The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 14, 2001



Looking for superman

I remember my parents' stories and images of war in Lvov in western Ukraine and Prague fifty years ago. Scenes of returning home after an air raid to see their block of houses bombed, in smoking ruins; running, praying, not knowing if the family survived. But that was then, I thought. A different time; a different world. It was their history; I was in America.

On Tuesday morning America was attacked and our world changed. The myth of the invulnerability of our mainland was shattered as we saw America's greatest symbols of power crumble into dust. Again the images were vivid and unbelievable, like a Hollywood action movie. I expected to see Superman fly out of the clouds of dust and raise the buildings up again.

Now, after the initial fear and shock we are left to deal with the horror and the rubble and the anger and the sense of profound helplessness. Without a visible enemy we can't strike back; with the fires still burning we can't begin the rescue. We can only watch the endless replays and speculations on TV, while thousands lie dying.

At their meeting on Tuesday evening Carlisle's board of selectmen recognized our collective and individual need for some constructive action. They passed a resolution encouraging "all citizens of our community to take action to assist in the efforts to support ongoing rescue efforts. We recognize the need for blood, clothing, medical supplies, and financial support." Hopefully within days the channels through which we can each make some meaningful contribution will become evident. None of us can put on a cape, raise the buildings or turn back the clock to Monday. But we can give in ways large and small and help preserve the American way.


Back to school in Carlisle: then and now

Our kids are back to school. Of course, "back to school" does not apply to all of them; for some, namely the kindergartners, it is the start of school an especially exciting time for both the children and their parents. But for me, there really is a sense of "back to school," for now my kindergartner is starting at the same school I attended.

Growing up in Carlisle, I attended the public school from 1971 to 1979. It's probably a little premature for me to compare today's Carlisle School to that of my youth, for my son is just beginning. Nevertheless, the start of school this month calls for some reflection.

Of course, the school was smaller back when I attended. Class sizes were about the same, but we had just three classes per grade, so about 60-70 kids in each grade. We managed with fewer buildings. Grades K-4 were in Spalding and Robbins, and 6-8 were in Wilkins as now, but grade 5 was in the old Highland building. The auditorium and cafeteria (actually the same room) were in Spalding, but have since been replaced by more classrooms. That room also served as a gymnasium, although we had a newer gym in Robbins (since replaced by still more classrooms). Music and band rooms were also in Spalding. The school library was much smaller and fit neatly into the old brick schoolhouse. The kindergarten, just a few years old, was located in a corner of the Robbins building, with separate morning and afternoon sessions using the same classroom.

Does today's larger school and more populous grade groups mean less sense of small-school identity and community? Certainly not, if you compare it to the 1970s. The most significant difference between the elementary school in the 1970s and today is that we had an "open classroom" instructional setting, in addition to the traditional classroom. The newly built Robbins Building was designed for this purpose, with its two large, open wings, each housing the equivalent of three classes without the interior walls that exist now. Each "homebase class" was comprised of children of two or three different grades, and the three classes would combine and regroup in different combinations during the course of the school day.

I loved it, and only much later learned that this system was controversial and eventually rescinded. As a bright student, I was proud to be placed with children a grade ahead of me when we were regrouped by ability for certain subjects. It never occurred to me what this did to the self-esteem of children grouped mostly with kids a grade below them. Yet I also made friends with younger children (if they were good enough students to be grouped upward). However, we didn't get to know all the kids in our grade, since we were segregated from those in the traditional classrooms in the Spalding building until we were finally all brought together in traditional classrooms in the fifth grade. There's no doubt that more grade-identity develops in the current structure, despite larger grade groups.

So, while personal memories of my open classroom days in Carlisle are fond ones, I am pleased with the school's current structure. Although bigger, it's not yet too big. But in another generation, or less, that could all change.

+YEAR+ The Carlisle Mosquito