White People Won’t Save You

I teach a senior public speaking elective. It’s small, 6-8 students that I get to have a lot of fun with. I am always looking to have a theme for the course and had been coming up dry until I ran into this clip from filmmaker Terrence Nance, White People Won’t Save You.

My students are all non-white and they are coming into themselves in some trying times. If I can construct a class where they develop their speech skills and recognize and utilize their innate power to be the amazing people they are meant to be, I call it a win.

I am thinking of structuring the 4 quarters as so:

  1. IDENTITY: I AM, I FEEL
  2. COMMUNITY: I DO, I LOVE
  3. ARGUMENTATION: I SPEAK, I SEE
  4. PRESENTATION: I UNDERSTAND

This structure also follows the path of the chakras from root to crown so I will be adding assignments/classwork that incorporate color, images, and more. All of this will be guided by “White People Won’t Save You.”

My students and I are in for a treat.

Students React: The Color Purple

We took the entire 9th grade to see The Color Purple this morning. Many of them had seen the TV edit, some of our chaperones had not seen it, and I have seen it 50-11 times, but not on the big screen since my mom took me when it was originally in theaters.

Y’all.

Most of you know that the population I teach is all-girl and overwhelmingly BLACK. We have discussed, analyzed, and dissected the mess out of the book but they still were not ready.

The energy of being in the space with them was amazing, intense, and very tangible. Tears began flowing within 5 minutes of the film’s beginning, and what really took me out was the chorus of voices singing Miss Celie’s Blues. A movie theater full of 9th graders singing those lyrics…my heart. I am such a softy.

This is rambling on, but I needed to share how moved I was by my students today.

Reciprocity

My #teacherlife week ended with report card conferences last night. To be able to tell parents about how wonderful their daughters are is a blessing. Even the parents of the students who did not do too well got to hear about how I believe in the potential of their child with the student sitting right there. For 3 hours, I had folks plopped at my table and I enjoyed every bit of it. Sometimes parents and guardians just needed to release a little something and I am glad that I could be there for that.

95% of my students identify as non-white, many are 1st and second generation from the Caribbean and Central America. All of them deserve an education that stimulates the intellect and the spirit. The kicker, one of my 11th grade students who received an 81 thanked me in front of her mom (an alum!) for being a good teacher. I thanked her for the work she puts in because it does not come easy. I was moved by last night’s exchanges, reciprocity, and community. I remain hopeful for us all.

Why Don’t Students Read?

From the article:

I once dismissed a class because no one had done the reading. I was teaching a lower-division course called “Peoples and Cultures of Africa,” and for two weeks we had been discussing gender and health as students (supposedly) read Kris Halloway’s Monique and the Mango Rains. During each class, I reminded students that they should finish reading the book by the following Friday, because we would be talking in depth about how it related to the concepts we’d been exploring. Friday arrived, and not a single student had read enough of the book to participate in class. Most hadn’t even started it. I packed up my materials, told my students to go home and come back when they were serious, and then walked out.

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Breakfast of Champions

Today in #teacherlife…a student brought me breakfast. A delicious bodega breakfast.

This is not a student who is failing, has a poor grade, or needs to suck up in any way. She said, “Ms. Turman, I was getting my sandwich and I thought of you. This is the first time I have enjoyed English in a long time. I am glad that you came here.”

My thug tears overflowed, in the bathroom, away from the chilluns. Said breakfast was delicious as a mug.

100s and Rap Battles

Today in #teacherlife

I have a student who is struggling, but she tries. Today I handed her back a quiz with a big fat juicy 100% (one hunnit!!!!) written across the top in green. The light in her eyes could power Brooklyn for the rest of the year. It is my hope that all of my students have that light and that it is nurtured and sustained.

Also, I was challenged by a 9th grader to a rap battle in the cafeteria. When I told her I had more bars than Rikers, she walked away slowly. #sayword