Monday, March 30, 2015

when dreams fade... (BAL Blog Post #8)

Hi everyone,
My babies are really sick, so I'm at home taking care of them today - but there's lots of work to do, let's stay focused on the prize!  Email me if you have questions or concerns, I'll be back tomorrow, inchallah.  :) -Ms. Lauren


Where do we go when our dreams drop?  When being sidetracked on the way to your future becomes your future?  What happens to the dreams we let die?  What happens to the air around us when we let a dream go?  Does an old dream stay glimmering in the air, or does it fade to black?  Tell me about your dreams, what they are, where they will take you, what landscapes you will discover in your life in the form of a poem.  Talk about dreams being realized, or being deferred.  Here's my poem to get you thinking:  Happy National Poetry Month, friends!   Write to your heart's content on the IPG poetry website!

I've been thinking in languages that I don't speak, and trying to expand my vocabulary in new ways this spring.  But, I also always think back to what has come before, to how history has connected to the present and shaped the present like a sculptor and her clay.  While the idea of redlining, or segregating people to certain neighborhoods through mortgage restrictions or denials, is no longer a practice in the United States -- I also know that when I travel uptown and pass 86th street, the white people all get off the train.  There are certain areas of the city where the impacts of redlining are very clear and evident -- where you can SEE the boundaries of neighborhoods based on who gets on or gets off the train.  What has your train experience been with regard to redlining?  In which neighborhoods is this most obvious or evident to you?  In which neighborhoods is it more subtle?

As we begin reading this text, I want you to think about your ideas of family -- what defines family to you? Is blood thicker than water?  Why or why not?  Must we always prioritize our family over ourselves?    I'm excited for you guys to get to know the Younger family, and learn about their story.  Also, if you're looking for some new/old music to brighten up your spring, here you are.  You can respond to these songs/videos for extra credit to boost your grade (on paper, emailing me your responses or as a comment on the blog) You're welcome, in advance.

Dreamy Spring Playlist 2015
You can respond to these songs in addition to free-writes, for extra credit or to make up for missing work.  Lyrics for most of these songs are available on   A ½  page response will earn you 5 points.

Kendrick Lamar – “Blacker the Berry” -
2pac – “Keep Ya Head Up” -
Notorious B.I.G. – “Juicy” – (Subtitulado EspaƱol)
                  (in English)

Drake – “Successful” -
Common Sense – “I Used to Love H.E.R.” -
Sekou Sundiata – “Blink Your Eyes” -
Stromae – “Papaoutai” - (French, Eng sub)
Jaded Incorporated – “I Ran” -
Flock of Seagulls – “I Ran” (Original) -
The Cure – “Love Song”
Depeche Mode – “Enjoy the Silence” -
REM – “Losing My Religion -
Nirvana – “Smells like Teen Spirit” - (espanol)
Squarepusher – “Port Rhombus”
The Beatles – “Yesterday”
                 (subtitulado Espanol)
Eugene the Dream – Spongebob Trap Mix -
Proof/J Dilla  -  “Life”-
Frank Ocean – “Swim Good” -

What are your favorite songs about dreams, that induce a dream-like state, or are generally dreamy?
Let the warm air and the rain wash over us as we head into spring.  Good riddance, winter - it's been real, but we need the sun.

Ms. Lauren

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Beatles and Dreaming (BAL Blog Post #7)

What do you know about old music?  Before the time when you were born.  Tell me what you know about music from the 60's, what you know about jazz, what you know about early 90's hip-hop.  This weekend, I am going all the way back to music that blew life into me when I was just a kid - that still means something to me today.  I go through phases with music.  These days, I have kids, so it's less Mobb Deep and more Bob Marley, less Outkast and more Beatles.  I challenge you to listen to something that is not on the radio, find out who Kanye sampled and go listen to the original Motown song.  

