At the post office, I distributed moneyrnfor the students to buy stamps. Back inrnthe classroom, I directed them to writernletters to one another about satisfying experiencesrnand to mail them on their wayrnhome. Several days later, each studentrnread aloud the letter he had received. Irnthen re-distributed the copies of MyrnWeekly Reader and resumed the topic.rnThe boys’ interest in the subject was appreciablyrnheightened.rnAbraham Maslow, the psychologistrnand educator, coined the term “peak experience”rnto denote an unforgettablernevent. Such occurrences could be positivernas well as negative. A “peak experience”rnthat had elements of both occurredrnon the last school day before the Christmasrnvacation. I had planned a party forrnmy class. Several days earlier, one studentrnhad asked me for my shirt size, and Irnemphatically responded that teachersrnwere not permitted to accept gifts. Thernstudents looked at each other in dismay.rnOn the morning of the party, they all arrivedrnwith crudely wrapped packagesrnwhich they placed on my desk. Curiosityrntook hold, and I unwrapped the largest ofrnthem. I did a double-take when I beheldrna popular brand of television receiver, thernuncancelled price tag from a major departmentrnstore still attached to it. I didrnnot bother to unwrap the rest of the gifts,rnreturning them all to the students. But Irncould not find it in my heart to lecturernthem on the evils of larceny.rnIn mid-June, another “peak experience”rnhad purely negative consequencesrnfor me. I had planned a field trip for myrnclass. We were going to take the HudsonrnRiver Dav Line boat trip around ManhattanrnIsland, and I was prepared to acquaintrnthem with historical points of interest.rnPermission slips from parentsrnwere forthcoming in short order, exceptrnin one case. David Lopez had to be proddedrnseveral times before his materialized.rnWhen the day of the field trip arrived,rnall students except David were in brightrnand early. The class started to leave withoutrnhim, when he was spotted saunteringrntoward the school. I ran up the steps andrnnotified the school secretary that Davidrnhad arrived. Then we were off.rnWe took public transportation to 42ndrnStreet and Eighth Avenue and walkedrnwest toward the Hudson River. At TenthrnAvenue, I took a body count, and discoveredrnthat David Lopez was missing. Anotherrnstudent divulged that David hadrnbolted, running into a tenement a fewrnvards back. With onlv a nod to FredrnBarnes, I conveyed the message that hernwas to supervise the class. Then I took offrnlike a shot after David. I found the boyrncowering behind a third-floor stairwell,rnhis body curled in embryonic fashion.rnWhen David saw me, he covered hisrnhead to ward off the blows that he wasrncertain would follow. Instead, I reachedrndown and cradled the boy in my arms.rnHe burst into tears and blurted out thatrnhe had never been on a boat; he wasrn”scared to death.” I consoled him andrnpromised not to leave his side. I huggedrnhim, and David responded in kind.rnThe trip was a huge success… for thernstudents. Before it was over, David, inrnthe company of several of his classmates,rnwas prancing about, a smile of satisfactionrnon his face. For me, however, thernimage of sheer terror on the face of DavidrnLopez kept returning. Even after havingrnworked with David and the others for almostrnan entire school year, I had not succeededrnin dislodging the fear of physicalrnabuse that plagued these kids. Especiallyrnironic was the fact that David was one ofrnthe students I had recommended for a returnrnto his neighborhood school becausernof the progress he had made.rnMoments after my students arried onrnthis last day of the school year, the bellrnrang, signaling that the assembly sessionrnwas about to begin. I escorted my class tornits place in the assembly hall, where thernentire student body and faculty had alreadyrnarrived.rnThe students sang, visiting dignitariesrnspoke, and then the principal rose tornmake some announcements. He congratulatedrnthe graduating class, most ofrnwhom would go on to a special highrnschool under the jurisdiction ofrnBSMED. Then he read the names ofrnthose students who had earned the privilegernof returning to their neighborhoodrnschools. The few I had recommendedrnwere among them. Then there occurredrnan additional “peak experience” for me.rnThe principal held up a commendationrncard and announced, “This is for Mr.rnRoberts and his students. In the last threernmonths, not a single absence has occurredrnfrom that class. Congratulations.”rnMy class rose and began to chant inrnunison, “Mr. Roberts.. . Mr. Roberts. . .rnMr. Roberts.” Then other classes rosernand followed suit. Finally, the teachingrnstaff did the same.rnAfter my students left to begin theirrnsummer vacation, I reached into my coatrnpocket and removed a letter that I hadrnwritten the previous evening. It was a requestrnfor transfer out of BSMED.rnEven as I tore it into shreds, I was notrncertain I had made the right decision.rnPerhaps I was deluding myself that myrnpresence really made a difference in thernlives of those frightened youngsters.rnTim Roberts is the author of Law Enforcement,rnInc. This article is factual;rnhowever, in order to preserve studentrnconfidentiality, all names, includingrnthe author’s, have been changed, andrnreferences to dates and places have beenrnpurposely blurred.rnGetting Withrnthe Programrnby JeffMinickrnSuppose that you are one of five ownersrnof a professional football team,rnwhich has just come off a losing season.rnYou and the other disgruntled ownersrnhave gathered at a conference table torndiscuss plans for the next year. The fivernof you toss around ideas for improvementrn—a bigger stadium, new uniforms,rnmore strategic game plans, better coaches,rnmore coaches, different pre-game specials,rnmore enthusiastic cheerleaders. Inexplicably,rnneither you nor the otherrnowners ever blame the players for the losingrnseason. No one holds them accountable,rncriticizes their devotion to therngame, or makes them individually responsiblernfor their level of play. The playersrnnever enter the picture.rnWould you count on a winning teamrncoming out of such a discussion?rnThis ludicrous situation is analogousrnto the intense debate that is repeated everyrnfall across our country, arriving withrnthe “back to school” specials in the newspapers.rnThe topic of this debate is therncondition of our public schools; the conferencerntable is the news media; the participantsrnare politicians, administrators,rnteachers, parents, and news reporters.rnYear after year, the litany of lamentationsrnaround this table is the same. If only wernhad new school buildings. If only we hadrnmore computers. If only we had betterrnbooks. If only we had better teachers orrnmore teachers. If only we paid our teachersrnmore. If only we had some or all ofrnthese things, the argument goes, then ourrncrisis in education would end.rnWhat is not publicly addressed, whatrnSEPTEMBFR 1999/47rnrnrn