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  • Najah Amatullah

Summers Off? Ha!


As a teacher, everyone keeps asking me how my summer is. This is a logical question when you are not a teacher.

Last year, I was working at the public library for extra money. I listened to several audiobooks while working, including the whole Bible.

In 2014, I pretended to get ready to teach at Millwood, but I don’t remember doing very much of significance. I did attend the AVID conference and it was very inspirational and exciting. I took a week-long, self-titled “East Coast Tour” to Baltimore, DC, and New York City. That was the most fun I’ve had in a while. I loved seeing the sites, and performing at Spit Dat as well as Busboys and Poets. I owe thanks to Edwin, DeEtta, and Lamarr for that great trip.

In 2013, I spent a week or more writing the curriculum for a 9th grade English class I never taught at a school I never signed a contract with.

But, I must confess that I have NEVER done as much summertime school prep as I should have. I should have been reading the dozens of works in the canon that I missed in my non-traditional route to becoming an English teacher. I am not a huge fan of classical literature. Don’t stone me. I find that it makes me more relatable to my students. I should have been mapping out my entire school year and studying standards. I was not doing any of that. I was just playing and reading for fun.

This summer, I’ve actually been preparing. Because, unlike last year or the year before, I am not waiting to teach a grade I’ve already taught. I’m moving from 10th grade – world literature – to 11th grade – American literature – AS WELL AS 12th grade – British literature. Fun times. The blessing is that I taught the major testing year first.

And those tests may be completely insignificant now. Because Oklahoma.

SO WHAT AM I DOING THIS SUMMER?

Well, I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I don’t really know why. I’ve read longer books. It’s possible that I’ve never read nonfiction that long though. My students will receive a ton of empathy from me this year when they drudge through it. I will also pace them and excerpt and such. They will be okay. The pay-off was amazing. It makes you consider and reconsider everything about race and religion (if you’re a Christian). It’s such an important book. I can’t wait to share it with my kids.

I am finishing The Kite Runner.

I am freelance project managing. I built a website for my boss and now need to find time to work on my own.

I am helping promote Black Future, a hip-hop album by my dear friend Jabee. Click here for more information about that.

I tried to sell Younique, but I failed again. There’s a part of me that really wants to but it’s hard because of all the other things my hands are in.

I tried to do yoga four times a week, but I am not yet successful. I have been several times though and I really like my yoga instructor, Lisa. Someone unaffiliated with the studio asked me if I wanted to get certified and teach for his business. The answer is yes. The question is when?

I cook a lot. I am pretty good at frying plantains. I make great stir-fry. I love tomatoes and infused water. No one can beat my queso. I bake rice in the oven – thanks Claudia. I’m a pro at spaghetti squash. I remembered that I actually really like to cook and I pray I will remember that on Sundays when I have to meal prep during the school year.

I took a fitness challenge based in philanthropy. Thirteen push-ups for 13 days to remember the 13 survivors of former Oklahoma City Police officer Daniel Holtzclaw’s sexual assaults. It was fun and it made me feel strong and it helped me realize that I am more motivated to do things for others than I am for myself.

I have performed several times (which means I have memorized poems). Chris McCain’s Dear Black Girl, You’re the Queen of the Universe events are so lovely. Shoutout to him for packing out Bistro 46 and giving us space to shine. That was a blessing. #OPThursdays and #OPSummer keep us hanging with family and exchanging art. Shoutout to StuMikeBen. I curated a poetry segment for the Classen Ten Penn block party, complete with hands-on novice-friendly activities and performances by myself and a couple of other lovelies (thank you Ashley and Odessa). And of course 3xDope at the Ice Event Center never disappoints the true lovers of music and words. I show I got to feature at was a true blessing. The stage was hot hot hot.

I got my semi-colon tattoo.

I have been researching youth poetry scenes in preparation for Oklahoma City’s. My research is so extensive that I’m in Washington, DC five days early for a school conference in order to watch the Brave New Voices youth poetry festival. Thanks to DeEtta again!

I went to the Black Lives Matter rally.

I joined The Conversation about systemic injustice in America with friends and strangers from all over Oklahoma City. The Palmers are #familygoals.

I went to the Emancipatory Education Conference hosted by Odyssey Leadership Academy. I learned that teachers and school leaders have a few things wrong. I have logged at least twenty hours of heart sharing and curriculum-planning and iron-sharpening with A.Kingston.

I have been attuning my heart to the message God wants us all to receive. We are asking for so many of the wrong things. We ought to be asking for the merciful miracle of changed hearts. We ought to be praying for love.


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