Sunday, February 10, 2013

My Purpose Driven Life

If you had asked me last year say…April 2012 if I enjoyed my job as a Chicago Public School teacher, I would have said…”I know I want to teach, but I’m not sure about the kids or school.”

Fast forward to not even a year later. I have finished my first school year at an extremely academically and behaviorally challenged school in CPS. I am in my second year at that school, and while I have some frustrations, I look forward to going to work everyday. I have a sense of purpose that I belong to that school’s community and am an active agent of creating positive change.

This post is less about me being a more seasoned teacher this year, but more about how I have consistent affirmation that I am living and breathing my purpose in life.
When I am faced with a challenge at work (and trust me, there are a lot), I don’t feel like giving up or look to put the challenge off on someone else. I embrace it as an opportunity to fine tune my practice, get better and meet my students’ needs.

All of the long hours I work once the kids leave, on the weekends, and over my breaks (which everyone’s who’s not a teacher swears that teachers just sit back and do nothing) never feel tedious to me.  It’s not a chore for me to write my own story to teach my kids, or to give feedback on their writing assignments that I know they will probably not use immediately. 

This past week alone I had so many instances where I thought, man Brandon – you’ve got to do more or find out a way to get this kid some extra help. I’ve got quite the road ahead of me.

At the same time, it makes it all worth it because I received a note in my teacher’s mailbox from a student that read:

“Mr. Byrd, you are the best teacher in the world. Thank you for always pushing me to learn more.”

When I read that note, I smiled and thanked God for the opportunity I have everyday. I know that I am right where I am supposed to be.

This post is not to suggest that we can only find purpose in our jobs. That would be foolish. I’m fortunate that my job does provide a sufficient amount of purpose for my life.  What I’d like for you reading this post to walk away with is, no matter what your purpose is – find it and do it. The world is waiting on you to leave your mark and someone somewhere will be better for it. 

Why I Admire Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams, the often overlooked and/or over-critiqued member of Destiny’s Child is gaining quite a bit of my respect.  I would almost love to sit down with her and talk about what she does to display so much perseverance and resilience.

Here are my thoughts…

Since joining the group back in I’m-too-lazy-to-look-it-up-to-be-accurate, she has had to hit the ground running; jumping over industry hurdles as well as deal with all the stuff people on the sidelines are throwing her way.

She’s usually the one in the group who’s forgotten about. When she is remembered, she’s either viewed as the butt of the joke, or deemed as the one who’s not as good as BeyoncĂ© or Kelly.

Now, let’s be clear, has she earned some of this reputation…? I’d say yes.

As Donnie McClurkin sang in his famous gospel hit, “We Fall Down, But We Get Up”…that’s only literally speaking for Michelle. After her infamous fall on BET 106th & Park, I can guarantee you that anyone who knows who Michelle Williams is remembers her iconic fall…and laughed. I’m guilty, I replayed the video the other morning at least 6 times and could not stop laughing. When Beyonce fell, people thought it was somewhat funny, but they more revered how she got back up, kept swinging her hair and sang even harder. She literally and metaphorically speaking, got back up…Michelle is still on the ground from her fall.

Another thing…this Poor Michelle blog. I’m not going to lie…it is funny.  Whoever had the time to put that together has a keen eye, lol. Throughout that blog there are videos and montages of some questionable outfit, performance, and body language choices that Michelle has made throughout her career.

But let’s get back to the point about why I admire and respect her. 

If/when you see Michelle Williams speak publicly about her career, she does it with a smile. She is gracious and confident about what she has accomplished.  She actually has quite an accomplished resume, filled with successful solo gospel and international dance hits. Her theater resume is strikingly accomplished too. She’s the first black woman to play Roxie in the show Chicago, she’s been in the Color Purple, Aida, and now she’s starring in Fela.

I think the real reason that Michelle has to bear the brunt of so many people’s jokes is because of who she stands next to and is often compared to…Beyonce.  Beyonce’s almost perfect persona leaves little room for error. I think when people are pointing and laughing at Michelle’s mishaps, they’re really just connecting to her perfectly imperfectness. Any John or Jane Doe might fall when they’re running around in high heels trying to keep up with Beyonce.

Michelle could be used as a symbol in all of our lives for those times where we just don’t feel like we measure up, but we believe in ourselves and give it our best shot. That’s what I see Michelle Williams doing. She has incredibly thick skin, talent, and the confidence to say – I’m not Beyonce, I’m Michelle.

