Where I Teach on Tuesdays: As it Goes

I teach a middle school photo class once a week in a public New York City middle school, and I’ve been photographing there and at similar schools. The schools speak with the same visual vocabulary but time and students personalize the walls. Assimilation, teenage rebellion: institutional architecture, teenage dismay – and hearts.

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A First-Year Middle School Teacher

I’ve been an arts educator for ten years. But back in 2008, I wanted to give up.

I was teaching arts integration in a first-year teacher’s sixth grade English Language Arts Class. I’d work with her to figure out how photography could give students multiple ways to access academic material, and together we’d help students develop visual literacy and artistic thinking.

But we’d also lose it, in ways that I thought I never would. Once I had to step out of the classroom because I’d yelled in a way that made me immediately sorry and embarrassed. The combination of a challenging age group, an intense mix of personalities, and a struggling school led to endless frustration, even though the kids were great on their own. It seemed like the group came together like Voltron and transformed thoughtful, kind individuals into a furious, resistant mass.

I wanted to make more time to photograph, but after each day of teaching my mind would be buzzing and almost erased. So I took my camera to school, and used it to look at the frustration and intensity I saw.

We made it through the year, and I photograph much more now. The teacher is going strong: her combination of talent, dedication, and commitment to practicing the mechanics of good teaching have made her one of the best educators I’ve worked with.

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CASA Midwifery Students Intercultural Midwifery Exchange

After their presentations at the Universidad Intercultural Maya, the midwifery students went to study in Mayan villages. Ema, Angie, Carmen Susana, Abi, Lupita and Elisa stayed with traditional midwife Doña Elsa in the small town of Chunhuhub. These students range in age from 17 to 36, and come from varied backgrounds: a performance artist, a small-town high school graduate, a nurse, an artisan who spent years traveling through Latin America.

Doña Elsa practices several kinds of alternative medicine, including herbal baths, ceremonies, chiropractic adjustments, and emotional and spiritual counseling, as well as referring patients to the local health center at times. The students stayed in her medical facility, watching her attend patients with fevers, depression and high blood pressure. Meanwhile, they offered prenatal visits at the health center, gave talks on contraception, and showed traditional midwives how to use analog thermometers, plastic umbilical cord clamps, and other equipment in a kit provided by the school.

Next post: traditional Mayan abdominal massage.

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CASA Midwifery School in Mexico

Here are some photos from my most recent trip for my Birth and Culture project.

In this first post, students from CASA, Mexico’s only government-accredited midwifery training program, prepared for a trip to rural villages where they studied with Mayan traditional midwives. At their school in San Miguel de Allende, they practiced giving presentations on women’s health and responding to birth emergencies. And in CASA’s hospital, a local traditional midwife delivered a woman’s fifth baby.

Next post: the journey.

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Harlem Children’s Zone

Here are some photographs I took for a series of City Limits articles about the Harlem Children’s Zone. From City Limits:

Founded by a committed advocate for low-income children, nurtured by the politically powerful and Wall Street titans, and lauded by media around the world, the Harlem Children’s Zone has raised a nation’s hopes. The Obama administration wants to use it as the model for a nationwide antipoverty plan. But what is really known about the success of the Zone? Is there enough evidence to base a larger initiative around it? Are other cities capable of developing their own versions of the Harlem Miracle? In the new City Limits, read an in-depth evaluation of the program that’s inspiring the federal government’s most innovative poverty-fighting initiative in decades.

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