Monday Musings: Learning Patience

waiting

When I was in the teen Sunday school class my godmother was my Sunday school teacher.  One day in class she said, “When you pray to God for more patience, he’s going to allow things to happen so you can practice your patience.”  Right now, my patience is being tested.

 

I have no clue what I will be doing next school year.  Granted I was in this boat at the beginning of 2017 when I learned my position at my previous school was being eliminated.  If you thought displacement is easier the second time around, it isn’t.  I interviewed from March-June last year and I was offered every position I interviewed for except one…and here I am interviewing again.  It is exhausting to try to convince someone you are the best candidate for the position and to also try to figure out if the job is the best fit for you and your family.  My biggest fear is choosing another job where I will end up displaced again.  It really hit home when my son said, “Are you going to be at a new school every year Mommy?”

A couple weeks ago, I spoke to my great uncle and he said, “How goes the job situation?” and I replied, “No, status change yet.”  He reminded me how one day it was 2017 and the next thing he knew he was waking up in ICU and it was 2018.  He said, “I know you are very organized and like to have things planned out, but you have your whole life ahead of you and you’ll be okay.”  I called him as soon I heard he was released from the hospital and was back home.  It’s funny how you think you are checking up on someone and they end up checking on you and helping you.  My uncle message was emphasized yesterday by current Sunday school teacher when he read Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

I hear the message loud and clear: stop worrying.  Keep doing what you are doing and it will work out.  I know that’s easier said than done, but I’m going to try hard to enjoy the second half of my year at Crispus Attucks especially since I’m not sure I will be there next school year.

 

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Monday Musings: MLK Day should not be used as a snow makeup day

MLK MemorialDepending on when school districts returned from winter break in Indiana, they have already had 1-2 school cancellations due to inclement weather.  Indiana students are required to attend school for 180 instructional days.  When school is cancelled, districts have to grapple with the best plan of action to makeup the missed instructional time.

I worked in MSD of Wayne Township on Indy’s west side for five years.  In Wayne Township, students attend school for 182 instructional days.  If one or two days are missed, there is no need to makeup a day because the calendar already has two extra days of instruction.

My children attend school in MSD of Washington Township, which spans the NW & NE side of Indy, and this is their inclement weather policy:

*Jan. 15 will be used as a makeup day for a single school cancellation occurring on or prior to Dec. 21, 2017. Any additional school cancellation(s) occurring prior to Dec. 21 will use Feb. 19 as a makeup day and then be added to the end of the school year (starting May 24, 2018).

** Feb. 19 will be used as a makeup day for a single school cancellation occurring Jan. 8 – Feb. 2, 2018.

Any school cancellation(s) occurring on or after Feb. 5, 2018 will be added to the end of the school year (starting May 24, 2018).

I also wanted to look at an inclement weather policy outside of Indy, so I looked at Elkhart Community Schools’ policy:

Elkhart Community Schools has five days built into the 2017-2018 as make-up days, to be used if there is a school cancellation: February 16, May 14, May 25, June 7, and June 8 (these days are currently scheduled as “no school” – if a closing is needed, school will be in session on one or more of these days). The Indiana Department of Education mandates that each school shall conduct at least 180 student instructional days (IC 20-30-2-3). If ECS exceeds five days of school closings, additional days will be added to the end of the school calendar.

Students in some school districts today are attending school on MLK Day and I believe this is plain wrong.  This issue faced some heavy debate in 2014.  If you lived in Indianapolis then, you know we had a major snow storm that closed down schools for a week and even shut down businesses including the government for day.  I was working in Wayne Township at the time and for several Tuesdays and Thursdays extra time was added to the end of the school day to make up the missed instructional time. But one of Indy’s school districts, Franklin Township, held school on MLK Day as a snow makeup day and so did many suburban school districts surrounding Indy where the black student population is low.  I remember colleagues, who had children that attended school in the suburbs, being upset about this especially my colleagues of color.  Some kept their children out of school in protest.  The debate in Indy that year was also detailed in the USA Today article, “Snow makeup Day or MLK Day?

Although we have had mild winters since the 2014 winter storm, some school districts in who didn’t use MLK Day as a snow makeup day in 2014, now use it as a snow makeup day.  Today, students on Indy’s south side in Perry Township are attending school as a snow makeup day for the school cancellation that took place on Friday, January 12, 2017.

I know some of you are already rolling your eyes because of the argument, “If students attend school they can learn about MLK instead of lounging around” or “MLK was an education champion, so he won’t mind if students attend school.”  Most schools, have already covered MLK.  You know, they handed out some cute pinterest worksheet or storybook…that is at least what came home in my children’s backpacks.  When I asked my sons what they learned about MLK, they told me not as much as we learned from you and daddy when we went to the MLK National Memorial last year during spring break.

