Category Archives: Activism

My Kindergarden Freak Out…part II

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I started drafting this post last winter… when I sill pregnant with Meena and overwhelmed with teaching full-time and juggling family life… as a result it sat in my drafts folder, but our recent decision to apply to an independent/private school sent me back here to finally complete this post!

Dec. 2014

Things with my son’s  school came to a head recently…I want to preface this my adding that I am currently 35 weeks pregnant… so the stress is not needed… after an awful situation regarding physically restraining my 5-year-old ( after he refused to take a time out), I had enough and pulled him out of that disorganized brand new charter and put him in our local public school.  Nothing unsafe has happened in the public schools and im grateful for the public oversight required of a public institution our taxes already pay for.

Welcome to my Kindergarden freakout!

Welcome to my kindergarten freak out!

The world of education has always felt contentious to me, but I never would have guessed that Kindergarten would feel like such a war! There has been a palpable difference between my teacher training and classroom experiences before and after the  “no child left behind” nonsense.

The problem is that it’s  policy makers and corporations making changes to education as opposed to the educators and professionals that studied human development and have experience with pedagogy.

As a result of our family’s experiences, I have become morally opposed to the way charter schools become approved in Rhode Island and I have always been opposed to “mayoral academies” and didn’t know we were stepping into that in the summer.

I am confident in my son’s resilience and flexibility and know he will be fine in most places. It’s not so much about what’s best for just my son, but now with baby #2 coming, for the whole family.  I don’t want to continue to feel this level of frantic confusion and stress so our local public school might be our best option for now. I have resigned myself to the notion that I (not alone anyways) can’t demand that a school stop using crap common core and bring back imaginative play, creative learning and recess. I cant on my own- force the public schools to stop teaching to the test and pushing screen time on students before they are ready.  I can’t force my own ideas about education on a system that puts business over what’s right for children.  This type of fight requires a collective of organized parents and citizens, one that will take time, will send us flaying and might falter, but might also ultimately win the type of education for our children that we can all be proud of.

Through this experience I have learned much- most importantly, I came out of this trusting my instinct even more ( a precious commodity these days I’ve learned) , being on my son’s side is really important being his voice and advocate, as my husband pointed out- we are his main source of support.

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Teaching to the test-starting in early ed…

Is this what we are allowing to happen?

Is this what we are allowing to happen?

great piece on importance of recess:

http://www.commondreams.org/views/2014/10/06/let-children-play-schools-must-relearn-importance-recess

My son learning through play during the

My son learning through play during the “good ol days” of Pre-K

Wise words

Wise words

learning at the children's museum

learning at the children’s museum

Fall 2015

Where we are now is out of survival mode but back in “where is recess mode”. I reached out to the PTO about the crazy amount of homework for st grades and only 15 minutes of recess but I feel like by the time we get enough parents on board my poor child will be in highschool! So he will be off to an independent school for 2nd grade… to be continued!

READ the 1st part of my Kindergarden Freakout HERE: https://nowapproachingprovidence.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/hey-where-did-childhood-go-my-kindergarten-freak-out/

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How Uncivil! Ray Kelly Protests, Providence Student Union, and Why Liberal Politics Suck

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The following post was penned by my partner and fellow creative resistance specialist ( cause yeah, i can make terms up…) Christopher Rotondo:

Reflections on the Providence Student Union (PSU), Ray Kelly, and the Nature of Protest

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Recent organizing efforts and protests in Providence, most recently, the protest of New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly at Brown University, have not only received the ire of reactionary conservatives, but also established “progressive” voices. Certainly, the conservatives have a lot to lose in capitulating to the demands of groups like the Providence Student Union (PSU) or the organizers of the Kelly protest. Those with opposing ideas of how society ought to be must confront each other. The more dismal component of these debates and contests however, are those allegedly “progressive” voices, who, from the sidelines of any struggle, use their privileged access to the media to denounce the  methods or tactics of organizers. It’s important that this debate between these progressives (and so-called “civil rights leaders”) be settled in favor of an analysis that values justice over civility, promotes the liberation of oppressed people rather than defending the “rights” of oppressors.

