Guatemala, January 6, 2017
Hey Guys and Gals,
I’m Mr. Benedict or preferably Mr. B. Welcome to twelfth grade, to your senior year of high school and the last step you’ll take before stepping out into the wider world of work, business, college and/or some other form of more or less informal education, often referred to as “life.”
Twelfth grade: yet another opportunity to grow—to grow in understanding who you are and who you want to become; another opportunity to better or acquire habits and skills—whether they be reading fifteen minutes or more a day, the ability to do more things on your own such as driving, getting to places on time while making sure the car has gas, oil and water or the ability to channel your emotions so that they fuel your progress towards your goals. Yes! You’ve almost graduated and yet, you have an entire year of some pretty serious work ahead of you.
In a few short months you will be in college or in the family business or working or traveling. Can you feel it? The excitement; the wonder mixed with a little fear?
I can and I graduated from high school in 1979, whereupon I took a year off to work, to amass a portfolio and to do a very challenging college entrance exam before going to college. Ultimately I was awarded a four-year tuition-free scholarship to The Cooper Union School for the Advancement of the Sciences and the Arts and moved into my own apartment in New York City at age nineteen, where I lived what felt like ten years in roughly four. Ten years in four? That’s right! I studied full time for free, but had to work full time to pay rent, for food, clothes, supplies, books, and many other things.
And yet, I went out dancing at clubs at least two nights a week. One night, my friends and I would go to Dan Lynch’s and dance to free jazz, and the next, we would go to CBGBs and dance to hardcore punk. Or maybe we would go to Madison Square Garden to see Queen or to the Palladium to see Talking Heads, to the Bleeker Street Theater to see a couple of Chaplin or Hitchcock films on the big screen, to a Broadway or off-Broadway theatre to see a play or to Brighton Beach to take a midnight swim. Between studying, working and living, I only got about 4 hours of sleep a day, but who could sleep when there was so much to do and so much to experience.
Now I’m here at
and I’m here to serve, that is, to help you with your acquisition of English
and other academic and/or life skills. If you have any doubts as to my ability,
let me tell you that I have been teaching for many years, having gotten my
first real teaching job as a painting instructor in the Cooper Union Saturday
Program in 1983. After a year in the program, some of my fellow teachers (fellow
Cooper Union students) and I got together with some of the Cooper Union staff
(teachers and directors) and created the Cooper Union Summer Program, today The
Cooper Union Outreach Program: a six-week, intensive visual arts program
wherein which we taught students painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, graphic
design and architecture five days a week, eight hours a day. When the students
in the program asked if I would be willing to give them an additional art
history class at one of the museums on Sundays, I said: “Pay my subway fare and
get enough food for all of us, and I’m there.” So every Sunday the students
would meet me at a museum, we would see a show and then, we would go to eat in
a park or on somebody’s rooftop. Montessori International School
Those students had needs and so do you. They made their needs known to me and I made mine known to them. Together, we arrived at an agreement and over two years of meeting on Sundays, ended up learning a lot about art, history, food, and each other.
Now, you are my students. I know some of your needs, at least with regards to the Montessori twelfth grade English curriculum and some of what the Guatemalan Ministry of Education asks of you. You’ll have to make your other needs known to me as they arise. You have all been students for at least thirteen years so you are expert students and you can most likely guess what some if not most of my needs as a teacher are.
There’s a lot more to share and we will, but for now I would leave you with two cartoons from Greg Larson’s The Far Side and some questions.
What could these cartoons possibly have to do with me, a senior at CIM? How do I see the glass or which personality type am I, and, when or how often? What could make me see the glass differently? What am I and what is my name? If I could give myself a name or a title, what would it be? How would this name or title influence how others viewed and treated me? How does the way I and others look at things from an ever-changing perspective determine what we see or how we perceive things? What could Mr. B be telling me with these cartoons? What did he tell me about himself and what he expects of me in his letter? What could I tell him about myself that could make it easier for him to serve me?
Well…this is a beginning. So begin and begin to enjoy our time together!