I am fortunate to have Piper Bayard as a guest blogger today. I met Piper when I was learning how to tweet. She was the first person to actually
recognize my flailing say hello to me in a civilized manner, and kind of introduce me to her friends in the Twitterverse. I so appreciated that. Since then, I have read Piper’s words voraciously. She is a real researcher and she knows how to weave some great fiction in with some real-life facts. I guess that means I’m trying to tell you that Piper is a fabulous writer. So enjoy and comment on Piper’s tale today and, and then head over to her place “The Pale Writer of the Apocalypse” HERE. You can also Twitter stalk her at @PiperBayard.
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The Power of a Swift Kick
I took my daughter to school one morning last spring. Like most middle school girls, she’s convinced my mission in life is to embarrass her, and I take my work seriously. It’s not enough that I walked through the school doors pronouncing that Miley Cyrus looks like a two-bit hooker on Discount Day in one of her videos. No. I even talked to my daughter’s classmates. . . .
“Jordan,* stand up straight. You’re far too pretty to have poor posture. . . . Kyle, do not spit in the presence of ladies. That is most ungentlemanly behavior, and you’re better than that. . . . Young lady, you seem like a nice girl, but are those shorts legal? How do you expect the boys to learn anything in math with you looking like that? . . .”
Now, you’d think these kids would have told me to %*!# off, but, for whatever reason, they didn’t. Jordan grinned and stood up straighter, Kyle blushed and muttered a shy, “Yes, Ma’am,” and the young lady in short shorts laughed and rolled the legs back down to where they were when she left the house that morning. That’s when I realized that it had happened. I had grown up to be my mother.
I don’t mean my biological mother, Big It rest her soul. I mean the woman who saved me from being the queen of a double-wide trailer with five kids and four baby-daddies going to court every week for child support. That would be my middle school music teacher/mentor/friend/other mother, Elmarine.
Elmarine knew all about surviving life’s apocalyptic events. Born in 1917, she had polio as a child. She spent a third of her childhood away from her family at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Shreveport, Louisiana, undergoing nine operations to help her walk. Let’s face it, those guys may wear funny hats, but they do amazing things for kids. . . . Without tv’s or computers, Elmarine entertained herself and the other kids by riding around in her wheelchair, playing her ukulele. . . . I threw that in to let you know there really are ukulele players out there. Who’d have thought?
She married an engineer who developed the welding process used on ships during WWII. He died suddenly, leaving her in poverty with two daughters to support. Lucky for me, she went back to school and got her teaching degree in music. At that point, she wore a brace and sometimes used crutches, and back in that day and time, employers actually said outright that they wouldn’t hire her because she was ”crippled.” She kept at it anyway. . . . What else could she do? . . . And finally she found a school district two states away to give her a chance.
During her many years at my school, she was anything but crippled. She taught us stray cats proper posture, proper social interaction, and, more importantly, self-respect and perseverance. There wasn’t a sob story we could tell her that she couldn’t relate to, and she always had the same answer. “That’s tough, Kid. Now, what are you going to do about it?”
Over the years, I’ve found her singular reply to be the answer to all apocalypse in a nutshell. “That’s tough.” Acknowledge the problem. “Now what are you going to do about it?” Meet it with action. Sometimes, the action is to face myself and/or others. Sometimes, it’s to change my ways. Sometimes, the only action possible is to endure one more day. But she did all of that and tolerated nothing less from me.
Elmarine dished out loving ass-kickings. I think those kids at my daughter’s school can tell that’s what they are getting from me, and that’s why they always smile and say hello when they see me. I’ll bet you Jordan stands a little straighter next time, too, and Kyle will at least only spit behind my back.
I dedicate this blog to all of the teachers whose loving ass-kickings keep stray cats from having four baby-daddies.
Who gave you your “loving ass-kicking”? What were the tools they gave you?
*Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Last week: “Read the Books”
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If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a piece of writing for #TWITS: Teachers Who I Think Scored / Teachers Who I Think Sucked, write a specific memory about one teacher you had and explain how that person helped you (or really screwed things up for you), as well as the life lesson you took away from the interaction.
