Cheers and Checked Again


You know you are a nerd when you are watching a local school board meeting, with your cell phone taping,  as you cheer at the screen.

Imagine the excitement to hear your own school board members agree,  unanimously,  to find a way to opt your entire county out of high stakes testing.

That was me last night.

Except, I wasn’t cheering as a nerd.  No, I was cheering as a mom …

Because, really, when it comes down to it, I’m doing all this for my kid.

My child. Not my contract, not my opinion on issues, not to sell a book, or to win a position or a promotion … not for profit.

Not for nothing, as my jersey folk say.

I’m doing it for my kid. For my fifth grade daughter who is missing much of the opportunities of her education due to the ridiculous amounts of testing.

Then,  I realize… Check.

I think of other parents out there who want much more for their kids than ‘less testing’ . I realize they want life for their kids.

They want to know that their kids can walk down the street and not be shot.

They want to talk about race not tests.

While I’m cheering as I watch the news, they are screaming.

Scream with them.

Today is ten years since Hurricane Charley destroyed my town. I remember looking at the news and thinking no one cares. Life went on while our world was destroyed. I don’t wish that feeling on  anyone.

So, I’m going to try to amplify the voices of Ferguson,  to keep reminding people to pay attention.

Empathize and amplify. I’ll start there.

Prayers for the family and friends of Michael Brown … and the entire Ferguson community.

Breaking News: Florida School Board Wants Entire District to Opt Out!


gatorbonbc:

Yes, this is my county!!! Keep going to your school boards and speaking up!! It’s working!!!

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

The Lee School Board in Florida wants to opt out of all standardized testing. They have listened to parents. They are tired of enriching Pearson.

“FCAT. Florida Standards. Common core.

“No matter what you call it, the school board wants it gone.

“Board members unanimously expressed their disdain for standardized testing at the school board meeting Tuesday, pledging to research the possibility of “opting out” the entire district from standardized testing.

“There needs to be a come-to-Jesus meeting … to talk about these issues point blank,” Chairman Tom Scott said.

Board member Don Armstrong said the district cannot afford to continue testing at the current rate.

“A lot of our money is being poured out of this county to go to one company, I won’t say names,” he said. “But on this board or not on this board, I won’t stand for it anymore.”

Dozier asked the board to…

View original 248 more words

Mind on Michael Brown


Today is the first day back for teachers here in Florida. I imagine most of today will be spent in meetings in our school library. Yes,  that is where I will be sitting…

But my mind will be on Michael Brown.

Google him, search Facebook,  search Twitter. Repost,  Retweet,  speak  his name.

Speak his name.

Michael Brown

.

#Prayers4MichaelBrown

#MichaelBrown

#Ferguson

.

“A riot is the language of the unheard.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Pissing Off Mulgrew #DoTheRightThing


So, let me go ahead and admit,  I’ve never met this Mulgrew fellow. Chances are, I’m going to piss him off with this blog. That is ok, though, because pissing people off has always been my middle name. It certainly is this summer…

Just know,  Mulgrew,  nothing personal. You are probably a great fellow and amazing unionist. I don’t know you,  so I don’t know? But, I’m guessing from the cheers you received at the microphone during AFT’ Delegate Assembly,  you are highly accepted within our union. I’ll give you that. Kudos.

But, here is the thing… The whole ‘I will punch you in the face’ comment that you made to the delegates opposing Common Core … Yea, that was too much. Way too much.

This teacher is calling you out for it.

How can I say this nicely? Hmm. Let me make a comparison. In class, when two students disagree and one says to the other,  “I’ll punch you in the face”… well,  come on. You know … You are a teacher,  right,  Mr. Mulgrew?

Yes. You are. So are most of the people in the room that day. People who teach school even though they are blamed for society’s woes and chastised repeatedly for everything and anything seen wrong in schools. People who teach school amid threats to their contract, certification, and career. People who teach school despite the countless violent acts committed upon school personnel, and often their students.

You want to punch them in the face? Or me? Just because I oppose Common Core?

You must be kidding? Right? You were kidding, right? You were exaggerating to make a point, weren’t you?

Well, as my students would say, “Unacceptable, dude. You went overboard. Take it back.”