March is ending and with it comes the promise of spring, though the irony of snow on the first supposed day of blooming isn't lost on me.   It's been a heavy year, and a long winter.  I find myself lost between the covers sometimes, dreaming of things that I can't change.  Or can I?  I am always incredibly self-critical, so I was sending doubts into the universe, and received this response today:

The first thing I wanted to tell Joshua was that his place in society as a man of color is at the top - and anyone who tells him differently isn't worth his time.  I cried, because it is the small moments like this that make life worth it.  I will never be paid what I'm worth, but I chose this profession because I was hoping to have an impact on just one person.  Affirmation that I have done this is beautiful.  But, I am far from done growing, and I have much work to do to become a better educator.  Joshua himself is an amazing thinker and I didn't make him that way, he was born with ideas.  I do not see my role as an educator to give you thoughts - it's to extract your thinking from your brain.  I'm curious, at this point in the year, what's one lasting impression that you will take from this class? 

We're beginning a new book this week (really, next week because of the overnight trip and disrupted schedule this week) and it's one I've taught before and love so much.  It is a play by Lorraine Hansberry titled "A Raisin in the Sun", and the first thing that we will talk about is a poem (you'll see it below).  What do you think about the poem?  How does it connect to what we've already learned and studied?  What do you think this play might be about, which is titled after a line in this poem? It's about to be April, aka National Poetry Month... so even though we're reading a play, we will be poeming all throughout this month.  Get ready for good reads and words galore - and please don't forget to post any poems you write on the IPG Site!


BY LANGSTON HUGHES                                       

What happens to a dream deferred?                             

      Does it dry up                                                                    
      like a raisin in the sun?                                                      
      Or fester like a sore—                                                     
      And then run?                                                                    
      Does it stink like rotten meat?                                    
      Or crust and sugar over—                                                          
      like a syrupy sweet?                                                        

      Maybe it just sags                                                              
      like a heavy load.                                                           

      Or does it explode?                                                          

Sunday, March 1, 2015

redefining Envy and rethinking speeches (BAL Blog Post #6)

I'm in my feelings today, as it snows again and I'm wishing that I could magically transport myself to a cemetery in the north Bronx, where he is buried.   I've been looking back through photos and writing from 2012, which was an epic year for me - I got married, had a child, moved back to Detroit with my new family and lost both a student and my uncle within a few months.   On Friday, I brought copies of the zine you'll read in class on Monday to his aunt and reconnected with many of my former students over the weekend - our school family is alive, even if the Banana Kelly that we know and love no longer exists.

I still fully believe, as I say in the introduction, that you can keep people's memories alive by telling them.  Storytelling is extremely important to our lives, and to our histories: we each have our story and we need to tell it.  So when people's lives get cut short, I feel a responsibility to tell their story in addition to my own.  Their story becomes a part of mine.  Envy, your story will keep being told.
Have you ever lost or been separated from someone?  How did you cope with the task of missing them?

Also, we're beginning our campaign and election process this week and I'm incredibly excited about the writing and action that will come out of this.  I want you to survey one another and figure out some suggestions for improving our class - there is much room for improvement.  How can we do the notebook grading procedure better?  How should progress reports function?  How can we be updating Engrade weekly so that you have much more consistent access to your grades?   Figure out some key issues that you want to tackle as you run (or help your candidate run), and we'll brainstorm about how to solve some of the issues in this class, so that we can improve its function for you.

So, a speech is one way to show your fellow classmates who you are and why you're running for this position, but the best speeches are NOT just informational, but also lyrical.  You remember the poetry of speeches more than the information, so as you're writing, make sure the facts are there (who you are, what position you're running for, why you'd be good at this role, issues that are important to you), but your constituents will remember HOW you read the speech and how you can CONNECT with them.  I invite you to re-think your speech and really work on your informational AND persuasive techniques simultaneously.  We'll look at a few models of speeches that have been informational in nature, but creative in approach.  What do you think makes a good speech? 

Let's have a great week, and may the best folks win (but may we all write like the wind)!

Ms Lauren

(here's the link to the powerful speeches for Wednesday's homework: