Friday, March 17, 2017


Rubber Bands, Rocking Chairs, and Remembrances

May 30, 2009
And, so it goes faster than I could ever have imagined!  This week I was given a retirement reception to recognize my leaving my chosen career of forty years. It was a most surreal experience to witness in a two hour span a microcosm of my life’s work appear before me.   As I do not know exactly how to compress this into something readable, and hopefully, interesting, let me just begin.  My first immediate impression is the great fun it was to see former teaching colleagues I have worked with over the years.  There we were all survivors of the teaching wars. We were the volunteers in the battle to educate our students. Our decisions were not driven by economic uncertainty or any other thing. Twenty to thirty years ago, teachers were teachers because we wanted to make a difference.  We entered teaching knowing we would never be rich in a monetary sense.  Some of my friends had arrived at retirement long before me and were smiling with tans and golf shirts on their persons; some are still in the daily throes of navigating the mess that has become Texas education. They have more gray hair and wrinkles than I remember.  They are tired, but not out.  There were those who started teaching alongside me college as young and enthusiastic teachers full of the energy.  I pray that they can keep that enthusiasm for a long and wonderful career.  I worry for them as more is asked of them from the bureaucracy that is Texas education, from the parents, and from the students. Those who are “called” to teaching leave a part of themselves on the table of their classroom every year. I hope there is enough left to go around as they continue with their vocation. All of these fellow teachers brought smiles to my face as we reminisced about the craziness and love that comes with working alongside some whom I would call the unsung heroes of the American way of life. To them I say thank you for your mentoring and friendship over the years.

My heart could not take in the experience of seeing former students whom I had not seen in 30+ years walk through the doors!  There they were older, obviously. They looked around; we made eye contact and then the squeals began. And, yes even the guys “squealed” in their own manly ways.  There were some of these “kids” that had meant so much to me “back in the day.” Circumstance and activities had brought us into daily contact that went beyond the hour long classroom experience. These men and women are now parents, grandparents (eeek), lawyers, business people, entrepreneurs, doctors, teachers, and on and on.  Once I saw their smile and their eyes, their names came to me immediately. To the “man” they all grabbed me, hugged, and we just stood there for a moment taking it all in. How they had gotten word of this event and made it to the CFISD boardroom, I am not sure. I do know there was a network working via Facebook spreading the word to those in the area.  I would love to mention specific names; however, I would inadvertently leave someone out and would never want that to happen. All I know is that looking at them enabled me to know FOR SURE that it was a great thing that our paths crossed those many years ago. I know for sure that I made a difference for them and I want them to know that they left a mark on my soul.   I do not know exactly what life has handed them over the years, but for those two hours there we were….teacher, student, and friend going back for a bit in our own little time capsule.

As the reception progressed the time came for me to sit in my rocker that had become a symbol of my later years in the classroom. I had gone from the director’s chair that was with me at Cy-Fair High School and Tomball High School, to a rocker. My students at THS had purchased the first rocker “back in the day.”  Eventually, after the death of that rocker, the students at Cy-Creek had purchased the one I now have in my office. The rocker would become my observation window to the 200+ plus people who would listen to the invited speakers. I asked Don Ryan to represent the CFHS days; Stacey Filips Tilley and Delaina Mendel Lewis to represent the Tomball High School years, and Beau Egert to represent the Cy-Creek years.  As usual, Don got us off to a rollicking rendition of my earliest years of teaching including my propensity to have “rubber band wars” when things were dull in class. I am sure that sounds familiar to some of you. We laughed a bit uproariously at his memories of me as his teacher/coach/mentor of four years. Ah! The energy I had as a young teacher. Stacey and Delaina brought together my teaching/coaching experience in small town Texas of the Eighties and early Nineties. To those of you from Tomball, we can all attest to the unique adventure of Tomball back when it was small and intimate.  Stacey caught me off guard and I found myself revisiting the infamous (?) “Samurai Teacher.” My students of the late 1980’s in THS will remember those antics.  And, I think they, too mentioned, something about rubber bands.  Beau brought to life my last years of full time teaching at Cypress Creek including my admonition to a group of sleepy disinterested seniors at the end of their semester, to “imagine me naked” in order to get their attention.  Was I really that nuts?  Yes!  Those Creek years perhaps were my best for I had truly become a well-rounded (no pun on my physical stature) teacher with more life experience. All the students who had come before had honed me into a complete, compassionate, and centered educator.

