Books not Guns: Solving the issue of violence with wellness

Arming teachers will not shift mindsets of the general public to invest knowledge and dismantle Jim Crow’s lasting legacy. Arming teachers  will distract our efforts for freedom and invest us in further killing each other. It makes ending a life an option; ending a life in the classroom should never be an option.

Florida legislatures are putting guns in the hands of their teachers; instead of more books. The state of Florida vote to allow teachers to hold guns on campus, with proper training and approval of district leader. According to Tampa Bay Times, the bill aims to provide guns to every school, offering a $500 stipend to volunteers who agree to have the guns. There is an estimated 37,000 guns in classrooms state-wide.

Representatives in the state who advocated for this law to go to senate urge that this is their response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre, ignoring the 50% of state Florida residents who are in disagreement with permitting teachers to be armed on campus.

With all that being said, I’m scrolling through my google to do some more research and a news event pops up announcing that a teacher, Mr. Davidson, in Georgia, locks up his students in a classroom an begin shooting. 17 lives were taken in Georgia that day. This teacher has had a history of suspicious behavior. In March 2016, detectives found that he had tried to hire a hitman to have someone killed. January 2017, he left school early and was found on a curb by police. He was unresponsive and was hospitalized. In both cases, there was no further actions met.

Mr. Davidson was a social studies teachers in his late 50’s and considered a favorite to some. He was able to hide most of this tension, and yet, even in moments when he displayed concerning behavior, his sanity was not questioned. Though teachers are at threat to massive shooting and even school violence, it should not lead to teachers having to arm themselves as a response to preserving their safety. The shooting with Mr. Davidson proves that placing guns in the hands of teachers will not fix the attacks of students, as Trump stated earlier this week in a tweet.

Screen Shot 2018-03-01 at 11.35.40 AM.png

 

 

Though teachers may be “highly trained,” there is still too much at risk. Many teachers have organized against this possibility, protecting their own rights with the students. Mr. Davidson's shooting case reflects an extreme case of teacher mental instability; however, it does bring into question the governing systems (school system, police dept, etc) effectivity of screening teachers and also the anxiety level of even the most "normal" appearing educators. 

The anxiety level of teachers should be a priority concern for the general public that agrees with arming our educators. Even the most stable person can act irrationally in high stress environments—when the option of a gun is available, anything can happen.

Concern 1: Teacher anxiety in high stakes classroom --we all did some crazy things

Nora Hart conducted a survey in 2005 that indicates a high correlation with pupil disruption, class control, and teacher anxiety. Our classrooms are shifty and changing. Teachers tackle with student behavior, system dysfunctions, and other interactions that can trigger us. We have all felt anger towards a student or colleague; almost cried in class; and some of us, cussed out students. As teachers, we get overwhelmed and learning to control our emotions is a part of our professional development.

Teacher Anxiety. When any individual experiences an anxiety attack, they are unable to process the information getting sent to his/her brain thoroughly.  Sensory processing is important in connecting the mind and unconscious brain, which includes meaning making, threat evaluation, and executing appropriate action.

The anxiety level of teachers should be a priority concern for the general public that agrees with arming our educators. Even the most stable person can act irrationally in high stress environments--when the option of a gun is available, anything can happen. And as we are learning from the Georgia shooting, our social systems still have gaps when screening the mental stability of our teachers. It would be negligent to entrust all of our teachers a voluntary opportunity to carry weapons. I even propose that the more stable and secured teachers are opposed this law because we see the high risks we put our students and selves in.

Concern 2: Teachers are not cops

Giving teachers gun will only further perpetuate the schools as prisons. We are not cops; nor will a professional development meeting train us to be cops. Guns are a sign of enforced authority and pressure. If we have a gun in our class we betray the trust of our students. If we are trying to make classrooms into families, a gun defies that effort.

Acting on violence with violence will only further our paranoia with the people in the system, when we should be working together to look at the system that has a historical prevalence of oppression and slavery upon our people.

