Sept. 10, 1990
It is hard to believe that this is the day I have anticipated and looked forward to for such a long time. The sun still rose in the East and set again in the West, the crisis in Iraq is still going strong and Oprah Winfrey still preached at 4:00 about other people’s business. This may sound funny but somewhere in the back of my mind I thought the world would stop for my first day of junior high. The day proved me wrong and I’ve grown to realize that nothing will be quite as I dreamed them up.
My teachers are one of my biggest disappointments. In this crazy dream world of mine my teachers were cool and calm and bright and welcoming. They were really just normal people making their livings. Ms. Johnson is the science teacher. I have never met a teacher who gave so many rules. Her rules for the year took up at least three pages of my notebook. All my other teachers are just average. They aren’t, or don’t seem to be nothing above or under that. Maybe during the year they’ll prove to be above or hopefully not under. My other courses are math, English, social studies, and Home and Careers. There are none I’m really excited about.
Diary, there isn’t much of a welcoming committee at this school. However, there’s a day 8th and 9th graders set out to show freshmen how they feel about us. They call it Freshman Day. It may sound sweet, but it’s not at all. What they set out to do is terrorize us. They really seem to want to hurt us. It’s a tradition I guess. I hope with God’s help that I’ll be able to make it through without any broken bones.
Well, today I think I could say JHS is almost like an earthly version of hell.
Sept. 25, 1990
Why does school have to come with music teachers?! You would not believe what mine is going to make the class do. I’m talking major embarrassing! The whole class has to sing “We Are the World” in front of the whole school! Can you believe it? I mean, the song is so old. It’s not fair! I bet the kids will boo us off the stage; they’re good at that if anything. We’re supposed to do this thing on Wednesday. Talk about short notice. We rehearsed and I must say, sound terrible. The boys are off key and it’s just a mess. I hope we get it together before Wednesday, we can’t afford to give the older kids more reason not to like us.
Oct. 3, 1990
Some people just weren’t made for certain professions. My computer teacher proved that today. Kids are supposed to go to school to learn new things, vocabulary is one of them, but the words this teacher used! Parents don’t send their kids to school to learn obscenities. What are we students suppose to go home and say, “Listen mom I learned a new word!” It’s not right. If she wants us to respect her she has to respect us first. Some kids in my class talked to our homeroom teacher Mr. Sontze about it. As usual he can’t do anything. I don’t think we want to go to the principal. If it gets worse, maybe.
Oct. 8, 1990
Today I saw my old teacher. I thought this should be the day I tell about him. His name is Robert Pelka. He’s a heavy man but that only means there’s more of him to love. There’s just something about him that makes him impossible not to like. He’s warm, caring, loving and everything else that comes with a great human being.
He didn’t only teach me academic things like math, English, and so on. He taught me how to be open-minded to all kinds of people. He did that by making us empathize with other people, in other words, put ourselves in their place and write about it. I went from being a sister of a retarded boy named Victor to being a Jewish girl whose family was taken away from me back in the Hitler days.
Mr. Pelka made things we’d normally learn about from history books sort of come alive, it’s like you’re there. Those are just some of the things he introduced me to. The things he changed about me are innumerable. The world should know this man. He probably won’t go down in any major history books but if this diary counts as a book of history, he just did.
Nov. 26, 1990
School is such a bore! Maybe I was just tired today but my eyes kept closing, especially in Social Studies. That teacher could go on and on about things that have nothing to do with SS. He’s just like last year’s Spanish teacher. She would go on and on about her life like we really care if her son got an A on his report card. It was torture to sit in her class. The best part of the 45 minutes she spent with us was when we said “Adios.” I guess in every school there’s a teacher that qualifies as a sleeping pill.
Home and Careers is an okay class when I think about it. I love to talk about life and learn about life. It’s one of the only kinds of learning that gets my mind flowing and eager to know more. Things like how many times the heart beats a minute don’t seem important to me. So I’m glad there is a class like Home and Careers that turns on that interest switch in my brain. I can pass tests in the other classes and understand what they teach but it isn’t the same.
Jan. 9, 1991
Today gunshots echo in my head. They are the same gunshots that killed an innocent human being right across from my house last night. They are the same gunshots that have scarred me, I think, forever.
Late last night, I was in bed when I heard a man screaming for a police officer. I told myself, I didn’t hear that. Later I told myself I didn’t hear the four gunshots that followed his cry for help. I lay there in bed and it was like I was frozen. I didn’t want to move an inch. I then heard hysterical crying. I ran to the window when I couldn’t keep myself back any longer. What I saw outside were cops arriving. I ran into my parent’s room and woke them up. By that time, tears were pouring unstoppable from my eyes. I couldn’t stop shaking. It turned out that I knew the person who got shot. He worked at the store at the corner. He was always so nice to me. He was always smiling. He didn’t know much English, but we still managed a friendship.
I can’t believe this happened. Things like this happen every day in N.Y., but not in my neighborhood, not to people I know.
Jan. 11, 1991
The blood stains are still across the street. In school I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened. Yesterday was the same thing. I don’t think I’ll get over this for a long while
Feb. 11, 1991
I don’t like anything about this school. Do you notice that? Everything is so against my taste. The way they teach is one. They don’t make me interested in learning. Another thing is the level of maturity among the students.
Sometimes I feel going to a prep school would be better for me. I think there is much more seriousness about life in those schools. At my school they would call kids at those schools nerds. If that’s the case nerds are much better off than they are.
I wish I could switch schools. There must be better schools around with better programs and things like that. I didn’t have a choice for this school—it’s closest to me so this is where I have to go. When I get older, I’m going to make sure I give my kids a choice in what they do. Like what school they think is best for themselves, and so on. I want to be able to be such a great parent. I want to have really happy kids. All the things I never had, I’ll make sure they have it. I hope my daughter won’t have to complain so much in her diary.
March 22, 1991
I’m doing pretty okay in school I must say. Report cards came out. I didn’t get anything below an 80. My mother isn’t too proud about it. She says there are not enough 95s and 100s. Unbelievable! She wants and wants and wants.
June 26, 1991
It’s my last day of so much. It’s my last day of living here on Bainbridge Ave., it’s my last day at JHS 80, my last day writing to you. In this entry I want to look ahead. I wonder what grade 9 holds for me. [Latoya skipped 8th grade.] I want to look and see how my high school career will go. I want to settle down and listen to my teachers no matter how hard it is. I’ll try to be more open to people and become more of a friend to more people. I’ll try not to fall so deep for a guy because I don’t want another heartbreak. I’m going to cool it for a while with these thoughts of boys. That is, if I can stop. I hope my mother won’t be so weird when it comes to them though. The less cautious she is of those things, the less I’ll care.
All in all, I look for understanding in my future. I just want people to understand me! That would set the pace for the rest of life. With understanding I think I’ll achieve anything I want.
A version of this article appeared in the September 05, 1984 edition of Education Week as The Diary Of Latoya Hunter