Home Team/Away Team

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Home Team/Away Team

July 7, 2013  |  Culture, Teaching  |  4 Comments

I wan’t always so Brooklyn. I went to high school in Georgia. Though I’ve spent most of my adult life in NYC, I am from Georgia.

There is this old sentiment in poetry that you can never go home again. That somehow when one leaves a place, life makes it hard to return… Perspectives shift, memories fade, familiarity crystalizes into nostalgia, and the reality that things are never quite as you remember them breeds disappointment. Heartbreak.

This month I worked in Georgia for the first time since the 90s. What a way to start the summer! I loved it. Turns out one can go home again. I’ve got to rewrite some poetic sentiments…

In Georgia, I did some reading work with some teachers in Houston County, and I followed that up with a week of institutes back in NYC. Here are some things that we made while we wore working together, and a few links that we found useful.

-Corn

Your Son is My Son

July 1, 2013  |  No Comments

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs performed this beautiful, patient song the other night. The chorus was resilient, with Karen O chanting, almost humming “my sun in your sun/your sun is my sun” over and over and over.  At the time, I thought she meant son, so, until I looked up the lyrics today I’ve been replaying “my son is your son/ your son is my son” in my head-thinking about how those lines so perfectly capture me as a mother and teacher.  The reason I chose to be a full time working mom this year-because I think that we all, maybe especially myself, have a responsibility to the world to raise our children right.  I know that African proverb “It Takes a Village..” is far more popular and probably more clear, but I prefer the Karen O version.

All year, I grappled between my role as mother to my daughter Soleil, and my role as teacher to 29 fourth graders.  The duality, at times, felt impossible.  I remember Parent Teacher Conferences in the fall-a 12 hour work day, 7AM-7PM, and the visceral pain it caused me to be away from Soleil for that long. I also remember staring back at my fourth graders one day and feeling a sense of disconnect that I had never experienced before in the classroom.  It felt strange.  What was going on? Is this what happens to teachers when they have kids? Thousands of teachers have kids and make this tick.  What was wrong with me?  Granted, I consider myself a strong teacher-I think can be found somewhere on the Danielson Framework (haha NYC teachers!).  I also have my flaws-crappy organization,  thinking too outside the box, speaking my mind too often (probably not so much Danielson Framework, and not so haha). But pre-mother Ms. Kass and current mother Ms. Minor are two very different teachers.

I recently went to the High School commencement ceremony for a group of students I taught pre-Soleil. This group was special-Cornelius taught these kids in grades 7 and 8, and when they rose up to me in 9th grade, I felt like I already knew them.   In the truest sense of the word, Cornelius and I loved those kids. We taught them about life, about words, about community.  They taught us about Brooklyn, about toughness,  about worlds we didn’t know.   They were around to see Cornelius and I get engaged, they were around to see us in our betrothed state.  We were around to see them challenge school administration, beat the unfairest of circumstances, and live their lives with zeal.  Now we bump into them with Soleil, and they think it is simply out of this world that we now have a kid together!

Seeing them walk across the stage and grab diplomas and win thousands of dollars in scholarships felt absolutely victorious.  Who we both are as educators has much to do with them.  And as I stepped back into time last week, and relived being Ms. Kass I felt lifeblood for teaching flow back through me-that same lifeblood for mothering that I feel for Soleil. 

Sometimes I think this is my Elementary teacher self vs. my High School teacher self.  Or maybe that I’m a bit of a thrill seeker in the educational landscape.  I never thought I would say this- but I like recalibrating mass chaos and navigating emotional complexities within students, and maybe even staff too. I’m still in a state of reflection, but mostly I think this is simply Ms. Kass vs. Ms Minor, and Ms. Minor is now married to a brilliant man and has a beautiful child with him.  The chaos that drove my former teaching self doesn’t really exist anymore.

And this is when I start thinking about those lines Karen O sings-“my son is your son/ your son is my son.” If you asked me a year ago to quit my job, take care of my baby, and cook for my husband, I probably would have nodded my head yes.  Hell yes.  The gravitational pull to envelope your child and shield them from the world is Magneto strong.  But I didn’t make that choice.  And I didn’t make it for good reasons-Perhaps Professor X got the best of me- I felt a stronger responsibility to help not just my kid, but a whole lot of kids.  What’s more, I think Soleil benefited ten fold from all of the wonderful people introduced to her life.  They’ve peppered her with love, and she now as a more worldly view than the Minor microcosm she would have had had it just been me and her Dad.

So, yeah. Your son is my son.  My son is your son. I still believe in that age old idealism that a child can’t be raised alone.  It does take a village.  And I’m happy that the Minors are part of it.

Addendum: This blog is no way, shape, or form is meant to disapprove of choices other moms make.  Everybody makes choices that are right for them. 

I'm in a Movie (Seriously)

Believe it, Bro. I, Cornelius Minor, am Batman.

I’m in a Movie (Seriously)

June 10, 2013  |  Culture, Teaching  |  12 Comments

Last year filmmaker, Vivienne Roumani-Denn, followed me around NYC. Our adventures together became a small part of her recent documentary on literacy in the 21st century. The resulting film, Out of Print, had a decently successful run at the Tribeca Film Festival, and it is playing now in festivals around the country.

If you want too much Cornelius in your life, (or if you don’t have enough) go see this movie. Here is the info:

To all my students, there is a killer fight scene in the movie where I fight Superman, and WIN! — okay, SIKE… not really. 100% of the movie is me and other people loving books, but you should still go see it.

-Corn