A week ago today I sat along with friends and family of Steve Johnson to say goodbye to a great friend. Following the funeral, I was talking to my son, Patrick and daughter, Tamiya about the “good ole days” at Ratcliffe Elementary School and I realized how fortunate I was to have such caring and compassionate people in the lives of my children who truly cared about them far beyond the job of education. Steve Johnson was the head custodian at the school for many years, but the students and staff saw him as so much more. My daughter told me how when she was a safety patrol in the 4th grade and had to get to school a lot earlier than other students, Steve would let her in the back door and then offer her a cup of coffee before she started her duties. Now offering a cup of coffee to my 4th grader may not have been the best judgement, but it let me know that he wanted to show her that he cared in the way he knew how. The children knew that it was Mr. Johnson’s job to take care of the school and keep it clean, but they also knew that Mr. Johnson was teaching them a valuable lesson on taking pride in whatever job you had and making others aware of being responsible for the building that we all called home for those hours of the school day. My son, Patrick and I further reflected on not only the influence of Mr. Johnson, but of all of the teachers and other staff members who collectively worked to nurture the whole child. Patrick talked about how the triple threat of Roberson, Grooms, and Brown would keep most kids on the straight and narrow. These teachers would send students from one classroom to the other if they messed up. They would have to perform “community service” instead of going straight to the office. The older kids would be sent to a younger classroom until they were ready to act like a 5th grader. They would be tasked with reading to the younger students or helping out in the classroom with projects. The younger students were sent to the older class to be mentored by an older student. As a parent, I was privileged with observing the interactions of these teachers with the students and then as a co-worker seeing a new perspective of the genuine compassion the teachers had for the children. It was such a family atmosphere and we were truly a village. No child would feel as if they were not important to someone in that school from the Principal to the Custodian there was always some adult showing love to some child at any moment. I applaud the educators that I had the privilege to work with and am so happy they were a part of my children’s lives. RIP Steve Johnson and enjoy that cup of coffee.
January 23, 2015