Home Home Home About Us Home About Us About Us About Us /links/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html About Us About Us /archives/index.html About Us /archives/index.html About Us /archives/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html /links/index.html
Home About Us About Us /links/index.html /advertising/index.html /advertising/index.html
About Us /archives/index.html /archives/index.html /subscribe/index.html /subscribe/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /survey/index.html /links/index.html










Camps & Sports


Children’s Corner

Collected Features


Cover Stories

Distance Learning


Famous Interviews


Medical Update

Metro Beat

Movies & Theater


Music, Art & Dance

Special Education

Spotlight On Schools

Teachers of the Month


















New York City
July 2002

From Coney Island to Paris to Miami: An Assistant Principal Shares Her Views
By Lynn K. Robbins

Ruby K. Payne states in A Framework for Understanding Poverty, “An individual brings with him/her the hidden rules of the class in which he/she was raised.” However, he added, the impact an educator can have on a child can modify those rules and change that child’s future, regardless of their socio-economic status. I’ve been around public and private education for 36 years, sometimes in a classroom, sometimes in an office, but always a learner as well as a teacher. I’ve certainly learned from my peers, but more importantly, I’ve learned from the children by listening to who they are, where they come from and what it is that they need.

I’ve taught in Paris at one of the most elite private schools in the world; in Coney Island, a haven for drug pushers and prostitutes; and a similar neighborhood in South Florida. Based on my experience as an educator I will argue the presumption that social ranking is the predominant factor in determining what an individual becomes and the contributions that he/she makes to society. The following are three stories about children that I’ve met. One was from a wealthy background and the other two from poverty. They all needed to be heard.

I met Sylvia in France during my first full-time teaching experience. All of her permanent teeth were pulled when she was 14 because she had a gum infection. Her mother didn’t want to go through the hassle of supporting her daughter through a year’s worth of dental surgery so false teeth became an easier option. She had no self-esteem, and would even joke around by taking out her false teeth and making grotesque faces. Sylvia was last in her class at an elite international private school in just outside of Paris, France. She slept until 11:00 A.M every day and missed most of her classes. The administration couldn’t do much with Sylvia so they let her sleep, took her parents money and moved her from grade to grade. I would wake her up in the morning to go to class. It was a Catholic school and I remember Sister Anne not appreciating my interference because I wasn’t Catholic. She was afraid I might influence her religious beliefs. They had no clue that Sylvia had none. Her parents asked me to escort her to their apartment across the street from Harrods, in London, during Christmas and Thanksgiving. They weren’t going to be there and the only other option for her was to be alone during those vacations, so I agreed to her parent’s request. We were picked up in a Bentley and had a chauffer, a butler, plus all expenses paid. I did it for Sylvia. She often talked about what sixteen year olds talk about with their parents or someone they trust. But, mostly, we talked about math. She hated math. We discussed what she could do in life if she didn’t learn math. There wasn’t much. Six months before graduation, all of the seniors were asked to write a valedictorian speech. Sylvia’s was the best. But she was last in her class and the administration refused to use her speech even though they knew it was written with great passion and insight. I talked with Sister Anne and she finally agreed that Sylvia’s speech could be read by the true valedictorian. Following her graduation Sylvia moved back to the New York area with her parents. Although her grades did not support her admission to any college, I was able to convince some friends at a local community college to enroll her in a probationary program. Sylvia went on from there. She now has a doctorate, has published two books and developed her own business.

