Author: Dr. Joy

Quaranteaching After Poetry: Movement in Three Parts

Part I: You Got Me

It is Monday after a weekend when my gaze was upon two queens “battling” softly to their tunes more like celebration than war…

They had surrendered that story–two nations at odds–years ago for that is a story that wasn’t theirs in the first place. Like two lovers of one man, pitted against each other until they realize that they both love him, unconditionally and in less profane ways than the ones, outside of the circle feeding on quarrels that don’t exist. The stuff that created a rift between East Coast and West Coast that only ended in untimely deaths of leaders like Tupac and Chris (better known as Biggie) in a world that doesn’t really care to know them…yet they consume them.

These queens play their firsts…

Their versions of the same song…

In love and respect, homage and honor…

You got me…don’t worry…you got me…

Don’t worry. You know that you got me.

Part II. Watching Me

Surveilled by consent of a click

In order to see what I think might be there

Suspecting that no one is really there and yet ev’ry one is…

Who is in the room if all I see is a name, unallowed to be renamed…disallowed to be claimed and yet present in gallery view

From the Beginning

Perceiving the chain that school-issue

Stamped

Marked for me and them

Part 3: Reach

“Some dreams live on in time forever, those dreams you want with all your heart…”

I do not see this time as tragic…this time of uncertainty in education. I see it as an opportunity for tremendous equalizing force, realizing that it too can (and will) exacerbate inequities if we allow it. If we think that we must maintain what we have always had before…it will feel like we are reaching…grasping for straws in thin air.

But I have never wanted what we have always had. I want something different, not even something more…just different. More of the same, is like having a second helping of oatmeal when you want an entirely different meal.

I imagine teaching like coaching. Applying the right pressure to get the best from the ones who I have been entrusted to train…knowing that they will ultimately execute the plan that they see is best for them in that moment.

I have always imagined differentiated evaluation not just differentiated instruction…opportunities to showcase what you want, how you want…

This is closing ceremony…it is time to reach.

Gloria Estefan at the 1996 Olympics Closing Ceremony

Soñar con lo que más queremos
Aquello difícil de lograr
Es ofrecer llevar la meta a su fin
Y creer que la veremos cumplir
Arriesgar de una vez
Lo que soy por lo que puedo ser

This is that year when Strug literally left blood on the floor…the year when she decided to do what she felt best for the team…and when her team, fully inspired, picked up where she left off…

This is a new language for teachers, the language of reform and real opportunity. I am reaching for something different that I always imagined could be…

…if I could reach, putting my spirit to the test, knowing I tried my very best…I am going to be stronger…

Like a firefly in cupped hands

At almost fifty, I can still invoke the memory…

[Memory…its own muscle…is being exercised daily…]

The feelings…

Of a captured firefly (we called them lightnin’ bugs) walking around between my palms.

The curious arousal that made me laugh…nervously…

The released pheromones I detected in my nostril…the smell of fear or its basic physiology, it was different than the aroma of my own flesh.

Held lovingly, and in awe, tickled by its fancy, my entrapment did not keep it from reminding me of its capacity to form light.

Inspired by the brilliant Lorena Germán in her #31DaysIBPOC reflection What I Remember, I wish I could forget; some less pleasant, less useful, less productive sensations but I can’t…because…twenty, thirty, forty and almost fifty years later, when I show up to some spaces, places and conversations, the slap back into erasure and invisibility stings…still.

I try to shake it but I don’t really want to. Sort of like the firefly that has become comfortable in the warmth I create for it. In an open palm, it clings to my hand with a newly found familiar stance.

I want to remember it so I find the courage to persist…to be a racism-resistor…not just for myself but for my students and colleagues whose wings are still growing.

Then I read her reply to herself…an extended invitation to go back and read some more than level one text about Ending Curriculum Violence. Another memory, invoked by profound imagery and then the story.

Cotton and the slave narratives are one thing.

The mythology of functional and traditional family still another…

The loss of pictures and captured moments…

The legacy of the 1900 World Fair and the power of self, captured in an image. Reclaimed from gaze and yet we stare…because we wonder…what was going through the heart or minds of those who are (sic) captured, or maybe trapped, in that moment.

Patterns & Signs: On killing old trees

Sunlight through branches of an old tree

Earth Day was the reminder that I have been here for four years, only four years, although these days, weeks feel like months so years feel like an eternity.

When I first saw her, I thought “wow…she’s old!” Her roots, sprawling across the yard were providing stability for her wide bottom, securing her future even though her fruit were slow to reveal themselves and her many branches were unsteady. Yet, I was in awe of her.

The inspector pointed out that she would have to be cut, on one side you could see how she was threatening my own protection, our house/his future wealth, my right-then investment. Her roots were cracking the foundation just outside my door. Her far reaching trunk was hampering the sun’s light, starving smaller, younger life beneath her.

In the tumult of several rainy days, branches snapped, limbs scraped the rooftop and weedy grass revealed the persistent gasp her roots now made to stake the soil and hold on.

Like this moment, I decided to take the old and beautiful thing down. No real memorial just a single picture of her…along with the promise that I will plant more in place of her. I will be thoughtful about the sure history that will come later–after years of support and care. I will choose ones whose roots run deep rather than wide…whose growth will be intentionally slow rather than fast and sure to be overturned when the next and certain storm comes.

Like this moment, I will think about her as I pen a new plan.

Yes, the ecosystem of this yard has changed like the educational landscape I am witnessing in this moment. Perhaps it is time to re-imagine my garden.

Reflections on Earth Day 50

Part 1: One with the earth

When I stop to reflect on who I am, what I am, where I am, why I am, I can’t separate my am-ness from the planet on which I rely. I went outside today to feel her pulse and see her life…

Rich and black in spots, depleted and abused in others…bearing fruit in both. Wondering if weeds are good for her or as bad as my urge to pull them produced…

But there is much I learn from weeds, whose shelter creates a cozy nest for the super fat grubs still growing (or are they napping) before birthing their hard beetle skin.

