First, the thanks; then I’ll carve the meat

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Gangs and Violence Awareness project

This is your old, old grandpa.  I’ve got a copy of all of your previous emails… related to the documentary.  I’m very proud of you…undertaking something like this…getting the idea for something like this at your school.  I wish you a lot of luck with that.  I’m very happy for you… And I hope it turns out very good for you.

It seems like I might be the last of my generation who sees voicemail as still a very valuable way to communicate.  (Texting is definitely taking over.)  But this isn’t the case for some wiser than us.  The above message, coming from my grandfather over a couple weeks ago now, was one that I played a few times over and over to keep me motivated through the ups and downs of my efforts to bring something authentic to my classroom.

Since starting the My Bloody Life / gang awareness project this semester, I’ve been trying to establish a relationship between the documentary team behind The Interrupters and our school.  Thanks to social media and New Tech Network’s sizable Twitter presence, we were able to set up a Skype session between Interrupters’s producer, Alex Kotlowitz, and our sophomore classroom.

After all is said and done, I have a lot of people to thank before I even begin to write an account of the amazing student engagement and authentic learning I witnessed yesterday.  I’d like to establish my thanks to many people, so that they are not the afterthought.  Our classroom successes yesterday are only due to the support they have given me up and through what will be marked as one of the most important days in a school…A day when I felt the formalwear was no indication of my status or role in the classroom, because I was, indeed, such a learner in a great environment.  The successes to be written about are due in large part to these folks [names withheld as part of my blogging policy] who believe in how valuable unique educational experiences can be.  They are (in no particular order):

  • Alex Kotlowitz, who shared a very insightful, 30 minutes’ worth of wisdom from his entire career and experience via Skype to a group of students who he had never met before;
  • my students, who provide inspiration through their dedication to each other and their community; curiosity for the world; and hard work to solve problems;
  • my team-teacher, who knows the adventures we’ve been through and never backs down from the challenges we didn’t plan;
  • my New Tech house colleagues, who centers their practice every day on students;
  • my in-school mentors, who know how to read and advise my development as a teacher;
  • my family, who provided the education and loving home to get me to where I am now;
  • my friends, who respect the hours I dedicate to others and our future;
  • our tech-support/nerd-out-buddy, who stayed late the night before to ensure everything technologically would work smoothly;
  • our assistant principal, who will get anything done for our students and makes time to call to ask, “Do you have anything you need me to do?”;
  • our building principal, who makes time for his students and makes every effort to support his new teachers;
  • our New Tech Network school development coach, who sees student empowerment opportunities in every situation;
  • our New Tech Network social media specialist, who set it all up and shared it then with thousands of followers around the world.

May you all know my gratitude, before we celebrate the success.