At present, I’m finding my millennial brethren life-crisising all over the place. Words like: manifest, envision, vision board, freedom, financial freedom, dreams, passion, unpack, travel, enlightment, peace, etc. are recirculating through conversations between us with as much frequency as “um”, “uh” and “like” when we were teens.

What’s got me all riled up today over my cuppa peppermint tea is some early morning contemplation on historical trends in black history with white-supremacist beat-downs back into the sunken place. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but William Lynch and Jim Crow did conspire to make us the permanent underclass in America.

I’m weaving my literacy of historical propagandist ploys at manipulating the masses, and especially black people and youth, and I’m getting wafts of a stew that smells something like a rude awakening for us all. I’m suspicious about how Wakanda Forever, Black Lives Matter, the Bitcoin craze, soring numbers in black sole proprietorship businesses a’ bustling, and black middle-class flight from America (I’m for all of this by the way) all pans out for Black America when things inevitably get hard again.

I’m fucking scared. Too many of my black friends are quitting their pension yielding jobs in exchange for dream chasing, private business ventures, all to explore freedom and self -fulfillment. Black millennials, are still millennials. We are equally bombarded with the same level of propaganda that is telling us, the future is uncertain, live for now, life has no purpose so go find it kittens. We are all made to suckle at the pursuit of happiness, dig deep into our yogic selves and fill our hearts with light, as we embrace up-cycling our old clothes and living with our parents until it’s just ridiculous.

Here’s a broadly accepted theory about the millennial generation: We are projected to be less happier, and less fulfilled, because we are relentlessly in search of instant gratification. And since the air we pump back into our own feeding tubes on a daily basis to pursue the fill-in-the-blank of our dreams, nobody dare say to us, look guys:

 You’re getting older.

 

Let’s examine what it means to get older.

-You wrinkle.

-Your parents get old, need your help, and die.

-You start a family, who needs you to provide time, energy, and money.

-You need money for retirement because most of you will not be physically able to work through health complications or until you die.

 

So I acknowledge today:

Happiness does not come without tests of boredom, pain, suffering, discomfort, even anxiety. In other words, freedom ain’t free. And if you ain’t happy now with yourself, there is no “out there” that will MAKE you happy. If it’s the journey you crave, hop to it. But the journey still won’t make you happy. Feeling happy comes with contentment with ones own accomplishments, which literally could be ANYTHING. I’ve met too many travelers collecting visas like rings, never to learn much, never to gain any new substantive insight on life, love, culture, etc. What their unhappy asses get instead is a different variety of the same old shiny new thing to floss, meriting them coveted Instagram and Facebook attention.

In other words, today I say, Self:

Be honest with yourself, set a goal, ANY GOAL, and then work your pants off to achieve it. = Happy!

Fill yourself with the endorphins, serotonin, and adrenaline by feeling the gains of achievement. Then, oh Impatient One, watch your ego glow. Endure the wear and tear of perseverance.

I’m not 100% sold on capitalistic notions of success. I do not subscribe to the belief that we must work hard every second of the day, or even every hour in order to feel accomplished. However, I’ve noticed a few patterns of behavior across cultures. Without social purpose, which requires individuals to be regularly challenged with responsibility, individual humans don’t do so well. Look at my students out here in the Gulf who don’t have a worry in the world and can afford themselves with modern day slaves. By their own idle hands, they are killing themselves with sugar addiction and crashing their cars for the sport of it. Human existence without the arduous trials of obstacles= “Hmmmm, how do I turn up the Will I die if I… dial just a little bit?”

Furthermore, purchasing a new pair of red-bottoms or a new watch is the equivalent of eating glazed donuts in the morning to start your day off feeling right. That high doesn’t last very long if you’re goal is substantive nutrition, and before you know it, you need a new sugar fix.

