Friday, March 21, 2014

Mr. Haddaway

Everyone has "that one teacher" who taught them how to learn, made it fun, and, more likely than not, changed their life for the better.  I have been fortunate enough to have a few, but high on that list is Caroll Haddaway.

Mr. Haddaway taught eighth grade History at Clarksville Middle School.  Through decades of teaching, he never called in sick.  You would know when he was sick (entire room would smell like Halls cough drops), but he was so dedicated to his students that he put his mission before himself.

Mr. Haddaway read both the morning and evening Sun.  I was taking his class the day it was announced the Evening Sun would end its run in 1995.  Mr. Haddaway began every class by telling us about current events, showing us news articles he had clipped out of the paper.  For a particularly important or wild story, he would hold the floppy piece of newspaper in his hand and walk briskly from one side of the classroom to the other saying "Can you believe this?  Mr. Coale, do you believe what I just told you?"  (He referred to everyone formally.)  Despite being well into the computer age, all of his tests and quizzes were hand-written and copied with small but legible scrawl filling all four corners of the page.

Mr. Haddaway had a bulletin board filled with stories from the National Enquirer.  I didn't know it then, but looking back it is apparent that this board was intended to drive our imagination.  Bigfoot.  Loch Ness.  Aliens.  Don't close your brains.

I was also in his class as dozens of past students would visit throughout the school year.  One student even brought in a Super Bowl ring ("Can you believe this, Mr. Coale?  A Super Bowl ring?").  I remember seeing how happy he was holding that ring on his finger and thinking to myself that I would love the chance to make Mr. Haddaway that proud of me.

Mr. Haddaway died on April 27, 2006 at age 68.  I am sure I visited him a few times after graduating from middle school, but never with much of substance to report.  ("Going to college, Mr. Coale?  Good good.")  I think about him often.

I wonder if Mr. Haddaway's method of rote learning would survive the deluge of education policy implemented over the past decade that is changing the way our teacher's teach.  He would have (reluctantly) retired before anyone had him do things differently, but I often think about the amazing experience I had in his classroom and whether that is still available; whether a teacher can still grab the subject material, pin it down the way they see fit, and communicate it to the students using the methods they've developed from trial and error.

Important news came out yesterday that only 59% of Howard County teachers feel the morale is good at their school and only 41% feel they have enough time to plan, prepare for, and do their job.  These numbers are both down (68% and 55% respectively) from last year.  If you were sick, and someone told you that 40% of the physicians at the hospital you were going to had poor morale and 60% said they didn't have enough time to do their job, you would probably redirect the ambulance.

We have been so focused on curriculum, and rightly so, that we have lost track of the professionals in the middle.  This is a serious issue and one that I expect our Board of Education candidates to put at the top of their priority list - Improve morale.  Improve our schools. 

Mr. Haddaway taught at Clarksville Middle School for 40 years.  We need more 40 year educators.  If we keep accepting low morale and high turnover, our children will be the ones missing out.

Have a great Friday doing what you love.  It's impossible not to.