I am angry and let me explain…

Bike commuting makes it so you can see more of this beautiful world.

Bike commuting makes it so you can see more of this beautiful world.

At about the high school level I started looking outside of my little bubble and realized how big and different the world in which I existed really was. Shortly after that realization came the one that I needed to do something to make it better. I saw in the next 23 years many things that have made me really angry and many many injustices that needed to be corrected. Throughout this time in my life it has been a constant struggle internally and externally to fight this battle. On most occasions it just makes me frustrated and angry without any real results. My generation has been introduced to the internet and the power of getting your message out there to the human population. It may be said, why do you get to determine what is right and wrong and what social injustices should be corrected? I do not have a clear answer for you. My murky answer is that if you do not agree that there is a right and wrong then stop reading now. I live under that preface, there is correct and incorrect. I understand that there is a grey area out there, but understanding it is not my forte. My mind works in absolutes. Math is my basis for my logical deductions. There is a correct answer, but there are many ways to reach the same result.

Since my teenage years I have struggled with what is moral and what is immoral. I started putting myself in situations where I saw the bad side of society. My friends did not always make the most moral decisions. The amazing part about this was that my parents allowed this to an extent and that is a credit to their parenting, they allowed me to see what was out there and use the foundation they had built in me to analyze, understand, and ultimately choose a path for myself to follow. Even once I moved into my career I choose to work in places that most never wanted to work. This was not out of some noble means, but my quest to really see how different social classes lived compared to how I was raised. Everyone has a comfort zone and mine is being in really tough situations and also being the minority. It has always worked for me. Most people think I am crazy and that may be true, but it gives me focus and understanding that helps me make sense of this reality.

If I listed everything that I was angry about you may be reading through the next calendar year. There are many things wrong with this world and everyday I hope that I am not one of them. It is my biggest fear in life: What if I am taking and not giving? This propels me in almost every situation that I can imagine. With this comes a very passionate person and you can see that in me when I talk about most things, whether it is a television show, book, or how our socialist educational system is falling apart. Getting animated and “fire-up” about things comes with the territory of being me. I hope that the anger never leaves me because then I will know at my core I have given up and the fight has left me. Maybe in my years to come I will soften, but if I do not see what is wrong with the world and it does not keep me awake at night then it is my time to stop existing. Without that anger and fight I cease to be me. I truly hope that I will always be angry at the injustices in the world whether I can change them or not, but till my dying day I will do what I can to try to make a change in this world not matter if you want me to or not.

Posted in Change, Intelligent life, Social Issues | Leave a comment

The things we leave behind…

Of things lost and hopefully found

Of things lost and hopefully found.

Sleeping has been something that has alluded me over the last week. My normal waking hour has been around 2:15-3:00 AM, after going to bed between 10:30-11:00 PM. Most will think to themselves how they could never live off so little sleep, but alas you are not the one with small doses of unconsciousness. That bit of realism has been left for me. Yet, thinking about how little my body has actually rested does not affect me in that same cerebral way. It has been since I was a little boy that my grandmother, Maw Maw, and I have woken up early and talked for hours on end about life and the type of person my grandfather, Paw Paw, had been. She always mentioned that her and I both were born with thin eyelids and at the slightest break of dawn we arose. This meaning that every morning at my grandmother’s house I would arise and she would make breakfast and we would talk for hours before everyone else in the house would wake to join us to break the fast from the night before. These mornings are something that shaped me into the man I am today.

