September 20, 2011

A Pedagogical Revolution from a High School Senior

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 6:13 pm by a care in the world

I only hope she goes on to become a teacher, y’all. I know this video is long, clocking in at over 9 minutes, but this high school valedictorian’s speech is an incredible indictment of our education system today. For those teachers out there busting their butts to answer the ever-present “Why are we studying this?” question, both for themselves and for their students, I hope you feel vindicated by this speech.

In other teacher news, I am seriously missing New York and its professional development opportunities for educators. Coming up the first weekend of October is the Preemptive Education Workshop put on by Michael Cirelli and crew from Urban Word NYC. I went to this last year and it’s an awesome opportunity to hear from multi-talented youth, speakers, and educators who working to make sure that every voice is heard and valued in our education system today. There are awesome ideas about incorporating hip hop, poetry, and multiculturalism into the classroom. And to make things extra exciting, Toni Blackman is gonna be there. If you’re around, go be inspired!

July 30, 2011

Here’s to you, New York

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:18 pm by a care in the world

Well hey there– it’s been awhile! Things have been crazy in this time of transition, and I’ve put the blog on hold for a bit until my life settles into a routine in a couple weeks. I’m in the midst of packing and finishing my Masters, and also trying to prepare for my new teaching job! I’m at a great school that I’m really excited about, and I’m teaching a little outside of my comfort zone, but it should be a great challenge.

A couple weeks ago I got to visit my family in Atlanta, meet my new nephew, and visit my husband in our new town. I got to see the parsonage and the church and hear him preach his first sermon. The congregation is small but SO friendly, and I think we’ll do well there. We celebrated our first anniversary that weekend as well, by unpacking our books! Well, at least half our books 🙂 We ate the top tier of our wedding cake (which was actually delicious!) and drank champagne and had an awesome, newlyweds-in-a-new-house-and-a-new-town time.

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It’s a beautiful day in New York City and I’m just trying to cram in as much city life as I can before I leave. It will be hard to go from a population of 8 million to one of 5,000, but it will certainly be an adventure and a totally new experience. So here’s to you, New York– the home of my first year of marriage, the place where I earned the degree that put me on the road to a career I’m passionate about, the lifelong friends that made my husband and I feel welcome from day one, and all the incredible memories and experiences of living in the Big Apple. I will truly miss you.

photo from here

June 30, 2011

New York Pride

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 5:53 pm by a care in the world

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This past Sunday I had the honor of worshipping at Riverside Church on Pride Sunday. Riverside is home to the oldest continually functioning, church-sponsored LGBTQ organization in the United States, called “Maranatha,” or “The Lord Cometh.” The sermon was a beautiful statement of love, pride, acceptance, and celebration. Friday June 24th (my birthday, in fact), New York lawmakers voted to legalize same-sex marriage (article here). For many of our friends and many in Riverside’s congregation, it was a long-awaited triumph, and the Gay Pride Parade on Sunday was just icing on the cake.

You can read the whole sermon here (and I highly recommend it!!), but one thing that really stuck with me is this: Interim Pastor Rev. Stephen Phelps spoke about Paul’s letter to the Romans, and I quote the pastor here: “‘I am confident in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself,’ Paul wrote. And then he said something that re-set the course of religion: ‘But a thing is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.’ In other words, sin and its destructive power arises from your inner motivations, from your inner condition, not from things in themselves.” So– God does not make anything unclean, it is humans who make things unclean. But Paul also says that it is legitimate for humans to make things unclean, because if you feel something is wrong or unclean, then it is for you. The pastor’s point was that we must accept and have compassion for people who believe homosexuality and gay marriage are “unclean,” because it may be wrong for them. The last thing we should be doing now is turning around and judging or condemning the people who condemned homosexuals. Mathew and Luke both say “Do not judge, and you will not be judged” (Mathew 7:1, Luke 6:37).

