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McSherry is the poster child of Lehman High School. To the students of the Bronx high school, McSherry is an example of someone who made it out of the streets.
You know it was more my time, you know in the bronx, it was a challenge i think. I always tell my kids, you know why I feel for you? Because I came from this neighborhood. My father was murdered when I was 14 years old. My mother raised five kids on her own on welfare. I know what it’s like to be hungry, to be lost, to be forgotten by a system that really doesn’t care at the end of the day.
So I teach film and my kids they make silent films, public service announcements, documentaries. I did a documentary with the kids as an experiment. My idea was to give the kids one word. My plan was to switch out the words for every third kid, but I couldn’t get past the first word. And the word was father.
These kids are survivors. And in spite of all these things, they come into school everyday. So to me they are not failing students, Lehman is not a failing school. The system failed them. It continues to fail them so I teach film and my kids they make sure films silent movies, public service announcements, documentaries. I did a doc with the kids as an experiment.
So Paige is into anime. So she is watching this new thing online it’s called Another. And every episode another one bites the dust. It has to do with this curse in the classroom.
My name is Mr. Rose. I have been teaching in Lehman for 11 years. When I started here, there was only one school in this building. There was about 3000 students. After a few years, two schools were added. At the same time, Lehman’s population went up. We went from the school that had lots of space and lots of time to a school with little space and no time.
Is our graduation rate low? Yes it is. If you’re going to cut the budget 6 years in a row consecutively, if you’re going to change the administration, new principals 3 years in a row, institute scanning, you know fire school aides, all of this has a negative impact on the educational culture of the school.
We all decided, we will not side with the DOE. We will fight to keep the school open.
Before he became a teacher at Lehman, James McSherry attended the school as a student from 1976 to 1981. The school isMcSherry is the poster child of Lehman High School. To the students of the Bronx high school, McSherry is an example of someone who made it out of the streets.
Along with being a Columbia graduate, and a high school teacher for the last 21 years, McSherry also published a book called A Clean Street Is A Happy Street and a movie called Poetry Man, which was shown in the Cannes film festival. His novel and his film deal with the rough and sometimes violent experiences he experienced as an young adult navigating the streets of the Throggs Neck section of the Bronx.
His love for film developed because his mentally ill mother would wake him up at night to keep her company and watch movies with her. As a child though, McSherry was unaware of the bleakness of the conditions his family faced. He loved the experiences he had and considers the hardships a blessing because they made him who he is today.
He was initially an English teacher and later served as a dean. For the past few years, he has been teaching a film course. He started out with a few handheld camcorders but since then has acquired more professional equipment. His classroom now holds a green screen, professional lighting equipment, over a dozen apple computers, and an overhead projector with a smart board. His students have won local and nationwide competitions by shooting and editing public service announcements, silent films and documentaries. Most recently they won a contest by making a P.S.A about dating abuse which was shown on the Dr. Phil show. The participating students also each received an iPad 2.
However, all of this is now in jeopardy thanks to Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to shut down 32 public high schools all throughout the city. The turn around model will fire all of the staff and only hire 50 percent of the teachers back. The school will be reopened under a different name with new administrators.
The committee in charge of rehiring teachers will compose of a majority appointed by the mayor and only one representative from the school.
McSherry is convinced that this is a loophole created by the mayor to get rid of the more experienced and more expensive teachers and hire younger, cheaper teachers with very little experience. McSherry calls facts the enemy of the truth and says that it’s important for teachers to have connections and understanding with the students. He doesn’t agree with the new “cookie-cutter” curriculums and thinks that it takes more than techniques and statistics to understand how to teach and inspire students.
You can see more of McSherry’s work at his personal website jamesmcsherry.com/
You can support Lehman High School by joining the Save Lehman High School Facebook page facebook.com/savelehmanhighschool
The logo of the apple in the clenched fist seen throughout the video was designed by Rajive Anand, Lehman High School’s art teacher. Watch a video I did on him here pineappleandmilk.com/2011/10/10/rajive-sada-anand-pineapple-and-milk-laserman/
You can see more of my work at Pineappleandmilk.com or vimeo.com/pineappleandmilk or thingsiencounter.com
Behind the Scene
The idea to shoot this piece came to me because at the time I was living with Rajive Anand, and I saw the effort they were making to save the school from closing. I also graduated from the school, and even worked there after graduating college. I saw the change the change that occured there over the years. It went from a friendly and successful school to a school with metal detectors and a bad reputation. This video was a way for me to give back to the community that raised me by raising awareness. As a journalist, I also remained objective and checked the facts before including any statements made in the video, and kept overly emotional statements about the school out of the video.
