Friday, November 2, 2012

Aftermath of a Disaster

Hurricane Sandy left a path of destruction in its wake, and Staten Islanders are slowly trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.  Words cannot express my sorrow for all those who have lost their livelihoods, and their lives, both literally and figuratively, so, in this case, a picture is worth a thousand words:

Donations of food and clothing are being accepted at Tottenville High School and Susan Wagner High School, as well as at Mount Loretto.  Zion Lutheran Church is also collecting donations through November 16th, and Richmond Valley Animal Hospital is collecting donations for animals, including blankets, food, bowls, and toys.

A Life Cut Drastically Short

Felicia Garcia, March 11, 1997-October 24, 2012

Today, Felicia Garcia's body has been laid to rest.  It's been over a week, and I still can't wrap my head around her suicide at the Hugenot train station, in front of hundreds of horrified onlookers, including Tottenville High School faculty and students.  I keep replaying the scene over and over in my mind:  the looks on everyone's faces, the immediate mobilization to try to rescue her from under the train, her bruised and bloodied face as they carried her to the waiting ambulance, pumping oxygen into her all the while.  Again I see her right foot, missing its shoe, all dirty and scuffed, and remembering the chill that went through me, as I thought about the old-wives' tale that any accident with enough force to knock an injured person's shoes off, would result in death.  I keep wishing for one extra second, to notice her in time to grab her and pull her to safety.

The poor girl must have been troubled by so many inner demons during her short life, and yet had fought so hard to get so far.  To think about how desperate she must have felt, to finally stop fighting, to think that an escape from life would be a better alternative, is absolutely heart-breaking, especially when remembering my brother, and how he made the same decision only three years ago.  To think of all of the evil people walking around this world, while we lose such good, kind, vibrant souls, with so much potential and so much life left to live, is simply incomprehensible.  And those who witnessed her death are left damaged, broken souls, who must try to pick up the pieces and move on with lives that, mockingly, continue on in the face of such heartbreaking tragedy.

I can only hope that Felicia's passing will act as a wake-up call to teenagers today, to remember that we never know what others are going through behind closed doors, and to treat others in the best way possible. And since those at the greatest risk for ending their own lives cannot ask for help for themselves, I hope that their friends will ask for help on their behalf, from trusted adults.  It's too late to save Felicia, but maybe her death will save the lives of other teenagers.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Look Back, A New Beginning

The first half of summer has been comprised of an anxious waiting game, as I waited to hear back about a job opportunity at Tottenville High School.  This week, to my relief, I was offered a position at the school as an English teacher, beginning in September.

However, as welcome as this job offer is, the move is bittersweet.  For the past nine years--the entire duration of my teaching career--I have worked at Washington Irving High School, in Gramercy Park, which is also where I did my student teaching for my undergraduate degree.  Of course, with such a long amount of time there, I have developed many collegial relationships that I am sad to lose, as well as earning the respect and trust of my students.  My coworkers and I have invested so much of ourselves during our tenure at the school, to keep the school alive and to ensure the success of our students.  Many of us began teaching at Irving with the full expectation of remaining there for the duration of our careers, of retiring there when our tenure was complete.

But the current mayor of New York City does not seem interested in such dedicated teachers, who make teaching their vocation;  instead, he excesses such individuals, while continuing to hire hundreds of teaching fellows, whose average tenure spans a mere five years, each year.  He placed teachers' salaries into individual school budgets, so that, as a result of slashing these budgets by millions of dollars over a period of nearly ten years, experienced teachers are being pressured to retire;  at the same time, principals are forced to hire newer teachers over experienced teachers, in order to keep class sizes at the contractually-mandated limit.  And last but not least, students are being "warehoused" in specific large schools in order to bring academic performance levels down, so that Mayor Bloomberg and his Panel for Educational Policy have an excuse to close them down in an attempt to subvert the UFT contract, opening several smaller schools in their place.  Irving ended up at the end of his hatchet this year, and it will not be the last school to be caught in this position.  Thousands of teachers are struggling to compete for hundreds of jobs, with the rest floating around as ATR's, working as glorified substitutes.  And the hundreds of thousands of students who remain in these "turnaround" and "phasing-out" schools lose not only their teachers, but also the funding for classroom supplies, technology, and extracurricular activities.  The mayor and the PEP have yet to satisfactorily explain how this helps the students.

As such, it was somewhat sad to see the 2011-2012 school year come to a close, to see teachers move on while students are left behind.  But from now on, I can no longer look back.  I must only look forward:  to my new school, my new colleagues, my new students.  My path may not be what I originally envisioned upon graduating from college, but that makes it no less significant, or hopeful.  And although I will always have a warm place in my heart for Washington Irving and the memories forged there, I have no doubt that my tenure at Tottenville will, in time, become just as meaningful to me.

This is no longer an end, but a beginning.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fourth of July 2012 in the Paddling Pool

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Not an End, But a Beginning

Rest in peace, Lennox.  Thousands of people across the world never gave up hope that you would be saved.  And now, we will continue to fight to end breed-specific legislation (BSL) internationally, so that dogs of specific breeds (or who resemble certain breeds) and their human families will not suffer the same fate as you did.  Be assured, your struggle and death will not be in vain.