Saturday, June 4, 2011

Saying Farewell to a Great Man

The last day of school was Thursday. Teachers go one additional day in order to close out their rooms and take home their valuables. Yesterday was our last day. It was also our last day with our principal. It really makes me question where the media is for good education stories. What would the viewing audience think to see a room full of crying teachers as they said goodbye to their beloved principal?

Our principal is a man who dedicated his entire adult life to our school. He was an English teacher there. A football coach. A club advisor. An assistant principal. And finally, a principal to a school he loved, cherished and expected the best from the students who were under his care. He was funny. He was outgoing. He was caring. The kids loved him. That was one of the most difficult faculty meetings I have ever attended.

One of the teachers made a farewell video to him. He didn't know what it was, but said she had a video show us. As we watched, a number of teachers said their final goodbyes and we saw just how much he'd given to the school through a variety of pictures. Some of the teachers had been his students when they went to high school. It's a tribute to how great a man he is that they chose to come back and teach for him.

After the faculty meeting dismissed, with many tears shed and a standing ovation, we had one more trick up our sleeves. In addition to having the respect of the teachers, our principal had earned the undying respect of our custodial staff. One of them took it upon himself to plan one final goodbye party. We all went to hide at the football field house where the custodian made a call over the radio that someone had vandalized the field house the night before. Despite not returning, our principal headed straight for there to see who had desecrated his school. Instead he found all of us waiting to surprise him with a cookout, cake and two final presents. First, we dedicated the football field house to him. Second, we gave him a gun. That probably needs explaining. We actually didn't give him the real gun, as it's illegal to bring one on school property. Instead we gave him the box. He's also an avid hunter, so it was a hunting gun. He teared up as he was presented with both gifts.

One person was in attendance that I didn't recognize until someone told me who she was. She's a JCPS school board member. Revealing which one she is would give away my school, but once I heard her name I knew who she was. She had taught at our school with our principal. She said that she hoped we'd move past the extremes in education politics right now. She also said that we'd lost many great leaders to these audits, including our principal. I'm glad she decided to speak.

I don't know where we'll go from here. Our school is suffering through a lot of change right now. Hopefully, the changes will be for the better. We've lost a sizable amount of teachers, so many I've lost count after the initial audit overstaffing. We've lost our principal. We're changing the layout of the school. It's just going to be a much different place. Different isn't always bad. However, it will take some getting used to.

This concludes my third year of teaching. By statistics, I'm entering the phase when the majority of teachers burn out on teaching. Between the third and fifth year nearly fifty percent leave the teaching profession. And these aren't always bad teachers. In fact, these are good teachers who just care so much that it literally burns them out. I don't want to be in that statistic, but it's getting harder and harder.

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