Today we are talking with Martha Williams. Mrs. Williams was a former principal in Henry County who has retired and is now pursuing other ventures. And the purpose of this is to complete an assignment for Virginia Tech under Dr. Carlton and also provide another archive, an interview with the principal for the Virginia Tech library.
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Q: Basically what we would like to begin with--Mrs. Williams, unless you have some questions to start--is for you to tell us about your family background. Include your birthplace, parents, siblings, early education, interests, and influences, anything else you would like to say.
(Streamed audio file of interview for this question using RealPlayer)
A: My early life. I'm a native Virginian born in the state capital, oldest of three children. My father was an educator, ended up being a high school principal in Henry County and then later was the equivalent of--I know we don't use this names anymore--the truant officer out of the School Board Office; also worked with lunch programs, and one of those many people who work at the School Board office that you can't tell what they do all the time. And my mother was a homemaker. And my early education? I was raised and bred in Henry County and all my education came here until I went off to college. Graduated from Elbridge Way High School that is non-existent. It's an elementary school where your children probably go. And where your wife was principal, and I graduated on the stage and what is now the library. That was my graduation, and it also included the auditorium. And there were 25 in my graduating class.
Q: You're speaking of Elbridge Way High School.
A: Yes, Elbridge Way High School. And then I got my Master's, undergraduate work, too over at JMU, which was called Madison College back in the old days. Before that, Harrisonburg State Teachers' College, and you said early. Is that as far as you want me to go now?
Q: No, you can take where you'd like to take it.
A: What do you want to know now? The rest of it.
Q: Well, no I've got other questions.
A: I don't know what you really want to know. So...
Q: No, I think that sounds good. How about siblings, brothers and sisters?
A: I have two sisters. I'm the oldest. No boys.
Q: Were they also teachers or. . . . . . . . ..
A: No, wouldn't be caught dead teachers. But teaching runs in my family 'cause my grandmother was a teacher and my father was a teacher and I'm a teacher and none of my children are planning to be teachers. They said it's too hard work.
Q: Yeah, probably right. Were there any special events or circumstances that influenced your decision to go into education?
A: Yeah, a teacher.
Q: Let me hear about it.
A: Mrs. Myrtle Odell in Ridge--I don't know if you know her; you probably don't know Mrs. Myrtle.
Q: I do.
A: And she was my high school math teacher. I did not do well in math. I was not a good math student. In fact, I probably disliked math, but I loved Mrs. Myrtle. And she also directed all the plays--I was in the one-act plays and the senior play and all--and Mrs. Myrtle just led me right down the garden path, bless her heart. And I said if I could just be like Mrs. Myrtle, I'd be okay.
Q: Do you feel like you have now?
A: No, she's a far better teacher than I'll ever be. But really and truly, she was the one. And then it was another teacher in the school who said to me when I was trying to decide on where to go to college, "Why don't you go up to Madison? That's where I went." And without even checking it out, I went.
Q: Do you remember who that was?
A: Yes, Mary Virginia Dinsmore. She's Mary Virginia Kyle now. Lives in Martinsville--y'all would know her. She's still living; she's an old, retired teacher. Yeah, teachers had a big influence on my life.
Q: That's great!
A: Very much so. My parents never suggested what I might want to do for a living, but they did tell me when I went to college--nobody ever talked about if you go to college, that was never the word used in our house, when you go to college, which by the way I used with mine and it does work.
Q: I remember talking to you before and one of the things that I remember is you started your first job at a very, very early age than it was, in fact.
A: Yeah, I went through college in three years. Not because I was smart, but because I went to summer school, and when I started teaching, I was just barely 20.
Q: Where was your first job?
A: At Ridgeway Elementary, believe it or not. I taught 3rd grade, but I wasn't certified to teach 3rd grade. I was certified--the certification then was 4th through 7th. And then I had an endorsement in high school English/Social Studies. And so, I wasn't certified to teach 3rd grade, but the 3rd grade teacher became pregnant. I had married in college and just had a baby, and you couldn't find teachers in those days so the superintendent asked me would I come. And when I taught that first year in the 3rd grade, I always thought I should have quit teaching then. My dad was the principal. My mother was the school secretary and my little sister was in my class--I didn't have a chance! Oh yeah, I didn't have a chance.
Q: Give us a reference.
A: That's just the way it worked out. Huh?
Q: What year or what decade if you like?
A: What year did I start teaching? No, I'm serious. I'm 61 years old. You want that on the record? Put that in the archives. That makes me a real old one. No, I just had a birthday. I'm proud to be alive. 1954, now don't hold me to dates for sure, but I think that's when I started teaching: 1954.
Q: That's the year before I was born, if that makes you feel any better.
A: Well, doesn't make me feel worse. I don't really care.
Q: How many years did you spend as a teacher before you became a principal before you went to Ridgeway Elementary School.
A: Okay, I knew you were going to ask me some of that. I guess I knew that, and I try to think. I can't remember dates, and I've done so many different things and been so many places I can't remember, but I do remember this: I started teaching at Ridgeway, and I taught that one year in elementary and then I decided elementary wasn't for me. So I went over to Drewry Mason, now Drewry Mason High School. It was probably the third year it was open. Something like that.
Q: That puts it at about 1953.
A: When the school open. Yeah, yeah, something like that. Well, but I'm still in teaching. And I went over to the high school and taught English for a long time, then gradually got into Social Studies. And then I stayed there for awhile and decided maybe I missed the elementary school, so I went back to Ridgeway. See, I like everywhere I teach. That's the problem, everywhere I go I like it and I want to stay, but I want to see what's on the other side of the fence. So I went back to Ridgeway, and I taught 6th, 7th grade for the rest of the time. I got my Master's ten years to the date after I got my Bachelors if that'll help you any. So ten years, let's say I taught ten years then, eleven years because the first years I got my Master's, I wasn't invited to do anything. Then after that, I was invited.
Q: That really leads me to my next question. You, of course, decided to go into administration. I was wondering what was your motivation?
A: See, I got my Master's in administration. In those days at Madison College, it was a Master's, administration and supervision. You didn't get one or the other. So also that's an interesting story. All through there, I was the only girl in the class.
Q: At Madison.
A: Oh yeah, women did not go into administration. There wasn't a single woman administrator in Henry County.
Q: What made you want to be an administrator?
A: Because not a single woman in Henry County has been one. It's just that simple. I'm very much a women's libber when it comes to some things. I still like for you to pull out my chair, but very much in some things. So I was with all men, some who told me that I wouldn't ever make it in administration. Some who told me, one guy especially--I'd love to know where he ended up being a principal. What he wanted was...he was one of these hot-shot principals up in the Valley somewhere that knew everything God ever put on earth. And we had some class one time, and he told me after the first class that because I was a woman, I'd never make an "A" in that class. Course, I did. And if...thanks to him, I did. And I made sure he knew it. But I went into it simply.... I was probably influenced by my father some 'cause he was an administrator. Could be. But I just thought it'd be nice.
