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A Humble Letter

Susan Notes:

This is Good News! because I've wanted for years to get an item into my favorite part of the New York Times, Metropolitan Diary, little stories about life in the city. When I heard about Grover Cleveland High School being closed by the Chancellor as part of his assault on public schools, I remember something that happened there.

I can't tell you how excited I was when the editor called, telling me he'd accepted my piece.

Now the bad news: None of the people who responded online have a clue what I'm talking about. One person even thinks my students broke things at the Cloisters.

It makes me realize that we teachers have embedded a culture, a set of beliefs and practices, that outsiders just don't comprehend.

Ha. I just looked again. New York teacher Carol Mikoda just wrote a response. Of course she gets it:

This is an example of why teaching is an art that deals with souls and hearts, not a psychometric science dealing with achievement data. Thank you, Susan.

Thank you, Carol!

by Susan Ohanian

Dear Diary:
Metropolitan Diary

Reader Tales From the City

I started a long teaching career at Grover Cleveland High School in Queens, more than a little awed by the fact it was bigger than my hometown. At that time, the federal government made money available for field trips and, upon discovering none of my 9th or 10th graders had ever been on a field trip or even traveled much in the city, I set about planning to take them to what I considered its most beautiful place, the Cloisters.

I made a recon visit, gathering info with which to pepper my lessons over the next couple of months, devising a treasure hunt of objects that would give them a good overall sense of the place. I was confident my students were very well prepared to appreciate and learn from what they saw.

I showed my students the legal contract I had to sign, testifying to my responsibility for any harm they did on the premises.

Following our visit, during which my students were exceptionally well behaved, I asked them to write thank-you notes to our chaperones.

Janie̢۪s letter to a chaperone made me forever humble about a teacher̢۪s ability to anticipate students̢۪ needs, to figure out what they need to know:

"Dear Ms. Craig, Thank you for going with us to the Cloisters. I̢۪m sorry so many things were broken."

— Susan Ohanian
New York Times Metropolitan Diary



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