Sunday, February 22, 2015

on returning (BAL Blog Post #5)

i am not ready to return, but life happens, even when you're not prepared.  as i spend precious hours with both kids asleep planning (instead of sleeping), i know that everything is going to be okay.  i have memorized the curve of her cheeks, her smile will be illuminated throughout my day, his curls and his curiosity will follow me back to work.  they will be well-loved and taken care of, and i will go back to my routine of splitting my time between my separate selves: NY/NJ, work/home, personal/professional, teacher/mother, listener/writer, feminist/wife.  i live my life in transit between two halves, and i have made a career out of tight-rope walking between identities.

we are reading a really difficult piece this week - and i want to start by telling you that, because it will be rough at first.  there will be words you don't understand, dictionaries to consult, annotations may be mostly questions, there will be things we have to stop and discuss.  however, i think it's worth it to read this piece, because it sets a historical framework to what we're experiencing today - from stop and frisk, to the racial tension with police in NYC, in Ferguson, in Detroit, Chicago and Baltimore, from school-to-prison pipeline to stereotypes about race and culture.

i am stepping back a bit in history because i am also searching for answers.  as i comb the news and see race-related stories of violence and prejudice almost everyday, as i see the inequality that still exists in our society, i often wonder if slavery is really over.  has it ever been over?  do we know what a world could look like without people trying to gain power over one another?  i often think about laws as necessary to keep peace and order, but as i re-read this essay, i've been wondering, what if the laws are the problem, and not a solution to the problem?  it seems like the laws keep changing, but the inequality that exists in our society remains the same.  does changing the law ever change how people think or act?  or do we change how we act by our own choices?  or something in between?   again, i have more questions than i do answers.

here are the questions we will think about as we read (PRE-READ the questions, remember PUKE?) this excerpt from Michelle Alexander's book, The New Jim Crow.

1. Can legislature (or laws) change how people act?  Why or why not?
2. What were the purpose of Jim Crow laws?  How were they different from slavery?
3. What were "black codes"?  How were they used after slavery was over?
4. What are two examples of positive achievements of the Reconstruction Era?
5.  Is this essay an example of informational writing?  Why or why not?

i'm curious to know how your thinking has changed in these few months since we've been examining literature and current events in America.  your response below can address question #1, or you can also respond with your prior knowledge or inference about what Jim Crow laws are, or you can choose another topic for your response.  we will also be looking at adopting a government structure in our 2nd semester classroom, so you can also tell me what you think about that!  how do you think the government should function in our classroom?

i may not be ready, but here i am!  are you ready for what's next in ELA?

Ms. Lauren

Saturday, February 7, 2015

february forever (Blog Post #4)

hi everyone.

happy bday j-dilla.

your music continues to grow and shape new realities, as we celebrate your life and work. (and check out the symbolism and imagery of the pharcyde's "runnin'" prod by Dilla)

february is a month that is built for poetry in some ways, and information in others.  it's my husband's birthday, jdilla (my favorite producer)'s bday, there is much to celebrate, especially this year!  but i have traditionally always been depressed in february - i used to say that february was my nemesis because i suffer from seasonal affected disorder.  i think that all of humankind has this diagnosis and that we are healthier when we are in temperate climates and eat fresh foods.  i have lost a few close friends in february, so it is a time of extreme joy and reopening wounds.

yet i love the winter, even when the wind bites my face in half and pushes my numbness around like salt on the sidewalk.   it pulls poetry out of me, because there is a harshness to winter that electrifies my keyboard.  i feel inspired, which is why it's a month for poems.  i have a love hate relationship with the news, because i crave the knowledge of "what's happening" in the world, but will read an article and only double the number of questions on my tongue.  i read and then i think about it - who wrote that?  what were they trying to say?  do i really understand the message?  what are their goals and motivations?  did they get paid to write that?  by whom?

we all assess the quality of our information all the time - without realizing.  as we move in our new unit, from the fiction of ghosts in 124 to the real streets of the bronx, detroit, chicago and oakland, ferguson and brooklyn, gaza and los angeles... we are going to be looking at information.  the power it holds, who holds the power, whose information looks differently and why.  we will review some of the most pertinent news that has happened in my absence, so let's start there.  What's one news story that really impacted you in December and January?  Maybe something you wanted to talk about it class, or did discuss with Ms. R, Ms. Cotton or Ms. Overton?  (boko haram killings in Nigeria, charlie hebdo in Paris, anti-police protests and police shunning the mayor in NYC, State of the Union address, free community college, ISIS and Jordan, what else?)

so, when we read something - we're used to annotating, then talking about it, then writing about it. one thing that we're going to be adding in this unit is the idea of questioning what we read.  we read in order to understand - the 5Ws, the "gist" of the story, the theme, conflict, character -- but we also read in order to ask questions. "is it true or untrue?  do we agree with this?" is the beginning, but then we also interpret what we read, and decide what WE think about the information we have received. this is why i like informational writing - because there is no NEUTRAL, but its purpose is to put the facts out there, and let people form their responses.    one goal i have for this unit is going to be to evaluate the source of our information, to determine if it is reliable (can we trust it?  how do we know?)  what's one of your goals for this unit, as we read, question and study informational writing?

hopefully, what you'll find is that we'll end up asking a lot more questions than we answer, and that's okay.  the poetry website is open, if you feel inspired (and are looking to start the semester off strong):  international poetry guild  (you can write an anti-love poem, or a love poem to a strange audience)  we'll also be reading and listening to all new information, and figuring out what we think about all of it.  will we fall in love with the truths that february brings?

i look forward to seeing you soon.  i miss you guys!

ms. lauren