when teaching in Harlem. Our ELA lead forbid us to teach whole class novels and it was a struggle for me, bcz it was all I knew. Before teaching under her leadership, I used to have my students read 2 books a year, teach the content of the books, and a few skills— like summarizing, visualizing, inferencing. Other vital reading skills like asking questions and making connections would be taught with non-fiction.  Allowing students to read independent novels opened a whole new world, the world of individual conferencing with each child on a daily basis. Through conferring, I learned how intimate and personal learning how to read is for our children, especially children who do not value reading. Collectively, my students finished over 40 books that year. .
But monitoring independent reading was a challenge this school year because 1) we didn’t have books 2) they silently rebelled against my homework assignment of reading 15 pages a night. Me, being a firm believ…

PoWer to Me

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What is poWer to me? A girl with a book in her hand, using it as a Weapon against any thing that comes to destroy her. KnoWing that she is never going to be complete because she is infinite and eternal and the only time she Will feel full is When she is learning... then she Will share that knowledge, until she feels depleted and need to be filled again and nothing Will fill her like a good book can, or a documentary, or a trip to a new land, or a deep conversation with a stranger about ideas that inspire her to run home and create and paint and dance and Write and sing and be as free as she was born to be. But back to poWer, a poWer that doesn’t need to speak to be heard or push to move a mountain. A poWer Wise enough to know: all she has to do is think it and so shall it be so.