Why Teachers Suck …

If you wish to know what is wrong with education today, take a moment or two to read.

Bert Fulks

A friend and I were grousing about ignorance run amok.

“Americans get their information from internet memes,” I laughed.  “And in the true spirit of democracy, dullards who have never cracked a book will cancel the votes of people who actually have a clue. What could go wrong?”

“You know what the problem is?” Tim challenged.  “Our country’s a mess because teachers suck.”

teacher2I bristled.

Although I’ve been out of the classroom for a number of years, once a teacher, always a teacher.  Plus, I have family and friends still slugging it out in the trenches.  I know their battles and the wounds they carry.

“Dude, do you know what teachers endure on a daily basis?” I asked Tim.  I found that, no, he didn’t.  I fear most Americans might be as clueless.

I emailed a former colleague (she’s two years from retirement) and asked one question:  “How has education…

View original post 1,411 more words

Pentagon Papers Turns 46

Thanks to lobotero for posting this. A much-needed rehash of our history.

In Saner Thought

Where we you on 13 June 1971?

There was a publication that blew the top off the story of the year…….

46 years ago today the first part of the Pentagon papers was published…..

Pentagon Papers, papers that contain a history of the U.S. role in Indochina from World War II until May 1968 and that were commissioned in 1967 by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara. They were turned over (without authorization) to The New York Times by Daniel Ellsberg, a senior research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for International Studies.

The 47-volume history, consisting of approximately 3,000 pages of narrative and 4,000 pages of appended documents, took 18 months to complete. Ellsberg, who worked on the project, had been an ardent early supporter of the U.S. role in Indochina but, by the project’s end, had become seriously opposed to U.S. involvement…

View original post 414 more words

Could it be the Lard? Said the Spider to the Candle Fly.

Who knew the shingles could be such a great diet aid. The day before they hit I stood on my scales and commented out loud to myself and the spider creating the web above the back door, “You better be careful, your weight has been creeping up. You are about five pounds above where you want to be…need to be.” The spider ignored me and continued “casting” her web.

That was a month ago and I no longer am concerned about being five pounds too heavy. Now I’m worried about having lost twelve pounds without trying. The spider doesn’t seem to be too concerned although the candle fly joining her in the web seems genuinely frightened to death. Why am I thinking of a spider in female terms? Anyway….

Because of my weight loss and the reinvigorated appetite coinciding with the passing of the shingles, I decided to go on a quest, the holiest of quest. No, I am not joining Percival questing for the Holy Grail, my quest involves gaining four or five pounds using flour, cream, baking powder and …well there is my problem. My quest is to create a biscuit just like my grandmother made; tall “catheads” with a break midway, buttery crisp on the outside, yet moist, light and fluffy on the inside. I’ve tried cold butter ala Bobby Flay, both shortening and butter from Paula Dean and all I have to show for my efforts is a net gain of two pounds. They were good biscuits, worth the two pounds gained, especially the peppered version by Flay, but it’s still not quite right.

It’s my fault. I should have pressed my grandmother for her recipe earlier before she had entered the twilight of her mind. When I finally asked for her recipe, the best she could give me were her dry ingredients and a statement, “When it all comes together it will feel right.” I remember my father saying something similar about love. It took me a while to get that right but I have actually been more successful with my quest for love than my quest for the perfect biscuit…wait, I am no longer questing for love…well, I guess its love for a biscuit.

Well, Miss Spider, what do you think? More silence and for some reason, the candle fly has ceased her struggles.

My mind has been playing around with a thought…the one I’ve tried to ignore. Could it have been lard? Epic pork fat at one hundred and thirty percent of your daily fat requirements in one serving. And if I add a little sausage or sawmill gravy…I’m a dead man. What do you think spider? Could it be the lard?

My quest might be for the impossible. Did Percival ever find the Grail? Okay, yes and no, depending on which version you read. Maybe I have created a standard in my mind that will be impossible to find or meet…well, I still have five or six pounds to play with before I must give up my quest.

Okay, spider…what did you do with the candle fly?

