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  • Writer's pictureDonna Brown

Late-night adventures, learning loss and more

Between Us - Donna Brown

What I love about Hammonton is that I am constantly discovering places that are better than they are in other towns. I have been fortunate not to have needed imaging for many years, but recently I have been dealing with several medical issues and needed to have x-rays, ultrasound and a cat scan done. I have gone to other imaging establishments in the past, but this time decided to go to AMI on the White Horse Pike.

The waiting room is welcoming, beautifully decorated with a fireplace and a portrait of the Medical Director, Dr. Amerigo Falciani, smiling at you as you enter. The desk staff is friendly and the technicians running the tests are warm yet professional. Once again confirming my belief that everything is better in Hammonton.

• • • • •

Often in the Peanuts comic, Snoopy would be drawn sitting on top of his doghouse typing diligently on a typewriter. His story always began, “It was a dark and stormy night.” Instantly, you know an adventure was afoot. Sinister activity, perhaps horrifying suspense awaited the reader.

Last Saturday night was not stormy, but it was a dark and drizzly night. My son Josh brought little Everett over for me to watch as he headed out into our woods with his bow, hoping to get a deer to fill his freezer.

After an hour of Legos and Scooby-Doo Doo the phone rang. Surprised to hear Josh’s voice, I heard, “Mom, you wanna come help me track a deer?” So, what do all good mothers do when their child asks for help? I pulled on my boots, searched for a flashlight and headed out to find him in the 100 acres behind my house. We had a difficult time seeing the drops of blood on the decaying leaves and walked together for a while, then split up. For hours we followed the trail upland toward the street, lost it, found the blood again, followed it into the swamp and back toward the street. No luck.

It was getting late. Suddenly as I walked too close to an unknown house a guy yelled out a window wanting to know what I was doing. What was I doing? I wondered the same thing. I hadn’t had dinner; I was exhausted tramping through briars and huckleberry bushes, but I didn’t want the deer to die in vain. I said I was looking for a deer, to which he replied, “OK,” and closed the window. Luckily, he must have also been a hunter.

As I searched alone, I thought of the pioneers whose lives depended on hunting. I wondered if local Native Americans had hunted the same woods hundreds of years ago. Deep in thought, I suddenly realized I was lost. I attempted to walk out to the road, but as l approached a house I didn’t recognize, I heard a door slam and very deep barking. I froze.

Slowly, I pulled out my cell phone and called Josh. He soon found me, and we gave up. The next morning before sunrise he and his wife, Jessica, searched for it and finally found the poor deer. During the night the coyotes had gotten it. Josh buried the deer and said, “Why isn’t it ever easy?” I thought the same thing. Yet, I am secretly proud to be 70 years old and able to have a late-night adventure in the woods.

• • • • •

Learning loss during COVID-19 has been staggering. According to a New Jersey study funded by the New Jersey Children’s Foundation, the report relies on test scores from 15 districts and charter schools. It focuses on just over 8,200 students within that group whose scores the researchers considered reliable.

Looking at a sample of students in grades three through eight, the analysis found that students saw about 70 percent as much learning growth in English and about 64 percent of expected progress in math during shutdowns as they would have during that period in a typical year. Black, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students saw less growth than their peers in both subjects.

OK, that should be a wakeup call to school districts, but it seems it is not as important as teaching gender studies, extreme climate change advocacy and the dangers of white privilege. All brainwashing in my opinion.

I began to wonder how much I tried to instill my beliefs in my students at the Hammonton Middle School as I taught sixth grade for 15 years. After much thought I realized that I was overzealous about the evils of littering and the waste of natural resources as I taught science. During social studies I pushed my belief that the USA a great nation with inspirational founding fathers. Patriotism was our duty.

I continuously stressed morals such the importance of not lying and cheating throughout the day. I emphasized respect for authority figures, including parents, teachers, police and military. My, how times have changed.

Donna Brown is a former Hammonton Middle School librarian and a columnist for The Gazette. To reach Donna Brown, send an email to


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