Thursday, January 8, 2015
Back then I was eleven years old. He was twenty-four.
Two years ago I walked through my old junior high school and saw him in the break area, leaning up against the brick, watching the students. He seemed not one day younger or older than he did the last time I saw him standing in the same spot.
Him that way gives me some insight into how the kids see him today.
Pillar may be overused but seems to fit nicely here. A rock. Strong. Funny. Serious.
If you told me in sixth grade that one day I would sit across from this Coach and interview him for an article I would have been excited about my future.
Today it happened.
Tonight I have to gather my thoughts.
He started teaching in 1978. Always a science buff he knew what he wanted to do with his life when he was in sixth grade. Never second guessed it.
(well, except maybe during the strike of '84 because he had a family to feed and until that moment the Mississippi legislature had decided not to pay enough for teachers to feed their families. Less than a living wage in economic slang. )
He and I both agree that nobody goes into teaching to make serious cash. Most I have spoken with and he is no exception say that teaching is more of a calling, a being led, following your passion, doing what you love, sailing with the wind and however many other ways we want to write it.
As we are talking we are interrupted by a student he sees. He calls the child over to our table.
"Hey, (he says the student's name). I saw your report card today. You can't do that. You're better than that. You have to bring those grades up. You understand?"
I'm in voyeur mode. Neither Coach or the student seem aware anyone else is in the room. Coach is standing, bent at the waist. Face to face, he and the kid are engaged. Eye contact on lock down.
The kid nods.
Coach never raises his voice,"I'm serious. I know how smart you are. You have to tighten up. You hear me?"
Again the kid nods but this time whispers, "Yessir."
And though I've heard from other teachers about what a great science teacher he was.
And though I know it's long hours being the Coach of the football team because his knees most likely don't bend like they used to or a late drive back from an away game can make the next morning's bus duty all that much more painful.
I get it, but even knowing all that I see the interaction between Coach and the kid and realize this guy has done thirty-seven years of this. He's coming up on his fourth generation of children who he says many times come back twenty years later just to say, "Hey, Coach. I just wanted to let you know that I thought you were crazy when you told me to enjoy it because life was going to fly by so fast. And all those things you said. You weren't crazy. You were right."
And I realize how lucky we all were/are to have Coach in our lives.
Today I am grateful for the opportunity to sit across from Coach and have a conversation.
It's a crazy wonderful job I have.