“Looking for answers to questions that bothered him so” For more musings and other stuff from Don Miller, check his author’s page at https://goo.gl/pL9bpP

IT’S THE WHAT?

The face looking back at me from the mirror is almost unrecognizable. Tiger Wood’s most recent mug shot is a glamorous compared to what I see. I wish I could blame it on poor lighting…OR A MONTH-LONG BINGE. Gray and strained, my watery and bloodshot eyes belie the fact I rested a full eight hours…rested? I slept for a full eight hours, awakening not to relieve my bladder but from strange dreams. Every hour and a half I awoke to wonder…where did they, the dreams and the people in them, come from and why do they haunt me so? As I contemplated my dreams I fell into another dream tossed slumber only to awaken and begin the process over again. A bizarre “Groundhog Day?”

The dreams are surreal. Picasso and Dali would be pleased. They are in technicolor with disjointed bits of brilliant color reminding me of light shining through a broken kaleidoscope…or maybe an LSD driven trip. Nothing quite fits, they are not nightmares, simply the misfiring’s of a troubled brain. People from my past involved in situations from my past…but situations they had no part in during the waking hours when the friends and situations were real.

I have had nine months of personal hell. Drugs and muscle relaxers to “NOT” relieve sciatica pain, antibiotics that have not cured a sinus infection and the resulting salivary gland infection. Then the shingles on top of it all. More drugs, some are “self-prescribed” for my own self-medication…none very effective. I try to tell myself it could be worse. It could be chemo or radiation…it could be “knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door.” It is still my own personal hell and everything is relative including “death by a thousand paper cuts.”

The blisters are healing but the pain is still there, radiating from around my right eye to the forehead and scalp above. Every night when I attempt to sleep the fiery pain is an unwanted bed partner and every morning when I awake it’s there to remind me of the day to come. My scalp seems to want to crawl off my skull.

How can I be so tired, I slept for eight hours? The dreams, it must be the dreams. I haven’t exercised in a month; my back yard is on its way to becoming unreclaimable. An hour and a half of garden weed pulling left me spent and trembling. I struggle to my recliner. I grow tired from contemplating it. At least when I doze during the day there are no dreams…sometimes.

I have weened myself off the drugs. The steroids and Valtrex have run their course along with the antibiotics. I fear my addictive self even though I doubt Alka Seltzer Cold Plus is addictive. I also wonder why it seems only a cold medication takes the edge off the pain when the called for Advil doesn’t remotely affect it? I have leftover hydrocodone from…I don’t remember. It is a good thing to have leftover hydrocodone I guess but I know it’s there… behind the closed counter drawer… calling to me late into the day. So far, I have not heeded the siren’s call…so far.

The shingles. How innocent they sound. I survived a heart attack, walking through a glass door, a chainsaw to the face…and a thousand paper cuts. I thought I was so tough. I would not wish this on my worst enemy.

For stories or essays of better days take a little time and go to Don Miller’s Author Page at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B018IT38GM

END OF THE LINE…AGAIN

I never intended to be that kind of teacher. You have had them. Angry all the time, lips turned downward or run out in front of their noses. Sour on life or why life was picking on them. As refreshing as a glassful of salted, warm dill pickle juice. Hanging on by their toenails, not for the sake of the kids they teach but for the paycheck they receive. I stepped away from corrupting young minds three years ago and coaching a year later for that very reason. It was my third “failed” attempt at retirement. Better to retire a year too early than a year too late and I could hear the sucking sounds of my patience reserves going dry. It was hammered home five or six months later when a teaching peer begged me to take her classes during her maternity leave…I am a sucker for a pretty face, even a pregnant one. It didn’t hurt that the district teacher of the year was doing the begging. Nine weeks later I found myself hanging on by my toenails not to be THAT KIND of teacher as we broke for Christmas and she returned.

Three months ago, she called again…pregnant again…begging again…and I’m still a sucker for a pretty face. I might have been a bit bored too. She might have played to my vanity. This wonderful, award-winning teacher wants LITTLE OLE ME to take her classes? I am unworthy…no really…I am unworthy. Yep, I’d say she played to my vanity. I also needed new tires for the truck and a hydraulic cylinder for my tractor. I didn’t need to work to pay for them, I could have written a check from savings. Next time I will. Did I mention it was half-time? Every other day, always with a long weekend. Twenty-two or three teaching dates. I could do this standing on my head…maybe.

