TO MUCH TO DO


I walked into the workroom early the first day of school after Labor Day because I like to arrive early to find out what I’m supposed to do for the day as a substitute. Some teachers were already present and readying their rooms for students in 7:00 a.m. classes. Others arrived a bit later until all were on hand by 8:00. So began another day of educating the young, but these teachers today have much more piled on them than just a few years ago.
No, this isn’t a piece that bemoans the salaries we pay our teachers. Yes, they are underpaid, but most of them knew the low wages of the job before they went into the profession. That doesn’t make it right, but I see other things that are discouraging.
One is the expectations of teachers to perform extra duties. Bus duty has long been something that teachers despise. It required them to arrive even earlier than normal and to stay until the last bus
arrives to pick up students. If a bus breaks down, those teachers must remain with the waiting students until another type of transportation can arrive. On many occasions, administrators might have already headed home as the teacher hangs around with bus riders.
Some teachers are expected to serve lunch duty roles. They make sure students don’t act up and that
they clear their tables of all trash and trays. It’s shocking how many students will walk from the table with the expectations that someone else cleans their messes. I always wonder if they do the same thing at home but know that the answer is “yes.”
In some schools, teachers are required to stay in touch with parents about a variety of things. When students miss a set number of days, the teacher is required to call the parent to inform them that the
child has missed days. Yes, parents need to know when their children miss excessive numbers of days, but calling after three or four takes more time from teachers. It’s a redundant task since most schools have programs that automatically call home when a child misses a school day.
Teachers are also expected to call homes when students’ grades become D’s or F’s. Parents’ knowing about poor performances of their children is important. However, they have access to the grades of students through the school’s computer platform. All that is necessary is for them to get on line and look. If they have questions or concerns about the grades, then they can contact the teacher for a meeting or conversation. The onus of responsibility for the child’s maintaining a passing grade should fall upon the parents, not the teachers.
Most teachers have large classes. For a high school teacher, that can mean 120 or more students per term. Tests and essays and worksheets must be graded. A single planning period is not enough time to complete the grading, especially when teachers must sometimes meet with administrators or cover other classes. That means they spend hours marking those papers at home.
The fact is that teachers work hard. Oh sure, some are lazy and rarely hit a lick, but for the most part, teachers put in plenty of energy and time to make sure students are exposed to concepts of classes. When additional duties and tasks are added, the job can become overwhelming. Again, most teachers knew what they were headed for when they accepted a job. Still, it would be nice if they could teach classes without having to complete so many other assigned duties. Give a teacher a thank you for the work that he or she does. Then make sure your child takes advantage of the opportunities to learn and be ready to face the college or technical school that waits in the future. 



BACK TO CLOTHES


School started not long ago, and I’ve already been able to serve a couple of days as a substitute. Many of the days I’ve scheduled have 7:00 a.m. classes, but I don’t mind starting early so that I can finish before the traffic rush at the end of the day. Being around a school filled with teenagers isn’t uncomfortable for me either since I spent thirty years in front of English classes. For me, the worst part of the school year starting deals with clothes.
All summer I’ve lived in shorts. Most of the time, I woke early, put on a pair of them and a t-shirt, and drove to the YMCA to complete an “old man workout.” Then I made my way home to complete the day’s list of chores. Sometimes I changed into older pairs of shorts that were covered with stain or paint from earlier tasks. No one much cared what I looked like as I mowed the yard or pulled weeds. By mid-morning, every article was drenched in sweat.
The rest of the time, I wore a bathing suit. Hours were spent sitting by the pool as I read a book or jumped in the water to cool down. On some days, I spent all afternoon there and returned to sit with Amy in the evenings after she arrived home from work. One drawer in the dresser is filled with bathing suits, but for some reason, I like best the two that Amy bought for a bout $5.00 a pair. If smudges of dirt or grease from machinery swiped across them, it made no difference.
Along with those shorts, I wore old t-shirts. Most were several years old, and they were dotted with paint or stain. Some were so old and faded that Amy begged me to toss them out, but like most men, I refused to discard the most comfortable tops that were in my wardrobe. Amy bought several sleeveless shirts in hopes I would clean out the raggedy ones, but they were simply added to the rotation.
Back in the grind of school, I have to wear slacks and a decent shirt. Nothing is worse than the first couple of days after returning to the regular wardrobe. The weather is still stifling hot and humid, and those long pants smother my skinny legs. Polo shirts and dress shirts just don’t “breathe” like my old tops, so I feel as if I am in a sauna the entire day.
Even shoes are miserably uncomfortable. After a couple of months of wearing flip flops, my feet feel swollen and pinched in shoes. Socks don’t help the matter any at all.
I was more than a little shocked on the first day back at school. Boys were clad in shorts and t-shirts, which was normal attire. However, the girls’ clothing was a different story. Too many of them wore shorts that were so short that they barely covered and legs or behinds. Tops were cut much too low or had openings in the back that allowed them to show of the latest sport’s bras with intricate webbing. In addition to the shock, I admit to being a bit jealous. No, I’d never wear some of those items, but I longed to return to my shorts and t-shirts that were of better quality.
Before long, the cold weather will blow in, and everyone will be covered from head to toe with warm clothes. Summer dress will be long gone. Yet, as spring arrives and warm temperatures move in, I’ll look forward to the time that I can again spend the day in my comfortable clothes.