I certainly don’t mean to turn this post into a sermon, but as a pastor’s wife, so many things about the serivce struck me because of their inclusivity. I think you could use many of these words with all kinds of congregations of varying beliefs, including the small church we’re headed to in North Carolina. I do want to leave you with a prayer written by Howard Thurman, civil rights leader, from Pride Sunday:

Lord, open unto us.
Open unto us – light for our darkness.
Open unto us – courage for our fear.
Open unto us – hope for our despair.
Open unto us – peace for our turmoil.
Open unto us – joy for our sorrow.
Open unto us – strength for our weakness.
Open unto us – wisdom for our confusion.
Open unto us – forgiveness for our sins.
Open unto us – love for our hates.
Open unto us – thy Self for my self.
Lord, Lord, open unto me. Open unto us.

Hymns included the beautiful and uplifting “In the Midst of New Dimensions” (video not at Riverside)

Words and Music by Julian Rush CCLI #958649.

In the midst of new dimensions, in the face of changing ways.
Who will lead the pilgrim peoples wandering in their separate ways.

CHORUS: God of rainbow, fiery pillar, leading where the eagles soar.
We your people, ours the journey now and ever, now and ever, now and ever more

Through the flood of starving people, warring factions and despair,
Who will lift the olive branches, who will light the flame of care?


As we stand a world divided by our own self seeking schemes,
Grant that we, your global village might envision wider dreams


We are man and we are woman, all persuasions, old and young,
Each a gift in your creation, each a love song to be sung.


Should the threats of dire predictions cause us to withdraw in pain,
May your blazing phoenix spirit, resurrect the church again.


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June 15, 2011

Spoken Word Poetry

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 10:44 pm by a care in the world

One of my favorite cultural experiences in New York City has been spoken word poetry. I was introduced to this art form when studying hip hop theater in college, but I first saw it performed here, at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Often performed by poets of color, spoken word or “slam” poetry brings to light the gritty realities that black and brown people live with every day. Dangerous neighborhoods, crime, drugs, injustice, police brutality, racism, and domestic violence are just a few of the issues that these poets present in stark, beautiful language. Powerful imagery pulls you into the poet’s world and forces you to listen to what they have to say, and I’m blown away by the courage they have in saying it. Here are some of my favorites:

And to finish with something a little lighter:

Tonight I participated in a workshop on bringing spoken word poetry into the classroom, as a way to build and encourage student voices, to value student background and cultures, and to provide a safe space for student stories. I was asked to write a poem about my neighborhood. It’s nothing special, but I thought I would share.

My neighborhood was safe.
I’m almost embarrassed to talk about it now.
Full of cliched memories– fireflies and kickball and climbing trees.
Life was easy. I didn’t know what the world was like.
My father taught me Shakespeare and Renaissance Art.
My mother taught me the tricks of advertising so I would never be fooled by commercials promising the next best thing.
I was taught to be discerning in my tastes, to live a life of the mind… but not so much a life of the world.

My neighborhood was safe.
I played with my friends in the street and no one ever got hurt.
I went to school with people like me to learn from people like me
Reading writers like me who wrote about people like me.
I thought I knew a lot.
I was never questioned or threatened or judged; not really.
My neighborhood was safe.
I’m almost embarrassed to talk about it now.

I spend my time now with kids whose neighborhoods are not safe,
And I don’t know how to relate;
What to say.
What I could possibly say that they’d want or need to hear?
I was a child when I was young, and these are not children. They have seen too much.
My neighborhood was safe.

**As requested, here are the words to the poem “Foster Bears” above. I’m sorry the video quality is so poor, but the poem itself is beautiful.

June 13, 2011

No Pictures Today.

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 11:22 pm by a care in the world

I come from a privileged world where the law, the judicial system, and the education system are protective and supportive forces in my life, not threatening ones. In my year in New York City, so many of my privileged-world blinders have been torn off, and I find it exhilarating and breath-taking and scary all at once. It makes me feel lucky and guilty at the same time– I can’t believe it took me this long to learn (really, to acknowledge) the innumerable hurts and threats that many Americans– children– deal with every day. The fact that half of my students come to school without breakfast or lunch money is stunning to me. I went to a school with a cafeteria that rivaled college dining halls at the time, and that was included in tuition. Though I consider myself a sensitive person, I have also been a very ignorant and sheltered person, and each new injustice and hurt shocks and hurts me. More and more, I am determining that my job as a teacher is so much more than a career choice– it is a vocation that will both force and allow me the privilege of working with people– children and parents– from all walks of life. The books I have read and the children I have taught this year have opened my eyes to the desperate situation that is public education.

