Thursday, November 29, 2012

Gifts of Gratitude and Support for Our Teachers

Gifts of Gratitude and Support for Our Teachers
By Daphne Muse
As the holiday season emerges and families, friends, colleagues and community members come together to celebrate let’s support our teachers and what they bring to the table.  There are some very creative and practical gifts people can share that may well take a bit of a load off your professional lives.  With budgets diminishing on an almost daily basis and the need for supplies and other resources growing exponentially, what teacher would not appreciate a gift certificate from a retail or second-hand outlet to bring more books, equipment or art supplies into the classroom?  Along with major outlets, non-profits including Goodwill, American Cancer Society Thrift Stores and Salvation Army are good places to find every kind of supply imaginable for the classroom or resource center from books to art supplies and furniture. As you purge your garages, homes and storage units invite the teachers in your community to select what might work in their classrooms or resource centers.
Almost every family has someone who is retired and whose skill set would be a great match for some of your classroom needs, including serving as a volunteer for a field trip, assisting with the re-organization of your class or providing research to assist you with ideas for teaching the curriculum.  There are numerous organizations that you can tap into, if you don’t have a family member or neighbor who can assist including AARP, your local senior citizens community center, fraternal organization or sorority.  There are also reputable people who have to do community service.  You can contact the court in your local jurisdiction to find out how to access people from that pool to access their expertise.  College interns are often in search of interesting and creative projects and your classroom could prove to be one.  Through the division of student services at your local college or university, you may be able to connect a teacher with an intern.  While serving as an editor for Children's Advocate News Magazine, I was able to secure the services of two members of the Junior League who totally redesign of the publication.  Other gifts that might prove to be welcomed include:
·        Gel pads for shoes and gel cushions to make the feet and chair more comfortable
·        Working recycled technology including cameras, computers and DVD players
·        A Gift Certificate of a designated amount of time from a retiree or working professional whose message and skills can connect with young people
·        Donation of healthy fruits and snacks at designated for special classroom occasions
·        A First Aid Kit, board games, books and software
·        Funds to underwrite a classroom field trip
As brilliant and creative as our children may be, remember often they are taught into their callings by teachers.  Cherish the gifts they bring to the table and the work you do in guiding them onto and along their paths.

Links:  The Junior League of Oakland/East Bay
East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse
Oakland Cancer Society Thrift Store

Daphne Muse is a writer, social commentator and consultant who blogs for the Alameda County Office of Education.  You also can read her blog at

Quality Education:  An Inalienable Right
By Daphne Muse
Quality education should be an inalienable right, whether it’s grounded and sourced in Afro-centrism, dual immersion or common core standards.  Educator and activist Dr. Robert (Bob) Moses and his contributing editors address this deftly in Quality Education as a Constitutional Right (Beacon Press, 2010).  Educating the whole child to become the fully realized adult, complete with solid skills and a mind primed to engage, is a goal that I imagine we all want to carry in our hearts and practice as educators.  But we clearly recognize how daunting this is to deliver especially to our black and brown students, as the school to prison pipeline bursts at the seams and the data related to dropout rate grows more disparaging. 
Despite the disparaging data young people of color demonstrated just how smart they are, as a whole new generation was empowered to go to the polls. Overall voters 18-29 made up 19 percent of the electorate.  Teachers had a lot to do with them making and living this history.   Putting what is possible up front and center can keep some of them out of the pipeline and on course to realize greater goals.  I think all too often we forget that what we do in our classrooms does not always translate immediately, especially given the propensity to measure achievement almost exclusively through testing and not other more creative and reflective paradigms of performance.  Even through oral histories (though not empirical) or surveys, it would be interesting to see what students feel they learned in school.  Asking alums of Alameda County schools to post stories at the website about how their education translated into their future, might be one way of culling information and data as tools for measurement.
          I never thought geometry would play a relevant role in my life, until one day about twenty-five years ago I had to position a chair through a door.  I was about to take the door off the hinges, when I heard the voice of Ms. Lattimore, my ninth grade Geometry teacher, say spatial relations Muse, spatial relations.  I positioned the chair understanding that I was working to move a non-rectangular object through an opening that was a rectangle and did not have to remove the door from its hinges.  In that moment, I realized that what we learn manifests across time, experiences and circumstances.  Each new set of skills and learning builds upon the pedagogy laid down beforehand. 
Across the continuum, there are multiple paradigms and practices for ensuring that all our children and young people are well educated and empowered.  Education really is not a one size fits all practice and we must look at how educators in other regions of the country and around the world are implementing best practices and claiming success.   It is clear that our young people recognize the fact that while many of them may live and work in their respective neighborhoods for the rest of their lives, as a result of the breadth and capacities of technology, they are crossing “boarders” economically, culturally and politically.  That crossover allows them to venture into global metropolises and villages thousands of miles away from their neighborhoods.  It is imperative that we educate them accordingly and keep our pulse on the ways in which certain learning modalities excite and inform them.  There is no singular lens or paradigm for elevating their lives and preparing them for the workforce and to become vitally engaged participants in this larger, increasingly innovative global, society. 
We cannot continue practices that contribute to the genocide of black males or any other group.  Our best practices must be even more dynamic, inclusive and innovative to grow the minds, creativity and leadership of future generations.  You may be training the doctor who will develop a cure for cancer, Nobel Prize-winning author, Alameda County teacher of the year or future president of the United States.

Daphne Muse is a writer, social commentator and consultant who blogs for the Alameda County Office of Education.  You also can read her blogs at  She can be reached at