No Child Left Behind

Loved1

 

Our local paper wrote a story on my book; I thought I would share it on my blog (source) http://www.eaglebulletin.com/news/2014/jul/23/no-child-left-behind/

“During his more than 20 years of teaching in elementary schools in Brooklyn, Atlanta and Washington DC, Jason Galvez taught many different classes, several subjects and hundreds of students. And during his time working in Washington, DC, only one of his students came from a home with a mother and a father.

Galvez would spend hours searching through the school libraries for books that depicted all different kinds of family dynamics, and usually came up empty handed.  “I would either have to lie to my students and change the pronouns, or try to order special books that cover diverse families,” said Galvez, who now resides in Manlius. “And instead of continuing to try to find more, I decided to write one.”

On Feb. 25, Galvez’s first book, titled “I Am Loved Right Where I Am,” was released on Amazon.com and on Barnes & Noble’s website. The book follows a little girl named Sylvia who lives with her grandmother in Washington, DC. She takes the reader on a journey to meet all of her friends, who all come from different family dynamics: children who are raised by foster parents, same-sex parents, stepparents, an older sibling, a single parent and even a family with a mother and father.

“For children not just to survive but to thrive in life, your foundation, which is your home, needs to be relatively solid,” he said. “I remember seeing fellow teachers teaching a lesson on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, and you would see some kids sort of slump in their chair a little because they didn’t feel belonged. And if we’re going to arm our children for success, it needs to start at home and we need to give them a solid foundation [by enforcing the idea that] where they are is precisely where they belong and that they’re loved.”

Galvez, a self-proclaimed psychology enthusiast, said the bare-bones idea for the book came from psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which states that love and belonging are among the basic human fundamental needs in life.

He began writing the book when he was still living in Washington, DC as a way to help students who may not fit the traditional family dynamic feel that they do belong, and for children who come from homes with a mom and dad to realize that the world they live in is much bigger than what they may see or are used to.  And he’s noticed a real need for the book – since Galvez began working in public schools 20 years ago, he said it’s becoming more and more common to see children coming from untraditional households.

“Even statistically, if you look at the divorce rate ten years ago compared to now it has changed,” he said. “And family dynamics have changed, and we need our media and books to keep up with those changes if we want our children to survive.”

On the last page of the book, Sylvia asks the reader, “What kind of special family do you have?” Galvez hopes the book will be used as a catalyst for family discussion about family dynamics, a topic that’s as uncomfortable to many parents as sex.  A lot of times, for whatever reason, parents don’t want to say, ‘Do you know that so-and-so doesn’t have a dad?’ Or that ‘So-and-so is raised by their sister?’ And I don’t know why that’s such a taboo topic when it’s around us everywhere.”

Proceeds from “I Am Loved Right Where I Am” go directly to charities, Galvez said. Although he wrote the book for a third-grade audience, he’s received emails from parents with toddlers to eighth-graders who have enjoyed the book. To order the book, visit amazon.com/Am-Loved-Right-Where/dp/1630633038. “If I can help one child walk out of their house in the morning feeling a little more confident, my job is done,” he said.”

 

Please share this post as my book has helped many children and families, and I would love to see it help many more.  For a list of all ordering options;

 Amazon http://tinyurl.com/oyjmzxu

Barnes & Noble http://tinyurl.com/p822wrz

Hardcover http://tinyurl.com/pr5e9q8

Signed Copy http://jasonj.biz/author.php

Youtube Video http://tinyurl.com/ocupldl

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I Am Loved Right Where I Am

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Amazon http://tinyurl.com/oyjmzxu

Barnes & Noble http://tinyurl.com/p822wrz

Hardcover http://tinyurl.com/pr5e9q8

Signed Copy http://jasonj.biz/author.php

Youtube Video http://tinyurl.com/ocupldl

I recall my first grade teacher (Ms. Martin) talking about a fun craft project which included the use of scissors.  I was beyond excited and could not wait to begin.  Ms. Martin placed the scissor rack in the center table and off we all dashed with anticipation. To my disappointment however the only options were right-handed scissors.  Being left-handed I did not know how to cut with right-handed scissors but seeing all my classmates I desperately tried.  Try as I may my cut-outs were looking nothing like those of my classmates.  Frustrated I secretly asked myself why I was different.  Ensuring the rack included a pair of left-handed scissors would have prevented the feeling of isolation I experienced.  It was there in elementary school I first experienced the feeling of being dissimilar and not belonging.

