Tuesday, November 9, 2010

THIS IS AN EMERGENCY!

So I was listening to the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, and heard a story that absolutely broke my heart, yet confirmed what I see everyday in my classroom. According to data recently released and published in the New York Times, the achievement gap for African-American males is "jaw-dropping." The report argues that the achievement gaps start at young ages, noting that while 12 percent of black boys in the fourth grade are proficient in reading, 38 percent of white boys are proficient. In eighth grade, 12 percent of black boys and 44 percent of white boys are proficient in math.

Think that sounds bad? Read on.

African-American high school boys drop out nearly twice as often as their white peers, and their SAT scores fall on average 104 points lower.

Black males make up only five-percent of the college student population, while 36-percent of the prison population is made up of black males.

For the African-American community, this is an emergency, and the solution to the problem starts with each one of us. We can't continue to allow our young men to fall by the way side. So what can you do? 


BECOME A MENTOR!

Yes, I said it, become a mentor. Take an hour out of your busy, self-absorbed week, and spend it with a young person. It can be your nephew, your cousin, your little brother, a kid at church, a next door neighbor or that little boy who always seems to be wandering around your neighborhood looking for trouble. Don't know any kids? No problem! Organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Boys & Girls Club, the YMCA/YWCA and the United Way are excellent places that can put you in contact with young people who are in desperate need of mentors. And before you make another excuse, it doesn't have to cost you any money. You can be a mentor for free! To a young person, simply having your presence is worth more than any amount of money you could spend. Encouraging them to try their best in school, giving a word of advice about a problem, or just being an example of what a positive adult looks like can mean more than you know.

So here's a challenge for you. Instead of getting together with your homeboys to drink beer and play Madden, go be a mentor.

Instead of spending a Saturday afternoon shopping at the mall, go be a mentor.

Instead of sitting back and watching the problem get worse, GO BE A MENTOR!

This is an issue we can't afford to ignore. As previously stated, research shows that high-school dropouts (who are more likely to be black) are more likely to be incarcerated, to rely on social services, and to go without health insurance. Cutting the dropout rate in half would generate an additional $45 billion in federal tax revenue and cost savings.

Simply put, as a nation we can spend our time to help get our young men back on track, or we can continue spending our money by letting them slip through the cracks.

So what will YOU do?

-MsSexyDanielle

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dear Procrastination,

I love you. I hate you. Each December 31st I make a list of resolutions, and there you are, somewhere near the very top. And for just a little while, I actually do stay away. I organize my dates in a neat little calendar, I set up a filing system to keep track of every deadline, I reflect daily on how much better my life is without you. But by springtime, you and I are back together, two inseparable peas in a pod. Most of the time I can control you, but every now and then, you get the best of me and things really go wrong. At those moments, I'm forced to stop and ponder...what makes me so attracted to you? And as hard as it is to admit, I know exactly what it is that keeps us together: it's my arrogance, my self-confidence, my unwavering faith in my superior intelligence that causes me to scoff at deadlines that most people consider important. When the pressure is on, my mind becomes as focused and powerful as a laser beam, and the task at hand becomes a game, an avenue for me to challenge myself to achieve maximum performance with minimal time invested. 85% of the time, you and I are a happy, functional couple, making even the most difficult task appear effortless. But the other 15% of the time you leave me frustrated, scrambling, overworked, and full of regret. At those moments, I wonder what I ever saw in you, and I make a mental checklist of all the reasons you're not good for me. I vow to put you out of my life for good, but then you show back up and we start all over again.

We've been together for a long time, and just like a stagnant marriage, our arrangement has become so comfortable that I don't even know where to begin in terms of ending things. Finding the strength to break things off with you for good is going to be difficult, but its a step I've got to make to reach my full potential. (sigh) I'll start working on it tomorrow...


Love,


Ms.SexyDanielle

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Point of it All...

So today was my first day back to work, after a fun-filled (but too short) summer vacation. During one of our super-thrilling, action-packed faculty meetings, a question was posed that I hadn't really thought about in a long time: why did you become a teacher? Now generally, when presented with that question, most teachers have a generic, one-size fits all response: "I became a teacher because I wanted to make a difference."

