Re­call­ing a life­time of learn­ing

Stu­dents of yes­ter­year at Bar­clay Friends in West Ch­ester share their own, fam­ily school days’ mem­o­ries

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FIFTY PLUS -

The Philadel­phia School District re­cently an­nounced that it will no longer sus­pend kinder­garten stu­dents as a dis­ci­plinary mea­sure un­less bod­ily in­jury oc­curs and is doc­u­mented by med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als – ac­cord­ing to News­works.org, al­most 450 Philadel­phia kinder­gart­ners were sus­pended dur­ing the 2014-15 school year. Many are hop­ing the new ap­proach will have a pos­i­tive ef­fect their life­long learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and stu­dent/teacher re­la­tions. Short stay guests at Bar­clay Friends Con­tin­u­ing Care Com­mu­nity share their views be­low.

El­lie La­bella

“I ex­pect that a child feels ex­cited to be start­ing off,” El­lie says, “and if they’re rep­ri­manded in a strong way, then they would have a stigma [re­gard­ing school]. I re­mem­ber my son com­ing home af­ter his first day of school, and he said, ‘Mom, mom, I can read, I can read!’ Grow­ing up, I lived on a farm off a dirt road, a quar­ter mile to the mail­boxes, and I went to school in a one-room school­house up un­til eighth grade, and the first grade class was in the first row, and so on. The big­gest class had twelve stu­dents, and my brother was the only one in his class. [I don’t re­call any] dis­ci­pline – it was a naïve era, I think – there was no crim­i­nal­ity at all.” El­lie at­tended high school in Ber­lin, New Hamp­shire. “I did well in school, and they were go­ing to place me out to work at the Brown Pa­per Com­pany. When I was a se­nior, I skipped school one day. I took the bus by my­self to the next town – Gorham – and I came home at the end of the day. Well, on that day my teacher, Mrs. Haweeli, was look­ing for me, and said I couldn’t be de­pended on, so they took me off the job. I was the youngest of eight and my sis­ters and broth­ers were so sur­prised that I would do some­thing like that,” she smiles. “I [ended up] go­ing through busi­ness school at Bryant Col­lege in 1949 and [got a job] do­ing sec­re­tar­ial work in the an­a­lyt­i­cal depart­ment [of a lo­cal com­pany]. My type­writer had Greek sym­bols on it be­cause it was tech­ni­cal work – I had to type out equa­tions. It was fas­ci­nat­ing [work], and I met my hus­band there.”

Lin Zier­ing

Lin suc­ces­sively taught each grade from 0-12 from 1961 to 1993 in Span­ish Har­lem in New York City, in Connecticut, and in Wilm­ing­ton, Delaware. “I felt that I wanted to change lev­els,” she says. “I didn’t want [my teach­ing] to get stale. My idea is that chil­dren go to school to learn and to so­cial­ize, and that re­quires the abil­ity to learn who they are – they need that kind of nur­tur­ing. [Kinder­garten] is their first ex­pe­ri­ence away from home, and it’s ba­si­cally an ex­plo­ration of them­selves. They have to learn to get along with a lot of dif­fer­ent chil­dren, [some of whom] don’t have a lot of ad­van­tages, and you have to take into ac­count [each child’s] fam­ily dy­namic,” she points out. “They need that kind of free­dom, and the teacher should guide them and let them grow. You have to find dif­fer­ent and in­ter­est­ing ways to teach – dif­fer­ent lessons than what they or their par­ents have had. [In re­gards to dis­ci­plinary ac­tions], you have to give them a chance to tell us what they are think­ing, be­cause they may have a dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tion,” she says. “You have to work with them and rea­son with them to a cer­tain ex­tent, but if they fight and hit they may not be ready for the class­room. You have to pick them up if they stum­ble and not lash out [at them]. They should be given

a chance to ex­plain the rea­sons be­hind their be­hav­ior, but it should be fair and even handed – the class­room needs rules and eti­quette. Es­pe­cially with TV, teach­ing meth­ods have to be up­dated to the child you are now deal­ing with. Their minds are chang­ing, and they should be work­ing to­wards one goal in a way that is fun and ex­cit­ing – why bring in an orange crayon when you can bring in a gold­fish?”

Clem Nee­sham

“Well I’ve never heard of any­thing like [sus­pend­ing kinder­garten­ers]” Clem says. “It’s such a com­plex is­sue – what else could you do?” Clem doesn’t have chil­dren

of his own, but re­calls hear­ing about spe­cial ther­a­peu­tic and re­form schools that are able to bet­ter ap­proach the “un­teach­able” child, and he re­calls his own ed­u­ca­tion with fond­ness. “We had to take a car­pet with us to school, and I used to nap un­der­neath the ta­ble – it was the most won­der­ful part of the day. I don’t re­mem­ber what we learned, or if we put things to­gether, or blew whis­tles,” he laughs, “but I’ve al­ways loved to learn things.” Clem at­tended the Univer­sity of Pitts­burgh for six years and grad­u­ated with a de­gree in me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing and busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion, but did he ever get in trou­ble grow­ing up? “I hit a base­ball through Joe Thomas’ win­dow,” he says. “He was a me­chanic, and he owned a garage. We scat­tered – ev­ery­body ran, and I

ran like crazy, even though I knew bet­ter, knew I should stay and make amends. You think of Steve Jobs [the cre­ator of Ap­ple com­put­ers] – what was he do­ing at 15? Was he hit­ting the books? You have to dis­ci­pline chil­dren, teach them right from wrong,” he adds. “In grade school they used cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment. If the teacher found that a kid didn’t do their spell­ing, or their stud­ies, she would go com­plain to the prin­ci­pal, who would use the pad­dle. Well, now you can’t strike a child, and I don’t know if he re­ally knew what he was do­ing or if he did it be­cause it was so cred­i­ble in so­ci­ety. This was dur­ing the De­pres­sion, and the kids who [had trou­ble] came from very lit­tle means – they lived and worked on the farm and had no time to study – it was un­fair to them.”

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Lin Zier­ing

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El­lie La­bella

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Clem Nee­sham

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