Insectman Home
Presentations
Contact Us
My Testimony
Articles
Our Links
Get Saved
Exodus Mandate
The Lie: Evolution
 

Legacy


THIRTY YEARS AND THREE BOXES  

By Karl Priest 2007 (revised 12-9-14)

My hand rested on the light switch and I hesitated to turn the lights off in the empty classroom. It was a warm June day outside, but my mind traveled back to a hot August day over thirty years ago. As my eyes surveyed the empty desks I smiled at memories began to rush into my mind.

Turning on the lights and chasing away the darkness in my first classroom gave me no clue what I was in for as a teacher. Neither did I foresee how quickly the years would pass. The rows of empty seats would soon be filled with 36 precious young people God would use to teach me how to teach. And what a wonderful job they would do for Him!

That first classroom contained students from West Virginia’s toughest neighborhood. Nevertheless, each one was a unique human being. There was Della who could have walked off the pages of Little House on the Prairie; Arthur, who could have been any farmer’s son and wore the clod hoppers to prove it; Nellie—a miniature version of Aunt Esther from Sanford and Son; Scarlet—cold hearted with eyes that were filled with hate; Billy, a handsome yet sad-faced boy destined for blue-collar work; Ty—a “babe magnet” if ever one existed; and Warren, brilliant and black. Kathy was as close as ever I came to having a “teacher’s pet”. She was a sweet little doll. Later that first year I would be blessed to help her grand-mother start a church in the neighborhood. They were joined by over thirty other unique individuals. As I look at photos of this group yet today I still remember the personalities of each and every one of them. Each of these students would return to me yearly in the form of other kids, with new names although I would often call future students 10, 20, and 30 years later by the names of those kids from my first class.

The building principal was a lady destined for duty as a central office supervisor. How thankful I am at the patience she showed me as I bucked authority and made mistakes common to a rookie teacher. Eventually, that principal and I became friends and attended the same church. She set a standard that made it hard for future principals to reach. During the four years I served as a principal I applied many things I learned from principal number one. Throughout the upcoming years my principals (male and female) would range from excellent to terrible.

Each faculty I taught with had a wide variety of personalities and abilities. There were conservatives and liberals; outgoing and reserved; wonderful educators and some who did not deserve to be in the profession. Some were caring and worked way too many hours in order to serve their students. Others were vicious to other faculty and the students. There were some who were highly intelligent and could have easily succeeded in the corporate world. Others were there only because the course of study, as an education major, was the easiest way to graduate from college. Unfortunately, there were few who unashamedly conveyed that they were Christians.

Together we had to implement every ivory tower gimmick that those who had spending power could purchase. There were Learning Packages, un-graded report cards, Curriculum Maps, various grouping methods, Cooperative Learning, New Math, Whole Language, State Standards, Curriculum Frameworks, Higher Order Thinking Skills, Inquiry Based Learning, Performance Outcomes, Learning Stations, Multiple Intelligences, Mastery Learning, Portfolio Assessment, Individualization, Discovery Learning, Hands On Learning, Collaborative Projects, Block Scheduling, Concept Maps, Curriculum Frameworks, Glasser Schools Without Failure, every new technology gimmick, and discipline strategies galore. I am sure there were more, but none were nearly as valuable as what I learned from watching the teacher across the hall.

Proudly I hung a large plaque with the words from Philippians 4:8 “As a Man Thinketh” in each of my classrooms. The words to that verse would guide the basis of all I did as an educator. The educational philosophy under which I operated was that I was teaching students, not pie-in-the-sky programs. If there was a nugget of a good idea from any of the programs that were piled on us teachers, I grabbed it. The rest I discarded and only did the minimum to convince the administration that I was on their band-wagon. Evaluations never worried me. I knew the skills I wanted my students to learn and those were what I focused upon. But, it was not quite that simple.