I’m a two-day week away from the joyous end. One day is a half day. One and one-half days from heaven. Walking into a classroom hasn’t been any harder. The kids are no more difficult today than ten years ago. School staff and administration have been wonderful. It’s just me. The tank has run dry. I can’t do the job anymore as I once did. I have hit the end of my line.

Sciatica and the shingles haven’t helped. Limping into classes the first week of my tenure with sciatica, my scalp crawling and face blistering from shingles the last three weeks. No that’s just an excuse. A DAMN GOOD EXCUSE, but an excuse none the less. There comes a time when it is over and a wise man will recognize it. My friend Hawk, sometimes a wise man, has said often. “We can’t do this forever. I’m not going from an athletic field to the grave.” How many times have you retired and gone back Mr. “Do as I say and not as I do?” I have not been a wise man but I have gained wisdom. Who says an old dog…ahhhhhhhhh!

I had a wonderful puppy. She was a throw away that just appeared outside the front gate one day waiting for my beloved to feed her. Miss Sassy decided not to leave…until thirteen years later. Sick and old, she knew her time was near and went off to die alone. I like to think she didn’t want to burden us with the memories of her death. I want to be like her. I don’t want to keep hanging on…and to be clear, I’m just talking about my career…today.

I am thinking about the kids. Some are making me smile. I just didn’t have the time to develop the relationships except for a handful. Three or four from each class. It’s about the relationships. South Carolina history is important. So is culture and geography. It’s just not as important as the relationships for an old fart like me.

Anne, thanks for the opportunity but between us, don’t get pregnant again. Tie a knot, I’m not falling for it again, or if you do get pregnant, I’m not falling for it again.

To quote the Traveling Wilburys,
“Maybe somewhere down the road aways (end of the line)
You’ll think of me, wonder where I am these days (end of the line)
Maybe somewhere down the road when somebody plays (end of the line)
Purple haze.” It is the end of that line.

“Looking for answers to questions that bothered him so.” Find more musings and other reflections at https://goo.gl/pL9bpP

A QUIET, LITTLE PARK

I have childhood memories of gazing across the main street at the granite soldier standing guard inside the Confederate Park in the small town of Fort Mill. I was probably standing in line for a Saturday matinee at the Center Theater. That would be my guess. Some shaggy dog movie or maybe an oater starring Rory Calhoun or the like. I stood in line pondering the Confederate Soldier perched upon his stand gazing off to…where? Another time? “Good times they are not forgotten….”

The park seemed to be a quiet and serious, an almost religious place despite the Parrott Rifle and mortar guarding the four memorials located within; the Confederate Soldier erected in 1891, two tributes erected in 1895 memorializing sacrifices by loyal slaves and women, and finally, in 1900, a memorial to the Catawba Indians who served with the Confederacy. There is a bandstand, a place to sit and have lunch, contemplating whatever adults must contemplate. The little boy me knew nothing of this, he simply wondered why the granite figure seemed to be so lonely.

Confederate memorials don’t seem to be very quiet or religious these days. Arguments have erupted, again, over the removal of Confederate memorials and the Confederacy’s sacred cloth, the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia. Virginia, Louisiana and locally, my adopted home, Greenville, South Carolina have been focal points. I vacillate on my position. I don’t believe the removal of such monuments erases the history but I wonder how much both sides are trying to change history to fit their cognitive dissonance.

My problem is with the view of my heritage. My issue is with the heritage we Southerners are so proud of. The heritage we are determined to protect…or even invent. Tributes to brave men, our forefathers, dressed in gray and butternut, charging through the smoke, braving musket fire and grapeshot. Brave men on the wrong side of history. Outnumbered but valiant, dying, their blood staining the sacred ground of “Dixieland” …despite their Lost Cause. Defending the land of their birth, their way of life, their rights. Bravely giving their lives in a struggle reminiscent of Ivanhoe at his best.

