Spring is a time when words such as reawaken, renewal, refresh, and reborn come to mind. It’s our signal from Mother Nature to get up and shake off those winter blues.
I spent 3 days last week at Maryland’s State Reading Conference. I’m the kind of person that views professional development as a way to “reboot” my mind. I give myself the gift of attending conferences. I know that may sound “dorky” to some, but to me its pure bliss. It’s not only knowledge about literacy that I gain at these conferences, but the opportunity to spend time with like-minded individuals exchanging ideas.
I was able to catch up with my colleagues from the school district where I previously worked. It was so nice to see everyone! Actually, there wasn’t nearly enough time to really hear all their stories!
I reconnected with friends from all over the state like Patty Dean, professor from Salisbury University, who always has a book title to share with me. We are fellow social justice advocates! Have you all read the adult book published a few years ago - Not In My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped A Great American City by Antero Pietila? I haven’t read it, but I’m planning to check out my friend’s recommendation.
What’s In A Name?
Meeting new people during the various sessions is another plus for attending this conference.
In one session I attended I met two educators, one from Baltimore and the other from Prince George’s County. We had a lively conversation with illustrator Floyd Cooper as we waited for his session to begin. We started talking about schools in Prince George’s County and Baltimore. I told them I hadn’t heard about the elementary school in Prince George’s County named for President Barack Obama until I saw the teachers dressed in their staff shirts getting their picture taken with poet Kwame Alexander after his keynote session.
The teacher from Baltimore commented she has mixed feelings in naming schools after our African American leaders because so many of these schools are allowed to fall into disarray. Also in many of the schools the staff and/or students don’t even know the history of the person for whom the school is named.
She went on to share the story of her school named after a fallen police officer. When she was hired she had no idea of the history of the namesake of the school and it wasn’t part of the culture of the school. A police officer visiting the school on official duty noticed a picture of a police officer prominently displayed at the school. After visiting the school, this officer did some digging back at his station and discovered the history of the school’s namesake. He encouraged his fellow officers to become involved at the school. A partnership was formed between the police and the school community. A celebration was held and both students and staff learned about the school’s namesake.
Unfortunately this phenomenon happens in too many of our cities. I realize administrators have many issues to deal with on a daily basis. Creating a culture in the school where students and staff are proud to come every day may not seem like something to place at the top of the to-do list. On the other hand allowing these schools named for many of our African American leaders to remain in these daunting conditions seems downright disrespectful to me.
The police officer proved one person taking action could spur others to join in the effort. We all have a role to play – these are our communities. Look around you –is there a forgotten treasure in your neighborhood?
As I stated, attending conferences with like-minded individuals recharges me. Great conversations, new ideas, and finding that others are just as passionate about issues related to the African American community makes for a great conference for me!
Have a great day and together we can make a difference in our communities!