Montgomery County...Past and Present.....
Well, another school year has begun, and the children are back in the classroom. As the school year approached, I began asking kids who came to the library if they were looking forward to the start of school. It seems that most of the kids who read on a regular basis were eager for school to start, while the kids who normally check out movies . . . weren't so thrilled. Draw your own conclusions from that.
In my opinion, some of the teachers are not quite so eager as they have been in the past, as they are now "graded" by the state with a new set of standards and rubrics which tie evaluations to student performance. I think it would be fair to turn it around and let the teachers grade the state bureaucrats who think up these new ideas and tests.
I attended Darlington School, graduating in 1966. There were many outstanding grade school teachers such as Lucille Cox, Tessie Stwalley, Naomi Peterson , and Audrey Cox, just to name a few. These ladies had a mothering instinct with their students. They were stern and demanding when the occasion warranted it, but they also had compassion, love and a sense of humor, too. They were our parents away from home. They disciplined us when we misbehaved, and they hugged us when we needed hugging. They helped us gain the skills and knowledge, but they also told us stories and let us use our imagination. They chastised us when we were tardy or didn't have our assignment done, but they also praised us when we exceled and showed initiative. They buttoned our coats, tied our shoes, took our temperatures, pulled our baby teeth, wiped our runny noses, and kissed away our hurts. They kidded with us, listened to our stories, and made us feel important. They loved us, and we loved them.
My sixth grade teacher was Raymon Brown....After a hectic year in fifth grade in which a substitute teacher had no control, I entered sixth grade thinking it would be another "fun year." Boy, was I wrong! Mr. Brown ran his classroom like a general. The paddle hanging on the wall behind his desk was an ever-present reminder of the dire consequences of misbehavior. I learned a lot that year. My math skills increased tremendously. If an assignment was due on a certain day, it WAS done. If spelling words were expected to be known, they WERE practiced and memorized. Well, you get the picture. I did NOT want to face Mr. Brown staring at me with THAT LOOK in his eyes...and the most important thing that I learned that year in sixth grade in 1960 was to sit still and keep my mouth shut . . . and LISTEN . . . and don't speak unless you are spoken to.
That has served me well all through life. Wouldn't it be great if some of today's unruly students had Mr. Brown for a teacher? And perhaps some of these children's parents should have had Mr. Brown as their teacher, too!
Yes, Raymon Brown was stern and demanding, just as any good father should be. But he was also kind and helpful if we were sincere and acted as he expected us to act . . . and deep down he loved us like we were his children.
Can teachers like the ones I had at Darlington teach in today's world? Yes, there are many caring and dedicated teachers today who love kids and want to help them learn and excel. I have met these teachers, and they are good and dedicated public servants. But I am afraid they are being burdened by too many educational directives, bureaucratic demands, and state-level administrators who have lost touch with the reality of classroom teaching. Many teachers are overwhelmed by the test-preparing, curricular-driven, results-oriented educational guidelines coming down from those above. Teachers today are being pushed and pulled in so many directions that they are becoming discouraged. Younger teachers must go along with the latest educational fads because they need the job. The older teachers are struggling to maintain their love of the classroom and their dedication to teaching . . . They are told to go along with these fads and new testing procedures . . . or retire. I have always thought it was a great idea to also have all administrators teach at least one class, as was done many years ago, to bring them back to reality. This in turn, would likely lead to new attitudes concerning bringing back some of the "old" discipline measures used in the past.
Could the teachers that I was blessed with back in the 1950s and 1960s teach today? Probably not . . . and that is a shame. To all of you teaching in today's world, God bless you. You are shaping the future of our little ones, and we are grateful for the work you do every day!

John "Butch" Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 30 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.