Maw Maw would tell me the same stories over and over again in the course of my life, but not once did I interrupt her or try to finish her story for her. It was not because I understood that maybe she needed that to maybe come to terms with loss of her husband or wanting to pass on the knowledge of the man that had such a big part of bringing me into this world. I truly loved listening to this great woman speak and impart to me the knowledge she had accumulated throughout her life. My Maw Maw worked as a nurse at the Health Department in Hattisburg, MS, her entire life. She brought joy and a kind heart to everyone she met. Along those lines she never met a stranger, a trait that I now possess and one that my oldest son Josiah has now inherited. She never saw people as their race or how much money they had, she always saw a person-plain and simple. We would go to the grocery store and she would talk to almost everyone she would see. One of my favorite stories that she told me of my grandfather was one where they had gone to the mall. In this trip my grandfather had told Dolly, that is what he called my grandmother, that they were to meet at this certain spot at this certain time. They went their separate ways meandering through the mall. My grandfather returned to the spot at the exact moment he was supposed to arrive while my grandmother was about 100 feet away from the specific location talking to someone. My grandfather stood in his spot waiting on my grandmother to arrive. When she was done she walked over to him and as she approached he was tapping his watch. He looked at her and said, “We were supposed to meet here at 3:00, why were you not here?” My grandmother’s response was, “I was right over there talking to a friend. You could have come over and gotten me.” My grandfather said in his very stern tone, “We were supposed to meet here at 3:00.” This story sums up the two different personalities of Maw Maw and Paw Paw.

The thing that amazes me everyday when I am fortunate enough to awake for a new sunrise is that I am made up of a mixture of both of these amazing human beings. Through the long talks with my Maw Maw I learned about her and being 8 years old when my grandfather died, I learned about what type of man my grandfather was through her eyes. Everyday of my life has been with those stories running through my head as to what a man should grow up to be. We leave many things behind in our lives. Not all things are inspiring, some actually cause scars. It is our responsibility to take those experiences and hopefully give new experiences to the ones we interact with in this journey. There is no rulebook or guidelines in which you must follow. In my humble experience, you can choose whatever path you like. There will always be difficulties and joys along the way. The things that you leave should be something that you are proud of and not those things of regret or I should have done this. We are the mixture of those that have traveled down a path before us and I for one hopefully will leave some good with a dose of “well that was how he was”, all the while not regretting one moment of the cycle we call existence.

Posted in Change, death, Education, Family, Marriage, parents, respect | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Can I be famous and not do anything for that fame…

My bike as I wait for my riding partner to go back to the house to get his truck because I forgot an extra tube.

My bike as I wait for my riding partner to go back to the house to get his truck because I forgot an extra tube.

Being cynical is something that on more than one occasion I have been accused of and I admit guilt. My bias is not completely without merit. If I had grown up in one small bubble my whole life I would understand that maybe I could see all the happy stuff that happens in this world. My parents actually did a great job of keeping me grounded and seeing only what they wanted me to see. Meeting me today most cannot believe that my parents were incredibly strict with the media that we ingested and the music we were allowed to hear. Yet, when I started spreading my wings my goal was to see it all and although I have not been able to do that as of now, I will continue to try until my dying day.

Being an educator you see how families truly believe by what their children espouse to you in class. You also see the work ethics that parents have instilled in their offspring. Working in four different states in very different environments has shown me a small snapshot of what America has become. Here is where the cynicism shows bright and true. There are things that kids are doing right, but many are buying into the ideas and hype that America is selling them. Mainly it is the gatekeepers disseminating the information they want us to see and do not show us what will keep us from truly being concerned with what they are doing with our society. I have very few students that want to work and produce something of substance. The pulse of the society that I encounter everyday trends toward being rich and famous, but without any talent or hard work.

We have an almost epidemic of people wanting to be famous for no other reason than attention. Now I know that narcissism and vanity are two very old vices and most societies throughout history have had their battles with these self-centered behaviors. With the introduction of the forward facing camera we have brought this on our selves and we will reap the crop we have planted.

