Ashley Franklin

"But what if the other kids bully me?"

This is the reasoning my 5yo gave me as to why he doesn’t want to tell the kids at his new school that he is Muslim. I’m torn between a wth and an ugly cry. I was prepared for his other questions:

  • Will I make friends?
  • What if I don’t make friends?
  • What if I can’t make the other kids like me?

I was equipped with my standard answers. You can’t control how people treat you. You can only control how you treat people. You try to be the best you that you can be. Know who will always be your friends (Mommy, Daddy, your brother ).
I was bullied in school. I’ve always struggled with my weight. (We have a love/hate relationship, but this post ain’t about us right now.) But that didn’t come until like 3rd grade or so, and it was minor compared to what kids go through today. I, however, do not recall being worried about being bullied because of my religion at the age of 5.
What is happening? Why is this the new normal?

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Pre-k graduation & other tragedies

Yes, I was on the fence about my kids’ pre-k graduation at first. Then I was super excited about it and disgruntled because we were running late. As luck would have it, so were they. We ended up being like 15 minutes early while also being 15 minutes late. Feel free to let that sink in for a minute.
The graduation celebration basically had two parts. The first part was the kids doing Quran recitations and sharing other tidbits that they’d learned throughout the year (or in my kids’ case, the past couple of months). The second part was more for the parents and gave basic information about the school’s first year of existence. I guess you could say that the celebration was for the kids and the school as a whole. I commend the principal and the board. I mean, I imagine that it’s no small task to start a school!
Anyway, my 2yo was being a typical 2yo and wanted nothing to do with the entire thing. He drank water, kept the teachers running after him, and then came and sat on my lap during the performances. It’s not like he didn’t know the routine. He did it from my lap and cheered his brother on.
My 5yo was awesome. He was most active during the songs, and that’s what I expected. He shook and sang for al it was worth. It was great.
I’m pretty sure they called my 2yo as one of the first ones to get his certificate just to get him out of the way, and I totally understand that. He actually went back and sat with the other kids after he got his graduation cap and goody (goodie?) bags. I couldn’t help but smile when my 5yo proudly got his certificate. He has had an eventful year (in and out of pre-k, a couple of floods, moving, etc.).
The tragedy?Maybe 10 minutes into the parent part, the principal tapped me on the shoulder saying my 5yo had got hurt. Apparently he had been playing on a scooter, and the scooter proved to be the victor. He was upset, crying, and bleeding. I gave him kisses and told him I was proud of him for being so brave. The teachers, volunteers, and assorted sisters of the community all helped. They were great.
So yeah, that totally sucked. But, a little cuddling, ice, and biryani when we got home and all was well. An assortment of text messages from the sisters of the community didn’t hurt either.
All in all, it was an exciting day. But hey, I’d expect nothing less from my family. Oh yeah, I did say tragedies, huh? I guess the other tragedy would be realizing my babies aren’t babies anymore.

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Slightly below halfway decent mom status

“Seriously?!” I actually lost count of how many times I said it between last night and this morning. Upon telling my 5yo he had to go to bed because he had school the next day, he cried ferociously, asking “Why does it keep happening?!”
(I’ll admit that I did laugh at that when I was out of earshot.)
Just to keep things interesting, someone unleashed a stomach bug later in the evening that chose its victims as random. They shall remain anonymous to protect their privacy, lol.
My 2yo son was an absolute gem this morning! He ate his breakfast yogurt, brushed his teeth, and got dressed without any fuss. All he asked was that I turn on “Kate and Mim Mim” in the background. Thanks Netflix!
After pleading that they move at any speed faster than the one he was moving in, my 5yo finally got it together. We left 5 minutes later than what I’d wanted, but the goal was in sight. I unlocked the car, and my 5yo climbed in. My 2yo ran in circles around the car laughing and screaming “NO SCHOOL FOR ME!” I’m not sure how long I chased this child around a delightfully dull parking lot in the overcast morning, but I”m sure his arms must have been tired from him pumping them in the air in glee.
If this is Monday, what on Earth will the rest of my week be like? I’m pretty sure that I”m definitely slightly below halfway decent mom status today, and it’s still early.
 