Me. I’m ruminating:

At least three times we’ve seen Black America thrive and then have had the carpet snatched out from under us. First, Emancipation. We thought we was free until white wrath employed KKK bands to relentlessly terrorize us without penalty. Second, Black Artistic Renaissance of the 1920s. Heck! Everyone was Renaissancing. The Great Depression wiped that out. Third, the Civil Rights Movement. The narcotic infestation era of the 70s and 80s annihilated us by flooding black and urban neighborhoods with drugs, which ultimately authorized America to legally incarnate nearly our whole race. Too many of us are slaves all over again.

Thanks to Black Excellence boosterism, it feels like we are finally free. Free to come on up to the Penthouse, as John Legend sings it. But, because we are young, of course it feels like FINALLY we are free. We don’t have the longevity on earth nor the hindsight to see that: Nah, we’ve been free before. That we, once upon a few times, have been led to believe that we were all finally free to do, create, believe, dream, imagine ourselves able and entitled to live unencumbered lives. Then… many blacks and poor people were suddenly not! Pensions, Social Security, unions, welfare, job security, all those safe guards for which our parents fought were inspired on the way up out of living through and beating back the blues of a being stuck between a rock and broke ass place.

So what do we do? What does the millennial do? What does the black millennial do?

We foreit our packages, our way into the great white world (THERE IS NO ESCAPE! ALL OF IT WHITE YALL!!!!) on the hypothesis of being financially free.

Huh?!?

Can we at least agree that freedom is subjective…an illusion? My homie driving Uber speaks about being free to do what he pleases, but he drives all day while he believes himself the captain of his own ship. He’s free. He’s free! He’s free?

Even the business owner needs to kiss the behinds of investors, customers and sometimes employees. Think there’s no business owner gallivanting without worries? Yes, they may exist but they’re certainly the unicorns of business owners.

We take our degrees and make bold attempts to do right for our selves, drinking the individualist attitude Koolaid. We say no to job security or career paths, and expand our minds with more education. Black women hold the most degrees by ratio of any ethnic group in the USA. Have we noticed at all how that educational status is becoming less important with the rise of power yielded by social capital? And by the way, we have racked in quite a bit of debt paying for expanding our minds and not lining our actual pockets with cash rendering investments too. Who would’ve seen that a’coming? Sounds like another trip through Slavery Lane, don’t it???

Also, we talk big ideas about aligning ourselves and building the bond we’ve envied in immigrant groups. Why can’t we be like the Jews of New York City, we say? Here’s some facts:

  1. We’re not immigrants! We’ve never had the systemic institution of relying on each other (beyond our families—whatever was left of it post being sold away from each other once, plucked off for slaughter for generations, experimented on, sent to war, shot down, feed drugs, and incarcerated) to support a greater community of people black like us. Hell, we can’t even figure out who is “us” since we’ve also inherited white-supremacist thought patterns that has divided us by skin color, dialect, class-status, and now curl-pattern and nutritional classism. (I went there! I see a future where black vegan children aren’t allowed to play with the black neighbors who serve collard greens flavored with smoked neck bones. Do you?) Yes! We can build together. We can employ each other. We can work together. However, we can’t expect this to be easy, and need to develop a culture of loyalty. And that shit ain’t built in a day. Between Amazon Prime, Upwork and the countless other few-click agencies we can exhaust to fulfill our instant-gratification proclivities, building loyalty in the black community is fighting up hill, with no gloves and weights on. We need to activate patience! This means hold fast to hope, hold each other accountable and lift up our brothers and sisters WHEN they fall short, and have faith in our basic humanness to improve over time.
  1. For those of us who are immigrants, all it apparently takes is one American born generation for the homeland culture to take a back-seat to the individualistic thinking that’s got America’s children lost and on antidepressants. When your kids lose the village, what they pick up instead is the imposed white-supremacist projections of what they should be and how they should act. And you can try to keep your kids away from Black Americans all you want. I’ll advise you then to not send them to school or let them consume media at all. Black Americans haven’t found a means to escape being fed hostility about ourselves after 400 hundred years, and neither will you. Yes, I’m hype. Wakanda Forever! But Wakanda is a fictional place, and Trump America is REAL!
  2. Without a long-lived cultural institution that has effectively stood the test of time (like the Jewish experience of being persecuted and tried for 10,000 years) to teach us how to rely on each other, how to trust each other, how to be loyal to each other, we must acknowledge that while we are building, we are not there YET? Our families and communities did not all have the means to build itself up from poverty, and to develop a systemic netting to buffer losses experienced by the individual household. This means we do not have the trust funds our white millennial friends have (because it was a trendy status item for all the families in the neighborhood back then) to fall back on when they wake up to a chaotic adult reality. This also means that when my white friends say “So What?” when we talk about the responsibilities of taking care of elders, they can rest assured that their elders will be just fine, and I can’t. Black elders still need us to be well enough to take care of them in old age and ourselves and provide for our next generation.

