Why Kids Misbehave in School

Five years into retirement and I still read school related articles from time to time.  Although there have been changes since I retired after 37 years as a teacher, coach, and school administrator, the articles I read prove some things never change.  Student behavior or misbehavior is one of those things that remains relatively the same year after year after year.   As long as there are schools, there will be kids who, for whatever reason, choose to be rebellious, defiant, disrespectful, and obnoxious.  Why?  Every year countless articles and books explore that question, but to date, no one has come up with a better answer than kids are human, and humans are impulsive, unpredictable, and make dumb choices.   Education discipline jargon changes yearly, and new enlightened gurus appear on the scene proposing the newest and greatest solutions ever conceived, but like the gurus before them, their solutions often prove ineffective and useless for dealing with negative student behavior.  The number of books published annually on this topic is a clear indicator there is not an easy answer or cure-all solution.  Education authors lay the blame for school discipline problems on bad apples, the teacher, poor parenting, peer influence, bullying, stupid choices, and academic difficulties, but the truth is school discipline problems are caused by all of the above laced with a healthy dose of animalism, humanism, and hormones.

If you follow Facebook, you will most likely be led to believe kids misbehave because they are mutinous little hellions, they come from bad stock, or they are simply BAD APPLES.  Fortunately, such reasons are rarely the case.  In my experience as a teacher and school administrator, I seldom faced a disobedient or rebellious student who was a pure evil BAD APPLE.  As a good friend often reminds me, “God don’t make no junk,” and tongue in cheek bad grammar aside, he is right.  All children have worth; it sometimes takes extra patience and prayer to find it in some, but they all have worth.  In my 37 years as an educator, I would say less than 1% of the students I dealt with for behavior problems were just plain bad, and even that handful usually went on to become responsible citizens as they grew into adulthood.

“It’s the teacher’s fault!” is the number one cry of too many parents when confronted by reports their child is misbehaving at school.  Many parents like to point at the teacher as the problem because they are frustrated themselves with junior’s behavior, or they are not adult or savvy enough to understand most teachers will do backflips or whatever it takes to avoid having a parent conference due to a child’s behavior.  Teachers want to be left alone to do their jobs, and there is maybe a 1% chance they will hold a grudge against a child, take revenge against a child, or intentionally do anything to a child that will ultimately result in a hostile parent conference.  Teachers have degrees for good reason; they are smart, and it is not smart for an adult, especially a professional, to create circumstances that result in extra work and stress.  However, teachers are not perfect, so it could be the teacher’s fault if a child misbehaves, but not likely.

Likewise, the number one reason teachers give for student discipline issues in the classroom is “poor parenting.”  Although, they rarely know for sure, teachers are often quick to blame mom and dad for the child’s disruptions in the classroom.  They see disrespect, rudeness, and defiance as traits of poor upbringing, and although there is some merit to such perceptions, there are often other influences or factors that are the real cause.  Parents, like teachers, are not perfect, but most of them do the best they know how to do when raising their children.  Like teachers, they despise parent/teacher conferences and would as soon get a root canal as attend one.  Both teachers and parents need to understand, student misbehavior in the classroom is the student’s fault; there is no one else to blame!  The student made the choice to be disruptive or lash out, and the student should be held responsible for his/her disruptive behavior!  It is important to understand why they chose to act out, but it is just as important, if not more so, to hold them accountable for their actions.  Consequences for poor choices is the only way to teach children to be responsible, caring human beings.

Although schools are much more aware of bullying today than a few years ago, it still happens.  In cases where a child is bullied by another child, we often think of the bullied child as one who withdraws within himself, isolates himself, or becomes depressed and even suicidal; we think of a helpless victim.  However, a bullied child can sometimes lash out.  As a defense mechanism, such a child can take on the role of the bully with his peers or even become a disruptive force in the classroom.  Such a child is not a bad apple, mistreated by teachers, or the product of parental malpractice; the bullied child takes refuge in the only protection he sees available to him – “if you can’t beat them, join them.”  By becoming part of the problem, the bullied child builds a wall of protection that shields him from further torment and provides some semblance of sanctuary.

A more likely reason for unruly behavior at school is peer influence.  When growing up, did your parents ever say, “If Susie jumped off a cliff would you also jump off the cliff?”  Mine did, and quite often!  If you are 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, or 18 the answer is “YES! You would follow Susie off that cliff!”  Middle and high school students are likely to try anything, regardless how stupid, if they think it might be fun, make them more popular, or get them noticed favorably by their friends.  Peer influence is more of an inducement for disruptive behavior than all the bad apples, vengeful teachers, poor parents, and bullying combined.

