HUNT COLUMN: Real life 101

Published 9:00 am Saturday, May 15, 2021

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By Cathy Hunt
Troup County Board Chairwoman

So far in these columns, I’ve given thanks for my teachers, my colleagues, my children’s teachers, and those currently in the classroom. Today, I’m going to finish this essay by throwing a twist into traditional teacher appreciation. I want to share why this teacher appreciates the students who came through my classroom door.

I’ll admit that I was the proverbial “sheltered” child. I was reared in a two-parent, two child home in suburban Atlanta. My parents read to me, paid for piano and swimming lessons, and supported my involvement in extracurricular activities. Most of my classes were populated with students just like me. When I turned 16, I elected to work a summer job to earn spending money but was not expected to continue working during the school year.  The importance of education was always stressed, and I grew up knowing I would go to college, which my parents paid for when the time came.

Going to work in a demographically diverse, semi-rural school opened my eyes very quickly to social strata I had never witnessed before. I was quite naive about many of the realities of life, but the naivete was chipped away as I formed relationships with my students.

There were some seminal moments early in my career. I offered to buy a ticket to a play at LaGrange College for a football player who was also interested in the arts. He didn’t have a car so I provided transportation. (That couldn’t happen today — too much ground for accusations of inappropriate behavior.) He gave me the address of his grandmother’s house and told me he would be watching for me. I arrived, waited, tooted the horn, and finally went to the door. He opened it and rushed me out, but not before I saw his grandmother and little sister sitting in the dark with only a lantern. The power had been cut off.

There were students who wore the same dirty, smelly clothes to school day after day.  All I knew to do was tell the counselor.

I share all this to emphasize that teachers see it all, and a lot of it is not pretty. But we sure do get lessons in real life, and I appreciate the way interacting with so many young people broadened my horizons and my empathy. There is sadness to be sure, but there is so much joy in watching students mature and blossom. Their successes affect my own happiness.

Thousands of students sat before me over the years, and though I certainly can’t remember all of them, there are way too many I do remember and appreciate to mention by name here, just as I couldn’t attempt to list all the colleagues who made a difference in my life.  Those young people (some of whom are middle-aged now!) enriched and touched my life in countless ways. Thanks, guys.