May/June 1995

This Issue
Vol. 06, Issue 08

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I admit it. I was a second-semester senior's nightmare in the flesh.
Sarah Mason-Couch, a bright 16-year-old with a history of drug and alcohol abuse, sat at a desk in an empty classroom picking at her lunch, which consisted of leftover pizza, granola, a banana, carrot slices, and celery stalks. The food was neatly packed in a purple Sesame Street lunch box. "Alcohol is my drug of choice,'' she said, as if she were describing her favorite ice cream flavor. "Hard alcohol. Vodka. But I really got into hallucinogens, and I did a lot of over-the-counters, like caffeine pills, Robitussin--anything I could get. It was hard to get alcohol. It was a lot easier to get pot, or acid, or just to drink Robitussin, NyQuil, rubbing alcohol.''
Teacher quality: It's what makes the difference in student performance. In order for K-12 students to meet new, higher expectations, teachers will need more extensive clinical education oriented to real-world practice. What's needed is a better system to ensure that teachers are ready for the challenges that await them.
In 1988, as a teacher of English, I would sometimes stand at the blackboard drawing funnels, into which my students were to pour words and ideas, like coins into the tin cones at toll-road stops. Downward the words would jiggle and jangle, chasing after one another in descending spirals, finally catching themselves and their meaning at the funnel's tapered end. This meaning, I told the students--we called it the thesis statement--should have weight, gravitational pull, its import sinking into the essay's murkiest depths.