Tag Archives: Hartford Public Schools

LCFC Journal #23: Young, Black, Teaching in America Part III

16 Jul

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New School, New Rules

In 2018-19, I became the English Language Arts Teacher at West Middle Community School. As I transferred there fresh off my first-year teaching experience at Simpson-Waverly, I was hoping for similar results. However, I quickly learned that a new environment is one that brings forth a lot of adjustment. Whether that be daily routine, getting used to the people around you and how one goes about executing the job at hand. I remember feeling hopeful prior to the first day of school but also a bit vulnerable at the same time. There was no doubt that I wished I could drive up to the north end of Hartford and continue teaching at the gem of a school I loved but that wasn’t reality. I had to set my focus upon the present. And the present at the time called for my services more than I could have ever imagined.

Morning Line Up 2.0

My time at West Middle was not one where I simply was a teacher. It was one in which I stepped up and became a leader. For one thing, I had two different kind of students for 7th & 8th grade. 8th grade was one that was very rough around the edges due to them having a rotation of teachers coming and going over the last two years. 7th grade was a cohort that had a bit of structure and stability due to the strong presence and discipline of their 6th grade teachers. For me, I wanted to bring in the same kind of goal-setting or foundation that I learned at my prior school which led to me implementing my own rendition of the morning line up with the math teachers. At first, students didn’t like it but overtime they grew accustomed to the nature of the line up as well as its structure. The line up set boundaries, provided students with daily announcements, addressed hot topics of the school, behavior, discipline and whatever that was needed to let students know that nothing short of exemplary leadership and academic excellence was expected of them.

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West Middle Basketball

One day during dismissal in October, I remember my 6th grade colleague, Toni Johnson approaching me and asked if I liked basketball. In response, I told her, “Yes, I love basketball!” From there, I remember her asking if I would be interested in being the coach of the school basketball team. I told her that I would definitely consider it. She then told me that she’d talk to the athletic director of the team to coordinate a meeting about the position and what would be required to be certified. After meeting with the director, Joseph Bumpers, he told me that the coach of the team in prior years was moving on to something else, therefore, they needed to fill the position. I was truly happy to hear it as I thought it would be a challenge and a way for me to bond with my students. Once I started training camp and assembling the team, I realized that I needed more help due to my inexperience with the position and decided to allow someone who had prior coaching experience to assist me. That person I’m speaking of is a man by the name of Carlos Sierra Sr. His son, Carlos Sierra Jr. was the starting power forward on the team and he willingly wanted to help me coach and see the students to success on the court. I remember there being many days where students were upset with us because of the rigorous nature of Carlos’s training regimen. Overall, I loved it as I thought it provided our boys with discipline and structure that was sorely missing in their academics as well as personal lives. Ultimately, this led to a winning season where we went 5-2 in the regular season and 1-1 in Hartford’s postseason basketball tournament. Throughout the season we received a lot of good feedback and support from school staff and students. They were happy to see the team succeeding and playing together. For me, I was elated to see the boys being successful and the hard work paying off. There was no doubt that Carlos and myself put the best product out on the hardwood that we possibly could and I was very proud of that.

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Poetry Slamming

Every year of school I have a unit of study that focuses on poetry for both 7th and 8th grade. During these units I have a special guest poet visit the school to teach writing to the students for a week alongside myself. Over the last two years, every time I’ve done this, it has brought out the best in students in terms of them expressing themselves and how they truly feel about their personal lives and the world around them. While doing so, I decided to create events for students to showcase their writing. Although I had already done events to this degree before, it was the first time that students themselves were taking ownership of their work and producing content on another level. It was something to be marveled as students read poems about blackness, the story of their own lives and what they hoped for their selves in the future. As a writer and poet myself it was more than I could have ever asked for. I was truly impressed by their abilities and bravery to hit the stage and exude confidence as they performed their work.

