My Salute to Teachers

I woke up Wednesday morning in Key West. Okay, it was actually the Key West Inn in Hamilton, Ala., but when I closed my eyes, I felt like I was in Key West. They had paintings of lobsters and crabs on the wall, which was pointless when I closed my eyes. My room even smelled like fish.

When I got out of the shower, I realized there was no hair dryer in the bathroom. It has become standard for most places to provide such amenities. It’s imperative that my bangs stand up. It’s a must, or I just don’t have the confidence to perform at my best. I needed to adapt and overcome, and so I did. I put the gel in my hair while sitting in the front seat of my car, and then proceeded onto Interstate 22. I rolled down my window and drove 70 miles per hour with my head sticking out of the window like Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. It worked. My hair looked good.

When I got back to the motel, I saw the hair dryer mounted to the wall. Apparently, I overlooked it.

I was in Hamilton to give a 90 minute presentation to the faculty of the Marion County School System. My purpose was to motivate and inspire them in an entertaining manner as they prepare for the start of yet another year of school. For some, it was year 25; for others, it was year one. I salute them all, because I know how difficult it can be to teach today’s youth. I’d rather have a root canal or pull for Alabama. I take that back. I’d rather be a teacher.

Tuesday morning, I did the same thing for the Coosa County School System. I’ve performed in places such as Washington DC, Seattle, and Las Vegas, but you know you’ve hit the big time when you’ve performed in Rockford, Ala. I felt big time anyway, because I have such great respect for educators.

With Mr. Sanford, the superintendent of the Coosa County School System. He knows my uncle, the deer processor.

With Mr. Sanford, the superintendent of the Coosa County School System. He knows my uncle, the deer processor.

I owe much of my success to my teachers. Thirty years ago, had you told me, a stuttering kid, that I’d be giving 90 minute presentations to anyone, I would’ve referred you to the local looney bin. Fortunately, I had teachers that encouraged me to reach my full potential. They didn’t coddle me or try to hide me. They let me be me.

As with any profession, not all teachers excel in their field. I’ve heard horror stories of teachers not letting stuttering kids talk in class. I know of one kid that raised his hand more than anyone in the class, yet his teacher never called on him. This kid had no fear and reminds me a lot of myself. My speech vastly improved once I started raising my hand to volunteer to read or to answer a question. It took away the extra anxiety that often comes with the unknown. In his case, he was never called on. Whether his teacher was trying to protect him or just didn’t want to deal with him does not matter. All children, in spite of perceived flaws, should be allowed to participate and encouraged to reach their full potential. Sadly, school is the only place that some kids will ever get any kind of encouragement.

My cousin was named teacher of the year at Auburn Junior High School last year. Her dad, my uncle, was also in education. In fact, at one time, he was the mayor, the principal, and the deer processor in New Site. Although he was a great mayor and a great principal, he is mostly recognized for being a great deer processor.

Teachers are a lot like soldiers in that they are underpaid and often under-appreciated, but where would we be without these great Americans. So if you are a teacher, past or present, I salute you and wish you a wonderful school year.

For the record, a 90 minute speech for a stuttering guy is not as daunting a task as it seems. I only had to prepare 45 minutes worth of material.

(This was written in early August but I forgot to post it.)

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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Get your grind on…Back to school.

“LEFT LANE CLOSED AHEAD” the orange sign with black letters read.

Upon reaching the one-lane construction zone, my car was seemingly moving at a snail’s pace.

It was about that time I started experiencing the flashbacks. No, they weren’t flashbacks to Iraq or the last two Iron Bowls; they were flashbacks to my college days.

The construction was taking place on I-85 between Auburn and Montgomery. I’d probably made this trip a thousand times in my life but the bulk of those took place from 2000 to 2001 while in school at Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM).

Before transferring to AUM, I was a career student at Southern Union State Community College. In fact, one of the wings is named after me. Well, not really, but it should be.

I crept through Southern Union like a car going through a one-lane construction zone.

I actually attended Southern Union after high school but that only last one pathetic, measly, miserable quarter.

As many of you may know, I am a fan of professional wrestling. Don’t blame me; blame my grandparents. They loved it. At least I don’t dip snuff, but I digress.

I took three classes that first quarter, and when the quarter had come to a close, I’d withdrawn from the first two and failed the other, resulting in the grades of WWF.

Hulkamania might have been running wild but my education was not.

My photo ID from the WWF days.

(My photo ID from the WWF days.)

This was my lone attempt at college prior to joining the Army.

Within a year of the WWF, I raised my right hand, stated an oath, and my life changed forever.

After four years in the Army, I returned home and reenrolled at Southern Union. I was highly motivated and was dedicated to completing my degree.

I’d earned the Montgomery GI Bill and was going to use it.

Fortunately, I had a boss that allowed me to work full time and then some. I had bills to pay but the extra work didn’t jive with my education.

The grind was wearing on me.

I was burnt out, so I put my application in at the local tire plant, but, by the grace of God, my services apparently weren’t needed. The plant has since closed its doors.

I could’ve stayed at Southern Union and taken a few more classes but a change of scenery was necessary.

Although the main campus at Auburn was my first choice, I settled on AUM because it was more conducive to the non-traditional student. Besides, my money still went to and my grades came from Samford Hall. I was still an Auburn man.

Early on, I was reinvigorated, but it didn’t take long for the grind to catch up with me.

There is nothing fun about driving 100 miles round trip to school in a Jeep with a busted window held up with duct tape, allowing in cold air, making it difficult to hear the radio, much less stay warm. Some quarters, later semesters, saw me doing this four days a week. I’d often leave at 7 AM and not get home until 10 at night.

