Tuesday, March 17, 2009

culture project

Willie Martinez
Culture Project
Dr. Goldstein

I am a 25 year old Puerto Rican Male, my first language was Spanish my second

was English. I was raised Christian by an ex-Catholic born again Christian mother and

no father. I have no brother and no sisters. Raised in Passaic I’ve attended schools in this

urban community my whole life. My entire culture seems to be one big stereotype. I am

the Hispanic kid that comes from a single parent home because his dad skipped out on

him at a young age, my father, being the man that he is I do have about 5 half brothers

and Sisters and no I don’t have any contact with any of them. My mother being the

Christian mother that she is didn’t want me to see her bring home different men and so

she stayed a divorcee, at least that was her reason for not remarrying.

Growing up with out siblings I entered Passaic high school feeling a bit alone. I

noticed that most of the other Hispanic kids all seem to have many siblings or at lest

plenty of cousin that all seem to live nearby one another and attend the same schools.

Wanting to be apart of a “family” and so I was attracted early to the gang scene. I didn’t

have to do much; just stand around looking tough and soon some one approached me and

asked, “So what do you rep?” Before I knew I was being introduce to his group of friends

and they all welcomed me with plenty of love. They showed which corners to stand on

and which ones I shouldn’t because certain corners belonged to the blacks, and the other

to the Mexicans, But our corner was mixed between Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and

every so often we would have certain Mexicans and Black kids over that we felt were ok.

Soon my friends started talking about “our neighborhood” and “our streets” and

“protecting our people” then came the violence to show how far we were willing to go for

one another. Soon these friends felt like family, and that is when I felt complete. I had

this new family that seem to be willing to do anything for me and I felt the same about

them. Eventually that led to me being arrested as an adult. Then I noticed all those

brothers and sisters of mine were nowhere to be found, only a few were around for me

when I was behind bars. My mother though extremely angry with me, couldn’t bear to

leave her only child in there for too long. So soon she was at the courthouse to bail me

out. Once back home I was given an ultimatum either I can stay the path I was on and go

to live with some one else or I could come back home and attend college as long as I let

go of the people that help put me behind bars. Knowing she was doing all this for my

own good, I choose the latter.

To me it seemed that growing up Race and Gender seemed to be biggest thing to

shape my culture. As a Hispanic male I joined a Hispanic gang to create a “family” for

myself since I didn’t really have one at home. The fact that I am a male meant I was the

man of the house. I couldn’t allow anyone to disrespect me or say anything disrespectful

about my mother in anyway; to do so meant you were challenging my manhood. The

only thing that kept my Machismo somewhat in control was my religion. As a Christian I

was thought “Do onto others as you as you would like them to do onto you”. But on the

streets it was more like do onto others before they did it first. So I had to struggle a bit

between the two, being a street thug and a Christian Son of God. But I was raised to

believe that God forgives his children and so I might have taken advantage of this rule a


Now I must admit the only reason I had the ability to get into and ultimately

graduate college was due solely to my mother’s effort. She so happens to be a teacher in

the very high school I attended. Needless to say around her and her co-workers I learned

how to act like a perfect gentleman, but once outside the school my mother no longer was

able to keep her eye on me, the advantages of a latch key child. My honest feeling is that

if it wasn’t for her being in that school with me I would have most likely cut classes on a

daily basis and left my studies behind. My mother is only 5’4 in height but she had the

strength of a man 6’0 tall.

Because of my past experience in Passaic high school, I saw every one as a

potential threat. If you were white it meant you came from money, if you were Hispanic

then you had to be in a gang and if your were black then you was my enemy. It took a

long time to adjust my views, and it only happened hear in college. I became friends

with all sorts of people, white, black, Hindu, Muslim, catholic etc. I had new experiences

but I never forgot where I came from.

Now I want to go back and teach in the very high school that raised me. To see if

I could have some sort of impact on some child’s life and show them the way life could

be instead of them just seeing life for what it is. Many of them come from a similar

background and many will end up in a life of gang violence, drug trafficking and Jail. I

feel that in order to teach some one of a certain background you better have some

experience in what they’ve been through. If you don’t you could never fully understand

your student and if you don’t understand them you could never reach them. Yes I might

make more money and have an easier time teaching in Teaneck or Paramus but I will

never make an impact there. If I become a teacher then I must feel like I'm reaching my

student on a much deeper level. Maybe if I had a teacher reach out to me I could have

gone a different path in life, one with out an arrest record. But what is done is done,

looking forward I feel I could best be used in the urban school I cam from then anywhere

else in the world.


