Tag Archives: teachers

Ballot Question 2 – What would “Ma” do?

Yesterday: Rosalie and her smudged mirror

By Rosalie Tirella

What would “Ma” do?

That’s what I ask myself every time my “libby” (liberal) self is on the cusp of carrying away my more staid, practical, inner-city Green Island Grrrl self. My late Mom was way smarter than I am and more sensitive to others; she had an open heart and open mind at all times. But she was no push over. She knew how hard life could be – especially for poor folks – because her life was unremitting poverty. She made tough choices every day, yet she lived with such grace and wicked humor … Her life was outsized! Full! Her cup runneth over!

So I think of Ma when I think of Ballot Question 2: LIFTING THE CAP ON CHARTER SCHOOLS … MORE CHARTER SCHOOLS IN MASS. Up to 12.

At first, my liberal reaction: GAWD NO! For all the libby reasons. But then my mom and how she raised us kids in Green Island in the ’60s and ’70s surfaces…how she got the most out of Woo schools for her three girls – with no money, no connections, no car, not much of a clothing budget, no high school diploma (my mom completed the 8th grade and was promptly farmed out to Springfield, along with her three sisters, to be the Bishop of Springfield’s housekeeper/cook, during the Great Depression) but plenty of natural ability. Thanks to Ma, we kids got what we needed from the schools: for me, the Worcester Public Schools, K to 12. Ma knew I loved -LOVED!!! – to learn and that the best chance for her little whiz kid to excel was to keep her in the Worcester Public Schools with their smart, serious teachers, impressive science labs, serious sports equipment, big stately buildings (Prov) or spanking new digs (just built Burncoat), new text books, tons of homework and college-oriented goals. I was expected to – cuz I was smart – get straight As, take all honors classes at Providence Street Junior High and enroll in A.P./honors classes at Burncoat Senior High School. I did and Ma was over the moon! She also got a bit pushy – made me take accordion and violin lessons and pushed me to join the schools all city orchestra. I put my foot down: I was too shy for performing on stage and hated the old violin Ma rented for me out of some music store on Main Street where the piano teacher was deaf!, and I grew bored with my accordion, despite the sparkly rhinestones in some of its buttons and its cool iridescent mother of pearl front!

My two kid sisters attended Lamartine Street School until grade 4, then Mom transfered them to St. Mary’s, her alma mater, on Richland Street. My mom felt my kid sisters “wouldn’t make it” in the rough and tumble Worcester Public Schools where kids often fought in the school yard and a few, I remember my pal showed me hers!, even carried knives. St. Mary’s, the little school for Polish kids and families, was much tamer (and to me sooo BORING): small, intimate and safe. Students had to wear conservative looking school uniforms, go to mass at least once a week at the mother church across the street on Ward Street – Our Lady of Czetchowa – and kow tow to nuns who taught most of the classes and brooked no bull shit. The nuns could be sadistic – they were allowed to pull kids up out of their chairs by their ears! The first grade and seond grade nun/teachers were young and sweet and round faced (I went to St. Mary’s catechism class every Monday eve so I knew my sisters’ teachers), but things progressed badly as you went up in grades. In your 10th grade biology class you could see the hair growing out of your nun’s nostrils! The nuns at the high school weren’t sweet and they certainly weren’t pretty.

I could also tell my sisters’ St. Mary’s school books weren’t as up to date or challenging as mine, their homework was easier and they had much less of it. But St. Mary’s was way less rough than Lamartine and “Prov.” Everyone was kind of the same. My sisters, twins, awefully skinny, kinda shy and didn’t crush the books the way I could, were happy at St. M’s. They weren’t beaten up anymore. They had fun. They had friends. They liked their classes – and the penguins aka nuns! Ma knew my public school honors classes would be tough for them – no matter how hard Ma tried to help them with homework – and Ma did sit with us and struggle through our projects with us! But she was ok with less excellence because my sisters didn’t crave it like I did. Sure, I was bullied at Lamartine and Prov cuz I was a straight A brainy nearsighted bookworm, and Ma knew it. But I was so crazy about my schools, my teachers, the competitiveness of my fellow smarties and the friendship of my good gal pals that I stuck it all out. And Ma loved her chubby little shining star!

