Since I share his views, I always look forward to his latest observations, many of which bring laughter, and some of which bring tears.
While he is occasionally guilty of using biting sarcasm, the message of the value of a public school education remains the same.
We look forward as our oldest great-granddaughter, Regan, begins kindergarten in August, occupying a space in a Cherokee County public school just as our older grandson, Johnny, leaves the system for college.
Our family this week will celebrate that special milestone of high school graduation with Johnny. He will be one of almost 500 graduates at Woodstock High School, but probably one of only a few who were in Woodstock Elementary and Middle School to complete all 13 years in Woodstock schools.
The MOTH and I have been privileged to share in every aspect. We’ve watched as he soaked up endless textbooks, labored over projects, and scored a few baskets along the way.
A couple of favorite memories pop up often. The first time he toddled over to me with a book and climbed up on my lap to be read to ranks No. 1, a moment that will be forever etched in my mind’s eye.
Not many years later, he made my day on the afternoon of the first day of school, probably third grade, when he jumped off the school bus, running at break-neck speed and calling out to me, “Nanny, Miss So-and-So is the best teacher I have ever had!”
It was a phrase often heard from him (with a different name each time) during those formative years, and he was probably right every time. They were all “the best.”
The move from Woodstock’s old, old school building to a new campus was smooth for Johnny. The same teachers and the same classmates were there, and the same prideful, encouraging atmosphere was evident from day one.
Then there was middle school where students shared a huge campus with the high school, and where the student body grew bigger every year.
Every time I visit the school now, I realize there is no comparison between today’s school experience and mine. Having gone to school in “the country” where each grade had only one class, where we had the same 20 or so classmates every year, where nothing changed year in and year out, I wonder about the advantages of both systems.
Until high school, we had only one teacher each year, no specialized classes. No math teachers, no science teachers, no grammar teachers.
Our teachers were, of necessity, walking encyclopedias. There were no middle schools. We went directly from seventh grade to high school, often in the same school building.
Students in Georgia graduated from the 11th grade, and there was no public kindergarten. Many of my classmates were together throughout their entire schooling experience. It makes for some very enjoyable reunions!
As for cheating, we pretty much knew who the cheaters were…and it was not the teachers. Grades mattered, as they still do.
But we must not lose sight of the real reason behind attendance at school, that reason being to learn. There is no learning in cheating.
It is human nature to take pride in high scores and the titles and awards that go with them. I’m reminded every graduation season of my own graduation from high school on May 22, 1951.
Our principal and Board of Education chose not to name a valedictorian and salutatorian. Instead, names of the top 10 students (from a total of 117) were called in alphabetical order at graduation ceremonies. It was honor enough.
The few minutes spent on that exercise paled in comparison with the education we had received. A fair amount of book learning, for sure, but also those priceless guidelines to help us appreciate the world around us, to inspire us to be lifetime learners, to prepare us for college or for the job market, and to give us the fundamentals we needed to succeed in endeavors we were yet to identify.
I wish the same for Johnny as he graduates and then turns 18 in a few days.
He will be leaving us in a couple of months to attend Clemson University.
For Regan, it’s just beginning. She’s already one up on the rest of the world. She’s a Cherokee County, Georgia, public school student!
Juanita Hughes is Woodstock’s official historian and former director of the Woodstock Public Library.