The Story of a Bronx Dancer: Andrew Saunders, aka Goofy, dances on trains to avoid the pitfalls of growing up in the Bronx. His mom is his motivation.
I live in Crown Heights and ride the Q every day from Brooklyn to Manhattan and back. In the fall, a group of dancers captured my attention every time they stepped on the train and introduced themselves.
“What time is it? Showtime!” they would shout together.
Still, it took me a while to realize that it was the same group of guys each time. The line-up always seemed different, but eventually I noticed the constant: the short, lean, muscular kid with the goofy grin and a unique set of antics. He was clearly the glue. So when Anika and I decided to search for a story among these kids, it was logical to approach Goofy first.
We encountered some definite challenges along the way. Communicating with Goofy was one of them. But for an 18-year-old kid whose mind is constantly preoccupied with dancing and friends, he was so bad.
Most important, shooting this story reminded me of the merits of prereporting. It’s easy to have faith that a story will work out because doing so initially takes less effort. But we would have saved so much time had we been clearer about the story earlier in the process.
Learn LiteFeet’s basic steps from one of its originators:
Watch Goofy battle at Center of Lite:
Music by one of LiteFeet’s most popular producers:
Trying to foster mindfulness among Occupiers leads meditation expert Caroline Contillo to reconsider her own views on political activism.
It’s like sometimes I feel like I’ve been drawn to this, and like, my place in this world is kind of to destroy people’s preconceived notions about who meditates. I feel like there’s a lot of – people think it’s just like a peace, love, relaxation thing. I mean it can be for people. But that’s not exactly what it’s about for me.
I’d been really politically active when I was in high school and then in my early 20s, and, I’d always – I always ended up getting burned out. I didn’t necessarily feel like part of a community. I felt like an angry person who met up with other angry people and we occasionally tried to get stuff done. Occupy was a completely different experience for me.
One of the things that you learn meditating and practicing Buddhism is that compassion can’t just be this thing that you sit here and intend good things to happen. There has to be action involved.
My name is Caroline. And I don’t want to call this a meditation. I want to call it a grounding. And I would like us all to get on the same page, checking in about why we occupy. So let’s take three minutes to occupy our bodies and check-in with our minds.
I don’t know if the movement at large necessarily sees what we’re doing as worthwhile, but I think something that I’m taking away from it is the way that it’s a constant process. And it kind of – it opened me back up to the idea that – I don’t know how to say this without sounding really trite. It just kind of opened my heart back up to political action.
I had gotten pretty frustrated, and just seeing that there are so many people willing to actually participate in the process, even when it seems like it’s faltering – that’s really heartening. And I think that gives me, kind of, faith, maybe not in my lifetime that the whole ship’s going to turn around, but we’re at least engaged in the process of starting that.
The Interdependence project – where Caroline works and meditates: theidproject.org/
Occupy Wall Street – official website: occupywallst.org/
How and why meditation can de-stress just about anyone: mayoclinic.com/health/meditation/HQ01070
——————————————————behind the scenes———————————————————–
(Insert intrigued eyebrow raise here).
Before my colleague, Jackie Snow, introduced me to Caroline, the only thing that I knew about her was that she practiced Buddhist meditation and did magic on the side. Because these two hobbies are relatively unique – even in a city of 8 million people who all seem to have unique hobbies – my immediate reaction was, ‘score! great story.’
The more that I got to know about Caroline, however, the more I realized that Buddhism and witchcraft had nothing to do with the story at all. Sure, to catch a viewer’s attention, I could mention those two descriptors in the title or the first ten seconds. I probably would have even gotten the intrigued eyebrow raise once or twice. But the after spending time with Caroline both at her studio and at Occupy, I learned that those practices were just minor details of her motivation. Meditation might be her personal contribution to the movement, but it’s not the only reason why she’s there.