My mom knew she had to make school work for my kid sisters who wouldn’t thrive in public schools. She was too poor to pay for a private Catholic school, but she, like her Mom before her, was a parishoner of Our Lady of Czetchowa and worked a special deal with the church for its St. Mary’s school: free tuition up to graduation from high school (St Mary’s went K to 12), free everything for her two girls (except uniforms). Why? Because Ma was a parishoner who was a single mom who worked 60 hours a week at the dry cleaners for minimum wage and was killing herself to pay the bills and provide a good life for her girls and Polish immigrant mother (“Bapy”) who lived with the family on Lafayette Street. And she and her girls walked to church to attend mass every Sunday morning and on every Holy Day of obligation – of which there are a multitude, if you’re an old school Catholic. Which my mom was.

We were a well deserving church “charity case.”

Fast forward to 2016. St. Mary’s school doesn’t offer the same deal to my mom cuz the pastor is an ASSHOLE. I’ve written about him in this space… you all know the straight dope.

So…What would Ma do for my two kid sisters today? How would she educate two fragile little inner city gals today?


WORK IT SO THAT HER TWO GIRLS COULD ATTEND A CHARTER SCHOOL – the perfect place for them to learn!

Today Worcester’s charter schools offer a CHOICE to parents like my mom. Parents who don’t often have a lot of choices in their lives and are DOING THEIR BEST AND WANT THE BEST FOR THEIR KIDS. They can’t afford chi chi private schools, they may not be able to drive their kids to another town’s safer, (better???) schools. They may feel, like my mom did, that their kids can’t thrive in a sometimes chaotic public school setting and that they may need smaller and intimate classroom settings. They may feel their kids need to go to school with kids who don’t pose huge discipline problems. School uniforms may help parents save money – I know that was the case for my mom. And while the school’s curriculum or teachers may not be inspiring, they are solid – their kids will graduate knowing how to read and write and do arithmetic. They’ll have  a grasp of the basics and can go on from there.

If my mom had boys she would be checking out the Nativity School in the old Girls Club Lincoln House building.

She’d be intrigued by the WPS school President Obama visited a few years ago: Worcester Technical High School. For awhile, as a kid, my mother attended the WPS’s Girls Trade School. Something for which she was always grateful and proud.

Ma would look for the best schools that fit her kids in the best possible way – taking into account a lot more than academics. And because she’d be poor the school choices had to be free. The Worcester Public Schools did well by my immigrant Polish and Italian family:  two doctors, a few school teachers, a nurse, a nursing home administrator, an accountant, a lawyer…many of us the first in the family to go to college. Many living the American Dream! There’s even a Hollywood set painter … and a feisty editor of a feisty inner-city community newspaper!

Ma would vote YES ON QUESTION 2.

So will I.

At the YWCA … Abby’s House and Our Story Edutainment … Tom Petty … and more!




Abby’s House and Our Story Edutainment present Love Shouldn’t Hurt

Spoken Word and Lyrics

In Honor and Remembrance of Victims and Survivors of Domestic Violence

When: Wednesday, October 19

Where: Worcester Public Library

Time: 7 pm – 8 pm

Please join us for an evening of caring and remembrance as Worcester’s finest
poets and singers Honor victims and Celebrate survivors of Domestic Violence.


Oct. 20 at Clark University, 950 Main St. …

Tom Petty biographer talks about men’s emotion in rock music

Clark University presents “Men, Masculinities and Emotion in Rock and Roll,” a conversation with Warren Zanes, author of “Petty: the Biography,” and executive director of the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, beginning at 7 p.m., Oct. 20, in the Daniels Theater at Atwood Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

Zanes’ book about Petty, released in late 2015, has been hailed as a masterpiece in biography, revealing “an X-ray of the most fragile, most volatile, and most sublime social unit ever invented: the rock-and-roll band. The alliances, the distortions, the deep bruises and the absurd elations that can never be explained to an outsider” (Journalist/author Stephen Dubner).

