Eagle Academy for Young Men II is an all-boys school located in Ocean Hill, Brooklyn. They work with children from grades 6-12, empowering inner city young men to reach their potential academically. We at Behind the Book have the pleasure of collaborating on programs with some of the teachers there.
Ms. Matin teaches 7th grade and will be working with us for the first time this year. “I did see my colleague, who also teaches 7th grade English, use Behind the Book with his class last year and the kids were so excited and so engaged,” she said. “They loved having this author come in because it’s an opportunity you don’t get all the time. I really wanted that opportunity for my scholars this year.”
Although Ms. Matin says she has a “very supportive staff and principal,” teaching at Eagle Academy, like any teaching job, can have its challenges. Many times the teachers at the school are almost like a second parent. “A lot of the boys are being raised by single mothers and a lot of the mothers are working two or three jobs,” she said.
This lack of a male role model in many of the student’s lives, coupled with the violence and other issues that come along with growing up in the neighborhood, can be obstacles for the children. Having teachers who are motivated and care about the students helps combat these obstacles. Ms. Matin hopes her students will grow from meeting authors during our program with her class. “I want to show my scholars that authors have a purpose for writing and a lot of times they write because of experiences they faced in their lives,” she said. “A lot of our scholars don’t like writing. I want to show them that they can transfer their personal experiences onto writing and perhaps publish their own work one day.”
Ms. Maxwell, who’s been teaching for eleven years, worked with us for four years at CS 21, an elementary school in the same neighborhood. She has seen, first-hand, the effects of our writing and research workshops. “I have seen some scholars open up more, they become more expressive in their writing or with each other.” Maxwell understands the need for children who learn differently to have access to different ways of learning. She spoke about her experience working with us for a particular class. “I loved it. We had illustrators come in and we did a whole segment on creating pictures or concrete poems,” she said. “When the kids are able to see that there’s an actual person that created these things it brings excitement to them.”
She believes it’s helpful for her students to be able to relate their reality to their academics. Maxwell says it’s important for teachers to acknowledge that there’s more than one way to reach their students. However, it’s difficult to teach a large number of children and give them each the proper one on one time that is often needed to learn. Ms. Maxwell, who is teaching many kids this year, appreciates the extra hands that come along with working with Behind the Book and our volunteers. “I conference with each and every one of them. So if there’s 25 of them and I have 90 minutes, it’s impossible for me to do that,” she said. “So if they (BtB) come in that’s maybe 5 people in the room meeting with certain scholars. It makes the writing process go faster.”
We look forward to working with Eagle Academy II this year and hope create an experience that impacts their scholars for the present and future.
This guest blog was written by Brian Bonilla, a blogger, aspiring writer, and journalism student at Brooklyn College who finds time in his schedule to work for Behind the Book! We’ll be posting a three-part blog series on our partnership with Eagle Academy. Stay tuned for more.