THE FIRST DAY
The first few days of work in Kutztown Area Junior High in 1973 were taken up with getting a schedule together, trying to figure out how to operate a pretty heterogenous set of classes ( and failing) and getting to know the teachers. They were an amazing crew- mostly Pennsylvania Dutch, with a Moyer, a Boyer, a Lenhart, a Rohrbach, a Leibensperger and so on. However there were a few mixed in for good measure- from New York City, Philly, and Western Pa. Overall, I began to see them as quite a group. They all had senses of humor and practiced on each other. They pulled some of the most elaborate practical jokes on each other and later on me ( they once took all the furniture from my office and hid it in the building.
I looked forward to my first student day with some trepidation. I was now in charge and all things wrong would accrue to me and be on the first page of the Kutztown Patriot and on the editorial page. In the prior two years, things had not gone well for the school. The problems were ones of discipline and a lack of consistency. I kept my copy of Haym Ginott’s book in my office for the first year.
The busses pulled up for the first day and the 600 strong piled out of them, some of them walked into the building. They all were given their homeroom assignments and things seemed to be going well. By 8:00 all was quiet and serene and no 7th graders were left in the dust. At 8:15 the bell rang for the first period class. I had all of the teachers stand in the halls and kept things going. I wandered the building keeping and eye on what was happening- giving support to the teachers and keeping things moving. I went back to office when the halls were cleared and kind of stood at the front of the building.
Our 7th grades science teacher marched his class out of the front of the building to go down to the stream near us to get water samples for some experiments. At about 8:45, a dripping 7th grader, Mark Grider ambled up the front steps to tell me that he had fallen ( really) into the stream and was sent back to school to get dried off. There was an old teacher’s bathroom at the end of the hallway. I marched Mark towards it and told him to go inside and take off his clothes and give them to me and I would put them in the dryer in the Home Ec. Room. He dutifully handed me the clothes and put them in the dryer.
At 3:15 I looked at the buses pulling away from the building and issued a long sigh of relief. I had survived the entire day without a hitch. Without a hitch . . . oh my, Mark Grider. I quickly went into the school to the old bathroom ( having taken the now dry clothes out of the dryer) and called to Mark to take his clothes, get dressed and come out. He had been in the bathroom all day. I quickly called his dad Josh ( who was later to become a friend) and told him what had happened. Josh asked me if it did his son any good and we really had a good laugh.
That is how one gets a reputation. Screw around with Hillman and he will lock you up for an entire day.