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Monday, October 1, 2012

There's Gold in Woodstock - Living and Writing in Woodstock, GA

Everyone knows a gold vein cuts right through this county, skimming the northern outskirts of the Woodstock area, but that shimmering hard stuff is not my reference. Our real town treasure is flesh and blood--our local teachers. Now you might accuse me of patting my own back, however, my stints in Woodstock schools were sporadic and relatively brief due to other pressing responsibilities. Each time I reentered the system, I was fresh meat and fully oxygenated. So my deep admiration goes to the career teachers who have dedicated much of their adult lives to our area children.

What brought this on? I heard a very nice man, a sportsman-celebrity, speaking on television about his plan to better prepare teachers for the classroom. Now, I really like this guy but, my goodness, is he misinformed. Teachers are eminently qualified and constantly required to update their knowledge, skills and expertise. There is always a new and higher bar to reach or an additional certification to acquire. Summers and Saturdays are often school time for our educators and they dutifully abide.

The very nice man, mentioned above, is not the only person with misconceptions. Oddly, a number of people think teachers have a short day. Oh are they wrong. An hour earlier than their required eight hours, some educators are already in the schoolroom preparing for whatever the day will throw at them. You'd be surprised at the everyday array, but whatever the unexpected challenges, the situation will require a big dose of one or more of the following: flexibility, diplomacy, an eagle eye, superior hearing, compassion, instinct, creativity, psychology, patience and maybe even courage. And don't forget energy. Afternoon meetings, parent conferences, lesson planning and dealing with the day's aftermath often require teachers to linger at the job longer than they should. In the evening hours, while many of us are doing things like taking a healthy jog or reading a book, teachers are still on the job: cogitating on how to reach a certain student or grading a mountain of papers or with much wisdom and discernment, pondering how to prevent breaches in classroom behavior so learning can go forward.

There is never a boring day being a teacher. There's no time for that. From the moment they enter the building each morning, teachers are scrambling. The expectations placed on them are very high. They are pulled in a thousand directions. And every teacher remembers his or her worst day. . . . For me, it came early. I was very young and very new at the profession. My small salary supported not only me but my husband still in college. The budget was thin as you can imagine, and I'd been needing glasses for distance vision, that season an impossible purchase. One day, a field trip made me keenly feel the lack. After guiding my students' inquiry, establishing our educational purpose and warning them of security issues, I brought my sixth grade science class all the way from Jefferson, GA to the old Atlanta zoo of decades ago (1972 to be exact). The students--some had never been to the Big Town--eagerly skittered behind me as I led them around the panorama of wild-animal pens. The two hour bus ride and a painful sinus headache had made me groggy, yet I knew something ahead was amiss. The sidewalk we traipsed sloped down a long hill. At the bottom, a trio of human slugs, lounging on a bench, leered and smirked in my direction as though a teacher's predicament was about to make their day. One wore a letter jacket, probably skipping school. Another, brimming with self-contained laughter, puffed on a cigarette. The third pretended to be Jim Morrison of the Doors; remember, this was quite a while ago. I looked beyond the group. I squinted. My poor vision and tired brain could not make sense of the animal form in the pen ahead. As we moved closer, the massive, battle-gray shape came into clarity. Two romantically engaged rhinos were oblivious to the noon sunshine and thirty-six pairs of bugged eyes about to file by. A reverse, back the way we came, would first require a sudden halt, which would have resulted in the domino effect and a third of my class flattening me. Mustering a great deal of poise, I continued the course past the snickering males and the bizarre view. My headache surged to gigantic proportions. My students, just how was I going to explain to their parents the advanced science education they had gotten that day?

So why do teachers make a long career of it, knowing they are public servants; and for that reason their pay, out of necessity, will never be commensurate to their dedicated effort and advanced degrees? They do it because their hearts call them to the profession and because they are very good at what they do. They truly are gold. I know. I've seen so many of them in action. Woodstock is blessed with an abundance of teacher-wealth. So let's appreciate our teachers and raise our children and grandchildren to value this great resource. We sure don't want to raise any human slugs!

Patti Brady is a member of Preservation Woodstock and author of the Woodstock novels

Woodstock Teachers Making a Difference in Children's Lives

Samantha Daugherty

Della Tucker

Jane Hancock

Pam Morgan

 Donna Rotruck

A Little Woodstock History:

Things have changed a great deal with time. This 1894 photo shows Little River Academy, once located on the grounds of today's Little River Methodist Church on Hwy 92, near Trickum Road. The original log building burned in 1887. Schooling took place primarily in winter when the children were not needed on the farm. Parents had to pay tuition. The two adult males in the photo are the teachers, Robert Rusk and William D. Rusk, ancestors of Dean Rusk, former Secretary of State in the 1960s. (CLICK THE PHOTO TO ENLARGE IT)