Migration to Better Education 

“I feel gooder, I can’t go home, because my dad says that I need to be at school to learn and I can’t learn if I miss a day of school.” A child said to me today after I was informed that she had just thrown up. 

Remember when we were children? When we got that little bubble of gas in our tummies and we rushed to the nurse or asked to go to the office in hopes that our parents would pick us up so we could go home and watch cartoons… 

Or when we were older, and could drive… And would take advantage of our privileges and be out if we weren’t feeling it? That feeling that you get when you are sitting at a desk at school. 

So when a 3rd grader, who has every reason to go home, pleads with me to stay because the importance of education has been drilled into her, I realized how much we take our opportunities for granted. 

Originally from Guatamala, this child’s parents arrived in the US in hopes of a better life. Much like MS, Guatamala has a high poverty rate. In Guatamala children as young as third grade choose work over school, because let’s face it, it’s not a choice, it’s a necessity. 

Also, like the state of, MS The current state of education in Guatemala is significantly under-funded. Many classrooms nationwide, especially in rural Guatemala, do not meet minimum standards for many classroom space, teaching materials, classroom equipment and furniture, and water/sanitation.

Mississippi is not alone in these similarities. Our nation as a whole is substantially behind in education. In a nation where it’s against the law to not attend school, we have less graduation rates, high crime, high poverty, and less of the rising generation prepared to adequately participate in the workforce. 

So, on the news when I listen to the discussion of building a beautiful wall to keep others out, I think about what that will look like if it came to that.

We have people who are desperate to reach US soil, not to harm us, but to get crumbs of the pie that we, in retrospect have opportunities to receive the whole pie. 

So let’s take a moment and look at our education system, look at all who comprises it, look at the blessings we have as a country.

 We need to decide what we are going to be;rather we are sitting at the desk, or standing in front of it. 

Will you get sick and stay home? Will you call in?  Or will you see it through to the end, because you know that at the end of the lesson, there is a greater possibility that you can have more than the crumbs of the pie. 

#thoughtsareout  

 

Dear Ahmed Mohamed,

Due to your name,your skin color, and your religion, your hard work, creativity, and passion caused a set back. I don’t know how to sincerely apologize to you for a world that is filled with fear and ignorance. I see the pictures of your face and imagined the excitement as you sat down to build this clock to show your teacher. I imagine how proud you were to bring it to school and show your finished product. Only to have that excitement be trampled on by the ignorance and misguiding of others.

I looked up the meaning of your name-“A person in which praiseworthy traits are abundant, or one who deserves constant praise due to their good character.”

Living in a world that judges you based on skin color a name, or religion is not fair nor is it right. The way you were treated and ridiculed was not right. The lack of support you received in an environment that is supposed to encourage creativity and learning– your school. That was not right.

But I want you to know that: You are not a criminal. You are not a terrorist. You are a person, a person in which praiseworthy traits are abundant and you deserve constant praise, because through all of this, your true character has shown. You are simply a child with wonder and you don’t waste time wondering, you take chances, you make attempts, you take action.

CNN quoted you as saying “that clock was apart of your future.” That response made me think of The Agile Method.  Agile Methodology if you are not aware is usually used in software development.  The Agile Method is used to help teams or in your case.. it would be you, respond to unpredictable situations through small changes which are otherwise known as “sprints.”

Your idea to create a clock and bring it to school was faced by an unpredictable situation. It was ridiculed, and you were put in a situation that no child should ever have to be placed in. However, by making the statement about this clock being apart of your future helped me realize…that even at an early age and through this adversity, you are not going to give up until you have your goals.

We can easily compare life to the Agile Method. As you reflected on those times you were bullied as you were younger, you had to respond to these situations. However, you never let those harsh words stop you from letting your gifts and talents be a viewed as a waste of time.  Life is full of “sprints” basically a time of self-reflection.

Ahmed, you are a remarkable human being. That clock is your future, because… you are not wasted time.

I am glad that you are seeing the good from this situation. “I will fight for you, even if you cannot stand up for yourself.” Such powerful words for such a young man. Know that you are not alone in this fight.

Thank you Ahmed for being an example. Thank you for sharing your creation that was stifled by your school, but has ultimately become appreciated and praised around the world.

Keep thinking, Ahmed. Keep creating, Ahmed. Keep the courage, Ahmed.  Keep fighting, Ahmed.