Sometimes students misbehave at school because something is out-of-whack at home.  Students from good homes with the best parents are not immune to behavior problems in school.  There are times when things go wrong in the best of homes with the most loving and caring parents.  In a world of shrinking commitment, children are often the unintentional victims of family quarrels over finances, infidelity, and divorce.   Such potentially life altering events in a family cannot help but ride to school on the shoulders of children who out of hurt, frustration, and feelings of betrayal and abandonment act out contrary to their norm.  In my experience as a school administrator, roughly ten percent of student behavior issues were the result of problems at home – not issues of bad parenting, but issues that threatened to tear the family unit apart.  Under such conditions, even the most even keeled child can break and lash out.

The number two reason for student misbehavior in school is stupid choices.  As smart and sophisticated as kids are today, they still make stupid choices.  It is no secret that teen elevators do not always go all the way to the top floor.  They are not only at the mercy of peer influence and pressure, but all too often, they are impulsive and empty minded.  Little thought is given to consequences for their actions.  For example, I still recall the stench of deer urine a student poured in a friend’s locker as a practical joke.  The books in the friend’s locker as well as the books in adjoining lockers were saturated and ruined with the stink.  The smell was so bad the whole locker section, approximately thirty lockers, had to be closed off and two classes had to be evacuated and reassigned elsewhere in the building.  On top of that, the student had to make restitution for a couple hundred dollars in damaged textbooks.  Was the student who committed the foul deed a BAD APPLE?  No, but he caused a major disruption of the school day just the same!

Finally, the number one reason for student misbehavior in school is by far the saddest – academic deficiencies.  When I was a high school principal, my assistant principals and I studied discipline data religiously.  We especially focused on students with habitual discipline problems.  We combed the data and reviewed cumulative folders looking for clues that might show how to best intervene with the student.  What we found was over fifty percent of students with habitual discipline issues were a grade to two grades behind, struggled academically in two or more core subjects, and could not read on grade level.  Academically, they had little hope for passing to the next subject or grade.  They could not keep up, so they disrupted class out of frustration and to cover up their academic difficulties – primarily, their inability to read.  If a child cannot read when he reaches high school, he is lost, and there is little that can be done to get him/her back on track.  Therefore, what else can a child do but act out and become a discipline problem?

During a school year, school administrators, especially at middle schools and high schools, will be confronted by discipline issues ranging from mean spirited to ridiculously stupid.  Except for a very few kids, they will find BAD APPLES are rare, and misbehavior is a human reaction to the cards life deals, or the result of stupid human choices.  Over time and with help, 90% of kids learn to deal with life’s ups and downs as well as learn from the stupid choices they make.  These kids move on to bigger and better things in life.  The other 10% is why principals, assistant principals, and guidance counselors earn their paychecks.  If they don’t give up on that 10%, ninety-nine percent of the time, those horrible little hellions are also likely to turn out all right and become productive citizens.  When that happens, teachers and administrators should write their own book!  They did something right, and it should be celebrated and shared with the world.

JL

 

©Jack Linton, April 18, 2018

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Top 12 Attractions for Naps in Disney World

My wife and I are Disney World fanatics!  We go at every opportunity.  Although I have ridden Space Mountain and Thunder Mountain numerous times, we usually avoid the roller coaster type rides.  Low key attractions such as the Disney atmosphere and watching the magical expressions of awe on the faces of children when they meet the Disney characters are more our cup of tea.  However, recently, my oldest granddaughter and grandson, coaxed me – my wife is smarter – into riding two of Disney’s newest rides, Everest and Pandora.  OMG! I loved both!  Everest was a blast, and the exhilaration of Pandora is the epitome of the Disney ride experience.  Pandora completely blew me away, and almost justified the two-hour wait in line.

I felt like a kid riding Everest and Pandora – on top of the mountain; however, in Disney World you must literally be a kid if you hope to stay on top of the mountain, which unfortunately, I am not.  Disney boasts their parks are for the young and the young at heart.  Hogwash!  Physically young, absolutely!  Young at heart?  Not so much!  By the time my sixty plus year old heart spends a half day standing hours in line to ride a couple of gut wrenching heart attack inducing thrill rides and trekking an ungodly number of miles across sun baked bubbling asphalt between rides and shows, I am literally pooped – exhausted!  By midday, I could care less about Star War laser sword enactments, Mickie and Minnie song and dance routines, or surviving a dwarf driven runaway mine train.  I am interested in two things and two things only:  one, getting off my feet, and two, finding a place that is cool and dark to take a NAP!

