In Backlight on June 6, we asked readers to identify this building and tell us where it was. More than a few respondents chided us for pitching such an easy question and provided painstakingly detailed answers. Some of those answers were right. Overall, 122 readers correctly identified the building, but then, 95 others didn't. For the record, the structure was not the Old Post Office, nor the Auditors Building, nor the Eastern Market, nor the Baltimore & Ohio train station, but the Baltimore & Potomac train station. It stood at the corner of B Street (that's Constitution Avenue to you) and Sixth Street NW from 1878 to 1907, when Union Station opened and the B&P depot was razed. The National Gallery of Art's West Building now stands on the site.


PLEASE TELL ME THE FOCUS OF "ALL Due Respect" [Class Struggle, June 6]. Is Jay Mathews implying that the evaluation process for teachers like Trixi Bicknell is unfair? The evaluation process is very complex, and there is always an option for a teacher to appeal if she or he feels that the evaluation is unfair. How does Mathews think other teachers at Fairfax High School, or elsewhere, felt when they read the article?

Mathews observed one teacher teaching highly motivated students. The real champ-ions are those teachers whose students have to work a little bit harder to achieve. No one pats them on the back, yet that does not mean that they are so consumed with self-pity that they run to other schools.


English/journalism teacher, Fairfax High School

LIKE TRIXI BICKNELL, I TEACH ENGlish at a large public school. My aim is to create the kind of classroom described so well in the article: one alive with student inquiry, purposeful activity and respectful collaboration among everyone in the room. All too often, though, it's the adults at the school -- teachers and administrators -- who see themselves in competition for awards, money, supplies or simple ego gratification.

Our department spends an inordinate amount of time discussing standards, regimens, grading percentages and the cost of making photocopies . . . and almost none talking about what's actually happening in the classroom, or planning to meet the specific needs of students who are nowhere close to reading or writing at grade level.


Hayward, Calif.

I JUST WANTED TO CONGRATULATE YOU on an article that recognized the best teacher I've ever had. Mrs. Bicknell was my English teacher last year for 11th-grade Gifted and Talented English, and she always inspired me to do my best. She was at once honest and inspirational, and the school lost its best teacher when she moved.

Schools are inadequately prepared to recognize good teachers. The answer doesn't lie in measuring performance on standardized test scores but in speaking with students. Any intelligent student knows that although the good teachers aren't easy, everyone improves through them and recognizes their skill as teachers.




I WAS DISAPPOINTED WHEN I READ "Stamp of Disapproval" [Potomac Confidential, June 6]. Over the past several years, the U.S. Postal Service has taken steps to improve our relationship with our customers and to provide them with world-class service.

At Friendship Station, we recently renovated the lobby area to mirror the new retail image of the Postal Service. We added a service window. And we have received many compliments from our local customers regarding improved service.

It is our goal to serve every customer within five minutes of entering our lobbies. However, just as in grocery stores, there are peak times and sometimes it becomes difficult to achieve this goal. We are continuously striving for improvement and welcome customer feedback as to how well we are doing.


U.S. Postal Service, Gaithersburg

I WAS POSTMASTER IN D.C. FROM 1987 to 1989, and much of what Marc Fisher wrote about poor window service was true when I arrived there, and, sadly, at many stations when I left. There are a number of ways for customers to combat poor service, and Fisher described just what customers should do -- complain and make an issue of it when it happens. Always complain to the highest-level official you can reach -- the local station supervisor is, in many cases, the person least likely to do anything. Go to the postmaster, his boss, or even the postmaster general.


Lafayette Hill, Pa.

I HAVE BEEN INSIDE THE FRIENDship Post Office many different times of the day and have always found a line of patrons waiting for service; there just is not enough help to handle the demand. Why couldn't the Post Office hire part-time on-call employees to fill in when a regular staff person is out? The school systems use substitutes for classrooms, why not the Post Office?



AS A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL and the daughter of a postal employee, I do not find the phrase "going postal" amusing. In fact, I think we need to take another look at what makes people act out inappropriately, just as the customers in line at Friendship Station did. What makes people think that harassing someone is an effective way to get their needs met? The clerk was hardly responsible for the staffing problems at the office. It is no wonder that postal employees have broken down in the past and committed unexplainable acts of violence.


Chevy Chase, Md.