A little about Mario Depeine, Sr.

As an educator I get the opportunity to get a small glimpse of how our society is shaping up. Children come into the classroom with all types of perspectives. A lot of the perspectives are a result of their environment. Some of those perspectives reflect the home life or lack of. Some reflect the street life and some just reflect the media that the children are exposed to.

Middle School children are just starting out in life. You see how their characters and personalities are shaping up. Many can be molded or adjusted easily others are a lot more resistant to change depending on their circumstance.

I work in an urban district. While there I see many interesting and at times disheartening things. Hopefully my experiences as an educator can shed some light on what we can do to better prepare our children for the future.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

President Obama's characterization and racism in America

As I listen to the many criticisms of our current President, I can't help but notice the visceral nature that they seem to have. Various people seem to make comments that appear to be political in nature, but as you compare them to other references (former presidents who were truly bad) you realize that there is something deeper at hand. First, I am hearing that Barack Obama is not American. Why, because he has a non European name? Is it because his father migrated from a non-European country? There are so many that are in this country that have immigrant parents, their "American-hood" is not brought into question. Second, I hear that Barack Obama is anti-American. How? The man and his family are sacrificing a lot to nurse this country back to health, yet, he is being accused of running the country into the ground and treated like an "alien." Would such claims and accusations been applied to a President of the United States if he/she had two European rooted parents? Would such claims and accusations been applied to a US President if he/she was white? I don't think so. Maybe I'm wrong, but I have never heard it before, never in America, until now. I hear it when America has a black President!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Making Sense: Education and Budget Crisis in New Jersey

As a teacher I have heard many theories and conclusions as to why New Jersey is in the "mess" that it is experiencing. As well, I have also seen assignments of blame attributed to teachers, their unions (which for the most part represent the teachers) and other public sector employees. It appears that it is easier to vilify a sector of the population than to unite and use our best talents to formulate sound and humane solutions.

Amazingly, I have not heard nor am I aware of much blame assigned to the policy makers, "movers and shakers," of the past (regardless of administration or political affiliation). It appears, in my opinion, that the focus is on getting the teachers to cede the few incentives that were adopted to legitimize the profession in our most recent history.

Totally, I agree that "If one suffers, then all suffer." I think it would be impractical to assert and maintain that there should not be any compromise, whatsoever. Compromise is one thing, but "scapegoating" is something entirely different. I have a very simple definition of scapegoating from Wikipedia: Scapegoating is the practice of singling out one child, employee, member of a group of peers, ethnic or religious group, or country for unmerited negative treatment orblame.[1] It appears that New Jersey is being "united" against and at the expense of the teachers. The very people who have supported, inspired and motivated so many in New Jersey to become scientists, lawyers, teachers, nurses, technicians and so much more, are being treated as an "enemy of the State." They are, in fact, builders of the State!

There has been a very negative, beligerent and intolerant mood created in the "Garden State." A mood that fosters dishonor, ingratitude and "destruction." I am amazed that after much has been done to ligitimize the field of education in New Jersey and the United States that so much is being done to undermine it in the current decade. Historically, teachers have served as a backbone for any nation that wants to compete in the world stage. Without the knowledge and dedication that teachers possess, a city, a state, or a country will not advance in the manner that will be significant enough to make it a viable resource in the world community.

This is not a simple subject, I know that. It is not a subject that should be treated carelessly or with frivolity. When one decides to address teachers, professionals whom so many children look to for guidance and solace, one must see to it that he or she does not undermine the very sector that serves many times as a hope and a source of consistency for so many of our youth.

When a child has what they perceive to be "injustice" at home they look forward to the "fairness" of the teacher. When the child has a drug addicted mother/father or both at home, he or she looks to the stability and consistency of the teacher, the professional. When a child feels hopeless and at times suicidal he or she gets hope when the teacher just shows care and concern, first thing in the morning. When parents threathen divorce or follow through with such an act, the child can often feel secure that he or she will find that teacher that is "always there" for them. I can go on with many more, but the point is clear.