And because I've heard that question so much in the past, I generally don't give it much thought. My mind automatically selects one of the readily available responses from my mental answer bank, and that's that.

But today, something different happened.

Upon hearing the question, my mind immediately zoomed backward twenty one years and there she was: Ms. Koon, my first grade teacher at Chicora Elementary School. Her image was crystal clear in my mind's eye, and I smiled at the memory. There she stood, as short as some of the students, with long red hair flowing down her back. Ms. Koon always made learning fun, and I enjoyed being in her class. But as much as I liked her, I couldn't understand why my mind immediately conjured up her likeness when presented with the question of why I became a teacher. I had been lucky enough to have tons of great teachers during my academic career, all of whom had used some of the same classroom practices that Ms. Koon had. As hard as I tried, I couldn't remember anything specifically that she had taught me, other than all the generic things that first graders learn.

And then I started to remember the way I felt each day when I left her class, and the more I pondered, the more I began to realize why Ms. Koon was so special. She was the first person to ever make me feel like I could be whatever I wanted. The first to really help me understand that there was no excuse big enough to stop me from accomplishing the things that I truly wanted to accomplish. Poverty wasn't an excuse. The neighborhood I came from wasn't an excuse. Coming from a single-parent family wasn't an excuse. Not having a father wasn't an excuse. At the tender age of six, Ms. Koon helped me to realize that I had to use the hardships in my life as fuel to propel me to the next level, not as a crutch.

So each day when I left her classroom, I went home to the small house I shared with my mom, my grandparents, my aunts, and my cousin. Even though I didn't give her words a lot of thought, they permeated my subconscious more than I realized. They shaped the way I approached the rest of my life. That year, I learned one of the most valuable lessons of all: I had the power to do with my life whatever I wished. All I had to do was make it happen.

And make it happen I did. A bachelor's degree, an MBA, an M.Ed in the works, a successful advertising/marketing career, and a promising career in education ahead of me. Sitting in that faculty meeting, I realized the real reason why I decided to change careers and become a teacher. I wanted to be like Ms. Koon. I might never become a millionaire, but if I could help just one child see that their potential amounts to more than their obstacles, I would feel like the richest person in the world.

-MsSexyDanielle

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Special Birthday Celebration

It's official: I'm old! Kidding, I'm not getting older, just better ;-) So over the weekend I celebrated my big 2-7 with a very special man in a very special city: Savannah! I was super-excited about going, because I hadn't been to Savannah since I was 10 years old. Even though there isn't anything specifically spectacular about it, something about the quaint perfection of the little city by the river captivated me, even as a child. I spent all of Saturday afternoon strolling along the riverfront, arm in arm with my honey, weaving in and out of a throng of  strangers, randomly drifting from shop to shop with no particular destination in mind. Sunny blue skies and jazz music wafting through the air were like delicious cherries on top of an already picture perfect day. Corny as it sounds, I couldn't have asked for a better day.

While in Savannah, I also got my first taste of ultra high-end, fine dining. Now, anyone who knows me knows I'm a "foodie," so this was right up my alley. Anyway, we went to this restaurant called Alligator Soul, and it was absolutely divine. From the shrimp and andouille sausage covered in mango sauce, to the pork tenderloin glazed with peach mole (pronounced mo-lay), every dish was absolutely delectable. When I first glanced over the menu, I was a bit worried. There were a number of items that I couldn't even pronounce, much less develop a clue about how they might taste. But after the first course, I was at ease, and after every morsel that was set in front of me, I had to fight the urge to pick up my plate and lick it! Let's just say my palette was thoroughly pleased.

On yesterday, it was time to return to reality, and begrudgingly, I said good-bye to beautiful Savannah. A part of me felt a little cheated though, because there were so many other things and places that I wanted to see that we just didn't have time to visit. Ultimately, it reminded me of how much I love just getting away from the norm, escaping my everyday existence with someone special by my side. (sigh) If only everyday could be a vacation....till next time, toodles!


