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The Idle American
"Teachers and Ides of March..."
Wednesday, March 20, 2013 • Posted March 20, 2013

Julius Caesar’s assassination marked ‘em, Will Shakespeare wrote about ‘em, and teachers seem destined to perpetuate ‘em. Bad news—like “Ides” of old—blows in each year, “hammerlocked” with destiny on the wings of each windy March.

School personnel—lumped together—harbor fear premonitions of the school year’s final lap. They know that lurking on the other side of spring break are unpredictable situations—the kinds that try their souls—to make chopped liver of whatever nerve endings remain.

Superintendents—haunted by indignities inflicted at many ceremonies—wander through stores featuring graduation specialties, checking on new “toys” invariably added for the ceremonial season. Chins are rubbed at the prospect of stereophonic air horns and mice—priced cheaper by the dozen. There are also spring-powered devices that propel mortar boards to highest ceilings, with special adhesive for attachment thereto. They cringe as their throats dry….

    *****

School folks welcome spring break like cattle to new pastures. They regain enthusiasm that initially drew them to the profession, lick wounds and gird up for the homestretch.

After all, they prize the week-long recess as much as students.

Meanwhile, parents’ lips quiver at the challenge of keeping boredom’s clutches at bay for a whole week….

    *****

For “Exhibit A” in this vignette, consider Andy Adams, a Kilgore principal who soon will complete two decades in the field. He called the two days prior to spring break this year “the toughest in memory.”

He spent most of the hours refereeing, without nearly enough thumbs to poke into educational dike holes that spring open when the natives are most restless. He was equal to tasks, but emergency crews were at the ready.

A respite never was so appealing. Saturday, he figured, he’d simply “unlax,” claiming the fruits—hopefully low-hanging—of an unstructured, “do-nothing” day. He’d blot out thoughts of upcoming mandated exams and the barrage of excuses abounding as the year grows old….

    *****

Andy, a “no-nonsense” principal with a commanding presence at 6-3 and 200+ pounds, waked that Saturday half-relaxed. He’d begin it with a leisurely 15-minute ride to Longview with his father-in-law.

Little did he know that a sighting alongside Highway 259 would trigger out-of-control laughter that abated just short of a conniption fit.

A motionless coyote—its last breath drawn at least a day earlier—sprawled. (At once the “cartooned” picketing chicken needed word changes to warn of the hazards of road-crossing: “Even with the best of outcomes, you’ll never hear the end of it.”) Hard to explain was the message on the mylar balloon tied to the coyote’s paw: “Get Well Soon.”…

    *****

Who, wondered Andy and his kin, would have such a warped sense of humor? Who would take time to make the purchase, perhaps smiling when the check-out clerk added hopes for a quick recovery? Who would risk being seen “tying one on”?

Andy’s near-convulsive response perhaps was cathartic. Now limp, he’s relaxed enough to see the school year through to its end. (Smiling, he wonders how many others saw the same scene.)

I mentioned his being “no-nonsense.” This description dates back a quarter-century, when he was a college freshman and I was the president. He wanted to be the “kind of teacher who wouldn’t put up with the nonsense” he got by with….

    *****

Indeed, he was “impish”—as many freshmen are—but his devil-may-care smile reduced misdemeanors to lower-case demerits.

I recall a reception for freshmen parents during the spring semester. Suffering from “maltuition,” they delighted in their offsprings’ lofty goals—to become teachers, ministers, lawyers, researchers and so on.

When all eyes turned toward Andy’s dad, he responded, “I pray God that Andy wants to become…a…a….a sophomore!”…

    *****

Later, he married Kathy Robinson, a student worker in my office. She “had it all,” Christian values, beauty, strong work ethic, creativity and a host of other laudable traits. Some say she took on Andy as a project.

We’ve joked about it, but truth to tell, theirs is a marriage worth modeling. They and their three children, deeply rooted in their community, are “as good as it gets.”

That’s my opinion and that of legions of others. But I’m glad he had his dad-in-law along to verify the “Get Well Soon” balloon story….

    *****

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Speaking inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Twitter: @donnewbury. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.

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