Fast forward twenty five years I became a teacher myself (obtained my Masters in Arts and Teaching at Trinity University in Washington, D.C.).  I taught various grades and subjects in Syracuse, N.Y., Brooklyn, N.Y., Atlanta, GA and Washington, DC.  Prior to teaching I was a youth counselor for many years – working with youth diagnosed from moderate to severe intellectual disabilities, behavioral and emotional challenges, those diagnosed with autism/Asperger’s syndrome and even including eating disorders.  While working with children I have noticed a disheartening truth over the years.  Regardless of the therapeutic setting, classroom or child population, one thing that became abundantly clear to me is that children who do not fit the “traditional family” mold at times face a tremendous sense of feeling alone and uncomfortable – especially because every book in their homes, schools and libraries mention a mom and dad. It is certainly no fault of the families involved but more so the fact that, as a whole, society caters to the commonly advertised mom and dad family.

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs the feeling of belonging is one of our basic needs, and one in which many successes are based on.  Students, who do not feel belonged, long for understanding, yearn for relatability and, at times, struggle with isolation.  We live in a society where our books, music, conversations, holidays etc. are geared exclusively to families made up of a mom and dad.  While I think that we need to embrace and celebrate the mom and dad family dynamic, we also need to embrace and celebrate ALL family dynamics just the same.

When I worked with elementary students I was always careful with my pronouns during story time.  I would try and use “parents” or “family” instead of the usual “Mom and Dad.”  The reality is that there are many different family dynamics.  Children often come from a home with a step-parent, foster-parent, same-gender parents, single parent, grandparents etc., and sadly our books and language often (yet unintentionally) overlook this rapidly growing reality.  In order to thrive and succeed children need to feel affirmed and belonged regardless of where they come from, and with whom they happen to live.

Frustrated over the constant lack of children’s books on family diversity that spoke directly to a child’s self-esteem I decided to do something about it so I wrote and illustrated my own easy to read children’s book, “I Am Loved Right Where I Am” http://tinyurl.com/oyjmzxu

This book is a phenomenal educational tool for every child, and every home in America.  If the child reading I Am Loved Right Where I Am comes from a home with a Mom and Dad than they will not only relate to one of the characters in my book, but also learn that many of their friends and classmates may come from different family dynamics.  Children that come from other family dynamics (foster, step-parent, same-gender parents, single parent etc.) will also relate to some of the characters in my book and have a sense of family equality.  The goal of my book is quite simple; after browsing this easy to read children’s book the reader will walk away feeling belonged, loved, as well as, have a stronger sense of universal connection.

If we want our children to succeed in life it starts early, and especially in school where pressures of all types are constantly bombarding our children from every direction.  At the same token my book is just as educational for those that are home-schooled or children out of school.  Even such children are not safeguarded from the media, their (good-intentioned) friends and society.  We must ensure our youth feel safe, comfortable and belonged.  If a child is constantly on mental guard from friends, extended family members, society, the media etc., he or she cannot be fully focused on learning, or be able to reach self-actualization in life.

Please take a look at the wonderful reviews from those that have read my book http://tinyurl.com/oyjmzxu and treat that special or someone to a copy.  You have the option of ordering from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and even a signed copy via paypal.  This book is a great addition to your personal book collection, home library and most certainly gift to that special child or family.  Happy reading

 Amazon http://tinyurl.com/oyjmzxu

Barnes & Noble http://tinyurl.com/p822wrz

Hardcover http://tinyurl.com/pr5e9q8

Signed Copy http://jasonj.biz/author.php

Youtube Video http://tinyurl.com/ocupldl

* Please share (buttons below) as proceeds of my book go directly to charities *

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Filed under Bullying, Discrimination, Education, Equality, Love, Media, parents, School, Uncategorized, Youth

Our Life, A Mere Vapor

Our life, a mere vapor

Recently my father turned 63. While celebrating I watched the family interact and socialize. It was one of those “aha” life moments seeing three generations (my father, my siblings, and my children) at one table. It was not too long ago that I was talking with my grandfather who is no longer with us. At some point in our lives we face the realization that we all, even our parents, are just tall children trying to navigate this perplexing and often challenging world the best we/they know with the tools given (or not) in childhood.

Although the relationship with my father growing up was far from ideal, we both have matured and are learning healthy father/son dynamics as adults. I do not necessarily think any parent has bad intentions for their children; we are all simply a product of our childhood – the good and the bad – as are all generations before us. When I view my parents as tall children – who are a product of their own childhood – it helps me understand them, forgive them, and love them.

