Monday, March 11, 2013


I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite voices out there Jay Smooth. In this video, which is part of a series of videos, he elaborates upon what he calls the “Little Hater.” The Little Hater is the voice, mostly inside your head, though can be heard from numerous agents in our life, often blocks us from being our most creative. It makes us question ourselves. Is this up to par? Does it really make sense? In this episode, Jay Smooth talks about his current challenge: balancing interest and intrigue with having “something to say.”

One voice saying “you are not interesting enough”, another voice saying “you are not honest enough”

I have to say that I am also facing the same dilemma when I think about how to create curricula for students that serves pathways for engagement and messing around, while placing opportunities for students to think critically and challenge ideas. I’m currently working on a proposal for my hometown to create a summer technology program that will ask youth to explore creative media production, web design, and computer programming, while simultaneously seeking to foster community engagement around critical issues and advocate around breaking the digital divide. It’s a lot to think about and questions often emerge: Is this project really just a big facade for what you would like to say? Aren’t there more important things (street violence, ‘concrete’ skills,etc.) that deserve more atttention than youth understanding computers? How long are you even dedicated to this mission? Don’t you need to be worrying about getting a job? All these things come together to put up a blockade around my enthusiasm about getting this project up off the ground.
In general, when it comes to digital literacy and multimodality, there are often “little hater” style ideas that infiltrate the emergence of technology in the classroom. Are you just doing this because it’s more fun? Aren’t you just creating a new generation of stimulation junkies that can’t sit still for more than 5 seconds? ”You know, the more technology we have, the more impersonal society becomes…” “I could see this done in an afterschool program, but I don’t understand what’s so significant about these digital tools to become a core principle.” What’s most important about the Little Hater is that these permeate through my mind as I contemplate my committment to seeing the rise and validation of new technologies and textual forms within schools—specifically disadvantaged, underfunded, and overburdened schools.

In the end, I take inspiration from Jay Smooth when he says “I’ll still think it’s worth it to get in the ring.” That means looking at new ways to approach the goal. Catching up on research on how to effectively blend digital tools into existing school curriculums. Bookmarking news reports that mention how many future jobs will open that are in need of tech-friendly workers and colleges who are taking their programs online. Tying back the potential of new tools to community possibilities and improvements.

As an educator, how have you faced ‘The Little Hater’?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


I better get the job.

Essay #3. Now, a chance to go off-script. There’s a scene in American Beauty (1999), shot in slow-motion, where a white plastic bag appears to be dancing in the wind (click here to watch that scene) – a quiet, lyrical moment that balances out the heaviness of the film. Choose one detail in the world that helps you stay balanced and explain why you chose it.

            I apologize as this post won’t be as mind-blowing as a plastic bag, but I hope that it gives you more detail into my perspective on life and my ideas on life’s purpose. As I mentioned in an earlier essay, my initial career aspiration was to become a music business executive, a sort of P.Diddy with artistic integrity (Not a diss, I find it amazing how Diddy has become a pop superstar and business mogul as curator and not creator of music).    That being said, I find my balance in the world through soul music, a specific form of music that has feeling and experience at its core though it may be expressed in many genres (hip-hop, RnB, Jazz, Funk, etc.).  I believe it is best described by hip-hop artist Busta Rhymes on the song “Music For Life” on Hi-Tek’s Hi-Teknology2: The Cure (2008). It must be left in semi-phonetic description.  Bussa Buss calls into the song:

Ayo, Hi-Tek whattup?, you know who this is
It's your boy Busta Bus down, Flip Mode Squad, aiight
Now, you know, this is serious thing behind the music that we're doing
It's like.. music, for me man, it mean, it means everything, feel me
You know when we going through, our personal stripes in life
You'know'what'I'm'sayin', we get up in that studio
Close that door, lock ourselves in, that little four-wall space man
Get in the vocal booth and become whoever you wanna be
Express whatever you wanna feel, you'know'what'I'mean?
When you going through your most frustrating time in life
You'know'what'I'm'sayin', you can realize that..
When you can't find nobody else to speak to
You can speak through the music
Help other people feel your pain, your struggle, your passion
You'know, what you live and die for, your values in life
You'know'what'I'mean?, music man
Is the voice of every being in the Universe
What God had provided for us to communicate, when all else fails
It's what allows us to be able to connect
With touching our hearts & the soul of the streets

Inspiring.  Busta Rhymes perfectly describes the emancipatory capacity that can be felt through the creation of art.  I look at this heartfelt monologue and begin to pull together many of the things that I hope to embody through my practice as an educator and engaged citizen.

Get in the vocal booth and become whoever you wanna be
One of my favorite scholars Ernest Morrell, the president-elect of the National Council of Teachers of English and current Professor of English Education at Teachers College, talks about learning as becoming.  In the classroom, we should uphold pedagogy that allows students to become authors, writers, journalists, mathematicians, scientists, engineers, producers, CREATORS.  Don’t teach to the skills; teach students to become and the necessary skills will emerge.

Help other people feel your pain, your struggle, your passion/You'know, what you live and die for, your values in life.
An education that teaches student’s skills and competencies without a critical interrogation of values seeks to affirm social reproduction rather than social transformation as many of our students across all communities grow up as carrier and witness of numerous pains and struggles. I believe the educator is privileged to be in a position that will have influence of what the next generation seeks to find as their mission and purpose while living on this earth. It’s a truth that we cannot take lightly. Many have noted that with power, comes responsibility. As we engage our students in becoming powerful leaders of their communities, we must seek to inscribe values that emerge a call to humanization, inclusiveness, and equity.

It's what allows us to be able to connect/With touching our hearts & the soul of the streets
Overall, I believe one of the most important messages that we can leave to students as educators is simply: “I could be ____”  It’s up to the students to determine how they will fill in the blank.  While I’m assured that mostly all of our students will fill in the blank with great things such as President, CEO, and Doctor, it’s a sad reality that many people in our communities painfully end up stating “I am in poverty. I am in war.  I am in bad health.”  We must impart empathy within our students that says while I have the world in front of me, I understand that my success is intimately tied to the legacy that I leave for the rest of world. Where could we take this world if we connect students to the successes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett while recognizing the injustices and struggles that face the more than 1 billion people who live on less than one dollar a day.

Soul music is my guide and more than most times, my muse. I recycle inspiration gained through art to create curricula that honors experience, feeling, potential, and freedom. Through this, I seek to honor the legacies of soul legends like Marvin Gaye that asked the world to recognize What’s Going On?