Warren Zanes

Zanes, who has taught at several U.S. universities, also was vice president at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His writing subjects range from Jimmy Rogers to Dusty Springfield, to the Willburn Brothers to the History of Warner Bros. Records. Additionally, Zanes made three records with the 1980s rock and roll band the Del Fuegos and three as a solo artist.

Michael Addis, professor in the Department of Psychology at Clark University, organized the talk and will serve as moderator. Addis is director of the Research Group on Men’s Well-Being. He is an expert on men’s help seeking, masculinity, depression and men’s health issues, and is the author of “Invisible Men: Men’s Inner Lives and the Consequences of Silence.”

“Rock and blues music is one of the only places in popular culture where men reveal pure emotional vulnerability, although it’s often hidden in layers of anger and other more hypermasculine ways of expressing pain.” ~ Michael Addis

“Warren Zanes is a true polymath; accomplished musician, author, professor of visual and cultural arts … We are very fortunate, and very excited, to have him visit Clark,” noted Addis.

Addis, a musician himself, described his connection with Zanes: “Over the last ten years I have been using Tom Petty’s music and lyrics regularly in my psychology of men and masculinity and psychology of music classes. When I read Warren’s recent biography on Petty I was so impressed with it that I contacted him immediately and found out not only that he had a connection with Clark (the Del Fuegos were Boston-Based and played at Clark in the ‘80s), but also that he was interested in the psychology of music, and in the issues of silence and invisibility in musician’s lives – something I had written about extensively in my book, ‘Invisible Men.’ ”

The talk is sponsored by the Frances L. Hiatt School of Psychology at Clark University.



Rose’s roses. pic:R.T.






And …



FREE FOR ALL SCHOOL TEACHERS! How to implement suicide prevention programs in their schools

We are hosting a few trainings across Massachusetts for middle and high school staff.

The training teaches schools basic suicide prevention knowledge and how to implement and evidence-based suicide prevention program in their school.

The training is free and gives attendees the opportunity to get the program for free.

This is a half-day training appropriate for any school staff or community members who will implement the SOS program or provide gatekeeper training.

Topics include:

· Warning signs, risk factors, and symptoms of depression and suicide in youth

· How to respond to youth at risk

· SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention Program implementation best practices

· How to talk safely to teens about suicide

· Training adults in your communities and schools to support at-risk youth in seeking help

· Tips on breaking down barriers to youth suicide prevention and action steps

As you may know, Massachusetts passed legislation that encourages school personnel to receive training on suicide prevention.

Staff who attend this training will be prepared to return to their schools and deliver suicide prevention gatekeeper training to all staff.

North Central Massachusetts – October 19 – Gardner

In partnership, the Montachusett Suicide Prevention Taskforce and SMH invite your staff to a training at Heywood Hospital in Gardner.

This training is provided free of charge thanks to the support of Massachusetts Department of Public Health

Western Massachusetts – Date TBD – Location TBD
This training is provided free of charge thanks to the support of Massachusetts Department of Public Health

Southern Massachusetts – Date TBD – Raynham MA
In partnership, Bristol County Suicide Prevention Coalition and SMH invite your staff to a training at the First Congressional Church of Raynham. Date and time TBD.
This training is provided free of charge thanks to the support of the Makayla Fund

To learn more about the trainings, feel free to contact Chelsea Biggs at cbiggs@mentalhealthscreening.org.

Edith parked in Rose’s space: NO ON QUESTION 2!!

How will YOU vote on November 8???? pic:R.T.

By Edith Morgan

Maybe November 8 will be different – maybe everyone will show up to vote! (We’re electing our President, after all!) Or maybe the new early voting days will bring out enough of us to really make a difference.

Certainly the turnout on September 8 did not make me feel very hopeful, although there was some excuse for the lack of interest, in that there were unusual factors: 1) election day fell on a Thursday; 2) it was really poorly advertised by the parties: 3) there were too many wards where there was no contest; 4) I suspect a certain fatigue on the part of the voters, having been barraged with the incessant stupidities of the presidential campaign.