And while I don’t know if my personal opinions on Occupy Wall Street have changed, I know that my understanding of the people who take part in it has.
UK-born Anisha Dadia came to the U.S. in 2010 aspiring to become an actress. A year after graduation from the acting school, Anisha’s life is split between auditions and babysitting in support of her New York fairytale. She has only two months to find how to keep it until her visa expires.
no transcript was provided
Despite danger and little pay, a New York City bicycle courier explains why he loves his job.
My name is Mike Pelletier. I am a bicycle courier in New York City.
I think it’s just being able to do pretty much whatever you want in the time of 9 to 5. You have to pick up your package, you have to deliver the package and you have to do it all in a certain amount of time, but you can go any route, you can yell at people, you can blow red lights. Not necessarily, but you can pretty much do anything to get to your destination. I think that’s the most gratifying part. It’s just so open, so free.
I put on a podcast or turn on my radio and listen to music and pretty much zone out. I’m always aware of the cars around me and the lights and the pedestrians because you have to be. It would be way too dangerous.
It’s a lot of work for a little bit of pay. You can’t call out on rain days, you can’t call out on snow days. If you’re sick, too bad, you got to rid your bike. So you kind of just have to work through that kind of stuff. But if you are a good messenger, you don’t get into accidents, you deliver packages on time, you’re trustworthy, you can make between $400 and $700 a week.
In one of my classes in college I had a friend that was a messenger and he came in sweaty, he had that giant backpack full of stuff, he had his bike gloves on. He just looked like a complete badass. And I just started talking to him and he told me he just rode his bike all day, made good money, he could pay rent. And at the time I was just looking for work, I was just working in a dead end busboy job somewhere and decided to try something new. Did really bad the first week, got a little better the second week, was dead tired the third week, but by the fourth week I kind of knew what I was doing, where I had to ride and stuff like that, and I think it’s when you get to that point that the job becomes really, really fun.
There’s just a lot of dangerous shit people do. It’s one of those things where you really don’t have time to think about it. You see a red light and you see a car coming and he’s already at the stoplight. You know you’re going too fast and you can’t stop. So it’s just pedal quicker and try to squeeze your way through the smallest gap as quick as possible, instead of slow down safely and wait until it turns green.
I’ve had a lot of injuries. Some minor scrapes and bruises, some really debilitating injuries. I’ve definitely had some injuries where I’ve had to lay down on the sidewalk and kind of reevaluate what I’m doing. But I think to do something like this you kind of just have to put it aside you, assume you’re not going to get hurt and just go about your day.
w/ camera help from Mary Shell
Daniel Roman has been working as a golf ball picker and maintenance man at the Randall’s Island Driving Range for 10 years. He could’ve chosen a different path, like his jailed brother, but instead he drives around, picking up balls to earn a living.
I got hit once where the ball came in and hit me in the knee. I told the guy you know, you think you’re not hurting anybody, but you see the ball came in and hit me. I drove right up to tell him. I wasn’t mad or anything, I just wanted to let him know, there’s consequences to if you aim at the car.
Trying to get some of that mud out.
To earn a living you got to work. You can’t be stealing from people, even if they’re bad people. My brother, he’s in prison. He’s in jail, jail, he’s in jail. He’s into like, robbing people, but not like ordinary people, he robs people that sell drugs. He’s the type – he would work, but I don’t know I think he likes it easy, he wants the quick money, fast.
I know this, when we was young, I know him and his friends they used to kill cats. I don’t know why because I don’t like killing animals, I don’t believe in killing animals, but I always thought about that – why would they be out there killing cats?
Who would want to have their freedom taken away from? You know it’s bad waking up in a cell – they tell you when to eat, when to do this when to do that, forget it. Can’t go out and get fresh air whenever you want to. I like being outdoors, that’s what I like about it. Now that it’s getting hot it’s nice to be outside.
I figure like this – to each his own, you choose your own path.
Alright, this is where we get off.
Anisha Dadia came to New York from the UK two years ago to pursue an acting career. Now, she struggles with her dream, switching back and forth between student film auditioning and babysitting. She has to prove herself good enough to receive an artist visa or she will have to leave the U.S.
