About Randy Miller

Randy R. Miller is a social studies teacher at Charter High School located in Camden, NJ. Randy has 5 years collective experience in both K-12 and higher education as a fundraiser, program coordinator and student advisor. He is also Co-Founder and CEO of MORE, Inc., which empowers urban youth and young adults holistically through education and mentoring using practical strategies for real life application. Randy received both his bachelor of arts degree (2005) and master’s degree in public policy and administration (2008) from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

Week 6/3 – 6/7

voiceI am good at pissing people off. My maternal grandmother always said to me that my mouth would always get me in trouble. Well, my grandmother, God rest her soul, she was right. My mouth has gotten me in more trouble than I can remember. I have learned over the years that if you are going to get in trouble, you have to make sure that it is calculated trouble; you cannot get in trouble without having a good reason.

For the most part at my school, I am a very “go with the flow” kind of guy; rarely do I give anyone trouble… but when I do, it is calculated and for a good reason. A few years back when our founder was embarrassed over YouTube videos from some of our students, she implored administration to remove students if necessary for making these videos. I simply sent out an email to the entire school to use a little discretion when it came to expelling and punishing kids. Well, the administrators were pissed off with me, and so too was our founder. I got called into meetings and was verbally reprimanded… trust that I gave those administrators some of their attitude back and although they made the formal move of writing me up, I was right and they were wrong.  I have on good authority that when the administration and governance had to backtrack on being irrational with their disciplinary decisions, they were told not to let the info get out – specifically because I called them out and warned them not to do so in my email to them. It was on that day a few years back that I was branded a troublemaker – a badge that I wear proudly for the sake of the students.

Moment of the Week

Our basketball coach finally got permission from our administration to have open gym at our school. In case you are unaware, open gym is not simply for kids to come and hang out. Open gym, within the inner-city at least, has the sole purpose of providing young boys of color a place to play ball so that they stay out of trouble – at least that is what it was when I was growing up. Playing ball at my Catholic grade school or at some of the schools in Camden were all the young men from the neighborhood including myself; the gym stayed open late, late enough so that by the time the gym closed, there was nowhere else for kids to go but home. From the looks of things, open gym at my school was another way to reward the students with good grades and good behavior, while holding it over the heads of the misguided students; I believe that is unfair and not in keeping with the spirit of open gym.

Open gym is supposed to be open for everyone. So I sent an email, to the entire school including the administrative team. I suggested that we have to stop going overboard with manipulating rewards and punishments to simply achieve the desired behavior from our students. Maybe my principal got a friendly email from our Chief Academic Officer to address me regarding my comments, because she was the only administrator who did. She gave me her thoughts and I returned the same in kind. The basketball coach reached out to me as well, almost in an admonishing tone… after I reasserted my position, he totally threw the administrators under the bus and told me how the whole thing went down – indeed one email looked different from other. Ultimately, once again my words, while they needed to be said, did nothing more than piss some folks off and fell on deaf ears and nothing about the execution of open gym has changed.

Lesson of the Week

Students need advocates. Adults are good for speaking their minds and complaining about every little insignificant thing that halfway impacts their ability to do what it is they are suppose to do. When a child complains, they are whining or being unreasonable. Someone has to call adults on their BS. That is what I did, and I will continue to do so, so long as I have weighed the costs and am prepared to deal with the consequences of speaking up on behalf of my students. Maybe you should consider doing the same thing at your school or place of employment. At the end of the day, we’ve all had people fight for us – parents, teachers, and coaches … kids cannot fight adults fair because the adults don’t want to account for their failures and inabilities.

Adults often take advantage of a child’s inability to control any given situation. When children don’t do what we (adults) want, we try to punish the hell out of them and if these kids already without, a system of punishments and rewards can often become ineffective and unjust. Punishments must fit the crime and from the stand point of an educator, you cannot play parent when convenient and switch back to educator when it gets tough wearing the parenting hat. Don’t be unfair to kids.  If you see someone being unfair to kids, speak up. We teach kids to respect adults and not to talk back… even when the adult is in the wrong, but there has to be someone to speak up for the kids. That’s why I pissed people off at work, for the sake of my students. Maybe, you should too.

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