I woke up Wednesday morning in Key West.
Okay, it was actually the Key West Inn in Hamilton, Ala., but when I closed my eyes, I felt like I was in Key West. They had paintings of lobsters and crabs on the wall, which was pointless when I closed my eyes. My room even smelled like fish.
When I got out of the shower, I realized there was no hair dryer in the bathroom. It has become standard for most places to provide such amenities. It’s imperative that my bangs stand up. It’s a must, or I just don’t have the confidence to perform at my best. I needed to adapt and overcome, and so I did. I put the gel in my hair while sitting in the front seat of my car, and then proceeded onto Interstate 22. I rolled down my window and drove 70 miles per hour with my head sticking out of the window like Jim Carrey in “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.”
It worked. My hair looked good.
When I got back to the motel, I saw the hair dryer mounted to the wall. Apparently, I overlooked it.
I was in Hamilton to give a 90-minute presentation to the faculty of the Marion County School System. My purpose was to motivate and inspire them in an entertaining manner as they prepare for the start of yet another year of school. For some, it was year 25; for others, it was year one. I salute them all, because I know how difficult it can be to teach today’s youth. I’d rather have a root canal or pull for Alabama.
I take that back. I’d rather be a teacher.
Tuesday morning I did the same thing for the Coosa County School System. I’ve performed in places such as Washington, D.C., Seattle and Las Vegas, but you know you’ve hit the big time when you’ve performed in Rockford. I felt big time, anyway, because I have such great respect for educators.
I owe much of my success to my teachers. Thirty years ago, had you told me, a stuttering kid, that I’d be giving 90-minute presentations to anyone, I would’ve referred you to the local looney bin. Fortunately, I had teachers who encouraged me to reach my full potential. They didn’t coddle me or try to hide me. They let me be me.
As with any profession, not all teachers excel in their field. I’ve heard horror stories of teachers not letting stuttering kids talk in class. I know of one kid who raised his hand more than anyone in the class, yet his teacher never called on him. This kid had no fear and reminds me a lot of myself.
My speech vastly improved once I started raising my hand to volunteer to read or to answer a question. It took away the extra anxiety that often comes with the unknown. In his case, he was never called on. Whether his teacher was trying to protect him or just didn’t want to deal with him does not matter. All children, in spite of perceived flaws, should be allowed to participate and encouraged to reach their full potential. Sadly, school is the only place that some kids will ever get any kind of encouragement.
My cousin was named teacher of the year at Auburn Junior High School last year. Her dad, my uncle, was also in education. In fact, at one time, he was the mayor, the principal and the deer processor over in New Site. Although he was a great mayor and a great principal, he is mostly recognized for being a great deer processor.
Teachers are a lot like soldiers in that they are underpaid and often under-appreciated, but where would we be without these great Americans? So if you are a teacher, past or present, I salute you and wish you a wonderful school year.
For the record, a 90-minute speech for a stuttering guy is not as daunting a task as it seems. I only had to prepare 45 minutes worth of material.
Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com.