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So much of the criticism, and in some cases, outright dismissal, of the Providence Student Union (PSU) is focused on their tactics. Caricatured as a “sideshow” and otherwise cheap political theater, the protests and actions of the group seem to be the only thing up for debate in the minds of conservatives and professed “progressives” alike. The Union’s demands to rescind the NECAP standardized test graduation requirement, along with the largely unarticulated contention their work raises – who should decide how and what Providence students learn – don’t seem worthy of consideration.  Perhaps the reason we – so conveniently, it seems, for the arguments of the pundits criticizing the PSU – don’t get anywhere with so-called “education reform” is because no one with formal decision-making power actually wants to change the direction we’re heading. More testing, evaluations designed to undermine teachers’ unions, and privatization of everything, from entire schools to busing. The conclusion one is bound to draw from the focus on superficial aspects of the situation – “how” the PSU goes about making its point- is that whomever is pandering this kind of analysis must have some stake in the status quo. No argument over the Union’s “tactics” is going to result in change, especially when the context in which the students struggle to find a voice is almost entirely ignored.

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Many critics of the PSU would have us believe that the group’s alleged “sideshow” tactics are unnecessary, some going so far as to say they’re just looking for publicity, not trying to address a social issue. Yet no one seems capable of articulating how these students might otherwise voice their position in regards to NECAP or any other policy of their schools for that matter. Without a proposed alternative, one is forced not only to question what stake these critics might have in keeping things the way they are, but also where the root of their angry response to the Unions “tactics” truly lies. I would argue this ugly root is actually shaped by bigotry based on age, race, and class.

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Coupled with a general fear of change (along with the power and paychecks involved) there is a deep undercurrent of hackneyed prejudice to the majority of the criticisms of the PSU. One could imagine, based on her crude comments, that Board of Education chair Mancuso doesn’t believe any 16 year old should have a say in her own education. I suppose she’d rather decide for students, in private meetings, what and how they will learn (and subsequently, how they’ll be valued as workers and adults). In Mancuso’s myopic, white-washed world, perhaps this is enough to try and wrap her mind around. But, because the PSU is based in Providence, because its members are mostly African-American, Latino, South East Asian, because many come from immigrant families, there is a lot more than the chair’s distaste for kids at stake. Though banal arguments about “tactics” obscure (intentionally in most cases), the fact that racism and class privilege are undeniably present in this situation, anyone savvy enough to understand the history and political-economy of public education in this country should not be duped.

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Context matters. It matters in any debate over the Union’s demands, and it matters in one-dimensional diatribes about “tactics.” The real questions we ought to be asking ourselves are: should the students of the PSU (and students in general) have a say in how and what they learn? Who and why might someone argue that they shouldn’t? Why would the PSU employ the “tactics” they have? What other options were and are available to them? These questions, unlike the ones being posed in the majority of commentary, might get us closer to the issues underlying the work of the PSU and the roots of the arguments against them.

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Based upon the response from policy-makers, school administrators, conservative and progressive commentators, it would seem that no one criticizing the PSU actually believes students (or perhaps these students) should have a voice in their own education. One of the fundamental beliefs that the PSU’s protests challenge is that administrators, far-removed policy hacks, and, increasingly, profit-seeking education corporations and their consultants, ought to decide how and what students learn.

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By organizing – a concept it appears few still understand – the students of the Union are part of a long, dynamic history of how change happens in this country. One of the most prominent examples, the gains of which many PSU critics implicitly or even explicitly in some cases, work to roll back, is the Civil Rights Movement. The foundation of that widespread movement for racial justice was organizing, not the idolatry of Martin Luther King – which many of the Union’s “progressive” critics stake their reputations upon. That foundation was laid by the localized, person-to-person work being done, largely uncelebrated, by Black women in the South. Organizing, against the Jim Crow of the mid-20th century American South, or the current Jim Crow system of mass incarceration, police terror, and yes, a deeply racist education system, means opening the moral, political, and physical space for the oppressed to challenge the system of white supremacy and class domination that day-to-day largely tramples on unhindered.

