DIXIE DELIRIUM: Ramblings On The Fine Art And Act Of Teaching
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A DIXIE DIARY: The Spring Semester Of My Rookie Year
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Old Burrell Almost Killed Me In High School Lit Class. Now I'm What You Call His Colleague
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Essay A Go-Go: What's Up With Them Adults?
Rebel Yell: Give Todd A Holler

March 16

Despite her heartache and the pain of unshed tears, a deep sense of quiet and peace fell upon Scarlett as it always did at this hour.  Some of the disappointment of the day and dread of the morrow departed from her, leaving a feeling of hope.

—Gone With The Wind, by Margaret Mitchell


Dear Dixie,

You might not believe this, but since August I’ve noted the direct number to my phone in the classroom on the weekly comments to parents about their child and I might get one phone call every two months.  Parents would rather use e-mail.  That’s fine.  But I know when I answer the phone and it’s a parent on the other end they have prepared themselves to have a conversation with the teacher.  They have prepared a list of items.  They are ready to get something accomplished.  They want a solution.  No doubt. 

No problem.

As I was getting the class good and situated and settled and calmed down and humored a concerned mom dialed me up.  She asked if it was a good time to talk.

I told her it’s always a good time to talk.

So then she hit me with the bombshell.  The concerned mom asked me what advice I could give her to help her daughter at home with her schoolwork.

Dixie, let me say that again.  The mom asked me what she could do to help her daughter with her schoolwork. 

Fine, I’m making a big deal about it.  Fine.  But these are the moments things start clicking.  I told her two things.  I told her these two things are up to you to tell your daughter and to work on with but I’ll bet if you do all two things every evening she’ll be fine … and her grade is okay right now … but it’s not the incredible performance of the first semester.  That’s for dang sure.

The mom asked me what the two things were. 

I told the concerned mom, who I could hear breathing into the phone at pretty good clip already, that your daughter needs to take every Georgia History class seriously for the rest of the year.  Every class.  Just pretend there’s going to be a pop quiz every class on previously-covered material for the rest of the year, except on test days, because … well … between you and me … there will be.

Yesterday’s pop quiz, she said.  That’s sort of what got all this going.

Yep.  Not surprised.  And two … every waking moment she needs to come ask a question or ask for help.  No dumb questions.  No embarrassment or shame.  Chin up.  She needs to live in the classrooms of her teachers.  She won’t do it, but that’s the real secret to success around here.  Demand the right kind of attention and teachers will cancel surgeries to help a student.

Dang it.  That’s what I’ve been telling her.  That’s exactly what we’ve been telling her.

Then keep telling her.  Will I see you at today’s track meet?

Her dad … he’s coming, she said.

Take care.  I’ll keep an eye on her, I said.  And I did. 

Helena, who’s also our head track coach and runs the meets on our track, asked me to help with the meets this season and there I am making announcements through a kick-ass megaphone in my obnoxious announcer voice and handing out lane assignments and hip stickers and answering questions and doing whatever it is you've got to do to keep track meets moving along so the sun’s setting doesn’t win the meet.

First call … Girls’ four hundred meter dash … Second call … Boys’ sixteen hundred meter run … Y’all need to be standing right here at the orange cones … Right now!

And this afternoon I watched a bunch of good and happy kids … a bunch of them from a school for the deaf, too … run and jump and throw things. 

Debbie, from our school, right there in mix.  An eighth grader on our varsity squad.  Her first time on a track team.  Running as fast as she can in the one hundred, two hundred, and four hundred meters and winning last place every time … with Debbie’s dad watching and cheering  … and her Georgia History teacher, too … announcing results loudly enough where everybody can surely hear a special pride in my voice when I say the name of a certain girl who hops straight up, not forward, when the starter’s gun goes Pow!



Next Entry ... March 19: Chicken Envy