Tranisha was a 12-year-old girl who lived in Coney Island but rarely came to school. She was retained twice and far too mature for her present grade. Her father was killed one day while trying to save the life of a child who had fallen into a river. Not soon after, her mother became an alcoholic. Every morning before 7:00 a.m. I would set out to find her underneath the Coney Island boardwalk. She would come to school with me now and again, but not often enough. One day I asked what it would take for her to come to school every day. She told me simply that if she could be a cheerleader, she would come to school. I told her that could be arranged. I’ve been an athlete all my life and had little respect for cheerleaders, pom poms and all, but if that was what it would take for her to come to school, I would make it happen. I was an intervention specialist at the time and was part of a restructuring team at a struggling Coney Island elementary school. The principal knew that if I asked for something special for a child, he would see to it that it was done. And so it happened. Tranisha began coming to school every morning at 7:00 a.m. with some of her friends and created a cheerleading squad, (we had no teams, but that mattered little.) She went to the gym and was supervised by the security guard while I went to my office. There was much to be done at the school and we put in long hours. Tranisha came to school every day for two weeks, worked with her group, went to cafeteria for breakfast and then to class. She was smart, and the teachers knew it. One day she asked me to stay for the morning practice. I agreed. What I observed was remarkable and had no resemblance to cheerleading, as I knew it. She had recruited over twenty of her classmates, mostly girls but some boys as well. She stood in front of her troupe, four lines of children, one head behind the other, standing perfectly straight and silent, with hands at their sides. Then she gave the command to begin. They performed intricate maneuvers in unison including clapping, stomping, tumbling and chanting. I do remember that when she gave the command to halt, one girl said something to another. Tranisha called her name and pointed to the door. The girl left the gym without a sound. She had violated the rules and she knew it. I called schools in the neighborhood that had teams, secured funding for a bus and we became regulars at many halftime shows. Tranisha became a great leader of her peers. I nominated her for a leadership award presented by Borough President Golden. There were 600 winners but only one was to receive the top award. It was Tranisha. As the award winner, she had to prepare a speech to present in front of the other 600 nominees and their parents at City Hall. Not only did we help her with her speech but we had to dress her as well. There she stood, at the podium, in a donated white satin dress with matching heels. She was brilliant. After the speech Borough President Golden presented her with a plaque and put his arm around her for a photo opportunity. I knew she was a leader and so did she. More importantly, her mother did as well. She was sitting in the audience, for the first time, acknowledging her child’s accomplishments, and she was sober. She, too, had prepared for this occasion.

When John was eight years old he saw his mother and grandmother raped and sodomized at gunpoint by someone he knew. He became a mute for a year. He was retained for one year and had a list of discipline referrals that made him undesirable to most school administrators. A few years later, a community leader brought him to my attention and asked that I enroll him in the special school in South Florida. I met with his grandmother and then with him. There was something in his eyes. I enrolled him and became his mentor. I was called when things happened with John, when he bullied a child or disrespected a teacher. I do think that he was testing me, and my commitment. I left for New York that summer and gave John four envelopes with my New York address and stamps on them. I received four letters. He received postcards from Montauk and Manhattan. When I returned in August, I opened a bank account for him with the proviso that whatever money he made working as a babysitter or at other odd jobs, he had to put 50 percent of it in the account. The rest he could use for whatever he wanted. The account was opened with $25. After 4 months he had over $80. I told him by the time he entered college, he would be able to buy whatever he needed. He never thought about college before and now he does.

These children have reacted to the images and sounds of their different environments and have moved beyond those experiences. With borders collapsing, human dignities being devalued and personal hopelessness growing, we need to look carefully at the impact that educators can have on understanding and nourishing each student’s ability and willingness to learn. As an administrator and a teacher I have learned to listen and then try to engage, inspire and create excitement in the process of learning. The goal is to broaden perspectives and offer greater choices. That is the ultimate role of anyone who has taken on the responsibility of educating our children.#

Lynn K. Robbins is currently an educational administrator in Palm Beach County and has an M. S. in Sports Psychology from Brooklyn College and M.S. in Administration and Supervision from CCNY. She is past Vice President of Phi Delta Kappa, Columbia University, and is currently pursuing her doctorate in Educational Leadership from Florida Atlantic University.#


Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001.
Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919.Email: ednews1@aol.com.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2002.


Bloomberg and Soros Announce Plan to Fund After-School Programs

Bank Street Conference at Museum of Natural History

Bard HS Early College Moves to Lower East Side

From Coney Island to Paris to Miami: An Assistant Principal Shares Her Views

How The Constitution Works for Students

Dr. Joyce Coppin Honored

Events at Everett Children’s Adventure Garden, NY Botanical Garden, Bronx

Inside the Superintendent’s Office: Betty Rosa

Lexington School for the Deaf Honors Ralph Lauren

Mentoring USA Holds Appreciation Reception

NASA’s Education Programs for High School Students

New Middle School at Marymount

Paige Discusses After-School Programs

Private or Public Education?

Ramaz Lower School

Schools Provide ‘Oasis of Stability’ to Homeless Children

“Start Something” & Tiger Woods Fulfill Kids’ Dreams

Summer Travel & Education: Heritage Seminars

Warning Signs of Depression and Sucide

Who’s Minding the Schools?