JOHN McCAIN


John McCain passed last week. Since then, many Americans have thought about the man and the services he gave to his country. He is in the truest sense of the word a patriot and a hero.
First of all, I wasn’t an avid supporter of McCain. When he ran for president, I did not vote for him. His ideas were, in many instances, just a bit too hard line or conservative for me. The man’s decision
to choose Sarah Palin as a running mate was the deciding factor. I’m not sure whether he chose the woman or his campaign strategists convinced him to take her, but her addition spelled the end of McCain’s chances for the highest office in the land.
Even though I didn’t vote for him, I respected him. I knew his love of country and commitment to it were genuine. His bid for the office was grounded in a desire to serve these United States and to keep the country on a correct course. At the same time, McCain campaigned fairly in the election; he played tough, but he wouldn’t allow half-truths and innuendo the slightest bit of oxygen. Nothing better shows that than when he corrected the woman who called Obama an Arab and a Muslim. Yes, John McCain played hard and wanted to win, but he always played within the rules.
During his time in the senate, I sometimes cursed his over-the-top demands for more defense spending, tax cuts, and right-to-life issues. He railed against many social issues, and too often, the man attacked those who disagreed with him. However, McCain was one of the most well-liked persons in the senate. Folks on both sides of the aisle remember that he often apologized for being too harsh with them. Most important, he seems to have left disagreements at the door of the chamber; when he exited, McCain was a friendly and likable individual.
The stance he took on the vote over Obamacare was one of the most courageous acts I’ve ever witnessed. Senators on both sides stood and cheered his return to the Senate chamber on the night of the vote to determine the program’s fate. In dramatic fashion, he turned thumb’s down and defeated his own party. He voted to protect his constituents, and in the process, might have protect millions of others who would have lost healthcare coverage.
It was also that vote that further made Trump hate McCain. While running for president, Trump refused to recognize McCain as a hero. “He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured.” Such an ignorant statement from a man who avoided service because of bone spurs would have been the opening shot to a long, loud, noisy war between two men. McCain never allowed that to happen. Instead, he went about his business of serving the people of the country the best way he saw fit.
John McCain died from the cancer that attacked him a year earlier. America grieves over the loss of one of its greatest heroes. The picture of his desk draped with a black cloth and adorned with a bouquet of white roses stings. A true leader has died. A man who stood up for principles, order, and the rules of governing is now silent. He gave 60 years of service to this country, but the man in the oval office denied him the flying of our flag at half-staff and only spoke positively about him after the American Legion sent a scathing letter and demanded the respect that was due to McCain. Republicans and democrats will both deliver eulogies during services; they are rivals and friends of the senator. The sitting president will have to find something else to do because he wasn’t welcome at the funeral.
So, another statesman has left us. Who will replace him? The next senator should be someone who is just as much of a maverick as John McCain. That means he or she will work for the good of the people, not for the party or a petty leader. We need more people like McCain on both sides of the aisle. If they come, congress just might once again work as it should. Thank you, John McCain, for your service to all the people of the United States.



KEEPING THE OLD AND THE NEW


Well, the day finally arrived. I gave in and purchased another vehicle. Doing so was a difficult decision because I struggle with the idea of having to make a car payment. However, times arrive in life when such actions must be taken.
I bought a “new old car.” Ever loyal to Nissan, I chose a 2011 Pathfinder. It has plenty of miles from the previous owner, but otherwise, the vehicle is in good shape for a car so old. Amy and I don’t buy new cars for several reasons. One is that we can’t afford new cars, nor can I justify paying more for a car than I did my first house. (Yep, I’m old.) The second reason is that new cars lose so much value the moment they leave the lot. Many times, a used car has been driven long enough to work out the bugs so that it can be a more reliable one with a few miles on it. The third reason for buying the car is that I’m tired of dropping into and climbing out of the Nissan Sentra that I now drive. I need something that allows me to either sit straight into it or step up just a little to enter the car without having to promise an arm or a leg.
I’m passed the excitement that comes with a new car, including a new used one. It’s a thing and a means to move from one spot to another. If I fail to get one car I like, I don’t fret much anymore because another one will come around before long. Oh, I like having something to drive that’s a bit more up to date, and I only require three options on a vehicle: electric mirrors, intermittent wipers, and a working radio. All the other gadgets are nice to have, but not necessary.
I’ll sell my 2012 Sentra at some point. It only has 56,000 miles on it, and the car is a perfect first vehicle for a teenager or a second car for a family. I will keep my other car. My 1987 Nissan
Pathfinder stays parked under the carport. It’s one vehicle we bought new, and we added a back seat, radio, and air conditioner at later times because it was cheaper to do so. Over the last 31 years, my old Pathfinder has traveled to hundreds of baseball games and has pulled a trailer filled with mulch, flooring, and building materials. The inside shows the wear of so many trips and years. The arm rests are split, and the dash is now covered with a material to hide the deep crevices in the vinyl. Charlie Muncey, our hero mechanic, worked hard to fill in the rusted out areas under the back seat. The air conditioner and radio no longer function, and sometimes the engine runs too rich.
Even though that old car has more than its share of problems, I can’t let it go. In fact, my son just a couple of weeks ago implored me not to sell the old Pathfinder because it is so much a part of the family.
I’ll enjoy driving an updated Pathfinder that has plenty of bells and whistles and three rows of seats. The worries of arriving on trips out of town won’t linger as they did when I drove the old car. Still, I’ll take my favorite vehicle when I need a load of mulch or want to haul a load of materials. We have too much history to just part ways so quickly. Wave at me if you see me in either of my Pathfinders. I’ll be the guy driving down the road with a smile on his face.