Q: Haven't heard you mention money. So money didn't come into it?
A: Money has never been an object. If it were, I wouldn't be in teaching.
Q: I just wondered.
A: I've never thought about money; any job I ever took for salary came after we talked about the job.
Q: When you became an administrator, you've already mentioned your formal training, do you think that you were prepared? I assume your first job was as a principal?
A: My first job was as an assistant principal at Fieldale Primary School. If you know the old Fieldale area, there's the other school where the Y is and everything. I forget who's principal up there now, where Eddie Levi used to be.
Q: Danny Cannaday.
A: Alright, see I've lost track. Now the lower school down under the hill, the one they don't use anymore, there's one across the road and down the hill and in a hollowed out place. It is the old, original building for Fieldale, as I understand it. So what they had done was they had made it Grades 1 - 3, and then at the upper school that used to be Fieldale High School before they built the new one, which is the old one now--you with me?
A: Okay, just checking because I realize y'all not raised in Henry County. But so anyway, Eddie Rakes was principal of the upper school, well he was principal of both schools, and for awhile he held both jobs. He would run across the road and come down and visit down in the hollow. And so then Mr. Reeves, who was the superintendent, asked me would I go as assistant principal--he did not trust me as a principal, oh yeah, because women couldn't be--and I was the assistant principal in the lower school under Eddie Rakes. But I never saw Eddie. I mean, I just ran the school by myself really, and then the next year, Mr. Reeves decided that I hadn't done anything really bad and maybe I should just be principal down there by myself. So I was principal down there for, I don't know, several years. And it's a good training because I felt good about being down there, and I'll tell you why. The superintendent lived in the community, and everything that went on, he knew about it. So after being assistant principal, for him to give me a principalship, I felt like at least the community accepted me.
Q: Were you prepared on your first job as an administrator? Do you think that the preparations that you spent formally prepared you to be an administrator?
A: Some things I did. A lot of it is just simply maturing, giving the person time to grow up. I don't think anyone should ever be an administrator that has not been a classroom teacher. I'll go on record saying that. I've never understood anybody who got to be one without being a classroom teacher. I think there's a whole lot that you bring that has nothing to do with what you learned at Tech, that has to do with being in the classroom and understanding people and children and so forth. So a lot of it was common sense. I made some mistakes along the way--you learn from those. Yeah, I enjoyed my classes in that it simply broadened my mind. Now I can't zero in and say, "This class really helped me here." I don't see that at all. Do y'all feel the same way?
Q: Tape's on.
A: The tape's on! We got him--yes!
Q: I think Dr. Culp's class is excellent.
A: Except for this one class that they say is just wonderful! I hope you're laughing--these boys don't need to fail!
Q: What administrative positions have you held? And tell us a little bit about what they were like.
A: Okay. Oh, I'd love to tell you about one.
Q: Keep it chronologically if you can.
A: I can. I will. It's hard; it's rally hard. Okay, I was at Fieldale Primary then I was at.... I was principal at Fieldale Primary then Mr. Reeves came around one day and asked me to become the Elementary Supervisor for the County because whoever it was was retiring. And I didn't want to. I really liked Fieldale. In fact, of all the places I've ever worked, that was probably the nicest. It was a small, closed community. Really nice people who would bring me goodies. I really liked it. Well, I pondered it, and he had to have an answer. And so, well I had never done this. I had never.... After all, that's what I got my Master's in, right, to do that, too. So I thought, well, I'll go see what it's like. So I went up there, and I was the supervisor for the upper grades at first. And a lady named Edlie Daniels was the supervisor for the lower grades. And then they had people for the upper grades. Now remember this was in the days before integration. So you must... I know... I've...
Q: I'm just watching for the sake of the tape, so please don't think anything.
A: Okay. Okay. So we only worked in white schools. And they had this guy name Mr. Randolph, who was black who just died last year, who was the supervisor for all the black schools, but no white person ever went in a black school. Nobody came in this school except Mr. Reeves. He was the only white person since he was the superintendent. So, we only went to white schools. And then while I was a supervisor, it was when we integrated schools which was undoubtedly the most uncomfortable time of my life. I was the one, they decided--the superintendent decided while I was an elementary supervisor--that the way we were going to integrate Henry County Schools.... First place, whenever integration occurred, Henry County didn't do it. We dragged our feet for another ten years or so with the Supreme Court threatening us and everything else to hurry up and do it. So the superintendent got this brilliant idea. And the brilliant idea was that we were going to go over Henry County, and we were going to find white children who were underachievers. And we were going to bring them into Carver High School, this very school, going to bring them into Carver High School for a year, and we're going to have a hundred of them down in a separate section down on the bottom floor over there. And we were going to teach them reading, writing, arithmetic or whatever to bring them up to whatever levels they were going to come up to. And that would give black kids a chance to see white kids and white kids a chance to see black kids, and then if that worked and we didn't kill each other, then we're going to integrate Henry County Schools. The superintendent said to me it was my job to go over Henry County and pick all these white kids that would go over to this black school. I just about committed suicide, alright? When it was all said and done, the phone calls that I got, the names that I was called, the things that I was told that I was.... Nothing will ever hurt me again. Ever again. Nothing will ever hurt me again like that did. It was really rough. I had to do it--it was my job. Okay, so we came up here and then he said to me, although I was elementary supervisor--remember this was back in the old days when you--he said, "Look, you just go up there and head that up." So I was Elementary Supervisor of Henry County, but I really lived at Carver High School for a year. And now that I have done that, I wouldn't give a million dollars for the experience because I got to live among a black culture. And how many white people today can say that? And it was wonderful. The worst that's happened to integration is that they've lost their culture, and they had the most beautiful culture, black people. And we would have assemblies, and we'd all go. And the first time I ever heard them sing "We Shall Overcome"--I had never heard the song--I thought it was the most beautiful song I had ever heard. It was really neat. So I learned the words, and we all joined hands and we all sang out. I wouldn't give anything for the year up here.
Q: Did you feel, I want to say well-treated but that's not the word, did you feel accepted among that community when you were there? Did you feel like they welcomed you and were glad that you were there, or did you feel like a ....
A: No, no, no, no, I was a minority. You mean here, this community?
Q: In Carver.
