What Dad Taught Me

by Steve Booth
Pewaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Both of my parents were teachers at a nice school. Mom taught fourth grade there for 28 years. Dad was a well-educated, “strong, silent type” who taught sixth grade. He had a Master’s degree in two areas and was a principal of a school for awhile, but decided he’d rather teach kids than put up with the hassle of being a principal, even if the money wasn’t as good.

When I was four we moved to a new house in a “good” part of town. The grade school was a half a block away, but the middle school we kids would have to go to wasn’t nice. In fact it was a bad place to be: smoking, fights and knives were common. One of the fights that I got into happened because I said, “You can’t beat me up.” I was right, but I had to prove it. It was a tough place to be and 30 years later I still rely on some of the lessons I learned.

But because of where we lived, we had to go there. It would have been unheard of for us to attend a private school since my parents were teachers. Before my older brother started attending, my dad decided to transfer there and be a remedial reading teacher. Dad applied and was accepted with the unspoken understanding that when he did this, it was for the rest of his career.

What Dad Taught MeOnce I was old enough to attend, I walked the mile to school with dad. Well, dad walked and I had to trot to keep up. I walked with him because I was too scared of being caught on the street alone and getting beaten up. Occasionally, I’d talk to him about problems that I was experiencing with other kids. His answers were blunt and tough: he was a disciplinarian and his word was the way it was going to be.

He never spoke of why he transferred. I only remember that at the time, it seemed like kind of a weird thing to do. We didn’t think a whole lot about it but he spent close to twenty years at that school. But we never realized that he did this for us. He transferred from a great job to a
bad school so us kids would have someplace to go in case of trouble. It was only years later that my mom mentioned it as an aside of a conversation we were having, and I was stunned. I began to think of the sacrifice that he willingly made for us. I felt small and petty. I began to see dad with different and more understanding eyes.

I’ve now got two kids and, more than ever, I’m beginning to understand what he had to deal with. It is my hope that I can someday live up to the example that dad set.

Originally published as HeroicStories #47 on Aug 19, 1999
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 1.

3 thoughts on “What Dad Taught Me”

  1. I would have loved to know the kind of difference your dad made even though his initial motivation was to do this for you. My fantasy is that he did make a difference

    • He did make a difference. It’s not a fantasy. It was hard for him. My mom would cut our hair. I remember Dad bringing home a student a couple of times because they didn’t have money for a haircut and they were dirty.

  2. I would agree with Ira, I’ll bet your dad did make a difference in the lives and outlooks of the many students he taught and with whom he came in contact.


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