One thing that I have always wanted for my family is stability, perhaps a sense of normalcy. As a child my parents did a good job of providing that for me and my sister. We moved to Delaware when I was three and then back to Georgia the summer after third grade. In fact, discounting those first three years, I grew up in two churches - Red Lion UMC in Delaware and Riverdale FUMC here in Georgia - and two school systems. From 4th grade to graduation I knew where I'd be on Sunday and where and with whom I'd be going to school.
When my wife and I moved to Covington in the summer of 1995, to continue our teaching careers following two years in Indiana at Ball State University, I had no idea how long we would be here. The assistant band director's job at Salem HS brought us here, and if you had asked me then to outline my future I would have said that following a few years at Salem I would probably spend a few years at a high school as the head director and then I would move probably one more time to a position where I would teach the last 15 or so years of my career. Well, after one year at Salem the job at Eastside opened and this fall is the 14th that I have spent leading The Pride of Eastside Eagle Bands.
Back to [Sunday] morning and my reflective hour in the pew looking at the back of my little girl's head; two, three and four years ago we flirted with moving to Fannin County, Cartersville and Dahlonega, but something kept us here. That something has been hard to pin down, but today I got it; I had one of those eureka moments, a revelation if you will. That something is our church, our school system, the people, Covington and Newton County. Each time I came close to leaving and just couldn't do it, I saw leaving as a form of giving up on what we have here and I just flat out refuse to do that.
Just before I walked into the church this morning I listened as a friend, whose kids attend the two parent-involvement theme schools, as she spoke of the news of the past week. She had plenty to say and she stated taking her kids from their home school and placing them at the theme schools was not about any of the teachers at the neighborhood school, it was all about the dosage of discipline that was promised to be imposed on kids at the theme school. (While she was talking, I thought to myself: Do we not stress discipline at all the schools? I know I pride myself on my students knowing the difference between what's right and what's wrong.) Then she said it - the thing I wrote my boss about last fall - parent involvement should be the theme of the school system, not just two schools. Again ... eureka!
The Sunday school lesson for the day revolved around loving God and loving your neighbors. My year at Eastside has started off better than ever because I have recognized the need to love my neighbors and to do good everyday and to care about people. It is not at all that I did not care enough in the past; it is that I think I finally get it. Our diversity should make us stronger; our ideas and our experiences should better prepare the children of Newton County (and the adults) for tomorrow.
I did not know when I drove out to Eastside to meet and speak with Mr. Elmore that first time in May of 1996 that it would happen, but Covington has provided exactly what I needed and I will not give up on Covington and Newton County. Seeing Katie Beth this morning, 10 years after her baptism, standing as a young lady at the front of the church drove home the point about how special it has been for her to have known one church and one school system and one band room. There is something amazing about that!
Alan Fowler is the long-time director of the Eastside High School band.