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THE IDLE AMERICAN
Wednesday, July 29, 2009 • Posted July 29, 2009

Certain Other Duties at the School House…

Column #326, for Release Saturday, July 25, 2009, or Later

I have always firmly believed, as I do now, that when unsung heroes get their due, school personnel will warrant an ongoing chorus of thanks from the rest of us. They deserve a crescendo of sincere appreciation.

The good ones—and most of them are—log service “off the clock,” working into the night, and sometimes into the next day. There are deeds we don’t hear about, usually because they don’t tell us. Many prefer not to risk misunderstanding, charges of grand-standing or seeking attention. In these days, our down-trodden society needs detailed information of stories that warm the heart.

I want to share a true account of utter compassion that occurred earlier this year. The parties, as well as the school, will remain nameless. If you happen to be a school employee, I extend congratulations. If folks close to you are, please support and thank them….

  • * * * *

It was on a cold Friday afternoon last winter. The elementary school principal was churning through the final hours of a challenging week, looking forward to a dinner engagement.

The phone rang, and after a few words from the anxious fifth-grade girl placing the call, the administrator thought briefly of her contract, the last words of which pretty much say it all: “and certain other duties as may be assigned by the superintendent.”

This call, though, resulted in discharging a sacred Christian obligation to help the hurting, whoever they are, wherever they are with whatever is most needed….

  • * * * *

The youngster spoke through tears, phrases coming out in chunks. “My mom’s awful sick,” she said. “Would you be able to go by to see her? She’s in hospice.”

Well aware of the youngster’s “life story” and cognizant of what hospice care typically means, the administrator put the week’s wind-up duties on hold. She knew that the youngster was being reared by a grandmother who had been granted custody several years ago. (The fifth-grader had learned just months earlier that the woman she thought to be her mom was, in fact, her grandmother.) And yes, the educator knew also that the cancer, diagnosed three years ago, was gaining the upper hand….

  • * * * *

“Could you please come by after school?” the youngster begged.

Of course she could, and she would. The principal made calls to delay dinner, then hurriedly drove to the hospice facility in the city nearby.

When she arrived, the student was crying, standing vigil at her grandmother’s bedside. Already unconscious, the precious patient, just 50 years of age, passed from this life within a minute of the principal’s arrival….

  • * * * *

The educator sat down, her arms engulfing a 10-year-old who perhaps was already wondering where she’d live next.

Yes, dinner—and a weekend “must do list”—seemed unimportant and far away. The student needed her desperately, and she was there.

A couple of days later, the educator drove to visitation at a funeral home in an adjoining county. The youngster ran to meet her, then proudly made introductions to family and friends gathered there. She wanted everyone to know her friend who happens also to be a school principal….

  • * * * *

Multiply this vignette by several hundred thousand, maybe millions. Know that situations just like this, or closely akin thereto, will occur multiple times in the coming school year in communities across the land. School bells will be sounding soon, and the 2009-2010 school year will begin.

A slogan coined for the Association of Texas Professional Educators rings in my memory. It says much: “Supporting your freedom to teach.” I’m sure the ATPE would be tickled beyond words if the public at large assumed the same stance. For many students, educators are their only advocate.

Make a genuine effort to thank someone at your school, extending warmest wishes for a great year. Better yet, thank several of them. Offer your prayers and support. Maybe you can compose a fresh bumper sticker to support educators. If you can’t, the old, well-worn sticker will work fine: “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” Remember, when students need them, for more reasons than can be listed, they’ll be there….

  • * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker and writer in the Metroplex. Send inquiries and comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.

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