Saturday, July 08, 2000

Mailbag full of surprises

        I like mail. My favorite letter from the last few months is one from Anna, a student at Symmes Elementary School.

        I talked to Anna's third-grade class about what it's like to be a journalist, and told them it's important to be curious and even nosy. Anna wrote this in reply:

        Dear Mrs. Ramsey,

        I enjoyed your visit to our classroom. I hope you come back soon. Guess what? I have been nosy at home and in school.



        I'm sure Anna's parents and teachers appreciate my suggestion.

        Some of the most touching letters and e-mails came in response to a column on appreciating the average child.

        Wrote one dad, “You were writing about my son. ... If average means in the middle, then like the hub of the wheel, average really is holding things together.”

Average is beautiful
        A number of parents said they slipped the column into their child's room, or included it with a letter of their own praise and admiration. Many teachers said they dropped a note to a student in their class who may not have shined academically, but was a wonderful person. One teacher wrote, “We enjoy the outstanding kids and spend time worrying about the “at risk” kids, but don't seem ever to thank those kids you highlighted so eloquently.”

        On the other hand, a column I wrote on Sands Elementary School drew mixed responses. Some people thought I failed to give praise where it was due, some said I should spread my praise around, and some said I was right on target.

        One former staff member wrote, “Sands Montessori has weathered through many challenges over the years due to many changes in the Cincinnati Public School system, but Sands Montessori has survived the challenges. ... Your article makes it sound like Sands Montessori has completely gone under and that is not true.'"

Mixed reactions
        Another Cincinnati educator suggested I give more credit to long-time district staff members who have “stuck with the children of this district through levy defeats and budget cuts all the while providing a quality educational experience for them.”

        Finally, a Sands parent wrote, “Thank you for speaking the truth that everybody sees but not all say. Sands has changed a great deal, and most of us would not say for the better. We are greatly looking forward to Sands returning to the wonderful place it used to be.”

        The greatest response came from a column on Sharon Coffey, a mother who began a “friendship award” program in memory of her 12-year-old son Ben Van Cleave who was ridiculed and teased, and later committed suicide.

Changing lives
        One writer said he survived a childhood much like Ben's, and now works with troubled children. “My eyes, heart and soul opened to compassion and empathy for those I had feared so many years ago,” he wrote. “I am able to see what these kids' lives were really like, recognize the pain and abuse they were suffering ... hear the cries for help that were not being heard. I am grateful for what Mrs. Coffey has done and is doing. She and Ben have touched my life.”

        Sharon Coffey dropped me a note to say that recipients tell her the Benjamin Van Cleave Friendship Award is now the most coveted honor at their school.


Breaking the stained-glass ceiling
Stadium seeks 800 for vending jobs
Bedinghaus ad touts stadium projects
Dachau liberators to hold reunion here
Kids snatch up Potter book
List of today's Potter parties
Test your knowledge of Harry Potter
Glossary of Harry speak
'Harry Potter' artist adds magic touch
Metallica fans expected to jam I-71
City acts on street safety
Judges move to end probation office dispute
- Mailbag full of surprises
Tech college leader named
Army players add sizzle to Pops' big-band sounds
Pig Parade: Pork Rules
Who should be cast away?
Aquarium attendance at a peak
Bank robbery is 38th this year
Bike trail opening in Woodlawn
Boy, 16, charged in killing
Hamilton's aim: better ballpark
Kentucky Digest
Law on sex offenders upheld
Local Digest
Man, 19, indicted in killing of pizza driver
Man indicted in rape of girl
Mom cleared of felony in death of infant son
Pleasant Ridge has block party
Troopers reject contract offer