My Student Taught Me a Lesson

My Student Taught Me a Lesson

Every now and then, I get a contract to teach young men
how to write about their educational journeys. These young
men were supposed to be statistics. They are mostly young
African-American and Latino men, first generation high school
graduates, who’d skated through high school and are now trying to catch
up in community college.

The outcome is never predictable because of their life stories.
I use Dr. Ben Carson’s story as an example of a narrative that might mirror
their own educational journeys. He was failing in fifth grade but after being kicked in the behind by his mother, ended up being one of world’s top surgeons.

Describe something good or bad in school or in your life that shaped you as a student, I ask my students. Brainstorm this question in your mind. Map it out and outline it before you start writing your essay.

I didn’t know how hard this would be until about three
years ago when I started. I never expected to read that
my students were motivated after surviving a
gunshot wound; watching others stolen away by gun violence
or reading a book for the first time inside a jail cell.
When I created my lesson plan, I thought of my own
experience would be relevant. My fourth
grade teacher in Cleveland, Ohio asked the class to write
an essay about freedom during 1976, a Bicentennial year.
I created a character that pushed her way through the obstacles
of segregation to ring the liberty bell. My teacher,
Shirley Whitaker, whispered to me later that she thought
I could become a writer. I believed her.
That’s been a long time ago. While my experience resulted
from a positive interaction with an adult, I find that my
students – whether in community college or in the county
jail – develop their educational aspirations from
negative experiences.

One student recently, taught me a few things about focusing
my students on the task at hand. He didn’t want to write
this essay. He complained so loudly that his rambling
became contagious. If I didn’t ask him to leave none of my
other students would benefit from the life lesson. You see,
I believe that when you are starting something new, such
as entering your first semester of community college, you
need to reflect upon your past experiences. What brought you
here to the classroom when you could be home playing Xbox
or hanging out.

Many of my students want to discuss their
educational journeys verbally. I let a few students share to
build community. One student said he perception of himself as
a student changed when he went to prison.

What happened? I asked.

“I read a book,’’ he said. “I’d never read a whole book before all through school.”

Others credited their mothers, or “Queens” as one
student described his mother and grandmother for forcing him to take
life seriously. And of course, “Money, Money, Money,’’
was another motivating factor, they said.
My favorite student didn’t feel compelled to humor me.
He didn’t want to do the writing assignment and his announced
his intentions not to do it.
“You are welcomed to leave,’’ I said.
I was happy when he got up. He was messing with my flow.
I had less than two hours to teach a lesson that normally takes
four hours.

My favorite student returned to the class after he thought about it. Welcome back,
I told him. Get to work. But before we finished for the day he had written about how getting shot, going to jail and having a daughter had shaped him as a student.

I understood his initial reservations. Sometimes, it’s hurtful to look back so
we can look forward. He taught me a lot about humility as a teacher.


Remembering Michael Jackson

It was hard to admit this but I’m in mourning. I don’t feel any different today than I would feeling if I lost a beloved member of my family.

We all have family members who stray. But we still love them because we grew up with them, established a foundation for love, music and dance with them.

No matter what anyone says Michael Jackson and his family were members of my extended family. As children growing up in Cleveland/Shaker Heights, we gravitated to the family band and even tried starting one of our own. Our musical endeavors only lasted for an instant. But our love for the Jacksons’ and other groups like them is evident after each holiday we share together. We still host family talent shows.

Some of us are still on stage and others are comfortable being spectators.

Our quest for musical satisfaction is still ever present. Some of sing and dance in front of broom sticks and others get up in church and try our best to show off what God has given us.

For me, my love for popular music started with my first 45 of ABC. It was the only music my mother approved of and that was fine with me.

The music dances in my head today and will forever be in my heart.

Journalist/Author Tina A. Brown added a video from

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Journalist/Author Tina A. Brown is getting ready for a terrific book singing

The event will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Beulah Resource Community Center. It is being organized by the Richmond County Health Department.
Special kudos to Sandra Wimberly for going beyond the call.

