Sunday, August 14, 2005

My Favorite Principal?

This coming week will be a busy one for our family. Our youngest daughter leaves to go back to college. She has two more years. Teacher workdays begin for the wife and me. Both of us have new administrators this school year. This should be an interesting year. My principal is a veteran, but my wife's is a newbie. No one likes change. Lots to learn about the way they operate. All this makes me reflect on my favorite principal was this guy, who was a Native American, Mr. Ray Oxendine. He was a former baseball player and coach. It is a local custom and a token of high respect and friendliness to address adult males using “Mr” and their first name.

Each morning, “Mr. Ray” would tie on his running shoes and clip-off 5 miles. He stood 6' 8" and did not have an ounce of fat on his body even at age 55. His voice was loud, yet humble. I can remember the way he walked the halls while teachers taught their classes. He would just appear out of nowhere like the classic Indian Tracker stalking a deer in the woods. He did not say a word. He put his hand under his chin and nodded his head as he listened to the lesson in progress. If he saw something he liked going on in your classroom he would catch you in the hall and with those big athletic hands, give you a whack on the back in the traditional baseball coach way and ask something like..."ya kids learning anything?" And wait for you to start talking and he would listen to you like he really meant it. Smiling and nodding, because he had already made up his mind if the kids were actually engaged in learning in your classroom. I loved teaching there. But some things change fast in schools.

During the summer, my “Mr. Ray” was replaced. I never really understood why. Some said it was politics. Which was probably true. I learned a long time ago, if you coach or mess with politics and you teach school, you better live in a mobile home cause you are going to move. The new principal came over from the middle school. He was a more business-like principal, no more like a preacher. Personally, I had no big concerns with the change. I had a job.

Reflecting back, I really missed “Mr. Ray.” I did not feel appreciated. That school just felt like a cold, meat market. I did not feel I had a "supportive connection" with the new principal. I made it only half that next year in that school without “Mr. Ray.” He moved to a school that was a longer drive to each day. Hating to drive more than I loved to work with Mr. Ray as my principal, I found a job teaching near my home. Things have a way of working out.

Still, change is not always for the best, but it is unavoidable. I have read the book-"Who Moved My Cheese", and have to admit I am one of those that does not really embrace or seek out change. On the other hand, I am always trying new computer strategies with my students. I do not know if it is worth all the effort some must be.

If this was printed in the newspaper, “Mr. Ray “might read it. He never liked computers. They were just too new-fangled for him. Wonder where he is today?

Hope he is still running.

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