Star of the Show

Lori Sanborn

Dedicated to Mr. Z

This coming September my daughter will start kindergarten. Emmy will join hundreds of other adorable, curious, playful and crafty five year olds in the Gloucester Public School System. I know public schools pretty well because I have dedicated 13 years of my life to teaching in one. Although my classroom is not located here in our beautiful city, there are some commonalities and truths that exist in all public school settings.  Let me share a story that highlights the most important one.

The Country Schoolroom. 1871. Winslow Homer (1836-1910)

The Country Schoolroom. 1871. Winslow Homer (1836-1910)

The overwhelming majority of school teachers love their job and their students. Once I enter my classroom each day, I am fully present. My students get all of my attention.  I notice them.  I know when they didn’t get enough sleep.  I know when it’s their birthday or when they won their big game the night before.  I know when something is bothering them.  I am always in their corner.  I am their number one fan when those that love them the most can’t physically be there to cheer them on.  My students make me laugh daily and every so often one of them makes me cry.

Just recently, one of my students brought tears of happiness to my eyes.  Every year I strive to help my students improve their public speaking skills.  This is something we work on all year long, starting in September, so we are ready for our big debate on the death penalty come March.  Most middle schoolers hate standing in front of the classroom.  Long gone are the days where they thrived off of sharing their prized possession during “show and tell.”  The majority of my 8th graders squirm at the thought of having all of their peers focusing solely upon them.  But none of my students hated it more this year than Finn.

I still remember the expression that came upon Finn’s face when I told all 80 of my students that my personal goal was to help them all improve their public speaking skills.  A panic stricken Finn fidgeted in his seat and planned for the worst.  During his first experience in front of the classroom his fear weighed heavily upon this performance.  He rocked side to side, from left foot to right foot.  He spoke as fast as a student exiting the building on the last day of school in hopes that his suffering would soon end.   He barely looked up at his audience.  When his turn was over, he sighed in deep relief and listened for my critique and suggestions for improvement.  Finn listened intently to my words and all I could do was hope that they would resonate.

Since that day, Finn and his classmates have had multiple opportunities to speak in front of the class.  Each time I observed Finn with a watchful eye and afterwards highlighted his strengths and weaknesses.  Each time, Finn listened hard and showed slight improvements with his next delivery.  The swaying was becoming less extreme, the “ummms” were almost a thing of the past.  No more sweaty palms.

Fast forward to March 17th, a day rumored to be laced with luck.   It marked the second day of our death penalty debate.  Eli, a naturally strong orator, took to the podium to prove that the death penalty is far too much of a financial burden on state taxpayers.  Upon hearing his classmate and opponent finish his introduction, Finn rose to challenge him.  What happened next was magical, despite having happened on a day shrouded in Irish luck, there was nothing lucky about Finn’s performance.

Finn delivered a strong rebuttal to Eli’s argument.  Eli came back even stronger.  This pattern continued for 18 minutes straight.  For 18 minutes, I watched two young men demonstrate eloquence, passion and intellect.  They became the educators in the room.  Their peers reacted in such awe that it brought tears to my eyes.  After 13 years in education, I was immediately reminded of why I wanted to teach in the first place.  I have always believed that all kids can truly achieve academic excellence. But I also wholeheartedly know that all kids can experience that “magic” during the years they spend in the public school’s system.  And when it happens, the student will gain the type of confidence that will transfer far beyond classroom walls.

Although I would not want time to pass any faster than it already has, I do look forward to the day when Emmy has her transformative moment in school.  The moment that inspires her to come home beaming, not because of a crush or because she got invited to a dance, but because her teacher made her feel brilliant, like the star of the show.

This magical moment is different for all.  Finn’s came loud and openly in front of his peers.  My moment was a silent exchange between a student and teacher.  When Mr. Ziergebel marked my fictional piece with an A+ and told me “you sure can write,” my mind was forever altered.  It may have taken me almost 20 years later to gain the courage to actually share my writings with the world, but I know it never would have happened had my 9th grade English teacher not made me feel that kind of special.

 

lori sanbornLori Sanborn was born in Gloucester and returned to live permanently in our seaside community three years ago. She has been a public educator for 12 years, teaching eighth graders.  Lori is most proud of her role as mother to her children, Emerson and Ryder.

Interested in Learning More About the State of Our Oceans?

cape ann pic

All are invited to the Rocky Neck Cultural Center for an informal talk with noted Geologist and Environmental Consultant, Dave Lincoln. The topic, Corporatization & Privatization of the Ocean, will no doubt be of great interest to all residents of America’s Oldest Seaport.

Dave Lincoln

 

Topic: Corporatization and Privatization of the Ocean

Who:  Dave Lincoln, Geologist and Environmental Consultant

What: Informative Session

When: WEDNESDAY March 23, 2016

Time: 6:00 PM

Where: Rocky Neck Cultural Center, 6 Wonson Street, Gloucester, MA 01930

The Consequences of Unplanned Growth

Peter Anastas

“Stop this renewing without reviewing.”