Sunday, February 22, 2009


Are we really prepared to teach? I personally will be going through what is known as the alternate route. That is that i am a grad from MSU in Bio Chem, but i took no education classes. I will take the praxis exam and hopefully land a job in my old high school in Passaic NJ, and though i understand the theory of biochemistry I really have no idea on how to stand in front of a class of 30 or more students and be able to truly teach them everything i know. This is a bit worrysome to me since i know that what i will be able to teach them, or what i wont be able to teach them, could certainly shape there future. Obviously this is a big weight on my shoulders because i know that i am probably the first line of fire when it comes to theses kids future. Not to mention the fact that there are so many other factors when it comes to teaching in an urban enviroment such as Passaic High school. I will have to not only face these children but also face there challenges of economic statues, at home support system, prior education etc. I presonally graudated from Passaic high school and know for a Fact that this school does not prepare you for collegae life. So what can i do different? how will i be able to pierce through all the other factors of home, friends, gangs, drugs etc. i really have no idea. Truly I hoped that this class and others in the MAT program will be able to at least guide me through this rocky road and hopefully give me what i would need to become the teacher these kids truly deserve. I am open to any possible suggestion. lol

Monday, February 2, 2009

what i think i know about urban teaching

Willie Martinez
CURR 523
Dr. Rebecca A. Goldstein

I have been raised in an urban community practically my whole life. I attended

and graduated from Passaic High School in the City of Passaic. My city is a small urban

city of about 3.25 square mile and my Graduating class of 2001consisted of about 2000

students, of which only half graduated. Please keep in mind that this is only the

graduating class of 01 and that there is only one high school for the city of Passaic. As

you can imagine saying my school was overcrowded would be an understatement.

Many of the ideas we discussed in class as to what we think about when we think

of teaching in an urban school were all present. My school consisted of about 45%

African American 45% Latino and about 10% other. All of my classes consisted of at

least 25 students per teacher. And growing up in this community my biggest concern in

school was safety. There were a lot of gangs in my school many of which were due to

cultural diversity. All the gangs were split up by race. Almost every day at 3 o’clock

when you left school the corners were filled with kids and depending on which group you

belong to, or what race you were, determine which corner you were allowed to stand on

and which ones you weren’t. Fights broke out pretty much everyday and usually for the

dumbest reasons. Some one-stepped on some ones shoes or they stared at some one

else’s girlfriend for too long and that was of course disrespectful. While in high school I

attended 2 funerals for “friends” that were killed because of there gang affiliation.

Surprisingly I didn’t run into to many drug problems while I was there. Not to

say that there went available it just wasn’t the main focus for my schools. You can

always find marijuana if you wanted it but I never saw anyone popping pills, or dealing

with any hard drugs such as cocaine or ecstasy. Of course alcohol was present at almost

every social gathering outside of school. And teen pregnancy was not such a shock, there

were at least 8 or 9 girls that were pregnant while in school and most ended up dropping

out before they could finish.

Just as diverse as the students were the teachers at Passaic High School. I had

teacher that were Caucasian and of course did not live in my community, and I had

teachers that were Hispanic and African American. Not all of them lived in my

community but they seem to adapt better than the Caucasian teachers. To be honest the

White teachers seem to be less happy about teaching there. Many of them seemed to be

annoyed or scared. I noticed that the other teachers had a better report with there class

room. Not to say they were always in control but they seem to handle the students a bit

better, especially those that had gone to Passaic high school before and came back to


I personally came from a single parent home and my mother just so happen to be

a teacher at my high school. I dreaded this while I was a student there, she knew all my

teachers and knew if I have given any of them any problems. She pushed my to take

some of the more advance courses while I was there and made me participate in activities

such as the Science fair and peer mediation. Even with her watchful eye I still manage to

hang out with the wrong crowed from time to time. In the end out of all my friends in

high school I was the only one of them that made it to college. Once I was here in MSU I

realized just how inadequate my high school was in preparing me for my college

experience. I struggled a lot to keep pace with many of the other students in my major.

Sadly this is of course not the case for most highs chool students. I didn’t see many of

my friends parents to be to involved in there school lives. Of course many of them had to

work to make ends meet, this meant taking over time and working weekends. Leaving

the kids to deal with all the stress of school on their own.

Now that I am grad I guess I want to go back to my old high school and see if

I could possibly make a difference. I did have one or two teachers that I must admit

influenced me to be a better person not just a better student. This was so important since

many of the student’s parents couldn’t be involved at all. The other teachers almost seem

to give up on us before they even got to know us. I had teachers tell me to enroll in the

army after high school, because college was most likely not an option for me. In fact one

of my best friends in high school was told by his math professor that he would probably

end up in jail after high school if he didn’t join the army, he took this to heart and joined

the navy even though he had a good enough SAT score and was accepted by William

Paterson University.

Hopefully Ill be able to take my life experience back with the knowledge I’ll gain

here and be able to push at least some of the students forward. I heard the saying that if

you can change the outlook of just one of your students and thus help him/her have a

brighter future then you could honestly say that you’ve done your job as a teacher. But

imagine if you can have the influence on the whole class room. I realize that in every

school and community there will be those that love to learn and really want to make

something of him or her selves. These are the kids that wouldn’t need some one like me.

But this is really a small percentage, the rest of them are in school because they have too.

Those are the students that I really want to work with. Many of my friends were like

these kids. Only in school because they had no were else to go for 8 hours, but many of

them were smart, real smart. Their parents either didn’t want to be involved or couldn’t

be involved with their kid’s academic life. Mainly because they were too busy at work

trying to make ends meet. Their children ends up getting rob of a good education, which

in turn forces them to get a job so they can help with bills. Soon they have children of

there own and get sent to the same school were they will probably end up in the

same life scenario. But if these kids find just one good teacher that makes them feel

intelligent and yes even loved then the cycle can be broken and that really the only way

any community can move forward. Hopefully I will be that teacher to these kids the way
my mother was for me and many of her own students