I tried to retire from teaching. I really did.
I filed all the paper work and filled out my severance papers and even started getting retirement checks. They aren't very big checks, but they come like clockwork on the first of each month. I even got a raise in July, which is something I hadn't had in about nine years.
But money wasn't what made me return to school for my 39th year in the classroom. Someone once said to me, "I wouldn't do your job for a million dollars." I replied, "Neither would I."
The bottom line is, I just enjoy teaching and I enjoy being around young people -- and the best of the best walk into my room every day. Well, every other day now since I am only teaching half-time. Who wouldn't want to spend their days talking about the history of the greatest nation on earth to some of the greatest young people on earth?
Besides, in the words of the great American immigrant, Michael Besheri, it ain't over until I say it's over. I didn't want cancer to be able to send me home and tell me when my career was done. I am much better now, health-wise -- due to thousands and thousands of answered prayers -- and I am very grateful to my principal, Greg Fowler, and the other Rockdale Public School administrators who have made it possible for me to extend my career.
It is funny what I hear people say about my classroom, people who have never actually set foot in my classroom, of course. Many people assume that because I express my opinions so freely in print on a regular basis that my AP US history class must be operated like a right-wing think tank. They assume that I spend the entire year trying to brainwash my students, teaching them to parrot my opinions and beliefs.
Actually, the opposite is true. I admonish my students every day to think for themselves and to base their opinions about all issues on solid historical facts that they have researched themselves. I constantly urge them to read -- their textbooks and outside information -- and warn them that if all they know is what I tell them in class, they are giving me far too much authority over their minds. I encourage them to travel as much as they can and to see the places we are studying.
It works out. My students do well on the standardized tests that seem to be the Holy Grail of educational measurement here in the 21st century. They also do well in the real world, beyond academia.
Of course for every person who blindly criticizes my classroom techniques there are many, many people who express an opposite sentiment. I run into people every day, regular readers of this column, who say, "I sure do wish I could sit in on your class one day," or "I wish I could have had you as a teacher," or--well, you get the picture.
Truth be known, I think these well-meaning folks actually would like to drop in from time to time, but I don't think they would want to labor over the essays and projects I assign on a regular basis or sit for one of the infamous "Huckaby history tests." They are not for the faint of heart.
I have also had scores of people say to me, "I didn't like history in high school. I thought it was dull and boring. Now I wish I could go back and retake it."
Well guess what, y'all? Everybody who has ever wished that is in luck. You, too, can sit in on several sessions of History with Huck. On the second Thursday of each month, beginning tomorrow and continuing indefinitely, I will be teaming up with Debbie Golden and the good folks at Conyers First United Methodist Church and will make a 60 minute presentation on some phase of our nation's history. I will share stories, dispel a few myths and emphasize the role that God has played in the founding and development of our nation.
You know God. He's mentioned on our money and "In God we trust" is the motto of the United States of America. Despite what modern revisionist historians might have you believe, ours is a Christian nation was founded on a firm belief in the Almighty. Beginning with the first group of gold-seekers who sailed up the newly named James River to establish the first permanent English colony, God has played a major role in the progression of the American story.
Last winter I never dreamed that I would be well enough to return for another school year, and I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to expand my teaching to include adults, particularly in a setting where we can so freely discuss all aspects of history without censure. But here we are.
We will meet in the fellowship hall at CFUMC and a light lunch will be served beginning at 11:45, for $5. Feel free to bring your own for free or just come for the lesson. We'll begin at noon and be done at 1 and the topic will be Colonization and you'll be exposed to tidbits about the founding of all thirteen original colonies. If you can't make it, we will post it on the Internet the next day.
I'd love to tell the story of our nation to as many folks as I can, so please -- y'all come.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author.