Still, some people who have never missed an election DID show up – even just to be counted, where they had no choices provided.

But November 8 will give us plenty to think about and to choose! As a retired educator and with a lifetime dedication to the idea of universal public education, I have watched for several decades now as the privatizers and money/power grabbers slowly made inroads into our public school systems: nationally, they cut public funding, closed many neighborhood schools and imposed a spurious testing system designed to punish the schools attended by the poorest and minority children.

Since most of the American public has for some time strongly supported their public schools, a direct frontal attack would have met with real resistance. So, there had to be the scurrilous, undercover attacks on aspects of the system that were vulnerable.

In addition to budget cuts, attacks on teachers and multiple choice tests designed to put down rather than to help the most needy, the notion of “choice” was sold as an alternative to making EVERY American school good and great. While we were promised that charter schools would introduce creative and innovative education ideas, to be then introduced to the public schools, that idea soon got lost …The rest of the story is history …

But now, with Ballot Question 2, we have a chance to at least put a halt on the draining of the life-blood of our schools.

Question 2 proposes to lift the cap on further charter school expansion in Massachusetts.

So, a NO vote will keep the cap we have now at its present level.

We have a chance to stop the erosion in its tracks – it’s the least we can do. So I urge, plead, entreat EVERY VOTER to cast a ballot and at least vote No on 2!  Even if you are totally turned off by the Presidential race, give our children a chance! Make sure that the very necessary funding our public schools depend on is not drained away any more. It’s the least any of us can do!


Future music major! pic:R.T.

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

As summer vacation comes to a close, I hope that our students have engaged in learning activities throughout the summer, especially reading on a daily basis. As school begins, many parents have huge smiles on their face – others become very apprehensive.

As a former school principal (Belmont Community), let me remind everyone that not all teachers are parents, but all parents are teachers. Parents are children’s first and most influential teachers, and all school systems must do more to involve parents in the learning process. Research has clearly shown that there is a critical link between parent involvement and student achievement.

Schools need to give more than “lip service” to involve parents in the learning process. Parents need to approach their child’s school and let staff know that they are interested in being involved! Parents, STAY INVOLVED!!

Let’s see what I can do to take away some of the stress of going back to school! First, it’s important that parents right now set up a bedtime schedule, for sleep is at the center of a healthy child and enables them to do well in school. According to research, it’s essential that parents keep a bedtime routine, especially during school time. Research suggests an hour before bedtime – put away all electronic devises to help kids wind down. Use that time for reading to them, or give them the opportunity to read for 30 minutes in bed.

Parents need to develop good management practices at home for their children such as homework time and packing their backpacks before turning in and placing them at the outside door. Speaking of backpacks, parents need to retrieve them as soon as their children come home and get those papers out … sign permission slips and add school appointments to the family calendar. Routines can be a potent force in keeping everyone on the same track. Consider a checklist for the simple tasks of who gets to use the bathroom first and what’s for breakfast. What you need to do is be organized – doing so takes the stress out of the day.

Let your child know that school is a number one priority for him. Do it by word of mouth and be setting up realistic schedules, such as for homework. Make sure your child has a quiet, well-lit place to do homework. Avoid having your child do homework with the television on or in places with other distractions.

Make sure the materials your child needs, such as paper, pencils and a dictionary, are available.

Ask your child if special materials will be needed for some projects and get them in advance.

Help your child with time management.
Establish a set time each day for doing homework. Most important – don’t let your child leave homework until just before bedtime. Think about using a weekend morning or afternoon for working on big projects, especially if the project involves getting together with classmates.

Reading time at home…make reading for 20 minutes a day – a part of your child’s routine.

Show your child that the skills they are learning are related to things you do as an adult. If your child is reading, you read, too. Parents, your child was born to be a reader and a writer. Someone has to show them the way and that person is YOU! It is your job to help your child enjoy reading or to be motivated to read.

