Faking it as a teacher

  The Old Center of North Andover, Mass.

The Old Center of North Andover, Mass.

Adapted from Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in GoLocal24.com

Fifty years ago, in 1968, I spent the fall teaching in public high school in North Andover, Mass., in a program called A Better Chance, in which poor kids, minority and white, from the South and elsewhere lived in a kind of group home, presided over by a teacher and spouse, in towns with good public and/or private schools. I learned a lot that fall, which I remember as notably windy and wet. One lesson was that a firm, er, loud, voice in a class with 30 kids can to some degree offset the vulnerability of someone, like me, of small stature teaching restless and sometimes rowdy teens many of whom were bigger than me. And that you need eyes behind your head. Performance art.

I assume that teaching in that high school was tougher than teaching in the Brooks School, an elite boarding school in the same town, where there were rarely more than 10 students in a classroom — and most were very well behaved.