IN READING LIZA MUNDY'S "MOVING Terrain" [September 26], I was surprised to find an error of fact. She refers to the Tyneside Irish as if Tyneside were a town in the United Kingdom, and not the area, including Newcastle, along the Tyne River.
A FAIR TEST?
THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY PRINCIPLE that good news doesn't sell newspapers is most aptly demonstrated in Jay Mathews's "Testing Teachers" [Class Struggle, October 3]. Mathews goes to great lengths to lament the fact that Jennifer Kramer, a 32-year-old second-grade teacher, lost her public school job because she could not pass the high-school-level Praxis I math test. Never mind the good news that the teacher in question was replaced by one who did have the requisite ability in math as well as other skills needed to teach second grade.
The general public and school boards are at long last recognizing that teaching any grade requires an interdisciplinary approach and that the student is better served by a teacher who can enrich basic studies with interesting sidelights. Too bad all teachers aren't proficient in all high school subjects.
RONALD E. NARMI
WE ALL WANT OUR TEACHERS TO BE INtelligent, well-educated individuals with a good general knowledge base. Tough test scores are reasonable in teachers' specific curriculum areas; however, it is not beneficial to classroom education when expectations are extremely high across the board. I know of a young Northern Virginia teacher facing the same fate as Jennifer Kramer. This woman teaches middle school Spanish -- and teaches it well. She has not been able to pass the math test on the state teachers exam. She panics and freezes up every time. She is inspiring to her students. But will she wind up in private schools as well? Just the other day, after tutoring sessions, she took the test again. I am certainly pulling for her!
THE DEMANDS OF BALLET
I APPRECIATED TAMARA JONES'S INSIGHTful "Ballet Lessons" [October 10]. She compellingly conveyed the pain and perseverance, the all-consuming dedication required of those women who hope to be paid to dance onstage.
Nonetheless, the intense concentration inherent in ballet was only tangentially addressed. Responding to the pleadings of my daughter, I began dancing with the Rockville Civic Ballet three years ago. For me, the physical challenges required by ballet are much easier to meet than the mental demands, the need to remember and reproduce a series of dance steps. It is not that I must learn the language of plies and piques and pirouettes. If a dancer relies on reciting these cues, it is simply too late; the dance is too fast to permit such a mental crutch.
I have been forced to acquire an entirely new mode of mental processing: "body memory." This essentially wordless activity is still a mystery to me, but it works. An invisible aspect of dance, it is perceived only by those who have experienced it.
I SUPPOSE THAT ALL GREAT DANCERS, singers, musicians, athletes and artists seem obsessive and out of touch with the real world at times. However, the young women under Suzanne Farrell's tutelage have an unhealthy obsession with weight and the need to please someone other than themselves, a warped body image and poor eating habits, all classic signs of anorexia and bulimia. Trooping to the bathroom after a big meal was not a nose-powdering session, I am sure. I hope that some of the girls, like Jennifer, will decide that Suzanne Farrell's life is not for them. Her legacy would be too hard to bear, the quest not worth the pain, injuries, loneliness and unrealistic view of the world.
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