Commentary: Why I teach at Murray Middle School

By Tim Chase

With the passing of iconic Murray science teacher Dr. Johnny Bland last year, I found myself going over some classic quotes from him. One that stuck out in my mind was from the time that Nancy Nielson retired and Tom Olin took over as principal, as I was fraught with concern as to how the transition would happen. Johnny took me aside, as he and fellow science teacher Art Payne often did, and explained, “Principals come, and principals go, but Tim, you’ll be here forever.”

It was funny how he was right about that and so many other things. In the last year, Murray has gone through the biggest changes this building has seen in over 32 years. We have transitioned from a junior high to a middle school concept and all that goes with that model. Along with that, we had a complete replacement of the administrative staff, added sixth-grade students, put them in an inadequate facility for a year, and had more students in the school than I had ever seen in my 20 years of teaching at Murray.

I have enjoyed teaching at Murray over the years, getting to know so many people in the community, the students and parents. I take great pride in teaching science, watching the “light” go on when a student begins to understand, seeing students asking questions and helping each other, and having the administrative support of new ideas. I like the laughter in the hallways, parents/guardians who ask questions and insist on a strong school, and the parents/guardians who volunteer to make Murray an even better school.

But my thoughts as to why I took the job at Murray were brought back to me as I listened to a story on NPR the Saturday after Johnny’s passing. I was correcting papers, drinking coffee and heard a story about Brown v. The Board of Education case. It is so clear that the journey to equitable education for all is still a journey this country is on and unfortunately, it has many more twists and turns in the road ahead. It reminded me that the school is the place for learning so many things, like reading and writing, but it is also the place where communities come together. It is where white meets black, poor meets rich, English meets other languages, and academically gifted meet academically challenged. It is where students can learn they are more alike than different.

I so appreciate that Murray is one of these truly diverse places where a student can meet everyone from all walks of life. Our school is that place where communities come together, where isolation with “like-minded people” is disrupted and we see the world, as it truly is: diverse and complicated.

Donna (Mrs. Chase) and I have sent our three kids to Murray over the years. We were having a conversation last year about something that happened in our son’s sixth-grade classroom at Murray, and she said she was glad that he gets to interact with people from other cultures and walks of life, as he will have to in the real world. The sooner he meets and embraces the fact that he is more alike than different from other people, the sooner he will be able to interact competently and sensitively to those around him in his journey.

Murray affords him this opportunity.

This school year has gotten off to a great start: The overcrowding has ended with more than 100 fewer students in the building, so class sizes are reasonable. We have a sixth-grade wing that is made for teaching our students, and we have a staff that wants to teach here. All of this makes a great difference. Together, the staff and parents/guardians, are working to build a strong school in a strong community. I’m looking forward to an awesome year at Murray Middle School.

Tim Chase is a science teacher at Murray Middle School.

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