It won’t be long before my toddler will be playing with his grandchildren. Reminds me of a trip I once took to Arlington cemetery in Washington, DC. Our tour guide stated, “On every gravestone there are two dates – one in which you came in the world, and the other in which you left. Although you have little say on those dates, you have all the say on what happens in between them.” Days may be long but the years short. Are you pleased with the decisions you are making in life? Like it states in James 4 “life is but a vapor. Here today, gone tomorrow.”

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June 2, 2014 · 4:32 pm

Hope Will Never Be Silent

Hope Will Never Be Silent

This month, the USPS will start offering Harvey Milk postage stamps. Harvey Milk became a national gay rights hero in 1977 when he was elected to a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Milk’s belief that the U.S. Government should represent all areas of American society encouraged and inspired the gay community at a time when discrimination and homophobia was rife. Milk was instrumental in educating the public on the dangers and absurdity of Proposition 6, which would have made firing gay teachers mandatory in the state of California.

Milk was a highly respected civil rights advocate and loved human being. Sadly however, just eleven short months after serving the people of his district, Harvey was murdered (shot point blank in the head) by Dan White – an anti-gay colleague. Mr. White was eventually convicted of voluntary manslaughter; it was an appalling legal injustice.

What I find ironic is that although some deem our lives worthless, history has shown that we are some of the strongest, most resilient, and courageous people. For centuries we have been imprisoned, beaten, bullied, mocked and murdered. Gay people have been used as science experiments, and regularly regarded as less than human. According to FBI statistics, every four minutes in our nation a crime is reported from a gay person being harassed, bashed, bullied, etc. These reports often include death threats – and these are just the reports on record. Incalculable acts of gay bashing are never reported due to shame, humiliation, embarrassment, and death threats if they are reported. Gay people cannot, to this day, freely walk in their pride parades or get married without hearing insults, slander, and verbal attacks from scores of deluded people with bullhorns. Every day across the U.S., gay couples and their homes are robbed, egged, vandalized, and burned by hate-motivated arsonists. If you open a newspaper or do a quick online search, you will find gays are daily brutally beaten, burned, mobbed, assaulted, bashed, intimidated, even killed as acceptable “punishment” simply for the way they are born. Not too long ago, we suffered excessive and demeaning bar raids, including completely unnecessary and extreme brutality from police officers. We agonized silently, having no legal recourse or protection. As an invisible minority we had no voice and few allies.

Our community encounters countless double standards. I see many young straight couples passionately making-out in shopping malls but if a gay couple holds hands they’re “flaunting their lifestyle.” When anti-gay groups call for nationwide boycotts, it is deemed a righteous use of the free market in order to preserve morality, marriage, family, and the American way. But when the gay community exercises their right to boycott, it is then homofascist intimidation, intolerance, bullying, a stifling of religious liberty, and an attempt to deny others the freedom of speech. Sadly, the examples are many.

Despite these constant travesties to our community, we continue to boldly live in love, forgiveness, and hope. We are a community often fired from our jobs for who we are, yet the first ones to lend an ear to others in need. We are a community disowned by our families, yet first to give a helping hand to others lost. We are a people continually knocked down physically, spiritually, and mentally, but stand tall and proud while dusting ourselves off. Yes, we are that community. You can throw us to the wolves, but rest assured we’ll return leading the pack.

I will share my personal story at another time but in short, I lived on my own at the young age of fourteen, forcing me to leave school and work three low-paying dead end jobs to pay rent and bills. My future was looking miserable at best. I was too young to drive and too poor for public transportation. My seven day work weeks were long and grueling. Life was not easy and I never knew what the next day held, or if my tired legs could endure another day. I guess you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have!

In time I realized that although I had little say about my start, I had all the say about my finish. I went on to serve eight honorable years in the United States Military four in the Army and another four in the Air force). I returned to school, eventually graduating with a master’s degree in education (high honors). I moved to NYC and worked on various television and movie sets. I wrote and recorded a CD and performed at many venues, wrote and illustrated a now published children’s book “I Am Loved Right Where I Amhttp://www.jasonj.biz/author.php I joined a pop group and toured the nation – one such performance was for the wedding of Shania Twain’s manager. Pictures of the wedding, and our group, were featured in a nation-wide publication. I am happily married for almost twelve years with one child and one on the way. Most significantly, I remain steadfast in my relationship to my heavenly Father, and my daily renewal to follow His examples.