Essays should be around 700-800 words.
Interested but have questions? Email me!
My information is under the Contact Me tab.
Thank you for mentioning the Shriners and the good work they do. I am a mason (which is first before becoming a Shriner if you so choose) and we are accused of all kinds of diabolical schemes to rule the world and establish a new world order. The most sinister thing in which I was ever involved in 38 years of membership was help decide if there should be cherry or walnut paneling and white or blue carpet in the lodge. The rest of the time was dedicated to community and crippled children charities.
Hi Carl. My grandfather, along with most of my friends’ fathers, was a mason, too. I grew up knowing these kind community leaders as dedicated family men who worked hard serving others. I thought it was a joke when I first found out about the “masonic mystique.” These folks fill their time with commitment to their communities and to children everywhere. Thank you for your comment.
What a heart warming story. I’m glad you love your daughter’s friends enough to add value to them, and I bet they are too! Children can sense the difference of when someone is just being grumpy and when someone really cares about them. I think that they are better at it than we are!
I think you’re right. As we grow up, we’re told things aren’t really as they seem. By the time we’re adults, many of us have to make it our life’s work to learn to sift out the “real” in situations from our PTA meetings to the evening news. Kids, on the other hand, see without the blinders believing they should be seeing anything in particular, and, as a result, they know that things are often exactly as they seem. Magicians hate performing for kids for that reason. Thank you for your comment.
Thanks for being here today! I can’t say I got a loving ass-whooping, but I definitely got an ass-whooping in high school.
My homeroom was in one of the art rooms which was always dark, the seats often covered in paint. I was tired of getting covered in paint at 7:45 am each morning. One morning, after weeks of complaining about getting paint on my clothes, I decided I’d had it. I decided I would not sit down. The teacher and I got into it. He wanted me to sit down. I wouldn’t sit down.
Until everyone stood to do The Pledge of Allegiance.
(What can I say, I was a rebellious thing.)
Mr. Benedict did not appreciate this at all, and he grabbed me and shoved me up against some metal lockers. He told me to get out and find another homeroom. He told me my “bad attitude” would get me nowhere in life.
I thought about that for about .3 seconds and then I went to the office and told them I’d been kicked out of Mr. Benedict’s homeroom. The nice lady in the office placed me in the Yearbook homeroom, where I got to be creative and write and work on layout — the perfect place for a one-day blogger.
So, in reality, Mr. Benedict did me a favor. And he was right. A bad attitude won’t get you anywhere. I should have just asked to switch homerooms earlier.
Lol. I love this story, Renee. I wish I had known you in middle school. We would have been friends back then, too. 🙂
My father gave me daily verbal ass-kickings. When I was a kid, I thought he was flat mean. Nothing I did was good. I never tried hard enough. I figured he hated me. One day, Dad asked me to help his union put on a fish fry. While I was standing there serving cokes and grinning in the hundred degree heat, this friend Dad’s came over and told me how proud my daddy is of me. He said Dad talked about what I had accomplished and how tough and determined I am almost every day. It was such a shock to me that I wasn’t a disappointment to Dad. I realized something new that day: Dad is my toughest critic, but he’s also my staunchest supporter.
Thanks for the heartwarming post. The remark about five kids and a double wide was really relatable. We must come from similar backgrounds. LOL
You know, Catie, I’ve suspected that similar backgrounds thing for a long time. 🙂
I’m so glad your dad bragged about you. I’ve had family members like that. I thought they couldn’t stand me from the way they talked to me, until someone else told me the nice things they said about me.
I get concerned when a story, such as Piper’s, is just nice and sincere and heart warming. You leave absolutely no opening for a snarky or cynical or eye rolling response. Mother Teresa was more fun. You deserve a swift kick.
Lol. Go over to my blog. I’m sure you’ll find something there to snark about. But Elmarine was just a saint. You’re right. Nothing to snark at there.
