Rose M. Black
Early Childhood General Education '70
The emphasis is on educating the whole child—the entire emotional, social, physical, and intellectual being—while valuing and reinforcing the child’s integrity as learner, teacher, and classmate.
When Rose M. Black graduated from Bank Street in 1970 with a master’s degree in Early Childhood General Education, the progressive ideas in education she had learned were considered quite radical.
As a student teacher in 1965, Rose’s groundbreaking fieldwork in an East Harlem public school was featured in a video that gives us a snapshot in time. She’s filmed in her classroom teaching a science lesson and engaging the students with questions. In the narration, she reflects, “No child is going to learn if he feels badly about himself. That’s one of the unique things about Bank Street. Through treating their students in a certain way, the students are in turn encouraged to treat other students in the same way, with a one-to-one relationship, with respect, and with encouragement…. The facts the children learn in school are easily forgotten, but it’s the attitude toward their work and toward learning that is important. If you know if they can save the excitement they feel toward learning, if they can keep this with them, then I’ll feel that my teaching has been successful.”
Rose’s first job as a public school teacher was teaching the 6th grade. She recalled with mixed feelings, “Its (the school’s) wonderful principal was also Bank Street trained, and my experience there could not have been more rewarding. But the months-long New York City teachers’ strike of 1968 threw everything into chaos. Education for everyone became quite challenging, and at times impossible.”
Rose worked with underserved students in numerous schools on both of the US coasts. As a teacher, Rose kept her practice focused by Bank Street’s belief that “The emphasis is on educating the whole child—the entire emotional, social, physical, and intellectual being—while valuing and reinforcing the child’s integrity as learner, teacher, and classmate.”
Throughout Rose’s career, Bank Street has continued to inform her practice. Currently, she teaches poetry to California prison inmates through The D-Yard Writing Workshop, where she promotes the growth of incarcerated emerging writers.
Rose said, “Bank Street’s philosophies and methods eventually carried over to the way I teach poetry at the Salinas Valley State Prison: with respect, boundaries, collaboration, creativity, and as much individual attention as possible.”
In support of her work with inmates, she also founded Right to Write Press, a non-profit organization that reads prisoner-authored work on the radio and at poetry readings. The organization has also published several prisoner-authored broadsides and three prisoner-authored books of poetry.
Rose is an author of three books of poetry: Clearing, Winter Light, and Green Field. Her first two books are included in Yale’s Beinecke Library for the Yale Collection of American Literature.
“Bank Street showed me that teaching could be inspiring and challenging; it recognized my strengths and worked with me to address my weaknesses, it taught me about the importance of progressive values. It taught me that students can love learning.”
Out of her many accomplishments, Rose thanks Bank Street for providing her with a lifelong example to follow.
Watch the 1966 Bank Street College video used to raise attention to educational equity and Bank Street’s groundbreaking mission to educate the whole child. The time capsule shows Rose Black doing fieldwork, teaching her 6th-grade class at PS108 in New York City’s East Harlem here.