How do we end the crisising? What comfort can be offered to the black millennial soul?

Let’s acknowledge that crisising is part of the human experience. Studies of adolescent development will confirm this. And since we can’t agree when adolescence ends, what we do believe right now is that the frontal lobe, presumably the part of the brain that allows us to grasp who we are beyond our own self-gratifying needs, starts to finish up the development process closer to our 30’s than when we turned age 20. No surprise that when we live in a society that doesn’t have clear roles or purpose for the individual, humans tussle in the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Just compare the dependency of western-modeled societies on drugs and pharmaceuticals to nonwestern-modeled societies.

And for goodness sake, drop the “happiness” talk. Happiness is relative and experienced differently by all. We can’t prevent crisising. What we can do is accept that it is not avoidable and at best manageable while we live in constant pursuit of the happy experiences we seek out and collect along our life journey.

Black millennials, we need to start with the end in mind. And not just the feel-good end, but a serious look at the end of our lives and the lives of all those who count on us. We are a diverse bunch, and many of us are privileged to have families with legacies of success and wealth. My rant pertains to those of us who don’t have the provisions of an Aunt Oprah or Uncle Tyler to pick up the slack if ever needed.

For me, I’m realizing that some variance of “struggle” finds me everywhere I go. So why do I intimidate so easily at the thought of jumping out of the pan and into the fire? With all of my miles, and merit badges, how is fear still part of my story? Can I relish in my confidence to take care of myself no matter what direction I go from here yet?

 

 

The profession of teaching is wonderful, especially when you believe that you’ve been called to serve in the role of transforming minds and busting up social inequality. There’s a special place in heaven for you. And sometimes this task can exhaust you of the heart with which you started. It’s okay soldier.

So treat yourself to an adventure—a self-defining life journey. Sharpen your edges again by expanding your skill set. Don’t worry about being a “sell-out”. Le struggle will be there for you when and if you decide to return.

If interested, here are some suggested steps to getting an overseas teaching position:

 

Steps for Overseas Teaching

  1. Get your papers in order.

Many folks are out here telling y’all that it’s easy to go overseas and land a teaching gig. And if you want to teach English in anybody’s language school, than there’s plenty of truth in that. But if you want a quality academic school post offering one of those sweet (near) all expense-paid contract, then you need a piece of paper from an accredited American/western institution. I don’t know what you’re incentive is for going overseas, but my priorities were in this order: first, adventure; second, make money, and; third, improve the quality of my life. If you’re certified with a degree in education at the BA level at least, you can land a job at any academic or exclusively language. Get copies of your diploma, and all other documents pertaining to your trainings scanned and uploaded to Google Docs or DropBox. Be sure to include any documentation of attended workshops on bullying, autism, CPR, abuse awareness, and even your practicum review forms if you can find them. Professional development records, even better. Tidy up and modernize your resume for sure, and get a new passport if you have less than five blank pages.