Steve: You should go over to Piper’s blog. The irony of this statement will become apparent immediately. 😉
My grandparents (who raised me) were strict disciplinarians and strong on manners and public appearance. The hair off the ears baptist boy cut and no shirts with anything bigger than a polo symbol were wonderful and kept me from ever having a chance to dream of being popular or even in the know until I hit high school.
I’m not sure I ever got a “loving ass kicking” but they were sure to spew their opinion at me any time they disagreed. I’m glad they were this way because once I moved out (within one week of turning 18) I realized they had accomplished their mission. I was independent, well-trained and seeking to be out from under them. Now that I have teenagers, I can understand why they opted to go this way.
Great post, Piper. Thanks for hosting Renee 🙂
You really hit on a great point, Gene. One thing Elmarine taught me was that the only thing parents “owe” their children is to teach them to be independent. When my son was born, I wanted to the be the perfect mom. then my daughter was born, and I had to lower my standards to, “If they can afford their own therapists when they’re grown, I haven’t done everything wrong.” Glad you had someone who cared enough to do what they knew how to do.
I am really enjoying this series about inspiring teachers (being a teacher myself). Keep them coming!
Thanks, Lorna. Glad you enjoyed the post.
I love this story, Piper. I need to implement the “That’s tough, now what are you going to do about it?” Yup, stealing that, thanks to you and Elmarine.
As a young teen, I got told to stand up straight a few times. It helped. Getting me fitted in the right sized bra also would have helped. 😉
Lol. I hear that one. I think I walked around with my arms crossed across my chest for two years. And Elmarine would LOVE for you to steal that. 🙂
Great story Piper! Elmarine sounds wonderful. I always joke that my mom taughts us manners before we learned how to walk. It’s now the running joke at work how much I thank everyone. My parents were somewhat strict and lax in various places, but where it counted I think they raised us kids right and I see their influence in how my siblings are raising their own kids. They read to their kids voraciously, which my mom always did and my dad made us work for anything we wanted, and my brother and sister in law have no problem taking their kids aside and having chats about sharing, talking respectfully, eating dinner, etc. And those kids are so bright, smart, creative and kind. I love them dearly. Hope one day I can be as good a parent and teacher as Elmarine. Love her name too!
Isn’t that a wonderful name? Of course, a version of it is the name of the mentor in my book.
I think that, no matter what our backgrounds, one of our greatest challenges as adults is to overcome our childhoods. If we have idyllic childhoods, we have to come to terms with a world and people that can be quite ugly. And if we have wretched childhoods, we have to learn that not everyone is evil before we can have healthy relationships. I love it that it sounds like you have a good family. You will no doubt follow in their footsteps.
“I think that, no matter what our backgrounds, one of our greatest challenges as adults is to overcome our childhoods.”
Best. Sentence. Ever.
My loving ass-kickings haven’t been given to me by a certified teacher but by my brother in law. From the time his pre-BIL, seventeen-year-old self said, “I really lucked out with Rache! I not only got the best girlfriend ever, but a really wonderful friend in her sister!” I knew I was lucky. It’s just gotten better since. He holds nothing back, in all the right ways. Examples:
2 years ago
Me: Can you believe she did that !@#%?!
Nick: Do you suppose that’s the kind of thing a sane person would do?
Me: . . .
Nick: [smiles encouragingly]
Me: Damn it.
10 years ago
Me: I . . . I’ve been having problems with bulimia.
Nick: [smacks me upside the head with a look of combined love/discipline] You’re so much more than that, Deb.
I love me a good, kind word, but I also love knowing there’s someone out there who will tell it exactly as he sees it, 100% out of (a) love and (b) the hope I’ll see things a little more clearly myself.
Please see reply below. I clicked the wrong button. Oops.
You could have just told me her name was Elmarine and I would have loved her already…
Such a fabulous story.
My grandfather (who is 92 and still going strong) had polio when he was three. He wore pants every day of his life to disguise his one withered leg – until he moved to Palm Desert three years ago.
That’s when he finally said, “I’m 89 years old and it’s too damn for anything but shorts.”
He is on Twitter, he reads my blog, he emails and spends hours each day surfing the net so he can “stay on top of things.”
