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Susan Gonzalez

Looking back on the writings of the former city teacher killed at homeless shelter

The former New York City teacher and librarian who was fatally stabbed Wednesday was also a writer whose blog was followed by thousands and often featured on Chalkbeat.

According to the New York Times, Deven Black, 62, was killed while staying at an East Harlem homeless shelter. Black had started as a special education teacher in 2004 and worked mostly in Bronx schools until he was placed in the absent teacher reserve in 2014 and suspended last year.

But in the five years leading up to Black leaving the classroom, he kept a blog called “Education on the Plate,” where he described his work and sometimes hinted at tough times. Chalkbeat often featured Black’s writing in roundups of pieces by New York City educators.

Here are a few excerpts from some of Black’s notable writing:

Telling his principal that he was underutilized

“I reminded him that I did a lot of different things before becoming a teacher and I carry a diverse set of skills he could take advantage of and gave him suggestions on how I might be more useful to him and the school.

I could write grants … I could plan and do PD … I could create, or facilitate students creating a webpage for the school … I could produce an online school magazine. I could, I could, I could.

On his first year as a school librarian

“I reorganized all the books in the library, twice. I began automating the library, a process of putting barcodes on all the books and scanning them into our now online catalog … Five unpaid Saturdays were spent in 7-hour long training sessions to learn more about my job, I won a small technology grant.

I’ve got a lot more work to do. I need to improve my teaching, redecorate the library and try to find the money for a renovation … I also need to purchase books, magazines and databases with the twin foci of providing quality recreational reading options and better aligning the collection to our curriculum.”

On a proposal to add four weeks to the school year

“I often tell my students that if the approach they’re taking to solve a problem isn’t working they should try something else; that doing more of what isn’t working in the first place and expecting a different result is a form of insanity.”

On teacher evaluations based on test scores

“We should have done what we claim to do best: teach … We could have taught the lesson about how one test on one day does not necessarily – okay, doesn’t at all – show what any one student or any large group of students know, don’t know and are or are not capable of doing.”