A: The community in Carver? When I was in Carver, the only community that I came in contact with--you have to remember they kept us isolated for the most part, and we only went together for lunch, for assemblies, and then the rest of the time we were down in our little shelter. And the only people that I ran into--and I hate that this is on tape, but I'm going to say it anyway since I'm going to call names--were low-class white people who showed up periodically to cuss me out because their children were here. And it was always really, really, really, really low class white people who dared tell me that I was a nigger-lover, etc., etc. when they were sitting there smelling so badly I could hardly sit at the table with them. You know, things like that really bothered me, but I look back on it and understand. People were very fearful about this, I understand that. Well okay, so I digressed. I'm sorry. That was one of the.... I wouldn't give anything for having gone through that period of history. I mean anything for it. And there are people in Henry County today who probably still hate my guts because I sent their child off here although the program ended up being very, very good. The kids ended up liking it and mingling with the black kids, so it worked fine for us if the grown-ups had stayed out of it. But then we went ahead and we integrated. Okay. Well, then after we integrated, I was an elementary supervisor. What else did I do? Oh, yeah, one Dr., I meant Mr. Riggs came in and asked me why didn't I just be Director of Instruction. So I hadn't ever been that, so I became Director of Instruction. But I didn't get to do anything. I had no authority that went with it whatsoever. In fact, he was sort of an autocrat. I loved him; I would have done anything for him, but I didn't get to make many decisions. Okay. And so I didn't like that job because I didn't have to think. And then we got a new Superintendent, and his name was Dr. Paul Jones. And Paul and I grew up together. We played basketball together. Used to be the boys played the second game and the girls played the j.v. game. And so we saw each other the first time in our basketball uniforms. And Paul became the Superintendent, and I decided I wanted out. I wanted out--I was miserable in the School Board Office. I see no value to it. I still see no value to it. I'm sorry. I see no value to it. He begged me to stay on, and I said, "Forget it." So I wanted to go back to teaching. Well, yep, the School Board Office and no children. And I went into the business for children and there no children. Only people I ever got to see when I was a supervisor were bad teachers. I had to always go and visit bad teachers. And I'm tellin' you the truth, and I don't care what they say and what program you take, there's not much you can do with a bad teacher but let'em go. And that's why you guys who now get to be principals, y'all got to, I insist that you take care of that three year thing and let them go. Don't pat them on the back and say try again the fourth year when they got it. Please, you know you don't have to do any paperwork for the first three years and after that, you can't get rid of them. See what it is, you get attached to people, and you like people, and you hate to let'em go because you're nice people. But it's not doing them a service--they're miserable for the rest of their lives. Well, anyway. So I thought I got to look at bad teachers... that was a little freebie I threw. Then after that, what did I do? Okay, so I asked Dr. Jones to please let me go back and be an elementary principal 'cause I really like that. Well, Joe Devault was coming over to Drewry Mason, so he said okay, you can have Rich Acres. Irene Martin, you remember Irene Martin?
Q: Yeah, she use to be. . . . . . . . . . .
A: Told me one time and I laughed, but I think she was right, she said I was the only person that Mr. Reeves always did everything I asked him to let me do. And he did. I look back on... he didn't do it for everybody but he did it for me, and I appreciate that. Well, Dr. Jones did, too. So I went to Rich Acres, and I loved Rich Acres. Loved still... I just loved it. Still got good friends over there. It was a great little community school, and we did wonderful things and I.... Ever since I was at Magna Vista kids would come up and say, "Remember when you were at Rich Acres, we did so and so," but they had really happy experiences. So we all did. And then they decided to open up Bassett Middle School. Well, I hadn't ever been principal over a middle school before. So I, this is ridiculous my life, I asked Paul what about me going up there to the middle school? And he didn't tell me women couldn't be principals of middle schools, but he believed it. He said, "You don't want to do that." Of course, he was right--I didn't want to do it. But he said, "You go up, and you do the middle school." And I said.... He said, "You go on up and do it, but it's hard work and you'll be up there awhile." And I said, "Uh-huh huh, I still want to go." So I went. Well, I must tell this, they had just moved, just opened up Bassett High School. I got to reconstruct this.
Q: The new high school.
A: The new high school, new Bassett High School. And the old Bassett High School was going to be the middle school like they all are. They don't think middle school kids deserve new buildings, so anyway- which is another pet thing of mind because these buildings--well, never mind. So anyway, so Louis Morgan was the principal at the old Bassett. So he moved down to the new high school. And Mr. Dr. Jones didn't tell me when I could go to Bassett Middle School. He kept saying, "You're not going till I tell you can go." And I don't know what the hold up is, whether it was getting another principal for Rich Acres or whatever. But he did not tell me I could go to Bassett to the Middle School until the second week of July. So the second week of July, I went up to Bassett Middle School and I walked in the front door. And what I had to work with and I was going to open up a school with something like eight hundred children. That number comes to mind, eight or nine hundred, I mean it was jammed. Okay, eight hundred, let's say eight hundred children. I was going to open up that school with, that have never been in that school before. In the middle of the hall where all of the workers from the three or four schools that were going to come to this middle school, just thrown in there in boxes. Me and the custodian, and I had to open up a school middle of August. Okay, didn't know who the teachers were, hadn't decided who was going to move up there. No cafeteria personnel whatsoever, no manager, no secretaries, no office furniture, no nothing, and I had had no experience running a middle school in my whole life. Had no idea what one was. It was neat, and we'd never had one before. Oh, and by the way in the paper where they said the middle school was Dr. Poore's concept. Sorry, Paul Jones--I was up there first. Okay, it was not Dr. Poore's. It was not his idea--it was Paul Jones' idea, because he, at least he was up on going around and finding out what's going on. So anyway, so I moved in there and I called Dr. Jones and I told him there were a few little things I really needed, and he said whatever you need go hire. So I had to hire a cafeteria manager, a lady who had never been manager of a cafeteria before. She got a staff together I found two secretaries, I begged, borrowed and stole office equipment. They'd left some behind and so, and I read some books on the middle school. And I called some people I knew at some other school districts and talked about how middle schools were supposed to do and got a list of teachers and tried to find them all rooms, tried to figure out how it was going to go. You know the bell schedules, the whole works. Not having anything at all to work with. And finally, we opened up along with everybody else. And I always considered that one of my greatest miracles that's ever been accomplished, that we opened up that school. And the only thing that bothered me is that when they moved to the new Bassett High School, they had left behind--y'all will appreciate this--15--you'll especially appreciate this-- 15 hard core dudes that should be under a jail house somewhere. And they had decided they were going to start off the new high school clean and leave all those dudes behind that were like 8th graders for the, I meant like, were...yeah, 'cause we did 6th, 7th, 8th. Like 8th graders for the fifth time. So they were old as I was. I couldn't believe they did that to us. I couldn't believe this. I found out later that Dr. Jones did not know this occurred. Well, it took me awhile to catch on. Well, I just thought they were slow learners. Well, they were slow alright. But we put them out in a trailer that was attached to the school, and we tried to teach.... Of course, they tried to burn down the trailer during the year. And the teachers smelled things, other times found out they were burning rat's feet. And little things like that, and we gradually got rid of most of them, but was always.... That bothers me to this day that they did that to me. I understand why he did it. I don't understand why he did it to me, but nevertheless. I was there for three years and it was the three hardest years I have ever spent in my whole life. By the end of the third year I understood what the middle school was. We had.... Oh, I had taken teachers on trips. Dr. Jones had gave me permission to go. We went to all the best middle schools in the state of Virginia and North Carolina. I mean, we toured a lot. And I picked up a lot of great ideas. But, after three years, that was enough plus I had a young child. I had a baby that was a year old. That was another thing. I just had a baby when I went up to Bassett Middle School. But anyway, so then I was there three years and then I said help, help, help, you're right--I really don't need to be here anymore. And I never saw my son anymore. Never saw John, never saw him. 'Cause I was there night and day, and so I said I just got to get out of this. And so I asked Dr. Jones would he let me go back to teaching that that was what I really, really, truly wanted to do. And I wanted to teach History, and he said where and I said Drewry Mason High School and he said there are no vacancy. So I sit there and I said well I just don't know what I'm gone do. And he said well.... You know, I got up and went home and he called me the next day and said I got a job teaching at Drewry Mason and I thanked him and I found out later he moved a teacher from Drewry Mason to Fieldale. Which I really appreciate it. And so I went over there and been there ever since. Now I'm down to the new Magna Vista.