He’s grateful for each day, a cock-eyed optimist who chooses to see the beauty in the world.
I adore people of this generation who don’t complain but simply look for ways to change their circumstances. To be happy on their own.
Thanks for sharing, Piper. And Thanks for having Piper here, Renee.
Hi Julie. Glad you enjoyed the blog.
Your grandfather sounds awesome. I love it that he took to shorts. I would also love to follow him on Twitter. Please tweet me his handle. 🙂
Julie, your grandfather does sound awesome! I want to follow him, too!
Why don’t you get him into the blogging business?! 😉
He’s on Twitter? You have to write a post about him, Julie. (And apologies if I’ve missed it!) 🙂
Interestingly… or maybe not… I really can’t think of a teacher that influenced me in such a unique way. Maybe I just have blacked it all out! But in terms of great quotes, I did have a grandfather who I never knew as he died before I was born, but he was a tough Irish/Scottish kind of guy and a coach. He was fond of saying “look down between your legs and see if your a man!” I wrote about him once in my blog, fascinating guy who has influenced me just by the stories that have been told!
I liked your story and your writing style… good stuff!
Thank you for the compliment.
I can see how your grandfather’s style might have worked better for you than it might have for me, but Elmarine did the girl equivalent. 🙂 Your grandfather sounds like quite the fellow. I’ll be sure to check out your blog.
Hey Cowboy, not all your teachers have to be the ones from school! Your grandfather sounds like a cool guy. I’m not surprised you’ve written about him. Feel free to come back and post the link, if you are so inclined. I bet folks would like to read about him. 😉
Okay, here’s the link for anyone interested: http://brownroadchronicles.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/youre-so-handsome-i-hope-you-never-die/
That’s wonderful! I had to laugh, though. He reminds me of The Slapping Medicine Man. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVWLHMZ-ceE
This reply is for Deborah the Closet Monster. Sorry. I clicked the wrong button.
I’d never seen nor heard of that before! It had me chuckling throughout. That’s the only time I’ve gotten whapped in my adult life, but it cut straight through the crap in a way words could not have. 😀
Sounds like she knew a thing or two about Love and Logic!
Great post even if it included some ass kicking!!
Thanks, Susie. She definitely was logical and loving. Not sure she would have taken to the program, though. 🙂
I think there were some teachers who wanted to help me, but I didn’t trust adults so I never let them near enough to advise me. Later, I , a bad seed, counseled, cared for, and occasionally sheltered High Risk Youth (a euphemism for kids going down very bad and often deadly paths). I was very honest with them about my wild child past and the abusive family I escaped (mom was a saint, but as a schizophrenic, unable to cope). I was exactly the role model they sought and I saved many with exactly the same type of attitude Ms. Elmarine exhibited.
When parents prove they are not a safe haven and that their answers to issues lie in beatings, the only person one can count on is oneself. Never pity people who come from “high risk” backgrounds, because their very presence means they are survivors. Often, their greatness isn’t proven via having high-powered careers or great wealth, it is in raising dearly loved, well cared for, happy children. They give, in great quantities, the very things they never had, and that is a miracle.
Great post, Piper.
“They give, in great quantities, the very things they never had, and that is a miracle.” I understand. Thank you for your comment.
“Never pity people who come from “high risk” backgrounds, because their very presence means they are survivors.”
You have some wonderful lines in there, susceptorqueen! Truly inspirational. I will have to come and find you. 😉
I wish teachers got paid more for helping me turn these anarchists around…. I wish I got paid more.
Lol. Isn’t that the truth? Good to see you.
I wish teachers were paid more, too. But most of it don’t go into it for the money, do we? And usually the anarchists turn around AFTER we’ve had them, so we never really know if we’ve made a difference.
Case in point: Today a ran into a former student. Man, was she tough. I thought she HATED me. Meanwhile, she came running up to me and gave me a huge hug in the hallway. We’re talking college. She told me that my class was the first class that gave her confidence. That I helped pull her out of a lifetime funk.