2009 Resumefor Tina A Brown

Learning to be happy in the moment/Recession 101

Learning to Be Happy  in the Moment

NOBODY GAVE US A Recession 101 Course. Folks with jobs tend to tell us that we are not alone. Of course, they haven’t missed a paycheck and they still have health insurance. They aren’t on a deadline to find a gig that will pay all the bills.

I’m not jealous. But I wonder if I’d say the same things if I still had a full-time job. This period in my life kind of reminds me of what people say when you’ve lost a cherished loved one and they catch you wiping the tears away.

“They’re in a better place, baby.”

I’ve always felt that sort of empathy is nice but rarely satisfying. Other times, I notice when family and friends don’t understand why after living on your own for decades you aren’t begging for handouts or a permanent spot on the couch. They don’t get your need for reflection and significant time  for healing.

I tell them most days that `I’m learning to be happy in the moment.’

`I’m looking up and forward.’ And, my absolute favorite mantra is `times are tough by not impossible.’

Maybe, just maybe, God gave millions of us this time to rest after doggedly working our American butts off  for decades. Maybe it’s time for us to explore new things, places and ideas. Maybe it’s time for us to set a new agenda for the 21st Century combining history, experience and technology.

A terrific friend made me think about how I view this season in our lives. Yes, I’m filling my days in beautiful Savannah with as many writing assignments as I can. When I’m not writing and reporting, I’m up networking, promoting my book, volunteering, singing or walking off any negative thoughts that might creep inside my head on the beach.  I’ve even planted a garden so I won’t starve. I’m always thinking of what’s next?  And, please God, let those checks come on time so I can pay my rent.

My friend – an outstanding citizen of the world – plans to spend a couple of months driving through Europe.  I admit that I was surprised that he is planning another great escape at this time in his life. Folks looked at me like I was crazy when I packed my car and headed to Savannah.

Suddenly, I thought what should my next great adventure be? It’s more than creating a dynamic space for writers. That will just be the start.  I also want to study  film; acting; and motivational speaking. I’ve always wanted to be Zora Neale and Maya too.  Why not? Whose says I can’t dream bigger dreams? I’m already sure that if it’s God’s plan I’m headed to the next level.

Tonight, I felt like getting lost in my computer. I’m thinking of who will illustrate my next book. I’m teaching myself to quilt so that I can launch a community dialogue around the Patching of Healing Community AIDS project. I’m studying math and literature. I also want to help other writers realize their greatest potential. I’ve always had six or eight projects going at once, so why stop now.

For now at this very moment, I have a song and a prayer in my heart. I’m happy living in the moment.

Get off the fence: Black women are dying

I wrote “Crooked Road Straight: The Awakening of AIDS Activist Linda Jordan” because Black women in the U.S. are dying. Now, I’m looking for good men and women to ask their friends, bookclubs, schools, librarians, church leaders, youth groups, bookstores and community groups who work with this nation’s most vulnerable populations to buy it and share it. Get on the bandwagon. This is not an issue that we can ignore. Linda Jordan had a simple message: Together we can stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, all of us, whether we are rich or poor, negative or positive. It’s time to get off the fence and to take a stand for those who can’t or won’t speak up for themselves for as long as it takes. Linda and I started on this journey more than 12 years ago. She passed away. I need your help to continue the legacy of one of the first black women in the U.S. to put her family’s faces on HIV/AIDS prevention posters. Stand in the gap with me. Order this book at local and online bookstores. If you can’t afford it, go to your local libraries and ask them to order it. Then, all I ask is that you share Linda Jordan’s story with someone else. Talk about it in your circles. Together, we can stop the spread of HIV/AIDS here and abroad. For information about inviting the author to speak to your group: write or send me a tweet at A1TinaABrown.  Remember to pass the word on Facebook, Twitter and your favorite social media sites.