I am convinced if Disney opened a NAP TIME themed park it would be filled 365 days a year to capacity.  It is truly discrimination against geriatrics that such a theme park does not exist in Disney.  To their credit, Disney provides for the needs of youngsters, teens, young adults, families, and service animals, but there is little to no attention given old people.  Where are the oxygen stations?  Where are the cots?

How hard would it be for a company with the resources of Disney to set up a park for exhausted adults – especially seniors and couch potatoes.  What would be so difficult about developing a park complete with air-conditioned MASH (Military Army Surgical Hospital) style tents and military barracks equipped with air condition, oxygen, and cots.  For added realism, medivac helicopters could be used to fly collapsing and delusional exhausted adults from other theme parks to the new park where they could recharge their batteries.  Now, that is a ride this old geezer could get behind!  If Disney truly wanted to show its humanity, this is the direction they would venture next.  It makes sense!

Unfortunately, such a park is not likely to be built any time soon, but during my many visits, I have discovered there can be relief when your feet hurt, the sun has zapped your last bit of energy, and your eyelids are dragging two feet behind you if you know where to look.  There was a time when I sat or curled on curbs in the various Disney World parks breathing laboriously while the little moisture remaining in my body gurgled and bubbled under the intensity of the Florida sun.  No more!  In every Disney park there are certain attractions that offer the weary a chance to get out of the sun, off their feet, and even time to catch a few Zzzzs.  The chart below offers twelve Disney attractions/sanctuaries the weary can seek out when they find themselves miserably exhausted on the streets of Disney World.  Visitors to Disney world, especially older ones, deserve a break or two, and this chart is the ticket.

Top 12 Attractions for Naps at Disney World

No.

Ride Location Length of Ride Air Cond. Dim Light Soft Seats Slow Moving
12 Pirates of the Caribbean

Magic Kingdom

8   minutes Yes Yes No

Yes

  POSTIVE:  The ride is out of the sun, slow moving, and dark!  Perfect for catching a few Zzzzs!

NEGATIVE:  The seat is hard and without a Fast Pass it can be a long wait to ride.

11 Beauty & the Beast Live

Epcot

25 minutes No No No

Yes

  POSITIVE:  This is a great place to get off your feet under a canopy that blocks the sun.

NEGATIVE:  The canopy blocks the sun, but it still gets very hot, but I dare you not to nod.

10 It’s a Small World

Magic Kingdom

14 minutes No No No

Yes

  POSITIVE:  289 animated dolls sing “It’s a small world” over and over; who can stay awake?

NEGATIVE:  The boat seats are hard, and without a Fast Pass the wait to ride can be very long.

9 Mickey’s PhilharMagic

Magic Kingdom

12 minutes Yes Yes Yes

Yes

  POSITIVE:  Air condition and cushioned seats on a hot Florida day is all that needs to be said.

NEGATIVE:  The only negative is the wait to get in can be very long without a Fast Pass!

8 Tomorrowland People Mover

Magic Kingdom

16 minutes No Slight No

Yes

  POSITIVE:  There is almost no wait, and you can stretch out and relax during this rolling tour!

NEGATIVE:  No negatives!  This is sort of a “mercy” ride created for bone weary adults.

7 County Bear Jamboree

Magic Kingdom

10 minutes Yes Yes Yes

Yes

  POSITIIVE:  Short lines, air condition, cushioned seats, and dim lighting – everything you need!

NEGATIVE:  The show is too short, but in Disney be thankful for any nap time you find.

6 Disney/Pixar Film Festival

Epcot

18 minutes Yes Yes Yes

Yes

  POSITIVE:  Short lines, air condition, cushioned seats, and dim lighting equals a great nap!

NEGATIVE:  If 15 minutes longer, it would be the perfect nap attraction, but no such luck.

5 Carousel of Progress

Magic Kingdom

21 minutes Yes Yes Yes

Yes

  POSITIVE:  No lines – walk in and find a cushioned chair to your liking!

NEGATIVE:  I feel bad when I wake up, and I have missed the show.  Oh well, maybe next time.

4 Dumbo the Flying Elephant

Magic Kingdom

No Limit Yes Slight No

Yes

  POSITIVE:  There is an air-conditioned activity room while you wait.  Smart adults stretch out on the benches for a short or even long nap!  If someone gets ahead of you in line, who cares!  Your nap time can be virtually unlimited!  I would have rated this ride higher, but I wasn’t sure if at some point you might get chased out.

