One Head Several Hats

On Tuesday, August 20, 2013 I participated in an all day parent/student orientation at my daughter’s school. Admittedly, I am still grappling with the idea that I am a parent to a freshman in high school, already.  Nonetheless, the coordinators of the program wanted the day to be family orientated – and so, a school bus was offered to transport new and returning students and their parents to and from one neutral location in Boston.

 As you can imagine, many students arrived, fashionably, with the latest sneakers, matching hats, and colorful knee-high socks. The atmosphere was overflowing with excitement and nervousness. Many new students kept to themselves while returning students contended for attention. I quietly observed! Initially, I felt overjoyed to know that my daughter would be attending school where the students seemed enthusiastic to be there, but it wasn’t long before my initial impression took a turn, for the worst.

It began when one young lady yelled to another, “Shut the F#@* up.” Although the comment was followed by giggles, it saddened me to hear those words exit the mouth of a young lady who could potentially be my daughter’s peer mentor. Next, when the bus arrived, the students bottlenecked the door, stampeding each other and even the adults. Why, was my initial wondering, but then I remembered how cool it is to sit in the back of the bus – so they fought furiously to claim their seats. One young man wanted so badly to make it to the back row that he was literally climbing up the back of my leg to get by. Of course, I “checked” him, “Young man, relax, the seat isn’t going anywhere.” He quietly responded, “My bad.”

On the bus ride, the profanity was unceasing. I know that this language is common amongst teenagers, especially when in their domain, but what baffled me is the fact that those teenagers/students completely disregarded the presence of adults/parents.

 On that day, I was there to be as a supportive parent and I didn’t want to overstep any boundaries that might place my daughter under attack, by her peers. I strongly wanted to exert my parenting instincts and holler, “Watch your mouths.” My next inclination was to put on my mentor hat and initiate a dialogue about the thousands of reasons why their behaviors were inappropriate and could backfire on them. Finally, I even flirted with the idea of pulling out the inspirational storytelling hat and sharing with them an anecdote about how a young man who, because they were unknown, disregarded the presence of adults around him while on a public train, behaved poorly, and was ultimately denied the opportunity of a lifetime. Instead, I remained quiet and pretended I couldn’t hear them.

For the remainder of that day, I felt like a horrible father, mentor, and adult because instead of putting on one of my helpful hats, I hid behind a veil. I was equally disappointed at my counterparts, but this isn’t about them – it’s about my negligence and me.

Several days later, I am still “in a stink” about my actions, or lack thereof. So I ask of you, parents, what would you have done if you were in attendance? Which hat would you have worn? Students, how would you have reacted if you were present and a parent spoke out against the said behaviors? Would you have appreciated it, or felt violated?

Written By: Edward Walker

What’s the Beef About?

This year, I have participated in, listened to, and read countless articles, like this one: Charter Schools in Boston Outperform Their Peers, Study Finds, which in a rather circumventing way speaks about the “beef” between charters schools and “traditional” public schools. Although I have clearly heard the arguments and even understood some of the sentiments expressed by my colleagues in education who work at charter and/or conventional public schools, my only yearning is that they STOP fighting, in my opinion, a senseless fight that will probably never end for as long as the two communities co-exist.

Whether you work at a charter school or a conventional public school, focus on your mission and to the best of your ability; assist the students that you encounter on a day-to-day basis. Try to no longer allow the unveiling of ridiculous studies, data points or sideline conversations to knock you off of that course. I graduated from a conventional public school and as a professional, I have spent years working with both charter and traditional schools; it is my experience that both communities have done some phenomenal work at times, and both communities have failed many of our young scholars, other times. Rather than opposing each other, why not fight harder to discover ways in which the two groups can work together?

Respectively – each institution has its pros and cons, but if we eliminate the redundant conversations about which institution graduates more seniors or have more students taking AP exams, etc, then perhaps we can begin to understand that both traditionals and charter schools ultimately have the same or similar destinations – even though they may take dissimilar routes to get there.

Really, what is the “beef?” If you submit a response to this question, please be willing to offer some insight about how to resolve “your” beef, because whether you admit it or not, it is your beef.

Written by: Edward Walker

Founder and President of I.C.E

Am I Alone?

I have always struggled with my capacity to sympathize with others, but for some reason, in wake of the Boston Marathon bombing and all of the subsequent events, my instinct has been to sympathize with Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the 19 year-old perpetrator. Research of the brain has proven that if a child, especially those more malleable than others, is caught earlier enough, they can be encouraged and convinced to believe in and do anything. My compassion pushes me to hope that this may have been the case for Dzhokar.

Just to be clear, I am not conflicted on whether or not he should be liberated or even rehabilitated. In fact, my same instincts at some points have wished the opposite. What has been done cannot be reversed – and, although I have some aptitude to wish the young man well, my deepest sorrow lies with the victims, their families, and my city. Am I alone on this “train of thought?” Have you ridden the emotional roller coaster, as well?”

Share your thoughts.

My Master’s Degree Wasn’t Worth It – Says Who?

In the article, My Masters Wasn’t Worth It, several master’s degree holders try to convince the reader that it wasn’t worth it for them to get their master’s. Below are responses to their comments – not as a challenge or judgment of the individuals but to offer a different perspective to their cases. Moreover, the following comments aim to encourage others to not be swayed by these stories. The master’s degree will never land that dream job for you. Instead, we must understand that only we can land the jobs for ourselves – the master’s degree is just a “hook.” [Read the above article before proceeding.

Eliminate Black History Month?

In 1926, Carter G. Woodson and others, announced the second week of February the “Negro History Week,” which ultimately became “Black History Month,” in recognition of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Research has stated that Woodson was hopeful for the week to be eliminated once Black History became accepted by the mainstream as American History. Some question whether or not that has happen, yet?

Additionally, many contend that highlighting one designated month in remembrance or celebration of Black History is undignified. Do you agree? Should it be eliminated or should we continue to utilize February to celebrate the progress and success experienced by Black people, as a community?