You don't want to undermine the very people that serve significantly to keep the young generation, population, motivated and hopeful while they navigate the sometimes treacherous and uncertain roads to responsibility and adulthood. Most of our children have a high esteem for their teachers. When disparaging, careless and unfounded accusations are made against their teachers, it makes them even more insecure and distrustful of the "adult community."

There will be disagreements and that is a good thing. There will be heated conflicts, that's fine also. There will be accusations and a host of other unpleasant things. But most importantly, I ask that all of us really consider the long term effects on the teaching profession in New Jersey and the children who are served by its professionals.

Teachers have always been important to the community. Are they the most important people? No, everyone who lends a hand makes the community better by their contributions. Younger teachers learn from older ones. I learned a lot from senior teachers around me. Let's uphold these teachers and not treat them like a "disease" that we need to eradicate because others have wasted valuable resources on their friends and associates.

Let's be sensible as we address the issue of education reform and the budget crisis. Let's remember that we should not be shortsighted but consider the long term psychological impact of our actions and reactions to what goes on in the public. Let's remember the children who often find refuge in the positive interactions that they have with their teachers. Also, as we move forward with reform, lets see to it that licensed New Jersey teachers (young and old) are at the forefront in making recommendations for what will help in the classroom. Hopefully, the policy makers have been in the classroom recently or are working very closely with teachers, aids, parents who are "on the ground" and can give "real time" accounts of what the needs are in our schools and classrooms. Let's make sense as we try to save cents.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Limits to Freedom of Speech?

America is a wonderful nation. It is a nation whose people really beieve in pursuing and fighting for many ideals that bring it closer to becoming a "more perfect union." In history, various issues have been addressed and confronted. Slavery was challenged and eventually abolished. The "Jim Crow Laws" were also challenged and eventually abolished (although there are some remnants of that thinking and practice in pockets of our "perfect union"). The impracticality of the Vietnam War was challenged and that war was eventually stopped. McCarthyism, a very dark period in American politics, was also toppled. Prejudice and racism has been challenged and continues to be challenged, although not with the same fervor of the "past."
There are many other issues that Americans have addressed or attempted to address to get it closer to being the "more perfect union." Some of those issues are health reform, education reform, economic reform, and a few others that I won't mention in this article.

One thing that runs through all of those issues that I mentioned above is how much "freedom of speech" has been challenged in the process. It seems that everytime someone or a group of people wanted to challenge what has been established they are met with a "roar" of opposition. It almost seems like the rule is, "If it is here, then it must be right already." We even have the very familiar and at times popular phrase: "If it aint broke, don't fix it." Well, perhaps it may not be "broke" to you but it may be "broke" to the person who is being adversely affected by it.

In order to keep striving to become a "more perfect union" it is important that as a nation we leave room for improvement and room to challenge something or things that only benefit a few people, while the majority is "left out in the cold." We must become a nation that not only looks out for the "self" but stops to consider the plight of his or her neighbor. We need to ask the question, "I know I'm okay, but what about the others around me, do they have at least some of the basic things that I have?" If you conclude that they don't, then maybe it's time to explore the possibility of supporting someone or a group that wants to bring about a change in that direction. Perhaps you are the one that can bring about that change?

Sometimes the degree to which an individual has "freedom of speech" is based on how much money he or she has. There are positions that an individual can take that are noble and good, but could cost them their job or livelyhood. Yes, you have the freedom to speak but you also have the freedom to be fired. so you understand that your freedom is limited by where you work and who writes your paycheck. "Freedom of speech" is also influenced by the group that has "media power" or influence. All it takes is for an individual to state a position contrary to that group and the "news is all over it." I have seen people in the news being quoted for making a "true statement" based on history, but because it contradicts the group's agenda, that individual is "blasted" in the media and there are calls for their resignation and firing. Why? Because they spoke a true, historical fact? When the media, the news reporter supports that type of suppression of facts, then the system is "broke." There is a need for some fixing. Of course, I am not saying that the "media" in general is like that. I am saying that this scenario happens too often.