And I thought she hated me. How did that happen? It’s nice when they come back and tell you. Honestly, that is part of what motivated me to do this series. So few teachers ever get that feedback that they helped someone. But we all have a teacher that we loved. (Or hated.) And they all taught us some kind of lesson that we carry with us.
Who knows? Maybe someone will write about you on their blog someday because of the loving ass-whooping you provided.
She sounds like a great woman! I have to bite my tongue so I don’t tell kids I don’t know things like that. But kids I do know- they get an earful. Who kicked my ass?? My history and Gov teacher in high school Mr. Costello he was amazing, and taught me a lot – including how to spell a lot properly. We did group projects in class and if you missed one day you had to do the whole thing by yourself- I came to school sick just for his class several times.
Sounds like a great guy who cared about teaching you responsibility and teamwork. And I say let that tongue loose. What are they going to do? Kick you off the PTA? 🙂
Thanks for sharing this great memory Piper. It’s always great to read about those people who help reinforce (or in some instances, build) our backbone.
I think reading others’ stories of their mentors tends to remind us of our own. Thanks for your comment.
Fantastic post, Piper! I’ve had some amazing teachers, role models, and mentors in my life, but no one will top my high school Spanish teacher. She was the epitome of tough love, and she was also pretty crazy and kooky. I’ll never forget her response when my classmates protested a surprise pop quiz by arguing that she never “warned” us that the pop quiz was coming. “Life is a pop quiz, chiquitas,” she said to us. “Do you think my husband warned me before he told me that he wanted a divorce?”
She taught me that I had to roll with the punches, and that once I left the safe, nurturing environment of my high school community, I’d have to learn how to stand on my own two feet and depend on myself and the knowledge I had gained. She always challenged us, never cut us slack like other teachers did, and I am forever grateful to her for that. “That’s tough, now what are you going to do about it?” sounds like something that probably came out of her mouth more than once.
Lena: I love that quote: “Life is a pop quiz, chiquitas,” she said to us. “Do you think my husband warned me before he told me that he wanted a divorce?”
I might have to use it with my students.
Except I’m not divorced.
So that might not fly. Still, it is a great line. I wish i had thought of it.
Hi Lena. I love that. “Life is a pop quiz, chiquitas…” So much truth in that. I’m so glad you had her in your life. 🙂
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This was wonderful! Thank you for sharing, Piper. My most influential mentor came later in life, in the form of a boss, and she usually led by example (one of these people with so much integrity they wouldn’t so much as take a pen from the office supply cabinet), but would also call people out on their B.S. For whatever reason, she always thought I was capable of more than I ever did (I went to art school and we were working together in a pharma company, so I always felt lost) and definitely altered the course of my life!
How fortunate to have a boss like that! Those are they type of people who should be bosses. Thanks for sharing your experience.
Oh boy, did I love this story. Thank you for sharing it. My first mentor was my mom, but not until she left my dad when I was 12. That’s when she started teaching us that we were better than put-downs, and that our lives were our responsibility. I’m forever grateful for that.
“… that we were better than put-downs, and that our lives were our responsibility.” No truer words. Good for your mom! I know that having kids certainly makes me stronger when it comes to leaving toxic people behind and taking responsibility. Thanks for sharing your experience.
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You ever notice that it wasn’t the cream puff teachers who got the respect, and it wasn’t the harsh disciplinarians. It was the ones that put it in human terms, and made you think about the consequences.
Well said, Wayne. Kids don’t want to get their way all the time so much as they want someone to give them a world structure that allows them to function. Thanks for pointing that out. 🙂
I’m just going by what I saw Piper. Being a writer makes you look at things differently. I find that I’m evaluating everything now, looking at the personalities, and what they mean. Why did Mr. Fields do what he did (Renée knows that story)? Why did Mr. Aravandino do things the way he did? It’s fun looking and working out the reasoning.
I think about that stuff all the time. It’s about worldview. Don’t you dare tell your Mr. Fields’ story! That little ditty is ready to go in 2012! 😉
I always say, it is a students’ job to push the boundaries, but it is the teachers’ job to gently remind the students of where those boundaries are and what they are there for.