Every day is a learning moment. Here are some fun activities to do with your child:

Many children’s movies and television shows are based upon stories and books. Encourage your child to read books based on the story or television show. This is a good way to get adolescents and reluctant readers involved in reading books.

There are many wonderful children’s magazines available. Get a magazine subscription as gift, and this could stimulate your child’s interest in reading.

Encourage your child to write letters to friends, relatives – or even to Worcester School Committee members! (We love hearing from students!) Your child could also send a letter via e-mail to a friend or relative.

In addition, parents also need to make every effort to meet their child’s teacher early in the school year.

Teachers are always very excited about meeting their new students and new parents. It is always best to make an appointment to meet with your child’s teacher to introduce yourself and let them know you are there to support your child’s learning. Taking time to meet and introduce yourself and your child to the school principal is also a way to let your child know other adults at the school are there to help him/her. These are especially good ideas to use if your child has special needs or if the family is going through difficult times, such as divorce, an illness, death of a family member, or a recent or pending move.

Other ideas for parents/guardians:

· Learn everything you can about your child’s school

· Review the school’s handbook and the school district’s web site

· Contact the teacher immediately if your child doesn’t understand an assignment or if you notice a change in your child’s behavior or school performance.

Worth mentioning: participate in parent meetings and conferences and special events at the school. Do join the school’s Parent Organization.

Best wishes for a great school year!

Should you need any advice, please feel free to contact me at monfredoj@gmail.com.

Great learning opportunities! From Mass Farm to School Project


From Mass Farm to School:

Greenfield Community College Offers Summer Courses in Sustainable Agriculture for Students and Teachers 

Greenfield Community College is offering summer courses for high school students and teachers in Organic Gardening, Intro. to Sustainable Farming Skills, and Developing Curriculum in Sustainable Food Production.

To learn more about the program for teachers, CLICK HERE! 

Raised Bed Workshop at Gore Place

May 21

In this workshop, long-time farmer Scott Clarke will demonstrate techniques for planting flowers and vegetables in a raised bed.

Learn how to lay out a square-foot garden, choose plants that are good companions, make use of vertical space, and plant directly into a bale of hay.


Explore ways to develop the soil without the use of synthetic fertilizers so that your soil can feed the plants and vice versa.

Attendees will receive a coupon for the annual Spring Plant Sale on May 27-29.  $25 per person, $20 for Members.

CLICK HERE to buy tickets!


Healthy Food Fuels Hungry Minds: A Stakeholder’s Conference for School Food

June 1

Harvard University, Cambridge

In this second stakeholders annual conference, join parents, providers, policy makers and advocates as we work together to understand the current climate of school food and develop collaborative ways to to champion and support change.

CLICK HERE for registration & Full Conference Agenda.

What’s fair pay?

Worcester’s Grafton Street Elementary School. For years elementary school teachers all over America – mostly women at the time – were grossly under-paid. pic:R.T.

By Edith Morgan

We are at last at the place where there is some hope that women will be paid the same as men for equal work. That has taken a while. As a former teacher, I can remember the days when women teachers were paid less for the same or greater effort, did not get regular raises for experience, could not teach if married, then could not teach if pregnant, etc. I recall being told that only men could get a raise, as they were heads of household, and I as a woman could not be a “head of household” – despite the fact that I, like many women, was the main wage earner in my family, as my husband was in school and received only a meager stipend.

It was really high school teachers who spearheaded the move to organizing for more fair pay. Too many of us who were elementary school teachers were female, and we were accustomed to serving but not expecting proper pay. We taught children; high school teachers said they taught subjects. But now, after decades of battling, all teachers are on a multi-step schedule, based on educational level and years of service, not on the sex of the teacher.

It has been a tough battle to get fair pay for female-dominated professions – and the battle is by no means over.