Over the course of the week of the reception, my Facebook page was filled with the good wishes and love from across the country. These wishes came from all of my former students who are now living in other parts of the USA and the world. I know that many of you wanted to be at the reception. At the expense of sounding like a Hallmark card, “you were there.” You are part of my heart and memories as much as those who were a physical presence.  And, for some of you, I will be seeing you this summer as I take my road trip.  So get ready.

I am not done yet.  I will finish my formal work on June 30, 2009. Soon after that I will begin a 30 day road trip with my camera in hand. I am heading east for this trip and will be posting to my FB page and my blog.  In late August, I will begin teaching again at Lonestar College.  I will teach one political science class and one teacher prep course for those entering an alternative certification program.  I will spend time with my “10 year old friend,” Madison. I will get to spend time with friends that have been on the back burner too long due to my job’s requirements. I am going to write a little, blog a little, FB a little, and continue to think about what a great life I have had so far.  See you down the road…both real and cyber!


Texas, 1898. Weldon, Texas, to be exact, on a tenant farm in September. According to the historical weather records the entire nation was experiencing the hottest temperatures in history. Since Texas is not listed, one can only imagine the heat in this tiny hamlet of sharecroppers, tenant farmers, and Bible believing people. Among those who eked out a living with a couple of mules, a few plows, a pig, chickens, and hopefully a water source lived the Harrington family. Albert and Mahalia Harrington had come to Texas from Tennessee not too many years after the Civil War ended. They were extremely religious people calling themselves “Campbelites” after the Campbell brothers. This back to the Bible theology was reborn in the Restoration Movement that happened 20 years before the Civil War. Today we know their branches as the Church of Christ. They believed that the Bible was to be taken literally with no room for interpretation. They would sire generations in the Church of Christ. But, that is another story.

Like many of the poor farmers everywhere, the Harrington’s had a horde of children. According to my grandmother there were 19 births and 15 live children. It was on that hottest of days, on a dirt scrub of a farm that my grandmother was born September 19, 1898. She was in the bottom third of the children. The story goes that my great-grandmother had run out of names for girls. My great grandfather wanted to call her Theodora Octavia…. whew! Glad that did not work out. Her much older sisters just called her “Doll” because she looked like a baby doll. After six months, her name officially became Dolly Harrington.

The Harrington farm raised cotton to make the money to pay the rent on the land. If you know anything about farming, this is a horrible crop to grow and pick. They had to make the rent first and if any cotton was left over, then a bit of money was left over for the family. The boys worked the land with their father. They were up with the dawn and came home at dark. My great grandmother and older girls would start cooking breakfast with the men getting first and most of whatever they had. The older girls would eat next and then the little kids…Miss Dolly, Uncle Leslie, Uncle Archie, and Uncle Newman. Often their breakfast was left over biscuits with, wait for it…. pork grease poured on top (not gravy). Then there was lunch and dinner to make. When I would listen to the brothers and sisters talk about this time, it was amazing they survived. When Miss Dolly was the youngest, the part of the chicken she would get is called the “pope’s nose.” It’s the fatty piece that hangs off the butt of a chicken. Some kids got to chew on the neck bone. 

None of the little kids had shoes. They would get the older kids one pair of shoes when they grew out of their current pair. The old shoes were passed down to the next girl or boy. It did not matter if the shoe fit…they wore it. I think that is why when I was a little girl my shoes were Stride Rites, Poll Parrot, and Buster Browns. My grandmother’s feet were ugly and the toes were twisted…she disliked them tremendously, but she never complained about how they got that way…it was what is was, now move on even if your feet hurt!

Two stories stand out from the stories my grandmother told. She really never talked about those times and when she did it was to impart a lesson to me. The first story happened when she was about six. Her job, as the youngest girl, was to churn the milk into butter. I’m not sure how many people reading this even have a concept of what this is. Basically one stood for several hours with a tall wooden container filled with raw milk, put the top on the container, and the top had a large flat paddle on the end. The person working the churn would move paddle up and down vigorously for one to two hours until something separates from something, magic happens, and voila! One had fresh butter. A six-year-old was expected to do this without complaint until the chore was done. Miss Dolly was, according to her siblings, a bit of a mischievous little girl. One day, in boredom, she started jumping up and down to the rhythm of the churn. Great Gran told her to stop and she just ignored it. Catastrophe ensued. She turned over the large milk vat and it spilled on to the dirt that was the yard. The paddle flew off and soaked her in her little flour sack shift dress. Yes…flour sacks turned into dresses for daily wear. Miss Dolly said that the look on my granny’s face said it all. First, there would be no butter for the next week. This affected the whole clan. Secondly, Miss Dolly only had two shifts: one for school and one for home. Now she would have to wear her “good” shift to school and work in it as well. I’m certain we cannot fathom the production of doing the wash entailed in those days. Water had to be brought from a creek, fill a large iron round caldron, heat it over an open fire, soak, scrub on a washboard, and then go through the same thing to rinse…. Geez! I think this is where she developed the habit of taking care of her clothes almost to an obsession. My clothes were always immaculate and pressed. At that young age, she learned that disobedience had consequences. Deeds both good and bad brought either joy or sorrow.

