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Monday, April 18, 2022

Reading The Final Frontier

 “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.” ~ George Orwell, 1984

Florida Reject 41% of new school textbooks. “The highest number of books rejected were for grade levels K-5, where an "alarming" 71% were not appropriately aligned with Florida standards or included prohibited topics.”

Leadership in Florida reminds me that Orwell's 1984 may be more non-fiction than fiction. Here are the men who decide whose books make it into the curriculum. Therefore, Uniting to Save Our Schools is supporting the effort to make May National Days of Teaching Truth.

The fools, these mind controlling fools, they left us, our libraries, bookstores and the Internet,

Stranger then, fiction,                                                                                                                                      Dr. Jesse P. Turner
Uniting to Save Our Schools
Proud Badass Teacher

PS: 1984 is the most banned book of all time in the USA and always in top list in Russia.

It you like to listen to the tune from my morning walk today its  Propellerheads feat: Miss Shirley Bassey - History Repeating 

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Teaching Has Become My Bridge Over Troubled Water


Songs speak to me. Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge over Trouble Water is always on my playlist these days, <

Lately, I have found my teaching is more about helping our elder teachers to hold on, 
Helping our younger ones to know there is a better day coming,
I still teach the clinical skills needed for Literacy Specialists and future teachers,
I am a more the kind elder, 
More understanding, 
More compassionate, 
More human.

A teaching reminder,
that joy matters more than the numbers,
That we are the hope in the wilderness.

It is a burden too heavy,
But it is my burden of love.

Each night, I close my our Literacy Center door,
I walk slower these days,
More tired, 
I pray Lord lift these teachers up,
Give them hope,
Show them love.
It is a short stroll to the parking lot.

The burden gets lighter,  
As, I pick from my teaching heroes,
Selecting from these precious memories of those teachers,
Who lifted me,
In times of darkness,
Those names are my bridges over trouble waters.

Let me say, 
Their names?

Mr. Bass, 
Who fed me stories,
Who gave me the coat, hat, gloves in that coldest winter,
Who called my sister Jessica,
Jessica, your mother can’t do it,
Your brother can’t sleep in the train station, and succeed in school,
You need to help them both,
Talk to your husband,
Don’t ask him, 
Tell him, you will take him in. 

Mrs. Stanfield,
Said Young Man, you will not hand me in first drafts as your only drafts,
This is Honors English.
I don’t take one shot essays. 
She lit the fire,
She gave us,
Left us Macaulay “'Then out spoke brave Horatius”, The Captain of the Gate.

Dr. Jerry Weiss,
Who said, you are an urban educator,
Understand this comes with an extra responsibility, 
Young Mr. Turner, you can not only teach the skills,
You must learn to light the fire.

Dr. Dorothy Menosky,
Ask your wife to invite me down to lunch on Saturday,
Explain I have something to ask of her, young Erin, and you,
That lunch became, 
I am asking your family to go on a quest to become a teacher of teachers,
It might be the hardest thing you have ever attempted,
I would not ask it of you without Carolyn and Erin’s full support.
That lunch set in motion my quest to become Doctor Turner,
The teachers of teachers.

Dr. Yetta Goodman, 
She gave me a greater purpose,
Put me on a mission of change,
Called me her Ghetto Doc,
Help me see the bigger picture,
She led by example,
Her teaching like a cool stream on a hot day,
Her voice was my prophet in the desert,
She require teachers know the research from everywhere,
The research you agreed and disagreed with,
You must understand it all informs your thinking Jesse.
I want you to lead with,
Research, and 
Double up on that hope.

There are others,
My list is long.
Teachers are my heroes,
My hero Teachers lighten my burden,
And, I leave the parking lot understanding,
Like my hero teachers,
I am a bridge over troubled waters,
I sleep well, 
My burden less heavy, 
And I am ready for whatever may come. 

I am a bridge over troubled waters,
Dr. Jesse P. Turner 
CCSU Literacy Center Director

If you want to listen to the tune that inspired my morning walk to day its Labi Siffre's Something Inside So Strong > <

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

America's Apple Pie is Rotten says this Old School Teacher


RACISM 101 America Apple Pie is Rotten 

Catholic Charity Workers at rallies for The Poor Peoples March often carry signs that say Fight Poverty Not the Poor.  War everywhere is war. Make no mistake in this land of the free and the brave there is a war on poor children and the teachers who teach them. 