Q: A lot of the things that you talked about with regard to administrative positions are related to community and the building, and what I'd like you to do now is I want you to talk about the unique aspects of the communities that you serviced and the buildings that you worked in and how it influenced the jobs that you had to do along with the teachers who worked there.
A: Which one do you want me to talk about first?
Q: Pick whichever one you feel most comfortable with.
A: Well, let's talk about communities. I said--I don't really know what you're going after here, but.... See, back in the old days, back forty years ago or so, Henry County was a rural place. There were just little towns. Fieldale was a mill town, and Ridgeway was just a little railroad track town, I guess is what you'd call it. And people there have such, they were really tied to the school. See, that's another thing. Talk about philosophies. My philosophy is that elementary schools should never be large. There's no reason to have a large elementary school. A principal ought to be able to call every child by name. I don't care what anybody says.
Q: Okay, give me some numbers for large. What's large?
A: I don't know. Idealistic, I'd like to have one grade of each. I'd like to have really, teeny, tiny schools, but I know that's impractical, and I know nowadays we can't do that. But see, that's what made them run so well. And they did! The principal knew every single person, you could call every child by name. When I was at Fieldale, I knew all the children. I knew all their parents. They all lived in town. The little school was in town. They'd be going to the post office--they'd drop by the office on the way home. Why not? For a minute or so and say "hi." They didn't want anything. Parents didn't come threatening like they do now. Nowadays they come, they have a purpose for coming. Or they don't come at all. Probably just don't come at all. But they were very friendly. So when you wanted to do things--and this was true at Rich Acres in the old days, not now--but in the old days before we got all the housing developments and everything and it was still the Rich Acres area. You know where I'm talking about? Was just a small, little town. It's not really a town, it's really country, but the houses were all in a little town around the school. And you'd ask those parents to do anything, and they'd be right there. Let me give you an example at Rich Acres. We decided--the music teacher decided that she wanted to have a, kinda like y'all used to do when you had the --help me!
Q: The plays, the musicals....
A: The musicals, big word, forgive me! We'd have the musicals and so forth, and we didn't do one that elaborate, but she decided she wanted to do something with the little, teeny tinies. We set up sewing machines all down the hall towards the cafeteria and in the cafeteria, and ladies brought their little portable sewing machines, and they sewed for two months before we had this thing. Had the best time, and they would eat lunch with us, and they would help her with the directing and all. You just don't see that anymore. You just don't see it anymore. One reason: Mama went to work. That's one big reason: Mama went to work. Of course, that's why you got all your other problems--mama went to work. That's my other big thing.... Women need to stay at home to the children or .... Okay, so that's the sense of community really helps you. It makes a job so easy. If you feel like you're liked, if you feel like the community wants you there, they're there non-threatening, they pop in to say "what can we do to help you" and so forth, they become friends. It just makes teaching so easy. The children mama and teacher talking together, they see mama and teacher together at the ball games and so on. You just didn't have the discipline problems either. But see, that's the old days, and I didn't even know they were good until they were gone. Isn't that sad? And what else do you want to talk about? You want any more community?
Q: No, well, if you.... What I was looking for....
A: When I got to Bassett, it was entirely different. When we got to the middle school, what they had done was destroy the community. See, they came from Sanville, they came from--I can't remember names of places now--but, you know, all the little hollows and valleys up in the Bassett way. They came from all the way at the Patrick County line, they were out there. The people who lived in town were entirely different from the people who came from the country. They didn't speak to each other, they didn't know each other, they still don't know each other, they don't want to know each other. And except for a few parents who will always come and help you out (mainly they want to watch and make sure you're doing what they think you ought to be doing), except for a few of those, you never saw anybody else unless you were having to drag them in there with problems. And so I never thought we had a community, never thought we had a community with Bassett Middle School. Now maybe it's different today because they've been there a long time. You remember I was there the first three years, and we were bringing in all these communities. The only thing that brought us together was football. We had a great football team, and everybody did come for the games. We did have a good time then, but other than that, there was never the sense of community in that it was too big. It was just too.... I think middle schools are too big. They shouldn't be as big as high schools.
Q: Give me a number. What's a good size middle school?
A: I don't know ... If I knew, I'd be head of the Education Department for Bill Clinton. I don't know what a middle school is, but I think you ought .... Again, it's money the reason you can't do it. I don't think you ought to have more than two or three classes of each kind. But I still want 'em to have all the stuff you have. You understand, so you can't have it.
Q: It's hard to do.
A: Hard to do. But I think the children lose something.
Q: I'd like to change direction a bit if I can. I'd like you to describe yourself as a principal. What I want you to include in it--now this is how you see yourself or how you think other people see you--I want you to include your management philosophy or your relationship with your superiors, teachers especially, and other subordinates, and children. Now I'd like you to tell me what kind of a principal you think that you were.
