9. Wellesley

In 1974, I applied for teaching positions in the Boston area. I was hoping to teach in Boston, and help right the wrongs Kozol wrote about. That year, for reasons I support, Boston was looking for teachers who would help make the Boston Public Schools more racially balanced. My racial characteristics were pretty much like Kozol’s, and I was not hired. My wife’s cousin, Linda Goulding, was a teacher at the Hunnewell School in Wellesley, and she was going to have a baby. I came, talked with Sam Beattie, the principal of Hunnewell, and was hired.
My ecstasy was mixed with severe anxiety. I was afraid that I would like teaching in Wellesley. After all, I grew up in a suburb, and suburbs were known to be more open to new ideas than cities. Especially well-to-do suburbs. I was afraid that I would abandon my dream of bringing justice to the starving masses, and settle comfortably in Camelot.
My fear was realized. For years, I was embarrassed when I told people that I taught in Wellesley. At first, I’d add, “but I want to teach in Boston,” and then later, as I got to know Wellesley, I’d add instead, “but it’s not the kind of place you think it is.” I wasn’t the only one who was embarrassed. Most parents I got to know explained, “I really don’t belong in Wellesley.” If Wellesley lost all the people who are embarrassed about living in Wellesley, it would be a ghost town.
And then I was at a meeting at which we were trying to form a network called the Children’s Music Network. In an embarrassed mumble, I mentioned that I taught in Wellesley. I started my usual verbose apology. Ruth Pelham, whose life and songs seemed like a guiding beacon to me, brushed off my apology with the statement, “Kids are kids.” That sentence changed my life. I realize that on one level, it’s on a par with “A rose is a rose is a rose,” or Yogi Berra’s “It’s not over till it’s over,” but it spoke directly to my problem. If I wanted to bring justice to the starving masses, working with children, whether they had enough food or not, was a way to do it.
The schools in Amherst and Northampton have more of the diversity I’d hoped to find in Boston, and never found in Wellesley. But in the words of Ruth Pelham, kids are kids. Here, Malaysian kids, kids with two fathers or two mothers, kids from interracial families, cousins in the same household, all come together to be a community. And as they do in Wellesley, they sleep over at each other’s houses sometimes, get excited about holidays, argue with each other… they are children, with all the charms, irritations, hopes, frustrations, etc. that children have.
My name is Bob Blue, and I’ve lived and worked in Wellesley. Got a problem with that?

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