Wellness for Teachers: Wellness for Schools

     Instead, let’s continue to work on wellness. Self care of our students AND TEACHERS. Let’s buy our teachers books to read for their own growth and books for their students. Let’s make an effort to make our teachers happy and well. A declare that guns are the solution is shallow approach to “stopping” school violence. There is a deeper issue within our school system. A teacher shooting only further affirms what student shootings highlight, which is that individuals in the education system are manifesting the chaos and neglect the apparatus beholds. The poverty (including violence) we see in schools--poverty not as in lack of monetary capital, but all forms of capital--is a consequence of the government's positioning to keep down our people of color. The truth is coming out. Respond by bringing life; not opportunities of death.

     Acting on violence with violence will only further our paranoia with the people in the system, when we should be working together to look at the system that has a historical prevalence of oppression and slavery upon our people. When we are combatting the wrong antagonist; it is not the students we need to be afraid of, but rather the disillusionment of the people. Arming teachers will not shift mindsets of the general public to invest knowledge and dismantle Jim Crow's lasting legacy. Arming teachers  will distract our efforts for freedom and invest us in further killing each other. It makes ending a life an option; ending a life in the classroom should never be an option.

 

download.jpg

In class, we are reading Letter From Birmingham. As I look back in the passages of King's devotion to non-violence; I question how far have we really progressed if our president encourages us to arm ourselves as teachers.

 

http://www.thephysioshed.com/anxiety-problems-relating-to-sensory-processing-difficulties-especially-in-adolescents.html

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0013188870290102

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/03/01/georgia-teacher-who-fired-gun-in-classroom-previously-told-police-hired-hitmen-report-says.html




 

Side Hustle of Teachers: Why we need to grow outside the class to improve our craft

Cultivating an unshakable faith in myself, a type of belief that is not rooted on a false hope, but critical love, can anchor me to persevere. I believe that the longer we are able to sit in our tension, the more rewarding and beautiful the product and fruit can become—we just need the reason to hold us down; us.

The school environment can be a warzone or a home. All depends on the perspective. Cold classrooms, strict time regulations, and the body is constantly under stress. My partner teacher once counted his steps in a day in class, and he counted nearly 7 miles. For the most of us, we are overworked and over caffeinated. The best analogy for self-care is a car repair garage, rather than a spa.

When anyone is under high stress and demanding work hours, self-care is an urgent repair routine. Taking care of yourself is an active proclamation that you care about your life, breath, and longevity. These repair moments become more intensive and required when the person is highly involved and passionate about their work, which means the affirmation he/she/they receive from work directly impacts self-perception and self-worth.

In this essay, I will explore the need for self-worth for teachers (but is applicable for professionals) and how to exercise our positive affirmations outside of the class to grow in the class.

 

Why must we have self-worth

"I am an amazing teacher. I am an amazing teacher." I must speak this to myself frequently.

High self esteem that does not hinge completely on performance-based outcomes can lead to higher sense of contentment, and growth. When someone has self-worth, no failure will determine their purpose. Angela Lee Duckworth coined the term, “growth mindset,” a recent buzz word in the ed field. A person has a “growth mindset” when one practices grit, pursuing perseverance and overcoming challenges. For any teacher, we ourselves need this because our job emersus in moments of consecutive failures and chaos--by nature of the system. The gaps in the system become a reflection of our own practice; thus, defeating us in our own passion.

JAQUE2_DIGI.jpg

A friend shared with me about her close friend who was a teacher who committed suicide. She watched her endure and hold the weight of the schools dysfunctions. Though remembered for her passion for justice, at times, our efforts leave a light and faded imprint on a data map.

Teachers and other service workers who work in a broken down system need to be the MOST confident. We are the forefront players, which will guarantee experiences where we will feel challenged to question our purpose in our jobs and effectivity--in spite of the overwork we committed. It is in these moments that self-confidence could override circumstantial disruptions that are from an administrative level. Cultivating an unshakable faith in myself, a type of belief that is not rooted on a false hope, but critical love, can anchor me to persevere. I believe that the longer we are able to sit in our tension, the more rewarding and beautiful the product and fruit can become--we just need the reason to hold us down; us.

Practice your process elsewhere, come back to your craft with a perspective that holds both your reality and your dream with an eased and sure mind.