A: I had a lot of thoughts that I can look back on now. Well, I knew it at the time, but I wasn't willing to change. The strongest thing was relationship with kids, but that's the way it's always been. I like kids. I like 'em when they were little, I like 'em when they're large, I like 'em most any size. I like kids. They, I don't think, ever felt threatened and so forth, and we had a good time. But on the other hand, if you got sent down to the office, we weren't friendly any more. I mean, it wasn't--I'm not going to tell you I was buddy buddy because I wasn't, but I think the relationship on the whole was a good relationship with children. With teachers I had a tendency to be too easy sometimes. I had a...I felt sorry for people sometimes. That's the reason I'm so, now if I had it to do over again, I'd get rid of people sometimes I didn't. See, I know some people I let slip through with the three-year thing because I knew their husband or their wives and I knew their children and I knew they were having financial problems, and so I let stuff like that get in the way of it, and you can't do that. It's not good for them. I've seen a couple of them that got tenure, and for the rest of their lives, they've been teaching unhappily. And the children they teach are unhappy. So who did I do a favor? And the answer is, I didn't do anybody a favor. So some teachers liked me, some didn't. I didn't really care as long as they were a good teacher and were good to the kids. I had no use for a teacher that was wasting the child's time. Had no use for one whatsoever. And the more I was principal, the easier it was to tell somebody that. That you're wasting.... I came to the conclusion though, I would try to help poor teachers, and Lord only knows that we got some. In fact, we got--it was the second year we were at the middle school, and we got this little guy in who claimed he was a librarian. And we found out at the end of the year, bless his heart, he had never filed a book, he had never kept records, he had never done anything. And we had to bring all these people in on the County to reconstruct what that little boy had done all year long. But I should have caught that earlier. He was nice. He looked good! It looked tidy when you went in there, and the little lady he had for an aide, she didn't know anything either, so she thought he was doing it right! And I just kind of trusted that.... I learned not to trust that type of thing. Custodians and cafeteria people, got along with everybody I ever worked with except one guy who came and worked for--if I were to name him, I bet y'all wouldn't know him, I'm not going to--and he's one of those people that go from job to job, and he's never happy anywhere he is. And he came and he worked, and I'm just going to tell you what he finally did to me. He did lots and lots of things to me, and I would try to tell him but he couldn't take correction. And finally, we had somebody coming from the State Department of Education down at the middle school, and they were in Health and P.E. And of course, it was a bright, sunny day, and all the P.E. had these little programs worked out where they were going to be out on the football field and doing this and that and the other. And right in the middle of it, he decided (it was probably about this time of the year) that he was going to mow the grass; he was going to mow the football field. So here's the guy from the State Department sitting there watching the P.E. program, and he makes all the teachers and all the kids sit down while he mowed the football field with the State man sitting there. And I went out and told him he couldn't do that, and he got off the tractor and said, "No woman has ever told me what to do." And he quit. And that took care of that, and then we got somebody else. But we did not get along. But I'm inclined to think a lot of that was his fault. I mean, I know it is. I knew him when he was younger, and it's a lot of that. In general, I got along. I hurt some feelings along the way. I said some things I shouldn't have along the way. Did some things right and did some things wrong.
Q: That actually is my next question. I'd like to know what mistakes you made as a new principal that if you had to do all over again, you wouldn't do again.
A: Well, if I knew all that, I could sell it! Let's see...
Q: Well, we might intend to do that!
A: You might intend to sell it! Alright, mistakes I made.... See, it's been so long. You realize you're asking a dinosaur person to .... I mean, I was a dinosaur in my first school! Let's see.... You know, I worked so hard to try to be successful because I was the first woman to do it in the County in modern day times. Now I know women did the one-room schools and all, but I was the first modern-day woman and all. I tried so hard to be a super principal that I just about overshot the mark. I spent 24 hours a day in those school houses. That was probably one mistake I made--I didn't go home. I know what my biggest fault is. I.... It's really hard for me to delegate authority. I don't trust anybody. I mean no one. If it has to be done, I just soon do it and I don't want to work on committee either 'cause I think committees are a waste of time. Isn't that awful? I'd just a soon do it. And so, I worked twice as hard to do a great deal of the work because I'm not a team player. I'm sorry, I'm not a team player. And I know that's a big word in modern day times, but I'm not a team player. I'd make a good dictator. Benevolent but good. Okay....
A: I didn't answer that .... I'm trying to be honest.
Q: Well, no, I've tried to word the questions so that there's an open end to this process, so feel free to go where you want and if you're wandering off, I'll bring you back.
A: Oh, I could tell you tales that'd make you hair stand on end. Go ahead.
Q: You'd be grey! Do you.... I'd just like you to tell me, and I think you have already some of them, what were the biggest problems you faced as a principal? I mean, you've already mentioned the fact that being a woman was not exactly the easiest part of it, but there might have been others.
A: But I was accepted by the community as a woman. No one ever said to me, to my face, "You shouldn't be there because you're a woman." No one ever said that to my face, which I really appreciated. After awhile, I kinda forgot about I was a woman. So it was okay.
Q: Hope your husband didn't mind.
A: Oh, he didn't mind. He just raised the kids while I stayed at school. What's the question?
Q: What was the biggest problems that you faced as a principal? And really what I'm leaning towards, and this is a leading question here, ...
Q: ...is that I'm sure that the biggest problems faced in the day that you were are going to be very, very different. And I am going to ask you another question...
A: It wasn't drugs and all that stuff.
Q: What do you think that the biggest problems are faced by a principal today in comparison?
A: It wasn't all that stuff. It was those little trite things you hear people say like got in a little fight with somebody else. We had some race problems. When we first integrated, see, when I went back when I was a principal the second time after we integrated, yes, same as we have today. And you would have angry parents who would come up who were as prejudiced as the children--in fact, that's where the children got it from to begin with. We had those problems. We had head lice. Well, we did. You'd take a pencil. I was taught when I was a--I never will forget this- when I was doing my student teaching, I taught on the wrong side of the tracks at Harrisonburg in the seventh grade. And I was teaching a math lesson, which tickles me to death 'cause I can't even balance my checkbook, but I was teaching math and I was going around the room. And I thought I really was doing a good lesson, and I'd get to a child and I'd stoop down beside him and put my arm around him. Or they had those kinda big seats--not like we have today--and you could slide in and sit with someone and so on. And the supervising teacher called me out in the hall, and I thought, Man, I have really blown this. And she says, "Martha, don't ever sit beside a child in a classroom. Don't you know they have head lice?" Okay. So I learned that you don't sit beside 'em 'cause "I'm a sit-beside child-hugger" with children, and that didn't stop me. I just moved from that side of the tracks to the other. Head lice was a big deal. Little fights on the playground. See nothing big, nothing big. Momma and daddy actually lived together you had parents. Both of them would actually come to school you got to see fathers. See I don't remember many problems, until I went to the middle school. Now I can tell you about those rascals that should have been in the under jail house. Harden criminals if I ever saw em.
Q: Is a good next question? If I could wave your magic wand and wipe away twenty years and your forty not sixty-one and would go and be a principal today?
A: Probally not. I'd rather teach.
Q: What were the most rewarding aspects of being a principal?
A: I got to run a school. I got to be the boss. You don't get to be principal unless you want to be the boss. I like being the boss. Still like it.
Q: How about the drawbacks? What were the major drawbacks?
