Feelings from a Moment at Horton Elementary

by on August 5, 2011 · 12 comments

in Education, From the Soul

Oh, did I ever fall in love with this morning. It was so nice and sunny, so soothing to my soul and bones. And I was still all a swoon when this lovely beginning of the day segued into the afternoon.

At some point on such a day I knew I would want to write, something, anything, because writing to me, is a form of play and this was a day in which to play. I, however, had no particular topics to approach in mind so I went to a website of writing prompts and blindly chose one that asked me to go through a dusty photo album which was no problem because my soul mate, a photographer del mundo, bequeathed me enough dusty albums to ignite a Haboob like the ones that smothered Phoenix. I was told to pick out photo #14 and look at it for 2-3 minutes and I sneezed mightily as I did so. “Then for 10 minutes, write all the feelings the photograph made you feel. Don’t censor yourself, just write.” So I did and here it is:

Oh, gee. First of all what a memory. How old was I? 35? Afro. Free. Black and proud, doing what I was meant to do, being who I wanted to be. First principal-ship. Horton Elementary. In love with the camerawoman.

On a journey. A year away from a new life as I would be with that woman in another year and we would have the most beautiful of children and the most wonderful life.

I was learning about learning. How we, the grownups, should be co-learners in the process. It’s all about love I believed and still believe. I could see the love I had for these children and the love they had for me; it’s in our faces, our smiles, our postures, our comfort levels, and also I could see that we were reflecting the real world as there were stresses in our lives; we were everyday people, struggling in our own ways, they subject to what their providers could give – me? I had a position from which if I did it honestly I could have much to give.

I remember the looks on some of these faces when they saw me dunk; when they saw me acting totally unlike a principal at the Talent Show; when they laughed at my ditties; I remember the high fives and the hugs, the moments of anger when one of us had let the other down…What a position in society, head of a school, around the energy of children, the spirit of hope personified, to be realized, to be, more importantly, sought, as how to create hope should be modeled, and modeled and modeled again – with some more modeling thrown in for good measure. How else do they learn better than when they’re treated as fellow human beings and are directed through basic human relations, through conversation, through interesting concepts of how to relate, how to appreciate, how to give, what avenues to pursue…

Ten minutes. Time up. Wow, what precious memories. What a day. Time for more play.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

annagrace August 5, 2011 at 8:24 am

Ernie- I wish those kids could see themselves in that photo too. I bet they would be surprised! And they too would remember.


Ernie McCray August 5, 2011 at 11:25 am

Nancy and I ran into a couple of them over the years, the girl leaning on me and the girl holding another girl. Sisters. They’re about 50 now. Wow!


Jon August 6, 2011 at 11:16 am

I always love reading your stories Ernie. This one really made me reflect on all the wonderful teachers I had that influenced me in such positive ways. I’m still in touch with many of them and I will always keep with me the lessons I learned from them. In fact I think I’ll take a few moments this afternoon to reach out and thank them for all they did for me. Thanks Ernie!


Ernie McCray August 6, 2011 at 2:33 pm

I’m fortunate, Jon, in that I have students of mine reaching out to me all the time. I’ve had a very rewarding life up to this moment and tomorrow is looking pretty good. But, hey, my life has been carried out among kids. It doesn’t get any better than that: a lot of fun with scattered moments of sheer screaming like on a roller coaster ride (smile).


Kim August 7, 2011 at 9:18 am

Hello Ernie,

I was a young student at San Diego State, studying Early Childhood Development, on that wonderful sunny day at Horton Elememtary School. Not knowing at the time, but my life would never be the same either. I was placed in the Horton pre-school as an intern. I was introduced to being a teacher, the love of teaching and how each person is able to impact others while being true to themselves.

I remember the smiles and warm welcome of the two teachers in the classroom that day. One of them would be the love of your life. As live would unfold, my friendship with Nancy developed professionally and away from the classroom.

I remember her telling me about her attraction to you, when she first knew there was something special about the tall,handsome, athletic, talented and amazing principal she worked with.

Ernie,thank you again for sharing your experiences. It brought to mind how my life had also changed and expanded from my friendship with Nancy. Her introduction to health foods,(raw ginger) recycling and the unconditional love of all creatures big and small.


Ernie McCray August 7, 2011 at 11:06 am

Nancy and Carolyn. Now those two were quite a pair and then add you and you’ve got yourself some kind of trio. I’m glad those intersections in our lives took place. I turned down the Horton assignment at first because I was totally okay with being the vice-principal at Sherman which introduced me to the wonderful houses in the barrio and Golden Hill. And that’s where Nancy and I made our lives together and raised our chirren. She took this “tall, handsome, athletic, talented and amazing principal she worked with” – I love the sound of all that (smile) – and made him the luckiest dude in the Milky Way. Wouldn’t change the script in any way.


Shirley August 8, 2011 at 3:01 pm

You’re a natural–it shows! Kids were and are lucky to have the time they spend with you.


Ernie McCray August 8, 2011 at 4:22 pm

I got the most out of the deal but the kids were a real real close second (smile).


Katia August 9, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Ernie —

I found my yearbooks from Muir Alternative (1976-77) last time I visited my mom’s place. We were all young! So nice to find you online!

Katia Hetter


Ernie McCray August 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Hi, Katia: So nice to be found.


Carolyn Morris August 13, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Oh, what precious memories! Those actually were the “good ole days” !


Ernie McCray August 13, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Yes, they were.


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