In a recent column, I bemoaned the fact that southern California schools, even in safe neighborhoods, used locked gates to protect their schoolchildren.
On return to McCook, Scott (Iraq War hero, former highway patrol, and handyman) called to inform me those fences and locked gates are also currently the practice in our town. Scott explained that the primary problem that the schools are forced to guard against is children's custody issues. It seems that problems arise when divorced parents are in conflict and the parent without custody picks up the child from school and spirits that child away without permission of the custodial parent. Bad scene, but then I'm wondering why the schools need take on that responsibility. It would seem to me that it should be a law enforcement issue.
What a world we live in today. The country school where I attended was also fenced, but that was to keep the neighbor's cattle out, not to keep the kids away from predators. We had a gate, too, but it was for automobiles and I never ever saw it closed. Different times, different values.
In my youth, divorce was almost a hush-hush subject. Once married, couples were expected to live together "until death do us part." Then, too, most school kids came home to a house complete with mom.
Our world has changed today, with a great percentage of moms having to work. Single moms with children, all too many times a real prescription for poverty, are a large part of everyday life today. Lots of children live in homes changed by divorce and no doubt the schools, and other social organizations, have to step in to aid and protect innocent children. The system today is where we lean more to the protection of a nanny state works. I feel, though, that perhaps the system of our parents in a time of more personal freedom, liberty and personal responsibility was a better way to raise children.
Then and now teachers play a great part in shaping our children's lives and I think that this community is blessed with good ones. Teachers not only teach the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic and whatever the fad subject of the day might be, they also encourage our youth to be productive adults.
I'm reminded of one of my coaches and an act of affirmation that he never intended for anyone to know. We had a good half-miler in track but he lived in poorer- than-poor circumstances at home. It came time for our spring athletic banquet and Robert told the coach he couldn't go! You see, the dress for the banquet was coat and tie (boy, things have changed) and he didn't have one. The coach took him to the store and bought a suit for the young man out of his own pocket. A pure, selfless act that affirmed a young man that he was important and, yes, that same Robert has led a long and productive life even to today.
Ask any teacher and you will find that they follow "their kids" as they live their lives. They are thrilled when one does well and grieve when their former charges lives turn in a wrong direction. If you want to make a former teacher happy just send a special one from your past a note of thanks. Better yet drop by to reminisce and say thanks for touching your life in some small way.
A case in point, though I've never served as a public school teacher, I do get to function in that role as a flight instructor. About every student that has ever come to me mentions that "I've always wanted to learn to fly." After they attain a license, a majority never fly as a profession. They simply fly for the joy and freedom of leaving the earth and "soaring on laughter's gilded wings." (From "High Flight" by John Magee)
Jerry is a successful farmer in Frontier County. Some 20 years ago, his wife Nancy, a now retired teacher, signed him up for a ground school that I taught at McCook College and surprised him with the date of his first class.
Flying was a long dormant dream, and with Nancy's encouragement he took flight lessons and became a private pilot.
Jerry's next step was to invite Nancy to sit in the right seat and he taught her how to use the radio to talk to air traffic controllers. There is something about a cheery feminine voice over the airwaves that seems to command attention and respect from all the "macho pilots" in our flying universe. Together in their very own airplane, that man and wife are a team; Jerry flies and Nancy talks on the radio.
Nancy wrote of their experience, "We have seen the beauty and diversity of the United States shine in all its glory. The silence and togetherness we experience as we see crooks and crannies that are never seen by the eye while driving the highways are numerous and breathtaking."
"Our little four seater Arrow has taken us to Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming," (all alphabetized, see I told you she was a teacher) "Ontario and Quebec, Canada, plus numerous towns and cities of our state of Nebraska. We have many more trips in the planning! "
The proud wife went on to thank me for my help in "letting Jerry live his dream of flying and know that you have been successful in getting many of us to enjoy and love the friendly skies."
Sure I do get paid in dollars for every hour of flight instruction but can there ever be any better pay than to read those words of appreciation? I've been twice blessed!
That is the way I saw it.