OXFORD – Tommy Bice wants local teachers to send him some selfies.
Hundreds of Calhoun County educators packed into the Word Alive church in Oxford on Friday to listen to Alabama’s state superintendent of education give a little encouragement and inspiration ahead of the upcoming school year. After asking the members of the Calhoun County Board of Education and the system’s superintendent, Joe Dyar, to cover their ears, Bice told the teachers they had his permission to break the rules on the first day of school.
“I want you to bring some fun,” Bice said. “Get on the desk, dance, take photos with your cell phone and put them on Instagram and Facebook and send them to me. Shock them.”
Bice was the guest of honor for Calhoun County Schools’ annual institution meeting, which serves as a pep rally for all of the school system’s teachers before students return to class on Thursday. Bice’s message Friday morning was to think outside the box, be willing to throw out the traditional parameters of what defines education, and maybe take a few selfies too.
“How many of you had no idea what that was we just did?” Bice asked after asking everyone in attendance to take a picture next to their neighbor. “You have to learn, because that’s what every one of your students will be doing on the first day of school.”
Bice’s address Friday morning touched on numerous subjects, as he recalled his work as a teacher at an alternative high school in inner-city Birmingham in the 1990s, and how technology has changed the way students learn, and how teachers can’t shy away from the unknown and unfamiliar in their classrooms.
Bice also talked at length about his 2020 plan in which he envisions a 90 percent graduation rate in the state. Since he took the superintendent position in 2012, Bice said, Alabama has raised its graduation rate from 72 percent to 80 percent.
“I’m not saying that every one of these students is going to get a Ph.D. in physics,” Bice said. “But what it means is we have prepared them for what comes next in life.”
Bice was full of praise for Calhoun County Schools, and mentioned while he had given eight similar addresses across the state this week, Friday morning’s meeting was the first time the local board of education had been in attendance. Bice also praised the school system for taking initiative in changing graduation standards to accommodate students in alternative schools.
“It’s a credit to our educators,” Dyar said after the meeting about Bice’s remarks. “It’s important to know that everything we’re doing is right for the children.”
Holly Box, a Calhoun County Schools administrator, said the system was able to book Bice for the event back in January, but had kept the guest of honor a secret until the summer.
Friday’s meeting also featured guest speaker Chelonnda Seroyer, who related stories about teaching students in poverty-stricken Detroit neighborhoods as well as her time in Huntsville. Seroyer said in order to be an effective teacher, educators needed to learn how to manage their classroom and set high expectations for their students.
Classes return for Calhoun County Schools on Aug. 14.