Lessons learned from early school days

My mom and dad were school teachers for the Switzerland of Ohio School District in Monroe County. When dad interviewed for the position, he took mom with him. dad was 62 and mom was 41. So, mom made dad seem younger.

Dad won the position and the superintendent was so impressed with mom that he offered her a position even though she hadn’t completed her college degree. Mom was placed at the Washington Elementary School near Alledonia in southeastern Belmont County where she taught first and second grade. The school was a pretty little building on the banks of Captina Creek. However, in the winter it could be a slippery drive back and forth.

After a couple of years, the principal allowed a group of boys to go swimming in Captina Creek during school time and was demoted when parents complained. Mom was offered the position and served as principal for several years.

Eventually, a remedial reading position at Beallsville Elementary opened up. Since Beallsville was much closer to home than Alledonia, mom accepted it. This put mom in a building behind the high school where my brothers and I attended. We quickly realized the convenience of mom being so close.

Beallsville Elementary School principal, Mr. Able, had a heart attack and mom was asked to be interim principal for the six months it would take for Mr. Able to recuperate. Once again she accepted the challenge. When the high school principal, Mr. Haught, was absent, mom had to assume that role also.

One day in study hall, I was laughing or talking a little too much and finally wore out the goodwill of the librarian. For punishment, she sent me to the principal’s office. I was shocked because I had never been sent there before. Sheepishly, I walked into the office and asked the secretary if Mr. Haught was there. She replied, “No, your mother is taking his place today.” A smile grew across my face and I stepped to the door and poked my head around the corner. She waved me in and asked what I was doing in the office. I replied, “Just wanted to see how you were doing.” She seemed slightly puzzled but had a mountain of paper on her desk. I sought my leave and returned to study hall. I don’t know if the librarian ever talked about the incident to mom but mom and I didn’t talk about it for years.

I have always been proud of my mom. She was not a drivingly ambitious woman but she is very smart and has a pleasant, yet professional demeanor. When organizational needs occurred, she was the first choice of the school leaders to address them. She filled the shoes well and willingly stepped back to her previous role when the crisis subsided.

At times when thinking about this situation I have had pangs of regret for disturbing study hall and not being upfront with mom. There are two lessons here: first, pleasant, professional, competent behavior will put you in the forefront when opportunities arise. Second, accept your responsibility for your actions and you will have fewer regrets.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s new book, “And my Brother Jack: Everyday Leadership Lessons,” visit his website raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears on the Business page.


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