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Teacher tells of inner city life and why students are unique.
Tamam Moncur has been a teacher at the Louise A. Spencer School in Newark for 21 years.
Who she is:
Moncur, a teacher for 21 years at Louise A. Spencer School in Newark, has published a book "Diary of an Inner City Teacher," available at www.amazon.com., has written a book, "Diary of an Inner City Teacher."
Getting real help
Teachers are the fall guys, said Moncur, and often blamed for failing students. "Every time I would hear that, something would go all through me," she said. That is why she wrote her book, to let people know what's really going on in the inner city.
She remembers when a student would get a "C," the parents would say 'why didn't you call me?' "Now, children will get a "D" and an "F" and we don't hear from them. I say 'what did your mother say?' and I hear 'she says I gotta do better.'"
"Divorce was a problem, but now I'm dealing with children whose parents are deceased from AIDS or they're incarcerated," Moncur said. There are now children of gang members and children of drug addicts who often "have to fend for themselves." On top of that, children are bombarded with technology and video games.
Moncur's solution is to beef up the schools with counselors of all types: social workers, psychologists and guidance counselors and not just for the purposes of classifying the child. "I think it's an American problem, not just a black problem. We are so test score oriented. This is all we focus on and we don't focus on the child."
Words of praise
Spencer's principal Joseph Brown says Moncur, who has also taught third grade and gifted and talented, "really has a sense of getting things done. Whatever she's doing, she's getting it done and in a very, very positive way," he said.
Music, poetry and family
Moncur grew up in Oakland and Berkeley, Ca. and in high school started to participate in civil rights marches, most notably at the Hotel Sheridan Palace. "They didn't hire blacks in any positions except for maids and bellhops," said Moncur, who was handcuffed at the protest but served no time.
She moved to Harlem in the late 1960s, after her parents had moved there. She decided to pursue jazz piano after being classically trained and met her husband Grachan, a professional musician who was active in the avant garde jazz scene. Moncur arranged his music and others and helped her mother run the Community Council on Housing.
The Moncurs got burned out of their apartment in Harlem and moved to the Scudder Housing Projects on Court Street in Newark, her husband's hometown. Although they were glad to have a place to live, it was dangerous. Â¶
"When I look back on it, I say, oh boy, it was really rough. I'd be sitting outside with the kids as babies. There might be shooting at any given time and you'd have to run for cover," she said.
Church and family
Besides work and writing, Moncur said church plays a big part in her life. She is a member of the Church of God and Saints of Christ on Central Avenue, a small church that feeds between 60 and 100 people every Tuesday evening.
"We want to leave a mark and let the community know we're there," she said.
Husband Grachan III, sons Grachan IV, Kenya, Toih and Adrien, daughters Ella-Maisha and Vera Cherie, seven grandchildren.