While visiting one of my county schools lately, I was amazed at what is readily available for children to get an education with these days. I saw computers, white boards instead of chalkboards that I grew up with, well-lit hallways that could have held my entire school population in just the few first 100 feet and a gym that would have made me feel totally inadequate attempting to play basketball in my Red Ball tennis shoes as a kid. It was a school building to be very proud of and one that if a child had told me he was bored to be there, I would have had to sit him down and explain what getting an education is all about.
The school I attended way back in the 50s and 60s was much different than the one I saw that day. We had radiator heat, no air conditioning, chalkboards with pits in places and wood floors that were oiled to keep the dust down. That oiling process got a lot of us in trouble when we would return to school after the holidays and find freshly oiled wood floors that still had puddles of oil in places. This was before you had varnished floors and the wood had been kept by applying an oil-based substance to preserve the wood. Over the holidays the janitor would reapply the oil while the kids were gone. The first day back the floors would be a little slick and when we would catch the teacher out of the room, someone would find himself or herself in a school desk sliding across the room. We could actually get pretty good distance on fresh oil when two of us would give the desk a kick from the back. It was fun until the one we were pushing dropped their feet and hung their brogans on a slightly raised nail in the floorboards. You’ve never seen a wreck like that and I think that is where NASCAR got its early start.
I always thought that the school I attended was a rather fine establishment, because we really knew no difference. I didn’t have air conditioning at home and the cafeteria supplied soup and pimento cheese sandwiches on Wednesday and fish on Friday. What more could a kid ask for; and besides, you had the chance to learn something instead of doing chores back on the farm. School was a grand place to me and it was due to the fact that the teaching staff was just as glad as I was to be there. The teacher never seemed to get sick and was always there. I went to school before spring or fall breaks had been thought of, but we did get some time off to pick cotton in the fall, which made school even more enjoyable. Pulling a cotton sack between cotton rows all day was not my idea of fun. Especially, if my father caught me putting green cotton boles in the bottom of the sack to make my weight quota. However, I was taught in those certain situations the lesson of right and wrong and still remember it today. And yes, he drove the point home without the use of “timeout” which made the lesson even more memorable, if you know what I mean.
But, no matter what type of equipment is in a school building, the teacher is what has the impact on a child’s school experience. Even though it was 43 years ago that I graduated from high school, the lessons taught by my teachers in what would seem to be primitive structures today to a child, are what has made a great difference in my life. From tying my shoes to learning the chemical elements in chemistry class, those teachers also taught me an understanding of working with others and being a good citizen. And, just like my father taught me right from wrong in the cotton patch, my school teachers also followed up with the same lessons on the subject. They didn’t use timeout either and their methods of educational discipline could keep your attention and “warm” your soul.
My hat is off to our teachers and education systems across this state. They deserve the backing of every parent and any of us who every now and then complains about today’s education. I was blessed to have gone to school when the only danger in a school building was catching one of those nails in the floor and taking a spill in my desk. I just wish that was the extent of it today, but it is not. Thanks teachers, for going the extra mile and keeping it up. And remember, you will make a difference in a life someday and a grownup kid will say, “My teacher taught me that way back when.”