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Notes from Khalil: The First Weeks of School

Notes from Khalil: The First Weeks of School

I love spending time talking to my son about his day. I will also say that my life as a technologist is fueled by his opinions on how kids should use technology for learning as well as when they should not. While talking, I handed him my laptop to write his thoughts. Below is his reflection

I don’t like the first weeks of school because all the work is too easy. You’re always learning stuff that you already learned from sixth grade and up like lab safety. It doesn’t change but teachers act like it does. It’s terrible to be able to sleep through an entire lesson and then wake up to make a 100 on the assignment.

I’m taking Geometry this year and right now we are learning about points, lines and planes. It’s funny because we spend the whole class naming points. It’s not hard but there are always multiple students who don’t get basic stuff. It’s planes though!! The question said, “What points are on this plane?” The points are right there and people still ask what it means. Maybe I’m just highly intellectual. I’m probably wrong but it is frustrating.

I have a project this week to name shapes using power point. I’m probably not going to do a power point because it sounds basic. I’ll do a video instead and somehow I’ll make it more interesting.

In history, I’ve been taking notes all class period. We have to take Cornell notes and we get a grade from them. I’m not even in AVID but I have to do it. I just realized that I’m going to have to study my notes because we’re probably going to have a quiz. A good teacher would do that I think.

In English, we’ve been reading and writing essays. We’re reading a book called The Monkey’s Paw. I actually read the whole thing because I love reading and putting my emotions into the story.

One more thing, I wanted to be in theater but they put me in sports marketing. Hopefully I can change this because I really do like to act and perform in front of people.

It fuels my heart to bring joy to others from the stage.


Conversations With My Son: Your Mom is “THE Rafranz Davis”

sonThe first thing that my son said to me yesterday was…

“Hey mom, you got called, “THE Rafranz Davis” by one of my teachers.”

Oh great!

The context of this statement came about because my son wasn’t paying attention in his computer class which meant that he missed the directions. So, of course…the natural response from his teacher was…

“Your mom is THE Rafranz Davis, you can do this in your sleep.”

Or something along those lines…

Although I am so against comparing parent to child, I know this teacher and I get the humor in the message that she was trying to convey. I didn’t freak out and get all “preachy” about appropriate teacher response either. (I call this edu-parental growth btw)

Instead, I asked my son how that made him feel. I wanted to know what he thought when she said it because he has been compared to me for most of his school life and he gets quite annoyed with it…as he should.

My son responded…

I wasn’t mad at all. I laughed and then I nodded my head…YES! I mean mom…She called you THE Rafranz Davis. The emphasis of that wasn’t even about me. It was about you so maybe she has respect for you because of what you do. I just smiled back and started paying attention because she was right, I shouldn’t have struggled but it had nothing to do with you being my mom. I shouldn’t have struggled because I know how to use a computer. I mean, all we were doing was clicking. It didn’t even take require thinking. That’s why I wasn’t paying attention. Plus it was a PC and not a Mac.

But for real…I wanted to come home and tell you that because I was proud that she mentioned you in a computer class. I always get it in math. This was fun though.

We then moved on to the next conversation completely driven by him…discussing a girl, naturally.

Long sigh…

It was only day 3.


PS: My son is his own person and has his own strengths and weaknesses. He is not me and should not be compared to me on any level. One of these days, people will get that.

Today though…smiles and head nods.


My Edu-Parent Perspective: Getting Through the First Week of School

My Edu-Parent Perspective: Getting Through the First Week of School

As a connected parent educator, it is tough to remain edu-neutral when it comes to who teaches my kids especially when they are in schools where 0% of the teachers are connected. I have to make this distinction between “connected” and “not” because of the difference gained through deep conversations and access to ideas from a broader perspective.

Face it, we are different…we just are.

I made the choice two years ago to leave my home town where I started my career but I also made the tough choice to leave my son in this school. Actually, with my insane schedule…it wasn’t really much of a choice. I could not move him and with that realization, came an embedded set of positives and negatives that I will have to face on top of the typical, “parenting a teenage boy” issues.

