Monthly Archives: November 2018

You Know You are Old When . . . .

I had given little thought to growing old until recently at a kid’s sporting event my grown daughter turned to give me a helping hand down the bleachers.  In that moment, she unintentionally shattered any delusions of immortality I might have held.  Like everyone, I have little aches and pains from time to time, but other than needing a full-length mirror to see my toes and getting winded if I walk further than my recliner to the kitchen table, I felt reasonably fit and young for my age.   That is – until my goody-good daughter interfered with my fantasy world.  In a reversal of roles, the little girl I once carried up and down those same bleachers had become the protector of her old decrepit father.  Of course, she had no ill-intent, but her kind, respectful gesture was an eye opener – a reality check for me. 

I was polite and joked with her that the first sign of old age was reaching for the handrail on the stairs, but underneath, I was having none of it.   My virility – my manhood – had been questioned!  I rushed home moving faster than I have become accustomed, ignored my wife’s wise advice to rest in my recliner when I arrived, crawled up the stairs, and gasping for breath, pulled myself off my knees to the bathroom vanity to face the mirror.  I was horrified!  The blinders were gone.  The rose-colored glasses shattered.  The veil shielding my eyes from the mirror’s reality had been lifted.  I was old, and all the king’s men and all the king’s horses couldn’t put young Jack together again.  I wanted to cry but forgot why.

It took a day or two, but I forgave my daughter.  Although I would have preferred to stay in the dark a bit longer, it felt good to know she was so loving and concerned.  She could have just as easily pushed as offered her hand, but her mama taught her better.  I thank her and her mama – old fat men do not fall gracefully.  But, children – regardless of their good intentions – should be extra careful when exposing parents to the fact they are no longer young.  Most parents are way over the hill before they are willing to accept aging as a reality, and then it is only after years of incontinence, losing a tooth or three in their cereal bowl, living in a house smelling of mothballs and cheese, and leaving the thermostat set at 90 degrees year-round that they realize they are neck deep in their golden years.  Of course, there are parents who hold desperately to the illusion of youth – grandmothers who insist on dressing like their teen granddaughters, and grandfathers who wear sleeveless t-shirts with drooping lightning bolts tattooed on their upper arms.  Those poor souls may never wake to reality, but for the rest of us there are reminders of our mortality all around us.  For those of us with a thread of self-respect and dignity, it is paramount we recognize the signs of old age before someone, like our daughters, shock the hell out of us with pity, disguised as love, and an attitude of unsolicited “ah, the poor thing needs help.”

So, my advice to old decrepit hangers-on is take a deep breath and own up to the fact that over the years your children and life have simply worn you out.  If we are lucky and live long enough, old age happens to all of us, but . . . no one wants to be blind-sided by it!   Learn to recognize the many signs you have outlived your usefulness in a youth-oriented society.  Be prepared, don’t let your declining years sneak up on you!  Read the signs of advancing years printed below carefully and memorize them.  If, like me, that is easier said than done, print the list and put it under your hat or in your shoe for safe keeping, but if you are afraid you won’t remember where you stashed the list, stick it on the refrigerator – even us old fogies remember where to find the refrigerator.  Educate yourself to the signs of old age, and then celebrate you made it this far.

 You know you are old. . . .

1.     When you immediately reach for the handrail when climbing stairs;

2.     When your gut hangs lower than your butt;

3.     When you hear “booty call” and your first thought is adult diapers;

4.     When it takes Preparation H to shrink the wrinkles under your eyes;

5.     When you can remember using a rotary dial telephone;

6.     When you are thankful for your remaining tooth;

7.     When the perfect evening is being left alone;

8.     When you remember buying two hamburgers, fries, and a Coke for a dollar at McDonalds and getting change;

9.     When you see a pretty girl in a bikini and wonder if she’s wearing enough sunblock;

10.  When people around you mistake patience for don’t give a damn;

11.  When gas is a routine punctuation during conversations;

12.  When something always hurts or smells;

13.  When “getting lucky” means you slept through the night without getting up to go to the john;

14.  When you can’t put two sentences back to back without forgetting what you want to say; and

15.  When bending or squatting is likely to result in a pop followed by an unpleasant odor;

Remember, you know you are old when you finally have time to sit back and enjoy the little things in life that really matter like daughters watching out for you when you walk down bleachers.  Old age is not a disease to be feared, so enjoy life – at least what you have left of it.