A: Time. A large amount of time, like forever. There are times of the year, y'all know this, that are really bad. Back in the days when I had no help from anyone, getting the school year ready all by myself was hard. You really had to work at it. And when I went up to the middle school, not understanding scheduling or anything and having to schedule in all this that and the other, I never will forget it. I had all these children and all these classes to schedule and all these specialists coming, and so I went in a--didn't have computers, by the way, no computers--so you go on the chalkboard. You do it all on the chalkboard. I don't know if you've ever seen this done or not, but you do the whole work on the chalkboard. Have it down, finally have it, would you believe the band people showed up from the high school? They couldn't teach band but this one period. They hadn't told me about this, and it's two days before school started. They had it scheduled at the high school, that was the period, but who told me? Nobody. Had to redo the whole schedule for the band. It was exciting! But see the challenge was can you get it done. And the answer is yes. We opened at the same time as everybody else. I laugh about it now, but I'll tell ya'. I woulda cried, but I didn't have time. And I wouldn't have told Dr. Helms because I begged him to let me go. So I couldn't complain. I didn't complain. I never complained. I just did it.
Q: You actually answered three important questions at a time.
A: Oh, good!
Q: This is a question that I'm dying to hear your answer to. I'd like you to describe the ideal principal, and you can choose any level.
A: Oh, you gotta be kidding!
Q: No, ma'am, I'd like you to take the traits that you consider would go into making a person a good principal.
A: Oh, I don't know. Oh, alright! Maybe I'll shock you! Okay, I think I'd put Number 1 they need to be a morally sound person because if you're not morally a good person, then anything you do isn't gonna be worth a hoot. And I think that's just got to do with.... I'm not talking about do you do this, do you do that. You know what I mean by moral. Just what I call a good, decent person. You gotta be that first. Not somebody who wants to be a principal so they can sock it to everybody else type person. They've got to be assertive. Very much so. They've got to be a person who is respected by the community, respected by the faculty, respected by the students. They've got to be a person who is visible. That's a biggie. A lot of principals don't realize that and stay holed up in the office. I don't care how many assistants you've got, you've got to be visible or the kids have no respect for you at all. Zilch. If you don't believe it, go ask 'em. They've got to be knowledgeable. Certainly. I mean, some things are just .... They've got to be all those things. Polite and friendly and a respecter of people. Not only...do you see what...they've got to respect other people. They've got to be a person in today's society, okay I think very much so, who can relate to all different cultures. That's asking a whole lot, but you make yourself find out those things. And you find out where these children are coming from when they say these things or these comments or whatever. Sometimes it helps to have children. Not always, but.... Some of the best principals I knew, they had no children, but on the other hand, maybe you can kinda forgive kids sometimes when you see your own doing the same thing. They've go to be a .... They've got to show leadership. You know, these are awfully trite words that you use. Okay, the biggie after you've done.... Morally I put first, and a hard worker and industrious and all that and open to new ideas. Oh man, have they gotta be open to new ideas! Not only that, but have sense enough to go find out where the new ideas are if they can't think of original ones. To go and know what's going on in the world and not be scared to try things. That's where it pays to be assertive 'cause if you want to start some new program, and the School Board tells you no, you have to find out a way to make them say yes. Or you'll never do it. You can't be timid. I can just give you trait after trait. But I think the one that I haven't even named yet that...you could do all these things and still be an average principal, but if you have no vision, just hang it up. If you have no vision of what the ideal school ought to be or things you might want to do or how life might be and how you can educate all children.... If you have no vision and not willing to follow up on that, just go off and be a superintendent in a box factory. I could name others. Who have I named, God? Is that who I described?
Q: Sounded like to me, to be honest with you.
A: The great father? The great white father! Or black father, whichever! Or Oriental! I don't want to leave out anybody...or Hispanic! Okay.
Q: Looking at schools today, you know you haven't retired from teaching very long ago so you really are acquainted with the modern schools, what curriculum changes--and really I'll just leave it open--let's say, which changes do we need to make in public schools today to better suit what we're...? 'Cause obviously, we're not....
A: You talkin' elementary, high school...?
Q: You can take it anywhere you'd like to. One leads into the other, as far as I'm concerned.
A: See, I'm of the old school.... Let me ask you a question. Have you seen the, or heard about the new history books that are out now that don't cover anything? Have you heard about that?
A: Alright, they got the new history books that are out now, and I don't know what companies are putting them out where, but it's been, I been reading about it all along. They're not covering much of anything of the first part of our history. They barely mention George Washington. They barely mention Thomas Jefferson. They barely mention blah, blah, blah because they want to give kids more of where it's at now. I think that's a big mistake. I was a history teacher. Big mistake. Realizing that we got a lot more history to teach now than we ever did, but what they're working on is an watered down virgin of American History. I think we're making a step backwards if it takes two years to teach it, let's teach it in a two-year course college do that. High schools could do it, too. I think the block schelduling is a step forward. I really do. I never did understand how I was supposed to teach. Well, that's another thing--this is something we've done wrong. We used to teach for an hour in high school. I'm really random, then we went to fifty-five minutes. Then we went to fifty minutes and when I was at Magna Vista, we were forty-eight minutes. I defy anybody to teach anything in forty-eight minutes. To even open up the book and everybody get the right page in forty-eight minutes. It is the most ridiculus type of teaching I have ever seen in my whole life. So, so while we're doing that, and then why are we talking about having a longer school day, when we're not using the school day we got. I mean, we're wasting a lot of time. I'm just telling you. I'm rambling. I would reconstruct schools entirely.
Q: The buildings or....
A: The best teaching I ever did in my life. Let me run back to elementary. Now, Tom, you can relate to this. I taught 7th grade over in that old room you have where you taught math, okay? Over in the shop building. The white building? In that old building that was to the side of the school, okay. I taught 7th grade, the best job of teaching I ever did in my life. And when I stand in before of St. Peter, I will... he will say it's true was when I taught 7th grade in that room, and I taught everything self-contained was the best job of teaching I've ever done in my life. I had 30 kids for all day, every day, for 180 days. I could arrange, I could do block schelduling, I could do art for a whole afternoon, I could do music, I could do PE, and for teachers who tell you today that they can't teach music or they can't teach PE, they're using the wrong word. They're saying I don't want to teach it, I don't want to teach it. When I went to college, we learned to teach it all. What I didn't know, by gollee, I learned how to do . I mean it's called common sense, and you could schedule your day. And you know yourself that when you take a class in a classroom, there are some days when you can do a quiet activity, there are some days when you can only hold them so long and you've got to get off and do something else. Well, if we got tired and frustrated, we could always break into a song for a few minutes. You know what I'm saying. If we went out on the playground and I did PE, too, right. Hey, I took classes and learned how to teach tumbling and all that because I've never taught that before. So I learned how to do that, and we did all that. And this thing of pecking a day and dividing it up into little tiny sections is ridiculous. Did the soccer teams do that? Did he take the guys out on the field and say I'm going to teach y'all for 48 minutes? And then you let 'em go, or do they sit under the tree until he was done? Think about it. When I was teaching on that log, you were sitting on the other end. The biggest thing is we chop the day up terribly bad. The other thing is we brought in all these speciailists who aren't really specialists. They're not specialists. The other thing we've ruined is the gifted/talented program. We have no gifted/talented program. I could do a book on the gifted/ talented program. We have no gifted/talented program in the state of Virginia. We just have a law saying we have to have it and we do.