I had a student this spring who, at age 16, is his own legal guardian. He has no one to go home to and, for that matter, none of us know what home he has at all. The foster system has all but given up on this boy. He is loud and rambunctious and never does any homework, yet he comes to class every day, participates, and is miles ahead of his peers in his insight into and analysis of the books we were reading. I don’t know if he is desperate for attention or if he just has nowhere else to go, but he continues to show up at a school that is about to fail him for the second time. What 16-year-old boy shows up for a third year of 10th grade? I hate to see him drop out, because he has a brilliant mind and is inspiringly curious (he won’t stop bugging me to bring him more Kurt Vonnegut books), but he won’t follow the rules or do the work. So who is failing here– my student or the system?
There was also an incident today that hits even closer to home for me. My little sister just graduated from college and works in healthcare, and she was called for jury duty today. Terrible luck, huh? Anyway, she was passed along through a couple of rounds until she got to the point of this scene: 47 people sit in a room. They are told that they are being considered for a murder trial in which a couple is accused of beating their two young children to death. The children were both under 5 years old. The officials demand that each of the 47 potential jurors stand and confess whether they or a close family member have ever been a victim of a violent crime. If they don’t tell the truth, they will be held in contempt of court. For privacy’s sake, I won’t go beyond that, but I was STUNNED that 47 innocent strangers were forced to confess traumatic and emotional incidents in their lives to each other so that 12 of them could be chosen for the jury on this already upsetting case. Is that justice?? What about victims’ rights? What about privacy rights? What about all the people who went home traumatized tonight because they were forced to dredge up and confess painful memories and experiences in front of dozens of complete strangers? I don’t think that’s what the founding fathers meant when they said everyone has a right to a fair trial.
The other upsetting thing for me is this– I have never in my life worried that the police or the judicial system was out to get me, or posed a threat to me in any way. And yet, millions of young black and Hispanic men live with that fear and reality every day. Who am I to be (usually) above these worries? What makes me any more worthy of respect and protection than them? And on another level, how can I teach young people who face threats and fears that it took me a couple of decades to even learn about? This is the hardest question for me as I complete my Masters in Education. I understand what to teach, and I understand how to teach a lesson. But how to teach and reach students on a personal, essential level? All I can do is pray for the grace to do my best and not screw up too badly. I have SO much to learn.

June 11, 2011

Museums of New York

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 11:47 pm by a care in the world

Now that we’re all caught up on trips, let’s get back to what I’m spending most of my time on. For the last couple of classes of my Masters degree, I’m taking advantage of some amazing New York resources and opportunities. I’m taking a class right now called Museums of New York, where we spend our time visiting local museums that are off the beaten track and learning how to use them in our respective classrooms. I’ve discovered that all of these museums have extensive education programs and regularly work with schools to bring art into the classroom even when schools cut arts programs. 

The Jewish Museum

Photo from here.

The Rubin Museum

Photo from here.

Brooklyn Historical Society

Photo from here.

Brooklyn Museum of Art

Photo from here.

I’m also in the middle of an independent research project on bringing art into the English classroom. Thanks to my father, I have a strong background in Art History and it’s always been a great interest of mine. He took me to museums and taught me how art, culture, history, religion and literature all intersect and influence each other. As I read more literature, learned more history, and began to recognize more artworks, I realized that knowing a few stories could help me become familiar with many aspects of culture, and the more that was familiar to me, the more intrigued I was. I began to understand that connections stimulate and motivate learning across disciplines, and as I’ve been exploring my own teaching philosophy, I find that interdisciplinary and multicultural studies are at the top of my priority list for students. Our world is continually shrinking as travel, technology, and the media open up nations and cultures that seemed incredibly foreign just 100 years ago, and our students must understand and appreciate the differences and similarities between people (and their history and cultures) in order to be successful global citizens.