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The direction, militancy, and horizons of the Civil Rights Movement came from those without recognized political power, whose dreams of a different life, fueled by their daily experience of white supremacy, made them uncompromising in their struggle for justice and perhaps even revolution. These “common” visionaries, often pushed the limitations of their alleged leaders, driving the movement on to it’s next important strides towards a racially just society. Those who would seek to denounce the students of the PSU, and thus make crucial decisions for them, rather than with them, would do well to take lessons from history. Again, where do these detractor’s ideas about who should run the public education system derive from? From the brutal, white supremacist and capitalist status-quo. They aren’t doing themselves, or any of us for that matter, any favors by seeking to suppress the liberating energies of the Union’s student organizers. They are, as usual, simply lining their own, as well as the usual suspects, never-ending pockets. All in the name of “progressivism,” or even, “civil rights!”

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It should be no surprise that the same antagonists who have been moralizing the PSU’s tactics would apply their reactionary logic to the recent protest of New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly. In the alleged defense of free speech, self-proclaimed civil rights leaders (along with, thanks to the Providence Journal, conservative think-tanks) have admonished the student and community organizers who prevented Kelly from speaking at Brown University. That Kelly was heckled off the stage is being called an “uncivil” disruption of his right to speak and the audience’s right to hear him. These detractors claim that the protestor’s would have been better off engaging in “civil discourse,” held up as the backbone of any progressive change.

Two related points need to be made about Kelly’s “rights,” as well as this vague and much-touted concept, civil discourse. Firstly, since when did rights have nothing to do with power? What tradition of civil rights are these alleged spokespeople upholding? Kelly, wielding his control over the policies and practices of the entire New York City police department, has established a system of race-based oppression, intended to generate fear in the people of color of New York. This is the institutionalized, highly-resourced, and undemocratic (he was appointed, no?) power Kelly holds. In this position, he has had ample opportunity, not only to voice his opinion, but to actually put his ideas into practice!

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How does Kelly’s power, and subsequently, despite what many commentators would like us to believe, the breadth of his rights, compare to that of the organizers in the crowd? The organizers had no institutional backing whatsoever, except for those small, mainly volunteer-run institutions they had built for themselves. It should be easy enough to see through the straw man about Brown’s “liberal” professors and “culture.” The self-proclaimed “liberals” being touted as the scourge of conservatism on campus are the ones deriding the protestors! It’s certainly not a liberal conspiracy to toss out someone like Kelly. I imagine that if those “unruly” protestors and their ideas were really running things at Brown, we wouldn’t have seen Ray Kelly on campus at all, let alone for a huge honorarium and in a celebratory fashion.

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Moreover, these organizers and protestors were, in the majority, people of color – the targets of policies like Ray Kelly’s (which, by the way, have been the norm in Providence for years, the Providence PD simply does not have a nationally recognized, formal policy of racial profiling. They prefer to deny that profiling exists.) Whatever limited power these organizers have, Kelly’s policies are designed to undermine, using near-constant threat of harassment, violence, and incarceration. Though indignant commentators would surely gasp, it’s clear to these organizers (and to those willing to accept the actual history of this country) that Ray Kelly and his policies are buttressed by hundreds of years of colonization, chattel slavery, and systemic racism, while the protestors instead struggle to overcome these bulwarks of American society.

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Are we to believe that, given this glaring imbalance of power, Kelly and the protestors would have been on a level playing field had they simply engaged in civil discourse? Asked polite, but “tough” questions at the end of the man’s speech? Wrote patient and explanatory articles in the Brown Daily Herald? What incentive then would there be for Kelly’s policies of stop-and-frisk to be put to an end, either by Kelly himself (presumably after hearing the protestors impassioned, reasoned arguments) or by public opinion (which might, heaven-forbid, empower people in New York City to resist stop-and-frisk…oh wait, that’s already happening!). How easy it is to moralize in a vacuum! How simple-minded to presume, against undeniable evidence, that there is no imbalance of power mediating our rights. Again, like arguments against the tactics of the Providence Student Union, one must ask: is this innocent ignorance, or are those making these claims protecting something, intentionally obscuring reality, admonishing those who rupture the everyday through protest, to suit their own comforts, “rights,” and privileges?

