by Kimberley Cummins
Graydon Sealy says he is the luckiest man in the world.
He was the centre of attention last Friday when the Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, and past and present students of the Garrison School, celebrated his commitment as former principal with the renaming of the school to the Graydon Sealy Secondary School.
As he sat to speak with Barbados TODAY at his Four Roads, St. John home about his accomplishments, he gave his wife, Milanese, most of the credit.
With his eyes glued to her, he explained that in the early years of his career quality time with her was sacrificed as he spent many hours in the classroom and more correcting work which he would bring home, sometimes falling asleep before he finished.
“I am lucky, I don’t say it too often but I am lucky to have the wife I have, but I don’t like to spoil her by saying it too often, it may go to her head,” he chuckled. “But we have been fortunate to keep together and the Lord has done wonders for us.”
On August 16 the couple celebrated 54 years of marriage. The two met as youngsters and her father was his godfather “but that made no difference”, Milanese said as they laughed in unison.
Sealy sang in the choir at the St. John Parish Church but occasionally he would also go to Mount Tabor to sing and he used that as an opportunity to see her whenever she visited her godmother who lived in Spooner’s Gap. They began courting and, though her father was a “Pharaoh”, it continued.
In 1952 he travelled to Jamaica to start teaching and, six years after, he returned to the island to marry his love.
In retrospect, he said he was not mad at his wife’s father for being resistant to her courting a boy at the time. Now the father of two daughters, Ruth and Paula, he too brought up his children to care for themselves and be extremely careful of whom they decided to be involved with.
“I think, even more so today, women have to be particularly careful and choosy about the men in their lives. Some men may want to cut off my head but there are some men who are absolutely no good. In this modern day it is too precious a thing for a woman to give up her life, to frustrate yourself and gets hooked up to a man who eventually turns out to be a serious disappointment.
“I never had any problems bringing up my children; if I seemed to be strict my sisters would then explain to them why I am. At home I always try to encourage my daughters … I would say to them ‘Let the men and boys in your life understand that you are not as available as they think you are, always make yourself very difficult to them and don’t let they take you for granted’.”
The 83-year-old credits the success of their lasting relationship to God. He said it was the spirit of God, the commitment to children, the business of grin and bear and the promise of “for better or worse” that he made on his wedding day “though they don’t always tell you how worse”, he said as he laughed, that had blessed him with a beautiful marriage.
Respect was also a major factor in both his personal and professional life, so when he was honoured, Milanese said it came as no surprise because of the esteem he held everyone regardless of their station in life.
“As fickle as it may sound, it has been very, very important in my life the way how I get along with people,” he said.
“The people who worked in the field in the hot sun, my parents thought me to respect them. The interesting thing is that some of those people have a certain brand of wisdom that amaze you when they start to speak. They may have a few green verbs but it is amazing how they deal with the matter they are putting forward.
“I remember early in the days after joining the Grantley Adams School we would get together and meet over steps there and the children would have morning prayers. One morning the principal told them about their attitude and that they were behaving like field niggas. We had a staff meeting and I said ‘Sir, most respectfully, I would like to make a point. I may seem bold but I mean well’.
“I told him about the remark he made and I said, ‘My ancestors somewhere along the line, they were from that area too and one thing they would have wished is for my station to be improved from what theirs was so I would progress and do better. As a result of their efforts here am I, not working in the field’.
“And I said ‘Sir, I would not ask you to retrace and tell me about your ancestors but I have a feeling that they may not have been much different in their employment, but surely sir, they would have wanted the best for you’.”
Sealy was one in a brood of five sisters and two brothers and what he said he learnt from this was that children needed love and care; this was his advice for teachers.
While he did not say teachers today were less committed than those of the past, he encouraged them not to just turn up at school because it was a job, then sit back and feel that they should be paid for a degree and not for their work. He said children should be made to feel important and precious.
“You don’t put down your children, we have to learn to make the children feel good. Man, don’t cry them down. What I was able to take to schools was caring about children; I did that in Jamaica, I did it in Trinidad and I was able to do that because of the love and caring that teachers gave me when I was a pupil.
“I met some teachers who cared. They had a way of making you feel important, mushing you up and making you feel that you are somebody. I had all of that and I took it with me into teaching.
“Talk to children and don’t let them feel discouraged. Make them feel as if they are very important, as important as any child from Harrison College — preach that to them. I have a lot to be thankful for because I had some of the best people around me growing up.
“The first year at Garrison was a challenge, but we had a set of committed and solid teachers. We got off to a reasonably good start; there was discipline and you didn’t have to be bawling at children, being a bulldog, or anything like that and the parents came out to PTA meetings.
“There was a lot of cooperation from teachers, parents and there was some of the best children you could ever want, in their general attitude. I’m not talking about university degree necessarily but we were able to work on some like Chris Sinckler, Michael Lashley and the two magistrates, Ian Weekes and Douglas Federick.
“I think I have been very fortunate to have the people around me that I had. I am happy and satisfied with what I have been enabled to do in my 37 years in teaching. Education is very challenging and sometimes, in my opinion, it is made unnecessarily tough… I taught for a lifetime and I would do it again,” the retired educator said.