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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

President Trump, just call me one of Frederick Douglas's Agitators

Frederick Douglas knew something about power. He fought power his entire life. He fled slavery, fought for justice after slavery, and he was no stranger to struggle. Frederick Douglas said: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

I embrace Frederick Douglas's legacy of struggle against power,
I am ready to plow the fertile ground of justice and equity,

Ring every bell,
Shout from every street corner,
Whisper in dark places,
Open your windows, and shout

I Embrace my Moral Obligation for "JUST" agitation.

Jesse The Walking Man Turner

Bob Dylan the 2016 Nobel Laureate for Literature journey began decades ago, and he lit a candle that started a fire that Frederick Douglas would love. Link for Peter, Paul and Mary singing it at the Lincoln Memorial in 63.

Monday, December 19, 2016

It's simple people, like a tree by water

Paul Rogat Loeb wrote The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear said:
“Those who make us believe that anything’s possible and fire our imagination over the long haul, are often the ones who have survived the 
bleakest of circumstances. The men and women who have every reason to despair, but don’t, may have the most to teach us, not only about how to hold true to our beliefs, but about how such a life can bring about seemingly impossible social change. ”

While having coffee this morning someone said did you hear what Michelle Obama said to Oprah. “We feel the difference now. See, now, we are feeling what not having hope feels like,” I'm leaving the country..I can't live in a country without hope Jesse. 

My reply: I'm staying and fighting back just like I always have. An election won't change our nation. My struggle has always been to change the silence and apathy of our people. It's a big job, far too big for any one person, but if enough of us take up the call....well then anything is possible....and if anything is possible than hope lives. 

Momma always said, hope is like a tree, a tree written in scripture.
Jeremiah 17:8 "For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreads out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat comes, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit."

Trust me hope has not left us. Change takes a little while brothers and sisters.

Like a tree, I shall not be moved,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner

Singing all morning long with  Mississippi John Hurt singing "I shall not be moved"

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Trust me President Elect Tump it's the Lamp that makes us great not your wall.

This Holiday Season, I am wishing all our immigrant brothers and sisters peace, joy, and love. A little Walking Man memory immigrant story dedicated to every immigrant who leaves home for a new life. Especially for those new immigrants coming to America.  It is a long one people. I hope you stay around. 

My people the Irish have been emigrating for centuries. I am the grandchild of Irish immigrants. I am married to an Irish immigrant. When you are close to immigrants. You learn being an immigrant means leaving home, your family, and everything you knew that comforted you. It means being 3000 miles from your mother as she is dying. They come to deeply love their nation's folk songs, dances and writers. My love for Irish music, writers and dance are my grandfather's legacy to me. Even after immigrating to America, the men in my family often had to go where the work was in America. So, they would leave for a week, a month, 6 months, and sometimes a year. Their families left behind lived by their mailboxes. When a letter with the money was delayed or lost, the other families would chip in food, clothes, or a few dollars. It's an immigrant kind of thing. It's a common bond that holds them strong.

What is it like to leave it all behind?
I was in my late teens when my grandfather needed his tag along ride to accompany him to a wake (Irish Funeral) of one of his immigrant buddies. I was his tag-along ride for many years, but especially as he grew older. Those tag-along rides grew my Irish soul. 
Michael and my grandfather knew each other from the boat ride to America. Fought on the Green Fields of France in 1916 together, attended each other's wedding, their children's Christenings, and the wakes of their love ones. They shared thousands of pints of beer, smoked a million cigarettes, shared their hopes, wins and losses, and for 35 years painted the bridges all around New York.  Drinking, smoking and soul opening conversations, that's another immigrant bond.  It a typical immigrant story really, some came by boat, some by plane, and others walked, and they held on to each other. Holding together is another immigrant bond.  

This is less about the Michael's passing, but about the most beautiful bond immigrants share. Those songs and memories they carried in their hearts. Those songs that held them together. 
After Michael's wake at the funeral parlor everyone retreated to some Old One's house for food and punch. Let me make something clear the term old one in Irish culture is a term of respect. Our Old One hold us together. This Old One's place was I really in Marie Hennessy's parlor. She was a fixture I knew growing up as a child. Always watching out for us as we played in the streets. Too many old faces I could not remember them all, but they remembered me, and made sure I remembered them. It'd another immigrant thing. Remembering is important. 

I have been to many Irish wakes. When the person is really old, they are not sad events. We mourn, but the mourning is fulfilling. People share beautiful and funny stories, they eat, drink, and finally we sing. We learn to embrace death with courage, hope and love at Irish wakes. 

