Teachers and students in Hudson County ought never be bored – and boredom being the enemy of good teaching, this is a blessing. Looking to the Hoboken Charter school for leadership (since it was just named by South Korea as America’s best Charter school), we see how when a school integrates learning into the community – which the Charter school does with its March on Washington Street to celebrate Martin Luther King Day, its feed the homeless project, and other various artistic and community ventures (including a relationship with the Hoboken Arts cooperative: HOBART), an energized learning space is created that is more relevant, interesting, fun, and, most crucially, more powerful than the rote, going-through-the-motions, obsolete methods of traditional teaching.
Looking around Hudson County, I recall a recent short film about the vibrant ethnic street life on Bergenline Avenue, titled simply “Bergenline,” which earned top honors at last year’s Black Maria film festival. A film like this not only teaches pride in community and the valuing of a sense of place, but could release student imaginations to ponder their own artistic projects and reachings out, including writing or film projects of their own. (Union City has a middle school, for example, that creates and broadcasts its own TV news show.)
How about the novels of Hudson Reporter editor Caren Lissner? Though I admit I haven’t read them yet (they’re on my short list of books to read this year!), could they, or at least selected excerpts from them, be used as curriculum for a senior English class? Might Caren herself be persuaded, through a writers-in-the-school program, to make guest appearances in classrooms in order to engage and inspire students with the confidence to find their own voices in writing?
And think of all the painters, sculptures, musicians, theatre people, and dancers in Hudson County. Might a program be created (like the NYC non-profit New Visions for Public Schools, which recently received a 60 million dollar grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) to organize exposure of Hudson County public school students to the rich variety of amazing art and artists in their midst? (anyone who would like to join me in creating this project can contact me at email@example.com) Students should also be made aware of the rich variety of social and civic offerings in Hudson County that provide youth outreach, and create a vital space for community, friendship, and repair. Organizations like the Symposia Bookstore, which promotes art and community dialogue, the Jubilee Center (sponsored by All Saints Church) providing free tutoring and after school care in Hoboken’s Housing Projects, and my own beloved Elks Club: which gives money to various charities, and even sponsors an essay contest in the schools under its Americanism committee.
Kudos to Hoboken mayor Dave Roberts, who recently stated his desire to bring a movie theatre to town, and to create a space for off off Broadway. This is precisely the kind of visionary political leadership we need: now, how do we channel this energy into our schools?