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It’s a massive betrayal on the part of anyone claiming to uphold the banner of civil rights to decry protestors (mostly protestors of color!) fighting the representative of a racist police policy, without even a nod to the fact that racism or massive disparities of power and influence exist in our society. Not content to simply obfuscate the reality of race and class power, some have gone further, infantilizing people’s reaction over an “emotional issue” as a substitute for any real analysis of the situation. Surely New York’s stop-and-frisk policy and the long history of racialized terror from which it springs are worthy of more than a plaintive wail about how they must make people feel!

Perhaps this is related to the bastion of liberal problem-solving, civil discourse, which has been tossed about not only as the reason to disdain the protest of Kelly, but as an inviolable pillar of our “tolerant” society. The alleged leaders called upon to comment on the protest are, rather than championing the rights of those terrorized, locked up, and brutalized by Kelly’s policies, defending their favorite straw man: civil discourse. They would have us believe that impatient and crude activists are always assaulting this discourse and preventing real, painless change from occurring. Kelly’s speech sheds light on what this “discourse” ultimately amounts to. The argument goes that the protestors, rather than “silencing” the commissioner, should have politely heard him out, then posed their challenging, yet civil, questions during the established Q & A. The result would have been a genteel and unremarkable event. And those local policy-makers and police, who only want to fight crime more effectively, would have heard their racist views and practices reaffirmed by an exalted cop, maybe steeling them to push “proactive” policing further in Providence. The Brown undergads on the verge of tears for the display of free-speech bashing would not have had to be so traumatized!

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Yet, what were the protestors after? A statement. A statement against clearly racist policies. From the initial request to cancel the lecture (and spend the honorarium somewhere more appropriate), student organizers sought a disavowal of Kelly and the type of world he represents – a world that is anything but civil. If the protest made you uncomfortable, made you fret over rights, perhaps you might imagine (if you haven’t already experienced it like so many others) a stop-and-frisk. Or, consider not just an isolated incident, a one-off of humiliation, terror, and potentially life-changing consequences, but a generalized, daily routine of surveillance and random violence – the explicit goal of Kelly’s policies. One would hope that champions of civil rights would view the depravity of institutional racism as more discomforting than the heckling of a university’s honored guest. US racism was, after all, built within the genteel, civilized society of the plantation South. Not exactly a concept that we ought to be touting.

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Between the Providence Student Union’s confrontation over the future of the education system and the uncivil discourse of protesting Ray Kelly, it’s clear that comfortable, establishment liberals, like their forbears, simply will not choose sides, despite an increasingly clear war over the direction of our society. It’s moments like these that expose liberalism’s inadequacies of vision and analysis. How can you participate in the struggle for justice if you become squeamish over challenging the speech of the overseer of a racist police system? How can you envision a new society if your inviolable method of change is limited to civil discourse? Who has access to this realm of discourse? Apparently Ray Kelly was welcome, while the “rude” protestors were not. So those directly impoverished, violated, too often even murdered by the systems you and Kelly quietly debate are to sit on the sidelines, face more incarceration, deprivation, and injustice, until a civil solution is worked out by those worthy of the conference room?

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It’s long been time for those shielding themselves from the obvious conflict going on by hiding behind civility to declare a side. For the oppressed may not fit your description of civility. Those on the side of the oppressed might, reasonably, take your actions to mean that you have chosen your side – that of the existing system and its elites. Perhaps, despite the fact that it will not be a civil contest, folks have chosen to fight for a fundamental revolution in society, to fight for their rights to imagine, create, and live to achieve their full human potential. To defend the rights of a man like Kelly against the bold and uncivil action of those his policies oppress is to choose Kelly’s side of history, the losing side.

So, stop trying to build careers by placating those with power and influence, stop demanding civility and start demanding justice, and decide which side you plan to fight with. I for one, will follow the leadership of those bold organizers and protestors who heckled Ray Kelly offstage. I will follow them to victory over racism and capitalism, and I will gladly be uncivil doing it.

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The Power of Reading: My response to Neil Gaiman’s ‘Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming’

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Reading Rainbow was the bomb...

