Robert Parris Moses: Civil rights activist, algebra teacher, and Chalkboard Hero

New York City math teacher Robert Parris Moses was a legendary figure during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. He was the courageous teacher who orchestrated the black voter-registration efforts and the Freedom Schools made famous during the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer. This heroic educator’s revolutionary work, which was not without risk to life and limb, transformed the political power structure of entire communities.

Now, nearly forty years later, Moses is advocating yet another transformational change: the Algebra Project. Moses asserts that a deficiency in math literacy in poor neighborhoods puts impoverished children at an economic disadvantage when it comes to being able to compete successfully for jobs in the 21st century, and that this disenfranchisement is as debilitating as lack of personal liberties was prior to the Civil Rights Movement.

His solution is to organize people, community by community, school by school, to overcome the achievement gap and give impoverished children 3127[1]the tools they need to claim their share of economic enfranchisement. Moses’s book, Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project written with fellow Civil Rights worker Charles E. Cobb, Jr., can be found easily and reasonably-priced on amazon. A fascinating read for anyone who is interested in Moses’s story, either past or present. A chapter about this remarkable teacher will also be included in my second book, entitled Chalkboard Heroes: Twelve Courageous Teachers and Their Deeds of Valor.  This book is also available on amazon; click on this link to view: Chalkboard Heroes.

Goals, plans, and action: How to be a chalkboard champion!

teacher+cardAn earnest young student once said to me, “Some day I’m gonna be somebody!” It’s the kind of statement that tugs at the heartstrings of a compassionate teacher. She wanted to graduate from high school the first in her family, and then enroll in college. Her ultimate goal was to be a registered nurse. The thing is, the student rarely brought her book to class, almost never did her homework, and spent more time hiding her cell phone use under her desk than actually participating in class. She was not actively involved in her own education. “It’s great to have lofty goals,” I advised her, “but you have to couple those goals with a practical plan and some robust action.”

Even as an adult and a professional, I sometimes get a jolting reminder that talk, even if it is confident and optimistic, doesn’t really accomplish much that’s tangible. And if the talk sounds like whining and complaining, you can even severely sabotage the progress of your venture. We all face challenges and frustrations in our work, no matter what profession we are engaged in, but it’s important to avoid becoming the bellyacher in the teachers’ lounge that spends more energy describing the obstacles in minute detail than on coming up with some constructive and creative solutions.

To actually achieve your lofty goals, follow up your confident and optimistic talk by developing a feasible plan of action and then getting down to work. If you can do that, you will be a chalkboard champion, and you will have a great school year!

Former elementary teacher Alexis Krauss becomes noise pop band sensation

thThere are many examples of contemporary entertainers who were once school teachers. One of these is Alexis Krauss, a former elementary school teacher who is now best known as the vocalist of American noise pop band Sleigh Bells.

Alexis was born September 15, 1985, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York. She is the daughter of a professional musician, and as a child, she frequently performed in musical theater productions.

Once she graduated from high school, Alexis enrolled in college and majored in political science. “I was studying poli sci and international studies and was doing a lot of research on the right to education and children’s education,” Alexis once revealed. “I ended up joining Teach for America. I taught for two years in the south Bronx, and that was one of the most, probably the most, rewarding and challenging things I’ve ever done,” she expressed.

After two years of teaching, Alexis met Derek E. Miller, a restaurant server. The two discovered they shared an interest in music, and before long, they decided to form a band they called Sleigh Bells. The duo has just released their fourth record.

Has Alexis received any feedback about her music from her former students? “You know, I have,” she confesses. “They’re older now; they’re big, bad seventh-graders. But they’re way more interested in Demi Lovato and One Direction. You hear them trying to sound like they’re into it though! It’s so cute. They’re like ‘Ummmmm, Mrs. Krauss, your music is really good but it’s kinda weird!’”

Ellen shares a big surprise with teacher Mayra Castillo

Mayra2Every once in awhile you see a segment on national television that honors some deserving teacher somewhere. When you see it, you’re energized about your work with kids, and you feel honored to be a member of the profession. I had that experience the other day when I stumbled upon a re-run episode of Ellen Degeneres that featured teacher Mayra Castillo. Mayra has two jobs: she teaches special needs students, and then when her regular work day is done, she runs an afternoon program for low-income kids.

Disguised as an impromptu need for a translator, Ellen invited Mayra to come out of the audience and up onstage to assist her in communicating with Spanish-speaking actor Danilo Carrera, who had recently been named “Most Beautiful” by People Magazine. Once Mayra was onstage, Ellen concluded her interview with Danilo, and then got down to the real business she had planned: a big surprise for Mayra.

Want to see the clip? Click on the link  Mayra on Ellen. You’re in for a treat.