Each young person had a life of their own and they did not leave their cares at home when they entered my classroom. I dealt with boy-girl love issues, fist fights, intercepted notes (some very obscene), divorces, serious illnesses, abuse at home, deaths of classmates, and murder-suicides of parents. Every class had the clowns and the wall flowers. In all of that I had to “reach” a class that ranged from highly interested to totally apathetic and from brilliant to borderline retarded. Sadly, many in the middle did not get the attention and education they deserved. Frequently I walked the empty aisles before the morning bell praying for my students.

To add some challenges to my attempts to educate the students there was the hustle to get to the copier when it was free (or working); hold my bathroom needs until lunchtime; reschedule plans due to snow days (one winter there were nearly three weeks missed); participate in teacher union activities like a one day walk-out and ultimately a several day teacher strike. Of course, there was always the interaction with parents many of whom were neglectful in their parental practices and wanted a scapegoat which was their child’s current teacher.

During those thirty years our local school system went from allowing teachers to use a paddle to warning teachers that patting a child on the back could lead to a sexual harassment charge. The first school and the last school, one in a ghetto and the other in the suburbs, sadly had many students who had no father in the home. Instead of referring to “My Dad” it was the “My mother’s boy-friend”. I went from my student teaching classroom opening the day with a Bible verse (Psalm 51:10) to my colleagues being vigilant that students did not “dirty dance” at a school day function.

The buildings in which I taught ranged from brick three floors early 1900’s era to contemporary open classroom designs inspired by the 1970’s “progressives”. Some of my classrooms were portables outside the main building. One room was so hot in the fall and spring that I had to distribute crushed ice to the kids as they worked on assignments. Another room had such powerful air-conditioning that I had to wear a sweater. Each building had the stereo-typical janitors, cooks, and auxiliary personnel. I always enjoyed entering the building in the fall and walking to my classroom though the highly buffed hallways. Often, I ate my lunch in the custodian quarters just for a break from the routine. Speaking of eating, I have found memories of the cooks who would prepare special dishes for the faculty. Many of the greatest people I met, as an educator, were in the non-professional ranks.

Finally, the day arrived when I taught the child of a former student. I realized, at that point, that I was no longer a “young buck”. I really think I could have made it until I taught the grandchild of a former student, but two years after I became eligible for retirement something happened that made me decide it was time to hang up my chalk holder.

I entered the building one morning and picked up a spare newspaper that was provided (in a bundle) to the gifted teacher. As I flipped through the pages I saw the obituary of a man I knew as a boy and who had been in the Navy the same time I was. That day, I informed my principal that I was retiring at the end of the year. It was time to follow the biblical mandate and “number my days”.

My last year of teaching was fun and rewarding. This school had an active Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Creation Club. Working with an excellent teaching team, I really turned on some learning lights in my last group of students. I knew that I could return to teach for nearly a full year as a substitute in case of withdrawal pains. But, there were other bright eyed young teachers ready to step in to begin their own thirty year journey. I had already loaded the three boxes containing my personal property and mementos including the original paper back dictionary (now with nearly crumbling pages and a cover made from heavy library book binding tape). I did not want to hang around until I was the personification of that old dried up dictionary.

I had my Philippians 4:8 plaque under my arm as my hand began to move the light switch downward. The sparkle in my eye from over thirty years ago was replaced by the hint of a tear as I looked across my final classroom. The memories of students of that year and many years before rushed through my mind. The tear evaporated and my lips formed a tight smile. I turned the lights off. The room went dark. I closed the door. I left with three boxes--but uncountable memories and God’s blessings.

-------------------------

I did substitute for a year and a half limiting myself only to my last school. Now, as part of EXODUS MANDATE, I serve as the volunteer state coordinator for Exodus Mandate-WV. Exodus Mandate Project is a Christian ministry to encourage and assist Christian families to leave government schools.

I love to hear from former students. Also those who were in WWJD, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Math, and Chess Clubs.

It has been a blessing to meet former students in various business and offices. I try to get back and show them what they wrote in my year book if they signed it. We have laughed, once again, together.

-------------------------

Also see: The Evolutionism Battles and Textbook War pages.

LEGACY INDEX