Instagram is the best example of our fascination with ourselves. I for one think that this bit of social media is brilliant for a couple of reasons. First, it is a forum that I get to look at pictures and that makes me happy. I love photography and am truly amazed at what we capture and record for the world to see and with this new technology we have that capability. Second, you need very little writing accompanying your picture. This goes back to the old adage that a picture speaks a thousand words and it is true. Third, it helps make somewhat mundane pictures look better by putting them through a filter. Now this does not excuse the fact that people still take bad pictures. Truly great photographs are pieces of art that take skill and a keen eye, but with the technology of digital photography we have a lot more practice with what looks good and how to frame shots. So overall digital photography has brought us a high quality of photos. Fourth, I enjoy that you can hash tag (#) a topic and it will be grouped with other photos involving that activity. Some of my favorites are #funwithmyboys, #instagrambham, #blackandwhite & almost anything where my friends have a great idea for their events such as a wedding or snow days. Being able to look at pictures with similarities is great and really get me excited about looking at what ideas people have created from their cameras. But, inevitably under almost every hashtag there are many many selfies! Now if you are alive in our society today you know what they word is and if you are me your skin crawls almost every time you hear it. For those not in the know, it is a picture of yourself for the world to see. I ask my students on a regular basis if their picture on their lock screen is of them and about 75% say yes! Why are we so obsessed with ourselves? I do not think of it as just a kid or teenager thing, it has permeated most age ranges in society. It is almost as if we are worried about being forgotten. In my opinion, I think most of those people will be, even though they are trying very hard to leave some kind of mark on this reality.

My personal viewpoint with social media is to use it as a lens as to what I see from my standpoint, not from the aspect of 2 1/2 feet from my face looking right at me.  I use social media, I refuse to let it use me. But most people that I watch today are trying to achieve some level of fame through no effect. They dress in expensive clothes when they are having problems paying rent. They drive $40,000 cars when they make $10/hour at a job that put very little effort. They act as if the world owes them something, but they refuse to put in work to obtain that reward.

I know, I know, get the hell off your soapbox. Look at it for a minute and see what you think. We have become a society that has television shows about peoples lives that before the invention of moving picture would have most likely been part of a side show at most traveling carnivals. We pay, film, and watch people act like dancing monkeys for their 15 minutes (Oh Mr. Warhol, how you understood what everyone wanted). And my students think this is how you make it in society. They aspire to all these unrealistic goals and their parents get angry at you when you mention that their child needs to work a little harder. Actually work to succeed, how dare you tell me or my child to do such a thing. We will live how we want and you cannot tell us otherwise.

My wife and I are trying our hardest to raise our boys with the a good moral foundation that should help them through this life. We also believe in a strong work ethic because that was instilled in us from a young age by the parents that raised us, Thank you so much Mom, Dad, Izzy, and Papa- You did a damn good job and we thank you everyday for it! But, Emily and I watch everyday(both of us being teachers) parents make excuses for their children. Why they cannot do this or why they cannot do that instead of turning to the children themselves and have them work harder to achieve. I fear for when my generation grows old by the seeds we have planted. We will reap our rewards and when harvest comes we will get what we have sowed.

Posted in Change, Social Issues, Social Media, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Then there was a fork to the eye…

Dogwoods are blooming and that makes me happier than you could ever imagine.

Dogwoods are blooming and that makes me happier than you could ever imagine.

It has been 2 weeks and I am sorry but my brain has been in places that I will hopefully be able to write about in the future, but lately I have been living within each moment and haven’t felt up to the task of reflection. Tonight I was going to go into the happiness that I have been experiencing lately and how it is transforming me into a better person, but as any parent knows things change very rapidly when you have children and if you are not willing to handle the situation and the change you will be beaten to death by those aforementioned children. I do not know if I it will be funny, but it will be real.

The weekend had been good. My father in law came into town and we had a shed built in our back yard. He helped me paint it and get everything situated. I woke up today and walked to church and was enjoying the glimpses of spring. We had shopped for shoes for our boys and then we came home and played outside and decided to cook out with our neighbors. We were eating the grilled burgers and hot dogs and my youngest son takes a fork, do not know if it was intentional or not, and stabbed my oldest son in his eye. He missed and hit him in the check, but there was a weapon and an injury that was very fortunately not too bad for our oldest son. Our youngest son did not fair so well. I have always been worried about how I would react when one of our children did something that was dangerous and could harm someone else with a small part of intent or reckless abandon. Now my oldest son is okay and my youngest is okay also. I was angry, but got it under control very quickly. He stabbed another person in the eye with a fork. I have to still let it set in that this is part of my journey as a parent. I have seen horrible things in this life and many I will never retell to anyone, but now I feel that it has gotten worse because these little creatures are my responsibilities to the world. In the grand scheme of things our youngest, my wife had to remind me, is a pretty good kid. He is wild, stubborn, crazy, huge, and wild, but he is ours and he will always bring a smile to my soul every time that I look at him.

