Subway Series: Blogging from the A Train (Part 1 of 2)
Blogging From the A Train
During our last O’Shaughnessy All Fellows meeting, Francesca Ciaramitaro (FC) suggested an entirely new format for our blog. Rather than a traditional written blog, she suggested interviews among Fellows. Francesca and Dave Robles (DR), also a Fellow from the first cohort (2018), decided to record their blog/interview during their ride home where they often meet up - on the A Express train in NYC. Enjoy!
FC: Hey everybody! This is Francesca Ciaramitaro and Mr. Dave Robles. We teach all kinds of things in uptown Manhattan. I teach at Incarnation School. I teach English Language Arts and Dave…
DR: And I am Dave Robles and I teach at St. Charles Borromeo School on 145th Street. I teach 5th grade - so everything in 5th grade.
FC: And Dave teaches just 30 blocks South of me so we frequently run into each other on this A express train and so that is where we decided to have our interview. So I am going to ask Dave some questions about his teaching practices and we’re going to dive in together. Are you ready? So Dave, why did you decide to teach in Catholic schools?
DR: Well, it was pretty fortuitous when I first started. A friend of mine was the principal at Corpus Christi on 121st St. and there was an opening for 5th grade. I was just going to be a sub until there was an opening there and I was really excited. I was just looking for any open door but I’m excited that I was in Catholic education - you could do so many more things with the kids. There are smaller classes, you can be yourself more, you can teach and weave who you are into the teaching, so that’s what really kept me in Catholic school education.
FC: Amazing! And what would you want someone, if they were to come visit your classroom, what would you want them to see, to feel, to hear?
DR: Oh sure! If you come into my classroom I would love for you to feel the joy of being in a classroom - in a space - in sharing the space with me and the students. I would love you to wish that you had a 5th grade teacher like me - someone who is just fun-loving and brings out the best in kids. When I’m at my best, I would love for you to feel like a Zen-like peace and presence while we’re all learning together. And just the madness! There’s a lot of chaos to it.
FC: There is, isn’t there?
FC: That’s the kids, right? They bring that out of us. And speaking of your kids, how do you think they would describe your teaching style? If they were going to describe Mr. Robles’ to someone else, where would they begin? What would they say?
DR: Yeah - they would say things like he’s really funny, he’s a lot of fun, there’s music, there’s different kinds of games, there’s all the gamification. Kids love talking about word duels and the grammar raps - everybody has a favorite thing.
FC: Tell us more about those grammar raps.
DR: We get down! We get down with grammar raps! Every Wednesday for about 15 minutes we just rap out one of the parts of speech (Good Morning America segment featuring Dave and his students). If something keeps coming up or they keep having problems with like “their, there, and they’re”, “you’re and your”, like that keeps coming up - we just keep rapping it out. Now kids can level up - they can have their own entourage and backup dancers - it’s a whole production.
FC: Oh man - that sounds like way too much fun. I might have to come guest rap sometime! That’s something right up my alley! We actually do a parts of speech rap too. So maybe we’ll have to have like a battle.
DR: Oh, that would be amazing! That would be so fun!
FC: And I’m wondering too, you know, because we’re O’Shaughnessy Fellows with this Center for Literacy Education, what role does literature play in your classroom in terms of books and texts? How do you pick what you want to teach? What’s the role there?
DR: Well, since we have a set curriculum, not all of them are novels. We’ve read two novels - The Magicians Nephew (C.S. Lewis) and Bud, Not Buddy (Christopher Paul Curtis) so I have the liberty to choose some of the other supplementary materials so that’s where the 1,000 book library comes in and that’s where the support from the Morrells come in and that’s where collaborating with you comes in, so we can choose some of the other amazing texts where we can support - or anchor text for some of the other stuff we’re reading. Definitely - to get literacy to students, front and center and we do try to incorporate the literacy circles - and everything that you all are doing, too, in your class.
FC: Amazing - amazing! One last question - what is one thing you really want your students to know? When they leave you - knowing or feeling - one thing, what would you hope that is?
DR: I always tell them things like, I give them these lofty speeches like, like 20 years from now, 30 years from now I want you to remember these were the good old days. I want you to remember a good time in your life when you were excited about coming into the building - excited about coming into class. And then you fell in love with words.
FC: Wow - I absolutely love that! Well, I know we both feel so lucky to be teachers in New York. We’ve got the subway map right behind us here and we run into each other on this commute all the time so it’s such a pleasure to actually capture it and record it and get some of these thoughts down. So thanks, Dave, so much for sharing everything.
DR: Thank you!
FC: Alright! We’ll see you guys later!
DR: See ya!