NEGATIVE:  Honestly, I can’t think of a negative unless the loud squeals of children bother you.

3 The Hall of Presidents

Magic Kingdom

23 minutes Yes Yes Yes

Yes

  POSITIVE:  This attraction is a favorite for a nap.  It meets all the napping criteria plus it is dark!

NEGATIVE:  No negatives!  When it comes to a nap, the Hall of Presidents is a 5 Star Attraction!

2 The American Adventure

Epcot

29 minutes Yes Yes Yes

Yes

  POSITIVE:  The reason this attraction rates higher that the previous one is it is 6 minutes longer.

NEGATIVE:  No negatives!  This is another 5 Star Nap Attraction!

1 Finding Nemo – The Musical

Animal Kingdom

35 minutes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

 

POSITIVE:  It is a shame to doze in such a great show, but this attraction has 35 minutes of air conditioning, soft seats, and complete darkness.  What else does a napper need other than a cot?

NEGATIVE:  If you are late, you get locked out until the next show – bummer.

I am confident you will find this list helpful, regardless if you are an old geezer, or by the middle of a long Disney day, an old geezer at heart.  For my wife and I, these twelve attractions are always at the top of our list.  Over the years, we have logged many hours of Z time on these attractions, which helps keep our passion for Disney World alive.  We always feel rested and alert when we get our nap time.

JL

©Jack Linton, March 31, 2018

My Wife and I Shacked Up

This past week my wife and I did something we have never done – we shacked up!  We have been married forty-four years, so in a sense, we are old timer shacker uppers, but this time it was different.  We drove to North Mississippi and spent five nights at the Shack Up Inn located on the Hopson Plantation outside of Clarksdale on Highway 49.  The rustic stopover with authentic renovated tin roofed, rough wood-sided sharecropper houses as well as a cotton gin and grain bins reimagined and converted to overnight hotel apartments may not be for everyone, but it is certainly unique, and for us, a perfect getaway.  The whole complex is a historical marvel to behold, but at the same time, it is one of the most ironic places I have ever visited.  Over seventy-five years ago, families scrapping out a meager living farming another man’s land lived in these two maybe three-room shotgun style houses.  They spent their lives struggling, working from first light to sunset, to have a better life than living in a shack.  In contrast, today, people pay more money for a night’s stay in one of the shacks than most poor sharecroppers made in a year.  It is also sobering to think there are families across Mississippi still living in such poverty.

We stayed in the Crossroad Shack, relocated to the Inn from nearby Duncan, Mississippi.  The shack, although weathered and worn both inside and out was clean, warm on the cool nights we encountered, free of leaks from the rain that came later in the week, and peaceful and relaxing for a good night’s rest.  It would have been difficult to find a speck of paint anywhere, but it had all we needed for an enjoyable and comfortable stay.  The little two room building had indoor plumbing complete with a flushable toilet and hot water for a shower.  There was also a piano, a microwave oven, a coffee pot, a refrigerator, a gas wall heater, adequate lighting, and glory of glories NO TELEVISION!  The Internet was a bit sketchy, but that was okay.  Few people go to the Shack Up Inn to watch television or roam the Internet, but if that is your thing, some of the bins are equipped with television.  Like my wife and I, most people go to the Shack Up Inn to escape the everyday hustle of life, and relax away from Facebook, CNN, and Fox News.  The Inn is a place to put worries and trouble on hold and relax in a rocker on the screened back porch, read a book, take leisurely strolls around the grounds, and in the evenings kick back with a cold drink of choice and listen to the best Mississippi Blues you will find anywhere.  Of course, you can always jump in your car and head into Clarksdale to visit Ground Zero, The Blues Museum, Hambone’s, and Reds Lounge as well as many other local establishments and landmarks.  Despite being off the beaten path, there is no shortage of things to do at the Shack up Inn and in Clarksdale.

While at the Shack Up Inn, I attended a songwriting workshop I have been wanting to attend for some time.  Songwriting is a passion of mine regardless of success or lack of it, and by writing my own stuff, I don’t mess up anyone else’s music.  The workshop exceeded all expectations!  I have never been made to feel more at ease and appreciated in a workshop, and I have attended many.  Songwriters from all over the country were there, and I can truthfully say, I learned something from each of them.  If you are a songwriter or would like to be, and you are interested in learning the nuts and bolts of the songwriting craft, Ralph Carter’s “Songs at the Shacks” workshop is a no brainer.  However, don’t go if you are not serious about your craft!  You will work your butt off writing and performing, but by the end of the week, you will be thankful of the blessings that allowed you to attend.  I found the workshop well worth the money, time, and effort.  Thank you, Ralph, I can’t wait to be a part of another of your workshops.  I left the Shacks, tired, renewed, and for the first time ever with confidence I am headed in the right direction.  As an important bonus, the friendships made during the week were worth the price of admission alone.