This gist of this story is about the beauty of a wake, and strength of America's immigrants. As the hours grew late, the liquor took its effect, first a fiddle, then a tin whistle, next the Mandolin, and then comes the singing. The ladies sing, the men sing, and everyone sings. Trust me when I say singing is the heart of any immigrant. The Ladies sing "I'll take you home Kathleen" to remind their men of the promises made to take them home again. The men sing Irish Rebel songs. Then come the lament songs, the pouring out of the grief, the sorrow, the passion and lost of leaving your home behind. It's the laments that hold immigrant souls together.  In Grandfather's time, most immigrants left, and never went home again. It's something the old immigrants shared with today's undocumented immigrants. If you are undocumented it's the same. You can't go home. Going home means you can't come back. Besides going back after 30 or 40 years means being a stranger in your own homeland. My grandfather would love thees undocumented. His bond with them would be strong. For immigrants it's the journey not the status that unites them. 
My grandfather's song, his choice a lament: "Leaving Nancy" it's a new tune, (late 1960s), but it could have been written two hundred years ago. It was born a classic. It's about a son emigrating leaving his mother behind. For my grandfather that day was the last time he touched his mother's face, brushed her hair, held her hand, and hugged her. This immigrant stuff takes strength, determination, and courage. It's the stuff every immigrant got plenty of. It's the stuff that makes them. 

He starts: 
The parting has come, and my weary soul aches,
I'm leaving my NancyO'

But you stand there so calmly determinedly gay,
And you talk of the weather and events of the day,
But your eyes tell me all that your tongue doesn't say,
Goodbye my Nancy O'
And come a little closer, put your head upon my shoulder,
And let me hold you one more time, before the whistle blows.

My suitcase is lifted and stowed on the train,
And a thousand regrets whirl around in my brain,
And the ache in my heart is a black sea of pain,
I’m leaving my Nancy O'

And you stand there so calmly so lovely to see,
But the grip of your hand is an unspoken plea,
You’re not fooling yourself, and you’re not fooling me,
Good-by my Nancy O'

For our time, has run out and the whistle has blown,
And here I must leave you standing alone,
We have so little time and now the time's gone
Good-bye my Nancy O'

And as the train starts gently to roll,
And as I lean out to wave and to call,
I see your first tears, trickle and fall,
Good-bye my Nancy O' 

Before it ends every man in the room joins in. Every eye is watering, because this is the immigrants bond. It's a sea of mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters left behind. It tough to be an immigrant. At times it hurts so much that not even all the drink in the world can buried it. This is the tag-along bond of an immigrant’s grandson. This is the bond that made the man I am. The old man always said you have to walk in another man's shoes to know him. His song was his way of allowing me to step into his shoes. Immigrant shoes far too big for me. He sang it, he built it, so I could live it. It's stronger than our flag, it's stronger than our laws, it the stuff that makes America Great. 
With all due respect President Elect Trump, America is already great, and a large part of that greatness comes from the immigrant bonds that sacrificed it all for this American dream.
Love, peace, and joy to every immigrant soul out there,
Jesse The Walking Man Turner 

If you like to his the tune that lifts this Walking Man today its the Fury's version of Eric Buggle's "Leaving Nancy"

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Defend the poor: Punish wrong doers

Why do more than half of our nation's teachers leave the classroom?
Why is there a teacher shortage?
It's often the one aspect many teacher educators leave off the syllabus. We are so very busy in the doing of teaching that we skip over the burden of teaching.
I say the burden becomes too heavy. Within the first five years they discover that teaching is not a career choice, but a deeper commitment to our nation's sacred trust to humanly educate our children.

When education reform policies reduce children:
To data points,
To career paths,
To pawns of Wall Street profiteers?
The burden becomes too heavy.
Teachers must speak up.

When education reform policies reduces our public schools to a den of inequity and injustice?
The burden becomes too heavy.
Teachers must speak up.

When public education becomes cold, ruthless, and heartless?
The burden becomes too heavy.
Teachers must speak up.

It's simple, legislators, policy makers, and education reformers!
The burden becomes too heavy.
Teachers Speak Up.
Where is the humanity in your polices?

Silence and apathy is not acceptable,
Jesse The Walking Turner

If you like to hear the song I listened to on my walk this morning...its a favorite...Makana "We Are The Many"

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Teachers are every day advocates

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” ~ The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry

At the National Council of Teachers of English, (NCTE) national conference last week the theme was The Faces of Advocacy. After a very exciting session, the person next to me said it's so hard for classroom teachers to be advocates in the era of test and punish.
I reply it has never been easier.
Every day a teacher smiles at a child having a tough day,
Every day a teacher says love your work,
Every day a teacher sits down saying let's work on it together,
Every day a teacher sneaks in relavance into their scripted lesson,
Every day a teacher welcomes a parent into their classroom,
Every day a teacher reminds a parent their child is more than a test score,
Every day a teacher sees the child not the score,
Every day a teacher meets a child where they are at,
Every day a teacher honors the questions children ask,
Every day a teacher comforts another teacher on a tough day,
Every day a teacher celebrates America's diversity in the classroom,
Every day a teacher holds a crying child,
Every day teachers advocate for children in the most meaningful ways.
We are every day advocates.