I was still working full-time, too.

The grind had caught me, and I was ready to quit.

That is until the blistering hot day I saw an orange sign with black letters that read, “LEFT LANE CLOSED AHEAD.”

As I crept through the construction zone at a snail’s pace, I couldn’t help but feel for the road crew as they worked in the sweltering heat. I know they work hard and some make good money. I have great respect for what they do, but I knew that’s not where I wanted to be.

I had no idea where life would take me, but I certainly hoped it would include air conditioning.

That was it. That’s all it took. After that, I never looked back. I was a man on a mission.

My Jeep Wrangler died on me, but, thanks to my brother, it was quickly replaced by a Jeep Cherokee, making the drive and midday naps much more bearable.

I was so motivated to complete my degree, that I took seven classes, the equivalent of 35 hours, that final summer mini-semester.

I graduated on August 3, 2001.

The fellas supporting me at graduatuon...from L to R...Adrian, Eloy, me, Dr. Curry, Brad, Shea

(The fellas supporting me at graduatuon…from L to R…Adrian, Eloy, me, Dr. Curry, Brad, Shea.)

I hate to think where I’d be had I not completed my degree. Education can often be a grind, but in the end, there are very few things as valuable.

Whether you’re entering first grade, high school, trade school or college, don’t ever give up, because education is essential.

If you never quite completed that degree, the time get your grind on is now, because with an education, life’s possibilities are endless.

It took me to Iraq three times, and most of the time, I had air conditioning.

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com .

The Teacher that Changed my Life…Forever

This week was Teacher Appreciation Week, so I want to share a story about the teacher who had the biggest impact on my life.

In the first grade, my bus was late on the very first day of school, so I got to class late.

1st grade

1st grade

The education of Jody Fuller was not off to a good start.

In the second grade, I played hooky for seven straight days. The nurse called my mother to ask if I was ok, and I was just fine when the nurse called; however, when my mother had to leave work to come home to get me, well, I was no longer fine.

I have three tours in Iraq and I am fine but I still get flashbacks from the beatdown I got that day.

I remember standing in the hallway at Jeter Primary telling Mrs. Floyd how sorry I was for skipping school. We were both crying. It would not be the last time I cried with a teacher.

I was runner-up in the spelling bee in the fifth grade at Pepperell. I misspelled the word goalie. I’ll never forget that. At the time, neither hockey nor soccer was big in Alabama, so I was clueless. My friend Adam was crowned the spelling bee champion by spelling the word goldbrick.

I never really enjoyed school the way I should have. In fact, I always missed the maximum number of days but somehow managed to maintain decent grades up until my sophomore year.

When I tried, I did fairly well. If I remember correctly, I had a 3.2 GPA going into my junior year. Unfortunately, the older I got, the less I tried. I was more concerned with having fun and doing whatever I could do to make people laugh.

My GPA dropped faster than Manti Te’o’s draft stock after the revelation of his fake girlfriend.

I had Mrs. Mount my sophomore year for biology and again my junior year for anatomy and physiology. She was such a great teacher. One quarter in biology, I had the second highest grade in the class. It was just one quarter but still…

I had so much respect for her that I still performed satisfactorily in her class my junior year.

During my senior year, I took chemistry. I never did grasp it and never learned the periodic table of elements. I knew salt and potassium but that was about it.

Class of 90

Class of 90

When final exams came around, I rolled up into class with a number 2 pencil and a pillow. I quickly filled out my Scantron form with the number 2 pencil by spelling out the words A BAD BAD CAB DAD three or four times before turning it in.

I thought I was cool. In hindsight, I was an idiot.

I then laid my head down on the aforementioned pillow. The plan was to sleep for the next couple of hours.
At least that was the plan but those plans quickly changed when Mrs. Mount entered the room by happenstance.

In the Army, we call that a FRAGO.

She noticed that all the other students were deeply engaged with their final exams while I was deeply engaged in dreamland.

After a quick chat with my teacher, Mrs. Mount snapped her fingers and instructed me to come with her. She walked me back to her classroom and then into her office in the back of the room. At least, I think it was an office.

She lit into me but did so in a caring and concerned manner. I told her I wasn’t overly concerned with school because I planned on staying with Kroger after high school or getting on at one of the local plants.

All those local plants are now closed. All of them.

She told me how smart I was and that I would be wasting so much potential if I followed through with that lackluster plan. She encouraged me to go to college and to chase my dreams.

Before it was over, we were both crying like we’d just watched a marathon of Little House on the Prairie.

I’ll never forget that day.

She didn’t have to do that. Technically, she wasn’t one of my teachers that year, but once a teacher, always a teacher.

I attended Opelika City Schools all the way through and was very fortunate to have been taught by so many wonderful and caring teachers. Dr. Hannah, Mrs. Davis, and Mrs. Leonard are three that immediately come to mind but there can only be one favorite and that was Mrs. Mount. More importantly, she was the most influential.

I did go on to graduate college and I continue to chase my dreams.

College graduation with wonderful and supportive friends (from L-R...Adrian, Eloy, me, Dr. Curry, Brad, Shea)

College graduation with wonderful and supportive friends (from L-R…Adrian, Eloy, me, Dr. Curry, Brad, Shea)

Now that the cat is out of the bag, I guess I’ll have to change that online security question.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week to all the educators out there. Thank you for what you have done and for what you will continue to do. You are making a difference each and every day.

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.