"We need every dedicated teacher we can get."
At 12:58 PM 6/13/97 +0000, you wrote:
My name is Louis La Mar. I am a high school Science Teacher at Redwood Hill High School in Redwood Hill, TX. I just read your web site about Berendo Middle School while surfing the `net.
I saw too many parallels as far as behavior of students. Our district does not yet feel the pain of violence that LAUSD obviously does, but the root cause of the violence and failure, APATHY, has set in and is now spreading throughout the district. I have just spent two years with freshmen teaching them science.I have never seen a more apatheitc group of students in my life.
Redwood Hill was once known for its wonderful 11/12 grade programs. But there has been a big push from the nearby Dallas ISD to get students into this once sleepy beadroom community. As the influx of inner-city students trickled down, their family and societal habits and values traveled with them.
Now, Redwood Hill is a mere shadow of its former self.We failed to attack the problem at its source and now the battle is virtually uphill. Each 8th-grade class is getting worse than the one before it. I'm not sure that it will get as bad as Los Angeles, but the potential is there.
This, however, is beside the point. I love my job more than ever! As each year comes and goes, my love for teaching is magnified a hundred-fold. Sure, it has not gotten any easier, but this has stimulated me to attack the problem at the home where these problems begin.
I do not know what you are doing now, but I hope that you are still teaching and that the desire that you demonstrated in your teacher prep letter is still inside you. We need every dedicated teacher we can get. Even if we are dedicated to helping only those who want it, this is one more student that we can send off into the world to add to our cause.
Louis R. La Mar III
Thank you for your interesting words about education and the similarities between Redwood Hill High School and Berendo. It makes me a little sad to hear other teachers write me and tell me they have had similar experiences as I always hoped things were better elsewhere. When I think of the American educational system, sometimes I feel downright discouraged.
Yet I think I detect in your letter the idealism of those for whom teaching is a calling rather than a job. Despite all the many negatives, the completely devoted teacher who can't imagine doing anything else as valuable or as satisfying. I have always tried to be that kind of teacher myself with so far mixed levels of success.
I presently am out beating the bushes looking for a teaching position for next year. I am looking at the rural school districts of Ventura County and northern San Diego. I look back at LAUSD and it seems like a nightmare; consequently, I am going way out of my way to make sure I don't end up in a similar environment. When I think about teaching in a place like Pico-Union again, I think about that scene in "Bull Durham" where the minor league baseball players contemplate with horror losing their jobs and having to work a retail job at Sears department store: "No! Not work at Sears again! Sears is the worst!" I have the same vitriolic reaction when I think about going back to work as a teacher in the ghetto. "No, not the LAUSD again! That's the worst!" I would swallow my teeth before I work again for the LAUSD. That job was taking years off my life!
I really do think schools are different in various areas, reflecting the problems and/or assets of the communities they serve. I love teaching and have never contemplated changing professions, but before I commit to a school district for the next 20 years I want to make sure life there is bearable. I am not asking for perfection from a school system, but the LAUSD was so out of control and ..... well, you read my webpage. Everyone has their comfort zone, and in Los Angeles I was well outside of mine - in my bones I felt so much there to be unhealthy or not the way it should or could be. And I saw clearly it was not going to change. On the other hand, I desperately hope that other school districts are better (knowing they probably are). We shall see what life brings next.
As I am sure a veteran teacher like yourself knows, the honing of a teacher's skills is the work of an entire career and I look forward to the arduous job of building and modifying lesson plans year after year. Only having taught for three years so far, I am ready to get on with it - there is so much to do! Inspired and effective teaching - with all the attendant problems and crises today - has proved to be the most challenging and humbling thing I have ever tried to do in my life. It is also the most important.
I wish you well personally and professionally out there in Texas.
Very Truly Yours,