Reflecting on the memories of one’s life over a span of years can be a challenging undertaking—not only because of the items and events you choose to remember –but also for those you do not include. In my case, I enjoyed a delightful childhood growing up on a ranch. I experienced most of the events and experiences one might see in a cowboy movie.
Life was rich in the multitude of activities available—which included horseback riding, roping and tying calves, horse racing, taking part in branding animals, nighttime hunting with dogs, and fishing. Life also included assigned tasks to support the ranch operations such as working in the hay fields, mending fences, and feeding and doctoring the livestock.
The schoolhouse was four miles away which meant riding a school bus to and from school. Looking back, I realize this particular experience was not a meaningless activity—it offered an opportunity to make lasting friendships and learn details of the family life of my fellow passengers.
One of the real rewards of my country life was my exposure to another culture. Playing with a number of Mexican children day in and day out, I learned their language and came to respect their way of life. This learning experience proved to be rewarding to me. When I entered the military, I met and served with a number of Latin Americans and formed a number of lasting friendships.
When school came along, it did not rank very high when compared with my other activities. I enjoyed the public school life although I did not really apply myself and, therefore, was not a good student although I did finish college with a B.S. degree. However, while in the military, I realized the importance of an education. In the Army, I was assigned to the Glider Troops which was then a new feature of the military activities. This also influenced my education about life’s purposes. I draw a disability pension to this day as a result of military activity regarding glider training.
Before the service, I had spent a year as the teacher in a one room schoolhouse teaching students in grades one through ten. Once discharged from the Army, I returned to my hometown and assumed an administrative position in their public school system. I became the superintendent of a school with a 20,000 student body, and I was always in search of a better approach to teaching low achieving students.
Students are often dismayed by an occasional defeat. I found that failure can be turned into a great teacher. Much success can be realized if students can be convinced that failure comes early and often while success takes time. Successful students develop a mindset that looks at failure as a source of information. Each failure informs them of what does not work and how they need to change their approach to get the results they are searching for.
I learned that the best teachers often are the ones who made mistakes when they were students and are now teaching those same materials. They need to convince students that the man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there.
At age ninety-four, I am often asked why I am still actively engaged in the field of education. I serve as superintendent of a charter school system with ten campuses throughout Texas. I am in good health and still have ample energy and a strong desire to help young people as they grow toward adulthood.
I do not respond in truth to those inquiries about “why” of my continuing in my profession. The real reason is guilt. I am trying to “pay back” for all the years I served as a teacher, principal, and superintendent and did not recognize a “student’s cry for help.”
I was a strong disciplinarian and made few exceptions to a strict interpretation of the school policies and requirements. Now, I realize that often behavior or non-compliance to rules and regulations might have been a student’s way of asking for help.
I recall talking with a student who had shown disrespect to a teacher followed by the destruction of school property. My statement to him was, “What would your dad think if he knew about your conduct in this situation?” His response should have given me a clue to his problem when he answered, “Mr. Hall, I wish I thought he would care!”
I am guilty of paying little attention to “cries” for help or recognition from students. So many times I received a “signal” for help and I did not respond.
So now, I take each situation with a great deal of consideration and interest. Today, I am searching for the students I can help.