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Happy Corner: celebrating 50 years since my first teaching job

A woman with glasses and brown hair.

 

One of the joys of having been a teacher is meeting former students in my daily activities. Many of them I immediately recognize, but many of them I don’t, especially the boys whom I taught in 8th grade. Often, I recognize faces, but can’t say their names. Overall, I do very well in recollecting faces and names. I surprise myself sometimes.

A couple of months ago I attended the reunion of the class of 84 along with Brenda Alford and thoroughly enjoyed it. When I learned that the class of ’73 was planning their 50th reunion, I was delighted to learn that I was also invited to that one even though I did not teach that class. 

Their junior year marked the 50th anniversary of beginning my teaching career.  Of course, as a new teacher, I was immediately sworn in as a junior class homeroom teacher/prom sponsor. I already knew many of the students as a community member, substitute teacher, wife of a faculty member, and from my church.

I had substituted frequently for the late Diane Willliams Smith and then when Mr. Roach resigned near the end of the school year in 1967 (?) Mr. Sammons enlisted me to finish out the year. In fact, working as a substitute teacher was one thing that prompted me to return to school to pursue a teaching degree. 

It was the bitter experience of the 1968 teacher walkout that sealed my decision to return to the classroom after a 20- year gap between high school graduation and Chipola. Earning a Florida Teaching Scholarship and good friends Margaret and Don Treadwell’s invitation to live with them and attend The University of West Fla enabled me to earn an English Education degree.  

I never filled out an application to teach at Holmes County High School.  Mr. Sammons had assured me all along during my college career that I had a job when I finished, thanks to my husband’s reputation as a teacher.

As I began my employment, I was assigned one of the upper level rooms on the west wing. It had been occupied by the previous ninth grade teacher who did not survive past his first year. 

The ceiling was marked by many missiles sent there by strong rubber bands and good aim, things such as sharpened pencils, paper clips and other objects. A preview of things to come, I feared.

I was also apprehensive that I was assigned to teach ninth grade as that was my daughter’s class, many of whom I was well acquainted with but that turned out to be an advantage.  Later years taught me that they were a good class.  A disciplinarian I was not. 

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\The split fourth period class almost finished my career, however, before it started. The tardy bell rings. They get somewhat settled down.  Then, the lunch bell rings. We go to lunch. Then we return to class.  Another tardy bell.  Then The train goes by. 

I have reached the limit of my patience and I say, ‘No one get out of your seat again.’ 

 They are finally quiet.  This one young upstart who never did her work gets up, with a smirk on her face, sashays right up to my standing guard position. That was too close and the next sound that was heard was the crack of a slap right across that smirk. 

Obviously, I didn’t lose my job. Friend Clyde Galloway advised, ‘ Kick them under the desk instead  of slapping then no one can see it.’

Ability grouping was not practiced in any of the classes but that fourth period class had a wide range of ability or at least motivation, so I allowed a group of those who were willing, to do something extra. 

They chose to publish a little newspaper.  In one of the groups was Karen Clark from Esto and she enlisted Ray Reynolds, a junior, to help them lay out their publication and print it. That was my only contact with Ray. An entry in the song dedications column almost got me in trouble with Mr. Sammons but I’ll save that for another story.

Another bit of excitement, not in fourth period, was when Kenny Middlebrooks brought a live snake into the classroom in a glass jar and ‘accidently’ broke it. 

This snake is slithering around the classroom with a million ninth grade girls screaming and brave Mrs. Tison calmly stomped it, killed it, picked it up and threw it in the trash can. When the custodians came in and got the trash they identified the snake as a ground or pigmy rattlesnake.

Working in a bank was never my ambition but when I became a prom sponsor, I began to feel a little like one. Magazine Sales was the major fundraiser for the junior class to finance the prom, homecoming float or whatever activities they participated in. Record keeping was most important. 

The school year had barely got going when the representative from the publisher of the magazines was on hand to indoctrinate students and me. Thankfully, Mrs. Catherine Carswell and Mrs. Dorothy Galloway were well-schooled in the magazine sales routine and helped me get going in the right direction. 

That year, they gave us, the sponsors, a cookbook from Southern Living which I still use.  Of all the years I was a prom sponsor, that is the only gift I ever received from the company for which we handled so much money.

I never felt that I was called to be a teacher for a number of reasons but I am thankful my husband and I made that decision for me to return to school and enter the teaching profession. 

I am thankful my children sacrificed for me to be away in school. I am thankful for so many who befriended me along the way. I am proud to have belonged to a noble profession.  Though it has many frustrations, today more so than when I was teaching, the rewards are abundant.

Hazel Tison is a columnist for Washington County News and Holmes County Advertiser. 

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