While I think “Field of Dreams” [May/June] gives the organic garden at Martin Luther King Middle School a wonderful, positive spin, there’s more to the story. In 1997, I was a student teacher at MLK for the 6th grade bilingual class. Many of the Latina girls resisted working in the garden because the physical labor reminded them of where their families had come from, not where they were trying to go. Many girls spent their garden time gossiping and lamenting the heat, the dirt, and the fact that they were working in the fields, just as their parents and grandparents had done when they first arrived in the United States.
Thank you for the inspirational article “This Is Yousef Hannon’s Story” [May/June]. My past intertwines in many ways with Hannon’s life story. In 1968, I was a camp counselor in Petach Tikva, Israel, so I understand the frustrations he faced in Nablus. When I was a teacher in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, I took my District 211 students to an inner-city school and learned about the lack of respect, the poor attendance, and the many challenges facing the heroic teachers who make a difference in such schools. Teaching now in a private school in Green Bay, Wisconsin, I strive to show my students how the American dream still lives— and you give me Hannon as an example. My hat is off to Hannon and his family.
On the Edge
Having just returned from Antarctica, I was quite intrigued by the “Extreme Teaching” articles, “Educators On The Edge” and “Polar Attraction” [April]. I had not considered myself an “extreme” teacher, but maybe I’m close. In January, I had the opportunity to take a two-week sabbatical to Antarctica. Upon my return to school, the director of our technology department helped me edit the still photos and videos I had taken to produce a 15-minute, narrated color video, which I shared with my school’s 1st through 6th grades. I now have the video for my classes on glaciers, and the school primary science specialist will use it for penguin lessons.
Pine Crest School
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
A high school teacher of 30-plus years, I read with interest “The Fourth-Year Itch” [April]. It seems the author missed one very significant point: The blame for this situation lies mainly with colleges and their increasingly early admissions offers. It is yet another infuriating and anti-educational act in which the college tail wags the secondary dog. It is time for the secondary school community to speak up and demand that colleges make their admission offers later rather than sooner. This should be possible in a computer age. If the colleges want an example, I suggest they look to Australia, where college starts in late February or early March and no college admission offers are made till approximately mid-January.
This is a serious problem. Colleges are robbing high school students of up to a year of learning and then have the gall to complain about the lack of preparation among first- year students.
I found it disturbing, though not surprising, that Sandra Erlandson of Woodlands High School would say Our Town “can be so boring” [“Dramatic Choices,” April]. This play is a work of great subtlety and texture that is not necessarily revealed on superficial reading or viewing. I believe it to be a significant work that deals effectively with enduring themes and lends itself to thoughtful criticism and analysis.
Fairfield High School
John Gatto may or may not be a great teacher. We certainly can’t tell from “The World According To Gatto” [March]. Some of his students may have liked him, but that’s only a measure of popularity. The question is: Did the majority of them learn what they were supposed to learn? I have my doubts.
Sure, my students would love to be able to stroll around town and not take tests, but the fact is that there are things kids should learn in school. This “terrible” system of ours has produced millions of competent and more than competent people. Gatto didn’t learn to read from a “fun-loving mayor” or learn to write from a “high- rolling car dealer"; he learned it in school.
I don’t believe anyone thinks things couldn’t be better in public schools. Gatto, however, shows a remarkable lack of logic when he recommends an end to mandatory schooling. His idea of metaphorically blowing up the public school system and then letting nature take its course is not brilliant. It’s silly.
I read “Spellbound” [March] about the girl who supposedly cast a spell on one of her teachers. I am a 15-year-old who practices Wicca, and I do, in fact, own several of Silver RavenWolf’s books. She states many times that anyone who brings harm to oneself or another person is not considered a Witch because the only real Witches and Wiccans are those who practice white magic. Even if this girl did perform a spell to cause a heart attack on a teacher, the words said at the end of every spell, “Let this be done with harm to none,” would prevent the spell from going into effect if it were to bring harm to whomever it is cast on.
I was disappointed when I read “Spellbound.” I respect open-minded reporting, and I found the article to be biased and unprofessional. I personally do not support either side of the story, but in my view, journalism should be a statement of facts, not a persuasive essay. I will not purchase your magazine, and our school will not be continuing its subscription.
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A version of this article appeared in the August 01, 2001 edition of Teacher as Letters