The second story, to this day, makes me want to cry for my grandmother. It demonstrates the power of the spoken word to hurt for generations. Miss Dolly went to a one room school house in Weldon three days a week. The Harrington kids went there through third grade. At the age of seven, she was in the third grade lesson books. Like her brother, Leslie, she loved school. He was the artist in the family. In World War One, he was a cartographer drawing maps from memory. She was a whiz at ‘rithmatic and figures. She loved school until her new teacher arrived. During this time many of these one room teachers were men. My grandfather had, for her seventh birthday, taken her to Lovelady in the wagon to buy a new coat. Each child received a new coat on their seventh birthday. He saved all year for each coat. This coat according to Miss Dolly was the most beautiful red velvet coat ever made. It had a black velveteen collar, buttons, and cuffs. She later explained that it was the stiffest coat in the world, but her poppa had bought it just for her. The first day she wore it to school, the teacher said to her, “Where did you get that ugly coat?” She remembered every nuance, his vocal and facial expressions. She never wore the coat again; she never forgot those words. She told me this story when she was 70 years old for the first time. When I got my first teaching job, before I drove off in my Volkswagen Beetle, she told me “Karen, never make fun of a child’s appearance, their clothes, or anything they cannot help for themselves. You hear me now; they will never forget it.”

That was my first pedagogical lesson that has never gone out of practice or changed in student-teacher interaction. Basically you don’t have to be whiz teacher of the year; you don’t have to be the hardest or smartest teacher in the building. You don’t have to know the answers to all the questions. You take those students you are given (whether they fit or not into a mold) and you take care of their learning. In everything you do HAVE COURAGE TO SUCCEED, BE KIND AND TENDER HEARTED!


In my Thursday classes I was lecturing over the Texas economy. I gave them the stats of how many people lived on a farm in 1950 vs. 2017. The number is approximately 75%/>10%. I then began talking about AGRIBUSINESS and to my not so much surprise very few knew what this term meant or its significance. So....I began talking about the vegetables and fruits found in the average grocery and asked the following question: "Raise your hand if you have had a fresh tomato from a garden?" Are you ready? in the total of my two Texas government sections 7 people raised their hand! I was in such shock that I asked it again adding squash...nope...cucumbers...nope...watermelon ... I describe the beauty of a runny slurpy tomato with a little salt. "crickets" I am not making any numbers up. These students are college aged. The few that raised their hands were the older non-traditional students and two students wearing their 4H jackets. What does that say about the modern American idea of food and nutrition?
From the time I can remember I did all, at least once, of the following:
--chased a hen around the yard for Miss Dolly, handed to her and watch ed her dispatch the chicken with one snap of her wrist. We then had a fire, plucked and singed the pin feathers and fried that sucker up!
--When I was six, I helped slaughter a hog. My job was to sit astride the dead porker after it had been bled out and dipped in a barrel of scalding water rubbing the hair off with hot water and a flat, sharpened stone. then watched the women take EVERY PART of the pig and make something. HMMMM! Pork cracklings. go on now!
--Milked the cow in our back pen . We did not drink raw milk but it was donated to someone for butter, etc. but the cow had to be milked.
--picked fresh everything from the seasonal garden of our neighbors. Beans and more beans, peas (good Lord I hated shelling peas of any kind), tomatoes, squash, mustard and collard greens, on and on and on.
We lived in the original, real FARM TO TABLE culinary world.

I realize that modern America has changed that entire dynamic. Suburbanites grow small gardens and that's a good thing. But reality is that our daily food comes from the large agribusinesses whose main job it is is to make as much food as possible lasting as long as possible, and keeping as many bugs from them as possible. Products are picked before their time and shipped from whatever foreign nation we have trade deals with. Some like to think that Whole Foods is the answer, but I've been turned down for a credit union loan because "buying groceries was not a proper reason for the loan!!"