Behind the scenes:
For the past months, Anisha has mainly been the elevator girl to me, the person you see daily on your way out of the house and you say “hi” or “good morning”, but you don’t really talk to each other. Anisha is living in my dorm, the International House. I first pursued another character for my video profile, an opera singer. After I noticed that the character did not really struggle and it was not possible to shoot him rehearsing, because Opera people are very strict, I canceled him and went home. At the same evening, I recorded a theatre play at my dorm for my Audio Reporting class. Anisha had helped to organize this play. So we both were sitting around during the rehearsal and she was waiting for this important phone call. She had been one of two actresses in New York that were invited for a taping for a big network TV-Show. She was practicing and practicing, because the role she would have to play had an American accent and she really struggled with that (and I could be no help at all). So then I talked to her a bit about her story and she told me how much she would need this role to be able to stay in the country. In the end she didn’t get the role, but I noticed that I got a story.
Anisha’s website: thisisanisha.com/
Anisha playing a Spanish man in a short comedy: youtube.com/watch?v=4UgkoGBSS18
One of the many sites she uses to apply for auditions: backstage.com/bso/index.jsp
Caroline Contillo brings her Buddhist meditation practice to Occupy Wall Street Meetings.
Shot by Jackie Snow and Jenny Marc
Edited and Produced by Jackie Snow
You know I had gotten really jaded about political action, I’d been really politically active when I was in high school and then in my early 20s. And I always ended up getting burned out. It always seemed really frustrating. I didn’t necessarily feel like part of a community. I felt like an angry person who met up with other angry people and we occasionally tried to get stuff done.
My Name My Name is Caroline is Caroline
Occupy was a completely different experience for me. I had gone down there and been kind of an observer. I studied cultural anthropology in school so I’ve always had this inclination to be a little on the outside of things and just watch and document but after the eviction i was just like incensed. Like I couldn’t just watch anymore.
I don’t want to call this a meditation I don’t want to call this a meditation. I want to call it a grounding. I want to call it a grounding.
The meditation working group is like an occupy specific group of meditators from all different meditations backgrounds who are kind of working on how best our meditation practice could benefit occupy in general.
The big projects we’ve been working on is we’ve been calling them groundings exercises.
It’s a form of meditation. It’s kind of just sitting or standing for three minutes and kind of getting in touch with your body.
Cause I’m stoked as hell Cause I’m stoked as hell To be on this ground To be on this ground At Liberty Plaza At Liberty Plaza
I think that the park was a grounding thing when people were camped in it. umm so without that whats grounding people and i think that kind of has to be other people who are kind of -. its kind of like a hey hey lets focus why are we here what are we doing.
I would like us all to get on the same page I would like us all to get on the same page Checking in Checking in About why we occupy About why we occupy So lets take three minutes So lets take three minutes To occupy our bodies To occupy our bodies And check in with our minds And check in with our minds
I don’t know how to say this without sounding really trite it just kind of opened my heart back up to political action
I met Caroline when I was at a bar in Brooklyn. She and another girl were standing awfully close to my husband, so I went over to introduce myself. My husband, who prides himself at being my wingman for story ideas, introduced her, smiling broadly, as an Buddhist Witch Occupier who does meditation at meetings. I was the one standing awfully close, asking her dozens of questions about being a Buddhist Witch meditator at Occupy Wall Street.
I had been going to Occupy events since day one and thought I had met all the characters there. A recently unemployed publishing world guy who started a business covering Occupy. An activist from Chicago named Ketchup, who was later tormented on The Colbert Report. Caroline proved to be a new one.
For more info:
A young and adventurous “alley cat” bicyclist speaks about his experiences riding and racing around New York City. He takes us around the city and through the year’s biggest race for bicycle couriers: Monster Track.
It’s the most exhilarating thing I can do, in like an urban city like this. Where it’s all, it’s all cement. You can’t, can’t snowboard in the streets, you can’t uh, parasail on the beaches…
I mean, you ride your bike as fast as possible through traffic. That’s what we do.
When you’re doing Alley Cats, that’s, it’s a way to like kinda show people how fast you are, or I’m so much better than you, my bike’s so much better than yours. Uh, in kind of a fun, friendly way.
Usually when word of mouth gets out that there’s a race, uh, they’ll say meet up at the end of Brooklyn Bridge or end of Williamsburg Bridge.