 

2. Let go of the location fixation!

Open your mind to the world. When I first looked to teach overseas, there was only one place in the world I wanted to go. Brazil…oh, how you enchanted my heart. It is my god’s honest truth that I still believe I received a message from the divine telling me that my spirit was created in Brazil. And despite every effort I made, all Brazilian doors slammed hard in my face. My resume caught no ones attention, and the few interviews I landed yielded cold hard rejections. After a month of depression and self-pity, I divorced my location fixation, shelved my dreams of Brazil, and cast my net out into the world. I applied for positions in 18 different countries. And after 30 interviews, I got offers from two schools. My choice: South Africa. And I haven’t looked back since.

 

  1. Register with an international teaching recruitment agency.

Lots of the upper tier internationals schools rely on Search Associates, International School Search or Association of American Schools in South America to staff their schools. They trust these organizations to filter out illegitimate teacher picks. For you, these organizations do the favor of systematizing your school search. On their databases, you can search for schools by position availability, region, etc. and can get a preview of salary and benefits packages. They also host hiring fairs all over the world. Furthermore, if you’re new to international teaching, attendance of a fair is a rite of passage. After you’re in, you’re in. Yes, these recruitment organizations cost money and the service is certainly worth it. But what’s great is that they store your records so that you want have to go through that record entry stage again when looking for your next gig.

Also, below are links to recruitment services for language school job placement, in case you don’t want to go the academic school route.

Teach Away

Teach to Travel

Teach English Abroad

The International Educator

 

  1. Find cheerleaders.

Recruit colleagues, admin, and parents to fill out recommendations on your behalf. Before you can actually start navigating the job search sites, you’ll need to complete your profile with confidential references.

 

  1. Be aggressive.

Send an email to the HR department directly introducing yourself and your interest to fill in a posted or potential position at the school. Mention if you’ll be in attendance at a hiring fair and express interest in scheduling a conversation before or during the fair. Make phone calls if you get no response, especially if the school is not attending a fair or was your random find from a Google search.

 

  1. Have endurance.

This process can be tedious, especially if you have particular goals. Heck–even after you get the job, you’ll need to begin the visa requirement gathering process, which may or may not be a marathon. I broke down in deep open mouth sobs in the Qatar Consulate in NYC because they told me that I had three more steps to go before I could get my last stamp of approval this past June.  Just assume you’ll never be finished until you’ve crossed the finish line.

Here is a list of a few things I’ve asked black student families to get. When used with intention, parents can help close the performance gap just as much as teachers.

  1. An abundance of texts.

All your kid’s favorites to read. Favorite authors. Favorite genres. Favorite topic. etc. Do your research for texts written by black authors, or with black protagonists, or about black people. See my list of good picks for black kids (categorized by genre, age, and reading level) here. And just so you know what the research says, reading success outranks ALL other subject areas when looking for early indicators of overall LIFE success. If your kid struggles to read, treat it like his or her LIFE depends on getting better. HIRE a SPECIALIST if needed for reading instruction  based on SCIENTIFIC-EVIDENCE. (NOT to be confused with the teaching practices branded as “research-based”. Research-based practices in education basically are as flippant as Oprah’s favorite things, and usually are an up-cycling of the same ol’ same.) Inquire about treating your child for dyslexia as opposed to faulting laziness. Truly, there is soooo much that a proper reading specialist can do to activate your kids inner voracious reader.

 

  1. Unifix cubes/Snap cubes.

I’ve attended quite a few math workshops and educational conferences, and parents should be aware that most of our kids suffer from a poor grasp of one-to-one correspondence. This means our kids are rushed through the learning process, never really making the connection between numbers and the abstract value of the number itself. Using unifix cubes to “build” numbers and to “construct” equations, especially in those early years, helps kids make meaning out of numbers. (The number 4 is built by putting four cubes together, for example) In school, we jump too fast into the big numbers, so kids lose one-to-one correspondence, and like so, struggle to understand what’s really happening when solving equations. (If I build the number four and “subtract” the number two, I can see that I’ve taken away 2, and only have 2 left. You see?) Ever get upset at how your kid attempts to solve a simple math equation, and starts to guess terribly wrong answers, when you know they should know the answer? That’s a gap in one-to-one correspondence at work. Some experts in the field of mathematics support that these simple same size same shape cubes are really the only tool a kid should need until middle school. See the work of expert in mathematics education Erma Anderson. Her webpage is pretty basic, but get your school to bring her in and attend her workshop. My white expatriate, Asian, and rich parents are hip to this stuff. You should be too.