It is the other side of our heritage I ponder. The heritage we attempt to, if not ignore, deflect from. We protest that the war was about Northern aggression and invasion, state’s rights, defending our homeland from an overreaching federal government and its unfair taxation through tariffs. This is my problem. Politicians, Southern Heritage groups and revisionist are quick to deflect, it’s Heritage Not Hate. My problem is the question I ask, “Where do African-Americans, their forefathers shackled in chains, where does their heritage fit?”

Maybe we should just add a fifth memorial to those already found in the quiet little park near the home of my distant youth. A marble testament to those who suffered under our heritage. We are quick to point out “it is time to move on,” that no one alive has picked cotton as a slave or owned slaves or a half dozen other excuses. In a way, I agree…but not until we take our own advice.

Don Miller writes “about things that bother him so” and things that don’t bother him at all. Should you desire, you may connect with him at https://goo.gl/pL9bpP

SPIRITS CALL TO ME

The spirits of the past call to me often. Usually, they sing to me late in the darkness of night. Mostly their songs are the sweet songs of a mother’s or grandmother’s love, long gone but not forgotten. Their songs of “tough love” don’t come to me as readily as their “sweet love.” Stroking a fevered brow, mayonnaise and onion sandwiches, the sound of a hoe contacting a rock followed by the thud it makes when it is thrown out. A broad smile on a freckled face because of something I did right for a change, birthday cakes, Christmas ambrosia and Missouri cookies. Breaking beans on a front porch in the August heat…. Strange the ways you knew you were loved.

I only had my mother for a short time. She left me when I was a half year past my eighteenth birthday. Left me, my brother and my father. For much of the previous five years she battled ALS until the battle was lost in early January of 1969. I strain to remember her…racking my brain. My memories are fuzzy and I hate that. I have pictures to remind me of her. Her red hair and freckles. The alabaster skin under her freckles turning lobster red after five minutes in the summer sun. A big smile and bigger laugh. A bit of shyness. Readying herself for work…draw in treads draped around her neck like a lei necklace. I wonder what happened to her reed hooks? They were always in her apron…I wonder where they are?

Mother’s Day is not a day of celebration for me, not a day of joy. It is memories of granite memorials in a small, country graveyard. Memories of funerals and pain. It is a day of questions. A day of “what ifs?” She never met my Linda Gail, she never met her grandchild.

Tomorrow will come and go…and with it’s leaving the return of sweet songs from the past…and a brightening I hope. Momma and Nannie…I miss you both every day but more so on this day…Mother’s Day. Rarely is there a day that goes by that something doesn’t remind me of you. Mostly I smile…except when I don’t…but mostly I smile.

Visit Don’s author’s page at https://goo.gl/pL9bpP or pick up a copy or download his new book, Musings of a Mad Southerner, at https://goo.gl/zxZHWO.

TEACHER APPRECIATION

We celebrated National Teacher’s Appreciation Week…last week. Our PTA was wonderful. Today I read a post from Dan Rather celebrating teachers and, after reading it, couldn’t help but think of those teachers who made an impact on my life, those who taught me and those I taught with.

My high school teachers were rural folk, under paid and over worked, often taking second jobs to make ends meet. They were noble people who answered a higher calling. I wonder if Mrs. Richardson or Mrs. McGinn worried about the state of education when I joined their ranks as a teacher in my own right. It wasn’t their fault I underachieved. I wish I had taken the time to tell them how much they meant to me. I wish I had told them that I learned much more than I ever put on paper or ever let on. I’m not sure they ever suspected…but they continued to try. Thank you for helping me to escape the cotton mills of my parents and the fields of my grandparents.

I did underachieve, not really knowing what I wanted to do. My mother wished for a doctor, my grandmother a preacher. I let them down too. It wasn’t until I found myself in an American History class that I felt the spark to teach. Thanks Coach Gunter…and thanks for a spark to become a coach. Thanks for giving me a big enough spark to overcome Western Civilization and Dr. Farley my freshman year in college.