These weeds that trick us into believing in their value with hearty greens and interesting floral patterns…they build networks that run deep, just under the surface, with roots that spread and sprawl or excavate deeper soils in search of a foundation that will supply strength.

I said I was only going to be out here to simply cut the grass for my compost and ignore the distracting weeds…

But they call to me with their herbal aromas as I cut. They invite me to see how they do it…how they become strong, resilient and still grow.

After way too long a commitment, I pause to look at my hands.

I don’t recognize them as my own without the manicure that this 2020 life has denied them…I cut them low myself so I know how they feel but they don’t look like my own…they look my grandfather’s…the men who first taught me to pull the weeds from the cracks to preserve the driveway for a little while longer. The men who taught me to plant things that I like so I could experience the pleasure of the process. One was a pastry chef the other a line mechanic that was our family engineer. Then I wonder where is the song that celebrates grandpa’s hands…

Right hand soiled in the palm, on the fingers and under the nail beds with fresh dirt from the garden. Fingers bent inward, skin dry, nails short
Gardening hand
Bill Withers (Recorded in 1971): 1938 – 2020

Part 2: Anniversaries

Earth Day 2020 is the fourth anniversary of the purchase of my “dream”

Home

Ownership…

Passing something worth having on

To the next generation…

Acknowledging the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape heritage of the land where this house sits.

I wonder how to pass on better practices for those who will come even after me…

I see the gift of planted trees made at least hundreds of years ago in the soil and smell it in the air. As I pluck wild onions from between the variegated leaves of the hostas that were left to sprout every year since I have been here.

I am wondering how to make a garden blueprint of perennials for my own kinfolk or the next persons who will occupy this space.

I wonder what’s the best way to mark an anniversary? What better way than to leave a learned lesson like treasure to be found…

Generation A?

What comes after Z?

Do we start again at A?

Or do we assume it to be AA, like batteries for the

Remote [learning] Control on the coffee table?

The generation that is described as

TECHNOHOLIC…

Intoxicated by capital gain in the form of SELF absorption

Self Interest

No Interest in other

(At least on the surface)…

Where the mirror tells stories through Insta filters and Photoshop, that even they believe…both persons reflected back…the real and the fantastic…both reflected forward

We are witnessing the

Birth

of

A

New

Nation

A

New

Generation

Where people no longer greet with a handshake or a hug

Where people, perhaps even lovers, are afraid of their first kiss

Where people reclaim family dinners to save themselves from the tyranny of universal access to the internet

Where people say NO to Alexa and Siri and Big Brother because they are tired of being watched

Where school children are the beneficiaries of the parent lobby that refuses to endorse a day manipulated by politico-educators foreign to the ways of children

Where tests or the ever-expanding pursuit of more mean nothing because time, in front of people, with pages in solitude and reflection, surrender their gifts for those willing to invest it…

Where the parent lobby,

the teacher lobby,

the right lobby and the left

Demand their children, all children have mandatory recess, clean food, balanced assignments and multi-

culture

literacy

dimensional

play

Born after 2015, the new GENERATION will be NEW.

Parenting Mama Drama

(For all the mothers working from home)

You want what?

You want it when?

Really?

Chile please.

Do you know who I am?

I am a mother.

I am their first teacher.

I am his wife.

I am his reason why.

I am a servant.

I am available to them first.

You’ll get that report when 

I am

ready.

Bold as L

Picking up the L

Just outside Philly

Love

Language

Linguistics

Literate

Like

Love speaking

Lost in the chaos of a

Life where everything is uncertain

Live tweets

Live class

Live instas

Live DJs

Live parties

Life lost

2020…BOLD as HELL!

Stories in a world with no lines

Can you see it?

A blank page

A world where lines are so blurred

They are invisible

Like man

Not confined by shadows

But liberated by their presence

Stories without linearity

No rhyme

No script

No meter

But rhythmic

But storied excellence

That sings

As the words

DANCE on the page

Like no one is watching and everyone is reading

Them

Together

Soul-beauty of a race: Biculturalism and Double Consciousness

“…it dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from the others; or like, mayhap, in heart and life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil. I had thereafter no desire to tear down that veil, to creep through; I held all beyond it in common contempt, and lived above it in a region of blue sky and great wandering shadows. That sky was bluest when I could beat my mates at examination-time…” (DuBois, 1897)

I am thinking about 

My students

A student

Gifted in profound ways

Searching for her voice

Her place

Her look

In a crowded room

Where

Her

Soul

Beauty

Song

Language

Story

IS NOT

Celebrated.

Where gaze devolves into contempt 

Filled with fear instead of joy

Filled with rage instead of admiration

Filled with jealousy instead of acceptance

That 

This gift to our community is 

LOVE

Principled

Ethical

Celebrated in her home

Where two nations meet

Like blue skies 

Welcoming Blackness

Before rain.

A new day lies on the other side for you.

Soul-beauty of a race: Black Aesthetics and Double Consciousness

“…confusion and doubt in the soul of the black artist; for the beauty revealed to him was the soul-beauty of a race which his larger audience despised, and he could not articulate the message of another people.” (DuBois, 1897)

I am thinking about 

My students

A student

Gifted in profound ways

Searching for her voice

Her place

Her look

In a crowded room

Where

Her

Soul

Beauty

Song

Picture

Story

IS NOT

Celebrated.

Where gaze becomes admiration

Joy

And 

LOVE

Principled

Ethical

Accepted

Like blue Skais 

Welcoming Blackness

Before rain.

A new day lies on the other side for you.