 

  1. Chart paper/Post-it Pad (with the adhesive top).

“But why?” you ask. Believe it or not, hand-made posters and charts go a long way with your kids; much further than those store bought ones. Kids pay attention to writing on the walls, especially if they can associate the writing with an event they’ve witnessed and that has relevance to their own lives. Use chart paper to help your kid plan for school projects or papers, to mind-map stories, or put up study notes for assessments. Do as good teachers are supposed to do and encourage your kid’s learning to be visible by giving them big pieces of paper to show you their thinking. For the little ones, you could also put up instructions for common household routines. (Find chart paper at Staples, Walmart or your local teacher supply store.)

 

  1. Incentive charts. (for the little people)

Little people love prizes. And anything can be a prize. I blew bubbles in a four year old’s hands and that was a prize for cleaning-up the fastest. Now, black folks, we have issues with teaching kids to respect their elders because for many of us, it was ingrained that we are to do as we are told–no talk-back. But, in case this isn’t your discipline style, create incentive charts to help your kiddo understand structure and the reward of self-control. Incentive charts make it very clear to little people that their actions yield a consequence, be it good or bad. Add a sticker to the chart to merit progress or an appropriate deed; take one away to show a back slide. (And be quick to return the sticker to the chart when your kiddo self corrects if you want to apply positive reinforcement well.)

 

  1. Work display area. (Put this in any high traffic place in your home.)

Show-case your kids WORK! Not just the report card on the fridge. Make a space where you can show off final writing drafts, stories, poems, art projects, printed emails, or love notes to mom or dad, etc. Let’s change the emphasis on grades and trophies, and glorify the product so your kid knows you value the actual WORK done in school. Stop and read it in front of them. When aunty comes over for brunch on Sunday, let her read Jordan’s short story and publicly dote on him for being soooo creative with his adventure telling abilities. Our kids have great talents, and if we showcase the academic substance as much as we flaunt high scores on report cards, Jordan will still try hard to improve on himself even if he hits an academic rough patch. Get my drift?

 

 

 

 

When parents come asking for easy to find materials to support learning at home, I hand them this list of online resources. Since schools are tossing out text books, here’s what a few teachers and parents turn to instead. Click the links below for direct access to the listed websites.

 

Online Teaching Resource List

Content Site Annotation
Learning Standards corestandards  

Free. Learn about what your child is expected to know by content area or grade. (all grades)

Multi Subject softschools  

Free worksheets, games, quizzes sorted by grade level, and subject area (all grades)

Multi Subject Khanacademy  

Free. Multisubject database of instructional videos. (all grades)

Multi Subject ixl  

Free. Online interactive multisubject activities. (all grades)

Reading/Math adaptedmind  

Register for full access. 1st month free. Lessons and worksheets for reading and math. (grades 1-6)

Reading/Math  Learnzillion  

Free. Sign up as a teacher and make your child your student. Design your own curriculum. Free videos and learning materials in math and reading. (all grades)

Phonics readinga-z  

Phonics instruction materials: decodable books & phonics lessons, read aloud books, sound/symbol books, phonogram flashcards

Reading  

readinga-z

 

Paid registration required. Effective reading tools, levelled texts, lesson plans, vocabulary exercises, activites etc. (grades K-8)

Literacy k12reader  

Free literacy instruction resources and printables. (all grades)

Literacy abcya  

Free literacy interactive games. (grades Pre-K to 5)

Writing writinga-z  

Paid registration required. Common Core/6 Traits development, organized by genre or skill.

