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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Harriet Gentry Love, June 17, 1998. Interview K-0171. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Diversity causes teaching difficulties

Some saw it as an opportunity to compensate for the injury of slavery, Love recalls, and others saw it as a utopian gesture, but she remembers discussions about integration concerned only its necessity by law. Regardless of its value, integration posed a challenge to teachers unused to dealing with diverse groups of students. Diversity poses a problem not only because of diverse cultural backgrounds, but also because teachers are less likely to personally know their students. As she reflects on West Charlotte's teachers and integration, Love takes the opportunity to discuss her own children.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Harriet Gentry Love, June 17, 1998. Interview K-0171. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

PG: To turn a little bit to another subject. When you mentioned thinking about the school and teachers and the sort of role of the school in the community, it seems at the time of integration there was an idea amongst some people that by integrating schools, you could create a new and different community. I'm interested especially in whether that was realistic and whether that worked beyond the school. HL: Well, I think some of it was realistic and some wasn't. I think what happened with integration for some, I don't know exactly where it started or how it started. But I think there were some people that felt like this is an opportunity for me to be forgiven for all my sins of treating people and my family had slaves. For others it meant, I can change the world I can--give me young boys, black and white--I can change them; I can mold them into wonderful people. I think everybody went in there with a set of rules and regulations for themselves. I don't even know whether it was really said other than getting a better education. I don't ever really remember anyone ever expounding on why we needed integration other than it was a mandate, a law to do it. It was to get a better education. I think that our teachers--it's like many things--it was thrown in their laps, and they had to deal with it. And overall looking back, I think they dealt with it very well, considering the training and planning they had for it. Because you're not trained--you're trained to teach, period. You're not trained to integrate people and make them get along and know all of their problems and concerns and things like that. You're not trained to do that. When you have an all black or an all white situation, it becomes a little bit easier. At least it was years ago. I don't know how it is now. Years ago, a little bit easier because you could just about look in that classroom and find at least three students that you knew the families. And if you talked to the others, you'd find someone that knew them. It was just, you were given a little bit of information. Now, you've got students from all walks of life so where do you begin? If you say this, you offend this one; if you say this, you offend another one. If you say something else, you embrace that group. So I think that there needs to be a re-emphasizing the expectations of teachers in the classroom. I think the people that can do that best are our retirees because they've been there. They worked with little or nothing, many of them. When we were in school, we always heard about we got the used books and things of that nature. In some instances, they were used. But that was not something that they harped on in the classroom. We were wanting to learn and they were wanting to teach. Everyone likes a new book, but the main thing was we had the books; we had the tools to do what we needed to do. I think that schools now have all these tools, but they don't have something in place and that's that sociology kind of mentality so that they'll know each group. That's almost too much for a teacher to grasp in nine months time. You know, you've got nine months and you've got all; you've got Asians; you've got Hispanics, African Americans, whites, Greeks; you've got everything. You barely can say their names. But I think that's a little much for teachers right now to have to do all of those things and teach. Whether she knows it or not; whether she teaches no language, she's still bilingual; or he's still bilingual because they've got to communicate. That's something that's causing a lot of frustration among teachers and parents. I think that every parent, they want what's best for their child. I don't care what the background is. They want that child treated fairly first of all, and they want to make sure they get in a good education. Well, I know in order for that to happen, there's a role that I have to play as a parent outside of the classroom. And then there's a role that I have to play as a parent supporting the classroom. I think that that needs to be conveyed to parents also. Not about getting that report card in May and learning that the child hasn't done anything the whole year. It's about being there and giving some of your time when you can. Attending teachers' meetings, I've done it all. And that's one reason, I worked three to eleven when I first, my children first started school. So I would be there to get them off to school, and my husband would be there to get them in the evening. They saw both of us, and we would do our things together on the weekend and all that, but at least they got a good send off. It wasn't rushed or pushed. They weren't frustrated, and I think it takes all of that. I think it takes planning when you have children. You've got to plan for their future as well as your own.