The Catfish Crew

One day, I remember dropping off one of my 7th grade classes to lunch and I remember a few of my students stopping me in tracks to show me a script. When I looked at it, I saw that they had written something that was funny, smart and brimming with potential. To say that I was excited while reading the script is an understatement. I instantly imagined the possibilities and what could come out of a script. At Simpson-Waverly, I wrote, produced and directed a play in which my students starred in but at West Middle I went into the year with the intention of forming a creative writing and drama club that would enable students to create their own original work in class and on stage. And so, once basketball season ended, I quickly formed the club. For weeks on end, we wrote, laughed, and marveled at the level of skill and innovation that was displayed in each person’s writing and worked hard to create a play that the school could be proud of and enjoy all the same. Unfortunately, that did not happen as students were unable to learn the script due to high demands of testing and a rigorous school schedule. However, their efforts were not in vain as the work done in both club time and prior to the poetry slams resulted in an anthology of short stories and poems called The Ocean of Emotion by the students themselves. I’ll never forget receiving the package with all the books inside of them. I’m sure that there is no way I will be able to top that achievement as a teacher.

The Horizon

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Looking back, I’m proud of the impact I made at West Middle. I learned a lot about what being a leader is. I learned a lot about stepping up to the plate and servicing the needs of my students. I learned a lot about who I am as a person and how genuine it is in my character to give and provide opportunities for students to be successful. I learned a lot leading a group of young men on the basketball court and guiding them to a winning season as players and as students. I learned a lot about giving a group of young ladies the chance to have their voices heard in poetry slams and read in a book as they’ve become published authors. I am more than grateful for the relationships I’ve formed with my students and it is my hope that they realize that the sky for them is the limit and that life for them has only just started.

 

Thank You’s (West Middle)

I would like to thank everyone and all organizations at West Middle Community School that provided me with opportunities and assisted me in making an impact this past school year. These organizations are: Hartford Public Schools and the Boys & Girls Club of Asylum Hill. Those people are: Lynn Estey, Joseph Bumpers, Stacy-Monique Wylie-Arthur, Candace Greenfield, Carlos Sierra Sr. and Ashley Jackson. You all are appreciated for all that you do to help our students. I thank you all again for such a wonderful experience at this school as I move on to the next part of my journey as an educator in the upcoming school year.

 

Signing Off,

– Mr. Kevin Anglade

ELA Teacher (West Middle) 2018-19

 

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of mercy for murder(s) in brooklyn, a detective fiction novel. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He recently taught 7th & 8th grade English Language Arts in Hartford, Connecticut and is the author of the poetry collection “Life Comes From Concrete”: a poetry memoir (2016).

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

LCFC Journal #22: Young, Black, Teaching in America Part II

18 Jun

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In 2017-18, I found myself to be extremely fortunate to have been hired as a 7th/8th grade ELA teacher at Simpson-Waverly Community School in Hartford, Connecticut. After completing my training at TFA Institute in Philly where I served my summer 17’ assignment at Simon Gratz High School, I was ready for the next chapter. Or, at least I thought I was. After returning home on Sunday, July 30th. I racked my brain wondering what was next for me in Connecticut as I hadn’t been offered a job or granted many interviews at that point in time. The more I thought about it, the more nervous I became.

And so, a week later, I was off to Connecticut for August training with TFA in which I was focused on lesson planning and freaking out about my lack of a guaranteed job. Once training concluded the week of the 15th and school was about to begin, I received a call from the Dean of Students at Simpson-Waverly telling me that they were interested and requesting that I come in for an interview.

Upon arrival, I found myself seated with the Dean of Students and principal. Although I was nervous and felt unprepared due to it being last minute, I felt a bit at ease with them since they were both black admins and as a young man of color it meant a lot to me to see people that looked like me as head representatives of the faculty and administration. After the interview, (which I thought went well) I remember following up with the principal, thanking him for the opportunity and wishing him well in the hopes that I wanted to be there during the first day of school.

Less than a week later, he reached out to me by e-mail and said that he wanted me on his team for the 2017-18 school year which was scheduled to start in a week’s time at that point. During that moment in time, I was excited for what was to come and promised to put my best foot forward. However, what was certainly going to be a problem heading into the first day of school was that I had no materials, classroom items, resources, etc. Although a major concern, it turned out alright for me as I was lucky to be placed with three teachers apart of my middle school team that really helped me get my classroom in order and always reached out for assistance and answered my questions as I was getting acclimated to the school culture, climate of education and everything you could name or think of in between.

