Susanna Busico

As Interviewed by Miles Metzger, 3/13/18

Susanna Busico: In Her Own Words

I was assigned to teach english in the ninth grade center. This was the old black high school the side of town that was across the tracks. The school was supposed to be integrated but my classes were segregated. I had three classes of white kids and two classes of all black kids. The first week I assigned them to read a story in the literature book. So in my white classes we had a discussion afterwards but in my black classes I started asking questions but no one raised their hand so I thought we should get them to write the answers down. Maybe the are shy of me so I wrote the questions on the board. They all got out their pens and papers and they all started writing and I thought wow this is going to be a great discussion but as I started walking around the room I noticed one boy he had his book open and he was copying a paragraph right out of the book and as I looked around the classroom they were all doing that. They were all very industrious their heads were bent down they were all working. After they left I sat there and realized they can read this book they aren't on the ninth grade reading level.

So the next day I went to the principle and I told him that we need different reading materials for them and he said well sorry there is no money for that and I said well they can't read it and he said well, do the best you can. So I Went to the warehouse to look for books but all I could find was books that said see Dot run see jane throw the ball. For little kids nothing for teenagers. There were two other english teachers and they were having the same problem. So we raised enough money to buy new sra reading kits. So once they came in we tested the kids and they were on the second and third grade reading level as expected. So they started reading it. They would read several paragraphs and answered some questions. Then they would check their answers and color it in on a graph and as they got more proficient they would go up a level. They loved it they would come in everyday excited to learn because they were making progress. We used this for several months. Then we had to just get our own material we would look then we would graph things and stuff anything we could provide.

So it made me realize. These schools in the south say they were separate but equal. They were not equal. Those kids were not learning what everyone else was learning. It was very discouraging but I felt optimistic that at least now the kids were learning.