Fellowship

I wrote about my application for a NOLS Fellowship awhile back. Here’s an update.

A few months ago I received a phone call letting me know that the enrollment was low and the branch wasn’t sure it would be open, let alone in need of a Fellow. Then, while making my way to Seattle for this work trip I received a phone call.  Turns out that enrollment had surged and they were in need of a fellow after all.  The caller asked about my schedule and I shared it.  Turns out my availability matched their need. I asked for a day to think about it because I’ve learned I shouldn’t make large decisions without pondering consequences. 

The next day I called back and accepted.  I’ll spend 3 months on their campus working my ass off and living in a yurt.  If you know me, you know that living in a yurt is one of my dreams. Seriously. For the past 5 years it’s been on my “Do Before I Die.”

My life has a habit of falling into my lap. Plan as I may, those plans often go asunder and I’m left giggling at my absurd desire to plan in the first place.  I have a few major concerns about my life and bills, but I’m trying to ignore them for the time being. It will all workout anyway. 

My time in Seattle feels great and is packed full of love from friends who’ve become family.  I came to take a break from my grandfather and heal.  Being in Georgia has left me raw in scarred places.  I’ve picked open infected scabs and the pus of my past still oozes from gashes in gobs.  At this moment in 30 years of moments, my favorite quote from my favorite book resonates.

Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see.” – Their Eyes Were Watching God

Peace isn’t the absence of trauma. Peace is quiet in the midst of it. The last year has stumbled upon me being very quiet in the midst of the very traumatic.

While in Seattle, I’ve had several sensational meetings/interviews/catch-up sessions with men I’ve come to love, respect, and adore.  Their thoughts have given me quite a bit to think about and I’ve enjoyed digesting our conversations.  Material from their interviews will be featured in my one-woman show “Sala Kakuhle, Mama which goes up in Chicago May 2, 2014 at 11pm.  I’m writing as well as performing and it will be directed by Janice Stewart my mentor, friend, mother, and director for the past 16 years.   It’s a story about descendants of the Afrikan Diaspora and their relationship with the Wilderness.  My Seattle advisors and Board of Directors are helping me write grants for a spinoff dedicated to identity development in youth. That’s for another post however. 

This Fellowship with NOLS is exciting and scary. So much of my life is exciting and scary.  I enjoying taking one breath at a time and living in the moment. I’ll be sure to share my thoughts on the experience here.  What an experience it will be.

Be well, friends!

WMB

 

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NOLS Fellowship

Facilitation

It is important for me to remark that this exhaustion is not one as a result of negative leanings, but one of lying supine after beneficial toil… after engaging in conversations so powerful they have their own area code that doesn’t include numbers but heart and emotion and all of the things that leave people raw.  They’re located in that part of state that’s difficult to access, but worth the endeavor and scary to embrace.

I worked with a group of educators today and was amazed.  Though I set myself on the path to do one thing the day turned into another.  Why am I still surprised that student centered learning will derail what you set out to do in the best ways? I was taught today. I’m working for myself and knew that I would learn, but today, I Learned with a capital “l”.  I want to, and frankly must, remember that I should never position myself as the teacher. It is more powerful to facilitate than to teach.  Yes, there are moments with instruction must take place, but instruction is necessary in facilitation as well. There’s so much I have to learn and I’m going to enjoy cutting it up into bite sized pieces and chewing it slowly.

This is the work I want to do– engaging in conversations around marginalization and the outdoors. This is it — well, not “it” but it is a piece. Thank for those who welcome the work associated with justice.  We are a powerful collective. I’m privileged to be a participant in this endeavor.

 

oh charter schools

Before I begin, when I Googled “charter schools definition” Wikipedia was the 1st search result and the NEA (National Education Association) was the 5th — oh corporate sponsorship….

Here’s a specific definition of Charter Schools so we were on the same page:

Charter schools are publicly funded elementary or secondary schools that have been freed from some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools, in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results, which are set forth in each charter school’s charter. 

NEA believes that charter schools and other nontraditional public school options have the potential to facilitate education reforms and develop new and creative teaching methods that can be replicated in traditional public schools for the benefit of all children. Whether charter schools will fulfill this potential depends on how charter schools are designed and implemented, including the oversight and assistance provided by charter authorizers.

I’m not against charter schools by any means.  I’m just against everyone believing that they’re the savior of education.  There is no savior of education.  Waiting for one person or one thing to fix everything doesn’t work.  Just look at Barack Obama.  So many lauded him (now that I think about it, he lauded himself) as The Change We Can Believe In. Seriously? One person is not going to change an entire system.  Look at those who have tried.  Dr. King, Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Angela Davis,  Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Che Guevara, Gloria Steinem, Shantha Bandara. What the aforementioned individuals did do is honor their beliefs to the point of death.  They were so much of themselves that the system bucked up and killed them.  I’m not going to get into justifying their deaths.  I will say that systems don’t like it when something or someone goes against their chosen direction.  Those revolutionaries inspired masses of people who then changed the system.

Let’s look at charter schools.  They tend to work because the overarching accountability mechanism has been adjusted so they can be individual.  That’s what makes them work- individuality.  The larger system has given them permission to do their own thing in the hopes that the people of their community know what’s best for the community.  Seattle has, thankfully, voted against charter schools (thank you PNW).  We have not, however, voted against our schools. Not completely. There are things in place; billionaires and their philanthropy, levies, community in school grants, and other funding sources that help schools be slightly individual.  I like that.  Now, what I don’t like is the time limit given to schools to “turnaround.” Seriously? Give me a break. That’s about as helpful as expecting a 236 year old country to erase their sordid past during the only Black president’s 4 year term.  That’s hilarious.  Cultures need to change and sometimes that takes a generation.  I’m sorry, but it does. Why am I apologizing? I didn’t do it.

While at the 2012 National Service Learning Conference Geoffrey Canada delivered a great speech.  I tweeted a few of his remarks on Twitter (@19_more).  He totally stole my Harriet Tubman anecdote.  When I heard it, it equal parts blew my mind and pissed me off.  Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be giving the keynote somewhere and some young educator 3o years my junior will be equally conflicted.  I’m still young. I guess it’s good Geoff and I are seeing eye to eye.  I bring him up because of Waiting for Superman and something he said.  I couldn’t get through through it. There was too much hype and the subject matter made me sick so I turned it off.  But Geoff said something that struck me.  I’ve heard it before (it’s super Biblical) but the context was super helpful.  He said, “I am ready for my moment of opportunity to act on my dreams.” That’s how it worked with the Harlem Children’s Zone.

I have so many ideas on how to revolutionize communities and impact education.  I just need to be ready when my moment of opportunity arises.  His speech, as keynotes are supposed to, challenged and invigorated me.  It also reassured me that my beliefs are worth something.  When people don’t agree with you, you’re on to something.  I often get push back on my theories surrounding adolescent racialized identity development and academic achievement. That’s okay. It made me think of how charter schools have become popular at a time when our society needs something.  We’ve recognized social inequities and we want to fix without working too hard.  It’s not that simple. Nothing is that simple.  Charter Schools aren’t the iodine to our nation’s past.

While I’m not against charter schools I am against the way the public views them.  They. Are. Not. Our. Savior.  I’m not setting out to be education’s savior.  I just have some really good ideas.  If I am going to continue to educate as I do currently at a larger scale I must be ready “…when my moment of opportunity arises.”  Who knows when I’ll be eating popcorn and watching a movie at the White House and find myself nose to belly button with our nation’s, very tall, President of the United States.