Q: Let's take the question in another direction.
Q: What is your outlook on the future of education?
A: What do you mean what is my outlook?
Q: I guess I mean do you look upon public education as becoming better, worse, staying as it is, always being there, never being there. What do you for see public education being in the...
A: Well, Stan, it always goes in cycles. That's nothing new, never has been anything new, never will be anything new. This block scheduling is just a step getting back away from the little piece work we've been doing.
Q: So you don't think public education is in trouble?
A: Oh, yeah, I think we're in serious trouble. We are not teaching. I had no time.... Look my biggest complaint as a teacher was, I had no time to teach. I had no time to teach--the bell would always ring before I was up. You could attest to that, you're right next door. I never had time to teach in my whole life. I had a lot more time when we were self contained. I'm convinced 1st graders, 2nd graders, 3rd graders, learn best when they're in a room with one teacher all day. Now granted that teacher has to be a good teacher, but there is your three- year thing of getting rid of them. Right. So I see, I kind of like the idea of going to private schools. Why not? A public school scared to compete with private schools. Well, just make your school better and everybody will go back to private school than public school. They don't want to go to private school anyway--it costs money. So just make your school better. What's that going to do. We'll never do it, I guess, what it'll do is force the public school to get off there duff and do something.
Q: The questions really you've answered two and three at a time, and that's terrific. I'm going to go back to the job being a principal. Describe a principal's job in relationship to the students. What's his major duties in relationship to the students?
A: His major duty is to make sure that the whole atmosphere is one that's best for that child to learn in; provide everything he needs to learn and I don't know any other way to put it. From the building to the lighting to the cleanliness to the right teacher for that child for him to be placed in the right environment... that's his job. To put that child in that educational setting that's best for him so he can learn everything that child's capable of learning. Now of course, that's Dreamland, but that is your job.
Q: Okay, so ideally speaking, is a principal supposed to be a better instructional leader or a better manager?
A: Ah, that's like which comes first, the chicken or the egg! I mean, how can you be one without being the other and be a good principal?
Q: Well, I think the way I'm thinking in terms of his...
A: Which is more?
Q: ...being more inspiring, being in the classroom as a manager...
A: You've gotta be both!
A: If you do one and don't.... Why just manage? The kids don't even know who the principal is. Who's the principal? (mumbles) I dunno. All they know is the custodian. Everybody knows he's Bill. By the way, one of the main jobs of the principal is to pick the best custodian and the best maid because they are your PR person in the hall when parents show up. I'm telling y'all that now.
Q: That's why we have Sherman Forest.
A: (at same time) I'm telling ya'! Huh?
Q: That's why we have Sherman Forest.
A: That's what I'm telling ya'! They are your PR person out in the community, too because they live in the community and they go out and talk about everything that goes on in the school. But going back to this question, you've got to be a great manager and you've got to be a great instructional leader and that's why I said you had to teach. That's like me teaching you how to drive a car when I've never driven one. That'd be silly, wouldn't it? I can't see where that.... And I can't see where one's more important than the other.
Q: I think that's a fair answer. If you had it to do all over again, would you choose education as a career?
Q: That was a very quick answer.
A: It was a very quick answer. I've never considered anything else and never would. In fact, I'm still teaching.
A: I'm doing some stuff over at the college. And so, the developmental classes. I like it.
Q: So you left education to retire into education?
A: Say again?
Q: You left education and retired into an education....
A: Yeah, I'll probably be an educator until I die. Until I can't walk anymore.
Q: Would you recommend education as a career for young people today?
A: I have done it many times.
Q: Can you recommend it equally for men and women?
A: I have done it many times.
Q: Do you think that salary is a drawback for a male over a female?
A: Well, aren't you sexist?
Q: I'm giving my opinion.
A: You realize they used to do that--give men more because they were heads of the household.
Q: Really teaching is considered a low-paying job, so is really being a principal in comparison to other jobs.
A: But it's not a low-paying job compared to working at American Furniture. So it depends on...it's all relative, is it not?
Q: Spoken as a true Henry County...
A: I'm not a true Henry County--I wasn't born here. Don't you have a roof over your head? Don't you live in a fairly decent house? How many meals have the four of you missed? Five children, you've got there, see? How many meals have y'all missed? You know, if you're talking about driving a Mercedes or this that and the other, fine. If you're talking about you and your wife both have to work, name one occupation where the wife doesn't work. Pick up on one. See, the whole secret to the whole thing about a job, and I can speak from experience, if you hate your job, I don't care if you're making a million dollars a year, it's not worth a dime of it. It's not worth it. If you're unhappy in what you're doing, you need to change and do something else. But it's not based on money. And teachers don't get starvation wages. Granted, you get middle-class wages, that's what you get. It's a middle-class, white blue collar job. So, I kinda like it.
Q: What changes or what suggestions would you give to colleges to better prepare people to become administrators or principals today? Or are they doing a fine job?
A: Well, I haven't been around schools too long, I mean college in a long time, but when I was involved in it, most of them had been so far away from having ever been one that they could hardly spell the word "principal." Uh, had no idea how schools had changed since they last taught, and you gotta remember that if you're teaching on the college level, you probably, by the time you have a class, they've probably been out of the classroom for a good long time. And schools change every five years. So I think on your faculty there somewhere you need a couple of guys that are pretty recent who can at least relate to the practical side of it. I mean, some things are just so nice in the books and so nice written on paper and wouldn't work a day in a school. And you know that. And what's so bad about it is they don't know that. Those that stay involved and go out in the schools, and I know I had some good professors who spent a lot of time working on committees and working on evaluation of schools and took part of their life to stay in contact with the high school or elementary, they were the best teachers by far.
Q: Only a few more questions.
Q: What advice would you give to anybody aspiring to be a principal today? And you've really kind of answered the question.
A: What advice would I give 'em?
Q: What advice...if someone came up....
A: Alright, to be a principal? To be a principal? Okay....
Q: If someone came up to you and said, "I'm thinking about being a principal, what advice do you have for me?"