This society still gives lip service to the vital role of raising and educating children, said to be our future. But we still pay near-starvation wages to those to whom we entrust our allegedly most precious possessions: our children. Early childhood programs of top quality are few and far between, very expensive, and overfilled. I went to a public preschool at three years of age, in France, in 1933 – that is how far behind we are here in America. My parents, who never even entrusted us to a babysitter, entrusted us to that French public school program. They could not have afforded a private program, as we came to France with nothing. Of course, there, teachers were honored and looked up to, and I do not remember my parents ever saying a bad word against teachers. If we children complained, they said we should learn all we could from this year’s teacher(s), and next year we might get one we liked better.

I recall coming home one day and announcing to my parents that henceforth I would have nothing to do with money, as the teacher had told us that “money is the root of all evil.” As a testament to the power of teachers’ influence, it was years before I really felt comfortable having anything to do with what was popularly called “filthy lucre.” My parents, loath to contradict the teacher, explained gently to me that the real saying was: ”THE LOVE OF MONEY is the root of all evil.”

Our system of compensation for work, our reward system, seems to reward those who do the least, with the most. Hedge fund managers, who move money from here to there and catch billions in between, are fabulously rich; CEOs who barely know what goes on in their businesses get millions and bonuses; speculators of all sorts are rewarded outrageously, while those who die for us have to battle to get treated for the horrendous diseases they pick up in battle. The list is endless! Suffice it to say: We reward the most vital jobs the least, and the least vital the most.

Worcester’s MCAS scores are published …

By Edith Morgan

Worcester’s MCAS scores are published, and once again the public is treated to a bunch of truly meaningless, worthless numbers, designed, not to enlighten or help improve our public schools, but to denigrate the performance of those most abused by this money-mad society and to hold them down longer and most surely.

Many years ago our public schools undertook the unique task of educating EVERY child – no matter what that child brought to school.

This was a most remarkable goal, and well beyond what most nations did: they selected the cream of the crop, and funneled them through their systems, tested them, and supported and encouraged them to go as high as they could (Thus were created the Olympic stars, etc of many nations.) But America chose another path, at least on paper. (Things tend to get watered down or even perverted when left to the states). For several decades, with impetus from the Federal Government, we tried very hard to give every child in America an even chance – regardless of poverty, minority status, mental or physical handicaps, or abusive home environment, – to become a full-fledged citizen, neighbor,  family member and worker.

I was teaching at the time, and it was demanding work, but very fulfilling.

But then, gradually, almost unperceived, there was a change: several things occurred (not in this order, but equally important):

We elected a President who convinced too many people that “Greed is Good”, with the obvious deadly results.

We started to believe in the “wisdom of the Market”, and despite all the data to the contrary, began to import the philosophy and methods of industry into our schools, making them more like factories (of late we have also imported the business model into medicine with disastrous results)

In a well-funded and orchestrated campaign, we were told: that our schools were mediocre, our teachers overpaid, and our goals of creating lifelong learners and good citizens should subverted  and instead we should produce workers for business.

In a real slap in the face to parents and citizens, a major move to “privatize” (i.e. take over the public schools from the public) was instituted, under the thinly disguised excuse that these “model” schools would try new and better things, from which the local public schools could then learn and adapt their methods and  curricula. (I was at that time involved with several years of Federal programs funding experiments in the public schools, designing better ways to teach reading, literature, etc.. and these programs, since they were federally funded, were available to all. Imagine my surprise when one major supplier of charter programs turned out to be using these ideas, not creating their own, new ones.)

We were told that we needed these alternatives, because the public schools lacked innovation and creativity and flexibility. So, instead of giving our public schools the flexibility they needed, we created this spurious alternative, siphoned funds away from the neediest, and enthroned the profit motive in one more place where it has no business being.

Not everything in a decent society can turn a profit: I strongly believe that education and health care should not be privately held by for-profit, enterprises (and maybe we should add public transportation and parkland to the list).

Go, Gordon Davis, go!!!!!!!!

STOP Arresting Kids at School! … and THE REAL RACE DIALOGUES

By Gordon Davis

In September 2015 there were reports of two fights between kids at North High School in Worcester. The details of the fights are sketchy, but it appears that the first fight was between two female students. That fight was broken up and the students taken to the office where while still upset they refused to comply with instructions given to them. Instead of being sent home and having them return with their parents, the two girls were arrested. Something similar happened with two male students.

