In 2015, I was fed up. It was the last straw. I received an email with the list of books being delivered for the school year and, out of hundreds of books, I could count on my hands the books that had protagonists of color. This list was from a school that refused to deviate from scripted curriculum.
Curriculum that did not reflect its 99% students of color.
Any idea that a teacher brought forward was shut down. For the first few months, I stuck to their instructional material. But I couldn't do it all year. I caved. I broke protocol and incorporated cultural texts, pop culture, media, and more. I learned my students interests and utilized them. I studied their learning styles. I sought out technology that would assist me.
There was even a month where books I'd ordered hadn't arrived, so I wrote my own fiction series for the students. I used students' names and characteristics. I designed questions, where they were prompted to use evidence from the story. I wrote in intentional grade-level vocabulary in the most riveting scenes. I used my Illustrator and photoshop skills to design "book covers" with boys/girls that looked like them.
The data started to show promise and by the end of the year I'd brought the students to levels they never thought possible.
My friends were hearing my frustrations and Dennis, Blue, fredrick, and Evette kept asking, "Why don't you do this on your own?" At first, I didn't know if I was qualified. But then I had to check my stats: almost a decade in education, a writer and avid reader of diverse texts, a love of pop culture + language, a tech geek.
Could I take a school or organization's curriculum and align it to more than National Common Core Standards? Student identity? Student learning styles? Student culture?
I could. I'd been doing it forever.
This, and several lonely brainstorm lunches on the steps of Langston Hughes' last home, was how @LangstonLeague was born.
We applied for WeWork's Incubate sector of their #CreatorAwards. We never thought we'd make it past the thousands of other applicants. We never thought we'd make it to finals. We never thought we'd win. We did.
I'm looking forward to the future.
Skylight Clarkson Sq