Today is the first anniversary of my first blog post. For the past week, I’ve been composing in my head a new version of “Why I (Still) Blog”, though I’m not really in the right place to do that right now (it will come sometime in the next couple of months).
As I’ve neared the completion of my master’s work (it’s actually done, I’m just revising a couple papers for publication, and will be giving a presentation this FRIDAY (not Thursday, as I accidentally typed last night) at Columbia University based on my thesis entitled, “LIteracy is Liberation: The Citizenship Education Program 1957-1965”, which is open to the public if anyone is interested – info here), I’ve been spending more time in various roles at the school in the Bronx I’ll be teaching at in the fall. I couldn’t possibly be more excited and content with the match that’s been made. In just two years, the school has built a real supportive community for both staff and students. In the past few weeks, I’ve sat in as a staff member presented a lesson plan to be critiqued by her grade level team as part of a weekly staff meeting, and been a part of a joint English/History 11th Grade planning meeting where two teachers with far more experience and success in the classroom than I’ve had eagerly listened to new ideas and decided to take their classes in a radical (and almost certainly more successful) direction. Both of these of these were 180 degrees away from previous school cultures I’ve encountered. I can’t wait for similar support for my teaching (which is 99% certain to be in a 10th Grade Global History classroom), and a similar chance to explore new ways of thinking about education. I’ve also had the chance to get to know some of the students, subbing one day, and spending today shadowing a 10th grade through his full day. They’re students I’m eager to work with.
However, one of my experiences today was a very strong reminded of just what challenges lie ahead (and what needs to be in the back of all minds when people talk about urban school reform). This afternoon at an all school gathering, students viewed a documentary against gun violence made by a 21 year old from Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn who witnessed his best friend shot and killed when they were 19. After the film, the documentarian asked the students two questions: How many of you know someone who has been killed by a gun? How many of you know someone who owns a gun?
Over half the students knew someone who had been killed. Almost all the students knew someone who owned a gun.
This is my students’ reality – one that I have never known, and probably will never be able to fully understand.