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Evaluating My Own Privilege as an Online Educator

As dialogues across college campuses seek to heal the divide that exists as we anticipate what may come as president-elect Trump prepares to take office, I have done nothing additional for my students. I haven’t held any additional office hours. I haven’t altered my lessons plans to include additional talks on diversity. I haven’t engaged with students on a one-on-one basis to help them navigate their emotional responses.
While I applaud my professor friends and college professors across the country who are doing these things, I simply haven’t had to. It’s not that I don’t care. In fact, quite the opposite is true. You see, I’m an online instructor and there is simply no room for me to do these things.
Not all online institutions are the same. I’ve worked for a few. On many occasions, the curriculum is pre-determined. Yes, I can add my two-cents from time to time, but the ability to do so is largely dependent on the course that I am teaching. If I were teaching political science, history, or may even communication, I may be able to speak on the current political climate. However, if I am teaching a course with a stringent curriculum that focuses only on texts and topics that were previously approved, my hands are pretty much tied.
Naturally, I want to let my students know that they are in a safe space. I tell them this every term when I offer my discussion board expectations. In fact, the discussion board may be my only loophole. If a student poses a question in regards to post-election uncertainties, I can respond guilt free. Otherwise, all I can do is hope that my silence does not speak volumes. My only hope is that my students don’t take my silence for indifference.
My students can look at my profile and see that I am an African-American Muslim. Clearly, this election has affected me. It has affected many who are marginalized and underrepresented.  Working in the online environment as afforded me convenience, but I have also sacrificed visibility.  Unless I am feeling extra profound and make a video to expound upon something within the curriculum or schedule a Skype session for a student who is particularly struggling, my students will see my profile picture, and that’s it. That’s the extent of my visibility.
My on-campus colleagues, however, are in the trenches. They are face to face with students who want answers, acceptance, and understanding. Traditional students are typically younger. My students are mostly older adults with work experience. More often than not, they are parents or grandparents. They are accustomed to life bringing the unexpected and sometimes inexplicable. A 17 or 18-year-old does not usually come with the same degree of seasoning.
Simply because of demographics and course structure, I have been issued a platter of privilege. I don’t have to address or heal the hurts of my students. I don’t have to stay at the office longer in order to accommodate their needs. They don’t present these types of needs to me.
Plenty of my colleagues in traditional classroom settings do have to do these things. Otherwise, they’ll be teaching to a disjointed and disheartened bunch.  I envy just how life-changing they can be at a time like this.
And while my voice may not ring across a classroom of hope-thirsty young adults, I have not accepted this as a time to remain silent outside of the classroom. You see, these issues were not born in the classroom, and that’s not the sole place where they will be fixed.
Just because you have a privilege pass doesn’t mean you have to accept. This is the point that I want to stress to my fellow online colleagues. What we can do in the classroom may be limited when compared to what our colleagues working in traditional environments can do, but that does not mean that we can’t do anything. Our lives, just like our students’ lives extend beyond the classroom. We have a voice, and we can find spaces to use it.

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To my son, on your 1st day of pre-k

I thought I’d be doing nothing but happy dances when you finally went to school. Boy, was I wrong. It’s the night before your big day, and I’m an emotional disaster. Today lots of people were tweeting #IStandForDiversity in support of diversity in literature. Clearly, there are many who feel differently. How truly ugly the world can be, that’s what I saw today. Someone said she received a death threat. A death threat? For promoting diversity.
Son, I have to be honest with you. I’ve lied to you. I’ve constantly told you that you can do anything. That’s just not true. You can’t make people like you. You can’t make people be your friend. It’s important that I tell you this because you’re Black and your Muslim. I can’t step in to protect you all the time. I realize that more now. It scares me.
I’ve always asked that you be a good boy for mommy. What happens when someone isn’t good to you? I don’t know. I hope that I’ve taught you something that will help you to still be a good person–to not be bitter or rude. I want you to be open to new friends, but more importantly, I want you to know that it’s okay to be you. It’s more than okay, actually. I want you to be proud of who you are. I want you to walk with your head help up high. I want you to know that it’s okay if you don’t look or act like everyone else. I want you to know that that’s perfectly fine. I also want you to know that as free as you are to be yourself, others are free to be who they are. Never make someone feel ashamed for being who they are.
And the most important thing I want you to know is that I love you-every minute of every day. Always know that you are loved.
I want to tell you all of these things. Instead, I’ll just tell you to be kind. Be the kind of friend that you want to have. Oh, and have an awesome first day of pre-k. Mommy loves you.
 
 

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