View Michelle's fall...but she gets back up! GO MICHELLE!!

Do Black People Care about Black History?

This weekend I had an awesome opportunity to actually experience and learn something new about black history. I learned about Oscar Micheaux, America’s first black film director and was privy to see his work Within Our Gates, a poignant film from 1920 about education and racial inequities.

While it could be coincidental that this movie was showing during February (black history month) I definitely saw it as an opportunity/attempt at highlighting some black history.  I attended the movie with 3 other black people, and based on the crowd…we really stood out. We were probably 4 out of 10 black people in the entire audience…and there was a significant crowd that came out to see the film.

After the film, my friends and I went to eat and we laughed and talked about “why were there so few black people there?” We had no real concrete answers, the most we could come up with was that people just didn’t know.

While that is problematic in itself, it speaks to a larger issue.  It got me thinking, are black people doing enough to promote black history? Are black people creating and or seeking opportunities to learn and share black history?  Now I am not about to go on a soapbox and preach because I saw one historical black film. Truth be told, I’m usually chilling on my Martin Luther King Jr. Day off from work.

But going to see the film did force me to reflect and think…am I being as proactive as I can be for black history?  While some argue on the necessity of black history month, and rather suggest year round knowledge of blacks’ contribution, at the end of the day blacks’ historical relevance beyond slavery and Jim Crow often go untold to the masses. I’m okay with a special month where we try to go a little deeper.  But when I say “we” go a little deeper, I’m speaking to the people who make an effort to learn more about black history and/or promote it.

Within my classroom, I started a unit on the Negro Baseball League. My students have been really excited to learn about it, and it goes beyond the typical Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks story.  I’ve even taught myself a few things.

At the end of the day…most enlightened, non-prejudiced people are looking to learn.  The viewing for Within Our Gates proved to me that other people besides blacks care about black history.  I charge everyone, and yes, especially blacks to do the due diligence of just learning one new piece of black history and sharing it. 

My Guilty Pleasures

I always admire those people who say, “ I don’t own a TV”, or “I just read for fun”.  The admiration usually just stops there as I cannot readily incorporate that into my life.

Lately, I have been loving me some TV!

Let me tell you all about what I’m watching…and why I can’t get enough!

The Sisterhood, on TLC:  This show is addicting because as someone who “grew up churchy” I can appreciate the ridiculousness and comedy of these 5 Atlanta women who are married to pastors.  With everything from a Christian Bat-Mitzvah, racial feuds, and sex parties for pastors' wives…I have been tuning in and will continue to do so!

House Hunters & other HGTV programming:  Apparently this show (and station) have been going on long and strong for a while…I’m just late.  Watching this show just gives me hope that one day I will be in a position to save my money , buy a dream home with my spouse and we’ll live “happily ever after”.

Bravo’s Real Housewives of Atlanta: Need I say more than NeNe Leakes and Kenya Moore?!?! This seasons has given me all of the cooky phrases I need to have a laugh when it’s Sunday night and I’m preparing for the work week ahead. Donkey booty, Gone with the wind Fabulous,  Bye-Bye Ashy! I could keep going.

RuPaul’s Drag Race, Logo: 
I have my old roommates David and Daniel to thank for my new appreciation and fascination with drag queens. This show’s take on America’s Next Top Model, except with men who do drag is one of the most creative, hilarious and outrageous shows out. Each episode delivers entertainment and creativity, and the sometimes subtle subtext of the show is teaching viewers about another community in our society. Beyond learning some new drag slang, the show always teaches its viewers to love and accept yourself. “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you goin’ love someone else? Can I get an amen?!?!”

Scandal, ABC: I got hip to Scandal late last year and have been hooked ever since.  The characters speak really fast, and there are lots of plots twists and turns…but at the end of the day it forces me to pay attention and not just watch mind-numbing television.  I also appreciate the cast and it’s writing…but that’s an entirely differnet post.

GIRLS, HBO. I did not cancel my HBO subscription simply because a new season of Girls was returning to TV. This show is so well written and acted, it’s like a visual and mental trip into the lives of every young adult persona. Beyond that I think what I enjoy most about this show is the conversations I get to have about it with other viewers. Drug use, interracial dating, body image, sexual orientation, career fulfillment, abortion…I could go on and on. It provides good fodder, usually good background music, and a quirky lead character that you have to love and laugh with.

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