One of my sons said all he remembers from the MLK lesson this year was, “the teacher said we can all attend school together now because of him.”  I know my sons are in first grade, but I expect more than this but at least this is better than what my son told me after his kindergarten MLK lesson last school year.  “Mommy, Martin Luther King was colorblind; he didn’t see color.”  That comment prompted me to have an in person conversation with his teacher.  This is where I learned he listened to a song, “A Man named King” which is sung to the tune of the song, “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore.”  One of the lyrics was, “Martin’s eyes were colorblind.”  Save me the speeches about the school is going to do a better job of teaching my black children about their history and about our struggles in this country.  My husband and I had to reteach what he was improperly taught.

No, not every child is sitting at home eating chips and candy watching Netflix.  Teens who are part of We Live Indy are hosting a “Take a Stand” rally at Warren Central High School on their day off from school.  Many churches and community groups have planned meaningful activities for students to attend and most of these groups champion diversity year-round and MLK Day is one day in bigger series of events for the community.

To address the point that Dr. King would not have minded.  He is not here to give a response so there’s not much to say about that.

Until schools do a better job teaching diverse history and understand how to properly integrate a culturally responsive curriculum throughout the year, I believe MLK Day should never be used as a snow makeup day even if there will be educational activities about him.  This day should be a day of reflection, a checkpoint to evaluate if you are really implementing his beliefs in your life every day.

In case you were wondering what my family is doing today, we are going to our church to hear Dr. King’s nephew, Dr. Derek King, speak during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium to offer Hope, Help & Healing.

embc

This blog post has been republished on Good School Hunting.

 

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Monday Musings: …so am I really an education writer?

am i a writerA year ago, January 2017, I began writing for Indy/Ed, an education blog under the Citizen/Ed Network.  Towards the end of 2016, I was in the middle of a Teach Plus Policy Fellowship and within the fellowship, we were divided into five working groups.  I was in the social justice working group as well as David McGuire, who had already been writing for Indy/Ed for some time.  He asked if I would co-write a piece with him.  I did and the piece didn’t get published.  I didn’t think much about Indy/Ed anymore after that, but about a month later I was asked to write for the publication and I thought, “Why not?”

Anytime I decide to take on a new opportunity, I set some parameters and a goal.  I decided I would write before my children woke up or after they went to bed and I would try to write a piece once a week or at least four pieces a month.  That’s exactly what I did.

I always loved to write.  In school, when I would finish my work early, I would read or I would write stories.  I mostly wrote poems, plays and stories about pirates.  I had this whole series where I was the main character, but I was a boy who was a stowaway on a ship.  (I wrote that series in middle school and middle school educators know weird things happen in the brains of middle schoolers, so I just chalk it up to that.)   The teachers I had always told me that not only did I write well, but I also had interesting perspectives; I thought my teachers were just trying to find something to say to me, a quiet kid, to engage me in conversation.  I brushed those comments, but never stopped writing.

I wrote throughout high school and college and joined the Haraka Writers, one of the Purdue’s Black Culture Center’s Performing Arts Ensembles.  When I got serious about gardening, I started a garden blog and later I started this website to have a place to low key write about education and compile some resources.  I knew people were reading my garden blog and my posts on here, but those were mostly my family, friends, and members from my church.  But when I started writing for Indy/Ed, my writing status was elevated and I became known for writing to the point that several times last year I was recognized in public for being an Indy/Ed writer and not an educator or my children’s mom or Jermaine’s wife.

I never thought anything I had to say would resonate with people and people would call me an education writer and then I wrote my tenth Indy/Ed piece, “Teachers Quit Principals, Not Schools.”  I learned last week this piece had been viewed at least 650,000 times.  That’s crazy to me, absolutely crazy.  Admittedly, I am an introvert; I’m not shy, but I like to keep to myself.  That type of exposure makes it difficult to hide or stay low key, so I had to grapple with the fact that maybe I am what people are now calling me, an education writer and maybe I have something to say worth reading.

Now, in addition to writing for Indy/Ed, I also write for The Educator’s Room.  In total, I wrote 88 blog posts for Indy/Ed and two articles for The Educator’s Room last year.  I wrote 90 pieces and people out there, who aren’t related to me, were reading them.  I doubt if I’ll strike gold twice and write a piece with that many views in 2018, but I am sure of one thing today. I am an education writer and I can make a difference and an impact through the written word, so I’ll continue to write until I have nothing left to say.