Have you thought about the fact that eating really fresh food, or organic is a privilege of those of us with some money? Since my 180 degree food intake turn around eight months ago, my grocery bill has more than doubled. That's why I went to food delivery because I have to buy groceries weekly. For you that may not be a big deal...for me mission impossible! My point is those who live on extreme fixed incomes; have to supplement their food with government assistance (do not go to the fact that some try to abuse it...); please know that many of our enlisted soldiers with a family has to go on food stamps from time to time, or God forbid, they have to visit the saints who open food banks. Texas has one huge population of poor children and no matter one's political persuasion children in the supposedly richest nation in the world should not go hungry. That's why I support the school breakfast and lunch program. Children can not learn when they are constantly hungry. Heck! I lose my mind if I am 30 minutes late for lunch.
As one of the 60% of American's who are "too short for their height," I am know that when I started eating 80% fresh fruits and veg, along with discipline of course, I began losing weight. As said before, at a much higher price for weekly groceries. But I am older/somewhat wiser, and I have a good income. Please remember those who have to choose between regular groceries, or for their children, eating or not eating one day. There's a reason they choose least for their kids, its doable..


It's my senior year in high school long ago in 1966. One afternoon my grandmother brings out a shoebox and in that shoebox were greeting cards. There were cards for birthdays, Easter, Christmas, Mother's Day, and new one for graduation. Inside each card was a dollar bill. In a shaky scrawl was written, in each card, "Thinking of you" with an "X" marked and a printed name of Harold. The envelopes were sent to "Baby Girl Twitchell" Woodville, Texas. I remember some of these cards but over the years had lost interest and wondered the heck a dollar would buy "in this day and age." Miss Dolly had continued to keep the cards leaving the later cards with the money in them. She told me that we had a trip planned for that weekend to meet some people she believed I needed to meet. Groans and eye rolls promptly began at this point. Her tone told me I had no choice but go along with her plan. Here's what I learned:

It's 1950, and a very famous murder trial being held in Texas. Due to the notoriety of the trial it was moved from Hardin County to Chambers County. It was the murder trial of two men named Goldman and Levinas who had ruthlessly murdered a young mother of a six month old baby. The young woman, married to a Chief Engineer of a Mobil Oil Tanker had disappeared in August of 1948 and her body was found nine months later buried in the swamp of the Big Thicket.During this time, her mother had cared for the baby as she waited to hear what had happened to her only daughter. The husband was on the open seas delivering oil to various ports of call worldwide. The picture you see is that grandmother, Miss Dolly, with a baby... that's me. She is holding a letter from my father as they wait to find out what had happened to Eloise Twitchell, whose picture you see. I will write of this event later as it was truly sensational for its time. The picture of Miss Dolly and me was on major magazine covers and newspapers while the search went on for my mother's remains.

Fast forward to the murder trial in 1950. My grandmother drove everyday from Woodville to Anahuac, Texas [about 80 miles each way] to be at the trial. She went alone with me in tow. She had no one with her, except a squirmy and cranky toddler. The courtroom was packed every day with spectators and reporters from Houston, Beaumont, and places in between. The trial lasted several weeks with all sorts of lurid and detailed information evolving around murder, bodies, suppositions, coroners, etc. Modern TV has nothing on what went down in this trial. (BTW: they were found guilty. One was executed and one received life) As a two year old, I would get restless and Miss Dolly, emotionally drained, was at her wit's end. The prosecution wanted us there at the trial for the emotional impact. As the days would progress, a very large man dressed in overalls smelling of snuff would pick me up and walk me around the back of the courtroom or take me outside to run. I do have a dim memory of him. He and his wife were at the trial everyday. This was Harold and his wife. From that encounter came the cards, event after event, months and years for 18 years.

It was time to meet Harold and wife. We drove to Kountze, Texas and went to the Sheriff's office. The Sheriff proceeded to lead us into the Big Thicket Preserve turning here and there until we were in a swampy area coming upon a house, on stilts . No electricity. No running water. An outhouse. chickens, pigs, dogs...and on the front porch stood an old man in overalls and his wife, in a wheelchair. The Sheriff said he would wait for us. Miss Dolly had worn her "Sunday best" and had me do the same. She opened the trunk of our car and there were boxes and boxes of food. We went into their home: imagine if you will bare wood walls and floors. You could see the earth below the floors...the outside through the walls. A wood stove for heating and cooking. On one wall were 12 school pictures stuck with straight of me! I have included the first and the last picture. Harold just looked at me and said something like "she sure has grown up fine." We visited; they drank coffee. Miss Dolly gave them the food. The sheriff had told my grandmother that these wonderful people were the poorest of the poor eking a living out of the swamps of the Big Thicket. For them to send a dollar for every card was a fortune. I later learned that she had left a "credit" of $200.00 at the grocery in Kountze giving the Sheriff instructions to tell them about it after we left. They were proud people and did not want a hand out. While I was in college, we found out that Harold and his wife had passed away in the swamps and were not discovered until a month after their passing. They had no family or children to look after them; yet, they never forgot a restless toddler and a distraught mother in crowded courthou



