My two cents (Week of June 7, 2021)

For each school day of the 2020-21 school year, I will be writing two sentences to capture some of the impressions, feelings, experiences, or thoughts I had that day. This is the 34th post in the series.

Monday (June 7)
The Olympic Games continue with another game of Kahoot. The 11th grade teachers met as grade team after school in one last-ditch effort to plan for students who are in desperate need of our support.

Tuesday (June 8)
Had a lovely, cookie-filled meeting after school with some colleagues as we closed out our time connecting compassion with teaching and learning. I’ve never been part of professional learning quite like this before and I’m thankful for it.

Wednesday (June 9)
To close out the Olympic Games, we played Math Pictionary; to ensure every team earned a nice collection of medals, I amusingly joined a couple of teams throughout the day to support them. I also began collecting mailing addresses from students so I can send them a copy of our book, Mathematical Voices, Volume 2.

Thursday (June 10)
The last day of classes and an emotional day for me. For me, saying goodbye to my students — my comrades, my companions, my battlemates — is an act I take seriously that honors the space they’ve taken up in my life for the last 10 months; this year I found it liberating, but sad.

Friday (June 11)
Today was the annual cutting of my beard. I fully expected to do it alone on Zoom, but, in a twist, two students walked in the classroom just as I was getting started and ended up doing it all.

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My two cents (Week of May 31, 2021)

For each school day of the 2020-21 school year, I will be writing two sentences to capture some of the impressions, feelings, experiences, or thoughts I had that day. This is the 33rd post in the series.

Monday (May 31)
No Classes — Memorial Day

Tuesday (June 1)
The first day of the Math Olympics, an event that we’ll use to close the year which was co-designed by me and my cogen. To add an official feel to it, we held the opening ceremonies; we played the Olympic music, lit the Olympic torch, had a parade of participants, read-aloud some math writing from the year.

Wednesday (June 2)
Day 2 of the Olympic Games kicked off with a festive game of Kahoot to review some of what we learned this year. During the medal ceremony, in which I played “We Are the Champions” by Queen and slowly dragged gold, silver, and bronze medals over top of the group members’ names on screen, one student remarked in the chat, “I’m emotional for no reason.”

Thursday (June 3)
Co-facilitated a racial and social justice professional development where our staff used restorative circles (2-4-8) to add structure to some internal reckoning we’ve been doing at our school. Strong opinions abound; fireworks lit up the sky!

Friday (June 4)
A bitter-sweet day because I met with my cogen for the last time this year; I called it a “Reunion Cogen” because I invited all 19 students who were part of it back for one final conversation to debrief the experience. We spoke and I also gave them an anonymous survey; all the students spoke highly of their time in the cogen and valued it as a means of getting to know each other, building trust, and bettering to the classroom community for everyone.

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Monday

No classes — Memorial Day

The first day of the Math Olympics. The opening ceremonies we held; we lit the Olympic torch, had a parade of participants, and shared some math writing from the year.

Day 2 of the Olympic Games kicked off with a festive game of Kahoot. The medal ceremony was emotional for no reason at all.

My two cents (Week of May 24, 2021)

For each school day of the 2020-21 school year, I will be writing two sentences to capture some of the impressions, feelings, experiences, or thoughts I had that day. This is the 32nd post in the series.

Monday (May 24)
I threw around the idea of accepting (and even encouraging) both English and Spanish responses next year in class. I asked my students how they would feel about it and they would encouraging.

Tuesday (May 25)
Debuted the Math Olympics — the fun and games we will end the year with. Received affirmation and inspiration from one of the Spanish teachers on my “Spanish in math class” idea for next year.

Wednesday (May 26)
Balanced seven books on my head in eighth period. It could have been eight, and the goal was ten, but a book about the Maya just wouldn’t stay put.

Thursday (May 27)
Disappointed at the end of the day when I removed a few students who were non-responsive to my attempts to engage them. I was frustrated based on the lack of engagement from the previous class and didn’t lead with compassion.

Friday (May 28)
My cogen finalized our plans for the Math Olympics, which starts next week. My school’s modified “reimagine” plan for for the fall was unveiled and it was overwhelming.

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Paying Homage to Malcolm X

On Wednesday, May 19, several of my colleagues and I went to Ferncliff Cemetery in upstate New York to visit the grave of Malcolm X. It would have been Malcolm’s 96th birthday.

The idea for the visit was birthed after we read The Autobiography of Malcolm X in February. It was part our school’s book/podcast club. Having learned so much about him and discussing his impact, we decided that paying homage to him on his birthday would be a fitting thing to do. Seven of us carpooled and made the 35-minute trip.

While there, we spent some time standing around his grave, reflecting. We shared our learnings, our feelings, our shortcomings. We imagined a world where Malcolm was still alive, still evolving, still advancing his antiracist beliefs. We gave thanks for his truth-telling and revolutionary spirit in the face extreme violence, enraged white supremacy, and death. Living to the meager age of 39, we acknowledged that his life was far too short. We affirmed his gifts to not only to Black Americans, but all Americans. Just like Malcolm, we vowed to keep learning and to be critical of ourselves and the world around us.

While there was a sprinkling of people around us, it felt like we were alone. We had Malcolm all to ourselves. While we talked, he listened. He also told us a few stories and wished us well on our journey. It was powerful. The moment transcended our school, our students, and our professional bonds. I’ve been at my school for five years and it was one of the proudest moments I’ve had as a member of our community.

Admittedly, I didn’t know a lot about Malcolm before we read his autobiography. Reading it was informative on many levels. After we finished it, I wanted more of Malcolm so I picked up Black Minded: The Political Philosophy of Malcolm X by Michael E. Sawyer. I learned of Sawyer and his work after watching him discuss Malcolm at The Schomburg Center’s The Mother Tongue: The Philosophy of Malcolm X event in February. Black Minded was a dense and challenging read, but really helpful in getting closer to Malcolm and the nucleus of his thinking. I finished it this week, coinciding with our trip to Ferncliff. It left me with a lot more to share and feel than I would have otherwise. The Dead are Arising is on my summer reading list.

Despite living and working so close to his gravesite for many years, most of us didn’t know Malcolm was buried right underneath our noses. How did we not know he was here? Some of us drive past him every day and had no idea. Several people also spoke of the simplicity of his gravesite, expecting something with more grandeur given his stature. When I think of how society blacklisted Malcolm during his life and ostracized him after his death (it took over 30 years for him to get a postage stamp after his death, my gosh), the modesty and obscurity of his gravesite surprised me at first, but not after I gave it a second thought. The stark difference between his grave and that of Martin Luther King, Jr. tells the story.

As we were getting ready to leave, more people began to arrive and a larger community formed. We opened up our circle, they opened up theirs, and suddenly we were speaking with perfect strangers. We were from all walks of life, all there to honor a man who moved us. We shared our connections to Malcolm and filled our hearts with a shared respect for the moment. We’ll probably never see those people again, but our transient companionship couldn’t be denied. They gave us water. We took a picture together. After about 15 minutes, we headed towards our cars. I felt whole.

Though our team departed his grave the same in number, we were far bigger than when we arrived. Thanks, Malcolm.


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