The Side Hustle: How to affirm ourselves in spaces outside of our passions

“Dig deep and find it within yourself.” If you are like me, you would respond to that quote in frustration, rolling of eyes, and “how?” When I am in moments of crisis at work, my feet wanting to leap out of the construction zone and into my bed, the last thing I want to do is pause and look into myself to unearth strength. My habit of avoiding conflict at work ends up negatively impacting the quality of my work.

Hence, yoga.

When I practice yoga, I practice life. I put myself in a zone, where outcomes are low-stakes. There is minimal opportunities for failure because my main objective is rest, peace, joy, and build--all things positive. This “side hustle” is an integral part of my professional growth and learning as a teacher. Passion is not limited to profession. Thus, when I yoga, I engage in passion and I remember passion. I awaken all my senses in the present moment and remember that I am amazing, beautiful and loved. Practice your process elsewhere, come back to your craft with a perspective that holds both your reality and your dream with an eased and sure mind.

JAQUE3_DIGI.jpg

As I watch myself come to journey into these self realizations, I find hope and room for grace in teaching. I develop sensory memory--a consistent perception of highest and best self in any circumstance, setting, and interaction. Sometimes, I need to be reminded that I glow because I GLOW. Not because I do something well, or get someone's approval, but because I AM ME. I have purpose. I am full of love. 

JAQUE4_DIGI.jpg

When Shootings Happen in Compton, Will Anyone Still Hear It?

The education system is the current example of the New Jim Crow. Our silence enables the apparatus and gives permission for the system to make its efficient outcomes that are the very disparities we see in our schools. The more people speak out against normalizing deaths of young people of color and violence in our schools, the more the public will have reason to respond.
image1 (3).jpeg

The nation mourns the tragedy of the school shooting in Florida, ironically set on Valentine’s Day. CNN reported that nearly 17 were dead by one shooter. On a day that is dedicated to love, we see a prevailing trend in history where a student who suffers from mental needs. The media coverages the shooting, the death counts, the snapshots of a traumatic event, and the president’s condolences. The stories highlight the shooting and the trend, re occurring and almost predictable events, where a student expresses mental health concerns and communicates a school-wide threat.

There is so much to say about what entails an appropriate response and systematic change that is in need to help prevent such terrors from occurring. However, as a current teacher in Los Angeles public schools, I turn to my environment and community and press the culture to recognize the violence that our youth encounter, internalize, and inflict almost daily.

 

What the media coverage on Florida shooting says about our culture

The mass coverage of Florida shooting was necessary in highlighting the prevailing mental disturbances that many of our youth are at risk of acquiring. The conversations surrounding the release of the event have been regarding gun control laws, police enforcement/security, and the process of assessing student’s mental stability. However, one discussion that is not at the forefront is the violence and shootings our young people of color experience on a day to day basis. Youth of color are exposed to youth on youth violence both in and out of school campus sites at higher proportions than white youths.

 

Comparing the impact of suburban shootings and inner city violence

In a matter of a day, one shooter took away 17 lives. Typically in these mass shootings, there are more than a handful that die in one day. The community goes through a collective grieving and processing of the trauma that will impact them for the rest of their lives. Meanwhile, in our hoods, 17 lives are lifted to the next life often.

LA Times report that since January 1 2000 217 boys and 183 girls fell victim to homicide—these are accounting for documented and reported deaths. In LA County alone, blacks represent 10% of the population, yet 30% of homicides.

Earlier this month, Autumn Johnson barely turned 1 week old when she was shot and fatally wounded, while standing up in her crib in Compton. Many of homicide victims are unarmed and innocent. LA Times report that since January 1 2000 217 boys and 183 girls fell victim to homicide--these are accounting for documented and reported deaths. In LA County alone, blacks represent 10% of the population, yet 30% of homicides. Latinos are likewise overrepresented in these numbers. With that to say, these reports are young girls and boys. If we were to account for adolescent teeneagers, the numbers would only increase. For school shootings, ABC News reported since Columbine in 1999, 141 victims have been reported.

Taken from LATimes

Taken from LATimes

It is highly imperative that we respond to school shootings. The massive media coverage and public respond has both brought awareness to the supports we need for our youth and gun control issues. Yet, I question what will it take to bring this sense of urgency to address the deaths of our youth of color.