To say, we had a wonderful week at the Shacks would be a huge understatement.  We had a super week!  How can shacking up with a beautiful woman, writing music, singing your songs, listening to great music, and being around friends be anything but fantastic?  We will certainly do it again soon, but for now it is back to writing songs, writing my blog, and writing short stories.  I hear a song, “Mama, Take Your Teeth Out,” calling.

JL

©Jack Linton, March 16, 2018

Moral Decline in America:  Blame the Home and Church

Much has been said on the issue of school shootings.  Hopefully more dialogue will follow that will lead to common sense action.  However, a cry that echoes across this country as loud as the cries of outrage against the violence and the counter cries for 2nd Amendment protection is the mournful wail of concern for the moral decline of the nation.  After every shooting, social media erupts with cries of “this is what we get for taking prayer out of our schools.”  There is little disagreement this nation has experienced moral decline, but blaming schools for that decline, especially blame associated with school shootings is ludicrous.  The only role schools have had in school shootings is as a victim of adult apathy.  Schools have had nothing to do with cutting funding for mental health that has allowed sick murderers to roam the streets; schools have had nothing to do with the manufacture of weapons of war that are the weapon of choice by such murderers; and schools have had nothing to do with failure to legislate common sense gun control that would make it difficult for murderers to obtain assault weapons.  Despite what some may think, the presence or absence of prayer in schools has little, if anything, to do with school shootings or the moral decline of the nation.

“But,” the all-knowing seers of social media say, “if there was prayer in schools, we would not have all these shootings and evil problems.”  Contrary to widespread belief, there is prayer in schools.  As a former high school principal, one of the most powerful testaments to faith I ever witnessed was students holding hands and bowing their heads in prayer in the school cafeteria or gathering around the flag pole to pray for our nation.  A school employee cannot coerce, influence, or guide them, but children can and do pray at school.  The beauty is if they have been taught at home, they don’t need an adult to lead them in prayer. They are led by their faith, a faith instilled in them at home and in church, and that is how it should be.

The moral dilemma faced by this country is not the fault of schools.  If there is blame, and of course there is, it must be placed squarely on the shoulders of the home and to some degree, the church.  Those are the institutions established by God to instill moral responsibility into our lives, and if there is moral decay, that is where the root of the problem will be found.  If prayer is absent from the home, it will be absent from schools as well.  If our churches, which are the guiding light, where people gather to learn and practice their faith are half empty on Sunday, those empty pews will be reflected in the discipline and morality found in our schools and nation.  Schools cannot teach or reinforce discipline, morals, or faith that is not first taught and reinforced in the home and the church.

Unfortunately, too many Americans would rather believe in smokescreens than face the truth.  They would rather blame schools, a smokescreen for bigger problems, for issues of morality than call into question the sanctity of the home.  However, unlike times past, few families have time to talk, play, and pray together anymore, and where families once prayed at mealtime and bedtime, such time has been interrupted or replaced by television, ball practice and games, computers, cell phones, Snap Chat, and Facebook.  The acidic attitudes of disrespect, defiance, and anarchy in our society was not nurtured into existence by removal of prayer or the paddle from our schools.  Such attitudes were born out of the absence of prayer and discipline in the home.

The moral decline of our nation began with the removal of responsible adults from the home.   When parents stopped being the adult and became their child’s buddy, a role reversal occurred in the family unit, and the child became the unspoken dominant head of the household.  With parents and children on the same authoritarian level, discipline in the home declined.  Couple that with removal of a spanking by mom or dad, when needed, and you have the making of a little monster who grows to be an adult who respects no one, is accountable to no one, and takes responsibility for nothing.  Schools did not do that; mama and daddy did that.  As a result, the “not my fault” and “you can’t tell me what to do” generation that is choking the life out of the nation was born.