When I went to high school I got into fights, but the police were never called and the disputes were handled administratively.

In both cases at North High School there were charges that nine staffers were assaulted but not injured or harmed when they tried to break up the respective fights. How the staffers were assaulted was not described in the news story. An assault is defined as a threat or an attempt to injury without actually injury. Battery is the charge for injury or harm intentionally inflicted.

It might have been better for all concerned for the students not to have been arrested at school. Arresting kids in the heat of the moment when there is no immediate clear and present danger will, more likely than not, lead to bad decisions by the staff and the police, as well as be harmful to the kids. The schools know who the kids are and where they live; there is no chance that they will flee the state. There is no need for arrests.

Should there be a need for legal actions then this should be decided after the emotions of the event have passed. The child and parent could be summoned to court. The whole concept of putting children in handcuffs and having them booked  at the police is not good pedagogy.

On September 19, 2015, a new group called Men of Color Think Tank organized what it called “Real Race Dialogues.” The Men of Color Think Tank seems to be an outgrowth of the BlackLives Matter new civil rights movement.  Its membership is multi-racial, but some people are called “white allies” instead of members.

Michael Jerry one of the organizers of the event and apparent spokes person for Men of Color Think Tank gave an inspirational introduction to the Real Race Dialogues.

Although enthusiastic, many of the things he spoke about have a history in Worcester. For example, Mr. Jerry thought the best way to get a person of color elected was to have a slate of candidates. It is generally accepted that bullet voting is the better way to get a candidate elected. It is bullet voting that is thought to allow the top vote getters to get the most votes. Mr. Jerry’s enthusiasm and seeming ability to look at new ideas will go a long way to help the organization and its goals.

At the so called Real Race dialogues there was a table at which the participants discussed education. My impression is that there was honest and creative talk about racial issues in Worcester. Our table included parents, teachers, students, and other people sincere in their desire to end racial disparities in schools.  

Several issues came to be discussed: the development of a school to job pipeline, the coordinating of organizations working with children to ensure that each child at risk has a mentor, alternative curriculum and after school programs, and the ways of reversing the false perception of North High Schools as “bad” kids.

The issue of North High School took up most of the discussion time and some concrete plans were made including changing school policies such that no kids are arrested at school. Although this no arresting kids at school policy makes good pedagogy and common sense,  expelling the  criminal justice system out of the  schools will be a difficult task as many people still fear Black and Latino and poor kids . These misguided people, some of whom are racists, want to use the power of the state to “control” the dark skin people they fear.

A Great School Year for All!

By Edith Morgan

September is here! That means shorter days in the sun, leaves starting to turn, tomatoes ripening, and all the preparations for fall that nature and man engage in around here. And many parents welcome September with a sigh of relief as their offspring head back to school.

So this is a good time to examine some of our favorite assumptions about education:

1. For many years we have been assuming that you need “self-esteem” to achieve or succeed. In my time, we had to achieve first, then we would acquire “self esteem,” as a result of having done something or achieved something worthy of recognition. It has been my experience that those who strive the hardest often feel they are NOT doing well enough and feel they are not meeting their own high goals.  It has also been my experience that when asked how they had done on a test, the lower achievers were smugly confident, while those who achieved near-perfect scores felt they should have done better. Too often, gang leaders exhibit enormous self-satisfaction, while real achievers (inventors, artists, writers, and other successful and hardworking persons) are beset with doubts, continually work to reach higher goals. So, there is an inverse relationship between self- esteem and real achievement.

2. Paper and pencil tests created by commercial concerns are believed to give us legitimate information about the level of skill or the amount of knowledge our children have.  But by their very nature, they are extremely limited in what they can test, and in HOW they test it.