–Charles Olson, “A Scream to the Editor”

Prospect Street, Gloucester. 1928 Hopper, Edward (1882-1967)

Prospect Street, Gloucester. 1928 Hopper, Edward (1882-1967)

What do the proposed “Soones Court” Back Shore luxury housing project and the recently floated ideas for the development of Ten Pound Island have in common, aside from the fact that they have provoked vociferous public opposition?

These are projects that have no foundation in planning.  They were neither anticipated nor considered as part of an overarching plan for the growth and development of Gloucester or the protection of our natural resources.  Why is this?  Simply put, it is because the city effectively does not have a Master Plan that is currently valid.  Our Master Plan is neither valid nor relevant because, having last been drafted and voted upon in 2001, it is fifteen years out of date.  As such, it does not—and did not—anticipate major projects like Gloucester Crossing or the Beauport Hotel on the Fort, both of which also stirred divisive public opposition.

The purpose of good planning is to avoid such controversies as much as possible and make clear in a democratically created document what is needed for the orderly growth and development of the community; in other words, what should be built in the future and where it should be built.  Such a plan also provides for what the community wishes to preserve in  terms of landforms, historic sites and buildings, neighborhoods, or cherished places— iconic locations like the shore side of our Back Shore, Ten Pound Island, Dogtown, or the Magnolia Woods.  It is possible through planning to set aside such “magical places,” as Janice Stelluto, who shepherded Plan 2001 from the talking stages through to its completion, called them, so that they would remain undisturbed to be enjoyed by future generations of Gloucester citizens and visitors drawn to the natural beauty of our city.

Good planning also anticipates the impact on the economic and social well- being of the city of foreseen growth; for as a community considers what it hopes to live with in the present—which amenities it needs, what kinds of new business might be provided to create necessary jobs, how new growth and development will affect tax base—it also looks at what is not wanted.   It provides for the preservation of what is valued like the untrammeled view out to Thatcher’s Island from the Back Shore, or Ten Pound Island left in its natural state for students to study its geology and birdlife.

Plan 2001 did not call for a shopping plaza adjacent to the Fuller School, nor did it consider the marine-industrial Fort as an ideal location for a “boutique” hotel or conference and function center   These were not developments growing out of the community’s pressing desire to have them (there was consensus about a downtown hotel but not on the Fort); they were developer-driven projects, coming, as it were, from a vacuum created by a lack of planning.  Taken by surprise, as the community was when these unanticipated and unplanned for projects first surfaced, many in the community reacted like we all do when we are confronted with the unexpected.  There was anger, frustration and, naturally, resistance, creating rifts in the city, which deepened as one unanticipated and unplanned for project followed another.

To be sure, the planning process cannot anticipate or parry in advance every controversy; nor can it satisfy all sectors of the community.  But it can help us to avoid the divisive acrimony we now experience in Gloucester with the concomitant anger against and distrust of government and public officials, neither of which help to promote or sustain our wellbeing as a people, collectively hoping for a deserved quality of life in the place we call home.

Without good planning a city is helpless in the face of the relentless drive to develop that we and many seaside communities like Gloucester are facing, just as a family that does not budget its finances or plan for the future is stymied when there is job loss or catastrophic illness.  Good planning can help to avoid the raucous public hearings that have been a sad feature of local life, pitting neighbor against neighbor and ward against ward, only fueling the enmity and distrust of government that have come to characterize national life as well.  Good planning can also help the community avoid costly litigation that drains both public coffers and private citizens of funds that could be more wisely and creatively spent.

So, before we get into another battle royal over the next development proposal to come down the pike (and there will be many), would it be too much to ask if we, as a community, could take that superannuated Master Plan off the shelf and revise it?  Or better: couldn’t we begin again, utilizing all the experience we have gained during the past fifteen fractious years, and write a new one?   Call it a roadmap for the present, or a GPS helping us to navigate our way through the complex terrain of the future.  Call it what you will, but for the sake of all of us let’s not move forward without knowing what’s ahead.

(On Thursday, March 4, 2016, the Gloucester Planning Board said “No” to preliminary plans for Soones Court.  However, developers have announced that they will return in July with “a more definite proposal.”

On Monday, March 21, there will be a community meeting hosted by Ward One city councilor Scott Memhard, at the Rocky Neck Cultural Center, 6 Wonson Street, at 7 p.m., to discuss “Ten Pound Island: Recognizing its Past, Planning its Future.”  All are invited.)

 

Peter at Museum (1)Peter Anastas, editorial director of Enduring Gloucesteris a Gloucester native and writer. His most recent book, A Walker in the City: Elegy for Gloucester, is a selection from columns that were published in the Gloucester Daily Times.

Gloucester’s Resounding Echo: A Tribute To Kay Ellis

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Kay Ellis, the girl could cook, and I’m not talking about a meal where you push back your seat and say “Boy that was good.”  I’m talking about the kind of magic that happens in that first bite when your taste bud’s reaction is to beg for more and all the while you’re telling someone, “You have to try this, it’s amazing,” the left side of your brain is telling you to be quiet so you can hoard it all to yourself.  Kay would gladly give you a recipe if you asked for it, but one she couldn’t give you from her kitchen was that recipe for living life.  It’s not something she or any of us have written down anywhere, on how to do it well, but she sure nailed it.

