As another school year starts, I have seen several stories on how teachers impact the lives of their students. This is another one. But I think it shows that sometimes the impact may be in ways you don’t realize.
We guys thought we were all grown up. Freshmen think that way. We were in the ninth grade back at old Clement High School in, let’s just say, several years ago. Thinking I was now grown up, I should talk like one. You know, use those words I had learned in the tobacco field, and other places, from the “big boys.”
A couple of my buddies and I were hanging around the outside of the old gym at Clement during school. Many of you older folks can remember the gym at Clement that, for some reason, many called “the barn.” So my buddies and I were hanging around outside the gym talking “big.” I hadn’t noticed that the other guys had stopped talking that way and were giving me some hard glances. I just kept on running my mouth using those choice “adult” words. I also hadn’t noticed the reason why they had suddenly become quiet. I hadn’t notice that Pat Jones had walked up behind me.
I’m sure many of you know Mr. Pat Jones. But I knew him back then. And he could be one scary teacher to a freshman. Well, to a senior student, also. He was “Coach Jones,” the tall, imposing teacher and coach, who you really didn’t know what he would do if you didn’t obey, but you didn’t want to find out. He was the male teacher that the lady teachers would send us misbehaving students to if they didn’t want to bother with sending us all the way down to the principal’s office.
Finally, way too late, I realized that Coach Jones was standing behind me. With a sense of impending doom, I turned around and saw him staring at me. I pretty much felt, for good reason, that my life was over. What he said next had an impact then and has since.
“Does your mother know you talk like that?” he said, looking me straight in the eye.
“No sir,” I stammered in reply.
“Well, I better not hear you talk that way again, or she will,” he said firmly. Then he turned around and walked away. I felt relieved, like I had received a pardon from the governor. But he had made his point. I wouldn’t want my mother to hear me talk that way. Isn’t it funny how something said over forty years ago can stick with you? And it has. In the past, there have been times when I notice I’m starting to use language that’s heading in the wrong direction. Then I hear it, “Does your mother know you talk like that?”
And mama didn’t like cursing. She said people curse because they were not smart enough, or had a good enough vocabulary, to say what they wanted to say without it. She said you are showing your intelligence, or lack thereof, when you curse. But the sad thing these days is that many intelligent people, or they appear to be, feel the need to use profanity in their speech or writings. You go to a movie that is really entertaining, except it is ruined by the unexpected abundance of curse words. Why they stoop to that level, I don’t understand. As a friend of mine said recently, “You never come out of a movie and think that it was a good movie, but there just wasn’t enough cussin’ in it.”
Coach Jones and many other teachers had a positive impact on me in other ways while growing up. But it is interesting that a couple of sentences from a teacher outside a gym many years ago would have left a lasting impression. So teacher, if you catch a student talking this school year like I did back then, try saying, “Does your mother know you talk like that?” That may leave another lasting impression and solve a problem. That is, unless, the mother also talks that way. Now that’s another problem, altogether.