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Monday Musings: December Reflections – My Month in Review at Indy/Ed

blog-contributorMy first Monday Musings of each month will include links and my reflections about all my Indy/Ed posts from the previous month.

I began writing for Indy/Ed, an education blog that is part of the Citizen Education network, January 2017.  This network includes blogs in L.A.D.C.NOLA and Memphis.  I am humbled to be part of a network of educators and/or parents who are advocates for the least of these in the world of education.

 

safetyMSDWT Safety Fair 12/4/2017

The Metropolitan School District of Washington Township is hosting a free Safety Fair in memory of Faith Promise Demak, a former student who died in a tragic accident.

Topics to be covered at the fair are:  mental health, home, water/fire, medical, transportation, community, technology, community, and bullying.

Children don’t come with a guidebook.  The world parents are raising children in is different than the world they were raised in leaving parents many times unequipped to keep their children safe.  I glad the district where I reside held this event.

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Partners in Education:  Eric Parquet 12/7/2017 &

Partners in Education:  Keana Parquet 12/8/2017

SB:  What advice do you have for other educators considering principalship?

EP:  You have to have a passion for students and student learning.  You have to believe all kids can learn and be successful even ones from difficult backgrounds; you must show love.

KP:  It is important to make sure you know how to balance work and home especially if you have little kids.  This job requires a lot of time away from family.  It might be best to wait until your kids are more self sufficient because you get pulled in all different directions:  state mandates, the district, staff, parents, and students.  You also have to know who you are and then stand firm in your beliefs. 

I began writing a new series for Indy/Ed featuring educators who are married.  I began the series December 2017 starting with my sons’ principal and her husband.  I can’t wait to featured more married couples in 2018.  If you know of a couple I should include, please let me know.

winter

Indiana Chinese Lantern Festival  11/26/2017

Winter Break Option:  Winterlights 12/10/2017

Winter Break Option:  The Children’s Museum on Christmas Eve 12/22/2017

Winter Break Option:  Kwanzaa Celebration 12/24/2017

Yes, parents want to spend time with their kids, but when they are at school there is a nice schedule of activities for them to complete and topics to learn.  When children are at home, the responsibility of scheduling the day falls to parents. Throughout the next several weeks, I plan to highlight options, free and for a fee, parents can take advantage of during the winter break with their children.

I worked on a second series during December that I began writing at the end of November about activities parents could enjoy with their children during winter break.  I try to keep my boys active during break because if I don’t my home could erupt into chaos.  I wanted to share local activities I enjoy with my sons in hopes of helping out other parents.

 

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IPS Innovation Restart 12/16/2017

Innovation Restart:  Heart to Heart 12/19/2017

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with IPS Innovation Officer Aleesia Johnson.  The more we spoke about my series, the more I realized there was so much to navigate.  Where should I draw my focus?…I plan to follow the innovation restart process of Washington Irving School #14, the school I attended in kindergarten and Wendell Phillips School #63, a school where I previously worked as literacy coach in hopes of bringing a better understanding of this process to the greater community.

The third series (yes a third) I began writing in December was IPS Innovation Restart.  After hearing from several readers and speaking to people in the community, it was clear people did not understand the process of restarting a school under the innovation model.  Restarting a school is a huge undertaking and change in a community and I believe the community where this happens and the education community at large should have a clear understanding of the process.

lunch

We Need Solidarity to Improve School Lunch Programs  12/20/2017

If we know some children have no other options, why are we okay with the options being so bad?  

Chris Stewart aka Citizen Stewart is the great mind behind Citizen Education.  He wrote the article, “Should I make my kids participate in the school lunch program as a form of class solidarity?” for Huffington Post.  After reading it, I understood his perspective, but I saw another angle I felt important to lift up.  Don’t get me wrong, I was a little nervous about writing this response or you might say rebuttal piece to our head honcho’s piece, but I’m glad a I did.  I heard from quite a few people and it started conversation around school lunch.  Now. we need to move from conversation to action.

I’m looking forward to beginning year two as a Citizen/Ed writer.  Let’s make 2018 the best year yet for our children.

 

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Applying Kwanzaa Principles: Day 7 – Faith

FAITHDr. Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966.  It is a holiday celebrated from December 26 – Jan 1.  There is a focus principle each day of the holiday.  Although these principles are based on African values, I believe if we apply these principles in education we could improve our education system.   Today’s principle is imani/faith – to believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

We have too many educators and education advocates working in or supporting schools, especially schools that serve minority and impoverished students, who do not truly believe all students can learn.  If this is you and you are reading this message, please heed my advice and get out of education.  Find something else to do with the rest or your life and leave our students alone.  You are harming our students.  You are destroying our communities.  You are blocking the potential of our future.