Take it back. It was wrong. Some people in that room have been victims of violent acts. Some of those teachers have been victims of domestic violence themselves. Someone in that room has probably been threatened before. Someone has probably been punched in the face for no reason,  or for standing up for what they believe.

If not someone in that room … Maybe someone watching, someone home in her pajamas, watching on a laptop via live feed. Someone so invested in their union and the fight about Common Core that they are watching. Someone who became upset by the comment,  by it bringing back all the horrible memories of the time when they were threatened like that, the time they were bullied …

Someone who may have become so disillusioned by hearing a high ranking member of her union making physical threats,  that she considered tossing her union card in the trash…

Yea, that’s not good for membership. That’s not good for solidarity. And, that’s certainly not good for democracy.

Take it back, Mulgrew.
#DoTheRightThing

image

Ps. I paraphrased the comment. I couldn’t stomach watching the video again to get a quote. For more info,  check out Fred Klonsky’s blog here :

http://preaprez.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/the-ufts-michael-mulgrew-gets-punchy-but-only-towards-union-members-in-the-hall/

image

The fight for union democracy you won’t read about in the Post.


gatorbonbc:

Because Fred always says it better than I ever could. No doubt. My favorite union coffee, still.

Originally posted on Fred Klonsky:

michael-mulgrew-MORE-Caucus-YouTube-1

A month after, finally and suddenly – the Mulgrew “punch you in the face” story has made the national news.

The Daily News.The New York Post. The right-wing Daily Caller and Breibart.

Why?

Because Mulgrew’s bellicose threats to the rank-and-file fit right into their anti-union narratives of union bosses and union thugs.

In fact, the performance by the New York UFT President, laughingly egged on by AFT President Randi Weingarten, was a gift to the anti-union forces. Wrapped in pretty paper with a big bow on top.

However.

Make no mistake about whether this was actually thuggish behavior by Mulgrew.

Or whether he made this speech because he suddenly lost all control.

Based on my experience of the way leadership does things, this was premeditated thuggery.

Mulgrew showed nothing but disdain for union members who oppose corporate reform.

He clenched his fist.  He screamed and mocked those who argue that Common…

View original 271 more words

Packing Up & Headed Back to Shore – This Union Gal Bids Farewell


I’ve left my union.

Well,  let me clarify, I’ve resigned from positions of leadership within my teachers’ union. I’m still a card bearing union member, but I no longer sit on my executive board. I’ve resigned, officially,  with a letter and all.

I did all this pretty quietly this summer. Although many in my life know the story, it being splashed all over social media, I’m reluctant to tell it. I’m too proud. I’m also, in a sense, still in shock. Believe it or not, as loud as I am, I never wanted to be the one to make waves within my own organization. I mean, really, if you know me, you know I’m one of the loudest cheerleaders for my union out there. Rah Rah… Go union, that’s been my cheer.

It still is my cheer, I’m just cheering much more quietly these days. In many ways, I’m cheering to myself, silently,  hoping to hold on, hoping to find that spark again.

I realize that sometimes in life, you have to step back to jump forward. I’m in my stepping back now. I’m in the watching and learning stage now. I’m learning that to make it in a large organization, you have to know how to play the game. And,  believe it or not, I’m not good at playing. I’m far too emotional.

To me, none of this is a game. It’s serious stuff. To me, this is more than a career, more than a paycheck,  more than a contract … To me, this is my children. This is my country. This is my life.

I am sure that I am not the only one in my union that feels this way.

I know my union is made up of passionate, caring individuals who commit their life to being a steward. Like me, they spent much of their summer at trainings, or traveling to assemblies, or rallies. Like me, they know solidarity is needed to fight
the corporate reformers intent on making a buck off our schools.

My union brother and sisters make the sacrifice every day. They speak up knowing there is little a contract can do to protect their jobs these days. They travel to union events knowing they can’t afford it. They spend their nights posting and sharing to the world hoping someone, somewhere, with power, will care. My union brother and sisters make the sacrifices every day, and I thank them.

But, I’m stepping back. Sure, I’m a little bitter, I won’t lie. Yes, I’m more than a little disappointed. I’m sure you can tell. Those who know me, well, they know me well.

But, in the words of my dad, ‘When you start to stink like fish, it is time to go’.

