In late November 1985, I was interviewed by a young principal who seemed like a cool guy and a verging-on-elderly woman who was the social studies department chair. I was talking with the principal and the rapport was fine, we were connecting, the interview was going well. You know when you’re killing it, and I was. I had been asked to bring a sample lesson plan, and while I was talking to the principal I saw the old gal looking it over. Every few seconds she would shake her head sadly and roll her eyes. Well I’m going to have to win her over, I thought.
The principal said to her, “What would you like to ask Mr. Graney?” She looked up and said, “I think you should consider a career other than education.” End of interview. That was cold.
I was desperate to get a job teaching. I was living with my parents in Voorhees, New Jersey. My parents had recently moved there, and while my older siblings and twin sister Ann were on their own, I was reduced to living with my parents…in New Jersey. You can understand my desperation.
Four years earlier I had started as a broadcasting major. I was a big sports fan, and had spent many nights in my bedroom going up and down the AM dial listening to various baseball games. As I lay in bed in the Finger Lakes town of Auburn, NY my dream was to one day become one of those announcers. So it was off to Buffalo State to make that happen.
It didn’t happen. Broadcasting was one of the largest majors and I could not break through the throngs, so I started looking at other majors.
My parents, especially my Mom, nurtured my interest in American history and current events. I can remember as a child trying to make sense of the Senate Watergate hearings and a few years later watching the Carter-Ford debates and avidly following the ups and downs of the Carter administration. I looked at the History and related majors, including Social Studies Education. The History major included a requirement to take two math courses. The Social Studies Education major did not. At that point the skies opened up, I was bathed in a bright light, heavenly music played and the voice of God said, “Become a Social Studies Teacher!” In short, the avoidance of math was the greatest career decision I made. I continue to make that recommendation to students…only somewhat in jest.
I enrolled in history/social studies courses that were very helpful to my future teaching, and education courses that were less so. Student teaching began at the start of my last semester. I was scheduled to begin at West Hertel Academy a middle school in Buffalo. But the “Blizzard of ‘85” postponed my start for a week. To keep people off the streets, Buffalo Mayor Jimmy Griffin advised residents to, “Go home, buy a six pack of beer, and watch a good football game.” My buddies and I took that sincere advice to heart…especially the beer part. A week later it was time to start. It was a two-mile walk from my apartment on Ashland Avenue to near the Buffalo State campus to West Hertel Academy. It was a rough walk. I fell a couple of times; lots of ice and snow. Plus I was fighting a cold. I arrived about 15 minutes late. Thirty-plus years later I’ve never been late since. I walked into Bob Booth’s classroom and he must have thought, What have I got myself into? I was soaked, disheveled, my hair looked like three days of sweaty bed-head, my nose was running; I was a mess.
Welcome to teaching.