African Americans, particularly in North Carolina, sacrificed more to build schools than any other group. Despite this, many educators accept the myth that African American families are less interested in education than others. Historically, nothing could be further from the truth. I call this damaging stereotype “the inversion.”

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Nida Hayes Murphy, early teacher in Pender County, NC. Undated image courtesy of New Hanover County Public Library, identification provided by local family members

If you teach in Title One (high poverty) schools as I do, then it is likely that you have endured many workshops focused on student deficits. Title One schools are likely to have a higher proportion of students of color than their wealthier counterparts. At one point, I taught in a school where the student body was over 95% African American. …


Mom,writer, filmmaker, teacher, recovering New Yorker

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Editing my feature film Sharecrop

My writing, filmmaking and teaching are all knit together by my fascination with stories. Over the past 17 years I have created documentaries centered on oral history of historic African American schools, and on sharecropping. (You can learn more and link to film trailers, and stream four of my films on Amazon, see my website below for more information).

Regarding my writing and what I publish on Medium, many of my articles are related to the history that is addressed in my documentaries. I have also shared personal essays and short fiction. I grew up in NYC in the 1970s, which was a wild time there, so sometimes I reflect on how those experiences impact my understanding of my students (I teach in an alternative school for students with mental health challenges). …


Murphy uses counseling skills and documentaries to address historical trauma

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Frederick DeShon Murphy, picture courtesy of Mr. Murphy/History Before Us LLC

As a child growing up in rural Tennessee, Frederick DeShon Murphy gravitated to his elders. Starting at age 11, he would interview older family members and write their stories down. All the while, his mother worked two or three jobs as a CNA to support the family.

As he matured, Murphy became impressed by the appreciation his mother’s patients showed her. This gave rise to his twin passion for helping people and for storytelling. When he learned how few African Americans practiced in the field of mental health, he resolved to become a counselor.

Having earned his BA in Psychology at Tennessee State University in 2003, Murphy continues to work as a counselor. Then his career took a new direction when he picked up a film camera in 2016. He has combined his understanding of mental health with his talent for storytelling to create films and presentations that foster understanding. Murphy also holds two Master’s degrees: An MA in Professional Counseling, and an MS in Transformative Leadership in 2015. …


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Photo by Artur Aldyrkhanov on Unsplash

If your child has a learning disability navigating remote learning and/or changing school routines has probably been stressful. Here a few tips from three decades of experience teaching at every level (Kindergarten through graduate school).

1.Ask for simplicity and clarity in schoolwork: If your child has an IEP, you have more influence than you may realize. Under federal law, you have the right to call an IEP meeting at any time. If your child has been struggling due to complicated assignments given with too little guidance, you can ask for a change. You know your own child best, and you witness how s/he is coping with schoolwork. During an IEP meeting, you can share this information, and ask for accommodations that help your child. For example, depending on your child’s disability, you might ask that your child get written AND verbal directions, or assignments that are “chunked” (broken down step by step), or extended time.


It can work for you too!

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Photo by Sam Marx on Unsplash

Recently I shared an article about how meditation helped me to find satisfaction in small daily routines. This is in spite of the fact that, as we go through the height of this pandemic, I have to isolate at home because of my suppressed immune system.

Yet as we start the new year, I still have an urge for renewal. As in prior years, I came up with some resolutions. These resolutions give me a sense of growth, even within my current confinement. My resolutions are to:

1.Read a different perspective daily: With all of the content on the internet, it is not difficult to find new writing. However, our preferences online tend to build an echo chamber around us. The new articles and books that flood our feed mostly stay within our general worldview. This resolution is about seeking out and reading an article or blog or book excerpt by someone who challenges my way of thinking. For example, I am now following Robert A. George, who leans conservative and writes for Bloomberg. Although I don’t always agree with his positions, I respect his intelligence and integrity, and he always gives me food for thought. …


A serial novel by Claudia Stack

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Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-npcc-18452 (digital file from original) Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Maggie felt a foot prod into her back and sleepily tried to push it away. “Stop Seamus!”

Cook kicked her harder and said, “Should have known you’d be a lazy one. And who is Seamus?” Her arched brow gave a tinge of indecency to the question.

“My brother, ma’am,” Maggie whispered, now fully awake and sitting up in the corner of the kitchen where the governess, Rose, had spread some blankets for her.

“The privy is out back. Hurry up, we have work to do.”

Cook turned back to the large butcher block table in the center of the kitchen while Maggie slipped out into the biting wind to the servants’ privy. Once inside, the cold made it almost unbearable to lift her skirt. …


A serial novel by Claudia Stack

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Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

Sonia shrugged and moved down the hall. She let the conversation with Sarah Brown pass from her mind, the little bit of intrigue she felt washed away in a tide of relief that the encounter was over. Surely this was the last she would hear from the old woman.

The elevator took her up. The top floor, where she and her father lived, had a different feeling than the other floors. Sometimes she pictured it as a vaulted cave, a place carved under layer upon layer of tarpaper that made up the roof. She let herself into the apartment. Silence greeted her. …


Do you get excited when you meet your deductible?

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These folks are happy because they understand their health insurance Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

Despite the fact that I can still turn the radio on at any time and hear the music of my youth — Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, etc. — I know I shifted into middle age a few years back. No, it wasn’t just parenthood (since, after all, teenagers can be parents). Nor was it just the fact that I developed a strong interest in drinking coffee and puttering around the house. Here are some undeniable signs I noticed that made me realize I had reached middle age:

1. Appreciating songbirds: As in, you look out the window and say to yourself “That’s a pretty Cardinal!” …


First, find the natural historians

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Claudia Stack interviews Carrie Mae Sharpless Newkirk in 2012

Adapted from the book Rosenwald School Reflections: Documentation & Preservation by Claudia Stack

When tackling a documentary project, I encourage you to expand your scope beyond “expert voices” (such as Ph.D.s in the field) to find the ordinary people who lived the history you are documenting. In every group or extended family, there seems to be at least one natural historian. By this, I mean at least one person who has a wonderful memory for details, and who cares a great deal about preserving the history of the group. These are the people you need to find, and they will usually help you make other connections. …


Caring for a baby requires mental shifts

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Photo by Michal Bar Haim on Unsplash

Even during these uncertain times, our biological clocks keep ticking, so many people are still asking themselves whether it’s the right time for them to become pregnant/adopt a baby. Here are a few thoughts, although this article is not intended to replace the advice of your partner, doctor, therapist, or family.

As the mother of two sons, and as a special needs teacher, I have experienced and witnessed many parenting situations. Often, it’s quite humbling. Sometimes, I get some insight. …

About

Claudia Stack

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