It is important that we teachers come understand there are many ways to advocate for our students. The most essential way is our every day advocacy gestures. These advocacy gestures are closest to the children we teach, and they matter the most to the children. I am not saying forget about stepping up our game against these test and punish education reform policies harming our children, parents, teachers and our local public schools. I am saying fight them at every level, but don't forget we can bring light and hope into our classrooms in a million little ways every single day. Celebrate the small gestures, becasue they light the teachers path to hope and change. Thank you NCTE for giving advocacy front and center.
Our simple teaching secret we see with the heart,
Jesse The Walking Turner

If you want to listen to the tune I listened to on my walk over the Avon Moutain on this very cold morning its More Than A number by Barry Lane

Monday, November 21, 2016

Before the Common Core and 1968 Chicano Student Walk Outs

Remembering the 1968 Chicano student walkout. Thinking about students who fought to learn about social justice. Those were the days my friend.
Imagine yourself a fly on the wall? 
In a discussion with a Hispanic high-school student I worked with when his teacher was sick last week. 
I asked what are you learning about?
" You know Stuff"

What kind of stuff?

"I don't really know..
It's just stuff Dr. Turner"

Are you learning about history?
What books are you reading?
Tell about something interesting your learning in school?

"I don't know what I'm learning about...
Honestly it boring...
We aren't really reading about anything.."

You have to be reading about something.
Show me what you are reading?
Show me what books you have in your back pack?
There has to be something in your backpack?
Tell me about your history class?
Tell me about your English class?

"No, I don't have a History class.
I don't have an English class..
"We don't have any books..
We go to a website"

Can you show it to me on the computer?
So we went to the site, and it was boring, and lacked any real focus in my humble opinion. Like pulling teeth I found out this was for a humanities project. The student had a humanities project, and needed to write about asocial justice. This is the kind of assignment that would be exciting to me. I was excited, and started trying to get him excited.  

" Dr. Turner it's not about social justice. I was kind of interested at first, but it's about the five paragraph essay. All we talk about is the introductory paragraph, first paragraph, second paragraph, third paragraph, and the concluding paragraph stuff.....I'm not really interested in writing..." Then he took me to the Five Paragraph Essay site the class uses. 

We brainstorm social justice issues that might be interest him. The social justice website was a site that was a search engine for finding trusted articles...It really provided no guidance or sample projects. It was of little help. I also understood his teacher did a great deal more with this assignment then he was sharing. Trust me they always do more. But, we are but a mere fly on the world of a 16-year-old boy here. Looking at the world of school through the eyes of a 16-year-old boy. Imagine is Ed Reformers, policy makers, and legislators could look at their reforms through the eyes of 16-year-olds? The social justice site was a search engine for peer reviewed articles on social justice.  Being 61 year-old I found it interesting at the very least. I asked if his class was reading any connected books or stories about social justice...

" No we just read articles and sample essays..."

I left worried about our conversation. I understood this should be an exciting assignment. I knew the real issue was purpose. The young man had no personal purpose in this assignment. He was just going through the motions. I worried until Sam Cook "Wonderful World" came on the radio. 

Don't know much about history
Don't know much biology
Don't know much about a science book,
Don't know much about the French I took.
But I do know that I love you,
And I know that if you love me, too,
What a wonderful world this would be.

Don't know much about geography,
Don't know much trigonometry.
Don't know much about algebra,
Don't know what a slide rule is for.
But I do know that one and one is two,
And if this one could be with you,
What a wonderful world this would be.

Now, I don't claim to be an "A" student,
But I'm tryin' to be.
For maybe by being an "A" student, baby,
I can win your love for me."

Heraclitus said: "No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man."  Yes, no one steps in the same river twice. But, I recognize this river. It's hard to be a teacher in this Common Core no textbook era where the purpose of school is to go to college. Not why, just go to college. We never read Alfred Lord Tennyson's Forward Rode the Light Brigade to go to college. We never embedded his "Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die" into our hearts to go to college. My teachers had something else in mind, and to be honest in my high school most of us weren't going to college. These days a great deal of high is not to reason, but to do and die. There are millions of young minds dying in public schools driven by high-stakes testing and standards without personal purpose. 

Purpose, inquiry, and personal investment is not required in state mandated reasoning. 
As for the river I stepped in myself one or twice as a teenager long ago, but I also had teachers/guides who somehow turned everything into a radical revolution of discovery. Not all my teachers were great guides, but those few who were made all the difference. 
I can't wait to talk with his teacher. We have some real possible learning hooks here. Personal purpose, inquiry, liberation, and revolution. The waters might be different, and I might not be the same man, but in many ways it's always about my generation...Not to throw us off track, but the "Who" knew this river as well It's aways about my generation people.
Crossing generation borders is the teacher conversation stuff that makes great teachers.  It's the genuine stuff teachers like to talk about. We don't need another Common Core PD workshop; we just need each other. I am going back armed with history of the 1968 Chicano student walkouts. If that doesn't work we'll keep going back until we find something that does. It's what teaching is all about. At least it was until curriculum became scripted, standards became benchmarks, and testing became everything. It's not her fault, but it is someones fault that a high school student had no history classes in middle school, and has no history class now. In my day, history mattered enough to be called history, and my high school history teacher use the 1968 Chicano student walk outs to inspired a walk in to learning for us. Can't wait to step back into that river. 
Here's to those teachers who make a difference,

Jesse The Walking Man Turner 

If you like to listen to the tune I listened to on my walk this cold snow flake morning...its Sam Cooke's "wonderful World"