Bronx Masquerade is my secret April weapon; it has been since 2002. Since 2005, I have read this book aloud to three separate classes each April (National Poetry Month). That’s over 21 times reading the same novel aloud. It has not gotten old. I love this book. I would like to give Nikki Grimes a hug.
It’s the story of a high school English class, told by the students who are learning about poetry and The Harlem Renaissance. Each student takes a turn writing honestly about his or her life, and then writing a poem that is read to the class. By the end of the book the students view each other differently because they recognize the struggles each has to go through.
It’s a story of removing masks, revealing true identities, and embracing poetry/writing.
Slowly, slowly, the book takes us over, and we feel like our classroom too is going through the change. We are real with each other; we learn that there are some parts of each person’s story they had not dared to share before. Slowly, Slowly, the masks come off and we become inseparable.
Here’s a section of one of the poems from the book . . .
I woke up this morning
exhausted from hiding
the me of me
so I stand here confiding
there’s more to Devon
than jump shot and rim…
I dare you to peep
behind these eyes,
discover the poet
in tough-guy disguise….
don’t call me Jump Shot
my name is Surprise
If you are a teacher and thinking about using this book in your classroom, please be advised it does contain mature topics. I would use it for upper middle school or high school. If you are a parent, read it with your kid and talk to them.
Minus the first month or two of school, these last six weeks are the weeks I feel most alive. State testing is over, the kids fully understand my expectations, and there is a constant ticking in the back of my head to make every moment count.
These are the weeks of meaningful revisions, of purposeful read alouds, and never sitting down. If you’re a teacher, and dreading “the end of the school year unfocused disease” that sometimes plagues students, here is my secret: get passionate and take your kids along for the ride.
We almost have too much going on in our classroom right now. I have lists upon lists and even then I’m forgetting things. But, it’s okay because the kids, they’re on top of it; they’re engaged; they’re holding me accountable for good teaching (even in the middle of the 8th grade formal, high school move up day, and a field trip white water rafting). How?
Well here’s a list I’ll share, hopefully in the middle of all of this I’ll find a way to write you a post about each one . . . and if not I’ll do it all on June 6th, through my tears of letting them go.
- Read Aloud a book that gets everyone thinking in a new way: Bronx Masquerade
- Youtube videos to show them people who are real and living literacy rich lives: Sarah Kay
- Real conferencing— asking hard questions, flexible skill groups, and keeping track of everything: Confer iPad ap love
- Literature Study where they choose the groups and the books: Free Choice Kid Love (Reading Hunger Games for the third time with your besties, totally okay)
- Bringing People in, Having outside events: Gallery at Café 110, McLaren Cars (OMG more on this one later), a real musician/word man, a writer or two, maybe some parents too . . . never a dull moment.
I realize I haven’t posted on here in awhile, but it’s not because I haven’t been ahappyteacher, it’s more because sometimes being ahappyteacher and having a life means that you’re exhausted at the end of the day. So maybe I’m exhausted, but hey I’ll be exhausted for them any day, they’re my kids, & I love them.
welcome the new man in my life