Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Official Launch - Join the Urban Teacher Network (UTN)!

This idea has been months in the making and we're finally ready to launch the UTN over the summer. The UTN will be a major project of Hip Hop Congress' Education Initiative. Its purpose is to reach out directly to those that work and mentor our youth. We want to support their efforts, build networks, share curriculum ideas and resources, and organize ways to better serve our communities needs.

Teachers have many tough issues to deal with while trying to educate and elevate today's youth in this oppressive structure. The truth is the school system in many ways maintains the status quo structure of injustice and inequality. Teachers and even many administrators work hard to change that but often find themselves penalized for thinking outside of the box and being more relevant to their students' lives.

The UTN hopes to organize and support teachers who dedicate their lives to literally saving our future. The UTN is also interested in educating and mentoring our youth in more creative and relevant (and less restrictive) ways to most effectively serve their needs. To that end, we are promoting an urban arts education curriculum to bring to schools, juvenile centers and after school programs. We also plan to organize UTN events for teachers and students outside of the classroom in less restrictive spaces to learn, live and grow through experiences in community based outings.

I will be the primary contact for the UTN. Please email me at to request an application (data form) and we will reach out to you promptly!


Anonymous said...

I have a super long comment. I thought I'd put it here where no one else has commented yet...just because it is so long.

Alright so today I was reading your blog while I was running subjects. And now one of the subjects didn't show up so I decided I'd respond to what I've been reading on your page. I thought to myself that I should be reading a book, finishing an essay, or studying for an exam. There is this feeling within me that schooling is about learning facts and theories, and that teachers shouldn't reveal much of anything about themselves. When I was in elementary school, I rarely knew my teachers' first names, and I always surprised if I somehow came to find out. For the most part my teachers were very kind. But still, I didn't really know anything about them. However, I've found that as I've gotten older, that has changed. I went to an arts high school, so at the end of the day (after our 'regular' academic classes) we would have conservatory. My focus was creative writing. I remember that the vast majority of students referred to the creative writing instructors by their first names. I thought it was odd and inappropriate. And now in college I have had a professor who requested that we address her by her first name. I thought it was cool- but at the same time I felt she was crossing a student/professor barrier that should not be crossed.

This long introduction is not intended as a critique of what you are doing. Rather, it is in support of it. I wanted to share my experience to illustrate that yes, the educational system is a cold one. And I think many are so used to it being that way - that now when people strive to make the system warmer, friendlier, and more tailored to individuals' needs - there is a lot of opposition because - "You've got to keep it professional." I feel there is some truth to that statement. It might be problematic for teachers to go out binge drinking with their students on a Friday night. However, this rigid professional approach is - no good.

That approach doesn't take into account the specific needs of each student. It is tailored to the white/European-American/Caucasian group. As a member of that group, I really didn't see a problem with anything. I can see now that I wasn't aware of very much at the time...but that's how I was. I finally came to see some problems when I got to high school.

I'm not trying to give a life history - but it seems to be turning into that! At any rate, in high school I became mentally ill. But I was in a bunch of honors and AP classes. And it was too late in the semester to change classes. You couldn't change classes past the 4th week (or something like that) - regardless of the circumstances. And any of the typical accommodations that could be given to others did not apply in my case. Basically, there were only things that could be done if I were mentally retarded, had ADHD, or were disrupting others in class. I didn't fit into any of those categories. I was intelligent but completely unable to do my work. I ended up even getting a "D" in English, which was my best subject. My friends were sympathetic but still thought it was kind of amusing since they often had me look over their essays. So then in the summer I had to repeat English. But the students in this summer school class were students who were not fluent in English and we the vast majority of time identifying parts of speech - simple ones - like nouns and verbs. I thought it was a useful task for people to learn, and that the students who were there would be benefit from knowing how to do those things. But I had been able to identify those same parts of speech for quite some time. I was angry at the system that it didn't accommodate me when I was struggling, didn't care that I failed, and then didn't teach me anything new.

What I did learn, is that there is not a place for people like me. There is not a place for highly functional, intelligent people with a mental illness who are sometimes not so functional. I thought that this would change once I got to college. But it hasn't. The people who are so afflicted by mental illness that they can't function very well are not the people who are in college running subjects in the lab.

So, to some extent, I think I know what you mean. I'm not at ALL claiming to know what it would feel like to be black. And even so, I'm sure it means different things to different people. Anyway, the parallel that I was trying to get at is that society as a whole is not so accepting of people with mental illnesses and doesn't do much to help the situation - and I think maybe it is the same for black people.

Of course, I know it's not the same thing. People can't really look at me and instantly know that I have a mental illness. But they can look at someone and instantly see the color of his/her skin.

Hmm..I think I had some things or points that I really wanted to make, but I kind of forget. I hope you don't mind all of my rambling.

I think you've made really good points. People do have a lot of ideological differences...but when it comes down to it, people want to be happy and to be loved.

I don't agree with some of the things you've said, but that's okay with me. I don't think it's necessary for people to agree on everything in order to get along. It's like you said - people grow up in different locations, with different backgrounds and different socioeconomic statuses, etc. I'm sure that if I grew up somewhere else or during some other time, I would be much different.

Well, I would write more, but I think my next subject is coming soon. I like your blog. Keep it up! :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I would just like to add to what I previously said. I am not trying to express that it is a bad thing to be black. Just that there are definitely people who are prejudiced against people who are black. I hope that makes sense.

Tina said...

Greetings! I appreciate you taking the time to check out my blog and post these thoughtful comments that share with me and other readers here some of your personal story and insight. I think I do understand what you are saying in terms of some of the challenges of life that come from not being accepted completely in society, whether that is being black, or living with a mental illness. so thank you for broadening the picture. While I've had some experience with mental illness with people in my life, I don't know what type of struggles you've had to deal with personally, but as you say, that marginalization is something that probably has affected us all in some way shape or form. And the point is society is the problem, not us...but that is not usually how people internalize it.

As for education, I think it absolutely needs to be relevant to students' lives, but I also believe students need and actually want structure. Structure, however, shouldn't be to teach conformity to a system (especially a system that oppresses the majority)... but instead self discipline to understand the universal principle of cause/effect and a space to achieve all one's goals and aspirations.

again, I appreciate you taking the time to share. I hope you will again. respect.