I’ve taught now for forty-three years, forty of them were full time. After having been away for a year and then taking a long-term position for a friend, I cannot express how hard teaching has become and how much esteem and admiration I have for the younger teachers I am now working with. They too, are noble and answering a higher calling.

Teaching was hard twenty years ago, it has now almost become impossible. I applaud their innovative approaches, willingness to give of themselves, their love for their children and wonder if I ever looked that young. Despite the lack of support they receive, the ridicule they sometimes garner, they somehow persevere. Their calling truly is about the children they teach and not about the big bucks they could be earning. Because of these teachers, the children are the winners.

I don’t know if I could teach and coach if I suddenly found myself transported to the future that is now. I was just as terrible as a teacher as I was as a student when I first started out. I hope I improved. If I did it was because of the Nita Leatherwoods, June Shealys and Marilyn Koons from those early years. Later it would be others. If I did anything right, I kept trying to learn and kept copying the Bob Crains, Bianca Jameisons, and Paul Burnettes of the world. They were successful and loved by their students.

If you have a favorite teacher or a teacher who somehow made a difference, take a minute to let them know. They would appreciate it, especially in this day and time when teachers are more likely to be ridiculed than appreciated. They will appreciate it more than gold.

For more witty repartee go to Don’s author page at https://goo.gl/pL9bpP

FLOPPY PARTS…DEJA VU

STUPID! STUPID! STUPID! I wrote a book, my second attempt at writing badly, about the “wringers” men catch their floppy parts in…well, for the sake of truth, the “wringers” I catch my floppy parts in. Note: Present tense, plural.

The book was entitled, “Floppy Parts” and didn’t just deal with interpersonal relations but sometimes those relationships are just as painful as any hard shot to the “nads.” You’d think a man with my advanced level of seasoning would have a clue…but no I don’t. Not even close. If male-female interpersonal relationships were a course, I would be failing badly.

According to a blog I just read it takes, and I quote, “a guy up to three weeks to process and understand what is happening on the emotional level of his life.” Really? I would have thought longer…if ever. Maybe I should just wait and check in later, say a month? No I won’t remember it in a month which brings me to my present wringer.

When she makes me mad, I brood, or as my beloved reminds me, I pout. Yeah, I do. I run my lower lip out and I feel sorry for myself…for a couple of hours, allowing it to percolate, and then I blow up. BOOM! And it’s over. I’m good, got it all out, over with, airs cleared, except it’s not. It’s a false sense of wellbeing. “A dead pig smiling in the sunshine” kind of false wellbeing.
My beloved is going to allow my faux pas to marinade for three weeks or so. She’s going to allow it to eat at her and break down into its most basic and primal fractions…you know…like anger. She doesn’t brood, she plots…SHE GETS EVEN!

Three weeks later she has all the symptoms of a woman with a bee in her bonnet. Later I ask, “Honey, what’s wrong?” Later I will ask again…and again.
“Nothing,” says she, again and again. That is her code for I’m pissed but I’m not going to warn you before “comin’ off yo head!”
Eventually she does, “Do you remember three weeks ago when….” Hell no! I don’t remember what I had for supper yesterday…but she will remind me and it will not be as delicious as whatever I had for supper yesterday even if I had a dog poop sandwich.

Like last night. I’m not going to say what minor thing I did but it sent her to bed mad and I brooded from my d@#$ recliner well into the night. It percolated in my dreams. It interrupted my sleep. I awoke sore, too early, and “IT” was the first thing on my mind. I had a couple of hours of darkness to allow myself to brood.

Decision time. Okay, I’m good. I’m going to take the high road, take her morning coffee, and absorb my beating like a man…whenever it comes. Today, next week, a month from now, the year 2020.

What did you just say? You’re sorry? It was all your fault? What kind of black magic is this? Did space aliens kidnap my beloved during the night? I know what you are doing. You are going to keep me walking on egg shells until I forget about it and then, and only then, you will alight upon me like bottle flies on cow poop. But what if she is telling the truth, something she always does…Oh God, my floppies are in the wringer again.