This has been my toughest teaching year, not because things are hard where I am at. Things have never been better here at our CCSU Literacy Center. CCSU has given us a dream space, and room to dream. 

What is tough is hearing from the teachers I work with about the vast inequitable learning and working conditions between schools that educate White Affluent Children, and schools that educate Black, Brown, and Poor Children. It crushes me to hear stories of legally required special education and literacy not being provided to our Black and Brown children in poor schools. To hear about middle schools without specials, (art, music, Home Economics, Wood and Metal shops. Middle schools without Literacy Specialists, and Librarians. When Michelle Alexander writes about the School to Prison Pipelines these are the schools she is writing about. It does not surprise me in the least that these schools are mainly located in Black and Brown communities.  America has never given the same resources to all our public schools. My thinking is this America Apple Pie has two halves, one side rotten, and the other is ready to eat and enjoy. 
Wealthy Affluent White Schools have it all, while poor urban and rural schools that educate Black and Brown Children lack the very basics of public education that can transform schools from prison pipelines to learning and teaching places of possibility. At CCSU I teach teachers and children from that two-sided apple pie. I do my best to lift all teachers, go out of my way to lift children and teachers from that rotten side of America Apple Pie. 

Our Literacy Center provides the model of what should and could be. It is the place where all children, parents, and teachers are lifted. I do my best to make our CCSU Literacy Center as inviting and welcoming as possible. Everyday our teachers and children have hours of that better place. 

This year, the vast inequalities sometimes break me.  Alone at the end of the night, I clean up a bit, turn off the light, and sit in the dark and cry. I live in an America who cannot find it in its heart to do right by all our children, teachers, and public schools. On the tearful nights I find myself thinking maybe it is time to retire, you can do it, you have the years, you can walk away, and leave the fight to others? I pick up my bag, lock the door, and think I cannot leave now. Someone needs to say it can be different. Someone needs to say come in, rest your weary loads, and stay for 3 hours of what should be. I wish it were different. I wish America would declare war on poverty not the poor, not on Black and Brown children, their teachers, and schools.

I am an old school teacher, taught by old school teachers. Teacher who has us read John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. My Old School English Teacher Mrs. Stansfield said this book is banned in many places. Banned because some say it has offensive language. There is not one word of profanity in it, but truth rings loud on every page. We shall read it together, and then watch the old black and white movie as well, cause Henry Fonda voice gives life to the life of Steinbeck's Tom Joad at the very end. We shall read it not because it is on the approved curriculum. We shall read it, because it offers America Hope. 50 years later I can still hear Ms. Stansfield read it, still see her cry when Henry Fonda gives voice to Tom Joad at the end. 
It is not just the inequality that is hurting Black and Brown children today, it is the silencing of the voices of old school teachers with test driven mandates.  I can hear that old school teacher reading:
“You don’t aim to kill nobody, Tom?”
“No. I been thinkin’, long as I’m a outlaw anyways, maybe I could — Hell, I ain’t thought it out clear, Ma. Don’ worry me now. Don’ worry me.”
They sat silent in the coal-black cave of vines. Ma said, “How’m I gonna know ’bout you? They might kill ya an’ I wouldn’ know. They might hurt ya. How’m I gonna know?”
Tom laughed uneasily, “Well, maybe like Casy says, a fella ain’t got a soul of his own, but on’y a piece of a big one — an’ then —”
“Then what, Tom?”
“Then it don’ matter. Then I’ll be all aroun’ in the dark. I’ll be ever’where — wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. If Casy knowed, why, I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’ — I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry an’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build — why, I’ll be there. See? God, I’m talkin’ like Casy. Comes of thinkin’ about him so much. Seems like I can see him sometimes.”

 Until the pie is made healthy and good for all, I will be here every night, and you will find me fighting the good fight every chance I get outside my schoolhouse door.  I am an old school teacher to the end. 

My teaching heart is breaking, but not my teaching spirit,
Dr. Jesse P. Turner
CCSU Literacy Center Director 

I shall be an old school teacher to the very endI
I shall be an old school teacher to the end

If you like to listen to the song that inspired my morning walk this morning. It's Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello performing "The ghost of Tom Joad"