I share some of my life highlights not in any way to boast, or for a pat on the back. I share them simply as an example of how our community repeatedly turns our tests into testaments, and our messes into messages. Despite endeavors and accomplishments, I am habitually surrounded by naysayers. Our community and all our successes are persistently dismissed, debased, and disregarded. How cruel and unfair when others throw you out in the cold and then get upset when you learn how to get warm on your own.

If you are gay, or an ally, know that you are a part of magnificent and exceptional community. I always say gay people are like winning the lottery; one never knows when a winning ticket will emerge from the family. I hope your next post office trip includes a Harvey Milk stamp or two as your support speaks volumes and marks a better tomorrow. When the gay community is strengthened, every community is strengthened!

The great Harvey Milk is unfortunately gone, yet his heroism, fearlessness, and fortitude live on. Decades after his death, Milk is still opening hearts and minds and encouraging all to live authentically. Harvey Milk’s passion for equal rights put his own life in danger, and he knew it. While writing this post, John 15:13 came to mind, “No one has greater love than this, that one should lay down his life for his friends.” There are many scholarly interpretations of this superb verse; however my favorite is from Harvey Milk himself, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet shatter every closet door!”

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May 1, 2014 · 4:13 am

“Married” is universally understood

Twelve years ago, on our first date, Eric and I spoke in length about the importance of our individual spiritual walk, and our wish to eventually have children. Four years later, while in Venice Italy walking side by side underneath an umbrella, Eric stopped to kneel and propose. Three years later (seven years to the day we met) we officially tied the knot in my hometown of Syracuse N.Y. in front of hundreds of cheering friends and family members.

One day while making lunch I felt a small pain in my lower back. Assuming it twisted the wrong way I ignored it. However the pain became increasingly unbearable. I called Eric (who immediately left a meeting) and came home. When Eric walked in and found me pale-white and on the verge of tears he swiftly assisted me to the car and rushed to the nearest emergency room. When we arrived at the hospital I was in the most indescribable pain, and in tears. I could not talk, walk or think. The medical personnel had many questions and asked Eric his relation to me. “My spouse” he uttered as they rushed me into a room and quickly attached an I.V. Although I have a pretty high threshold for pain, it was so intolerable all I could do was scream. All the while Eric stood at my bedside calmly speaking and responding to questions from nurses, doctors and billers.

Countless hours, and many tests later, I was discharged home with powerful pain medication where I would eventually pass my kidney stone. Though my physical pain eventually decreased my emotional pain for the gay community increased. While in the hospital Eric didn’t have to explain that he was my civil-unioned domestic partner lover (or any other grossly misunderstood and watered down term and the countless confusing state laws that vary with them). He simply said, “We are married.” The word “married” is universally understood. I am grateful to live in a state where all citizens are treated equally. My heart bleeds for the many across the U.S. that are not.

When I reflect back on our first date I am almost amazed at what has come to fruition. Here we are with one child and one on the way, happily married and living a very Christ-centered life in a state that respects everyone equally. While enjoying the blessed life that I live I vow to never stop fighting for all of my brother’s and sister’s rights to marry the love of their lives, regardless of where they happen to live.

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March 20, 2014 · 10:19 pm

Christian students kicked out of their university

This article was published in a student-run newspaper at a right-wing Christian University. After making significant changes to its doctrinal statement, ousting many of its staff and faculty, and relieving a gay student from all his ministry opportunities—despite his commitment to being single and following the community covenant—the University appears hostile for other students who also experience same-sex attraction. The writer has asked to remain anonymous to protect his identity.

 

Medieval author Christine de Pizan had some choice words for the conspiracies of her time—after all, blaming women for corruption in society and oppressing them as a result of such blame did not line up with her own observations of the female “race.” In The Book of the City of Ladies, Pizan argues that “Even if some wicked women have done evil things, it still seems to me that this is far outweighed by all the good that other women have done and continue to do.” Furthermore, she says, “This should prove to you that not all men’s arguments are based on reason, and that these men in particular are wrong.” I have utmost empathy for Pizan, because people like me are also mischaracterized and thrown to the curb far too often—thanks to individuals acting in “the name of God and the Bible.”