It’s pouring down rain on a Monday morning. One whole day in Houston, Texas with no clue what was happening or what was going to happen. I left Woodville in my Volkswagen Beetle with several suitcases. Found the apartment I would share with two other Lamar graduates off Campbell Road. I had a map and stupid blind faith that I could find this outpost of civilization called Cypress-Fairbanks High School. I had to report in by 8:00 a.m. since school still started a reasonably civilized time. I was winding my way towards Hempstead Highway. Campbell curved and turned, then I took a left on Hempstead, headed West, and to quote Don Thornton who had hired me over Christmas Break, “you’ll know it when you get there” because it was the only dang thing that far out. First thing that told me I was headed somewhere new and different was at the intersection of Huffmeister Road (dirt by the way) and Hempstead Hwy. There was a farm sitting right there with a huge hand painted sign that said: BABY CLAVES FOR SALE. CHEEP! No, these are not my spellings. Sure enough taking the driveway, NOT AN EXIT, a drive way into the huge edifice, I parked my little bug, grabbed my umbrella, and walked in the front doors. There was a receptionist right there and I informed her I was reporting for my teaching position starting that day. I stood there (wettish) ; she looked at me and muttered “Boy is he going to be surprised. Follow me.” So, I did and boy was HE surprised!

Out comes this big man, laughing right out of his office, and his secretary who had this startled look in her eyes said “Mr. Watkins, this is Charlz Twitchell.” The look was priceless. I remember it 47 years later. In typical Carlos Watkins style, he said something like “Damn Don Thornton.” Someone did not tell Mr. Watkins that his new history teacher was named like a boy, but hopefully pulled off the girl thing pretty well. I got this job during the Break and Mr. Thornton left a tennis game and interviewed me at the old Administration building off of Fairbanks Road across from Dean Middle School. HR and Personnel was much simpler then. Bet some of you think you know all the history of CFISD. Mr. Watkins looked at me, welcomed me and called Jan Aragon to come downstairs. Her eyes kind of went wild for she also thought I was a male teacher, but in the Mrs. Aragon’s classy manner she took me upstairs. From there, to be honest, it is a huge blur for at least six weeks. Here’s what I remember:
Four history classes of freshmen.
No book
No lesson plans, no paper, no pencils, no attendance. I did have a box of chalk.
14 year olds looking at me: Are you a Substitute? Where’s Coach Carr?
TEA was doing a sight visit and some of the coaches did not have the right number of hours to teach four sections of history. Coach Carr was moved to PE.
The students kept rolling in. There were four other teachers upstairs, but no one remembered I was there. I sat in stunned “deer in the headlight” panic. It was the first day of a new semester. HELP! HELP! HELP!]

I didn’t know when or where lunch was.
I didn’t know I had a “conference” period…heck! I didn’t know where the bathroom was.
Then, here comes my 6th period study hall…ALL SENIORS, AGE 18.
GUESS WHAT? I was 21 years old and would not turn 22 until February. In many ways we were peers. Scary thought if that happened today. Headlines and jail time might happen. You know I’m right.

The Seniors told me what to do, where things were, and who people were. Times were very different. The school infrastructure was very basic and many of the teachers had been at CFHS for many years. CFHS was much like any other institution…learn as you go…figure out the different pieces… Somehow, I figured out what to do and who to ask for help. Thank you to the God that looks after babies and young uninformed teachers! The kids of this era still respected the teachers and did not lock me in my closet or throw spit wads. I wish I could have those kids back and show them that I actually became a competent teacher. Come Back!! 