I lived for many years before I had children and thought I was getting a good grasp of the universe. Then you meet a wonderful woman and that person and yourself decide to bring life into this world and you realize that what you thought was up became sideways. What was down came toward you a lot faster than you ever imagined. My two boys amaze me and anger me in the same minute. Fatherhood has made me an exponentially better human being. My boys have showed me that I must experience every emotion why I am on this earth and they are helping greatly. I still have  a wonderful family with all their body parts still intact. We will see how long that holds true.

Posted in Change, Family, Love, parents | Leave a comment

I am done with coaching for a little while…

I rarely put a picture of me, but I actually found one that makes me happy. I love backpacking and this was through a snowstorm!

I rarely put a picture of me, but I actually found one that makes me happy. I love backpacking and this was through a snowstorm!

There is one thing that has not always been logical for my job. I chose to be a history teacher because of my love for history and what it can teach and where it can take you. It is the study of every subject since the dawn of time. When people complain about history I feel sorry for them because what is normally the case is that they never had a teacher worth a damn. They normally sat in class and did worksheets while their teacher sat behind a desk and never really interacted with them or the wonderful lecturer all the time type teacher where you listen and they talk for 50 minutes and you write notes and normally try to either bang your head till you are unconscious or stab yourself to have a homemade lobotomy.  If these apply to you, you have my condolences. I got into my craft because I enjoyed history and thought it would be fun to give that joy back to others. The thing that I did not count on was coaching.

Let me start by saying that coaching is a very valid reason to get into education. You reached children on a daily basis that may not be reached in the classroom. That aspect of coaching I have always been a big fan of and respect those that can do it their entire career. It was never my intention to coach when I got into education. Now I understand the reason that most coaches are history teachers, history is an easy subject to take in college and to teach. You can show many a video to compensate for not wanting to give lectures, you can make the students do worksheets most of the time to have them covering the material, and you can on average not work too hard and get many things done in your class. It never occurred to me to be that type of teacher. I always wanted to teach, coaching was something that I was told came with my position once I was hired.

I have been very fortunate in my career and got the option of coaching my 1st 5 years, but now that I have children I am confused as to why people still want to continue coaching. Not one coach will say it is for the pay because coaches get a stipend and that correlates to actually hours vs. money in about the rate of $1/hour. Now please tell me anyone that would take a job for $1/hour? Anyone, anyone? Now I understand that most coaches do it for the love of sport and would do it for free and I commend those people. They are better humans than me. When I met my wife we decided to have children and that was our 1st priority. We would put almost everything else 2nd to raising our children in a loving and caring home.

Here is the thing that I have observed with the coaches that I have been associated with over the years in many states in many schools over the last decade of my life. They spend a lot of time away from home. The normal coach’s day last 12-14 hours and that is just on practice days, game nights can last from 16- 18 hours. I know many professions where you work a 12 hour shift get a day off, work 2 more 12 hour shifts and then get 2-3 days off. Education and coaching do not work that way. You work M-F, 12-18 hour days and then sometimes have to come in on the weekends for either watching film or traveling to a tournament or even practicing with your players. Next, some coaches never want to go home to their spouses or kids. In my experience as a coach, some people just do not want to be at their house. They actually sit around with a bunch of other coaches and talk about very little. It seems that they are avoiding going home. Now this could be because they do not like their home lives or they are not truly happy with their spouses. I cannot answer for all of them, but I can tell you that I would be asked to be at the school at 7:30 am on a Saturday morning and they would sit around for 45 minutes to an hour just talking about NOTHING! Now as someone who actually likes being at home with my family this sucks. If you want me there let’s work, I do not care about you or want to discuss sports when I am there on a Saturday morning. I want to get my work done because that $1/hour is not worth me being away from my family. I have two young boys at home and another child on the way and it is my responsibility to raise them WITH my wife, not for her to raise them and me see them only six months out of the year. More power to the coaches that their spouse is okay with them being away all that time. They have a very strong relationship and I am proud of them for having such a strong bond. But, I also know that coaching also carries a high divorce rate. This mainly being because some spouses do not understand the amount of time their significant other will be away from the home.

This is my dilemma, education is the career I have chosen and have vested 10 years of my life, but now I want my wife to be at home with our 3 children and my avenues have narrowed. Being unhappy in a job is something that I am expert on since day one. There has never been a job or career that I woke up every morning and was excited about doing, except one. When I was an administrator for a small part of my career I enjoyed the challenge of not knowing what was going to happen that day. Yet, in the great state of Alabama I have been stopped from pursuing that aspect of my career because of my decision to obtain a degree in another state. If you think I am bitter about this you have no idea, but I must move on. The real problem becomes that my options have become so limited. Getting my wife home I need to make at least as much as I make now in my career. Moving to another career will most likely put my pay lower and then I will have to work my way up. I cannot stand being a middle school teacher because it is just not my cup of tea. Lastly, getting a high school job requires me to most likely coach and that means more time away from my wife and children. It seems that I have put myself in a very difficult situation. It is all of my doing, so I am not asking for sympathy. Rather, I am just expressing thoughts on a forum for others to look inside my thought process. The coaching thing gets me every time. Moving to high school where I will ultimately be happier causes me to spend an even larger amount of time away from my family. Now the advantage will be that Em, my wonderful wife, will be at home finally. The down side is that seeing my kids grow up will not be in my future. It is a dilemma that I hope most will never encounter.

As a society here in America, it has become difficult to be a single income family. The cost of providing for your family is too high. It can be done, but with the cost of groceries and inflation increasing at a much higher rate than pay for careers we are creating a very big problem in America. The main issue in schools is that parents do not spend much time with their children educating or helping them. There are many reasons for this, but top on the list is someone working all day does not want to come home and then deal with all there is to do to maintain a household. I completely understand that. But having children you made a choice to bring a life into this world and it is only your responsibility, you cannot pawn it off on someone else. We have more and more two income homes and less time for family. I am certain there is a correlation between this and the downfall of our education system. Most parents do not have the time or are unwilling to put the time necessary to raise a well educated child. This also stems from many adults that are uneducated themselves. When I say uneducated I do not mean just having degrees, it is meant in a way that people instill work ethics in their children and put effort into their children so they may have a better life than the one they have made for themselves. We are lacking this in our country and I am scared that my kids may have to suffer; I have to coach because it comes with my title of Social Studies teacher and ultimately spend more time with children that are not mine.

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Back on two wheels part 2…

This is my Bianchi Volpe and has told two cars that they are no match for it!

This is my Bianchi Volpe and has it has told two cars that they are no match for it!

Riding a bike is one of the most wonderful things I can think of doing. Yes, I love my wife and kids and enjoy them, so do not make me into a monster that cares more about his bikes than his family(my wife may think differently). Riding again regularly has become my serious drug of choice. Birmingham is a hilly city and I see hills all the time that I want to climb, but I have to work up to that stage. This morning I took a stab at a hill that my boy Olney took me up the 1st time we rode once I got back into B’ham. After not riding for 7-8 months he tried to kill me, now about 7 months after my spine fusion I looked at that hill and beat it. Riding has always been a joy for me, but my city has decided that cars are more important.

