I recently received a letter from a man who was retiring after 33 years in the field of education. His name is Garrett D. Bowling and he is retiring from the Trimble County School System in Bedford, Ky. He taught math, physics and Russian for a combined total of 22 years. He also served as a high school principal for six years and assistant to the superintendent for five.
The reason he wrote to me is because having read my column each week in The Trimble Banner, he knew I am strong supporter of education and the important role it plays in our lives.
Along with his letter, he sent me a copy of an email that he mailed to the staff just before he retired. He said, “I am enclosing a copy of this email letter in hopes that in some small way others might know the joys of having been part of our children and their future.”
There were the usual “thank you’s,” but some advice he received early in his career by a fellow educator by the name of Dorothy Cropper made all the difference in the world for him. This advice could be a tremendous help to many young educators just starting out, along with others in society who may be discouraged and thinking about packing it in.
In order to give you a good understanding of what Bowling was saying, I am going to share a portion of his email to the staff. Just think about what he is saying and the fact that he cared enough to share his thoughts. In a like manner, if it will help someone, I am delighted to pass it along.
He begins, “A special thanks to the greatest bunch of partners any employee ever had the good fortune to have worked with, and I do mean partners: This has been a great ride. We have had our eye on the kids of Trimble County. No matter whether we agreed or disagreed, we have all had as our goal the well-being of the students of Trimble County.
“I hope I have touched a few lives in some positive way. I sure know the kids of Trimble County have touched me greatly. There is no better feeling than to see the many great successes of the great kids, and to have had the privilege of having a small part in their lives. Thanks to the many friends and colleagues I have had the great fortune to work with over these past years. You have meant so much to my family and me.”
(Now get ready because here is the advice I mentioned earlier.)
He continued, “Let me share with you younger folks a piece of wisdom that was imparted by a great lady and friend, Dorothy Cropper. At a time very early in my career, I was feeling sorry for myself, I guess, and was about to get out of education where I could at least make some money if not be appreciated, as I felt was happening. I said to her one day, ‘No one cares about education. No one appreciates what I am doing, not the kids, not the parents and especially not the administration. I might as well pack it in.’
“She said, ‘Let me give you a piece of advice. Give it 10 years. Those people who you think do not care, really do. Those [yahoos who] you think are not going to do anything or amount to anything will be out there making a living, paying taxes, paying part of your salary. They will be productive members of the community and many will appreciate you and what you’ve done. Some will even tell you so. That’s what it is all about. You will have had a part in that, and believe me it will feel good.’
“Boy, was she right. It feels great! Forget those goals I had earlier in life of building bridges and skyscrapers. I have, I feel, a lot more than those who have been constructing things. I have had at least a small part of constructing productive members of society. Thanks, more than I can say, to the folks of Trimble County and the wonderful co-workers I have had the pleasure of serving with and for over a great 33-plus year career. God Bless you all!”
The email was signed “Garrert D. (Dean) Bowling.”
The principle Bowling has talked about will hold true for any career or field of endeavor where there is great potential for personal rewards. “Give it 10 years and then make a decision ...” is pretty sound advice, especially during those times when we feel discouraged and unappreciated. Believe me, I went through those days earlier in life and could have given up or quit a thousand times.
In a day when there are tremendous challenges in the field of education, young teachers especially need to read and think about what Dorothy Cropper was saying.
To the teachers of America, I salute you. You have in your hands the future of our nation and along with caring parents, you can meet the challenges that lie before us.
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. He may be contacted at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway AR 72034.)