LCFC Journal #23: Young, Black, Teaching in America Part III
New School, New Rules
In 2018–19, I became the English Language Arts Teacher at West Middle Community School. As I transferred there fresh off my first-year teaching experience at Simpson-Waverly, I was hoping for similar results. However, I quickly learned that a new environment is one that brings forth a lot of adjustment. Whether that be daily routine, getting used to the people around you and how one goes about executing the job at hand. I remember feeling hopeful prior to the first day of school but also a bit vulnerable at the same time. There was no doubt that I wished I could drive up to the north end of Hartford and continue teaching at the gem of a school I loved but that wasn’t reality. I had to set my focus upon the present. And the present at the time called for my services more than I could have ever imagined.
Morning Line Up 2.0
My time at West Middle was not one where I simply was a teacher. It was one in which I stepped up and became a leader. For one thing, I had two different kind of students for 7 th& 8 thgrade. 8 thgrade was one that was very rough around the edges due to them having a rotation of teachers coming and going over the last two years. 7 thgrade was a cohort that had a bit of structure and stability due to the strong presence and discipline of their 6 thgrade teachers. For me, I wanted to bring in the same kind of goal-setting or foundation that I learned at my prior school which led to me implementing my own rendition of the morning line up with the math teachers. At first, students didn’t like it but overtime they grew accustomed to the nature of the line up as well as its structure. The line up set boundaries, provided students with daily announcements, addressed hot topics of the school, behavior, discipline and whatever that was needed to let students know that nothing short of exemplary leadership and academic excellence was expected of them.
West Middle Basketball
One day during dismissal in October, I remember my 6 thgrade colleague, Toni Johnson approaching me and asked if I liked basketball. In response, I told her, “Yes, I love basketball!” From there, I remember her asking if I would be interested in being the coach of the school basketball team. I told her that I would definitely consider it. She then told me that she’d talk to the athletic director of the team to coordinate a meeting about the position and what would be required to be certified. After meeting with the director, Joseph Bumpers, he told me that the coach of the team in prior years was moving on to something else, therefore, they needed to fill the position. I was truly happy to hear it as I thought it would be a challenge and a way for me to bond with my students. Once I started training camp and assembling the team, I realized that I needed more help due to my inexperience with the position and decided to allow someone who had prior coaching experience to assist me. That person I’m speaking of is a man by the name of Carlos Sierra Sr. His son, Carlos Sierra Jr. was the starting power forward on the team and he willingly wanted to help me coach and see the students to success on the court. I remember there being many days where students were upset with us because of the rigorous nature of Carlos’s training regimen. Overall, I loved it as I thought it provided our boys with discipline and structure that was sorely missing in their academics as well as personal lives. Ultimately, this led to a winning season where we went 5–2 in the regular season and 1–1 in Hartford’s postseason basketball tournament. Throughout the season we received a lot of good feedback and support from school staff and students. They were happy to see the team succeeding and playing together. For me, I was elated to see the boys being successful and the hard work paying off. There was no doubt that Carlos and myself put the best product out on the hardwood that we possibly could and I was very proud of that.
Every year of school I have a unit of study that focuses on poetry for both 7 thand 8 thgrade. During these units I have a special guest poet visit the school to teach writing to the students for a week alongside myself. Over the last two years, every time I’ve done this, it has brought out the best in students in terms of them expressing themselves and how they truly feel about their personal lives and the world around them. While doing so, I decided to create events for students to showcase their writing. Although I had already done events to this degree before, it was the first time that students themselves were taking ownership of their work and producing content on another level. It was something to be marveled as students read poems about blackness, the story of their own lives and what they hoped for their selves in the future. As a writer and poet myself it was more than I could have ever asked for. I was truly impressed by their abilities and bravery to hit the stage and exude confidence as they performed their work.
The Catfish Crew
One day, I remember dropping off one of my 7 thgrade classes to lunch and I remember a few of my students stopping me in tracks to show me a script. When I looked at it, I saw that they had written something that was funny, smart and brimming with potential. To say that I was excited while reading the script is an understatement. I instantly imagined the possibilities and what could come out of a script. At Simpson-Waverly, I wrote, produced and directed a play in which my students starred in but at West Middle I went into the year with the intention of forming a creative writing and drama club that would enable students to create their own original work in class and on stage. And so, once basketball season ended, I quickly formed the club. For weeks on end, we wrote, laughed, and marveled at the level of skill and innovation that was displayed in each person’s writing and worked hard to create a play that the school could be proud of and enjoy all the same. Unfortunately, that did not happen as students were unable to learn the script due to high demands of testing and a rigorous school schedule. However, their efforts were not in vain as the work done in both club time and prior to the poetry slams resulted in an anthology of short stories and poems called The Ocean of Emotion by the students themselves. I’ll never forget receiving the package with all the books inside of them. I’m sure that there is no way I will be able to top that achievement as a teacher.
Looking back, I’m proud of the impact I made at West Middle. I learned a lot about what being a leader is. I learned a lot about stepping up to the plate and servicing the needs of my students. I learned a lot about who I am as a person and how genuine it is in my character to give and provide opportunities for students to be successful. I learned a lot leading a group of young men on the basketball court and guiding them to a winning season as players and as students. I learned a lot about giving a group of young ladies the chance to have their voices heard in poetry slams and read in a book as they’ve become published authors. I am more than grateful for the relationships I’ve formed with my students and it is my hope that they realize that the sky for them is the limit and that life for them has only just started.
Thank You’s (West Middle)
I would like to thank everyone and all organizations at West Middle Community School that provided me with opportunities and assisted me in making an impact this past school year. These organizations are: Hartford Public Schools and the Boys & Girls Club of Asylum Hill. Those people are: Lynn Estey, Joseph Bumpers, Stacy-Monique Wylie-Arthur, Candace Greenfield, Carlos Sierra Sr. and Ashley Jackson. You all are appreciated for all that you do to help our students. I thank you all again for such a wonderful experience at this school as I move on to the next part of my journey as an educator in the upcoming school year.
- Mr. Kevin Anglade
ELA Teacher (West Middle) 2018–19
KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of mercy for murder(s) in brooklyn, a detective fiction novel. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He recently taught 7th & 8th grade English Language Arts in Hartford, Connecticut and is the author of the poetry collection “Life Comes From Concrete”: a poetry memoir (2016).
Find him online at:
Tags: Boys and Girls Club, Education, Hartford Public Schools, Kevin Anglade, Poetry Slam, West Middle School