Establishing "freedom of speech" for everyone is a very ideal goal. The United States will do better as it emphasizes innovative and constructive thinking among the people. It is good to highlight people who are coming up with solutions to problems that affect our society. When we look at "education reform" we should not only look at speaking to the teachers, but also the parents and caretakers that are responsible for "preparing the children" for school and society. When we look at racism (a very touchy issue) we must admit that it still exists in many corners of our society. We must create an atmosphere that encourages people to voice the "problem" and prevent others from suppressing the additional progress that could be made in this area.

The United States of America has had many great victories in its short 234 year history. It has weathered many storms. The US is a country that many want to visit and make their home. It is a country that many want to imitate in a lot of areas. It has great influence around the world. It has a lot of resources and it has a lot of potential.

We see that all of the great changes that America was able to accomplish required a lot of energy. There was opposition to the changes but with a lot of perseverance, America moved closer to being a "more perfect union." "Freedom of speech" is at the crux of the changes that America will need to continue to make. Without "freedom of speech" there is no advancement for America, there will only be regression. As we see things that are needing "improvement" lets speak and realize that there will be opposition, but continue the speaking, translate it to action and let's make America the "more perfect union."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Things that I find odd...

1. Many of us want to "stand for something great" but decide to "sit down" when things get uncomfortable.

2. No one wants to be forgotten and welcome phone calls from "friends" but are sometimes too preoccupied to make calls themselves.

3. A lot of parents want their kids to "get an education" but do less than the minimum to help them get there.

4. A lot of people get into politics to "make a difference" but stay in office to please their biggest contributors.

5. Police departments say they are there to "protect and serve" but in most urban districts they are feared and not trusted?

6. Airlines may say "fly with us" but keep you on the tarmac for 8 hours and take you nowhere.

7. Companies say they are "equal opportunity employers" but are more likely to hire their people through referrals from current employees.

8. The average driver pays for auto insurance for accident protection and remediation, yet most of them avoid their insurers to avoid being penalized for getting the very service they pay for.

9. There is a lot of talk of "education reform," yet the very teachers that are with the students are rarely consulted in the process.

10. Most on Earth believe that the Bible is God's Word but "can't find time to read it."

Friday, June 18, 2010

Developing Perseverance in your Child

Today, in our society, it appears that there is a significant number of individuals who just do not seem to know how to handle "failure, rejection, or just plain disappointment. We see in the news how a jilted lover pursues a former lover to cause harm or even takes their life. The rationale seems to be "If I can't have you, then no one else will" or "I can't bear the thought of seeing you with someone else." Why are there such extreme cases of people responding to "negative" feelings in such an adverse way? These issues are not restricted to any particular race, gender, economic or age group. They have been seen across the board.

Less and less individuals are learning the value of perseverance. Less people are learning how to "tough out" a situation or a phase in their lives. They, instead, are leaning towards the philosophy of "I want it and I want it now!" The idea of hope or a better future does not seem to enter the equation. Instead, the thinking is more along the line of "If I let this situation or individual allude me, I won't have another chance of happiness or a good life." This, of course, is very irrational.

When you look at your child, do you consider what you are doing when you decide to go against your better judgment and give him or her that toy before bed when it is time to wind down? How about when you let the tantrums get you to buy your child the expensive toy that you can't afford to buy or the one that is inappropriate. You decided on an appropriate bed time, yet your child complains and you let him/her stay up an hour later then they should and then in the morning they can't get out of bed for school. These are just a few examples of how, as parents, we can give in to our child's desires but hurt them in the long run.

If a child grows up having his or her way for most of their childhood into their teen years, that formula will spell trouble for that child and trouble for those that he or she will interact with. Why? That individual has learned how "easy" it is to get his or her way. His or her expectation is that "people should facilitate me and give me my way, even it they think it is unreasonable or infeasible." That individual has to learn the value of perseverance. The adults in his or her life, especially the parents/guardians, are the best ones to set him/her on the right track.