-MsSexyDanielle

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

27 Ways to Grow, Part 1

In exactly five days, I will be turning 27 years old! What an old lady I've become :-) It's funny how the days leading up to my birthday always seem to send me into reflection mode. I feel like I've come such a long way,  and it has certainly been a crazy ride, full of exhilarating highs, devastating lows, and everything else in between. Anyway, this week I've decided to compile a list of 27 of the most important things I've learned in the last 27 years, ranging from utterly cliche to shockingly deep. These are just based on my own personal experiences, and while some of these lessons I've mastered, many of them are still a work in progress. I will be elaborating on random points from this list over the next few days. This is in no particular order, so here goes...

1. God doesn't love me because of who I am, He loves me in spite of who I am.
2. All friendships aren't meant to last forever.
3. Credit is important, and the things you carelessly charge today will end up costing you twice as much tomorrow when its time to pay for them.
4. Reading is fundamental.
5. The past is the past. Dragging it into the present doesn't change it, alter it, or fix it in any shape, fashion, or form.
6. I can't change anyone. People are who they are, and I can either accept them for that, or go on about my business.
7. Saying "I was wrong," or "I'm sorry" doesn't make me weak or incompetent.
8. Trying to impress people who don't matter takes a lot of time and effort, and usually produces little results.
9. Once trust has exited a relationship, I should quickly follow it, because it rarely comes back again.
10. Habitually consuming alcohol and marijuana on a regular basis isn't cool or fun, no matter how many of your friends are doing it. Quite simply, it means that you're an alcoholic or a drug addict. It is also an indicator that you have a much deeper problem that you're too much of a coward to address when you're sober.
11. In relationships, people cheat because they can.
12. There is no shame in asking for help.
13. Being negative and pessimistic takes entirely too much energy.
14. Sex isn't an avenue to make a person love you, like you, respect you, or be with you.
15. Money doesn't equal happiness.
16. No matter how much your parents love you, and do their very best to raise you, inevitably, they will f**k you up in some kind of way. We all have childhood issues. We can either drag the baggage with us, or suck it up and put our best foot forward.
17. Therapy/counseling is a beautiful thing.
18. Good friends are one of the greatest gifts in the world.
19. Sitting in church every Sunday doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage every night makes you a car.
20. It's okay to cry sometimes. Vulnerability does not make me a wimp.
21. Sometimes, silence is the best reply. Stupidity doesn't always need to be dignified with a response.
22. Actions speak louder than words. In the famous words of Maya Angelou, "When a person shows you who they really are, believe them."
23. Tact is one of the best personal qualities to develop.
24. Not everybody is going to like me, and that's okay.
25. Complaining is for losers.
26. Looks aren't everything. I have to devote as much time to my spiritual and mental development as I do my physical appearance. 
27. It's not all about me. A selfish life is a wasted life.

I have so many other things I can add, but 27 is the magic number, so I shall end here. I've learned a lot, and knowledge is most definitely power. Until next time...


-MsSexyDanielle

Wow, I'm finally blogging!

After much thought, I've finally decided to give this blogging thing a try. Although, I must admit,  at first I was pretty skeptical about the fact that anyone would be interested in hearing my inner musings, ramblings, and opinionated tirades on my life and everything in it. But I figured, what the hell, if some random fat kid from Florida (Perez Hilton) could become famous and make a whole living from blogging, surely it mustn't be that difficult.

So here I am, sadly preparing to wave goodbye to yet another summer vacation, scrambling to get ready for another year of shaping the minds of tomorrow. It's a daunting task, but somebody has to do it. As much as I complain about leaving behind the pleasures of summer, such as the ability to sleep late, lounge all day, and take mini-vacations whenever I feel like it, a larger part of me is more than ready to take on the challenge (and sometimes headache) that comes with managing 75 eleven year olds everyday. As difficult as it is at times, I love what I do. I count myself more than blessed to not be a singer in the "I hate my job" choir. Been there, done that, and don't ever want to go back.

Alas, it's way past my bedtime, but I was so excited about getting this thing set up, I had to say a little something! Be back soon...

-MsSexyDanielle