February 1991

This Issue
Vol. 02, Issue 05

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"I always associated the term 'gifted' with kids who were 5 years old and could play classical music,'' says Anne Marie Griffin. But nothing in that stereotypical definition prepared her for life with her son, Larry. At age 3, he could read and pronounce the polysyllabic names of preservatives on cookie boxes, and he could page through electrical manuals and learn enough to help his grandfather figure out why a new ceiling fan wouldn't turn.
PHYLLIS VAIL, A 6TH grade teacher in western Maine, learned one weekend that the parents of one of her students had just been killed. Suddenly realizing how unprepared she was to help a grieving child, Vail wondered what she would do on Monday morning.

Vail's wrenching problem is a common one among teachers. A few years ago, most teachers would not have been expected to broach the subject of death in their classrooms; it wasn't considered a suitable topic for children, let alone school. But that attitude is changing. Some experts suggest that the erosion of the nuclear family--the traditional source of comfort for grieving children-- is, at least in part, responsible for the shift. One thing is certain: Schools and teachers are being called on more and more to help children handle the pain of loss.

PINK MARBLE WALLS LINE THE FOYER OF the massive brick building. Two larger-than-lifesize statues of women in classical pose dominate the entrance. Such imagery and opulence are not typical of public schools. This, however, is no typical public school. It's the Philadelphia High School for Girls, the last public single-sex high school in the United States.
LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT,'' I SAID. "All four of you want to write stories about child abuse?''
Travel-hungry teachers who enjoy ample time off but are limited by modest incomes can travel free or at discounted rates if they're entrepreneurial and willing to work. By arranging travel groups, chaperoning student trips, and participating in home swaps, teachers can satisfy their wanderlust and save thousands of dollars.

Group travel. Palazzi got her free passage by booking a group of 26 fellow teachers and friends on the cruise. Most travel agents will provide a free trip to anyone who organizes an excursion with 15 or more people, according to Robert Whitley, president of the U.S. Tour Operators Association.