Tag Archives: #TWIT

The Power of a Swift Kick #twits

Piper Bayard

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.

• • •

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.

Piper's 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”

• • •

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.

Read The Books by Steve Hess #twits

Steven Hess

My guest writer today is Steven Hess. Born in Amsterdam, Holland in 1938, Steven spent his childhood years under Nazi occupation. He and his family, including his parents and twin sister, lived in both the Westerbork and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps during 1942-1945. The family immigrated to the United States on January 1, 1947.

A graduate of Columbia College, Steven majored in American History, served with the U.S. Navy for four years (1960-1964) and, after he completed his service, he worked at The New York Times. He eventually bought a small photographic equipment business and grew it into an internationally admired company with over 100 employees.

Steve is a bit of a rabble-rouser. He is a smarty-pants who speaks his mind. I rather love this about him. Let’s be clear; Steve is not a blogger. But over the last year, I learned that Steve writes really well, so I knew I had to get a piece of that action.

Here is his teacher memory.

• • •

It was more than half a century ago.

I was a junior classman at Columbia. How I ever got in with my modest credentials is another story, but I was indeed an Ivy League student. I was also lazy. Today I would be diagnosed as depressed or maybe ADHD, but in the fifties “lazy” pretty much covered it.

I entered Columbia as an engineering student from the prestigious Brooklyn Technical High School but an “F” in freshman calculus suggested a career change. I inventoried my few talents and it came down to a knack for writing.  A switch to a history major seemed a reasonable and safe course of action.

One semester I signed up for Professor Fritz Stern’s European History class.  I needed the class. I was clueless to the fact that Fritz Stern was a preeminent historian with a truly major reputation. There was no Google. How would one know such things?

I slogged along, attending class, listening to lectures but pretty much ignoring the required readings because; well, because I was lazy. And so the semester passed and it was finals time and the thin, stapled, dreaded “blue books” in which you scribbled the answers.  As I said, I wrote well. If not restricted by the need for facts I could often b.s. my way through.  It was a week or so later that papers had been graded. I accepted the marked blue with the usual trepidation of a deficient student and opened it.  There, to my great relief was a “B” and under it the following comment, in red:

Logical exposition. Good conclusions, but you would have done so much better had you read the books.

Relief, tempered by acute embarrassment…but still, mostly relief.

Book by Fritz Stern

Years passed. Many years. I was in my fifties and quite successful in a field that required neither calculus nor an appreciation for historical nuances. But I had also become an avid reader and, as a survivor, a serious scholar of the Holocaust. And so I happened upon Fritz Stern’s magisterial Dreams and Delusions: The Drama of German History.  I couldn’t put it down.  I underlined and highlighted my way through endless revelations.  And, “fuck!”, I thought. I had been in his class and wasted all of it.

But now there was email and the beginning of search engines and I tracked him down. Thank God, he was still alive and kicking.  I got his address and wrote and told him how much I loved his works and especially Dreams and Delusions. Big fan!

I was too sheepish to mention the blue book, but merely wrote that I had taken his course.

Some days later I received a response:

Mr. Hess:

Delighted to hear you finally read the book.


What class do you wish you could take again — now that you are an adult — because you know you’d appreciate it so much more?

Last week: “A Different Kind of Punishment”

 • • •

If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a piece of writing for #TWITS: Teachers Who I Think Scored or #TWITS 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.