Austin is doing a wonderful job teaching his third grade class. His students are always actively engaged in hands on learning. This teacher is what we call a “natural.” His room is attractively decorated and well organized, looking better at the end of the day than many classrooms look at the beginning. Parents are already clamoring to have their children moved to his class. Austin is a handsome young man with prematurely gray hair and an infectious laugh. His work ethic and classroom are equally attractive. What I like best about his room is the lime green, sheer curtains that block the glare of the sun. Many of the teachers have themed curtains gathered on tension rods to keep out the bright sunshine. Austin’s curtains create a magical hue to the room as the sunbeams are softened and colored by the semi-transparent fabric. He makes it all look so easy.
He’s also doing a wonderful job as ranking teacher. The principal had to attend a State Department of Education Leaders Summit in Baton Rouge today. Austin was left in charge with the Administrative Assistant. There were four teachers absent including one who reported to school and had to leave for a personal emergency. When I arrived at the school today at about 1:30 p.m., Austin was teaching a small group of students while the rest of his class worked on an assignment. Next to his group was a wheezing asthmatic child from the class next door where the substitute teacher worked with her full load of students. The little girl was crying and struggling to catch her breath while waiting for her mother to arrive. Austin said the school had called the home twice.
Austin is the chairperson of the school wide positive discipline plan committee and we met after school for 30 minutes to talk about the plan and the upcoming presentation for the faculty. The plan is well organized and focused on teaching students how to make good choices. He is ready to share the draft with the committee members for their feedback. I’d like to see a stronger focus on rewards, but I think he’ll get that from the faculty. They are not a punitive group. We made a list of things we’ll need before the workshop next week.
He is also the chairperson of the Hurricane Educator Assistance Program grant writing committee. The grant must be finished this week and in Baton Rouge by Friday. This time he is going to review my work and give me feedback, as I take the lead in writing this plan. I’m going to a conference at the end of the week, so he agreed to get the feedback to me within 24 hours (tomorrow). He’s also repairing his flood damaged house and trying to figure out how to go back to the University of New Orleans to complete his Master’s Degree in the Urban Leaders Academy. He started the program in the summer of 2005 before Katrina swept him, his wife and family members to Jackson, Mississippi.
In spite of what had to be a very hard day, he sat patiently and attentively and discussed the projects with me at length. He was still smiling, joking around, and superbly open to my critique of his work at 4:00 p.m. I’m so glad he is back.
The opinions expressed in Starting Over: A Post-Katrina Education are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.