Uh, the guy will yell ‘go’ and then we’ll all just sprint, sprint across, grab our bikes and just, I guess start the race.
The most dangerous thing I’ve done in a race, uh, was probably, uh jump on the FDR for a couple, uh blocks. Um, and you can jump on really, really quick and you can shoot up pretty much you know 60 blocks without any traffic um and no lights. Cars are flying by you at 65 miles an hour when you’re going 20, and it’s a little scary but, uh, it’s real fun.
I grew up in like a suburban area, uh, you know, there was 10 houses on a block, so it was really, really easy to get a group of people together and do something really stupid. It would be ‘who could climb up the tree the fastest and climb back down, who could skateboard on their belly the fastest down a really big hill.’ So I guess it’s in true form of myself to continue with this adrenaline-pumping sport.
I think coming to the city and realizing how easy it is to bike around and how much faster it is to bike like through Brooklyn or through Manhattan on a bike really kind of drew me into it.
Um, but when I realized, you know, you could race, and have a competitive side to it, that’s when it really kind of kicked in that this is, (laughs) this is awesome.
Back in high school, you may have thought about working at the driving range as a summer job. For some people, it’s much more – a full time job and even a career.
My name is Daniel Roman, I’m 47 years old.
A typical day: get here in the morning, check the bathrooms, make sure there’s TP in there. Make sure the ball machine’s full.
I got hit once where the ball came in and hit me in the knee.
I told the guy, You think you’re not hurting nobody, but you see the ball came in and hit me. I drove right up front to tell him. I wasn’t mad or anything, I just wanted to let him to know there’s consequence to if you aim at the car, you know.
Just hurt for a little while.
If it hits the car, I usually don’t even flinch. I’m used to it now.
My sister works for Con Edison, my other sister’s a home attendant, my other one’s a nurse, and my brother, uh he’s in prison. In, jail. Jail. He’s in jail.
I figure everybody gotta work, you know, to earn a living, you know. Can’t be stealing from people, even if they’re bad people. You know?
I have some future plans. I’m thinking about going back to school. Because I don’t want to be here, I don’t want to stay here. I’m getting a little, I guess uh, not that it’s getting a little boring but I think i’ve done it and im getting a little tired of it, a little bit a little bit.
James McSherry has taught at Herbert H. Lehman High School in the Bronx since 1991. The school has been slated to close and re-open with half of the staff. Determined to make sure this does not happen, students, parents and teachers staged a demonstration at a hearing on March 7th, 2012.
[OUTSIDE SCHOOL AMBI - FOOTSTEPS]
McSherry: The school itself is in a turn around model, which means – It’s a euphemism for “We’re closing you down and opening you up in a charter school initiative”.
It’s not good for the teachers. It’s not good for the parents, not good for the community and it’s definitely not good for the kids.
And they’re looking to fire all teachers and then re-hire 50 percent of the staff.
[PEOPLES MIC] (I consider this school my second home)
I don’t know if I’m going to reapply for my job. I just feel that it’s like a slap in the face to have to reapply after twenty-something odd years in that school, you know, for a position.
[AMBI FROM INSIDE CAR]
I live in this community. My daughter goes to public school. She might go to Lehman High School in two years. I have a personal investment in this job, more than a job, and in the community, and in my students. And I feel that they’re not getting the proper – [PROTEST NOISE] It’s not a fair and equitable way that they’re being treated, as far as by the administration, by the DOE, by politicians Bloomberg and Cuomo, Chancellor Walcott and before him his predecessor, Chancellor Klein. These people are out of touch with the realities that our students are faced with. And I feel that’s important. It’s an important part of the equation.
Shared sacrifices. When a politician says “Shared sacrifices”, it means bend over, because you’re getting screwed.
Before he became a teacher at Lehman, James McSherry attended the school as a student from 1976 to 1981. The school is one of 33 low performing schools that has been chosen to close and re-open in what is called a turn around model. When the school closes, teachers will have to reapply for their jobs. Only 50 percent will get their jobs back.
The school will be collocated by a charter school. Lehman High School, which was already crowded, will become even more so. Parents, students, and teachers have struggled to keep their school in tact, but their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
McSherry teaches Film at Lehman. He started a Film program after starting out as an English teacher.
