Teachers on the firing line in the classroomAs a veteran...

the Forum

December 14, 1993

Teachers on the firing line in the classroom

As a veteran teacher of 22 years, I was appalled by Wiley Hall's column, "School violence study should focus on adults" (Nov. 30).

Mr. Hall makes an incredible leap in logic when he states, "I suspect that a teacher's fear in the classroom is, in part, an indication of incompetence."

I will never forget, as a young first-year teacher, the look of rage on the face of an eighth-grader just before he picked up a desk and threw it at me.

Was I afraid? I would have been a fool not to be; he was a disturbed young man whose family expected him to take on the responsibilities of an adult. Stressed out before his time, he acted out against the authority figure in front of him.

I teach with people who have a wide variety of experience. One of my colleagues watched a young man fall over dead from a heroin overdose in her classroom. Another teacher taught in a school in New York City that had its own security men patrolling the halls.

Violence in the classroom is becoming as commonplace as it is in our streets. School systems in Houston, Tex., are requiring students to use see-through backpacks to make sure they bring no weapons to school. Metal detectors are even appearing at the doors of schools in rural Louisiana.

Does Mr. Hall believe that those of us who fear street crime are socially incompetent? Why should teachers who fear the encroachment of violence in the classroom be "weeded out"? The logical choice is not between fear and incompetence; it is between fear and stupidity.

Those who have fears acknowledge the possibilities around them. If you have no fears about the dangers and pitfalls facing today's youth, you cannot help them avoid them.

Teachers who have chosen to stay in dangerous schools need help, not criticism. After all, businesses, banks and landlords have abandoned their responsibilities in the sorest spots of the city, but the police, the church and the schools remain.

Perhaps Mr. Hall should join the task force on school violence. Perhaps he would learn what it is like to have to fight and teach at the same time.

Ellinor E. Myers


What went wrong?

The city's 316th murder victim this year was only 13 years old, killed by a 17-year-old neighbor firing randomly into project apartments.

What has Baltimore come to when youths are killing each other with illegal weapons? What ever happened to the memories of our fathers and grandfathers relaxing at Memorial Stadium, enjoying fresh-roasted peanuts, watching the "Birds" while singing "Take me out to the ball game"?

Instead, now Baltimore's youth is singing "Cop Killer" and packing automatic weapons. Where did society go wrong?

The easy availability of guns is destroying us. More police are needed to patrol the city, and when the people packing automatic weapons are finally caught the laws must be strictly enforced.

Maybe society only needs something so simple as the old-fashioned ways of parenting. Who are the people raising these murderers anyway?

Daniel A. Balsamo


Music notes

Your recent coverage of the NFL's decision to award Jacksonville a team contained a number of negative comments about Jacksonville.

It's hard to blame some of the people and columnists in Baltimore for sour grapes. But we were surprised to read that even your orchestra's music director, David Zinman, is guilty of clipping. ("Jackson-what? leaves hollow ring in fans' ears," Dec. 1).

While we don't dispute the greatness of the Baltimore Symphony, we do feel Maestro Zinman should know something of the orchestra he's knocking. The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, like the BSO, is filled with graduates from Juilliard, Curtis, Eastman and other top music schools.

Unlike many orchestras, ours has not run up alarming deficits nor have we become overly dependent on state support. In fact, the JSO has finished in the black three of the last four years, a testament to our community's support.

As to our artistic success, we suggest Maestro Zinman ask any of our recent guest artists about the JSO. The next time Kathleen Battle, Richard Goode, James Galway, Frederica von Stade, Pinchas Zukerman or any number of leading artists come to Baltimore, ask them about the artistic quality of the JSO and our music director, Roger Nierenberg.

Better yet, he could put his baton where his mouth is and come down to Florida's First Coast, guest conduct the JSO and hear for himself.

Jack Fishman

Charlie Wade

Jacksonville, Fla.

The writers are orchestra manager and marketing director of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.

Sharing in the fun of Frank Zappa

About the time that the 1960s were turning the corner into the 1970s, I was a secretary for a youth service organization in Baltimore. We had just moved to new offices, with lots of freshly painted, bare white walls. The budget was tight, and the organization's director came up with the idea of the youths' painting their own murals on the meeting room walls.

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