Our churches also have responsibility in the moral decline of the nation.  First, I give churches credit for trying to find ways to reach people.  Churches across the United States have tried valiantly to bring people into the fold.  They have turned to marketing themselves to compete with television, movies, and the Internet, but in the process, they have lost their identity.  Today’s church is an exciting place to be; in many cases, it is the entertainment and social mecca of the community.  Unfortunately, somewhere in all the lights and glitter, something has gone wrong – something is missing.  In a world that feeds on external stimulation, stimulation of the heart and soul has come up lacking.  The modern church is filled with teachings of the love of God, and that is good, but toning down preaching the wrath of God from the pulpit has desensitized congregations to the fear of God, especially younger generations.  Sometimes human beings need the hell scared of them to get their attention.  One of the biggest problems in our society today is few people have a healthy fear of God.  Today, church is about being entertained, socializing, and hearing about the love of God.  Too often, little is made of the consequences for denying or turning from that love.

Schools are not perfect and have many faults, but the moral decline of this nation is not one of those faults.  Schools are merely a reflection of the community and world in which they exist.  To counter the moral decline in this nation moms and dads must teach their children to pray, and our churches must continue to find ways to fill the pews while instilling both the love and fear of God into the people.  Anything less is morally wrong, and the results can be seen in the negative news headlines every day.

JL

©Jack Linton, February 26, 2018

When It Comes to Children, My and Your Second Amendment Rights Don’t Mean Squat

[This is the shortest, but no doubt the most important blog I have written.  Many will not like what I say, but that is okay; it needs to be said. ]

 

The slaughter of innocents continues.  Seventeen lives – three teachers and fourteen children ages 14 to 18 – were killed on Valentine’s Day with an assault rifle in a cold-blooded premeditated massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  For those who say it is a mental health issue, you are correct – only a cowardly sick psycho could do such a thing!  For those who say it is a gun control issue, you are correct – only a society with twisted priorities could allow such a thing to happen over and over again without legislating stricter gun control!

When children are being regularly slaughtered in our nation’s schools, it is against common sense and all that is sane to continue to use the Second Amendment and the asinine excuse high-powered assault rifles are only deadly in the hands of the mentally ill as a defense for the civilian ownership of such weapons.   Tighter gun control is not an attack on the Second Amendment, but even if it was, we should be worried more about the lives of our children than the guns in our closets.  I support the Second Amendment, and I do not advocate repeal of the amendment, but as a gun owner, I am in full support of tighter gun control legislation that will help keep assault rifles out of the hands of everyone but law enforcement and the military.

Of course, as with previous school shootings, such legislation is not likely to happen.  As a nation we cry out in horror against school violence for maybe a week, two at the most, after it happens, and as we have for all the other countless shootings, after about three weeks, we forget it ever happened and return to our nonchalant lives of Facebook and shopping at Walmart.  It is not that we don’t care, most Americans care greatly, but the only solace we have is our prayers and the relief the tragedy did not happen in our community school.  For now that is all we have, our nation’s leaders have left its citizens to shoulder this grave dilemma on our own.  Our leaders at both the state and national levels are either unable or unwilling to tackle this issue; they keep hoping it will simply go away.

However, if we do nothing once again, communities across the nation need to stock their school supply closets with body bags because the school shootings will continue.  School lock down drills and intruder red codes may make us feel better, but they have proven to be of little help in an actual school shooter situation.  God forgive me for saying this, but if the legislatures, both state and national, cannot come together on this issue, then for Heaven’s sake, please arm the teachers and administrators, so schools at least have a fighting chance if confronted with a shooter.  We can’t seem to address this issue with common sense, so why not return to the six-gun toting days of the Old West?  That would at least appease the gun lobbyists, and isn’t that who so many of our state and national leaders would rather appease?

I am not concerned in the least if there are people who disagree with me.  I am concerned – NO, SCARED TO DEATH – the schools my grandchildren attend could be next.  My and your Second Amendment rights don’t mean squat when it comes to the safety of my grandchildren, and I believe most people feel the same as I do.

JL

©Jack Linton, February 17, 2018

First Love

“I remember my first love,” the man said, closed his eyes and sighed deeply.  “She was as sweet as dew at first light.  I have never met another like her.”  He knelt before the altar and worshiped First Love.

For most people, first love is a careless delicious surplus of sugary puffs of nostalgia.  They swoon in memories of white lace, tender moonlight strolls, skin as soft as silk floating on feather down, and a touch so smooth and delicate it speaks of a refreshing summer lemonade or a delicate red wine with floral undertones.  Over time, first love has a way of growing into a whimsical dream-like longing that paints it as more than a simple charity of nature.  For many, it morphs into a cosmic life event colored by all that is innocent, sweet, and righteous in the world – a lavish desert and entitlement of youth.