7AC5904E-FAD7-48E3-883D-FF5BFAE9563A.jpg

..So why aren’t we making moves to stop school violence.

The past few years I have seen numerous campaigns involving youth violence and wellness. To name a few: Schools Not Prisons, People’s Ed Movement, District programming and initiatives, California Endowment. Though there are varying initiatives that are popping up, I have yet to see a surge of media coverage on either the shootings or traumatic impact of these shootings on youth of color.

One of the reasons is due to the culture of the media. News sources are here to not only cover what’s happening, but also create a shock factor and engage a wide audience. Shootings in the hood is nothing new I guess..I am a little relieved that the news does not do shallow stories on shootings among our communities of color because of the risk of criminalizing our youth. As youth advocates for our brown and black students, we need to come together and tell the true stories of our kids. The media’s silence may have a small impact in misinforming the public about the crimes committed by young folks, but the silence also hides the real life trauma and luggage our young ones carry.

Yet, immediate media coverage would not have long lasting impact or thoughtful response to the current violence our youth are emerged in. Furthermore, a concerning consequence of media coverage could be the hyper criminalization of our black and brown youth. In history, we have seen during Reagon's era and Clinton's era, the War on Drugs and War on Crime. In these time periods, news broadcasting sites evoke fear in the public against our people and youth of color--we do not need that again.

On my school site alone, there are 3 police cars parked in the center of our lunch area, meaning nearly 6 police (not counting security guards) roaming on campus.

It is imperative that we find a platform to share the layers of complexities of the intersections of issues that our youth internalize. Their stories need to be told--with or without CNN. I was listening to the radio and someone suggested more police at schools; I immediately cringed. Our youth receive this enough. On my school site alone, there are 3 police cars parked in the center of our lunch area, meaning nearly 6 police (not counting security guards) roaming on campus. The last thing we need is more government patrol and social control; what we need more is an intervention that address the root causes of violence and the aftermath of our people who experience the impacts of historical residence in highly concentrated poverty. 

If their stories are not told, we will have people who will speak and advocate in our youths, without considering our young folks who live in our nation's hoods.

Facts. It’s a challenge to bring education reform for equity in the focus of our political dialogue. Yet, when advocates come together and constantly push out discourse that narrates our experiences and the stories of our youth, the public responds.

7D782CF6-179A-4F71-A39E-56E72B1EF93B.jpg

The education system is the current example of the New Jim Crow. Our silence enables the apparatus and gives permission for the system to make its efficient outcomes that are the very disparities we see in our schools. The more people speak out against normalizing deaths of young people of color and violence in our schools, the more the public will have reason to respond.  We need to speak out and say that this is not okay. Lawyers, policy makers, administration, and anyone working in the school districts need to continue our effort in honoring our students their human rights. They are our future.

 

Sources:

http://homicide.latimes.com/post/child-homicides/

http://abcnews.go.com/US/school-shootings-columbine-numbers/story?id=36833245

 

Disposable Cameras and Pens: Collaborate with youth of color in creative storytelling

"One of my favorite books that I read was Billie Holiday’s Lady Sings the Blues. It was in her troubles, she found a voice that trembled but anchored the era’s sound of jazz. When I look at my students, I can only imagine the potential of their creative minds to unearth brilliance and newness in the midst of their hardships."

*scroll down to read stories written by students

*scroll down to read stories written by students

    When I first tell people I teach in Compton, they wide eye me and ask me how it is. There are more conversations regarding this school district that perpetuate stigma and promote public fear. However, the critical consideration should be shifted to political decisions that have recently cut after school programs, lack of access for individual and family counseling for our youth of color, and disciplinary practices of both the school system and police force. This generalized view that Compton schools are such and such way is not exclusive to non natives-- who most likely get their information of life in the city from rap songs and movies. This is also common belief amongst the students and community members that their schools are underperforming and dangerous. It is not unusual to hear such criticism of the school. A more unusual conversation to be had is the speaking of the creative and intellectual potential of our students.

