My Brownsville Boys

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Sitting in my office I start to think about life before my current school. I realize that I have
worked in some amazing schools and have worked in some not so great schools. All of them
have been great as far as safety and staff, but the main difference to me is the kids.
I worked at a school on the Upper East Side of Manhattan as a special education teacher in a co
teaching class and I loved my students. I knew their parents; I knew them better than they did
and it was amazing. I had a connection with them and I am still in touch with a lot of my former
students. However, when I look back on which kids I will remember for making me laugh, cry,
smile and love being an educator, almost all of the memories are from my current school.
In my school now I have many levels of connections with my students. A lot of them call me “Ma”
which I am used to, but some of the parents in this school call me mom as well. Not that they
think I am their mom or they say it with a hint of sarcasm, but because I am the school mom to a
group of the kids.
I had a former teacher when I was in high school and he kept a bulletin board filled with his
students on it. Everyone who walked in his office immediately checked to see if they made the
wall. When I became an Assistant Principal, slowly I began a bulletin board of my own. I was in
the pictures with the students, and yeah most of them had us sticking out our tongues, but I loved
it. One side was designated for my family and the other side was for my students. The students
love looking at the board and seeing if they made it up there, or who had a new picture. It
becomes a conversation when parents come to my room, because they might see their child and
have a smile knowing that someone at the school values them. It creates a feeling of family, and
one student said it best when they told me, “It makes us see that you are here for us and it’s not
just your job”.
I have been at my school for 4 school years and 3 calendar years and I am going to need a new
board soon. The students that go on the board are the ones that pretty much live in my office.
They take tests, eat lunch, take a break from class and basically come to my office at least once a
period. They get freaked out when I am not in my office and text me to find out where I am.
They have become a big part of my life and I have become an integral part of their school and
home life as well. Their parents call me or text me about their children and I just love them and
want only the best for them.
One group of students that I have “adopted” are my Brownsville Boys. Brownsville is a part of
Brooklyn that has a very high gang population. I have a group of 5-6 boys that I call my
“Brownsville boys”. All of them don’t currently live there but have in the past, or are extremely
close with the people in the neighborhood. I had worked in Brownsville in a previous work life
so we instantly clicked. These boys are some of the reasons I come to work. I speak to their
teachers; help them with their current work or making up assignments. Two of them are on the
Varsity basketball team and one of them has an 91 average. The other is working on his grades
and hopes to get them up to be as good as his free throw. One of them is overage, undercredited
and has an IEP. He actually transferred out this year, but still comes by once a month to sit in my office and check in with me, when he isn’t texting me for every question that comes to his
mind. One of them had major issues with gangs and arrests and grades, and is now a junior and
almost on track to graduate. He checks in with me every period and his girlfriend comes to me
to find him. He’s a wild one, and has a lot going on, but will ask me to get work from his
teachers so he can sit in my office and complete it with my assistance. Another one is the
youngest of the group in 10th grade, and one of my favorites. His brother has started a clothing
company so he gave me a free t shirt and hand drawn hat because he said I do so much for him
he wanted me to know he appreciates it. When he is upset or about to explode he comes to my
office to calm down and take a breath. When teachers have trouble with him or any of the boys
they come to me instead of their parents. I guess I have become their intervention, since all of
them have been coming to school, doing their work and passing their classes. These boys are the
reason I went into education- they are my focus and the motivation behind my job. How can we
get the boys that have the deck stacked against them, to graduate and become respectful young,
black men that don’t wind up in jail, or even worse-dead?
People always tell me you can’t save every child, and I understand the nurture vs. nature theory and the fact that I am not from the same background as these students. I could never understand their lives because I have such a different one. I get all of that, but these boys are THE BEST and I want them to know this and do what they can in order to be successful. I want them to understand that I want them to be better than their current situation- I want them not only to survive but excel at whatever it is they choose.
One day there was a fight at my school between 2 of my 9th grade girls. As I was breaking it up
one of them accidentally punched me in the face. My students decided that if another fight
breaks out, then one of them needs to make sure I am locked in my office, because as they put
it:“we can’t worry about watching or helping in the fight and making sure you are ok”. One of
the Brownsville crew was not there that day, and within 5 minutes of the fight he was texting
me. He had heard that I jumped in and was very upset with me, and then proceeded to ask who
he has to deal with and am I ok?
There are other students that live in my office, because to them I am their safe haven and they
feel comfortable and valued when they are with me. I wish others could see how amazing they
are. I hope when they are in college they continue to keep in touch with me and let me know how
they are doing. All of them have good families that are trying to be supportive and help them in
school, but unfortunately some are not successful.
I am an Assistant Principal, guidance counselor, probation officer, teacher, friend, fighter and so
many other things. Most of all I am a mom that loves her family her job and her students- in
particular my Brownsville Boys.

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