Oral Histories

Bill Meador

b.1933

Bill Meador

Q: Did you enjoy teaching while you were teaching?

A: Yes, I’ve never done anything that I enjoyed as much as teaching. There is a satisfaction to that. I don’t know what you would do in a vocation that gives you as much satisfaction as teaching does. I just didn’t get to do it long enough. While I enjoyed other aspects of my educational career, teaching was by far the highlight.

Q: Were you able to do bigger things as superintendent, as far as bigger projects, more visionary things for the school system here?

A: Was I able to do that? I think so. A lot of the concepts that I talked about when I left the superintendency were just getting started in depth with what we called outcome-based education. It’s the system that the state offices wanted to put into place now that basically says, “If a child doesn’t know something in a subject matter area, you re-teach them.” Regardless of how long it takes. You ignore the clock and the calendar. If we enroll in a math class and you’re a good mathematician and I’m a poor mathematician, it may take me 18 weeks to learn it and you can learn it in 6. Let’s teach you yours in 6 weeks but give me 18 to learn it. I wanted that kind of a system in place; one that teaches children how to do things. And the tests that you give them to do that, not multiple choice that they promote today, but if you want a kid to write a paragraph, you have him write a paragraph. Those kinds of concepts. We had a teacher center that was designed by the teachers to support the kinds of needs they had, the kinds of training they needed for the kind of things they saw that they needed in the classroom that I didn’t have a clue about. I had some great people that worked in the system. I thought I was smart enough to say, “I’ve never had an original idea, but you guys have. You need to do some things that you want, and I’ll support that.” So they put together programs like the teachers center. I think our Special Ed programs went ahead. I worked as a consultant for the Far West Lab out of San Francisco on school district organization and in-service teaching programs for staff that I felt really good about. I served on all the state committees either as a member or the chairman, different positions in places that were required by the superintendents. While I had ventured into all these things, I don’t know that I ever felt that anything was very lasting. The simple tradition of public education seems to have a way of overcoming most innovations. You still revolve back to some very basic concepts about education. We have a real tendency to ignore the very good research. You came out of a program where you relied on research in the medical profession. Education has never embraced the research like it should have, in my opinion. We talk a lot about how people learn; how people learn at different speeds, whether they are visual learners or auditory learners, whatever the case may be. But we’ve never put it in place like it should be to use that good and valid information. I just think there is so much that could be done and now we have referred it to testing everybody again. I hate testing. I hate “No child left behind.” I was very fortunate. I tested very well. I could take tests. I could pass tests that I knew nothing about. I have no faith in them at all. You look and say, “That looks logical to me.” I hate those. I’d like to see kids be taught, and re-taught and re-taught and not tested and passed or failed. We still have a long way to go in public education and I think it is still the way to educate the masses. I don’t think private school or vouchers are the way to do that. But we could do a better job.

Read the other Oral Histories