Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Crossing the Water - Robb

Cape Cod is known for many things...sun, sand, and summer fun. But few would add juvenile delinquents or lepers to that list. But, in fact, off of the southern edge of Cape Cod lies a little island called Penikese which, due to its remoteness, was once used to quarantine lepers until their eventual death. The colony has since fallen to ruins of course. 

The island was eventually taken over by a group of men who believed that it they took boys, juvenile delinquents, and essentially quarantined them from the "diseases" of their lives: poverty, violence, hatred, and unhappiness, and showed them something better: respect, responsibility, kindness, trust, they might be healed.

Crossing The Water: Eighteen Months on an Island Working with Troubled Boys - a Teacher's Memoir by Daniel Robb charts the author's tenure as a teacher and leader on that remote and beautiful island trying to connect with and teach troubled teen boys using hard work, respect and trust to give them hope and goals for the future. "Sentenced" to Penikese rather than being sent to juvenile hall or, in some cases, jail these boys are given a chance to turn their lives around.

Robb and his fellow teachers see past arrest records and hardened demeanors, cursing and mistrust, to the core of these boys. Using their own experiences (Robb is the product of a single parent home, having watched his own father walk away from his family), they try to touch the core of these burgeoning men and show them that there is a better, safer and more fulfilling way to live. And, in doing so, discover that perhaps the teachers are not the only ones who have something to teach on Penikese. 

I really enjoyed this book, though it took me quite a while to get through it. It isn't a particularly long book, but Robb writes in a expressive, sometimes round-about way leaving me rereading passages often to figure out what he meant/said. But ultimately, I was happy to have gotten a chance to experience his time with these boys and to have seen his own personal growth during that period.

3/5- Good. Read it, have a good time and move on. Or not.