JL

©Jack Linton, November 19, 2018

Letter to a Teacher Who Fought Back

A few days ago a California teacher physically lashed back at a disrespectful and abusive student in his classroom.  In many ways the teacher was wrong, but in many ways, he did exactly what so many teachers across America wish they could do.  There were no winners in the classroom that day – not the student who initiated the confrontation, not the students who came to class to learn, not the school or the community, not fellow teachers, and especially not the teacher who had had enough and stood up for himself.  The incident was a reflection on what is happening across America in our schools.  It is a reflection on a society that has grown soft on teaching responsibility, honor, respect, and consequences for actions.  A major reason teachers – good teachers – are leaving the teaching profession in droves, the incident was a mirror into a profession that has been battered, bruised, and abused too long.  It was a cry for help, but once the dust settles, it will be forgotten and pushed under the carpet until next time.  Why?  Because that is what we do in America with realities we do not want to face.  Mr. Riley was not a hero in how he reacted to the student, but he was not wrong either.  Maybe, this letter will find its way to him and let him know a nation of teachers feel his frustration.

Dear Mr. Riley:

The video of the confrontation I saw between you and a student was wrong in many ways, but as a former teacher and school administrator, I understand your frustration. In our society, teachers are helpless verbal and physical targets for students who have little respect for themselves, their family, or any kind of authority. While most students are good and decent, there are those who wreak havoc in classrooms and schools with little concern for the inadequate consequences schools are allowed by law and school policy to administer. These students verbally and physically assault teachers, administrators, and classmates with no fear of consequences other than temporary removal from school or expulsion.   Mr. Riley, you and I know, sending students home to walk the streets is not punishment; it is the vacation they hoped for when they started the confrontation.

As a society, we have nurtured such student behavior by soft pedaling their disruptive and disrespectful behavior with excuses and blaming the teacher for any and all disruptions and/or confrontations. Maybe, it is time teachers followed your example, and if a student verbally and/or physically attacks, they should fight back.  Most likely that is not the example you wish to advocate, but if a high school student wants to talk like a man (I use the term loosely) and fight like a man, physically treating him like a man may be the medicine that puts an end to foul mouth aggressive behavior in schools.  To a young bully set on tearing down and destroying all in his/her path, anything less comes across as a weakness   Unfortunately, passive interventions often invite additional abuse against students and teachers alike.  Textbook behavior interventions and passive mediation strategies developed by behavior specialists with little real-world classroom experience have proven to have little sustained impact on defiant, deviant, and violent student behavior.  Therefore, it is difficult to condemn teachers who out of frustration, desperation, and concern for their personal safety stand up for themselves and fight back.

I am not for abusing students in any way, but we cannot continue to strip the humanity from our teachers and leave them sitting ducks for out-of-control delinquents. A teenage high school student has no right getting in the face of a grown man or woman and dehumanizing them – verbally or physically.  However, that is exactly what is currently happening in schools in this country! Many think it is the fault of school administrators who don’t intervene promptly, and in some cases that may be true, but most school administrators are just as frustrated and hog-tied as the teachers.  Their hands are tied by the laws and “time-out” sentimentality of our society.

So, Mr. Riley, although I don’t condone you slugging a student, especially repeatedly with your fists and cell phone, I fully understand your frustrations, and as a man, I can’t blame you. However, unlike students who engage in such behavior there are severe consequences for teachers when they lose control.  It may not be fair, but in the United States, when you signed your contract as a teacher, you signed away your rights as a human being and obligated yourself to serve at society’s mercy and discretion. It is unfortunate, but teachers are expected to subject themselves to physically aggressive students and parents and keep on clicking until they can click no more and are forced out of the profession they love, or they crack under the pressure. Mr. Riley, if you could have walked away, you would have avoided this controversy, but if you had, it is likely, the same student along with a couple of buddies encouraged by your inaction would have been waiting for you another day. However, as the result of this incident, if you return as a teacher, I seriously doubt a student will ever challenge you again in your classroom. The word will be out, “You don’t mess with Mr. Riley.”

Sir, I don’t know if you cracked or not, but you did give in to your base instinct to stand up for your humanity and fight back, but unfortunately, for a school teacher that is unthinkable. In the end, I am afraid standing up for yourself will mean little to your school district and a society that often forgets teachers are human also.  As a teacher who has been pushed close to wearing your shoes, I am sorry for your troubles and pray you land on your feet once the smoke clears.  By accounts from your colleagues and students, you are a good man, a good teacher, and deserve a break.  I pray you get that break because as a nation we desperately need good men who are good teachers in the classroom.

May God bless you and your family who I am sure are hurting with you.

JL

Jack Linton
Retired Mississippi teacher and school administrator