I’ll give you my right arm

wp-1486921143207.jpgAwa sobbed in our office.  “Can’t you just let me try?” she pleaded.

Awa, an 11th grader who came from Senegal in 9th grade, was begging to take the New York State English Regents exam in January.  We told her she’d take it in June when she had completed the coursework for the exam.  She left in tears.  

When I started our school in 2011,* I thought that the experience of taking a state exam was so valuable that it was worth letting a student try, even if they weren’t 100% prepared.   Continue reading

That’s my butterfly

20170110_201435.jpg“That’s my butterfly!”  

Marcus pointed to a butterfly drawing, part of an elaborate book project displayed in the 9th grade hallway.

Marcus is a 9th grader with a semi-permanent frown who had recently been suspended for fighting.  He’s originally from Honduras, has lived in New York for two years, and is self-conscious about his English– too self-conscious to notice that his English is far better than most of his classmates.*  He gives the impression, “I’m a loner– don’t mess with me.”     Continue reading

Hot chocolate on a Saturday

hot-chocolate“We just cancelled Saturday school,” said an assistant principal from another school as he walked to his car.  Sleet pecked us as we paused to talk in front of our shared Bronx campus.  “Only two kids showed up, and most of the teachers had to call out because of the roads.” 

So to cancel or not to cancel?  As a principal, I normally don’t have this power, and the mayor of New York City decides whether or not to cancel school.  However, this was Saturday school, which we start running in December to give students extra tutoring before January exams, and it was my call.   Continue reading