He is also a writer and filmmaker. McSherry made a short film called “Poetry Man” in 2010 that won several awards, including the Audience Choice Award at the Manhattan Film Festival. The film starred Peter Greene and was based on a childhood friend that got mixed up in crime and ended up in prison.
As a life-long Bronx resident, McSherry is all too familiar with the adversity and unfairness kids growing up in underserved neighborhoods have to deal with. McSherry grew up with a bi-polar mother who struggled financially. His father was murdered when he was very young. McSherry saw many friends and people around him die at a young age.
McSherry says collocation will add complication to the lives of kids who have already had it rough.
James’ website: www.jamesmcsherry.com/
A NYDaily News Article about James: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/filmmaker-standing-soon-to-be-closed-school-article-1.1035097
James’ IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2548176/
Behind the Scenes:
Nabil Rahman, who I shot this with, knew James from school. Nabil had attended Lehman High School, and also later taught there. When he heard about the closing and collocation of the school, he figured James would be the perfect subject to talk to about the issue.
In the first interview we filmed, we had close to two hours of footage. We had an enormous amount of really compelling stories from James’ life. As a result, it was extremely hard to compress it into what it is now. It feels like there is so much missing. James has an incredible amount of engaging stories from his 20 years of teaching. One story that particularly stuck out was a tragic story about James finding a young girl who had hung herself in the school bathroom. James then had to tell the mother of the student what had happened. James’ life needs feature-length time to do it justice.
(Not necessarily relevant, but part of the journey of filming this:) I got robbed while coming home late on the subway from the Bronx after shooting the first interview, and feel like I can now say I have had the complete New York experience.
Andrew Saunders, an 18-year-old from the Bronx, stays out of trouble by spending most of his time dancing on subway trains.
Visit these links for more information on subway dancing and lite feet:
The first time we met up with Goofy, we had absolutely no idea what to expect. Our biggest concern was shooting on a moving train. We both brought tripods, which was just silly, because there was no way to move around quickly with it. The last time we rode with Goofy, we each had a monopod, which worked much better.
We wanted to do a sit down interview with Goofy, but couldn’t find a quiet place to do it. So we brought him to CUNY’s TV studio. We chatted with him for an hour. At the end of it, after Goofy left, I let out an exasperated sigh. I didn’t think we got anything out of him, I didn’t even think we had a story with this kid. But Kenny’s eyes lit up and he said he thought we got great stuff.
A LOT of other things happened. We went out to the Bronx to shoot this dance competition/party that they all go to every week. It ended up not going very well with our story, so we cut it. We almost decided to focus on one of Goofy’s friends instead of Goofy. His friend, Swagga Boy, said he was starting Julliard in a couple weeks. We called Julliard to double check—turned out he was lying.
The toughest scene to shoot was Andrew’s mom in the nursing home. We were hoping we could just “hang out” and be wallflowers while they visited with each other. But, no such luck. She shared a room with another resident and Goofy brought along two of his other friends, so it was a tight squeeze. We felt really bad putting a camera in this woman’s face whom we had never met before. Our saving grace was when someone brought a tray of food in and Andrew and his mom ignored us for a few moments. That led to some good natural shots.
Single greatest lesson I learned from the editing process is how important it is to log footage from a shoot, at least before the next time you go out to shoot. Super, super important. Seriously.
Final Cut of 1-3 minutes due in class Wednesday, October, 26, 2011
Each final project will be posted on Vimeo on or before the deadline. Remember it takes time to upload and for Vimeo to process you video, depending on the time of day, the traffic at Vimeo and the speed of your connection. This process might take several hours. If I log on at the deadline and I can’t watch your video, for whatever reason, I’ll consider it a missed deadline and you’ll be automatically dropped a grade to start.
Each piece must be accompanied by the following six written journalistic elements, all of which must be posted to Vimeo with your video:
- a 240 character description of the story. (For use in TubeMogel)
- a longer 250 word description of the story
- a compelling headline and subhead that are SEO optimized plus at least 5 tags
- a word for word accurate transcript of the final piece
- at least three suitable links to the subject, story or theme from other sources
- a short behind-the-scenes story about how you found the character, something interesting that happened that’s not in the final piece, why you created this story, etc (great for blogging)