On the night that the Camden Board of Education voted to go along with the Christie administration’s takeover of city schools, teacher Natasha Hatcher came to the meeting with a binder filled with letters from her students.
A literacy teacher at J.G. Whittier Family School, Hatcher had assigned her seventh-grade students the task of writing about their own education. What would they do to improve the schools? What did they think about people who said Camden schools were failing? What did they think about their teachers? Since many of the students previously attended the Lanning Square School, a few weighed in on that school being closed and not replaced.
Following are excerpts from some of their responses:
I have a suggestion showing why students in my school aren’t achieving. Some students…try to show off and not pay attention, which involves the teacher having to yell at the student. Which wastes the class. And the students don’t learn anything.
To solve this problem…Let (teachers) move out of the curriculum for a while and try to make the lesson more fun.
Also another reason the students aren’t achieving (is) because we need new materials, notebooks, textbooks, desks, computers.
Yours truly, Toni Bronson
One of the problems is not having enough supplies. Sometimes we don't have enough workbooks, so teachers have to copy pages out of the book and make worksheets. Also some teachers have to spend money out of their pockets on supplies that should already be supplied…. Teachers can do but so much with not enough textbooks.
Teachers are doing all they can do. They go above and beyond to teach us everything they can. People constantly judge the public school system without even coming to a school to see what is really going on.
Your public school student, Kashamire Roy
The students are not achieving because of themselves. Students are not trying their hardest. They’re being lazy and not putting all their knowledge into their work.… Hearing what people say about Camden is very sad, (for) someone that has never taught us or ever even seen us to say things people say. They say we’re uneducated and say…teachers don't teach us.
But how can someone say such things when they have never been in our presence? It’s like judging a book by its cover and not opening it to read it.
Sincerely, Jyiana Avary
The teachers also have a big part of what is going on. Sometimes the teachers cannot control the students in the classroom. Some of them probably just gave up on the schools and the students, and just probably don’t want to put up with it anymore.…
At Lanning Square School, we were a family. Everybody was nice and happy at the school. It was small but we made everything work out. Being promised a new school that I never received makes me feel like I don’t matter to anyone. Since I never received my school it seems that my school is not important so that makes me feel like I am not important to the governor, mayor or the city.
The teachers at Lanning Square were cool. You could come and talk to them about anything. They were also serious and strict when they had to be.
Our teachers are teaching us a lot, the kids are just not showing it. For you to say that we're not learning is not fair at all, because you have not been taught from our point of view. We know a lot but some of us just don't apply our knowledge to what has to be done. I strongly suggest you really find out what we learned and you will be very impressed.
Sure we play around, but we’re kids. Not all of us are going to be serious at times but we’re very smart. Thank you for taking the time for reading this.
Sincerely, Jasmine Pagan