I recently retired from Longley Elementary School. I have to say that I have never worked so hard as a teacher as I did there.

Much of what “the union” insulated me from in my previous position in New Jersey held no bearing in Maine. I not only realized how “spoiled” I’d been, but also that my (Maine) colleagues wore several hats every single day.

Everyone from Thomas Hood, the principal, to the cafeteria and custodial staff, exerted themselves delivering meaningful lessons, both academic and social, to “our kids.” 

The problem at Longley has nothing to do with the principal or his tireless staff.  In my opinion, it is reflective of a deep-seated, multi-faceted, societal woe entrenched in the Longley neighborhood, coupled with the immense challenge presented by the influx of non-English-speaking children.  

In short, while trying to teach students who generally face many obstacles in their young lives (poverty, crime in the streets, familial disruptions, transiency, etc.), there also is the incredibly difficult task of educating their non-English-speaking peers side by side.

The solution?

I wish I knew.  

I’d offer that it might lie along the lines of educating both the children and their parents, increasing the school day and school year, tutoring, providing wholesome morning and afternoon extracurricular activities, perhaps uniforms to foster pride, making sure that every child eats three meals daily and rests at night.

Commendably, many of these things are in place already; there’s much more to be done, though.

Beverly Fox Martin, Harpswell