Birmingham proper is a great biking area with the downtown area being mainly a big grid and lots of one way, multiple lane streets. It is once you get out of B’ham proper that it becomes a battle that I and many others are willing to fight. Getting back into cycling has taught me so much about myself and the type of person I have become. Peddling has given me a chance to cover many many miles and see many beautiful things that a car will never do justice. As you may know, I started seriously riding again in NYC and then never bought a car when I moved to Austin, TX, and commuted by bike for the next 2 years. This put me truly into the mindset of a biker. I had a condescending attitude for a while where I despised the Lycra crowd, but have since realized that bikers are a culture that many see but few truly understand our love of being the engine of our transport.

A much smaller subset of bikers are commuters, my wife never wanting to be in this club. In so many ways I hope to one day find a job in B’ham where I can commute by bike and let my wife have the only motorized vehicle we own. My dream is to get a job and hopefully a permanent job in which I can be within 10-12 bikeable miles of work. Getting up every morning and riding to work was a joy that is hard to describe if you have never done it. Knowing that a car is not an option gives me joy beyond joy. Even days in which it rained I put on my gear and enjoyed the water falling from the sky daring me to retreat to the comfort of cage with wheels. On those days I would put my head down and pedal harder and laugh as the water under my tires parted to let me pass. Arriving everyday wet from sweat or rain taught me that this life is fleeting and you should find ways to do what you enjoy. Without that, what are we doing? That is somewhat rhetorical, but also very answerable. When I get on my bike the world seems to ask, “What do you want to see today?” My response is almost always, “Everything!”

I have 3 bikes and they all bring me a different joy. I inherited a cruiser from my grandfather and that bike has big whitewall tires and is my lets go for a ride and enjoy the sun and fun bike. My 2nd bike is my Bianchi Volpe cyclocross bike. This bike was my 1st real bike once I started commuting in Austin. I went to Ozone Bikes and the guys there pointed me in the direction of bike that I now am happy that I own. The guys at the shop all rode bikes regularly and were not snobby about people coming in to learn about biking. I explained that I wanted a commuter, but wanted to ride almost exclusively on the roads and I was aquatinted with the bike that has been riding more than anything else I own and has made it through two, count them two, collisions with cars. It still rides like a dream and can get me from New York City to Seattle on a moments notice. It is not scared of anything I can throw at it and I feel that it will never back down from a challenge. Last, but not least is my fixed gear. On my daily commute in Austin, there was a bike at this plant that I passed. It had been there for about 3 days and I told myself if it was still there at the end of the week, I would drive on Friday and pick it up. Low and behold the bike gods kept people from going near it until I arrived. It was a Schwinn Traveler III, red, broken back tire, and the components were all busted up. I told my lovely wife that I wanted to strip it apart and use the frame for a fixed gear bike. She humored me and I did just that. I ripped every thing off the bike and painted it orange and wrapped the handle bars that I chopped and flipped to make bull horns in blue bar tape. I bought new a chain, gear ring, fixed gear ring, pedals, wheels and I was off. Austin’s Yellow Bike Project allowed me the use of tools and I put it together myself. To say this is my favorite bike is an understatement, it brings me a joy that I will only know and never be able to express in words. Here are some pics of it.

To put it in simple terms: riding a bike brings me joy. My back has sacrificed running, but has decided to spare my bike. This brings me sadness and happiness. Although running got me through some very dark times, biking has never brought about a bad time. No matter how bad a hill or ride beats me, I know that I can try again the next day and can have a better day. With almost every sport or activity, there are good days and bad days. With biking even the bad days make me want to pedal more and harder. Finding a partner in B’ham that wants to ride as much and even more than me has been a saving grace for me. Thanks Josh Schein, I am sorry to say that you are stuck with me! Although our city does not like riders there is another generation coming and we are not scared of the killing machines that weigh from 1/2 a ton and beyond. We will take back this city and we will not have remorse in our mission. Birmingham is on the cusp of moving forward and we plan on making that move using two wheels and pedaling all the way.

Posted in Biking, Change, Exercise, Fixed Gear Bikes, Friends, Health | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

We all have that one teacher…

Looking at pictures like this make my happy that I appreciate most everything I have in this life and I have a lot!