E5609AFA-39F6-4300-8814-BBF7B20C12D2.jpg
5254BF96-3CC3-47DC-A3AF-78E65E6F574C.jpg
726F1670-A5EF-4F9D-927B-9E391B89FD96.jpg

Youth of Color: The good kind of trouble they bring

     When I started, the first thing one of the union reps offered me was a recommendation to a school I seem more fit for in Garden Grove, that I knew was predominately asian and white. A school that is “fitting” implies a place where there are minimal students of color. A school that is comprised of POC unjustly harbors the burdens of the negative consequences of living in environment where money and resources to climb the socio-economic ladder in America are scarce. The general public hinges the consequences that arise from the lack of responsibility and accountability on the public’s end to offer quality programming and open access to higher social mobility to the potentials and even character of our youth of color.

     Adults in any sphere of work has a tendency to critically blame the negative impacts of youth culture and uncontrollable momentum of our young rebels. “Youth these days…..I’m scared to have children in this generation…..” All true statements, but clearly, it is the millenials that are pushing out content and discourse that is currently shaping our mainstream culture and political atmosphere.  We have seen influencers arise from our youth of color. Willow Smith who is spearheading a new age of rock fuse with neo-soul and spiritual, melodic, music. Alongside her brother Jaden Smith, partnering with her in shifting the public’s appreciation and practice of listening to music as an emcee and iconic stylist. Princess Nokia, an emcee, who represents an fully practices her indigenous upbringing and culture in her music and personhood. We don’t even have to go far to find our millennials tearing things up. Corey Wash just had an exhibit opening this weekend, where hundreds of creatives pulled up to see her illustrations on walls and social commentary that highlighted the political events and need for progress  

3BD04AA2-13BA-4323-99A5-2B1859F36654.jpg

Oppression Breeds Creation: The magic we need it

     “Oppression breeds resistance,” a well known quote by the organizer and people’s advocate Yuri Kochiyama. Yuri was one of the leading pioneers for the Asian American movement and was known to have held Malcom X’s head as he passed. Her quote highlights the power that exists in the people, regardless of the institutional cages we are born into. Freedom is in the hands of the oppressed.

     My rendition of this quote is, “Oppression breeds creation.” In the most troubled moments in our personal lives and even history, we have seen powerful and provocative art. Art that speaks of truth and existence. One of my favorite books that I read was Billie Holiday’s Lady Sings the Blues. It was in her troubles, she found a voice that trembled but anchored the era’s sound of jazz. When I look at my students, I can only imagine the potential of their creative minds to unearth brilliance and newness in the midst of their hardships. Their minds have the power to become engineers, doctors, teachers, entrepreneurs; all professions should be considered artists and cultural gatekeepers.

The Project

      For this particular project, our students collaborated wrote stories about where they are from and worked alongside an LA Based photographer Jason Gletton. We fundraised over $1500 with Lets.Give and created these books filled with visual and written narratives of their cities, or cities they have live in. We purchased nearly 80 cameras and had students rotate the cameras, each taking from 4-7 pictures. 

      The stories you will read below are powerful and the most honest discourse you will experience. Young people get the short end of the stick in life because of their limited agency and injustices imposed by discriminatory policies and authority figures.  

F335458A-F2FA-4D2A-B0D2-78B28773E3DD.jpg

Conclusion: We believe in our youth, so let America hear our voices

     In my schools, fights are typical. Teachers normalize chronic absences. And the path to the 11th grade is one that is narrow. Yet it is this narrative that over represents our schools in our nation’s hoods. These generalizations have a compounding impact on the negative stigmas that oppress our youth of color. It sends our youth the message that we do not believe in them all because of the neighborhood they were born into. Which is most of our realities, we know have tremendous amounts of social capital, cultural assets, and spirit of resistance and power.  Kids should be held responsible for their actions, but never the one to blame. It is the system and the ones in charge that creates the negative culture that is cultivated by inefficient programming/strategizing and poor funding.

     The dominating and dictating conversation that regard our youth should be centered around building their existing potentials to THINK and CREATE. I have hope for the school system to increase its capacity and become a nurturing center that fosters creative learning and development in our youth. Yet, we cannot wait on school reform to begin speaking highly of our students and COMMUNICATING OUR FAITH TO THEM. Most of the people I know believe in our youth of color and it should be our voices that surround them and is represented within the general public.


Special thanks to all who came to the exhibition and helped with the creative process.