Now, as for teaching goes. Let’s just say that not only was I overwhelmed but I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing. I hadn’t made lesson or unit plans as I was not sure what I would be focusing on with my students and it certainly showed. The students seeing this, definitely took advantage of me as they knew I was still trying to figure it all out. And so, I remember one day teaching in either my third or fourth week in which I lost complete control of the classroom. No one was paying attention, students were doing whatever they wanted and one student came up to me and told me that if I didn’t think I could do the job any longer that I should quit. The student said, “Mr. this is how it always is around here and if this is too much for you it’s okay to quit because it’s only going to get worse.” I didn’t doubt her and part of me wanted to heed her advice and get the hell out of there because I felt as if I didn’t deserve the stress and since I had just wrapped up my Master’s degree and desired to return to academia that a job of this nature was definitely not worth it. But somehow, I stuck with it and I hung in there, trying and failing, learning and doing, until I eventually got the hang of it with practice and coaching that I received from my school, TFA coach, colleagues and professional development opportunities from the school district.

The true turning point for me came on the 25th of October that year. I had missed the day prior because my car window had been busted and I had to take the day off to repair it. However, when I returned to school, the kids started saying, “Mr. Anglade, you’re FAMOUS!! We found your books and poetry on google!” As I heard this I was taken aback as I couldn’t deny it but also flattered at the same time. From that point on my students no longer looked at me the same and I felt a shift in terms of their admiration for me. The fact that I had a layer beneath the surface that exhibited me as more than a teacher really made me appear cool or something of the sort. Often more times than not, students in America paint a picture that their everyday school teachers only do one thing. It’s kind of similar to the stance you take as a child growing up. You forget that your very own parents had lives before you and that at one point they were kids just like you that did exactly what you do or maybe even worse. And so, I think it was cool to be accepting of this fact and for my students to see this side of me.

Furthermore, the students’ expectations or understanding of me shifted again but this time it happened on the basketball court as the school coach asked me and a few college youth interns to practice with the team through a scrimmage to help prepare them for the upcoming season. I obliged and found it to be thrilling as the students were taken aback that their ELA teacher could not only play basketball put perform well and keep up with them out on the court. Although, I didn’t think about it much, afterwards I reflected and thought how important it was to have my students see that side of me. It really meant a lot to them and as a result their respect and appreciation for me grew even more.

During my time serving the students of Simpson-Waverly, I thought it was important to not only teach them what was expected from the curriculum and state standards but I also thought that I made them think critically about the theme of every book we covered by having them explore films, music videos, hip hop and interviews to expand their understanding of the topics we covered which enabled them to wrestle and unpack those ideas in a humanistic way. These were everyday thoughts or concerns that also affected their livelihoods and the people within their community.

At the end of the school year, my creative side started bubbling. Since I knew the school was closing, I became inspired and thought it would be incredible to put on an open mic/sketch show that combined the components of Russell Simon’s Def Poetry Jam with Damon Wayan’s In Living Color. At first, the idea seemed great and the kids loved the script that I drafted but I wasn’t sure if it would actually happen as the kids weren’t focused most of the time or taking it too seriously. However, the idea was executed and the students rocked the production for our entire middle school to great success. I was so proud of them that I couldn’t contain my excitement or how I felt about the production and I’m sure they appreciated the opportunity and got something great out of it too. To this day, I look at that production as my greatest artistic achievement and feel so humbled and lucky to have worked with such amazing students.

On graduation day, I was clapping and cheering for my students as I was so proud of them and overwhelmed with joy. But as I clapped I couldn’t help but think that I would never see most of them again and that they were moving on to high school one step closer to being adults in this big scary world. Though, I was at peace that I had done my job and was happy to see them all advance to what lied ahead. It also hit me that the school year flew by and that the ten months I was fortunate enough to spend with them was simply a moment in time that I’m glad I not only experienced but cherished, both good and bad.

Moving forward, I will never forget my time served as an ELA teacher at Simpson-Waverly Community School. For it to have been my first year as an instructor and outside of my normal comfort zone of being an artist, I realized how important the work was and that leading bright youthful minds brimming with untapped potential is the job of a noble being. Therefore, I say that to say thank you to all my students who made my first year of teaching a success. You all can say that I taught you a lot or something along the way but in retrospect, I learned a little something about sacrifice and patience and for that I will always appreciate being a student to you all as well.

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Until next time.

– Mr. Kevin Anglade

ELA Teacher (Simpson-Waverly) 2017-18

 

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of mercy for murder(s) in brooklyn, a detective fiction novel. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He currently teaches 7th & 8th grade English Language Arts in Hartford, Connecticut and is the author of the poetry collection “Life Comes From Concrete”: a poetry memoir (2016).

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek