A Judge In The Classroom

Judge Pauline Drayton-Harris (Duval)

Florida Bar Journal - June 15, 2003

It is Saturday morning at 8:45 a.m. and already Judge Pauline Drayton-Harris has begun her day at the Bethel Baptist Institutional Church in Jacksonville.

Her role: Teach fourth- and fifth-graders who are having problems with reading and to help them prepare for the FCAT exam.

The class is not limited to students at the church but is available free of charge to students residing in the Jacksonville area. Why reading? Judge Drayton-Harris was actually a teacher prior to going back to law school. She said her love for children and their achievements has never diminished.

Drayton-Harris began teaching at Bethel several years ago and found the experience to be very rewarding. She said the class is very interactive and uses the pretest, teach, and retest method.

“The students are stimulated to speak, listen, read, and interact,” Judge Drayton-Harris said. “For example, if you can’t follow directions, then why not read about making pancakes and following the directions?” Drayton-Harris said as an added incentive the students eat the pancakes afterward.

Drayton-Harris said the program is proving successful, as students have shown improvement in grades and test scores.

Because her class is attended by a large number of minority students, Judge Drayton-Harris often uses materials that teach about black history, and she strongly believes that the reading content can teach and inform.

“Children need to acknowledge their heritage and to understand that they are the benefactors of a very rich heritage,” said Judge Drayton-Harris, adding that at first students can’t believe she is a “real” judge because she is there each Saturday teaching. She said this contact with the students also serves as a positive image of judges and service to the community.

“If I can motivate students to succeed, then perhaps I can slow the tide of delinquency and prevent them from becoming ‘system dependent,’” she said. “Education liberates and frees one to soar and achieve dreams. Every year I continue to come back because the sparkle must continue through the eyes of children. They are our hope and our future.”

Drayton-Harris also conducts a parent workshop to help them work with their children. “Life is a partnership with others. Every time I teach I am also a learner,” she said.


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Updated 12/11/2003