Grammar  

chomp

 

Online interactive grammar quizzes (grades 4+)

Language Development language-worksheets  

Simple site with suggestions to improve language skills for parents and teachers. Tools include: songs, worksheets, activities (English and Spanish) All age groups

Math aaastudy  

Free lessons and practice sorted by subject and grade level (grades K-8)

Math: Fractions  

kidsolr

 

Free interactive games using fractions

Math  

mathx

 

 

Free math worksheets. Organized by concept. (grades 4+)

Math  

mathinenglish

 

 

Free remedial math resources: worksheets, word problems, puzzles, games, videos (grades K-8)

Social Skills  

youtube

 

 

Last one picked, First one picked on: Richard Lavoie talks about social stigma of the LD kid

Social Skills  

youtube

 

 

Playdates. Lavoie explains to parents how to structure playdates for kids who struggle socially

 

Also, sit with your kid while he or she works with these materials to facilitate effective use of time, focus on task, and understanding of concepts and tasks. At least spend the first few moments making sure your kiddo knows what to do. These worksheets and videos are not babysitters…sorry.

5 Things You Can Do to Get Your Child Reading

 

  1. Let your child read what they like.

Contrary to common beliefs about what good readers do, assigning the classics (Shakespeare, Orwell, Poe, etc.) doesn’t automatically result in your child becoming a “good” reader. Face it, these writers are literary dinosaurs. Just because you read them in school, doesn’t mean that this NEXT generation of reader should. What makes your child a good reader is consistent practice at the skill of reading. Plain and simple! Increase your child’s contact with text by providing literature your kiddo enjoys. Play attention to authors, genres, and content areas your kid likes, and build your home library from there.

 

  1. Woooh there Panther Moms and Panther Dads…Stick to easy reading.

I’m sorry to break it to you strick traditional parents, but statistics don’t lie. The “sink or swim” education philosophy fails more children than it does support learning, and doesn’t motivate them to succeed at reading. Reading at home should be for pleasure. Think about it: reading for pleasure is why good readers read when they aren’t required to. Your child needs to pass time laughing, creating, imagining based on what they are reading in order to ever find pleasure in it. And they can’t do that if they are struggling to read the words. If you catch them warring to “sound out” words, that particular skill is called “decoding”, and a hired SPECIALIST (or reading professional) has the specific skills required to tackle decoding issues/dyslexia. Don’t torture your kids with texts that are too hard for them, and expect it to make them stronger. Instead, let reading serve as a better alternative to being bored, at the very least.

 

3. Find black literature.

Nurture the text-to-self connection that all good readers need to develop by incorporating more black literature into your child’s library. It’s unfair to expect black children today to connect to texts that aren’t about them, for them, or culturally inclusive of them when there’s just so much out “there”. The more readers make connections while reading, the more they comprehend by building “schema”, or building on prior knowledge. Building schema is fundamental to the learning process. Look here for my list of good literature for black kids organized by genre, age and reading levels.

 

4. Structured reading time.

A literate home= a literate child. What I tell parents all the time when they come to me worried about their kid’s low reading scores is to expect your child to read as much as he or she sees you read at home. If you increase your reading time, so will Jordan. As adults, we read more for information, but many of us read to relax. Model this by structuring a relaxing time during the day when everybody at home reads. Some good friends of mine read with their child in bed as a calm-down exercise before lights out. Stick to the same time of day for leisurely reading because consistency is key when developing a new habit. Kids beg for consistency. Commit to reading every day at the same time for 10 minutes and watch your child blossom into an independent reading machine over the year.

 

5. Saturate your home in literature.

Kids are lazy. Just accept it and do the work for them by making avoidance of reading a challenge. If Jason wants a Power Ranger themed room, make some space on his walls for homemade posters about the characteristics of his favorite ranger, book reviews, favorite quotes, religious versus, love letters from mom or dad, etc. Heck—add books, magazines, articles, journals to every room, hallway, table and counter top. Put cool things to read in the bathroom too. And this doesn’t have to be expensive. Print things at home or utilize your local library to have a healthy rotating stock of current good reads. Email your kid something interesting and ask them about it via Whatsapp, FB Messenger, Snapchat or at meal times to make reading purposeful as a plus.