So, because my great loves are English and Art, my goal this summer is to combine these two subjects into a rich, informative, interactive course that reaches students with different learning styles, cultures, and backgrounds and helps prepare them for a diverse world. I’m doing lots of reading and, as you can see above, visiting many museums as I design this curriculum. I certainly feel very lucky to be in New York City where so many resources are readily available. Here’s to a fascinating summer!

May 22, 2011

Graduation Weekend

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 10:55 pm by a care in the world

Some days are so emotional and uplifting that you don’t even know where to begin to recount them. My husband graduated from seminary on Saturday, and his family and I spent a proud and exhausting day escorting him from event to event, receiving words of praise and gratitude for him from so many of his friends, professors and co-workers. The Commencement Communion Service in the morning was filled with the interconnectedness that we have come to appreciate so much from this community. Students prepared the entire service, offering gifts of word, song, and communion. Fittingly, the MDivs anointed each other to go forth and do good work, sharing intimate words of encouragement and blessing with one another. It was an incredibly moving experience.

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The Commencement Ceremony later that afternoon began with great noise and jubilation, as bongo drums led the procession of graduates and faculty into the chapel. It was such a small group that I knew most of the graduates, and was proud to witness several of them win awards for their hard work and dedication to sharing the gospel and working for social justice. I was caught off guard but not terribly surprised when my husband’s name was called. In my own words, the award he won was “most capable of translating his seminary work into good for the community through parish ministry.” I’m sure the official phrasing was much more impressive than that, but after some of the struggles we had this spring, I am so proud and so grateful for this particular affirmation. My husband had hoped to be heading into a PhD program at this point, but it wasn’t meant to be, so he followed his calling into ministry, postponing his PhD ambitions for another time. Though it’s been quite a challenge to have to delay that dream, we could not have received better confirmation that he’s on the right track for now. I’m so thrilled and so proud of him.

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As we leave this place behind, we leave a library filled with wisdom and theological challenges, a building draped in history and beauty, and a community of the most fiercely loving people I have ever known. This community believes in love and acceptance above all else, and they fight for social justice, equality and open-mindedness in a way that will always inspire me. It has been an honor to be part of this community, and I know it will feed and support us wherever we go. To all the graduates– may you go forth to bring love, truth and light to all people you encounter. Make us uncomfortable when we need to be uncomfortable, hold us when we need to be held, and challenge us to look beyond our own little worlds so we can create God’s kingdom on earth. And all God’s people said: “Amen!”

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May 10, 2011

A little bit about me…

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 12:26 pm by a care in the world

I thought I’d say a little bit about myself and why I decided to start this blog. I’m currently finishing up my Master’s in Teaching English in NYC and searching for teaching jobs in North Carolina. I’m excited to be going back there because it feels a little like home. My husband and I both went to college in NC and his family is there, so it will be good to be on familiar stomping grounds. So we’ll be going from this:

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To this:

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Talk about culture shock! My grad school friends are mostly looking for teaching jobs in the city, so they can’t imagine what my life will be like. Many of them suggested I start a blog to record this adventure, so I hope to be using this space to share teaching stories and resources, my photography, and life as a small town preacher’s wife. I hope y’all will feel free to make this a dialogue rather than a monologue!

May 9, 2011

“If I have a care in the world, I have a gift to bring”

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 11:58 am by a care in the world

Well, this is officially my entrance into the blogging world… let’s see how it goes! Right now I’m choosing not to post my real name here, so I’ll just explain my username. This comes from one of my favorite Indigo Girls’ songs, the lyrics of which go like this: “My life is part of a global life. I find myself becoming more immobile when I think a little girl in the world can do anything. My destination- my community, street person- my responsibility… If I have a care in the world, I have a gift to bring”
-Indigo Girls

I’m here to chronicle my new life as a teacher, photographer, and preacher’s wife. This summer I’ll be moving from New York City to a small town in North Carolina, and I hope this blog will help me process the journey and enjoy the ride. For now, I’ll leave you with one more quote from another favorite artist: “And I don’t know how it gets better than this, you take my hand and drag me head first, fearless. And I don’t know why but with you I’d dance in a storm in my best dress, fearless.”
-Taylor Swift