Bring on the Snuggles, Go Knicks!

Soleil, sporting #12

Bring on the Snuggles, Go Knicks!

February 5, 2013  |  Culture, Family  |  No Comments


Cornelius and I didn’t get married for nothing-aside from the bountiful love we share with our little one and each other, we share a lot of love for a lot of things. Including, but not limited to Alice Walker prose, dystopian novels, bacon, cats, and New York City.  However, there is a small slice of life that we share that neither of us meddles in.  For example, Magic the Gathering.  Cornelius tried to envelope me in one time a few years ago at a gaming dive in Billyburg, and after an hour of him teaching me how to play, and after two hours of me telling him all those rules were wack, we decided that goblins and manna would be kept in his domain.  Furthermore: RHOA.  Nene Leakes may be one of the most entertaining women alive.  Kim Zolciak, although MIA this season, is so sassy! Cynthia: gorgeous, and is the baby mama to that guy that was on the Five Heartbeats! It’s all so disgustingly entertaining, I love it.  I tune in every Sunday night.  An unfortunate of my kicks with reality TV is that Cornelius, being from Atlanta, throws up a little bit every time he hears Bravo’s theme music.  Consequently, RHOA (along with the Kardashians) lies in my domain.

All in all, Cornelius is not a TV person.  And neither am I, really.  Most of TV is terrible, and only a few shows are bad enough to be disgustingly good..i.e. RHOA and the Kardashians.  However, I think we can all agree that sitting next to your loved one in the evening in front of the boob tube for 45 minutes or so is a lovely way to end the day.  Especially when the average day filled is filled with all sorts of cute kids who have pretty rough lives and all kinds of needs.

Enter, Basketball.  The only kind of reality TV that both of us can stomach. Three years ago, Cornelius got comped tickets to a Knicks game-approximately five rows from the court at the Garden.  The Garden worked some voodoo on us, and now we religiously follow the Knicks.  We are FANS.  We met Amar’e, I have a STAT poster hanging in my classroom, and the whole family has matching Knicks gear, onesies included.

The players are magical, and their back stories are totally endearing.  Steve Novak still lives in a regular ass house in Milwaukee.  Iman Shumpert has a flat top, two brothers, and a mixtape.  Melo used to live in the Red Hook houses, and Amar’e took his wife on a Cognac tour in France.  Tyson Chandler wears capris and holds art house photo exhibits.  Ah, they are all so cool!  Oh, yeah, and they play basketball pretty well too…

The best part about loving the Knicks is that they usually have three games a week, and all those games are televised. Hence, there is always something to snuggle up to on the couch in the evening.

Four years ago, if you asked me about the Knicks, I might have known something about Isaiah Thomas’s failed tenure as coach.  Now, I welcome their stories, both on and off the court, and look forward to celebrating their tenacity with Soleil.


Oooh, and I like it...

My team... <3

Oooh, and I like it…

February 3, 2013  |  Culture, Family, Teaching  |  1 Comment

As we settle into Negro History Week Black History Month (Big love to Carter G. Woodson), I realize that I’m long overdue for my “January month-in-review” post. Kass is probably working on hers too, as January was a HUGE month for us. Here are the things that made the Minor household the place to be this month:

  1. Toilet Paper. Aside from it’s obvious intended use, Toilet paper is perhaps the best toy ever invented. Soleil and I spent three hours the other Wednesday unrolling a pack of it. Her blocks cost $10.00. She plays with them for maybe 30 seconds. Roll of toilet paper: $0.88 — THREE HOURS! Folks, that is value.

    This is how we roll.

    This is how we roll.

  2. I’m working to digitize my classroom library using this tool by Booksource. It creates a database of each book in your classroom. Kids check out books just like at the New York Public Library. You can evaluate reading trends in your room from the checkout data, and it even has a harass function for when kids don’t turn books in on time. Every time a kid checks out a book, I feel like a complete badass. I need some theme music. (Also check out Class Dojo — behavior management tools for your SmartBoard? Yes, please.)
  3. Theme music. A$AP Rocky’s new album, LONG.LIVE.A$AP. I don’t love this album. I respect it. A$AP Rocky’s latest is a lovingly written lit review of the boom bap that us Golden Age Hip hop cats grew up on. Rocky is a sonic Alex Haley. He’s a man in search of his roots. The album itself does not disturb me (well, maybe that one track with that buffoon, 2 Chainz). What disturbs me is what he found while on that search. LONG.LIVE.A$AP is equal parts TRU, Scarface, UGK, DJ Screw, Bone Thugs, NWA and OutKast. Not a bad thing to be, considering the cultural potency of the source material. It just makes me wonder. Is this ALL that we left to this generation of kids? Hip hop, we have a lot more work to do on our legacy.
  4. While technically not a January thing, it was cool to see the Ravens win the Super Bowl. All the talk of Baltimore this month reminded me that I had not re-watched The Wire in some time. This show is like a good book. You just keep returning to it. If you have not watched this show in it’s entirety, then I feel bad for you…
  5. Speaking of books that I keep coming back to, Kass is Reading Neal Stephenson’s Reamde for the first time. I might re-read it. This book was delicious the first time I read it. If you like video games, spies, midwesterners, freedom, or have ever been the only black person on a farm before, you should probably read it. Pillow talk is about to get a lot more interesting this month.

