Sunday, May 13, 2007

Back to School

A few days ago I was invited to the retirement party of a principal of a highly successful middle school. I had not seen him for three years, or the school or the teachers. But there was a time when I knew them all quite well, because I had worked at the school as a substitute teacher.

Substitute teaching was a fluke for me, a time filler after I retired from industry as a manager of people who ran factories. Teaching is quite a different undertaking, but my wife was a very good teacher in public schools and I felt I learned enough from her to try it, myself. I’ve always had a very high opinion of teachers, and of my wife’s professionalism, so I could not think of any calling more useful.

It took a while to learn how to deal with kids in the school environment. I found it was an honor to work with most of the students. And it was a privilege to work with the other teachers. The school district was one of the best in California and the school one of the best in its district. But I didn’t know it when I was so busy figuring out math and science lessons on the spur of the moment.

When I was invited to the retirement party, I went, honored to be remembered. It was a big party with officials and teachers from all over. I knew many of them somewhat and a few of them very well. I had forgotten how well. There were hugs and handshakes all around. Some tears on my part, too.

That chapter in my life was finally over last Friday afternoon. I had spent most of my life in industry, but the last eight years I spent in the classroom have a special glory. As a teacher, I learned that there is hope for tomorrow because of the bright, idealistic boys and girls we are training today. I wish more retired people would make the effort to see what really goes on in our public school classrooms, and who the heroes in our cities really are.

Congratulations, Dr. Joe Fox of Dana Middle School in Arcadia, California.

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