If man could negotiate time and the universe in a single breath and look upon the original blueprints for his existence, he would find first love was a gift, a charity, orchestrated by gods with nothing better to do.  They were spirits with no motive other than creating a smile and a warm place in the heart, who, to this day, toast one another with each first kiss of starry eyed first loves.  We should also toast first love and fall in love over and over with the honey scented nostalgia that cloaks it.  Yet, unlike those candied memories, we must take care not to place our first love on a wistful pedestal like a trophy.

First love is not an altar to kneel before.  It is not a stuffed panda, or fine wine to share openly as a prize, but a keepsake to fold into your wallet for safe keeping for fear it might sour with overexposure.  Like a mother’s womb, it is not intended as a warm cubby hole to hibernate forever.  Its sole purpose is to prepare for what is to come – to open eyes to the truth that two are better than one.  First love is training wheels on your first bicycle; the first cross you bear; the first callous on your heart.

Sweet as cherry blossoms in spring as it may be, nuzzling the fuzz on that first peach is meant as a personal curio to be placed on a sheltered shelf out of the way when done.  After all, it is charity, a gift, not intended for flaunting.  Unfortunately, human nature does not always allow first love to be treated as such; it will not permit it to be dignified by fading softly until vanquished respectfully and honestly.  No, we dig up the bones, cover them with wisps of Camelot and roses, regurgitate a surreal fleeting experience that never was as we wish to remember it.

Those first palpable pricks of the heart linger in a shadowy recess of the brain reserved for what might have been, what never was, and what we wish, want, and believe to be.  Its memory is the byproduct of an underdeveloped flap of grey tissue that utilizes spotting sparks of corkscrewed energy spitting from a humping brain stem to fabricate superficial intrigue and horny syrupy sweetness for a fleeting delusional moment in our lives.  We hold to that moment with a fondness reserved for high school pranks and fetching our own switch for Mama to tan our backside.  Those good old days and memories we sweeten with saccharin.

That most people are indebted to a name they only speak in moral seriousness is without question.  That they are ensnared deep within a constantly gentrifying lair of sugarcoated indulgence of half-truths is also without question.  In the name of first love, they allow themselves to be imprisoned by plain prose exuding romantic mediocrity blinded by sunlight caught in crystal windows.   Their reason is intermittently waxed incomprehensible; they are blinded or at least enveloped by a fantasy shrouded in essentialist qualities of love – a fantasy inseparable from reality.

A charity of nature designed to unlock hearts and open souls to the beauty of the human bond, first love should be smiled upon and thought of tenderly for its intended good.  It should not be allowed to fester into a gauzy distraction or a model holding all future love accountable.  It was never intended to be idolized or placed on a pedestal that might bring the adoration of future love into question, nor was it ever intended as a gauge for future romantic relationships.  First love is a foyer to a greater room; it is simply the beginning of the grandest adventure of all – love.  It is practice for the real thing to come; it was never intended as a prototype of the real game.

JL

©Jack Linton, February 9, 2018

April 1970: Mississippi Brother and Sister See UFO

What little money I had in my early teens came from picking up golf balls at my uncle’s driving range.  The range was next door to my house, so it was the perfect first paying job.  My younger sister (the older of three) and I were hired by my uncle to pick up golf balls weekdays and Saturdays after the range closed around five o’clock each day.  Each evening, equipped with a golf club handle with a basket welded to the end of the shaft for scooping balls, a small metal bucket, and several large yellow metal baskets to dump the small buckets in when full, the two of us and oftentimes my uncle and his son and daughter took to the fairway to pick up golf balls paying customers hit during the day.  My sister and I were paid sixty cents for each yellow basket we filled with golf balls – approximately a couple of hundred golf balls per basket.  On an average evening we filled as many as five yellow baskets and made a combined $3.00 for our efforts.   I can remember my share being as much as ten dollars a week, and sometimes as much as twelve dollars if Saturday was exceptionally busy.  That was a lot of money for a thirteen and eleven-year-old in 1967.  In 1969, I bought my first motorcycle with the money I earned picking up golf balls.

I remember those days scooping up golf balls vividly, but the evening I recall best was the night my sister and I encountered our first UFO – unidentified flying object.  Some people will say I am fabricating this story, but as God is my witness, this is true.  The encounter was brief, but it was as real as the print on this page.  My sister and I were the only ones on the fairway that April night in 1969, maybe 1970.  The exact year has faded with time, but I know it was a Tuesday because “Hee Haw” was on television that night.