So, I’m gone. I’m pulling my line and headed back to shore for a while. I’ve decided to focus my activism on the BATs and the parent groups that I’m connected with. I’ve also decide to focus on my writing. I have a voice and a huge megaphone,  not as big as Whoopi’s, but pretty big. I hope to use it.

Before I go, I want to send a thank you to all in my union. Thank you for making the sacrifice. Thank you for sticking it out. I will continue to stand up for you and support you from the sidelines. That I promise.

We are one.

image

Time to Unpack: White Privilege from the Soul of a Boricua


My NEA Story

It’s been almost a month since my trip to Denver to attend the National Education Association Representative Assembly, and I still haven’t unpacked. It’s time.

Truth be told,  I’ve been unpacking for weeks. Quietly. Thoughtfully. Not the kind of unpacking that you might expect.  I’m not talking about the red duffle bag stuffed with wrinkled, unused union shirts and forgotten mementos from my trip. That bag still sits in the corner. I’ve been unpacking something else,  something much more serious.

I’ve been unpacking my soul.

They say, sometimes, it takes a traumatic experience to ignite the passion to do some soul searching. Sometimes,  it takes a loss in the family, a lost job,  or a lost love.

For me, it took a tweet. Yes,  a tweet.

Let me explain. To do that,  I must start at the beginning.  My beginning.

I am a Florida native,  born and raised. My mother’s family comes from the banks of North Florida’s Suwanee River. Needless to say, they are country folk – grit eating,  sugar cane growing, country folk.

My father, on the other hand, was born on the island of Puerto Rico . His mother, whom I fondly called ‘mi abuelita’ , was born on Vieques, a smaller island off the tip of Puerto Rico. My father’s family were also country folk, harvesting pineapples on their Island, and chasing wild chickens at dinner time.

And, yet,  while both families lived off their land in a similar manner, my two families are very different. The American culture of my mother and my Puerto Rican heritage are certainly worlds apart. The most recognizable difference? My mother’s family has the privilege of being white. Yes, white. My father’s family doesn’t enjoy that privilege. They are what the current generation calls ‘people of color’. Previous generations haven’t been so kind.

Their two worlds collide within me. Hence, my need to unpack.

So,  where to start? Even as I go back to proofread, and I reread the opening of this blog, I notice I used the phrase: ‘my Puerto Rican heritage’ as opposed to ‘the American culture’.  I realize that my instinctual use of ‘my Puerto Rican’  means something.  It is not that I don’t consider ‘America’  mine.  On the contrary, I ooze American. I am Miami,  Florida,  born and raised. I never moved much further north. I’m Southern American,  to boot. I say ya’all,  I hold up the line at the CVS chatting with the checkout gal, and I don’t use blinkers. Ever. Deal with it.

See, my bravado,  there. I’m American and proud. I don’t have to call it ‘my American’ because I know I am. Everyone knows I am. It’s written all over my face.

My white face.

My privileged, white,  cocky ‘You know I’m American, girl’  face.

I’m not proud of that face.

My Latina face isn’t quite as cocky. My Latina face is proud. Yes,  she is. That is why I use the possessive, ‘my Puerto Rican’.  I’m proud of my Latina culture. I honor my Latina heritage. I know the tragedies of my boricuan family.  I’ve heard of and seen the prejudice,  openly and systematically, that they have faced over the years.  I still see it each day. I’ve faced some of my own. Maybe it is the condescending attitude of people when an accent is detected or my real name is discovered. Or, maybe, it is the comments when they don’t yet realize I am Latina, the  outright racist comments made in my presence.  Or maybe it is the inequities that I see in our public schools, the inequities that I need to spend more time focusing on.

Maybe it is all of this that makes me an angry,  defensive,  possessive boricua. I don’t know. I just know I’m proud. I am boricua. I know I don’t say that with the same cocky,  American flavor. I say it with a chip on my shoulder. A burden.