All students can learn.  All students can improve.  We just have to find the right strategies to make this a reality and it is hard.  Those of us who do believe this have probably experienced a time when our faith was almost extinguished possibly by naysayers or by our own self doubt.  Just hang on in there.  Reach out to others who believe.  Remember the great words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”  Even though we can’t see the end of the staircase and how the outcome will be for each child, we have to have faith and continue in the struggle until we reach our goal.

Hopefully, you have found a couple points I have shared during the seven days of Kwanzaa helpful as we begin 2018.  Let’s all do our part to improve the profession of education.  Our society’s future depends upon it.

Related Reads:

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education: Day 1 – Unity

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education:  Day 2 – Self-determination

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education:  Day 3 – Collective Work & Responsibility

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education:  Day 4 – Cooperative Economics

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education:  Day 5 – Purpose

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education:  Day 6 – Creativity

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Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education: Day 6 – Creativity

CREATEDr. Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966.  It is a holiday celebrated from December 26 – Jan 1.  There is a focus principle each day of the holiday.  Although these principles are based on African values, I believe if we apply these principles in education we could improve our education system.   Today’s principle is kuumba/ creativity – to do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Creativity is definitely lacking today in the field of education.  Pre-service educators enter college with grandiose ideas of what their future classrooms will look like.  They design creative lesson plans they intend to use once they sign the contract for their first job.  Then, reality hits.  A veteran educator or department chair explains the pacing guide (the mandated order in which standards should be taught), hands over the adopted textbooks and many even throw in some ready-made lesson plans that follow the district’s curriculum.  If the teacher reaches the infamous five year mark, this teacher might lack the creativity he or she had when entering the profession and our unengaged students secretly wish and hope for the spark to return.

I say resist!  What does that mean?  You’re probably thinking, “Shawnta, I don’t want to lose my job.”  District curriculum should be a guide.  I do suggest educators follow it in order, but it isn’t necessary to use all of the examples and suggested resources.  Many times I have found them useless for engaging my students.

When I was teaching 8th grade English, according to the district’s guide, we had to use a historical fiction text.  All of my fellow English colleagues chose Anne Frank, but I chose Chains, a novel set during the Revolutionary war period that focuses on a black slave name Isabel.  Not that anything is wrong with reading about Anne Frank, but I knew my students would enjoy the novel I chose and I had some activities that would teach the genre and standards I believed my students would enjoy.

Another time when I was teaching middle school English, our curriculum guide stated we had to teach students how to write a persuasive essay.  There were several recommended activities to teach this standard, but I didn’t use any of them.  I taught persuasive techniques and had students watch commercials to study persuasion in real-life.  Then, they made posters to promote and persuade students to read one of the book they read (all of my students were required to read books of their choice independently throughout the school year).  Next, they used Animoto (a video making program educators can use for free) to make a commercial to persuade the entire student body to read the book and these commercials were played on the morning announcements; you can click here to view some of them.  Finally, they wrote their persuasive essays.  It was a lot of work to implement this, but my students really enjoyed this unit and wrote good essays.  I even had colleagues complain to me after the videos aired on morning announcements because their students wanted to make them too.

I believe many of the discipline problems  in schools are due to boring and dull lesson plans.  Although it might take time and extra effort to figure out how to appease your school district by following the pacing guide while also incorporating creative lesson plans, we need to make this sacrifice so our students aren’t bored to tears in the classroom.

Related Reads:

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education: Day 1 – Unity

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education:  Day 2 – Self-determination

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education:  Day 3 – Collective Work & Responsibility

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education:  Day 4 – Cooperative Economics

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education:  Day 5 – Purpose

 

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Educator’s Barnes Top Six Posts

ed barnesIn 2009, I began working in the MSD of Wayne Township as an middle school English teacher at Chapel Hill 7th/8th grade Center.  I worked there for five years.  During that time, I learned how to use WordPress and had a district classroom blog and my class had its own YouTube channel.  When I left, all of the work and resources stayed behind.  That’s why I decided to launch this website.  I wanted a place to share my education views and a place to house resources I use.  It has been a long work in progress because I have another website Gardener Shicole which highlights my urban gardening journey.  This year, I put more time towards Educator Barnes.  I thank those of you who have supported my efforts.  Below, I have included the six most read blog posts on my website.