Ahmed, I also stand with you. I support you. Never stop learning. Keep living up to the standards that you have set for yourself. Never settle for good, for good is the enemy of great. Always strive to be great, and to be honest Ahmed, I’d say you are pretty damn great.

Best Regards,

C. Spann

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Educating the Deep South

As some of you know.. I work for a non-profit called Scientific Research. We are based in Ridgeland, MS but work with students in Jackson Public Schools and are expanding to surrounding counties. The goal for our organization is to work with students until they reach their senior year of High School and we want them to go to college and be successful in college.
If you know anything about Mississippi, you know that education here is a challenge. Research shows that in Mississippi only about 11% of students are prepared for college once they graduate and minority students are at a far greater risk of dropping out of high school and not even considering college as an option.
Who is the blame for this?
Well, there are a lot of factors that play into reasons why this is happening.. One of the larger factors is poverty. The cycle of poverty is so real and so apparent in the Deep South. Students are born into this cycle and the pot continues to thicken. Students are born with a mind ready to learn and take in what the world has to offer and as they grow, they are shown a negative world, and their mind becomes molded to this world and the cycle continues to become much harder to break.
With working for this organization.. I have seen the impacts of a negative environment. How it brainwashes students and the picture of success to them is quick money, fast cars, rapping, being a football player, etc. It has been very hard to change these mindsets of these students.. But let me tell you.. A change is coming!
Some of these same students with mindsets gathered from their negative environment have slowly changed their way of thinking. Thoughts of going to college, being something great, the willingness to work hard.. Have been new thoughts in these students minds.
At times I have been so frustrated with some of them.. I have just wanted to walk away, however it’s that small bright light, that small inkling that they give me of potential.. That shows me that these students are going to be someone.. Someone great.
As I think about the past few years I have worked here, I have realized that as they have grown and changed, so have I. I have gone home at night crying myself to sleep thinking about some of the issues that my students who I consider my own children have had to experience. I think about the things they have taught me and not just what I have taught them. I think about how we work together as a team.. As a family.
So as we embark on a new year.. Today.. When I get to see my “nuggets” and also get to meet some new ones… I pray that not only myself, but also my fellow staff is an impact to these students. I pray that these students realize their true potential and that they can create a new cycle for themselves… A positive one.

I ask that my readers pray as well. #thoughtsareout

6th Grade Epiphany

“Wait… We are the rose that Tupac is talking about in this poem…” Spoken in a calm voice, from a usually loud and opinionated student.

I will never forget this day. I was tutoring one day last year and I was sick and tired of hearing Lil Wayne and Lil Boosie quoted on a minute basis.

At one point, it had gotten so bad.. That one student could start a measure of a song and BOOM.. The whole class would erupt in a rap chorus…. But some of them couldn’t multiply 2×2… (Y’all its 4)

So I went out on a limb.. I said.. Raise your hand if you know who Tupac is…..?

Hands shot up.. Some even started quoting some of his most vicious songs.. Explaining that their parents listened to “Pac.” I then asked is Tupac a rapper or a poet? A Rapper they said.. “Poetry is lame.” I laughed.. Then asked.. Well does anyone in here know what RAP stands for (insert blank faces) RHYTHM and POETRY… (Insert shock) Once the shock faded I explained to them how Tupac was a beautiful poet and one of my favorite poems was The Rose that Grew From Concrete.

I made each student (15) read the poem aloud. Each student read with their own style, and their own emphasis on different words. It was beautiful.

After I asked.. Well what do you think this poem is about? I gave them a hint… “Look around.”

They sat in utter silence. After a few moments.. The student said “We are the roses..”

As these students face battles everyday… Some that I can’t even fathom.. They want a world that is outside the walls of their failing school, that stretches farther than the streets in their neighborhood. As their world seems to remind them everyday that they have fight physically to gain respect, that because they live in the “hood” they won’t ever amount to anything.. That having big dreams is just pillow talk.. They realized with this poem that they can grow from the most negative situations, something that seems so ugly.. Into something beautiful.

I truly believe in the fact that you can do anything you set your mind into doing. I feel that you can achieve great things if you have effort and support. I feel that everyone has the opportunity to be a rose.

Are we going to sit and let negativity discourage us and allow us to be apart of the concrete, or will we grow like the rose and use our negatives reasons to be a positive?

I suggest being the rose.

#thoughtsareout