“Dear Sophina” — An amazing follow-up to “The Astoria Notes”
A couple weeks ago, I posted an entry I called The Astoria Notes. It included scans of several notes slipped under my door by my downstairs neighbor in my first apartment in Astoria, Queens, complaining about noise and leaks from my apartment. Her name was Sophina, and if you haven’t read her notes yet you should really check them out.
Among the responses I received was an e-mail from Ryan Meehan, an English teacher at Santa Fe High School in Gainesville, Florida. He wrote, “I teach High School English to kids who really struggle with reading. I am always trying to create reading assignments they might actually enjoy. I think your post, and the notes, would be a delightful assignment. Would you mind if I used it for two of my classes?”
I gladly gave him permission, and a week or so later I received this response:
So your blog went over great with my kids. They are all, for the most part, kids who really struggle academically (especially with reading), so to see them tear through your story with a sense of urgency was extremely rewarding.
In addition to the active reading exercises and comprehension questions I had them complete, their final assignment was to write a letter to Sophina. They were to imagine what they would have done were they in your shoes.
I brought in my microphone today, and we recorded the responses in Garageband and mixed in a music track as well…
Thanks again for granting me permission to use your story. This is my first year teaching high school, and though I’m 6 months in, I felt like this was the first week I really connected with the kids.
It’s equal parts touching and surreal. Somewhere out there, a group of high school kids I don’t know wrote letters to my old neighbor, sticking up for me. And they set it to music. Ryan set up a wiki for the class project where he posted the classes’ spoken word performances. Here they are:
|Period 2||Period 5|
5 mins 33 secs
6 mins 37 secs
I was a bit taken aback by these, I must confess. The students were much angrier with Sophina than I ever was. But then Ryan followed up by having the students write more respectful letters to Sophina:
|Period 2||Period 5|
6 mins 3 secs
4 mins 45 secs
I have to imagine that, in the entire history of neighborly feuds, I’m the first person to get letters to my neighbor recorded by two high school English classes and set to music. It’s too bizarre. I love it. Thanks, Santa Fe High School English periods two and five!