Sunday, March 28, 2010


I love shooting musicians. The synthesis for me is quite outer-worldly: I cannot live without music, it is my inspiration and support and release; and photography is my primary form of artistic expression (until i get good at writing), whose expression is a necessity for maintaining an internal equilibrium. That and I like getting into venues for free :)


So as many of you know I came to my class via Teach for America; an amazing organization with a very clear sense of purpose. As with any endeavor of great proportion there are a number of factors and units which do not get as much attention and are hence not as successful as others. On the whole though its mission is inspiring and whatever its faults and shortcomings it continues to bring positivity, hope and achievement where before there was despair and failure.
Everyone in TFA has to go through a summer institute of intense preparation before they can start teaching the following fall. This institute is intended on preparing you in 6 weeks for what “normal people” take 4 years and 6 months of student teaching to prepare! Stop and think about that for just a minute….
Got the picture?
Anybody want to wager on how many hours of sleep we averaged?
No? Common, give it a shot, just think, given the aforementioned data, how much we slept…
Ok, lets see how close you were: 2-3hours per night
Because it is an average this of course meant that some nights we slept as much as the luxurious 5 hours! And then some nights we did not sleep at all. Fun!
The hours we spent awake were filled with seminars, lesson planning, teaching, lesson planning, reading, research, classes and food on the run and then a little more lesson planning. Our minds were engaged 24 hours a day – which did not make for restful sleep.
For 6 weeks I slept in a dorm at St. Johns out in Queens; I came home only on Friday night and went back to institute Sunday early afternoon. During that day and a half that I spent at home I had to do as much as possible to remind my girlfriend why it is worth it to stay with me, though I was as distant as a 1950’s traveling vacuum salesman.
In retrospect, considering all I learned, all the time my mind was spent engaged in figuring out how the hell to teach my group of 8th grades, all that was achieved, and even more that was not: I would rather go through Marine boot camp than ever have to repeat TFA summer institute again.
It was a scarring experience, the result of which was me still being under-prepared when I entered my classroom for the first time. I had general ideas about things, but that is not good enough in the day-to-day of teaching.
With all that said it, as any stressful and PTSD inducing situation, gave fodder and inspiration to brief bouts of creativity. With your kind indulgence I would like to share these with you now:
These are some of the poems and chants that I came up with during the 2-3 minute intervals that I allowed myself for breaks:

This is a tough one. It’s a medley of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions. It may take a couple of tries to make sense, but trust me it does J
Queen medley (Bohemian rhapsody, we will rock you, we are the champions)
Is this the real class? (lead)
Is it just fantasy? (lead)
Caught up in institute, no escape from reality. (lead)
Open your eyes, look up at your class and seeeeeee, (chorus)
They are so bright yea, they need no sympathy, (chorus)
They need Just math all day, English all night, (lead)
Working hard, working right, (lead)
Anyway you choose your future, so it will be, for you, for you… (chorus)

Mama, we’re 1-4-3, we work relentlessly, we plan so purposefully, (chorus)
Never, is it too late to cry: “im gonna take control of my dear life”. (chorus)

Mama! Ooooo, im gonna pass the test, cause 143 is the best at (chorus)
Teaching me all I need to know, to be a citizen of this here world. (chorus)

we will, we will, teach you! (chorus)
We will, we will, teach you! (chorus)

Buddy you’re a scholar, you’re a reader and a writer, workin it hard to make college some day!
You got brain like mad, your movin’ ahead, gonna put all haters back into their bed.

We will, we will, teach you!
We will, we will, teach you!

We are the teachers my friends...(lead)
and we’ll keep on teachin to the end…. (chorus)
Our kids will learn yea, cause we’re 1-4-3 yea, (chorus)
we work relentless, (chorus)
cause they are our students…. To the end….. (chorus)

This is a poem I wrote the last week at Institute:

Its been a rough ride and
At moments we sank,
There were but a few on whom
We relied like a plank,
To get us over, to remember our dream
And that of the students, willing to dream.

So we grasped real hard, to strong arms extended,
We thought of the moments where despair seemed un-ended,
We marched forth with purpose, tenaciously driven,
Expecting the best, and no less being given.

Forthright on the mount we shall stand arm in arm,
Our brothers and sisters with whom our war wages on,
There shall be no rest, and no obstacle burden,
Such that our desire shall under-foot be trodden.

A difference we make, and seek in the midst,
A glimmer of hope and a prospect for bliss.
A time we shall make, by the sweat of our brow,
A time where we all shall sing our true vow:

Forever, pledge I, shall I toil and fight,
Against such injustice, no matter its might.
Alone I am not, my brethren abound,
The cracked bell shall toll that victory’s ours!

I will post some more tomorrow.
Let me know what you think!

1 comment:

  1. I love this photo. I also very much enjoyed all the poems. Keep it up.