Celebrating 100 Years of Oakland Technical High School
Sue Babb Larson, Teacher 1971-1983
The school felt alive and energetic, and I felt fortunate to join the faculty for almost 13 years, from 1971 to 1983. I ran art classes for all grades: Ceramic Sculpture and Drawing/Painting, some with as many as 45 students. Group creativity– when individuals find the flow of quiet excitement and focus that comes with working on an art project surrounded by other like-minded artists– can be blissful. The art studio became a lunchtime and after-school destination for many students, because for an artist a 40- minute increment to work on a piece, with a forced stop, is frustrating. Working along side of my students, with everyone quietly focused on his or her individual work, and hearing expressions of mutual admiration and encouragement remain among the most joyous moments of my life. The Vietnam War was ending in the late 70s, and refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia were relocated in Oakland. Tech had workshops for the teachers and assemblies for the students to explain the cultural milieu of these new students. Many of the students assumed that these new classmates were similar to the California Asian population and expected stereotypical passivity. The Californians were informed that many of the new Asians had come from an environment of brutality and warfare and were not passive when challenged. Some of the Hmong boys had been soldiers and understood how to fight.