While recently in the throws of February break rejuvenating away from the hubbub of the city in the quaint beach town of Montauk; Malcolm X and I were becoming intimate acquaintances. We had been for quite some time, actually. But it was here that I really started questioning him, his motives, and his overall sense of dedication to any cause he finds justified. As I was making direct connections to my own beliefs and passions, my pen went haywire. There was, by no means, enough blank space on the pages of this autobiography for my own thinking. Out came the post-its. The power button on the iPad came alive and my inquisition and deep thought went ablaze. While X and I could not be more different human beings the ideal of commonality among passion elated me.
Later that very same day, I was introduced to Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade’s invigorating message that immediately added even more fuel to my already-burning fire. From the moment I pressed play (thank you, Apple TV) I was captivated. Jeff is an outstanding educator who believes there are three kinds of hope: material, critical and audacious. He believes that our [urban] students are roses growing in concrete. I mean, the city has always been referred to as the concrete jungle! In order to really grasp the intensity and genuine love Jeff exudes with his message, you’ll have to watch for yourself.
There I was, hours away from the city and my students, yet never have I felt so connected. X’s passion exudes from his autobiography; Jeff’s passion seeps through his pores as his care is so loudly presented; and my passion was turning up the waves in the ocean right outside my window.
On my drive back to work that first Monday morning after break, I made a promise to myself. I promised to stay true to my passion and invite the new found passions I discovered to reside within me as well. My focus was by no means on the road, it was zoomed in on Jeff’s mantra: Tu eres mi otro yo! (You are the other me!) How could it not be? How could I not be heading back to room 382 thinking, “Students, you are my reflection…you are what I see when I look in the mirror. We are one.”?
As I headed into our building, my mind automatically trained itself on a female student that I have been working with for six months, but have yet to authentically connect with. Today was the day that was going to happen. The day had not begun, but I was sure of it. I was sure of it because I was going to channel all of the passion, intensity, and love I gathered over the break and pour it all over this student. I only hoped she wouldn’t mind!
As independent reading commenced I asked this student to join me with her new book, highlighter and pen. It was a piece well below her reading level (as is typical of her reading selections), but the premise captured her attention immediately: females making decisions based on their desperate need for belonging among other female peers. There’s no wonder.
X followed me to class that day, in many regards. As I put my chosen piece of literature on the table, a ‘huh’ surfaced from this female student. I opened to the chapter titled Icarus. I asked her if she knew what the title meant and the following is the dialogue that surfaced:
Ms. B.: Neither did I. I decided I wasn’t going to go any further into this chapter until I understood what this name resembled.
Ms. B.: So, I took to the internet and realized Icarus is the name of a Greek mythical figure whose father warned him of not flying too close to the sun with the wax wings in which he created for him. But, he did. And he fell straight out of the sky. Can you imagine?
B: Wow. Huh. That’s interesting.
Ms. B.: Isn’t it? Then, check this out…(I flipped to the last page of the chapter.) Read this last sentence. (B does.) Do you see it?
B: Whoa. It connects to the title. It explains what you just did. (Smile)
And it was at this moment, that the gathered passion, intensity and love I poured all over this student started to work its magic. Because here’s what happened next:
B: Ms. Bogdany, how do you know what to highlight though? I never know what to say — I mean annotate.
This may seem like a simple (and potentially expected response) but after working with this student since September, this was the very first time she was confident enough to be vocal with her inquiry. From there we opened her book (with much fervor) and highlighted a portion that she noted. I asked her what it meant, and she started to explain it…and, in her book, I wrote down her thoughts. I then asked her about her own ideas regarding this concept, and (with the longest response to date) she explained her insights about the decisions the main character is making. So, again…I scribed. We discussed. I annotated. She smiled.
Ms. B.: Do you see it now?
B: Hahah. I do. It…it makes you understand more. Thank you.
I explained the premise of this piece. She raised an eyebrow. I mentioned that when the other student was done, she may want to engage with it as it’s the same concept that envelopes her piece, yet it’s an informational, non-fiction piece. This piece is more level appropriate for her. Same concept, different genre, enhanced level. We’ll see.
In the meantime, I noticed during the rest of our two hours together that day, B’s book kept finding it’s way back onto her desk; her highlighter was incredibly busy; and her pen was relaying her inner voice on those very pages that previously would have remained untouched. And instead of refocusing her on the day’s lesson and activity; I whispered internally, “Tu eres mi otro yo.”