By Daina Potter ‘17
Manhattan’s busy streets were an oasis for Midwood alumni Gregory Hoffman, a physical therapist and author, who saw the city as a cozy home.
“Every person needs to have some place that feels like home. Manhattan was such a wonderful environment to move around in,” said Mr. Hoffman. “For me it was paradise.”
Mr. Hoffman wrote a book called “Magical Manhattan.” It is about a teenager named Sam, who can’t concentrate in school and can’t find a way to make his mother happy. Sam is a special kind of kid. He likes interacting with people but feels alone at the same time. But one thing that Sam loves is Manhattan. The city is very special to him. He loves to walk in fancy stores like Tiffany but what he loves most is the vibes from the busy streets of the city. This is similar to Mr. Hoffman because he is Sam.
“The main character Sam is based on me and the walks I took through Manhattan as a teenager, said Mr. Hoffman. “ I had a lot of trouble concentrating in school when I was a teenager.”
Manhattan saved both Sam and Mr. Hoffman. The city gave Mr. Hoffman the strength to continue on and taught him how to persevere. The experience for Sam is a little different. Sam goes on adventures in the city to find himself and to learn. He learns various lessons from talking animals to a princess knighting him. The princess teaches him how to focus in school and to understand the purpose of his mother. The book is important to Mr. Hoffman because all the character’s experiences and personalities are all based on real people. They are based on people he met in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Midwood helped amplify Mr. Hoffman’s new life lessons. The school left Mr. Hoffman with many memories.
Mr. Hoffman’s favorite elective was computer class. Mr. Schwartz, a math teacher, was in charge at the time. The world of technology and computers was still new, during Mr. Hoffman’s attendance to Midwood. They used a computer program called “Commodore Pet,” a famous company at the time.
“I remember making a program that took a jigsaw puzzle and jumbled it up to be put back together. The teacher was amazed,” said Mr. Hoffman. “Looking back, I have no idea how I did it. It was a lot of fun.”
This class and many other classes at Midwood helped to expand the lessons he learned from Manhattan. At Midwood, he gained more focus, he learned to believe in his abilities and it is where he found out that he could succeed.
“When I was in Midwood, I learned to believe in my abilities to meet any challenges,” said Mr. Hoffman. After graduating in 1983, he was ready for the outside world and his goal of becoming a physical therapist.
Mr. Hoffman was inspired to become a physical therapist from Midwood’s medical science program. As a physical therapist, Mr. Hoffman works in a sensory gym with special needs children. A sensory gym is a space with many different pieces of equipment to climb and swing on. The swing and climbing helps children get stronger and build coordination.
“I set up obstacle courses to go through to improve balance. I give the child various strengthening exercises depending on which muscles are weak,” said Mr. Hoffman.
These kids have trouble with coordination, so Mr. Hoffman uses the course to help the kids control their bodies in the space around them. Also many of the kids he works with have trouble concentrating, so he studied Sensory Integration theory to try and help them. The theory explains why children have trouble concentrating. Some kids can’t make organized pictures of the world in their brain because there is so much information coming to their head. So by helping the kids become aware of their body, their concentration can increase. This is why he uses the obstacle courses. Mr. Hoffman enjoys doing this because these kids remind him of himself.
“I am able to help them develop a better sense of where they are in the world and how to move through the world,” said Mr. Hoffman. “This is extremely satisfying.”
This connects to Mr. Hoffman’s overall message in his book Magical Manhattan: individuals can accomplish anything if they start to believe in themselves. Motivation and encouragement can help individuals do that.