TRUE STORY: The Seniors and I would sit and talk in the study hall. There were about four boys and the rest were girls. Shout out to Sandy McCain…she “adopted” me introducing me to her family in Cole Creek Manor and to her aunt, the famous Wanda Jowell. About mid-semester, the boys asked to go to the bathroom. Who knew they needed a hall pass? I was so busy chatting with the girls, the boys just asked and went one at a time. I didn’t even miss them. Right before school let out at 3:00, I hear a truck horn outside my second story window. There in the back of the truck were four slightly tipsy boys being returned to school from RIPPERS POOL HALL at the corner of Huffmeister and Telge Road. The assistant principal was Marvin Richards. The boys had run down to Rippers, played pool, and once they had some beers, Rippers called the school. OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! 
Different days…times…Marvin brought them to my room. Called their parents. We waited for them to be picked up. The parents APOLOGIZED profusely for their kid’s behavior. WHAT YOU SAY? Yep, they blamed their kids, not for drinking and playing pool, but for disrespecting a young teacher. I lived to teach another day. I learned a valuable lesson that day or maybe I should say lessons or as I say “basic principles from two wise principals.”
All new teachers are clueless. Pray for help. Today, the system is in place to guide them
But it still is not enough. Still pray for first year teachers as they are like baby gazelles facing down hordes of hungry lions.
Carlos gave me sage wisdom of an old coach: Trust no one under 21…. seriously that’s what he told me. Then he said, “Don’t get mad at something like this…just get even. Yep, that’s what he said. Take charge and don’t let them get away with anything and if they give you any problems, tell them Mr. Watkins will deal with them personally.
Marvin said if given the chance all students will lie to get their way or get out of trouble. Well that shot my idealism straight to hell.

I survived the debacle. The girls in senior study hall gave me the heads up if the boys were going to try anything and so I looked wise and all knowing. And, by the way, each boy had to write me a letter of apology and offer to help me after school. GOOD TIMES.

Tomorrow my college students have their midterm exams in both political science (Texas Government) and American History from Exploration to Civil War (not much to cover there.) I have done adjunct work for nearly 25 years and each year I find it, like teaching at any level, rewarding, frustrating, and at times, just darn tiring. First, let me say this with the understanding that I may anger someone who stumbles across this; teaching at the college level is a giant piece of carrot cake with a good cup of coffee compared to teaching K-12. It wasn't until I started teaching only at the college level did I realize exactly how RFD (see above adjectives) teaching was. I felt the need to take a step back and remember all of my colleagues/former students still "in the trenches," teaching 7-8 periods per day, with 150 students (secondary level), benchmarking this, testing that, meeting this, meeting that, modifiy this, discipline that, call six parents, do your bus duty, oh! don't forget to eat and go the bathroom! You get the picture. And, should you not understand anything about the previous sentences, talk to a teacher friend immediately. of any time in my teaching career.
Back to the topic teaching at a community college is a unique experience and it, too, comes with its own set of challenges. When I open class tomorrow morning at 6:30 am , I will have the most diverse students walk through that door than I have ever experienced. The diversity is not just based on race/ethnicity; it is based on age, military service, family issues, work issues, language issues, and ones that I don't even know about yet. These students come for many reasons to the doors of a community college. Most of the reasons are legitimate, some are questionable.
For example: 
I didn't have anything else to do.
I was told everyone had to go to college.
My parents made me go to college.
I don't want to work.

Here is what I know: these reasons usually result in wasting money for classes not attended and nothing being learned. You would be surprised how many times those four items are listed as the reason for college. We need a "gap/public service" option in this country. Just saying...

Then, there are the students who are there, but don't know what they are going to do past their time at the community college:
Clueless about their skills/talents/personalities. So , they all major in general business or some other generic degree program. Don't hate the messenger; it is a major problem.
Do not know details about how to get to the next level of education or training.
Taking courses they don't need because of their current plans or training. (this happens frequently)
Believe that what they do at the community college level doesn't follow them FOREVER! 
Trying to undo the damage done at a four year university that was too big, too much, and they made a 1.5 GPA. Now they have to undo the damage, lose the paid expensive tuition, and do not realize how hard it is to bring that GPA up.

Before I go further, the ONE THING that causes the above list is the student's do NOT know how to become self directed. The information and people are there for almost anything they need, but because college is usually impersonal, transitory, and very few personal bonds are made with professors, they have no guidance. Some of these students are "victims" of the infamous "helicopter" parents who did everything for them leaving their grown child helpless. I spend much time on trying to teach DUE DILIGENCE which is my fancy way of saying "you have to dig out the information for yourself." The other thing I have to tell them is TINSTAFL (?) THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FREE have to work for that degree...for that A or B. Don't get me started on how everyone wants an "A." These are the kids who a trophy for showing up for soccer, football, etc. I need to be quiet now.