  1. Monday Musing:  Stop Romanticizing Thanksgiving
  2. Monday Musings:  November Reflections – My Month in Review at Indy/Ed
  3. I am black enough
  4. Monday Musings:  October Reflections – My Month in Review at Indy/Ed
  5. Should I stay or should I go?
  6. Fostering a Love of Reading in Your Child

 

 

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Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education: Day 5 – Purpose

PDr. Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966.  It is a holiday celebrated from December 26 – Jan 1.  There is a focus principle each day of the holiday.  Although these principles are based on African values, I believe if we apply these principles in education we could improve our education system.   Today’s principle is nia/purpose – to make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

I believe the purpose of school is to help children find their path, their purpose in life.  Many times the adults leading the charge aren’t sure of or are afraid to commit to their purpose.  Instead, we have a situation of the blind leading the blind.  It’s hard to help children find their purpose when we don’t know ours.

I’m not into making New Year’s Resolutions.  I think it is silly to wait until a predestined time to decide your goal or your next step on your path.  If it is mid August and you want to make a resolution or a goal, you should.  If you don’t know what your purpose is don’t wait until 2018 start reflecting now.

As you are considering your individual purpose, think about how your purpose will contribute to the collective purpose of raising our community of children.  You don’t have to be a parent to be part of this community.

My purpose is to educate, encourage and advocate for children whom I come into contact.  I didn’t always know this was my purpose, but now that I know, I do my best to use my skills and talents to help children and their parents.  Our community and school will never became great if we don’t have purpose.

 

Related Reads:

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education: Day 1 – Unity

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education:  Day 2 – Self-determination

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education:  Day 3 – Collective Work & Responsibility

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education:  Day 4 – Cooperative Economics

 

 

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Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education: Day 4 – Cooperative Economics

COOPDr. Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966.  It is a holiday celebrated from December 26 – Jan 1.  There is a focus principle each day of the holiday.  Although these principles are based on African values, I believe if we apply these principles in education we could improve our education system.   Today’s principle is ujamaa/ cooperative economics – to build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

On Day 2 of Kwanzaa, I wrote about the Rosenwald schools and I included the following quote by Stephanie Deutsch about the schools:

But of course the true legacy is the people themselves, not the physical structures.  This is the fact that I find the most amazing.  In Virginia, the African Americans who built the schools and who attended the schools contributed twice as much money, dollar for dollar, as the Rosenwald fund did.  These were people who were almost universally poor.  Many of them were people who had no education themselves, but they knew that this was the road forward for their children. They wanted their children to have something that they hadn’t had.  They made it happen.

Today, contributing financially to your child’s school or the school in your neighborhood, outside of paying taxes, is an action many people want to avoid.  We want something for nothing.  Schools are struggling financially and they need community support and resources.

When I first entered school, my family was poor, but my parents still sent me to school with supplies and made sure to pay my book rental.  They also would help out when needed.  My mom would donate resources or donate her time volunteering in the school.

Last year, 1/2 of the students in one of my son’s class did not bring in scissors, so I purchased eight additional scissors and sent them in with my son.  This year, there was an online reading resource my sons’ school wanted to purchase that the school could not afford, so parents and community members, including myself, pitched in to pay for the program.  If we want our children to succeed we have to put our money where are mouth is.

Related Reads:

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education: Day 1 – Unity

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education:  Day 2 – Self-determination

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education:  Day 3 – Collective Work & Responsibility

 

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Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education: Day 3 – Collective Work & Responsibility

WORK

Dr. Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966.  It is a holiday celebrated from December 26 – Jan 1.  There is a focus principle each day of the holiday.  Although these principles are based on African values, I believe if we apply these principles in education we could improve our education system.   Today’s principle is ujima/collective work and responsibility – to build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.

Education can feel like a dog eats dog world; it’s the world of the have and have-nots.  Unfortunately, so people have become too comfortable overlooking the have nots.  I left an A school to go work in an F school, and people thought I was crazy.  “Shawnta, why would you want to work at that school? Aren’t you worried?”  Yes, I was worried, not about myself, but for those kids.  When people questioned my decision, I would reply, “Don’t these kids deserve effective educators too?”  I’m not alone.  I know other talented educators who have chosen to leave a ‘good’ school and work in a ‘bad’ school.

There shouldn’t be any ‘bad’ schools.  We need to work collectively to find ways to eliminate failing schools forever.  Efforts that could have been effective in some schools, but they failed because people weren’t working together or felt it wasn’t their problem.  For the third year in a row, Indianapolis’ homicide rate is at an all time high.   If we want issues like homicide to be dealt with, we have to acknowledge that our neighbor’s problems are our problem.  If my neighbor’s child can’t read; it’s my problem.  If kids are staying home from school in the winter because they don’t have a coat, it’s my problem.  We have to be willing to be our brother’s keeper if we would like our education system to improve.

Related Reads:

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education: Day 1 – Unity

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education:  Day 2 – Self-determination



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