Looking at pictures like this make my happy that I appreciate most everything I have in this life and I have a lot!

I found out yesterday that my 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Ward, died over the weekend. You have to work through stuff like that and this is how I am choosing to pacify the grief. Now I know that most of you reading will be thinking that this woman and teacher inspired me to be the teacher I am today. That could not be farther from the truth. She was an older overweight lady. She was normally very sarcastic, that I did learn that from her. She was most of the time telling us that we could do better and stop being so stupid. Hell, I hated English as a class until I actually became a teacher. In high school I read maybe 4 books total, where now I will eat through that in a month. She would tell you on a regular basis that she was going to retire and she was ready to get out of there, teaching. She taught for 24 1/2 years and had so many days left she took early retirement and stopped at Christmas. What made Mrs. Ward my most memorable teacher is that she saw something in me that no one else did. She wasn’t trying to inspire me or even trying to make me a better person, I think she just saw that I was a confused kid trying to do the right thing and she thought that was okay. So after my sophomore year of high school I was Mrs. Ward’s teacher’s aide for the next 2 years. Mainly I sat in her room and graded papers, ran around the school, played jeopardy on the classroom computer, and would run out to her car and bother the ever living shit out of her while she smoked- she would always shoo me back into the school.

Mrs. Ward was the first teacher that I ever had that taught me it was okay to just be happy with what you were. I do not ever remember a deep intellectual conversation with her about too much, we did not have that relationship. She was a good person and I was trying to find a way to be a good person and we just happen to coexist at the same time and place. She may have some very different thoughts about me, but we never discussed that, so I will never know. It is one of those things where someone has an impact on your life so profound and you do not know if they even knew. Being a teacher now, I do things on a daily basis that I completely forget, but that students or kids seem to remember for a lifetime. In that way I guess she did influence me in my teaching career. She taught me that it is the little things that make a huge impact on someone trying to figure out this thing called life.

I hated English and she actually made it tolerable. It was never fun, but I could not be bored to tears in her class. The one thing I do remember is that everyone in the class had to recite the Marc Anthony speech from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”. That always stuck in my head. I can quote most of it, but not all of it, but hearing it 30 times over 3 days and having to memorize it does that to your brain. I also remember that Chris Olney, still my friend, showed me his 1st tatoo on his leg in her class, not to mention Olney also looking at me dead-faced and saying, “Is it bad that I can pull this much skin out of my mouth?” Olney used to dip tobacco in class and it was starting to have some very bad affects on his body. I did respond that it was probably bad that skin came out when you did that, but I smoked cigarettes at the time, so who was I to judge?

Mrs. Ward had a profound affect on my life and she will be missed. She saw something that even I didn’t know was there. Now that I am teacher myself, it is apparent that the teachers that really know what they are doing can see those things in young minds that maybe no one else can see. It comes with our profession. The funny thing is that I do not even know if Mrs. Ward even knew that I had become a teacher. She made the decision to retire and never looked back. That is another lesson that I took from her, always look to what is ahead and never look back. It is always amazing that certain people make such an impact in our lives. She never told me to get smarter, work harder, or to even be a better person. I think that she knew as long as she was real with me all that would make sense one day and it did. She was nothing but genuine to me and that has always resonated inside my head.

Mrs. Ward, know that you did some amazing things in your life and you made an impact on someone who wants to change the world. It may not mean a lot, but I will never forget you and plan on living my life influenced by your philosophy of being yourself. As a teacher now, I can only hope that maybe one day I will have the impact on a young mind that you had on mine. Thank you for all that you did. I know you are in a better place. I seriously doubt that I am the only student you made an impact on during your career. That is the amazing thing about people that enjoy being teachers, they truly love young minds and want to make them better people. They have chosen to use their lives to try to impart knowledge on others. I will never be this kind of teacher, but I am glad that there are educators that can make a difference. Maybe one day we can sit down together and have a cigarette, coffee, and talk about some random stuff.

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