Reading Rainbow was the bomb…

As a teacher, (and a young one at that),  I often wonder what makes schooling today so much different than when I was in school. No matter where I’ ve taught ( charter or public school, Urban or Suburban…) , its all so very different than when I was in school, which was again, not that long ago ( graduated in ’07’) !      So, I was pretty moved after reading Neil Gaiman’s lecture in the Guardian
 ( http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming)  I think it touches on I i’ve  why the gap between educational experiences is ever widening.
One of the main differences I’ve seen is the school culture around reading and appreciating fiction has vastly changed… whether through the take over of standardized testing or the push for an English curriculum that values informational texts over creative texts; its impacts are far reaching and speak volumes about what how we see ourselves and connect to each other.   I remember reading endlessly and being read to from all teachers in all subjects, I remember being the audiance to several school sponsered puppet shows, storytellers, and fairytale events.   I remember library being an actual class where we learned to work the card cataloge and put together multistep projects and work as a team.
reading in the 90's was wicked awesome!

reading in the 90’s was wicked awesome!

What is interesting to me is that as a Palestinian woman  growing up in post 9/11 America, I didnt realize that is wasn’t my work as an undergrad antiwar activist or as a spokesperson for students for justice in Palestine that was going to spark a revolution, but my imaginiation that will. How empowering it is to be reminded that one of the most revolutionary things I could be doing right now is exactly what I’ve worked on and wanted to do all my life; “make stuff up and write it down”.
ok, so what this wasnt a book? still pretty great...

ok, so what this wasnt a book? still pretty great…

When Gaiman states, “We need our children to get onto the reading ladder: anything that they enjoy reading will move them up, rung by rung, into literacy” I am reminded of how I was taught to teach- just hook kids into reading anyways, anyhow… ( so I had creative control and freedom of what I was teaching them)    It was life or death…  and for the group of students I primary taught it was.  It didnt matter if I got teens reading graphic novels, or those hood novels which some schools thought were too violent…just get them to read!  Now its about reading informational articles that are short and boring as hell… last year, the public school had me teaching a scripted cooperate program ( so much for creative freedom or even professional respect) about polar bear habitats to English language learners in the 7th grade.  This was supposed to be an English class… and yes getting poor students  of color in Providence reading is life or death:
                      “The prison industry needs to plan its future growth – how many cells are they going to need? How many prisoners  are there going to be, 15 years from now? And they found they could predict it very easily, using a pretty simple algorithm, based on asking what percentage of 10 and 11-year-olds couldn’t read. And certainly couldn’t read for pleasure.”
The most important thing reading did for me anyways is to build empathy with others.  I didnt know a lick of English when I immigrated from Kuwait and didn’t understand a thing about American culture.  Needless to say there were times growing up I felt awkwardly lonely and very misunderstood. Gaiman says that [reading helps] “you get to feel things, visit places and worlds you would never otherwise know. You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well.”  That other world, for me, was America.
Alex Mack was the BEST

Alex Mack was the BEST

He goes to say, “you’re being someone else, and when you return to your own world, you’re going to be slightly changed.”
I certainly was.
I learned about the Black struggle through fiction, about slavery and immigration and other wars and other times besides my own.  I wasn’t simply born political by way of nationality as others like to joke ( Ive known many a palestinian with sucky politics…) Reading helped me form my own thoughts and ideas about the way things could be.  Reading provided me with the background and the historical context I needed to build from, its not only personal experiences that shape one’s politics, its all these things and more.
 Reading fiction assured me I wasnt alone, that I had a place, that there were others out there like me who I could one day connect with, organize with, change the world with… This was revolutionary given how cut off my mom and I lived from any Arab or Muslim community, how sedated my suburban white environment actually was and how drowning that felt as a youth.  Reading was my savoir, the key that unlocked the wider world and my future possibilities.  More than anything reading fiction gave me hope, it taught me that “the world doesn’t have to be like this. Things can be different.”
My son and his friend with Big Nazo puppets at PRONK festival, imagining a different world...

My son and his friend with Big Nazo puppets at PRONK festival, imagining a different world…

Gaiman goes on to talk about reading as a form of escapism, arguing that “escapist fiction opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.”  As a child witness to war and domestic violence and now as a teacher of students with varying levels of  trauma, Ild agree that reading is certainly a real way to cope with and in turn, change reality.
I wholeheartidly reccommend reading Gaiman’s lecture.  Here’s the link again: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming
                      “Fiction is the lie that tells the truth, after all” and the truth is, all of us, whether or not we are teachers or writers, have the power to imagine and create a better world and the obligation to provide for others to do the same.
Sunset over Providence

Folks marching at Providence PRONK festival

Teacher Confessions: “Dont Be a Squeaky Wheel!”

