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In many schools in Baltimore, teachers, including new teachers, work on Saturday and

Sunday to prepare classrooms and lessons for students. I have found that

the great majority of teachers are dedicated and hardworking.



Schools in Session

By Yvonne Terry


On August 28, 2006 most Maryland School Districts opened their doors to students from pre-kindergarten through grade 12. As an educator serving students in a large urban district, I have come to realize that the beginning of a new school year means different things to different people. Educational leaders, teachers, parents, and community leaders all have their own views about the crisis in American Education. This writer asks the question as Yolanda Adams' song, WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN!

Educational leaders who work in Baltimore City Public Schools started this school year at a Leadership Conference at Morgan State University. We were greeted with the expression, “Happy New Year.”  Many administrators were sitting there thinking about inadequate budgets, teacher vacancies, unclean buildings, and shortages of supplies and books. For many of these administrators a new school year brings a myriad of feelings. There is excitement and optimism about another opportunity to help students excel, yet there is concern and stress because resources are limited and people outside of the field have no idea the level of commitment it takes to serve in an urban system.

As an educator with over 32 years of service to the students in Baltimore schools, I still have a deep commitment to teaching and learning. When I reflect back on our African-American history and recall how many of our forefathers had to steal away in the night to learn how to read, I am compelled to fight and do whatever I can to help each student reach his full potential.

Most teachers that I have worked with over my thirty-two years start each new school year with great anticipation and excitement. This school year is no different. Waverly Elementary Middle School has eleven new teachers this school year. Several of our former teachers received promotions or moved on to more affluent school systems. The eleven new teachers are anxious to start their careers. These young people, who happen to be mainly Caucasians, chose this perfection. They seem to feel they can make a difference.

In many schools in Baltimore, teachers, including new teachers, work on Saturday and Sunday to prepare classrooms and lessons for students. I have found that the great majority of teachers are dedicated and hardworking. As with any profession, there are teachers who have buckled under the stress and high demands of the job. Teaching is a caring and giving profession that often gets a “bad rap” from the media and public. Any adult who has met with any success has to recognize the importance of this great profession.

I have found that most parents and guardians want the best for their children. They recognize the importance of a good education, especially for African-American students. Some come with high hopes for their students and the school, while others come with personal baggage and distrust for the schools. Many parents and guardians struggle with the day-to-day issues of food, shelter, employment, and health care. If parents are able to provide the basic necessities for their children, it is doubtful that they will be able to make their child’s education a priority. This is when other members of the village should step in to serve as mentors for children. 

In the past, large numbers of African-American parents who may or may not have extended formal education themselves, viewed a good education as a vehicle to equalize, to some the degree, opportunities for their children. For example, my mother and father stressed education in our home. I was expected to get good grades and to study hard in school. My mother was a high school graduate and as an avid reader set an example for the love of reading.

My father with only a grade school education instilled in his children a desire to be smart and be the best at whatever you do. As a female child, my father told me that the sky was the limit to what I could achieve. I suspect that the advice I was given was recited in many homes in the fifties and sixties.

I encourage all parents, grandparents, and guardians to instill in our children a love for learning. We are charged with the task of working with educators and schools to ensure our children receive the quality education that they are entitled to as Americans.

Businesses, churches, and community organizations should be accountable to Schools. Like it or not, today’s children are our future. There are some people who say that it’s throwing money away to put funding into Baltimore City and other large urban systems. There have been great battles waged over the funding of our urban schools. Our government spends “BIG DOLLARS” on war, football stadiums, and anything other than our CHILDREN.

The unspoken truth is that many don’t feel that children of color are worth the effort. Although support from business, churches, and community organizations needs to be much greater, there are examples of these entities supporting schools and students all around us. Several churches give school supplies to students in local schools and participate in mentoring programs at neighborhood schools.

The Abell Foundation and Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation support local schools through grants and financial contributions. Waverly Elementary Middle School is fortunate to have twenty senior citizens to volunteer twenty hours a week in elementary classrooms. These seniors assist teachers and serve as surrogate grandmothers and grandfathers to the students.

What about the children? Many students start the school year with great anticipation of making new friends and learning new things. Most seem to like the social interaction and attention they receive from teachers. I have found that if elementary students feel that the teacher cares about them they will put forth maximum effort. In some of our urban schools family problems interfere with many students’ naturally inquisitive minds.

Many students are burdened with issues that are mammoth, too much for their little minds and bodies. Poverty is a monster that is ever present and lurking in our schools to cause problems. Poverty affects everyone in the family including the school family. By the time Malik has reached middle school, he is considered by some to be unreachable. Some say he doesn’t want to learn and is a behavior problem. The truth is that for Malik a new school year only brings new failures. The feelings of doom that many of our students face are a sad commentary on our society and educational system.  So many dedicated educators keep plugging away day after day trying to make a difference in the lives of our children.

Our federal government passed the NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT. This is act is supposed to ensure that students are instructed by only highly qualified teachers and that all students are performing on grade level by 2014.   Ambitious mandates without adequate fiscal resources are no more than wishful thinking. We can only hope that one day this nation of ours will really do what’s best for all of America’s children by putting adequate fiscal and human resources in all schools. Schools in session again!

Yvonne Terry is Assistant Principal at Waverly Elementary School, Baltimore.

posted 1 September 2006

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance

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How could the best and brightest (and most highly paid) in finance crash the global economy and then get us to bail them out as well? What caused this mess in the first place? Housing? Greed? Dumb politicians? What can Main Street do about it? In The Looting of America, Leopold debunks the prevailing media myths that blame low-income home buyers who got in over their heads, people who ran up too much credit-card debt, and government interference with free markets. Instead, readers will discover how Wall Street undermined itself and the rest of the economy by playing and losing at a highly lucrative and dangerous game of fantasy finance. He also asks some tough questions:  Why did Americans let the gap between workers' wages and executive compensation grow so large? Why did we fail to realize that the excess money in those executives' pockets was fueling casino-style investment schemes? Why did we buy the notion that too-good-to-be-true financial products that no one could even understand would somehow form the backbone of America's new, postindustrial economy? How do we make sure we never give our wages away to gamblers again? And what can we do to get our money back? In this page-turning narrative (no background in finance required) Leopold tells the story of how we fell victim to Wall Street's exotic financial products. Readers learn how even school districts were taken in by "innovative" products like collateralized debt obligations, better known as CDOs, and how they sucked trillions of dollars from the global economy when they failed. They'll also learn what average Americans can do to ensure that fantasy finance never rules our economy again. The Economy

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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