The ubiquitous SAT, originally designed to predict success in the first year of college,  never did it as well as each student’s high school transcript. Which source of information do YOU think would be most reliable in finding out what a given student will do: a one-shot, multiple choice set of questions of esoteric vocabulary, or the cumulative record of student’s life day to day, as recorded by attendance (being there to learn), classes taken and passed, teacher comments and recommendations, extra-curricular activities, etc.

Why are we so taken with a spurious number, and why do we ignore the testimony  of professionals and the exact numbers represented by school records?

3. I went to elementary school for six years in France: even at the height of the Nazi invasion, there was no real interruption in my education. From Paris to LePuy in south-central France, there was continuity in my basic learning because, as in all modern Western nations (except the U.S.), there is a set of national curriculum standards, and from the poorest to the richest child are exposed to those basic learnings. Each teacher and each section  of the country adds whatever is needed (for example, in LePuy we also learned lace-making in school, as that was a major skill handed down there).

In America, we have to reinvent the wheel not only in 50 states, but often also in hundreds of cities and towns  – leading to a very uneven and hard to share result.

4.  The overwhelming majority of our students live in urban environments; so why are we still following the old farming calendar, making sure our kids are home to help bring in the crops?

We waste great amounts of time reviewing what they have forgotten in the long summer, giving us  so much less time to learn this year’s stuff. Surely there is a better, more efficient, less boring way to  do this?

5.  The power structure is upside down: those who must assume the most responsibility for the education of our children, the teachers, are nearly powerless.

Does that make any sense?

Clearly, we have much to think about, as we elect another school committee, and begin the school year again.

The 4 R’s: Reading, wRiting, aRithmetic and … RESPONSIBILITY

By Edith Morgan

We’re “Worcester – the City that Reads,” and we test our students constantly for some kind of alleged proficiency in what used to be known as “The 3 R’s” – “Readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic, taught to the tune of a hickory stick,” as the tune went when I was growing up.

A few decades later,  there was a lot of talk about  adding a fourth “R” – Responsibility.

It enjoyed an all too brief emphasis. In today’s test-driven learning environment, the idea cannot really survive, as there is no way to build a multiple-choice, machine-scored test that will give us numbers and rank schools and children. And so, like much of what goes into making a good, total human being, a life-long learner and an adult able to live a full life as a fully contributing member of his/her family, neighborhood, state and country, the effort has been de-emphasized , defunded and devalued. It is still, of course, being given lip service, but as we all know: What is honored and valued is what is PAID for.

Responsibility is not inborn. It must be modeled, taught daily and continually updated, as we assume more responsibility .

But we have turned the old model on its head, and now even the unborn have rights without responsibility. So we have empowered those who have not demonstrated the ability to assume responsibility  for their decisions and actions, and taken the power away from those who must take responsibility for what happens.

When I first began teaching in the schools, in the mid-1950’s, I had a pretty clear idea what my class should be able to do by the end of the school year. It was up to me to develop materials that would be appropriate for the individual students before me, create any extra materials needed to get the ideas across, and then administer whatever kinds of tests were needed to see if my students had mastered what had been taught, and to reteach what they still could not  show me they knew and understood.

By and large, students understood that their responsibility was to learn what was being taught, practice what was still weak, and move on to the next grade, building on what had been mastered the previous year, or risk having to do it over. Once I closed the door to my classroom, I was in charge. As a “liberal arts retread.” I had to learn a lot at first about keeping a group under control, working together, individually or in groups, and achieving the school’s stated goals.

I grew up an environment where teachers were revered and respected – and God help any of us. students had  the school complained about us, our behavior or our achievement. Our job (“responsibility”) was to learn everything we could, regardless of whether we loved our teacher,  liked the subject,  or had a lot of self-esteem, etc. In my day, “self-esteem” was earned and grew from a recognition that we had assumed responsibility.

But the system has been turned upside down, and trust and power are bestowed on those who do  not assume the needed responsibility.

Kindergarteners have more freedom than high schoolers, yet in normal development, the older the students, the more they should have learned to assume responsibility.

For every right, there must be a corresponding responsibility. Without that balance, you have the tyranny of the ignorant, the greedy, the evil and the power-hungry.