A: My first question would be, "Why do you want to be one?" And I think if most people were honest, the reason they want to be a principal, if you're a man, is to make more money. To a large extent. That's the only way you're going to make more money, let's face it. It's the only way you're gonna...You've got to get into administration, or you will not make any more money. So then money's tied with that principalship job that a lot of fellas go into, more than women, 'cause women -- see I'm getting sexist too -- but women aren't as threatened by the lower salary maybe as the man is. The man feels like he's got to club the lion and bring it home or something, but anyway.... So a lot of --no-- nearly all good men teachers who become administrators do so because of money. And it's a daggone shame because it gets good teachers out of the classroom. I'm for a master teacher program, by the way. I'll just tell y'all now. Where you get your incentives by doing a good job teaching, and I realize, I'm not talking about merit pay or special--I guess I am to a certain extent, but it would keep good--we really need to keep good male teachers. We just don't have good...most of them are a bunch of wimps. I'm sorry, guys. Y'all asked me--I told you. And you need these guys who are coming along now, who have no father in the home--what is it, 50% of them, more than that some places--they need a real live male so they can see what one looks like. And how you're supposed to act and how you're supposed to do. Well, all you guys go out and become principals, then who gets those jobs? And then what happens? And then you go in your office and you shut the door and you never see him again. And you just keep the floor shiny. I mean, you know, what have you done with your life? Now if you want to answer me that the reason you want to be a principal is because you want to make a change, you want to see if you can have a better school than anybody else, you want to see if you can help people--I guess that's the big thing--if you're saying all that, then it's the right answer. The trouble is that most people won't give you an honest answer. So I'm just telling you. And then you go off and become a superintendent and then you don't do anything for the rest of your life!
A: You promise me...!
Q: I want to follow up on that though. How would you judge an outstanding teacher? What criteria would you use?
A: Well, if I knew the answer to that then I would give that to the State Department because they've been trying to come up with this. I'll tell you now, nothing we're using now works, does it? You know what the best judge is, and I don't know what you could do about it. The best judge is these kids you taught, talk to them ten years down the road and see if they remember you as a good teacher. They'll be real honest ten years down the road.
Q: It's hard to do though, isn't it?
Q: It's a hard question.
A: Oh, yeah, it's a hard thing to do. You asked me, and that's when you find out if you were a good teacher or not.
Q: Well, now that you've had time during the last hour or so to reflect upon your career, I'd like you to tell me what you consider to be your strengths and your weaknesses as a principal.
A: I thought we did that.
Q: We did, but I'd like to redirect.
A: Redirect? You've been watching Marcia Clark! Good grief!
Q: First of all, I'd like to point out I don't know who that is, but....
A: Okay. Gollee. I don't know if I have any.... Oh, Lord....
Q: Well, the reason I'm asking this again is you probably haven't ever sat down and thought about this in the terms that we've asked today all at once. And it....
A: Let me say this. Let me say this. I was a good principal. I may find out when I die that I was the worst one they ever had, okay, but I think still right now that I was a good principal. I don't hang my head about any of it. But, boy, did I make some mistakes! But I lived with them and went on as best I could. I told you I have a soft spot for some people, and I'm not sure if that's good or bad. I'm just repeating.... I'm just real sorry I let some people slip through the cracks. I don't think I helped every child. I know I didn't when the school got too big. When it was smaller, yes, I did a lot. Mostly what I tried to do was make sure we got good teachers, but that was sort of out of my hands, too, in that--I don't know how it is now--but in those days, you didn't get a chance, they just gave you people. And you just tried to get rid of them if you could. Good points: I was down to earth. I taught a lot. I haven't told y'all this. I taught every single year I was a principal. I believe in that. I didn't tell y'all this. I taught every single year I was a principal. There's never been a year of my life I haven't taught. I taught every year I was in the School Board Office. I taught every single year. Give you some examples. I believe that's the only way to stay in touch. When I was at Rich Acres, there was a teacher who was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and she had all these really slow kids. I said, "Look, give me a reading group every day." Every day I took a reading group. That was my job. I did this at the middle school. I did this everywhere. I did this when I was a principal at Fieldale Primary. I taught Mary Lou Skinner. She was in my gifted class. We didn't have gifted in those days--we didn't know to call it gifted. But bright kids, I taught them reading every day because I wanted to stay in touch. That was my job. I just left the office, and I went and taught during that period of time. When I was at elementary and high school--finally, they promoted me to be a high school supervisor, if that's a promotion--and when I was in the School Board Office, I taught at Irisburg Elementary one year. I taught science and health for the whole year. I had to go down every morning for the first two hours and teach. That's because we had a shortage of teachers, and I did that. I loved it! I got to know everybody in Irisburg. Best cooking in the County, by the way, if you ever get in Administration, if Ms. Tate's still down there, go down there and eat her rolls. So I knew where all the good food.... Bassett High School had good food, too, in those days. I taught at Campbell Court. I taught a class in reading bright children one year. I taught...I don't know. You just go on and on and on. I have never in a single year that I have ever worked not taught some at the same time. Just took time and did it.
Q: That's unique. Don't have the time myself.
A: Well, it was...listen. It was needed. I took the time. That's why I stayed 24 hours a day. Your school's too big. You don't have time to do it--you're right. Even at the middle school I taught. Wasn't easy, but that's the way.... And sometimes I took the worst kids. When people would complain, I said, "Give 'em to me!" The County wanted to try a new reading program one time. I said, "Hey, I'll go down. I'll pick a school. Let me pick an elementary school, and I'll just go teach a program for a year. And I'll tell you what I think of it. So I went down there, and I taught it for a year. And I liked it. And after I left, they didn't use it anymore.
Q: Well, as Johnny Cruthchen used to say, we've come to the last question.
A: Oh, good! Oh, good! Oh, I like words like "finally."
Q: Yeah, you might not even have an answer to it.
Q: The question is basically, I've tried to cover a lot of different aspects of what Tom and I felt were important, and we've asked a lot of questions about a lot of different areas. Is there anything that I haven't covered or is there anything that I haven't asked that you'd like to comment on in closing?
A: Yes. The fact that, and you already know this, but the fact that the biggest problem in schools today, in fact in the United States, is broken homes. The fact that you guys have to deal with an element that I never had to deal with. Very seldom were there not two parents in the home. Now you're almost surprised if there are. And it has changed society tremendously. And the schools have got to--all ills of society, the school has to solve them, which is another pet peeve really because you can't do it all, you know that. But somehow we've go to make up for lack of family in a school. And the bigger our school, the less family they are. And so what do we do? We just make our schools larger and larger and larger, and these children have no sense of belonging to anything--home, school, or anything--so they don't mind setting a bomb off or doing this because it's not theirs. I really do think the answer is going back to smaller community schools, and I know there is a lot to be said for the other. But I just believe, I think you'd find your problems cut in half if you could go back and become a family.
Q: Fair enough.
A: And when you give your money, donate all your millions, you can just do that. That's why these private schools landed on here. They're not large--check them out. They're not large. And they keep them small on purpose. Think about it.
Q: I've often. We just want to go on record as appreciating your time. We've enjoyed it.
A: I've enjoyed it.
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