The fact is that I’m gay. No, I’m not nor have I ever been in a relationship with another guy. I’m not writing to change your political or theological perspective on the issue, either. Instead, I want to stand up against the mischaracterization that we (the gay community) receive all the time in places like my school. You say, “dude, I’m not condemning you at all—but the gay community is an endorsement of a sinful lifestyle! Don’t identify with it.” Exactly my point. In the same manner of Pizan’s time, when women as a collective were ignorantly thought to have corrupt motives, the Church today does not even try to understand the gay community.

Historically speaking, people fear what they don’t know—anything that looks different. And I believe that’s our problem. We look threatening, and it brings a whole host of mischaracterization.  The F Word.  This mischaracterization puts me into a constant state of fear, not only at school but also at home. My parents have no idea that I don’t like women, but I cannot tell them. In a meeting with Christopher Yuan (a well-known author and speaker) last year, he suggested I “test the waters” and talk about the issue before coming out. So I did. I told them that I had met a gay kid at my school (sort of true) and that I was helping him by serving as an accountability partner (also sort of true). In reality, though, I am that gay kid. Their response, you ask? They told me to get away from him—simply because he might “make me gay” too. My mother also said that she “couldn’t believe gay people were at a Christian school. He must be sneaking out at night to have promiscuous sex! That’s what gay people do, after all.” I nearly began to sob—how could they say such things about their own son, knowing or not? How could they be so ignorant?

The point is that Conservative Christianity doesn’t get a bad reputation for believing gay sex is a sin. Conservative Christianity gets a bad reputation because it refuses to understand the gay community. From the outside, all that Christians see are a bunch of men in speedos dancing at pride parades; they see a group that wants to corrupt families and turn against God. They don’t ever stop and think, “Why do they host pride parades?” They refuse to think that, gasp; gay people might actually desire genuine love and families to raise—not sex, sex, and more sex. Worst of all, they refuse to see how lonely I am. I do not believe I was designed for singleness. I know what the classic response is. “But singleness is a blessing! 1 Corinthians 7:8b says, ‘It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.’” That is correct, but don’t forget verse 9b: “for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Do you understand the incredible, God-given, natural urge within me to have intimacy with another human being? Do you understand that one day, on my death bed; I will be in the hospital and breathing my last few breaths—and will glance around the room only to discover that no one is there? No husband ever existed, no children raised, no family legacy to leave behind. This… this is not natural.

The gay community isn’t an evil effort to destroy morals and God. The gay community is made up of thousands of people, just like me, who desire love and unity through marriage. As I said before, I don’t want to change your views theologically or politically. What I want to change is the flawed and ignorant fear towards the gay community. When you see a pride parade, understand that gay people are told throughout their entire lives that they are scum. Pride is an event for gay people to feel normal and… “not scum.” I’m not endorsing everything that happens, and I personally don’t like those parades. I’m simply explaining that you mustn’t live and act out of fear toward the gay community. When we ask you to legalize gay marriage, we aren’t secretly plotting to get rid of morals and destroy families. Actually, at a time when you straight folks are divorcing more than ever, we’re the ones asking to get married! Like Pizan argues about women, I must argue that gay people have done far more good than bad. It’s well known that gay folks often find themselves in human rights campaigns, feeding the homeless, and caring for the community in general. Are you sure we’re destroying society?

It is Time for the American Christian Church to Surrender the Gay Marriage Fight, Apologize, and Share Love at the end of the day; I’m not actually for or against gay marriage (at a personal level). I’m still figuring that out—and studying scripture first. But I’m in danger. When the university administration chooses to strip a gay student of all his leadership and ministry positions (and he ends up at a nearby state school) because he’s not sure what he believes on the issue, that’s a problem. It means that for the rest of my time at school, my status is on the line. I have to live in fear of my own “Christian” community and what they might do to me. They fear us because they think we’re parasites. They think we’re in a massive plot to destroy your morals and theology. In their ignorance, they act. And thanks to those actions, I must fear. And in my fear, I am deeply broken. I leave you with this question: If Jesus was in charge of my school, would he endorse a religious bubble built on codes and regulations that strip people of their ministry and leadership opportunities—even their fate at the school—for questioning the validity of such positions? Would students like me have to live in fear?

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Sports; No woman, no blacks and now no Gays

I was about to post my thoughts regarding Michael Sam when a blog-follower sent me this video. I was touched by his eloquence and progressive understanding of humans (especially from a generation where gay discrimination was completely acceptable) that I decided posting it would fare far better. Enjoy and God bless.

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February 12, 2014 · 7:54 pm