I was feeling a bit melancholy as I sat on the front porch Friday morning, reading the paper and enjoying my morning coffee. It was the first day of pre-planning at Heritage High School and for the first time this century, I wasn’t there. Honesty compels me to admit that I missed what I knew was going on a mere mile from my house.
I missed seeing Greg Fowler, who was principal at Heritage for all but the first five months of my tenure and, despite everything anybody might say, allowed me to be me and do things my way. Greg Fowler is one of the few people I know who can balance being an Alabama fan in a Georgia household without making anybody mad at him.
He and I share an obsession with all things weather-related, and he is one of the few people who get as excited as I do at the possibility of half an inch of snow. As I sat and read the comics, I imagined Greg welcoming the staff back and urging them to “get to know their cows” as the school year progressed.
Tony Gray, the Sage of Salem Road, would be on hand. Tony Gray is the last man standing and has been at Heritage since the day they opened the doors. It will be a sad day indeed when he decides to call it a career and stay home. There are so many other great friends and great teachers that I will miss seeing every day. I won’t try to name them because I would inevitably leave someone out, but they know who they are.
I will even miss the occasional glimpse of our superintendent, Rich Autry, walking down the halls. You can complain in the phone poll about Rich Autry and his salary all you want, but he earns every penny he draws, and I am glad his steady hand is on the rudder of the Rockdale County Public Schools ship.
He makes himself available to the public and does a great job with what he has to work with, especially when you take into consideration the demands of politicians who want to dance with the best schools in the nation but don’t want to pay the fiddler who provides the music.
Yes, I was a little sad at the thought that they might actually be able to have school at Heritage without me this year. But then I turned away from Beetle Bailey and picked up the front page of the Rockdale Citizen and there, just below the fold, was a story about Tuesday’s schedule for all teachers in the RCPS system and gave thanks, right then and there, for being on the disabled list this school term.
The headline read “Teachers in districtwide training next week.” I would rather have a 10-hour root canal or ride from Macon to Statesboro with Paul Johnson than sit for eight hours in an educational training session.
Don’t hear something I am not saying. I am not blaming anybody because these things exist. They are just a part of starting back to school and everybody in every school district has to go through them. But I get cold chills at the thought of having to sit through another one.
Most of them are led by people who couldn’t teach and learned a lot of trendy educational jargon and got jobs telling people who can teach what they should be doing. I know that will make a lot of people mad. The truth often does. If you are one of those people doing the training just remember, I said MOST, and I will concede that you are part of the minority who simply saw the clarity of what was lacking in the field of instruction and sadly abandoned the classroom because you thought it was your duty to enlighten your poor misguided colleagues. Thank you for that!
I read in the paper that the Rockdale teachers were going to spend all day Tuesday at Salem High School learning to diversify instruction. That’s a great thing because all good teachers know that every student learns in different ways. We have concrete and abstract learners, as well as visual and audio and special learners. That’s why every teacher worth his or her salt has always provided different activities and methods of instruction.
Most people who never spent more than 20 minutes in my classroom assumed that I stood in front of the class and lectured all day every day. Not true. I told stories, played music, acted out scenes from history, used illustrations and gave a wide variety of assignments — for every unit.
Some of these folks think differentiated instruction means that everybody in the class has to be doing something different all the time. That’s foolishness. Let’s say you were coaching basketball. If you had a player who was a great shooter but couldn’t dribble, you wouldn’t just let him come to the gym and shoot all day. You’d make him work on ball-handling skills. If you had a great defender who couldn’t rebound, you’d make him work on his weaknesses as well as his strengths. Oh well. I got vision and the rest of the world’s wearing bifocals.
I can’t help but laugh when I think about all the emphasis we put on diversified instruction, though, because the state of Georgia insists that we evaluate the students and teachers alike on one test over a set of one-size-fits-all standards. And I bet all the instruction given those teachers on diversification will be presented in exactly the same manner.
I will miss Greg Fowler, Tony Gray and Rich Autry, but I sure am glad I have a 9:30 tee time this Tuesday.
Darrell Huckaby is a local author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/darrellhuckaby.