And, then there are the students who
Work 40-60 hours per week.
Work the over night shift and come to the 7:00 am classes every time.
Work two-three jobs and never miss a class.
The "older" student who does everything "old school" and actually survives very well "Thank you very much."
The veteran who doesn't want "Thank you for your service:" they want the Veterans Bureau to follow through quicker than six months to two years for benefits and services. By the way, Lonestar does have an outstanding Veterans office or some of these men and women would not make it.
The 25-30 year old who realizes that minimum wage is just that...the bare necessities.
The FIRST in their family to go past high school.
The student who has left their family in Vietnam, China, Latin America, Africa, etc. and are here ALONE! The look on their faces when the typical American student attitudes surface is awesome. And, then they have to try and comprehend the glory and the chaos that is a democracy and a complicated history.
Most students want someone to say "Good Morning, etc." "How are you?" There are some very solitary students on these campuses, which is another blog.
As an adjunct professor who is able to teach two separate courses, I have been blessed to have some students take me for FOUR courses. Those students have enabled me to better understand their lives which are rather typical of their peers. It is amazing how they will "latch" on to a professor they believe cares about them for advice and mentoring. Such is the way it has been since the first classroom.

The overall benefit of teaching at the college level is that there is minimum invasive curriculum limits. There are very few and vague learning outcomes and course expectations, but professors can go where the "teachable moment" takes them. And it is done at the right "moment" it is the one thing the students will recall as their favorite time in the class. There's no "walk throughs" when your "favorite student" decides to have a melt down; there's not professional development to knock out in the summer.

I believe that the community college is the most democratic institution in America. People of all persuasions, religions, races, political leanings, or however one wants to "spilt" people into sub-categories can come with minimal costs with a bunch of class options: online, face to face, half face /half online, short mini semesters knocking out one course in 15 days, late start, and enough campuses to fit every part of the city. Not everyone wants to go to college now--what if they change their mi


About to leave to give a midterm to three classes. But I put off buying gas yesterday; I now have to do it in the dark. Am I the only one who hates self serve gas? Back in the day in Woodville we would pull into Adams Texaco, sit in car while an attendant filled the tank, did the windows, did the tires, and put it on Miss Dolly's tab. Can you imagine that today? One there is no tab in the old sense. We've got credit cards. We had a tab at the grocery store. Just sign and pay once a month. The last grocery on the planet that used to do that was the great Klein's grocery in Tomball, Texas. I loved that store. How many Tomball kids got their first job at Klein's? Here's to Robert Klein the dad and Jeffery Klein his son and my former student. I miss you guys. Praise the grocery gods for Instacart. Where's the at home full service gas? My world would be complete. Gotta go. Tanks to fill and students to fail. JUST KIDDING!!!!


