Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tales from another era of education

The death of Leroy  "Pop"  Miller provided a reminder of the difference great educators make, along with a glimpse of a very different era in education.

Leroy "Pop" Miller
Miller,  who made his mark at East Mecklenburg, West Charlotte and Carmel Junior High,  was long retired when I arrived in North Carolina.  His East Meck students are my contemporaries,  and the tributes they've posted evoke a time when the only controversy over paddling was who deserved it and who didn't.

"The man earned my respect, especially after a few cracks from the leather strap he carried!"  wrote Toby Brundage.

This account posted by Katherine Magnotta was especially vivid:

When Pop Miller arrived at East Meck, he came into an integrated school full of turmoil and strife. The riots were fierce. Pop came in with vision and determination in his eyes and the fully armored riot squads behind him. He took control over the school and the students.

He did not see color, he saw students that needed love, discipline and education. He brought all three. If a student got in trouble, one of the punishments was for men, to wear a shirt and tie and for a girl to wear a dress. This seemed cruel in the hippy era where conservative dress was out of place, but it did something to us that defied logic. It made us walk different, hold our head up and act like a lady or a gentleman.

He was so wise in our dealings. I remember one day four of us were caught smoking weed in the parking lot (yes we did). We were taken to Pop Miller's office, where we were lined up against the wall while he just stared at us for quite a while, no words. It seemed like eternity and all the while Pop's lips were doing the in and out pursing motion. I wanted to burst out laughing but I knew it would be the end of us all. Then all of a sudden Bubba opened his mouth and said something sarcastic to Pop and before we knew it, Pop had grabbed Bubba's jacket and whipped him with it! Back in those days, students could be spanked and disciplined. It was not a bad thing. Pop did not hurt him, but it sobered us up enough to realize Pop meant business. We all had to dress up for a week and sweep the smoking patio everyday (yes, we had a smoking patio in high school). Pop made a point to tell how wonderful we looked and to comment on what a good job we did on the patio. His punishment was always to make us better people and not to degrade us.

Leadership like what Pop Miller brought to the table is not about race, color, economic status, politics or education. Leadership like Pop came from a heart filled with a deep level of wisdom, love and respect for the fellow man/woman. Pop has left us East Eagles with wonderful memories and respect for a job well done.

The online guest book brought other memories. Juanita Craig wrote about being a  "very wild and over the top tomboy student"  at West Charlotte High in 1960.

"Speaking for many students in the Greenville community Pop really had something to deal with because we were a very special bunch,"  Craig wrote.  "When we graduated we all were model students. Thank you Pop a zillion times for being in my life. I don't know where or what I would be doing now if you hadn't sat me down in your office and let me know I didn't need to do the things I was doing to be respected."

Several women remember how Miller called all the girls his princesses:  "One thing that I always remember was his Princess speech,"  wrote Joy Greene.  "He would use it to praise you when you succeeded and to let you know your were capable of doing better if you messed up. After all. we were all his Princesses and Princes."

Pop Miller started teaching in 1945.  In 2014,  people are still telling their children and grandchildren about the life lessons he provided.  If you're a young teacher,  think about that for a moment.  For all the stress and hassles you're enduring today,  it's got to be awe-inspiring to imagine being remembered in the 2080s by students whose lives you're shaping now.


Anonymous said...

Wiley Coyote said...

Today, Mr. Miller would be fired, sued, never again allowed to be an educator and possibly serve jail time for assault.

Yes, tales from another era where discipline and respect meant something....

Rest in peace Mr. Miller.

Anonymous said...

The lost pc generation of today in clear focus ... take off those rose colored glasses ...

Anonymous said...

Hitting children is not an educational strategy. Poor post.

Anonymous said...

Hitting is what you need.

"Spare the rod and spoil the child"

"If you do not use the rod for discipline then you hate your child"

Proverbs King Solomon 3000 yrs ago

Anonymous said...

"Hitting children is not an educational strategy."

Because education strategies are all about things that don't work.

Anonymous said...

You missed the point. Do you work down town for CMS?

Wiley Coyote said...

Discipline does not necessarily mean hitting.

All one has to do is look at the expulsion records and see there is little to no discipline.

In 2001, there were 149 expulsions statewide.

In 2012 there were 30.

In 2001 there were 2,712 long-term suspensions.

In 2012 there were 1,609 long-term suspensions statewide.

Anonymous said...

Some kids just need a little more "disparate impact" on their rear ends than others.

Anonymous said...

A report supported in part by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, titled "Reducing Suspension among Academically Disengaged Black Males," suggests a tolerance for disruptive students.

There are some members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP and the National Urban League who attended school during the years I attended (1942-54).

During those days, no youngster would have even cursed a teacher, much less assaulted one. One has to wonder why black leaders accept behavior that never would have been tolerated by their parents and teachers.

Anonymous said...

Teachers have been stripped of authority by overpaid burocrats and many children come from broken homes. Many children are being raised by grandparents.

Anonymous said...

Why is it acceptable for Community House Middle to have over 1600 students? That is larger than most high schools-certainly any in the LIFT program.

Move Elon Park to JA Robinson.

Ann-can you find out why JA Robinson doesn't take their share of the kids in South Charlotte?

Cookie said...

agree with the Community house issue, that school is too big. The teachers and administration would agree too.

Too bad tough love is not in vogue anymore.

Wiley Coyote said...


Tough love, responsibility or actually learning anything.

New story on the front page about the state looking at lowering the standards for 3rd graders to pass reading tests.

The dumbing down of America continues.

Zoolander said...

So almost 40,000 students in Meck county are in private, charter or homeschools. That number is huge.

There is a reason for that high number, and it is mostly due to the lack of discipline and parental responsibility of many CMS students/families.

Shamash said...


Fortunately for us all the SAT is being dumbed down as well.

Just in time for the new national "standards"...

Anonymous said... the above comment, I am 43 yearsold and agree....Yes!...the SAT is sadly being dumbed down...(sigh)....... for this fine, honorable, educator?.....I could only dream of having had the pleasure of meeting such a man.....we need far more like him and the system would not have the "issues" it has today!

Scott Gooch said...

I graduated from East Meck in 1983 so Pop was our Principal for 2 1/2 years. He couldn't paddle us but if we messed up, we had to call him Mr. Miller. Once you got back on track, Pop would ltell you when it was OK to start calling him Pop again. If we did what we were supposed to do, we could call him Pop. You never wanted people to hear you calling him Mr. Miller. That meant you were looked at like you were a fool. As atheletes, when Pop showed up at our games, we had a renewed sense of pride and more determination

Pop cared about "his kids". He took his job as seriously as any parent. He was a great man, I stillperiod! I have told my kids about him and the things he used to do and say.