As usual, things have been a bit crazy here in Baltimore, both in and out of school. Here’s what I’ve been up to:
My roommate, Scott, works at the St. Frances Academy Community Center and, each year, SFACC (does that help the mouthful, Scott?) throws the SFACC Halloween Party. It’s a gigundo party geared towards kids in the city. My housemates and I, instead of heading up 95 to Newark for the JVC Halloween bash, decided to volunteer for the SFACCHP. We dressed as a box of crayons with colors that included Midnight Black, Sunshine Yellow, Purple Grape, Charlie Brown, Green Apple, Flamingo Pink, and, my own creative concoction, Blue.
When we arrived SFA, we found that Scott, Mr. Moore, and other volunteers had transformed the gym into a Halloween fun house full of candy, music, and games and the conference room into a scary haunted house. Scott gave us a quick tour and helped us set up our station, the Eyeball Run, where kids had to balance an eyeball (golf ball) on a spoon and race around a set of cones to compete for candy, pencils, and some super sweet green fake vampire teeth. As we set up, we greeted the Baltimore Bon Seccours Volunteers other JV’s from DC who had made the trip to help out for the night.
Pretty soon, pint sized monsters, superheroes, princesses, and football players began to file (read: sprint) into the gym, dragging parents and older siblings with them. In a whirlwind of a night, we gave out candy, ran the Eyeball Run, chased and danced with 5 year olds, laughed abundantly, sprinted after wayward golf-I mean- eyeballs, ate copious amounts of candy and hot dogs, and had a hip-hoppin’ Halloween good time. I even joined in for the Cupid Shuffle (it’s a brand new dance) with DeeDee, our friend from the Don Miller House. The whole night was a success (over 900 people showed!) and I may or may not have almost nearly tried to take a superman and a fairy home with us.
On Monday night, my housemates and I bussed over to a crowded Enoch Pratt Free Library for a talk on the affect of race in the classroom with Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of Spelman College, David Hornbeck, former Philadelphia superintendent of schools, and moderator Joe Jones. It was an interesting talk. They spoke about how the No Child Left Behind Act hid how poorly some students were doing, the inequity of school funding and resources for students, the differentiation of expectations at urban schools from suburban schools, and crossing the racial barrier in an effort to have better schools.
What I liked about the talk, however, was that they didn’t just discuss what’s wrong with the education system, but also discussed what can be done to fix it. Dr. Tatum mentioned that there are excellent urban schools in the U.S. We need to model others after them. They talked about anti-racist professional training for school workers and how it had worked so well in many places. They spoke about challenging students to be excellent, no matter what their background and that schools can be excellent no matter what. They also mentioned the effectiveness of early childhood programs and how that is usually something that poor or developmentally challenged children rarely receive.
Ultimately, the message was that we need a will, collectively, to do what we know will work and that discourse and talking about it will help us to get there.
Finally, on Tuesday, I helped chaperone a field trip for the sophomore class to Harpers Ferry, WV, site of John Brown’s failed slave rebellion. We spent the day walking around the museums and buildings, taking in the scenic beauty of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers and the Appalachian Trail, and feasting on delicious fried chicken (I consider any meal with meat a feast nowadays). It was a perfect day for it and the kids really enjoyed getting out of the city for the day. It’s nice to see the kids outside of the classroom sometimes.
So, like I said, things have been busy around these here parts, but I’m still enjoying myself. How’s everything with you?