On the positive side, my son has to grow up and make the right choices, which he has honestly struggled with. At 15 years old, he needs this room away from me during the school day. On the other side, I have zero trust that his teachers are there to support his growth. I take that back. His football coaches are for sure. Academically, this one hurts more than anything.

I have always been a teacher who taught my students as if they were my own children. It’s tough being on the other side of this when other teachers are not the same. In my mind, this should be a minimal requirement.

About those trust issues…

The other day, I talked to a teacher in my son’s school who needed to vent about the new mandates that the new superintendent has placed on school staff. I sat on the other end of the phone as this person said that he did not have time for “this foolishness”. In case you ‘re wondering…here is what this supt is asking…

  • Teachers meet with subject area teachers to discuss instructional goals, students…etc (PLC)
  • Teachers must call a certain number of parents a week (this is an increase over ZERO)
  • Teachers must integrate technology (Last year, my son used zero technology)
  • Teachers must write actual lesson plans and maybe reflect on them

Normally, I am against mandates but to me, these seemed pretty minimal. In my mind, what this superintendent is requiring are things that good teachers already do but in this case, it is rare. I am proud that my hometown has a leader who wants to address the issues but I am sad because when you attach the word “mandate” to anything, it automatically becomes negative…even when it is good.

You can’t mandate a relationship though. That takes effort.

A Few Small Parent/Auntie Wins

My son came home and told me that a varsity football player tried to jump him in Geometry. He also told me that his friends handled it by snitching to the coach and he is fine. I was then told to keep it to myself and NOT intervene. He said that all he kept thinking about was his goal to stay out of trouble and he was more afraid of that than anything. (To be clear…this should not be on our children’s radar of worry. For me, the win was that he confided in me.)

He didn’t say not to blog about it though…so there’s that.

My nephew came home from school excited because he has a project to do with a team of students for science. He didn’t bring home a worksheet. He had a series of questions about paper airplanes to research. YES!!!

It’s only day 3.

Learning from Kanye West: 10 Motivational Thoughts for Creatives

Learning from Kanye West: 10 Motivational Thoughts for Creatives

Every night, my son watches the same Kanye West collection of interviews which typically means that it’s blasted all over the house at the most annoying of decibals. My son is 15 so of course I took this gesture as a means of annoying every person in the house. This was not a TED talk, afterall, which we tend to associate with “motivation”. This was basically a collection of some of Kanye’s craziest interviews that some youtuber put to music, added visuals and uploaded.

If you are familiar with the legend that is Kanye West at all, you probably guessed that my son has been entranced by the “non-Kanye created”, Kanye’s New Testament. You can read more about it here and here because apparently this was quite the big deal.

Last night, our “Kanye rant” ritual, took a different turn. My son asked me to listen to it. He said…

“Somewhere between the moments that seem crazy are some really deep thoughts. If you actually take the time to listen, you’ll understand why I like listening to this before I try to do something that may seem hard.

Kanye is really a motivating human being. He’s super creative and just wants to create in other ways, outside of music sometimes,  but people don’t want to see him do that. He’s frustrated about it.

I like that he decides what he wants to do and he goes for it. He lives on his terms and doesn’t let people’s opinions hold him back. That’s what I hear anyway because I don’t focus on the other stuff. I don’t know what you hear but that’s what I hear.”

Last night, in typical “tech-mom” fashion, I opened my Video Notes Chrome app and tried to get into the mindset of my son. What I found was that beneath all of the “crazy” that seemed to overtake pretty much every Kanye West interview, were quite a few deep motivational thoughts.

So, again, keeping with my “tech-mom” theme, I made a Haiku Deck which interestingly enough, had a nice collection of images fitting each Kanye West motivational thought.

In case you’re wondering…NO I have not lost my mind. This was my way of connecting with my son. Maybe he’s on to something.