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“Dont be a Squeaky Wheel!”

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Ive only been teaching at this public middle school for about 6 months now but it feels like much longer.  It is an ever engrossing, emotionally draining job. I constantly feel at odds with my  ideals of how humans should interact with each other and the world around them.  I never realized how holding firm beliefs in justice has left me stranded on a lonely island out there in the sea of factory model education.

'squeak'

‘squeak’

And just when I think Ive found an an ally I am immediately let down when I am told not to rock the boat. Below is just a smattering of some of the ‘advice’ Ive received from well meaning colleagues:

“You really wanna survive this job? Well, don’t be a  squeaky wheel!”

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Now, if you’re anything like me, being a squeaky wheel is hard to avoid regardless of time, place, or situation. In others words, I have a big mouth.

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The End of Times

But, is it just me, or is it getting harder out there in public school land to NOT be considered a squeaky wheel?In my short experience working for Providence schools, Ive noticed a negative reaction is elicited regardless of intention.  It doesn’t seem to matter whether I  ask the stock room for paper or  actually bring up issues about my ESL student’s placement.  I get immediately shut down…But, Heaven Forbid, if I am late inputting test scores, then its a combination of every apocalyptic scene ever conjured by the human imagination.

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So excuse me, I don’t mean to interrupt your asteroid riding, robot chasing, ice-sheet expansion end of the world melodrama, but these are just ideas…and pretty good ones in fact.  After all, I kinda know the deal… I didn’t just fall off the teach for America wagon (nothing directly against anyone who became a teacher through that program, its the system, not the individual I have issues with…)  but I digress…

The most interesting thing about being labeled a squeaky wheel ( yes, I even got called down to the principal’s office for a chat about my perceived lack of participation in a math class where I am one of 4, yes FOUR adults in a class of 20, however my class of 20 beginner ESL students gets only me. Uno.

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Its not that I wasn’t participating on purpose.  I just honestly didnt know what I was expected to do, frankly, it can get a bit overwhelming having all those adults in one classroom…and the result of that conversation?  I was told to ‘co-teach’ ( even though I am not even a math teacher)

and oh, I was informed that my test scores were of course, late…

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From Squeak to Shriek

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Its simultaneously inspiring and discouraging that I work with teachers who have amazing, simple, smart ideas to improve school for all our students but have remained silent (and haven’t forced the union to get it together). okay, okay, i might be new here, and not know ( thankfully) all the layers of history… But lets imagine if all the squeaky wheels unite, what a gloriously ear-splitting shriek that would be!

Squeak proud brother

Squeak proud brother

I Heart Historical Cemeteries…

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Who doesn’t love historical cemeteries?  Now, now…I know what you must be thinking: “umm, are you feeling okay?”

But really, I think they’re great.

Growing up in Johnston RI, historical cemeteries were seemingly around every corner.  They are interesting, informative, thoughtfully arranged aaaand most of the time, these old school final resting places exist in some really scenic locations. As children, we rubbed the gravestones with tracing paper and crayons to make out the faded words to the dearly departed. We added up the years and marveled on how young people were when they passed.  I remember my shadow sweeping over the smaller headstones of young children tucked away between moss and tree roots.  We learned that only 100 years ago it was common for children to not make it passed their first birthday. Historical Cemeteries were peaceful places in the woods and I was always in awe of the passage of time in their presence.

Speaking of which, the photograph below is one I took of a historical cemetery up the hill from the wharf in Newport, Rhode Island in fall of 2008.

So quaint and well persevered! So of course this led me to think about Palestine…after all, it all comes back to Palestine (or land). Historical cemeteries are a reminder of what a society chooses to memorialize and what to forget.  Take this Israeli “park” for instance:

Over 2,800 Palestinians from the Hebron-area village of Bayt Jibrin were expelled during the 1948 Nakba. Today the area is an Israeli national park which erases the memory of its original inhabitants.  Which  is very similar to all the towns, cities, schools and strip malls that were built over Native American sacred spaces, burial grounds, and villages here in Rhode Island and all over the US.