Don Miller writes “memories.” If you enjoyed this short essay, more may be purchased or downloaded at https://goo.gl/pL9bpP

A PLAYER…ALL GROWN UP

For a guy who coached high school baseball for over thirty years, I don’t go to many high school baseball games. Just four this season. I feel a little guilty about not going but have found if I haven’t invested in the kids playing, I’m just as happy to catch a few innings of a collegiate or a pro game on the tube while relaxing on my recliner. Maybe I’m just being lazy.

Today was different. Instead of being lazy, I sat on the first base fence line watching a former player, Tim Perry, coach his high school team in our state high school playoffs. I might have been the only spectator who was more focused on the third base coaching box than the actual field of play.

The site of the game was a field where, in a past lifetime, I had wandered from the dugout to the third base coaching box and back again just like my former player was doing. I felt a certain kinship with him and understood the emotions he was possibly feeling. I watched him cheering, clapping, offering up nuggets of baseball knowledge and teaching the game. Picking his players up after an error or a strike out…no visible berating although I don’t know for sure what went on inside of the dugout…no berating I’m sure.

I was happy to be a spectator. The gut wrenching, acid churning and Tums gobbling days’ of “life or death” competition rest squarely on his much younger, broader shoulders and are, thankfully, in my rear-view mirror. I’d rather just cheer for him.

There is a comradery among coaches, even rival coaches, and these two knew each other well, having competed against each other since their little league playing days. After losing the second game, the district final, I wondered if they were still friends? Knowing Tim’s personality, I would guess yes.

When I first met Tim, he was a freckled faced ninth grader. He had one of those angelic faces that lit up the world when he smiled. Angelic face but full of “snips and snails, and puppy dog tails.” Short and just a few pounds past “stocky,” he resembled a “pleasingly plump” Alfalfa of Our Gang fame or maybe Howdy Doody of Buffalo Bob renown. If you look at him just right today, you can still see it.

Tim was trying out for our junior varsity team and had all the correct mechanics and moves, learned from hours of baseball camps and honed on hundreds of diamonds around the South, if not the nation. He looked good doing whatever he was doing. The problem was he looked good swinging through a lot of pitches, having a ball roll between his legs or having to line him up with a fence post to see if he was actually moving when he ran. I cut him. Doing so might, I say might, have been a mistake.

When a young kid gets cut he has a couple of options. He can allow it to ruin his athletic career, just quit and feel sorry for himself, or he can work harder and try again. I imagine you might guess which Tim did. It didn’t hurt he had a growing spurt over that next year, as in about six inches, a foot? No not that much but he was six foot plus by the time graduated. He turned into a good player, the ace of my pitching staff and good enough to play college ball. Yeah, maybe I made a mistake. I cherish the picture of us made when he signed his letter of intent to play for my old alma mater.

More importantly, and more to the point, he’s turned into a good man with a beautiful family. I watched a three-year-old boy run around and play as the game went on. He is Tim made over, a freckled faced little imp. The little boy’s mother and sister are pretty, brunette images of each other, thank goodness. I’m not sure how much Tim’s wife actually got to watch the game while keeping up with two fireballs. I know I never saw her sit down. Tim’s parents were there too, aging but still pulling for their son, always his biggest cheerleaders…and greatest teachers. How much support does someone deserve…a lot in Tim’s case.

I would guess it was heaven ordained Tim would become a baseball coach. He was already a coach when he played for me. Tim loved the game too much not to pursue that vocation along with a career in teaching despite a short tenure in the “real world,” the non-teaching world.

I’ve found there are two kinds of men who coach baseball…at least at the high school level. Those who coach the game for the game, and those who coach the kids. Over the years, I’ve found I don’t have much use for the men who coach the game just for the sake of winning championships…and I know, we’re all in it to win or you don’t stay in it very long. Observing Tim, I saw a coach who was coaching baseball but more importantly he was coaching kids and having fun doing it…and they were having fun too.

Tim, I’m glad you were mine for a brief period and happy you have turned into the man you’ve turned into. I hope you know how lucky you are to be that man. Maybe next year Coach…and I’m really sorry I made that mistake.

Don Miller writes “memories.” If you enjoyed this short essay, more may be purchased or downloaded at https://goo.gl/pL9bpP