What is perseverance? According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, it is something "favorable, suggests continuing strength or patience in dealing with something arduous." Perseverance is not giving up when you face obstacles or tough challenges or pain. It is deciding to move forward toward a worthwhile goal even when it is hard. These are things that children learn early on as toddlers when they are told to share, to wait your turn or sit until mom returns. Children learn perseverance when they play sports. They learn to keep trying until they get better at a task. They learn to keep playing on the team even when they have not won a game yet. They learn to persevere. As parents, the best thing we can do with our children is not to remove the obstacles, but help them overcome them, help them with their perspective.

The Bible shows us that perseverance is a good thing. Consider this passage: "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us..." (Romans 5:3-5, New International Version). The difficult things in life causes us to "suffer." Of course we all have varying ideas of what suffering is. In High School when I experienced my first rejection by a young lady, I "suffered" for about three weeks. I look back and I say, what was that all about? It was just my little ego that was bruised and that's all it was. Back then, though, it was painful. But I survived! Now, when my mother died in 1997, that was one of the most painful things that I experienced in my life. That was a different type of suffering and many more people can agree that most would find that extremely painful, I was close to my mom and I valued her a lot. Day by day I dealt with the pain and continued to persevere and functioned. I read my Bible as always. I prayed and I talked to my family and friends for support. My life did not fall apart but my character got strengthened and my ability to hope has grown.

As parents, we must keep pain and suffering from our children. If they get cut we need to stop the bleeding and prevent infection. If they fall, we help them up. If they are bullied at school, we address the issue at the school so that it stops. But, there are some "suffering" that we must let them experience for the sake of their perseverance, character and their ability to grow in their hope. So it's painful for them to go to bed on time, let them "suffer," it will make them stronger. So it's painful for them to wait their turn, let them "suffer." So it's painful to clean their room daily, let them "suffer." So its painful to not have the same clothes that other people are wearing, let them "suffer." You, I'm sure go through a lot of painful things (go to work when you don't want to) that you would prefer not to go through for the sake of your family. Your child has to learn that also. It will only do him or her good.

Let your child experience the difficult things that will teach him or her discipline, patience, honor, the things that will help your child become a man or woman of character. Your child could become the person that says, no matter what, I will strive to do the things that are right even if it hurts, that is a person of character. We look at the people that we admire and I guarantee you that they are people that have gone through challenging things and they persevered and accomplished what they believed was worth accomplishing. We love to hear survival stories, how someone made it in the wilderness or a dessert "against all odds." Our children can learnt to persevere and it will not kill them, it will only prepare them for greater things in life. They don't need to be the individuals who's life falls apart because they lost their first job or lover or because they were not invited to a a party. Our children can grow up stronger than that but we must help them.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Name three things we can do to prepare our children for learning in school

As an educator, I am finding that a lot of students come to school unprepared to learn. They have too many burdens that they are carrying as children. They are preoccupied and they need a better support system. Please let us know what we can do, especially for our children who live in the urban areas.

Friday, June 11, 2010

NJEA President Speaks

On May 22, 2010 over 35,000 people gathered together to protest Governor Christie's policies and attitude toward public workers in New Jersey. This is one of the featured speakers, Barbara Keshishian, president of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Princeton University President Tilghman on Race

Shirley M. Tilghman has been with Princeton University since 1986. She started out as a faculty member in the Life Sciences. On May 5, 2001, Shirley Tilghman was elected Princeton University's 19th President.

Ms. Tilghman has done a lot of wonderful things for the University. Here is a short video on her approach to diversity and inclusion as it relates to the University. She is speaking at the Awards ceremony sponsored by the ABPA (Association of Black Princeton Alumni).

The ceremony was held at the newly refurbished and dedicated Carl A. Fields Center, located on Prospect Street on the University Campus. The building was originally the Elm Club (Eating Club). It is also across from the old "Third World Center."

Shirley Tilghman talks about the significance of the Carl A. Fields Center. She makes reference to the October 2009 conference (Coming Back and Moving Forward) and the need to discuss the students of color and life on campus and the need to engage the alumni of color as well.

New Jersey Rally of May 22, 2010

New Jersey Rally of May 22, 2010
Young ones making their voices heard.