Sandwiched between knots of chatting teen-agers, Hereford High School teacher Hank McGraw is on the lookout for rambunctious behavior and PDAs -- "public displays of affection."
"Let's move it," he calls to two students who linger near an open locker.
Hall duty is something of a novelty to McGraw. So is teaching students the finer points of literary criticism. But he is doing both after spending 27 years as a top administrator for Baltimore County public schools.
McGraw and 10 other administrators returned to the classroom this year because of a revision in state law that allows them to work full time and collect their school pensions. The change was made to ease a shortage of teachers.
As a supervisor, McGraw rarely appeared without a sport jacket. He spent much of his time perfecting curriculum guides, evaluating teachers and deciding what books to include on high school reading lists.
Now, his uniform consists of khakis, a sweater vest, a dress shirt and a tie.
McGraw doesn't just dress the part of the wise professor. He is the wise professor, discussing the benefits of a rich vocabulary and the subtleties of plot development with students who could be his grandchildren.
Colleagues say McGraw never left teaching, at least not in spirit. That's one reason his recent return to the classroom has been so smooth.
"For Hank, to go back to the classroom to be a teacher and a department chairman is very much in keeping with what he believes, which is, `Once a teacher, always a teacher,'" said Paula Simon, coordinator of secondary education English and reading. "When he was an administrator, the teachers he supervised were his students. ... He's always seen himself as a teacher."
Simon and others say they weren't surprised when McGraw retired last month to take advantage of an opening at Hereford, where he attended school as a boy and taught for four years in the 1970s. McGraw graduated from Hereford in 1959. He earned a bachelor's degree in modern languages in 1963 and a master's degree in English in 1969, both from Loyola College.
McGraw said he always knew he would return to the classroom once he retired. He was pleasantly surprised when Hereford Principal John W. Bereska asked him to head the school's English department and teach several courses.
"We were sort of talking, and Hank made it known that he would like to come back and teach," Bereska said. "And I said, `If you retire, you would be great in the classroom,' and he said, `Do you really mean that?' When he retired, it was a true perfect match."
Bereska said teachers who work with McGraw value his insider's take on the approaching high school graduation exams -- McGraw worked with state officials to create them -- and on the curriculum, which he wrote. They also see him as a mentor.
"Other teachers in the department look to Hank as someone who can give them a different way to do it," Bereska said. "They all know him as an expert in the field. He's quite exceptional."
The coincidence that he uses the curriculum he once labored to produce isn't lost on McGraw. But he considers himself a teacher like any other.
"I'm in a unique situation," McGraw said recently, gathering a stack of syllabuses for a class he was about to teach. "But this is fun because it's from a different angle. I just think of it as any teacher would, and I think that's the best way to do it."
Other administrators might not have as easy a time returning to teaching as McGraw has had.
"When administrators say they are going back to a school to teach, some other administrators give them a look like, `Oh, you're going back to work with children in one of those places?'" said Dorothy Hardin, principal of Pikesville High School and a former English teacher who worked with McGraw. "That Hank is going back to a school after so many years in a supervisory position and putting to work all the things he's learned ... is truly admirable."
As a young teacher, Hardin depended on McGraw for advice.
Once, when she wanted to take some of her students to a production of the musical "Grease," Hardin asked McGraw how she should handle a scene in which actors expose their naked bottoms to the audience.
"Hank asked some good questions," said Hardin, "and in the end, he said, `I think it's more than likely that everyone in the theater, including your students, have seen someone's behind for longer than 10 seconds.'"
McGraw's folksy honesty has earned him gratitude and respect, especially among teachers. During his years as an administrator, he was known for building up, not tearing down, classroom professionals. Colleagues say he knows how to get the best out of teachers and how to help them get the best out of their students.
He has been praised for broadening the school system's literature lists by adding important works by black and American Indian authors. Colleagues call him a pioneer and a maverick.
"He exudes a kind of country-boy naivete, but then, when you dig beneath the surface, there would be this very keen philosophical, ethical grounding," Simon said.
Back at the head of the class after more than two decades, McGraw is teaching the way he always instructed his teachers to teach, like Socrates. It's a style of teaching that challenges teachers to let students answer their own questions through a carefully structured group dialogue.
That approach works for McGraw, and he'll probably use it for the rest of his teaching career, which he intends to spend at Hereford, a school he knew as a child and has come to admire as an adult.
"It doesn't get much better than this," said McGraw. "I'm not sure other teachers feel that way, but I've worked at other schools, and I know."