The year was 1954. A petite older woman ran up the front steps two at a time to the Citizen’s State Bank in Woodville, Texas. Dragging along behind her was a five-year-old trying to keep up wishing Mama would slow down. She’s always running everywhere dragging this tow headed whiny child behind her. Citizens State was a typical small town independently owned bank. Does anyone remember small independent banks? There was free coffee and food in the lobby. Several old men would sit, drink coffee, gossip, and read the newspapers offered for free. The tellers knew everyone by name; no ID was required. “Oh your Miss Dolly’s daughter, just a minute we’ll get that done for you.” This was done when I would drop by the bank, on my bike, after school around the age of 10. Those were the days my friend. The main shareholder in the bank was Mr. F. He sat on the side of the lobby at this huge desk…no office enclosure…you could see him and he could see everyone. Imagine: about 60, balding head, wire rim glasses, white starched shirt with those elastic things men wore to keep their cuffs in the right place, suspenders that always matched belt and shoes, which were always polished. I know that’s a run on sentence or something, but it had to be. On this one day, he would change my grandmother’s world…and eventually he would change mine.
During one of our many trips to the bank, he called out to my grandmother asking her to stop by on her way out. What I’m about to tell you is a blending of several of these sessions with Mr. F. He asked her permission to check her bank account. After doing his thing, he made a proposal that today would be unheard of and I am sure there is now some regulatory law somewhere by some bureaucrat making this illegal, but let’s proceed. He told Miss Dolly that he admired her tenacity and her spirit. He could not believe that she had survived my mother’s death and the horrific trial that had ensued and had taken a six month old infant to raise alone. To quote he said “You are the hardest working woman I have ever seen.” “All you need is a bit of help to get started.” Even then certain men in positions of power saw and honored women with drive and spirit. 
His “help” was he knew of the houses that were in foreclosure long before they would be listed on the court house wall for auction/repossession by the bank. (you know there’s a law against that now…has to be). He said that he was going to let her take possession of one of these houses for $500.00. In 1954 that was a fortune! She immediately said that she did not have that kind of money; he said that he knew and would give a line of credit for the $500.00. No collateral…no money down…no credit rating check…just her good name and work ethic. The house was a mess and needed repair work. It would become a rent house. Saying she knew nothing about a rent house, his reply was that he would help her. She did not mention repairs because she knew how fix everything! She could do plumbing, electric, carpentry, and even change the sparkplugs on her car, if needed. So begins the beginning of the next phase of her life. At this time, she is 55 years old.
Miss Dolly took possession of that house. Every day while I was in school she did the repair work including re-roofing the entire roof. She even made me paint with her. I’d do the bottom half and she would be on the ladder. I still hate painting to this very day. When she finished, Mr. F came to look at the little rent house. He then explained what to do: mentoring 101 before it became a cliché:
1. Find good renters. Check out their clothes, their physical appearance as to cleanliness.
He believed that if one could not keep their bodies clean, keeping a house clean was not possible. Also, check their cars. He said this was a person’s second most important purchase. If it’s a mess, they will destroy a home. I believe all of that is illegal today [but true] as well. OH WELL!
2. Set a fair rent.
He said not to be greedy. Cover the bank note and have some for repairs. He believed that fairness in rent made for good renters.
3. Have a written list of expectations as the land lord. It was not a lease; it was a list.
4. Expect rent on time every time, but have a sense of compassion, but don’t fall for ever thing and most of all don’t get fooled twice.
5. When the house is almost paid off, use it as equity and purchase the second home.
Rinse and repeat.
So, with this man’s help, Miss Dolly began single handedly purchasing properties all over Tyler County through the bank. She repaired each one herself. She even dug septic lines…gross job and of course I had to help with the wheel barrows of dirt moved from Point A to Point B.
By 1960, she had over 15 rental properties which paid for themselves very quickly. For a small county that is an unbelievable number of houses. I remember each night she would sit with her ledgers…No Quicken here folks; pencil, figures, and number sense methodically done each night. In these ledgers all costs, incoming and outgoing monies were noted. The dates of all rent money paid with the receipt numbers. She taught me how to write professional receipts at eight years of age and I did it for years! She would often send me to the bank on my bike with a bank bag filled with money to deposit. [NOT TODAY] Notes about the tenants both positive and not so positive were written as well as any reasons for late rents. She also in that same ledger would keep a running amortization table of when the property was near pay off. She knew exactly how much principle and interest was left on each one. And, SHE DID THESE CALCULATIONS IN HER HEAD…DID YOU GET THAT? IN HER HEAD! This woman who left school in third grade did these complex numbers without any mechanical help…did it exist even then? I have such vivid memories of these things as I was in middle school. Here was the order of the evening:
Fix dinner and eat it together. The two of us with china, utensils, a prayer which I had to offer. And it was NOT “Good food, good meat…Good God let’s eat!”
Ask Karen about her day and demand a real answer. We talked about all kinds of things most adults would never discuss with a child. Topics like politics, religion, news events. I never heard “baby talk.” There’s a reason I teach history and political science. I was asked about the book I was reading at bed time. Not to
be “cheesy” but in Miss Dolly’s house READING WAS FUNDAMENTAL.
I had to give specific details about what I learned that day. Make up something Quick!
Clear table and Karen does the dishes. YEA!
Get ledgers and do property work.
Watch a little TV.
Read Bible for an hour. Take notes and write down thoughts. 
Go to bed.

You see Miss Dolly prepared to be “lucky.” When presented with receiving help to start a business, she took it. She was prepared spiritually and mentally. She did not see a hand out…she saw a step up. She never forgot the largess of Mr. F. In fact, he was her financial advisor until he retired. He never charged her a dime for this advice. All he said was that hard work and frugality would pay off in the end. This would start her next “career” which is another posting. And I haven’t even started on what she did before becoming a landlord. Stay tuned for the next installment. The successful people in life and business I know are not “lucky.” They work the program of marriage, child rearing, personal growth, seeking and taking advice. I know it works in God’s time which sometimes happens a little early for some and some of us take a little longer to prepare. WORK THE PROGRAM!