Monday, November 14, 2016

[No] Neighborhood Toy Store [Day] for My Kids

On Saturday, I took my little one to a local toy store for Neighborhood Toy Store Day. It was grandPopcorn was ready for us at the door. There were kids, primary colored wooded and plastic toys everywhere! The little one discovered a toy that she was absolutely enthralled with for 80% of 1.5 hour visit.  Moms were pushing around baskets full of toys that would be for the upcoming holidays. Dads chased curious toddlers. A red-faced three-year-old bawled her eyes out when she lost her mom for a few moments of confusion.

A clerk doing a toy demo described to me how she carefully put together and posed toys in the Calico Critters toy family and tree house--a product line I'd never encountered until this trip and apparently is a big thing! It was great for our family. Fortunately, we have access to transportation and the time to go outside of our neighborhood to have this memory.

Here's the thing, my kids, the ones who attend my school, don't have a toy store in their city. So when everyone else had Neighborhood Toy Store Day on Saturday, my kids did not. There are dollar stores and a few CVS stores that sell toys, but there's no legitimate toy store. Not one. In the entire city. Not one. I did the google search for "toy stores near me." Nothing. Nada. Every toy store that showed up, was outside of the city limits. The one that I thought was there is permanently closed.

Now, when I hear things like, "children in Detroit are just different. They're harder, colder, more grown up that children in even other urban areas," I have to wonder "what if lack of play and access something as simple as a toy store could make a huge difference in how we see our kids interact with one another?"

Maybe you remember growing up and going to a toy store to shop or just window-shop. It was a magical, fun, sometimes disappointing experience. Having to leave without something was the worst...or so I thought when I was younger. My mother has told me a story of us shopping in a toy store with me in the front of the cart while she slipped toys into the back without me knowing it. There was so much to see! Even then, the toy store was not in my own neighborhood or city. 

So, my question has become who will do it? Who will bring a toy store to my kids? Who will  help families give their children an experience at a local toy store? Who will help create memories of going to the toy store and seeing the aisle and aisles of primary colored plastic toys? 

the day after

                                                 ascend the stairs.
I watch their faces as 

                                                                                           Some smile.

                                                              Some don't, taking on the disappointment of their parents. 

Parents who have seen the country not care about them, 
be content with the positions that they hold, 
ignore the hardships that would be unbearable for others.

Cycles of violence, hunger, 

And I wonder what their future looks like.

Are they still smiling? 

Are we in a better place?

Which, among them will help to mobilize the community?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Good Starter Quote and I lost it

Today, while talking to a teacher in her classroom, she said something powerful, something thought-provoking. So thought-provoking, that I reminded myself to write it down. Alas! I did not. And know that thought-provoking thought is lost in the atmosphere.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Maintain. Hope. Read.

I glanced at his face and wondered what this means for him 10 or 15 years from now. Leg shaking. Face pensive with a half smile. He's trying, but there's not much he can do. All the while, I try to encourage him, affirm him when he reads a word that he actually recognizes, but it feels artificial. Inside I'm still worried for him. Worried that he will be one of the ones--the ones who end up on the disassembly [school-to-prison pipe]line. He's in third grade and I'm wondering this. Thinking this. Some part of me is ashamed for thinking this, but inside I'm bawling because he thinks he can't read much of this state-mandated test that is sitting before him.

"Every child can read. If they can read their name or K-Mart or McDonald's, they can read!" That comment from an educator who attended a coaching institute with me a few weeks ago pops into my mind! Hope. Maintain hope. Maintain hope for his future. Maintain hope for his current and future teachers, that someone gets it to click for him. Maintain hope that the work that his current teacher has done with him to get him to the point of being able to recognize more sight words this year than he ever, will keep the momentum going with him. He needs this. Learning to read and building his confidence to get him there is life or death for him. Sound extreme? It is. That's the stance we have to take with our kids because if we don't...what's next?

And still I have to forget about how this time spent taking this test is wasting crucial time that could be spent teaching him more. I want to toss out this test that sits in front of him and give him some magnetic letters to mix and fix. Show him games that will make him forget that he's learning, but that move him forward. Hope. Remembering that there is more to teach him, more that he can learn so that he gets life, not death.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


"Inc." Those are the letters I'd write at the top of students' papers when their work was undone/incomplete. Usually, those letters would be followed by "Please finish." That's what my Slice of Life Challenge blog would receive if I were scoring it. I had all the intentions of blogging everyday for 31 days, but my fall-off happened well-before my spring break--which left my blog untouched for the entire ten days I was off. I could feel some sense of shame having not completed a project I set out to. Instead, I am choosing to focus on the fact that I blogged 13 whole times in March! Here's to my success in doing that much and my motivation for doing better on my Slice of Life Challenge in 2017! I read on recently that the most creative minds embrace failure and see it as one step closer to success. There's also a pretty similar article from 2013 on that says the same thing: embrace our fears because "doing so is what allows us to leave our biggest impact on the world." This was a frightening thing: allowing others to read my writing that I have practiced very little, yet and still, I did it and will continue to do so as I Slice on. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Truth from the Shadow

"You might want to cover your nose," Mya laughed.

My eyebrows wrinkle and mouth becomes pursed together. This is my puzzled face and Mya can read it.

"Kareem is fartin'," Mya clarified with even more laughter.

Now my eyes roll and I chuckle to myself. "Yep. Sounds like Kareem." My bewilderment is furthered by the fact that Mya has barely said 10 words to me this year, most of which happened on the day I shadowed Kareem a few weeks back. What is this newfound candor that the fifth-graders have with me? There's no other explanation for it other than the shadowing. I appreciate them seeing me differently than they did before, but I must admit I am a little perplexed. There's a part of me that wants to say, "Okay, we have to draw the line. I can't have you telling me EVERYTHING that pops into your mind about school, teaching, learning, and other pre-adolescent happenings." Then there's the other side that says, "You drew a line a long time ago and it doesn't go as far as you want in developing relationships with students."  Maybe this new way is the way. Take a walk in their shoes and draw fewer lines between students and me.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hallway Hug

He hugged me. He saw me in the hallway and he hugged me. I'm talking about Kareem, the 5th grader I shadowed two weeks ago. I guess we have some sort of implicit bond now that I've walked a day in his shoes.

He's sought me out when he didn't want to go to art class last week and today...he hugged me. I'm telling you,  last year you would not have been able to make me believe that I would have any sort of emotional attachment to this kid. And now he's hugging me in the hallway. I'm not sure what to do with this new dynamic.