Saturday, January 7, 2012
Best Teacher Ever
When parents send their children to school we hope they will find themselves in the stewardship of able and caring teachers and coaches. Men and women who share their knowledge beyond the walls of a classroom, beyond the deadlines in a lesson plan, professionals like Coach Jones.
The Coach Jones to which I refer is still offering sage but subtle advice nearly 20 years since I last sat in his classroom. He doesn’t even teach at my old alma mater anymore, however, he continues to teach.
I had my reasons; most of them melancholy and full of anxiety, when I posted what I thought would be an innocuous status to Facebook last night. I asked, “I have about 620 weekends left with my kids before they move out. What should we do?” I received a handful of replies, all valuable in their own perspectives. And then Coach Jones weighed in.
“I would watch cartoons until noon, walk the river and teach them to skip rocks, chocolate malt at Arctic Circle, hot dogs at a ball game and then read to them before prayers. Never waste a Saturday.”
Granted I was smiling and laughing and feeling so amazing to see and read those words. But mostly I cried.
Coach Jones spoke more to me from 1989 through 1993 than probably any other person, including my parents. He was the consistent voice of instruction, gentle guidance, and general life coaching. (Ironically enough, he probably doesn’t even know that.)
I was a teen typical in my angst, confusion, and swimming in foolish but unimpressive choices. I had no idea who I was, what I was capable of, nor what I wanted out of life. But I did make the track team. Through some incident involving fragile ankles I ended up perched opposite of Coach Jones while he taped my feet. Every day.
In fact, I suspect that at some point during the season, or seasons my ankles were healed. But he taped them anyway. While he taped he questioned me.
“Did you get your homework done?”
“Are you really dating Fillmore?”
“Where you going to go to college?
“How’s things at home?”
I had to answer because he held the business end of a roll of athletic tape dangerously close to my not-often shaved legs and could conveniently tape above where there was pre-wrap. It was precarious. More over, I wanted to answer because he was often the only person who asked me anything that really mattered all day.
I survived high school. I survived the year that followed it, even though some of my closest friends did not. And here I am a happy and healthy suburbanite who rarely sees or thinks about the people she went to school with. For a long time now I recognized I hadn’t learned all I needed to by the time graduation rolled around. Turns out, Jones knew it too. Today’s lesson was fully extraordinary.
I will not waste a Saturday.