Archive for April, 2015

The Power of Love In, Outside, and All Around the Classroom

April 8, 2015  |  Culture, Family, Teaching  |  1 Comment

A KM Post

Back in the day, circa 2006, Cornelius and I were a different kind of duo.   We taught at a school that was lovingly referred to as “Global”; something we both loved before we knew we loved each other.  Global was enigmatic: the community was tight, yet the school was struggling. The teachers were bright; the kids were worldly.  The vibe of the school was tough, but tough with heart and it escalated us to a point where we wanted to teach and be taught.  If there was ever a language of love it was the one there-exchanged between teachers and students.  Eventually, that language transferred over into loving each other.

A few years ago, our partnership moved beyond students and towards our own children, Indira and Soleil.  We quickly found out that teaching and loving other people’s kids is real, but teaching and loving your own kids, well, that’s the realest. It took us a long time to realize that toddlers and teenagers have similar reasoning skills, but it took us no time to understand that building self-love trumps any kind of neurological gains. We didn’t really have any experience to fall back on, no team except for one another. It’s hard to exercise your commitment to your community when one is slowly building within your own home.  


The Minor Community: Cornelius, Kass, Soleil, and Indi. April 6, 2015, Brooklyn, NY


At school, both Cornelius and I are firm believers that Community is everything, and the primary way we build that community is through texts, mainly read aloud. Much of what we practice as educators at school, we practice at home-especially when it comes to our literary lives.  After a recent family trip to the bookstore, we all celebrated our loot-Fader, Ebony, Marie Claire, Happy Birthday, Princess!…. We talk about what we read with candor.  And I kid you not when I tell you this…but Disney Princess took the cake in our family’s literary discussion: Rapunzel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Ariel, Jasmine, and Tiana are all featured.  All the White Princesses get two pages, and both Brown Princesses? One page.  You make think that’s nothing.  But really, for a Brown child, it’s everything: absence of the self from a text  becomes the catalyst for erasure from society.


Happy Birthday, Princess! Just another text that puts People of Color on the Margins.

Happy Birthday, Princess! Just another text that puts People of Color on the Margins.

And now that Social Justice Covenant that at one time was a school thing, our teaching thing is now our Life Thing.  When your own children are subjected to an Apartheid school system, a system that has been pedogogically mutilated into a monetary venture for a few bored millionaires at the expense of not just kids you care about, but at the expense of your own children, it becomes a more visceral battle.   There is no compartmentalization of our lives any longer.  Being a parent and an educator is not all that different, and this realization has made us all the more confident in rebuilding our Activist Selves.

Part of that has started by approaching social justice as we used to: by using the language of love in the classroom.  Recently, Cornelius and I went on a date to “Being Bad”-Disrupting the School to Prison Pipeline with Crystal Laura and Billy Ayers, an event sponsored by Teachers College.  I was thrilled to hear these educators talk-Crystal Laura, author of Being Bad, sets forth the ideal that if Educators invoke a message of love, joy, and justice in their classrooms, they will most definitely disrupt the process where large majorities of Black and Brown kids are marginalized both in and outside the classroom, specifically, helped along to prison.  When the biggest thing you can do as an activist gets put into the framework of love, it feels a whole lot more doable than fighting the Juggernauts that Be, i.e. The Test, or Tisch, or Cuomo, or Charters.

Screenshot 2015-04-08 21.41.45

Crystal Laura’s take on how Black and Brown children are helped along to the Prison Pipeline directly from school.


When Crystal Laura and the Minors talk about using love as a catalyst for empowerment or change in the classroom, we’re not talking about that sentimental feelin’ fine kind of love.  Laura shapes her semantics by fusing definitions set forth by Bell hooks and Martin Luther King Jr., saying, “Love is the ability to alter and enhance someone else’s existence.” We Minors agree with her-Love must move from noun-state to verb-hood in the classroom; it’s like praying on your feet.

What does that look like? For starters, it’s not by providing Race and Society articles to kiddos in your classroom or talking about Mike Brown everyday.  It’s about being subtle, gentle, empowering.  It’s about getting your kids to love themselves and to be comfortable with who they are.  Getting them to love learning.  To not hate school.  To not hate their teachers.  Helping them build positive relationships within their communities.  Exposing them to things that would otherwise be outside their world.  Connecting them with opportunities.  Enjoying who they are.  Having fun with them.  Introducing them to real people who have cool jobs. Letting them see a little piece of who you are outside your teacher self.

Yeah, that’s a lot.  But that’s exactly what love is: a lot. But we can pick a few, and try to make them happen.