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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The Car Line

When I was a kid, I rode the bus. At six years old, I stood at the bus stop every morning with my eight year old brother and the rest of the young hoodlums in West Side Subdivision. I stood there each morning enduring the elements. We were poor, so when it was cold, I wore tube socks on my hands. When it rained, I poked my head and arms out of a trash bag. That’s what I did when I was a kid.

My cheese wagon homies...Brent, Billy, and Adam....Notice the awesome Neil's Sports Shop painter's cap.

My cheese wagon homies…Brent, Billy, and Adam….Notice the awesome Neil’s Sports Shop painter’s cap.

I rode the bus every single day until my brother turned 16. It was at that time that he became the proud new owner of a 1971 Toyota Corolla. We had to go all the way to South Carolina to get this fine piece of transportation. Although it looked like a washing machine, it was nicknamed “the turtle” by my three cousins who’d had the pleasure of driving this marvel before my brother.

Every kid in this picture drove "the turtle" except for me.

Every kid in this picture drove “the turtle” except for me.

The past few weeks, I’ve spent most afternoons with Lucy in the car line at Dean Road Elementary School in Auburn picking up her seven year old daughter, Emily, and their six year old neighbor, Sara Beth.

Sometimes, I let Emily drive...

Sometimes, I let Emily drive…

The operation itself is a sight to behold. It’s on par with a full scale military operation. It’s quite impressive to say the least. There are walkie-talkies and everything. The long line of cars is reminiscent of opening night at the Lee County Fair, circa 1979.

Emily and Sara Beth wait on the front porch of the school along with the other riders, while other Oompa-Loompas are marched off to who knows where. I really don’t know where they go, but they follow a teacher and walk past my car every day in an organized manner.

There’s the lady on point who seemingly runs the operation. She calls in the number that’s displayed on each car that corresponds with the respective student or students. She also waves aggressively at people without ever making eye contact.

At some point, the coach makes an appearance, and everyone looks at him as if he’s so dreamy. I know he’s the coach, because he wears a visor. Somewhere along the way, the visor took the place of the whistle, the long-time coach identifier.

Once you make it past the point lady and the coach, you see the kids on the porch along with a handful of teachers and aids who are opening doors and shoving kids into vehicles like Laverne and Shirley on the assembly line at the Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee, Wis.

From there, we are on our own. It’s imperative to strap the kids in, but we’d better be rolling as we do it. If not, the teachers and aids start flapping their wings in a violent manner. Some of them are going to require rotator cuff surgery at the conclusion of their car line career.

It’s a daily adventure. I’m amazed at the sheer number of cars. When I was a kid, there were only a handful of kids who rode to school with their parents. For the longest, I thought it was ridiculous that today’s kids were coddled so.

Some kids do ride the bus, and I see them waiting in the comfort of their parent’s vehicle awaiting their bus’s arrival. I guess that’s ok. Perhaps the child doesn’t have access to tube socks and trash bags.

Now that I have a vested interest, I no longer see the carline as being ridiculous. We want to do what’s best for those we love. A lot of bad things can happen to a child who waits at a bus stop, not to mention there are some very bad kids riding the bus. The bus driver can only do so much. Thankfully, there are cameras installed on most buses, which certainly cuts down on some of the nastiness that can occur. Sadly, it does not completely eradicate the dangers of riding with bad kids.

It’s funny how our views change as we experience newness in our lives, and that’s a good thing.

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Just in case you were wondering, “the turtle” died before I ever had the chance to drive it. I didn’t have the luxury of owning a car when I turned 16. Nope. I got an alarm clock so I could wake up early every morning to drive my mother to work so I could use the car to drive to school…because there was no way I was riding the bus.

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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