The evening was cool as we hurried to fill our last yellow basket.  After a late start, we were out after dark with the only light, a full moon, reflecting dimly off the few remaining white golf balls on the fairway and the balls in the yellow baskets.  Our normal routine was to divide the fairway into sections and sweep through one section picking up balls before moving to the next section.  By nightfall, we were scrambling to finish the last section.  On days when we found ourselves out after dark, we left the full yellow baskets on the fairway where my uncle picked them up in his truck the following morning.  We knew he would not be happy if he arrived for the baskets and there were still golf balls on the ground, so we were doing our best to hunt down every ball before we called it quits for the evening.

We were rounding up the last few balls when the light from the full moon suddenly dimmed.  I remember looking up and freezing.  The moon was covered by a perfect dark blue sphere the size of two full moons.  I called out to my sister who looked up and dropped the small basket of balls she was holding.  “Wow,” she said, “I’ve never seen a blue moon before.”

“It’s not the moon,” I said.

“Then what is it?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I said watching the blue object floating over our heads, but it was not floating, it hung motionless painted on a black canvas.

The air or space around the blue ball seemed to ripple and two additional spheres slowly materialized on either side of it – one red and the other green.  The three spheres hung in the night sky over us – no movement no sound.  I had never seen, nor have I since anything like what I saw that night.  “Go get daddy!” I yelled to my sister.  She ran faster than I have ever seen her run, dove and slid under the barbed wire fence between our yard and the driving range fairway disappearing in the dark of our backyard.  I had an eerie feeling I was not the only one watching her, but at the same time I felt no fear for her or myself.

I continued to watch the three objects, hoping my sister and father would hurry.  There was no doubt in my mind I was being watched.  The objects did not pulse, flash, sway in the slightest, or make a sound; they hung against the black sky like brightly lit blue, green, and red Christmas balls on a black tree or background.  The air was still.  The usual chirping of crickets, katydids, and cicadas as well as frogs croaking from the nearby pastures and woods were silent.  The only light illuminated from the watchers over my head.  I had heard and read stories of unexplained phenomenon in the skies, but until that night, such things were questionable stories from far exotic places or from the lips of suspect characters.

I had read stories of Roswell, New Mexico, reports by United States Air Force pilots of mysterious flying machines, and accounts of people who claimed to have been abducted by aliens, but until that April night, I considered such accounts as mysteries with rational explanations not yet discovered, or stories fabricated for publicity.  A door slammed in the direction of my house, and I heard voices.  My sister excitedly urged our father to hurry.  I remember thinking, please hurry dad, you have got to see this.  He never did.  As their voices approached from the dark, the three objects began to dim as if someone turned a wall dimmer.  They did not float, fly, or vanish in a flash of light; they slowly faded into the night leaving a larger brighter yellow ball that had been concealed behind them hanging between me and the moon.  My sister’s voice cut through the black from the fence line, “We’re coming!  We’re coming!”  The yellow globe looked down on me.  A voice in my head said, “Be calm,” and the globe faded into the moon.

Only the moon hung in the sky by the time my father and sister reached me.  “Where is it?” my sister asked.  “Gone,” I said.  My sister and I did our best to convince our father what we saw was real, but he scoffed at our story and scolded us for interrupting his favorite television show, “Hee Haw.”  A night or two later, WDAM news reported the station had received calls about similar sightings as ours, but the local news anchor claimed the reports had been confirmed by authorities as nothing more than weather balloons.  My father looked at me and said, “Flying saucers, huh.”  The voice in my head said, “Be Calm.”  We never spoke of flying saucers or mysterious lights in the sky again.

I never bought the weather balloon story.  Things made by the hands of man can’t hang in the sky unsupported without the slightest sway, bobbing, or movement.  Air planes must move or fall from the sky, helicopters can’t hover without some degree of sway, and balloons can’t float without gently rocking even in the most tranquil sky.  I am convinced what my sister and I saw that night was not of this world, and I will likely never believe otherwise.  Why would two insignificant teenagers come under the scrutiny of beings not of this world?  I don’t know, but I don’t dwell on it.  I am afraid I might unlock some deep seeded secret to that night; a secret I am not sure I want to know.  The voice is enough.  Sometimes on nights with full moons, it is as clear as it was nearly forty-eight years ago – “Be calm,” it says.  I am.  I wait calmly and patiently.

JL

©Jack Linton, January 23, 2018