Fair Alma Mater
Posted On May 30, 2012
There is a long thread on a Facebook page set up by alumnae of my high school, Girls’ Latin School. The commenting began after someone posted a photograph of our headmistress, Miss Carroll. Reading it was a shock, and an affirmation, and a relief.
Girls’ Latin was one of Boston’s “test” schools, meaning you had to take an entrance exam for either 7th or 9th grade admission. The reputation of the Latin Schools was renowned. By all standards, we who attended were the cream of the crop. Then why were so many of us treated so horribly by so many within the yellow walls in Codman Square?
Miss Carroll herself got mixed reviews on the thread. While some painted her as a manipulative, calculating woman, protective of the school that she saw as her turf, many had very positive experiences with her, where she showed compassion. Most of us were just scared s#@!less of her. I was suspended at some point in my six years, I think because I wore a hat in school. Seriously. I remember being just paralyzed with fear when my mother had to come up to the school. A hat.
But it was our guidance counselors who left the deepest impressions: You can hear the pain and see the welts left by their words on the souls of these women,then just young girls:
“I wanted to go away to school and she told me I was too young and immature to handle going away and that I was ungrateful to my parents! She knew nothing about me–at that point, I had been working and supporting my own self for two years! I went away for a year, and supported myself just fine. Then I came back and supported myself AND MY GRANDMOTHER for two and a half years, working full time and taking night classes at UMASS Boston.”
“There were 2 girls in our graduating class that did not go to college. One was in my homeroom. … the “gem of a guidance counselor” berated our classmate and asked her why she had “taken up someone else’s place” for 6 years if she did not intend to attend college.”
“The first time we had our “guidance”, she told us to be prepared and really think about what we wanted to do with our lives. We had just read “The Sundowners” and I was really obsessed with that book. I dreamed about that book. And I had also seen an ad in some magazine my dad read for sheep herders out West and so I was prepared–I told her I wanted to be a shepherd. I was actually kind of excited;I thought she was going to give us advice. Naturally, she berated me in front of our little group of advisees and told me to show some respect and take this opportunity seriously.”
“At a reunion awhile back I had an interesting conversation with classmates, some of whom recollected the same feelings of being looked down upon as a student, as others have expressed on this thread – not so much directed by any one teacher or guidance counselor, but I think by the whole established school culture for lack of a better term.”
So many women saying they thought it was just me, that there was something wrong with me, when all the time it was them.