Historical cemeteries remind me how quickly society and landscape can change; whether from genocide, urbanization, or environmental changes…places are always undergoing transition in various forms- through destruction, rebuilding…

I think one of the main reason I heart historical cemeteries so much is that- in a strange way- they are a physical examples of hope.  Hope of transformation and renewal.

…and there I am undergoing my own little transformation, pregnant with Ali in fall of 2008, posing in Newport:)

Occupy PVD-Update

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It been a long time coming, but here is my Occupy Providence update.  Some observations from an event I attended followed by an interview with a fellow occupier:

Last month I attended an event called Empower Providence, an opportunity to get a pulse on the future of the future of occupy PVD. Some interesting notes/observations:

-The unique qualities of each individual occupy movement:

-Shared news about Occupy Denver: “Take me to your leader”, the group elected a dog.

– Interesting note about Occupy Spokane Washington: occupiers had anti-immigration signs

-Audience comment: this needs to be about: education on colonization /imperialism…most importantly, increasing self-love  in order to get rid of  our internal ‘isms’.

The Role of Art

-world carried by artists, able to think out of the box

-creativity allows healing: Art Therapy

-Words create our world

Self-Sustaining Society

-taking this energy and knowledge back to local community

-what are we already doing that makes the world better?

-need to first educate self about structure we are a part of before we break away from it.

Goals

-revolution to evolution

-next steps for PVD: mobilize our own physical /economic structure. This  starts with redefining what is a resource, not just money/ material wealth

Observations provided by New Shoreham, Rhode Island resident Steve Miller:

So many I don’t know where to start. Some observations: 1/2 of all the men I spoke with were ex-military (as I am) or veterans. There were plenty of homeless and other street people; some of them were very involved in the politics, some were there for the “scene”, some were there for the food. I was struck afterward with what a miracle OP was for them; they needn’t worry about getting rousted off of benches, nor did they have to steal or panhandle for food, best of all, they were part of a family if that’s what they wanted. From the minute I arrived on Wed afternoon, I started to talk with people…and I never stopped. There is a sense of purpose that permeates the camp: as I spoke with folks I could see a determination, even a burning desire for changing the broken system. I participated in the GA, we voted to take the fight to the city concerning the “eviction, before they could take it to us! I met three or four Facebook friends I had never seen in person before, and we really hit it off…….I talked with people and exchanged ideas for hours on end. I realized that participating at OP gave me a feeling similar to voting, or going to a Town Council meeting where stuff gets wrangled out, and you have a great feeling of helping work out the very mechanism of society…..except about a hundred times better!!

I Found a drumming friend who has been camping there full time (other than his job) and we drummed with another serious drummer who is at OP a lot. I have not felt so free, so wildly free, in a long time. We sat on benches surrounding the fountain under a sliver of moon playing drums while OPers and young street people alike came and went, applauded, did little dances…’til after midnight. I went for coffee with one drummer, the only two patrons at the bar we went to confronted us aggressively about our Occupy affiliation, angry about the protest inconveniencing the downtown. We talked it out with them, and left with mutual respect between us, if not complete agreement. Back at camp there were people engaged in conversations in little groups of twos, threes, and fours. I finally went to sleep around four am….with long underwear, lined pants, a fleece and a jacket with the hood up, and my gloves on. The glare of the downtown lights illuminated the inside of my tent, sirens and voices made it difficult to sleep until, next thing I knew I heard a car horn blasting repeatedly by someone I was later told was a regular….he/she drives around Kennedy plaza two times honking the horn @ 7:00 am. There were donuts at the kitchen tent, and commuters straggling by as people wolfed donuts and waited for coffee to percolate. Not too many people are around in the morning; many OPers work, and start trickling back in in the afternoon. In the morning you will see young people, college students, and the homeless.

