Day 23: Which Came First- The Teacher or The School? #aprilblogaday challenge

Do you make your school community or does your school community make you?

A variation on this was used as an essential question for my AP Lang class this unit. Does the individual make the group or place or is the place shaped by the people who occupy it. All terms used loosely.

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Tonight, I sat next to one of my dearest friends in a room of distinguished alumni from the Program in Educational Theatre at NYU, which was celebrating its 50th anniversary. Phillip Taylor, who was the chair during my time there, interviewed playwright John Patrick Shanley ('77) who is perhaps best known for his play and later film: Doubt. There were a plethora of quotable quotes (would you expect anything less from a Pulitzer winning playwright?) that I wish I had written down. I, and I am sure many of my colleagues, would say the program gave me the space to become who I was meant to be: a teacher.  I don't know that my presence in the program made any sort of indelible mark on it however, which is ok. I picked NYU strategically because it provided an opportunity for me to study teaching both theatre and English. My time at NYU was a benchmark in my development as a pedagogue. 

It was nice tonight to get to see and talk to professors, some who knew exactly who I was and others  I was sure thought I was someone else. They were teachers who pushed me and prepared me to challenge and provoke the thinking and learning of young people. (Thanks Christina and Joe.) Now as I do more and more work with new and pre-service teachers, I appreciate my professors more than ever. 

That community shaped me.
I have had the honor of shaping two different schools now. Being a founding member of a school is a challenge especially in the era of small "boutique schools" here in NYC. Our school ( is now at capacity with about 125 students per grade and about 55 teachers. (11 make up the English Dept. We have 5 content, 3 SPED, 1 ELL, and 2 teaching residents who were with a mentor teacher for the year). A science teacher said to me today that a strong English department is essential to creating and maintaining a strong school. Last year we sat our first cohort of students for the state exam- Common Core English. We had 99% passing. We are indeed strong. I think we have had a huge influence on the evolution of our school culture, academically. Some good things, some that need shifting and revision to become stronger. 

I have helped to shape this community.

As you can see, I still don't have a definitive answer to my question: which came first- the teacher or the school?  I am simply thankful I have been able to create and be created.


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