Secondary Literacy Teaching
My ten years in the classroom were primarily at Frantz Fanon Academy (pseudonym), a small alternative second-chance high school located in the heart of the South Bronx. As a literacy educator in the FFA community, I designed and implemented project-based courses in deep collaboration with my colleagues, and engaged performance-based assessment. (The school is a founding member of the Performance Assessment Consortium, and uses portfolios in conjunction with the English Language Arts Regents exam to assess and evaluate student learning.)
Frantz Fanon Academy has a tradition of democratic governance and participation by staff and community members, in whatever ways possible for a school that is part of a large urban district. I relished teaching and learning in such a community, and participated in the school’s steering committee and in the multiple spaces we created for teacher collaboration. During my years as a literacy educator, I taught courses ranging from Core English (a course designed to apprentice our new learners into the community, and to invite learners to develop their own understandings of why and how literacy practices matter in their lives), to Violence, Literature, and Media (a course that explores violence in literature and mass media), to Shakespeare’s Tragedies (a course that engaged critical and playful readings of identity in several of Billy’s tragedies). I also taught the courses Social Activism (critical readings of movement-based activist texts), and Community Activism (critical readings of literature engaging issue-based activist struggles). Collaborating with students, I had the opportunity to create a student-run school newspaper (The Horizon) through a journalism elective. I was honored to have the opportunity to design an implement classes that invited young people to read, critique, challenge, and create a wide variety of texts as they explored new positions and possibilities of self. As I see it, the goal of the FFA educational community is to help foster these sorts of positive educational identities for our learners, and to develop disciplinary skills and competencies within and through these identities.
Collaborating with teachers is an important way for me to engage and enact both my own research and research in the larger field. After years in the classroom at one campus of Frantz Fanon Academy, I was invited to become the literacy coach for all four campuses. As a literacy coach, I had the opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues from all disciplines through multi-campus departmental professional development sessions as well as one-on-one mentoring, co-teaching, and co-planning.
Later, I served for several years as a literacy coach for the Alternative Education District of the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE), working with teachers in High School Equivalency (HSE) Centers throughout the borough of Manhattan. As a coach in these centers, work included creating project-based learning units, implementing curricula, facilitating Professional Learning Communities, initiating Action Research projects, and one-on-one co-planning and mentoring.