Have a great February.


New Kung-Fu!

Cornelius: The Black Daniel-san!

New Kung-Fu!

February 3, 2013  |  Culture, Teaching  |  No Comments

I’m a huge fan of Kung Fu movies. From Enter the Dragon to Ip Man to The Last Dragon (Who’s the master?!?! …Sho-NUFF!)… In addition to being essential works of dramatic art (The fight scene versus the Japanese soldiers in Ip Man is one of the best scenes committed to film. Ever.), all of these films serve as great metaphors for teaching and learning.

Many Kung Fu movies follow a similar narrative arc:

  1. Hero believes himself to be relatively proficient in martial arts.
  2. Hero gets beat in a fight.
  3. Hero tries again, and gets beat.
  4. Hero learns some new Kung Fu.
  5. Hero returns to whip all asses.

Points #1-#3 in the Kung Fu narrative arc remind me quite a bit of the old Albert Einstein quote: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Kung Fu protagonists usually spend the first quarter of the movie caught up in what Einstein would call insanity. “I keep using my super-secret dragon punch, why can’t I take this guy out?”

My mom used to tell me that if I ate all my veggies, I would grow up to be big and strong. Each night after eating all the spinach, I was certain that I would grow up to be this guy. -- Jim Kelly, Kung-Fu legend.

My mom used to tell me that if I ate all my veggies, I would grow up to be big and strong. Each night after eating all the spinach, I was certain that I would grow up to be this guy. — Jim Kelly, Kung-Fu legend.

As I’ve worked these last weeks, many of my teacher friends and I have been caught in a similar insanity. “I keep doing my thing in this classroom, and these students seem stuck…” Fortunately for me, I had two incredibly refreshing learning experiences this past week. I spent Monday through Wednesday with some brilliant folks in Wethersfield, CT and I spent Thursday and Friday with my energetic Seattle, WA crew. In the work that we did together across the week, we sought what most martial artists seek when things get hard — some new Kung Fu.

Here are a few things we (re)discovered: (Big shouts out to the entire team at Denny Middle School and The 7/8th-Grade English & Social Studies Team at Silas Deane! — Thanks for the last week!)

  • We carry this invisible burden as teachers, where we feel somehow inadequate if kids don’t “get it” at the end of our lessons. I’m convinced that effective teaching isn’t about kids “getting it”. Teaching is about setting kids up for purposefully rigorous practice. The “getting it” happens in the practice. If kids listen to a seven-minute mini lesson and “get it”, chances are, you did not really teach them anything. They knew that thing before they came to class. Effective teaching says, “here’s this new thing with which I want you to struggle. I’ll guide your struggle at first, give you the tools to wrestle with it on your own, and that EXPERIENCE will lead to mastery.” Basically, talk less, demonstrate lots, give kids lots of opportunity to practice multiple iterations of the thing that you are teaching.
  • Pacing, in any classroom, is essential. Use a stopwatch. Tell them kids what time it is. Literally. This is not about leaving kids behind, it’s about setting the bar high while simultaneously providing adequate supports (partners, charts, technology, conferences, small groups). When we operate with warm urgency, kids respond with warmer brilliance. Many of us slow down for students. Or worse yet, we repeat ourselves incessantly believing this to be good for kids somehow. Not that me and my peeps are bad folks, but all of these tendencies come from low expectations.
  • On expectations: We can raise them. Dramatically. We need to understand that the students that we serve are way smarter and lots more savvy than we ever were. They can think faster, question deeply, and critique brilliantly. We really have to resist the notion to teach them like we were taught. Methods evolve. Because it worked for us 25 years ago, does not mean it is good for kids now. Not one of us would visit a doctor who has treated her patients the same way for the last 25 years. We expect these people to keep up with the latest advances. Not doing so is medical malpractice. Similarly, the notion that “well this is how I learned it” is also malpractice.

Watch out world, I’ve got two whole districts of middle school teachers approaching the 5th point on the Kung-Fu narrative arc. Pow!