I’ve known Tom since I was a little kid, being introduced to his wife Kay years later was an added bonus.  She was so easy to get to know, what you got was Kay, no pretentious facades, nothing shy, or boastful, just a comfortable, pleasant person, a person you’d want to spend more time with.  I could easily see how she and Tom were best friends and successful business partners.  One of my father’s expressions comes to mind when I think of them together, “They work like a well oiled machine.” That doesn’t make their relationship sound very romantic, but all you had to do to see that side of them, was to look out on the harbor, they were living one of the greatest romance novels ever written.

With so many reasons to be proud, I think her face shined brightest when she was talking about her boys.  Laughing, she’d tell you Tom was her biggest, but kidding aside, it was ever apparent whenever she spoke of them.  Some moms stow away things their children make when they’re little, to be brought out and reminisced about, perhaps on a winter’s day.  In Kay’s home, they were proudly displayed, from pottery balanced on a beam; awards of merit framed and hung on a wall, to homemade paper chain garland adorning the Christmas tree year after year.  Ask her about a photograph of them and you could see and hear in her voice that she was back to the time and place the picture was taken, enjoying the moment all over again.  It is always nice to see the boys quiet pride, reflected right back at her in their respect and admiration for their mother.

I have no reason to say that Kay was my best friend.  We didn’t have lunch together every week, or double date, or go shopping together, like girlfriends do.  We did share a love of books, dogs, flowers, art…our conversations just flowed at an easy pace.  “Have you read this book?  I think you’ll really like it.” She’d be right, ten times out of ten.  Having the same birthday, our gifts to each other were more often than not, books, and she never failed to give me one I would enjoy from beginning to end.

I’d pop in at the Schooner Sail’s Office down at Seven Sea’s Wharf while out walking my dog “Pal.” It was a nice stop along the way to have a friendly chat, see how things were going.  Pal would come over to the house with me too.  Kay was quite fond of the little guy.  One day she called me over to the house because there was someone she wanted me to meet.  That someone was “Lanny,” a cute little Chocolate Lab pup, who soon grew to be a big part of the Ellis family, and a welcoming hostess aboard the Schooner “Thomas E. Lannon.” Kay told me that “Pal,” played a part in the deciding factor for them to get a dog.  Seems Tom had wanted another one for years, but the time was just never right, seeing the relationship I had with my dog had made an impact.  I am so very glad of that and for her telling me so.

It has been my great privilege to have my phone ring with Kay’s cheerful voice on the answered line saying, “Hey Laurel, we’re going out for a pot luck dinner sail, can you and Jimmy make it?” An invitation that I would be foolish to pass up.  How nice to be with Tom, Kay and their blend of friends, sailing with the sunset off the stern, and the moon slowly rising off the bow, with nothing but the sounds of the sea, splashing the hull, some wind rattling the sheets filling the sails, and the voices and laughter of friends sharing a special moment in time.

None of us will forget her kind, giving soul and all that she gave to Gloucester and those that visited this treasure we call home.  There must be thousands upon thousands of photographs people have taken aboard the Lannon to stow in their album of favorite memories.  One can’t help but wonder how many of those young students they brought aboard over the years were influenced to become sailors when they grow up, may their dreams comes true.

It was so nice to visit her, albeit briefly at Christmastime.  Sitting close to the warmth of the wood stove, patting her faithful companion “Lucy,” as she told me how she and Tom would be packing up for their annual trip out West to spend time in the mountains with friends.  There was that smile in her voice again as she spoke, and that shine on her face, the one you saw when she talked about Tom, her family, her friends, and her adventures with all of them.  With a heart as big as all outdoors, may she soar into her next adventure encompassed in love and her next home be as beautiful, warm and inviting as the one she made here.

The impact Kay has left in the hearts and minds of those who knew her is something to be treasured and she will be greatly missed. From all of us at Enduring Gloucester, it is with great heartfelt sympathy that we say, fair winds and following seas, to Kay, Tom, the entire Ellis family, and her family of friends.

 

Laurel TarantinoLaurel Tarantino, is happy to live in her hometown, Gloucester, with her husband, James, “Jimmy T,” daughter Marina Bella, and the family dog, Sport. She is known for “stopping to smell the roses” and loves to photograph and write about her beloved waterfront community.

 

Ten Pound Island

© 2016 Louise Welch

© 2016 Louise Welch

rugged with
gulls
toughened by
raw weather by
unpeopled
growth stench
rust & wash
barrels & wire
gulls protest when
we land
on the beach
poke among
shells climb to the green
so high she thinks
of snakes
does not proceed
under the gull hover
to visit the light
the rust but feels textures
in the sand with wet feet
hauls a little on the painter
keeps her head to wind

Melissa de Haan Cummings

 

melissa2bcummingsMelissa de Haan Cummings majored in French and English Literature at Bryn Mawr. She has published poetry in a number of journals.  She describes her interests as including, “much small boating around Cape Ann, love of Charles Olson, Hatha yoga practice since 1969.”