Rewriting the Community Narrative: Reflections on Going To School in the Bronx
by Story2 Guest Author, on Mar 20, 2013 9:39:00 AM
While reading this Sunday's NY Times article, "Nine High Schools, One Roof," I was reminded of my first day of 7th grade. As I closed the door to my mom's 1992 white station wagon, my heart pounded, my hands tingled, and my pupils widened. In my direct path was a schoolyard filled with hundreds of students, broken concrete, and only two adults manning the door. The shorter of the adults was holding a bullhorn to his mouth while screaming, "GET IN LINE. GET IN LINE. GET IN LINE." I scurried past the students and the screaming adults, and I went up the stairs to my favorite teacher, Ms. Calico.
When I arrived at her room, my science teacher was setting up his desk. I asked, "Where's Ms. Calico? Did she move rooms?" He chuckled and said, "Oh Ms. Calico left, Amanda." I replied, "Why? I really wanted to see her." He said, "She couldn't handle this type of school." I said, "What does that mean?" He looked down, and proceeded to tell me to get to my 7th grade English class.
I spent the rest of my day wondering what type of school I attended. Only years later did I learn what my science teacher meant. I had never thought about my school that way before. As far as I knew, I was a middle school student attending I.S. 192 in the Bronx. As far as the public knew, I was an inner-city, at-risk, underprivileged kid whose teacher quit because the classroom was pure chaos. I had six different Spanish teachers that year. Students were arrested within school walls. Fights were a daily occurrence. Instead of asking why does this happen, I want to pose the question: how do we fix this?
Like myself, these kids are not "the same challenged kids from the Bronx," as Robbins and Myers wrote. We are students. We are students with untapped potential that needs fostering. We are individual students who attend schools with unique communities. We are students who have had so many rich life experiences at such a young age. How do we channel these experiences, these stories into positive outcomes? Let's use these life moments to catapult students into a more cohesive and less chaotic future. Both listening to and telling stories ignite parts of one's brain that respond when actually in the moment. Storytelling not only creates bonds, but it builds confidence in one's community. When the narrative of a community becomes disparate, conflict occurs. When students and teachers are given the chance to tell their story and create common narratives, community will naturally build.
Story2 uses storytelling as a vehicle that both empowers students to take control of their college application essays and provides teachers with the tools to guide their students through the application process. Collaborating with schools Story2 helps teachers create a safe space for students to share their experience and build confidence in their own abilities. Instead of perpetuating the sitigma of generic innter city students, their essays show their unique individual personality and purpose.
Each school, each administrator, each teacher, and each student is unique. Each school community is different so to lump them all into a "challenged" group is truly unfair. Story2 works to build out the individuality of a school community while preparing students for the college admission process. Let's work together to give each student a distinct voice and a story that distinguishes them from the crowd.
Amanda D’Annucci is a graduate of the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College with a B.A. in Urban Studies. She is currently an M.A. candidate at The Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. Amanda also has performed a TEDx talk on storytelling, conflict resolution, psychology and neuroscience.