But, now, since that tweet, I have started to think. I’m not really the one carrying the burden. I’d like to think I am,  to feel bonded with my culture,  but I’m privileged.  I’m lucky.  I do not live the burden like they do. Most of the Latina women in my world, those whom I adore at my job and seek daily for friendship and comfort,  are not teachers like me. They are also not white skinned like me. They are support staff: Custodians. Cafeteria workers, and Bus Drivers.  They are underpaid, with no insurance benefits for most. They work much harder and much longer than I do for much less money. They do not settle for these jobs, they are burdened with these jobs. Systematically over time,  they have suffered injustices and been denied opportunities. They have been denied a voice. They carry the burden of being boricua, Latina,  Hispanic,  whatever you choose to call it. They are people of color living in an America where that fact is a disadvantage.

I am ashamed it took a tweet for me to come to this realization. I’m ashamed that over the years, I have become so comfortable in my world,  in my skin,  in my whiteness,  that I forgot the burden of others. I forgot the teachings of mi abuelita. I forgot the cruelties she faced, unable to hide behind her skin. I forgot that she did not have the privilege of ever being able to be anything other than what she was. Unlike me,  she could not change her style or change her haircolor  to associate with a different race. She could not speak southern and hide in a different world,  like I do.  No. She carried the burden while I got the privilege. I’m ashamed that I never realized this before. I’m ashamed that I didn’t acknowledge it before she passed.

I realize it now,  though. After a harsh tweet and a month of soul searching, I have finally come to an obvious conclusion.

I’m a hot mess.

I’m a privileged, white, hot mess … with the heart of a boricua.

Let me try to explain with an example. I truly adore my Latina friends at work. With both my father and mi abuelita passed, they often remind me of home. They are my strength. So strong always,  they are my pillars of strength,  mi corazon.  But,  until the tweet, the tweet that sent me reeling deep into a month of soul searching, until that tweet, I did not realize this one thing. Each time I sought out one of my Latina friends,  each time I sought their advice and offered my own, each time our world’s comingled as I raised my children with theirs, each time we shared births, deaths,  weddings together,  each time … I failed to realize one thing.

I’m white.

Yea. White. Britney Spears white. Blue eyes and all. White.

See. That’s the privilege. I’m white. I got the proverbial golden ticket at birth. Others in my family and culture did not. I’d like to think I never knew my skin color gave me a privilege, but I deep down, I knew.

I knew there were times when people assumed I was white and gave me preferential treatment. I knew I escaped much of the prejudice and blatant racism that others in my Latina race suffer. I knew the systematic injustices built into the system did not shape my world. I am privileged. In the world that we live in, I’m lucky to be white.

I realize that fact now,  thanks to that tweet. I’ve spent the month since that tweet unpacking my ‘invisible backpack of privileges’. I’ve spent the month grappling with my confused,  suppressed identity. I’ve spent it crying, questioning, running away, and running back. I’ve spent it examining myself,  reading research, and sharing the perspectives of many others. I don’t have all the answers,  nor do I ever expect to have all the answers, but I can tell you,  until the tweet, I was happy not to even ask the questions.

Now, I’m asking plenty of questions but I have few answers. That’s hard for me. That’s the privilege in me,  always wanting to be the one with the right answers. I’ve had to learn lately,  since that tweet, to shut up and listen. I’ve had to learn that just because I can speak,  doesn’t always mean I should. I learned, as mi abuelita always warned,  ‘if you throw the chit in the fan, you are going to get the chit all over your face’.

She was right. I threw my privilege into the fan a few weeks ago. I got upset about a  tweet and I reported it. I pulled my privilege card. I felt entitled to fairness. I demanded  fairness, without the humility of realizing life is not always fair. I demanded fairness without even considering that many don’t always have the privilege of expecting fairness.

I threw the chit at the fan. And, as my grandmother warned, I ended up with it all over my face.

My apologies to Melinda Anderson. You were right, MDA, for checking my privilege at the door. My apologies to Sabrina Stevens. You were right to question my tone,  to school me on the ignorance of me staying colorblind in a time when skin color determines so much. You are both right. To refuse to see skin color,  to refuse to recognize the disadvantages of some or the privileges of others,  is insulting to many. I know that is true. I know how it feels to feel invisible,  unheard. I should have known better. We all should.

So,  I’ll finish this reflection and apology by shutting up and sharing a couple of the resources I used to study up on this topic of privilege. I urge all to read and do some soul searching.

#White Privilege and Unpacking the Invisible Backpack.

Resources:

https://storify.com/TeacherSabrina/resources-unpacking-privilege-and-becoming-an-ally

http://amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html