Back to Business

Students view peers' photos during an exhibition last year.

Tomorrow is the first day back at school for those of us here in New York, and for me it begins the second half of my second year of teaching.

NYC teachers  toil under certain curricular stresses that can make the job daunting. I am very fortunate, however, to work in a school where I have the opportunity to breathe my passions into my classroom as supplements to the traditional literacy and math programs. So this week, I will be commencing, for the second straight year, a unit on photography. If it’s anywhere near as successful as last year’s, it will be a wonderful experience.

Last year, armed with cameras and accessories I secured through the wonderful Donors Choose, my students captured fantastic images of their culture and diverse neighborhood. As they brought their original pictures to me throughout the process, I was continually amazed and inspired.

Students found inspiration to photograph their neighborhood through a meditation process a friend of mine (who herself is an outrageously talented photographer) led them through. At the end of it, students composed a sentence that depicted their personal vision of the neighborhood. I was astounded, not only at the range of descriptions, but at the stark differences between my opinion of the neighborhood and theirs. Truly an eye opener.

Toward the end of the process, around May, the popular opinion among my colleagues and others who saw the neighborhood shots was that they must be honored in a permanent display. One of my proudest moments as a teacher came in November when we unveiled and dedicated a selection of photos to the school as a gift from me and my students last year. It really touches me to see the students in the building stopping by the photos on their way through the halls. The diversity of the shots come together to form a stunning display of the neighborhood.

This week, I embark on year two of what I am beginning to think of as The Mosaic Project. More cameras, when funding comes through, are on the way. I’ve secured funds to purchase rechargeable batteries. So things are definitely looking up. I am nervously excited about the challenge for this year – rather than having to display the work for parents in May, it is expected in March – so there is a lot less time to get the students inspired and making pictures.

However they do given the limited time will be based largely on how effectively I motivate them. I will share my progress and some photos periodically. Here’s hoping you enjoy them as much as I have and will.

Below are some of the best photos students took last year. (Click them for a larger photo).

UPDATE: I have established a separate Flickr account so you can view photos from last year’s students as well as this. Also linked on right.

Also, I again came upon this link to a project I discovered in doing my own research last year. Celebrando Cultura focused on many of  the same cultural aspects I did last year.


5 responses to “Back to Business

  1. Pingback: What Makes A Great Teacher? Really? Really. « My Life Untranslated

  2. You say “I was astounded, not only at the range of descriptions, but at the stark differences between my opinion of the neighborhood and theirs. Truly an eye opener.”

    I’d like to hear more on what you mean… what were the differences in how they saw their neighborhood and how you saw/see it?

    • Thanks for writing, I’ve been enjoying your blog.

      Last year, the most shocking thing to me was that, this neighborhood, with its cacophonous subway line and density of buildings, people, and noise, was described by so many students as “quiet” or “peaceful.” Also interesting to me was that, whereas I saw instances of squalor through grafitti and litter, they found a certain beauty.

      Please check back as I provide progress through year two of this project.

  3. It always thrills me to learn of any teacher so willing to inspire their students. That gives me renewed hope for the world.

    And it was very eye-opening to learn of the different ways both you and your students view the same neighborhood. That was a good question from Ms Flecha.

    Can’t wait to see the progress for this year.

  4. Pingback: Portrait of a Former Student « From the Desk of Mr. Foteah

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