Saturday, July 15, 2017

Reflections on the National Principals Conference

For the past two years, my sister and I have attended the National Principals Conference together. This year’s conference was in Philadelphia and I had the privilege of presenting a session on Family and Community Engagement along with my principal and our reading specialist. As I reflect on this experience I can’t help but think about my paternal grandmother- Hazel Turner. She was a master at getting families and the community involved in her classroom. You see she didn’t really have choice. She attended Bowie Normal School (now Bowie State University) in 1930 and received her certification to teach grades 1-7. Her first teaching job was on the Eastern Shore of MD in a one room school house. Back then schools and churches were the heart of the African American community. She walked about 2 miles to get to work making sure she arrived early to start a fire in the coal burning pot-bellied stove. She earned $65 monthly until the depression and then her salary was reduced to $56 a month. The state gave the school food staples such as flour, butter, rice, raisins, fatback, etc. and since she knew how to cook she would make rolls, raisin bread (that I remember eating as a kid) Spanish rice, vegetable soup and other items for students who needed food to eat for lunch. Parents and neighbors would offer to bake the bread and bring vegetables to the school for her to cook on the pot-bellied stove. She knew all her students’ families and they all knew her. This was family and community engagement at its finest! Now Grandma knew my sister always wanted to be an educator but she passed away before I decided to become one too. She attended my college graduation and watched me get a degree in political science with the intention of going to law school. But, love and my hatred for a constitutional law class changed those plans. I married a military officer, moved around a bit- worked in the federal government, state government and private industry. Ten years after graduating from undergrad I decided to become a teacher. I hate that I was never able to swap teacher stories with my grandma but I can share her story. And just look at Hazel’s granddaughters now, I’m an assistant principal and my sister is an associate superintendent- I do believe Grandma would be proud!

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