My week in Lubbock….

On Fridays here at the Daily Dawg I am recounting my experiences from 25 years ago when I took a semester off from the law firm and worked as a volunteer, unpaid teacher aide in several districts. One of the highlights of that experience was my week at Lubbock High School.

This is a school with a sense of itself as a special place. Which it is. How many Texas school buildings are listed in the National Register of Historic Places? There are grooves in the marble staircases from the trudging feet of thousands of students going back decades. The architecture is distinctive and beautiful. And of course, Buddy Holly.

At Lubbock High I attended a film class, and the teacher told me that LHS was the first school in the state to hire a fulltime teacher of film. She told me that she thought the class should be required of all high school students so that they could apply critical thinking analysis to the information that would be presented to them by film and TV. Amen to that! I saw the teacher make the students aware of how shades of light and dark, along with camera angles were used intentionally to subtly convey the filmmaker’s perspective.

The history class I sat in was taught by Ms. Murray, who skillfully used photographs from the time when the railroads were being built across the country to get the students thinking. She had them notice how people were dressed. Who were the rich people? Who were the workers? How can you tell? The kids were engaged as was I.

I enjoyed talking to Mr. Cates, the principal. By this time in my career I had spent a lot of time in principals’ offices and I enjoyed noticing the differences between an elementary principal’s office and the high school office. The elementary principals’ offices often featured bright colors, flowers, and teddy bears. At the high school it was trophies and game balls. Mr. Cates broke the mold. Instead of being a former coach he had come through the ranks as a fine arts teacher. He explained to me that the LISD board created the Lubbock Exemplary Academic Program (LEAP) in 1979 to create a magnet for bright students throughout the district. It worked. Mr. Cates was proud of the many academic competitions in which LHS students excelled but acknowledged the tradeoff: “We’re not very good in athletics.”

It was a diverse group of students at Lubbock High School, and a noticeably high achieving bunch. I came away from my week in Lubbock encouraged about Texas public schools. Lubbock High School was, and remains, a very good one.

Next Friday: the next stop on the road.


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