Living Life In Service and With Gratitude
Be able to listen. People don’t always expect you to solve problems, but God gave you two ears and one mouth – listen twice as much as you talk. Be able to ask questions. Everyone has questions … Don’t be scared to open your mouth if you need to. – Mr. Jimmy Long, key to serving others
Mr. Jimmy Long has been on the TOSS board for 20 years, has served in education for 45 years, and has been superintendent for Humphreys County Schools for 21 years. He is currently the TOSS board treasurer. As we are entering into a season of Thanksgiving, it was not hard to notice that Mr. Long has a genuine sense of gratitude toward fellow superintendents in the state of Tennessee. “Back in June when I had my accident (tractor accident), I had such a response from other superintendents across the state. It was overwhelming. Their prayers, calls, visits, cards, emails, but especially the prayers were one of the things that got me through the ordeal with the accident.”
Before Mr. Long started as a teacher in Metro Nashville -- Before he was a state supervisor for vocational agriculture -- Before Mr. Long was vocational director for Humphreys County -- Before he was elected as superintendent twice -- Before he served on the county commission -- Before Mr. Long worked six years for the state as vocational consultant in middle Tennessee -- Before he helped in training those involved in FBLA and BPA -- Mr. Long was a student in a two room school house being taught by Miss Edith James. Miss James was Mr. Long’s 1st-8th grade teacher. She taught the students in her schoolhouse to learn to be in competition with themselves and not with one another. She “taught students and not a subject and made me realize there was more than hoeing corn and herding cows,” Mr. Long stated when asked about his favorite teacher. “She was strict and very kind at the same time.” This combination of caring and discipline made her the “perfect teacher.” Mr. Long also was blessed and found enrichment through the tutelage of Mr. Glenn Shivers. Shivers befriended Long and taught him leadership as well as helped him believe in himself. “He allowed me to ask questions about things I didn’t understand without being scared to do so.”
When asked about what he is looking forward in relation to his own students in the Humphreys County School System, Mr. Long spoke of new technology and his excitement over improved test scores. “I’m excited over some things that are going on with TOSS and some of the new initiatives Wayne is putting into place. I’m excited that the governor is seeing the importance of teachers. I think maybe we are beginning to get the administration’s attention, but we still have a long ways to go.” Mr. Long has greatly enjoyed serving the kids of the state of Tennessee by being on the TOSS board. He says it has been a “fantastic” experience and has enjoyed the interaction with other superintendents. He described how the staff here at the TOSS office has been so much a part of his life.
When asked about any tips he might have for incoming superintendents Mr. Long spoke of communication with other superintendents. He encouraged depending on them for advice and networking with them as much as possible, pointing out that veteran superintendents have walked through the same problems that new superintendents may encounter. He also advised that new superintendents become involved with the mentoring program and leadership institute. “Always remember that you’re not a principal anymore. Principals don’t view you anymore as a fellow principal. Always seek advice if you run into a problem [or something] you don’t understand.”
Mr. Long knows about taking a chance on the unknown and the challenge of being out of your element, having stepped out and taken a risk more than once in his life. He’d never been further away than Nashville or McEwen when he got into his ’53 Plymouth with 53.00 dollars to his name and headed to Alabama. Selling Bibles in South Alabama was his first job and also as he was aware, his only route to college. He was seventeen years old and he knew he had to get out and work if he was going to make it in life. Through this season in his life, Mr. Long learned to be humble and to listen to people. “It taught me the importance of having God in my life.” Mr. Long later worked at Federal Land Bank and as an apprentice auctioneer.
He now has 12 grandchildren. His favorite thing is just to spend time and to enjoy watching them be themselves. “Cherish the time that I’m with them. When I raised six kids, I spent my time wondering how I was going to raise and take care of them.” Now with his grandkids he’s learned the simple act of listening. He likes to “listen to them talk” and to “take time to be a part of their lives.”
As we are quickly coming upon the holiday, I asked Mr. Long what was his favorite thing about Thanksgiving. He told me he enjoys having family come home and the love his family has for one another. “My wife can cook anything. Everything she cooks is the best thing she’s ever cooked.”