Kanye West Motivational Thoughts For Creatives – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

10 Motivational Thoughts for Creatives

1. “I always feel like I can do anything.”This was my son’s favorite statement. He said that this motivates him to continue to push even when he wants to quit sometimes, For the record, I’ve always told him this but I guess it sounds different coming from Kanye.

2. “The main thing that people are controlled by is their perception of themselves.”We all have within us the potential to be great but often times, we hold ourselves back because of our own fears and self doubt. Why do we do this?

3. “Create and make mistakes in front of people.” - When you create, nothing is perfect because everything should be a new risk. This is ok. Mistakes are human. We should make these much more and out loud!

4. “Don’t allow yourself to be boxed in to someone else’s idea of who you are.”Be you no matter what…not who others think you should be.

5. “The time is now to be okay to be great. The time is now to be the greatest you.”Greatness is within us all. What are we waiting for?

6. “We’re not always in the position we want to be at. We’re constantly growing, making mistakes and actualizing our dreams.”Growth is about exactly this. We’ll never be exactly where we want to be as long as we are always focused on growing and being better.

7. “I know exactly what I want to do. I know what I’m up against.”Fight for your dreams regardless of what the world has to say

8. “If you ain’t trying to help me then you’re hurting me.”For many young males, this idea haunts me.

9. “The time is now to express & for people to believe in themselves.” – Seriously, what are you waiting for? Believe in yourself now and quit waiting on the world to believe in you.

10. “I’m a creative genius and there really is no way to word that. For me to say that I wasn’t a genius…I’d be lying to myself.” – No explanation needed

My Edu-Parent Perspective: My Son, My Fears, His Choices

My Edu-Parent Perspective: My Son, My Fears, His Choices

As a mother, I have many fears when it comes to my son. I wonder how he’s coping with the absence of his father and I wonder how he is dealing with some of the other struggles of our family. I wonder how he is figuring out his place in the world. We talk but I’m not naive enough to think that he tells me everything. I know that he doesn’t.

As someone who has spent a great deal of time working with other people’s kids, I know how certain emotions are often undetectable. Boys, especially boys of color, often carry scars buried deep within and as much as we would love our kids to see us as their confidantes…they often don’t.

Sometimes those emotions eventually find themselves as the catalyst for mistakes. It’s not that we don’t do whatever is necessary for our children. In many cases…MY case…we do. It’s that our children, like every other human being, have choices.

My son isn’t perfect and at the tender age of 15, he has definitely made some errors in judgement. He’ll make plenty more over the next few years and each day, his choices become more and more critical to determining the man that he will become.

Every day, my son has to choose to do what is right. He has to choose not to drink at 15. He has to choose not to smoke weed or take other types of drugs. He has to choose not to hang around in places where those activities are the norm because he has to choose to be where he is supposed to be and not deviate from it. It’s his choice…always his choice.

I do not take responsibility for my son’s mistakes because I know that even as a single mother, I am doing all that I can possibly do to steer him in the right direction. That doesn’t mean that I do not worry. That doesn’t mean that I do not have fears.

My son has choices and his choosing of the wrong one is my greatest fear.

I teach my son that as he makes choices, I won’t always know. He’ll hide quite a few…much like I did from my own parents. Eventually, what is done in the dark comes to the light and I’ll find out…I always do.

I did…today.

My son is lucky that we live in a community that is the opposite of Ferguson and others like it. Our law enforcement agency goes above and beyond the call of duty to try to help…when they can. It’s not always that easy to do because choices often get in the way.

We are lucky that tomorrow brings a new set of challenges…a new set of choices.

He is lucky…so very lucky.

As much as I fear the finality of my son’s choices, my greatest hope is that he learns something from them.

For his sake…I hope that today, he did.

One more thing…football coaches deserve special wings in heaven because the work that they do for and with so many of our boys is often buried in conversations surrounding differences in pay or pedagogical practices. Many of our boys would not make it through day to day choices without the additional support and accountability that coaches provide. My son is lucky.