If you don’t know about or follow the astonishing Humans of New York posts (Facebook or Twitter), you need to. It is EVERYTHING. Humor, hope, people, caring…in what may be the only instance where I recommend this, read the comments!
Brandon is a photographer who takes pictures and talks with people in New York. This was one of today’s Facebook posts (I’ll include info on this current series at the bottom of the post):
“The school was founded to find out why boys were having so much trouble in school. We wanted to know where the gaps are. One thing we found is that boys are naturally competitive, so we give them plenty of opportunities to compete. For the youngest kids, we’ve created a storyline where Shredder has kidnapped all the Ninja Turtles, and he’s going to shrink them and eat them in his soup. We call the students Knowledge Ninjas, and the only way for them to save the turtles is to win points. This week they get points for going to tutoring. Next week they get points for taking notes. At the end of every week, when they get enough points, a teacher comes out dressed as a turtle and the kids celebrate like they won the lottery.”
Here’s the anthropology: they founded the school to find something out about the students. Most schools are founded with the belief that the teachers/administrators know what the students need. To begin with a spirit of inquiry is sadly unusual. It also means the school has a much greater chance of helping their students be successful.
It’s human to want to be certain, and uncomfortable to be uncertain. Anthropology, as I want to practice it, calls me to be uncertain. To inquire, rather than tell. There’s so much power in inquiring, and the answers other people provide almost always surprise and delight me. Other people know what they need better than I do and I can help them get those needs met if I start with asking.
The Excellence Boys Charter School of Bedford-Stuyvesant is a school supported in part by the Robin Hood Foundation. The Robin Hood Foundation has the simple mission of ‘fighting poverty in New York City.’ Last month I visited several of the programs that Robin Hood supports, and over the next few days I’ll be sharing some portraits and stories from people helping to battle poverty in NYC.