I find myself often these days in discussions about the future and the worth of public education. Those conversations have caused a good deal of personal reflection on the role that public education has played in my life.
Raised in a small community and born into a working class family, the local public school was really the only formal education entity available to my three brothers and me. Our school was a good school. Though budgets were always tight, we were provided all the things we needed for our educational development. Most importantly, the teachers and staff of that little school were folks who absolutely loved and took ownership of the children in their charge.
I can’t speak for all the other students, but I can attest that my life was touched immensely and immeasurably by the teachers, coaches, administrators, and support staff of that little school. Somehow, it seemed they were able to see in me possibilities of which I could not conceive at the time. And, they educated me with those potentialities in mind.
To be more specific, those educators and that community provided:
> Safe and nurturing learning environments
> High expectations for learning and productivity
> Solid curriculum (though the curriculum was never viewed as some panacea)
> Purposeful attention to my development as a decent human being and citizen
> Interest in students as unique individuals, making us feel we were someone special
> Healthy doses of love (and more forgiveness than I deserved)
Looking back on those experiences, I now know that I was living in an egocentric world (as do most children). I thought it was all about me (probably still do). From the retrospective view I now have, it is clear to me that those dedicated professionals invested themselves similarly in all the children whom they served.
To those marvelous educators and the community (Bronte, Texas) that fostered/supported such a school, I owe a debt which I can never repay.
But today, I shall chip away at it (partly to pay it back, partly to pay it forward).