Some of the men there have spent months in tents in Afghanistan and Iraq; they are learning tricks from the homeless about cold weather survival. The serious people are glad that the real cold weather will deter the less serious, and hangers-on….those who tend to make OP look bad due to drug and alcohol use and rowdy behavior. I sat in a meeting about camp security…..a Boston Occupier said potentially violent people are surrounded by thirty or so people who “talk them down”, and that it has been very effective in Boston. There was talk of whether people caught using drugs should be exiled or given warnings, and if so, how many. In addition to it’s core precept of non-violence, OP does not allow drugs or alcohol. The problem is detecting it, because it’s easy to hide the behavior in tents; and enforcing the rules when someone IS found using. Shortly after the meeting started, a man walking by stopped, and stood listening intently. He asked why people were here in the park protesting. By the time he had heard three or four people give their reasons, his skepticism about the movement turned into enthusiasm. He asked where he could donate, left and bought food to donate…..then returned to the group and offered to pay for prescription medications if anyone couldn’t afford them.I suppose the community spirit and sense of purpose won him over; I wish I could ask him. I had another interaction with two banker/executive types that were very negative.

They did what almost everyone who says they don’t like the Occupy Movement does……avoided the main issues that Occupy is for, and kept trying to marginalize and minimize the movement by emphasizing all the things the media feeds the public regarding drug use, not understanding the message, and “not getting anything changed by camping in tents and bothering people”. Of course, this is sheer bullshit, because you don’t need the sense God gave a fucking chipmunk to discern that Occupy stands for (a)Getting the money out of politics so giant corporations and the wealthy are no longer able to give unlimited anonymous campaign contributions to their bought-and-paid-for politicians, (b) Holding financial criminals accountable for ruining the country’s economy and putting millions of Americans out of their homes, their jobs, and their life savings, and (c) bringing the tax code back to where corporations with multi-billion dollar profits pay taxes on those profits at the same rate or greater than secretaries pay.

A huge thanks goes out to fellow occupier Steve Miller!

Want to share your Occupy observations? Hit me up: nadasamih@gmail.com

Twas the Night Before Occupy…

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Leave it to a mass protest movement to make me feel reconnected…

So lately I have been back on that cant -wait -to-leave- Providence- and everything- sucks- mindset; which happens frequently when the following factors are in play:

-full moon

-that time in my cycle where my hormones turn on whatever rationality I might have

-a long time secret crush doesn’t return the adoration…(aaahhh unrequited love….)

-disrupted sleep due to nightmares/my son peeing his bed/my cat Mimi’s late night bobbie pin hunting ( she was a treasure seeking pirate in a past life)

-no time to write leading me to send in my submission late…again ( I am a bad, bad grad student, but there’s Mimi trying to help…)

-general sense of  Ugk and Eeek and especially @#$*&##%#$!

With times like this its easy to melt down into adolescent emo-ramblings about how nothing seems to fit…how I dont belong here… and how in fact my existence in this place and time  is actually the result of an unfortunate slip into a black hole ( aka the Gulf War) that spit me out in an alternative reality ( aka Rhode Island) where nothing, no matter how hard I try will ever feel quite right…

As a result of my suspected parallel world jumping, I have been thinking a lot about my need to be back in the Middle East and actually emailed my resume to a school in Palestine.  Returning to the Middle East to teach has always been on my radar, not so much as a permenant relocating …or in my case a re-re-locating… but a nice option for a summer or year long experience.

While there is still no word on that one, it did make me feel a whole lot better that I turned my dissatisfaction into some sort of  action instead of my usual bitchy moping and complaining to whoever will listen…sorry Mimi.

So come Saturday evening, my need to get out of the house resulted in stopping over at Burnside Park downtown to check out the Occupy Providence crowd ( most of which are close friends).

I will admit that I was driven there more out of my need to connect with friends and simply hang out rather than protest…(Sorry. I am a Palestinian woman. My entire existence in this country has been a protest. I need to pace myself.)

I was actually caught off guard by how powerful it was to stand in this outdoor public space, surrounded by so many people, many of which I knew from various contexts (different schools I worked at, friends of friends, family, old college friends, my yoga instructor, ect….)

All chanting, drumming, singing, waving strongly worded signs condemning corporate greed, military campaigns, an ever-growing gap between rich and poor…all promoting the 99%’s voices to be heard…freedom…all contributing to my feeling

connected

*A special thank you to my beautiful friend Julianne for the pictures.