Benny made it up to the old homestead Saturday, something that does not happen very often during the school year. Ben is a full-time Health Occupations Teacher at Ukiah High School. Having labored in similar trenches myself for sixteen years back in the day, I get it. Teachers do not have time enough to cross their I’s and dot their T’s, let alone time for excursions into the country.
|Ben's been Jamming.|
This makes his visits even more pronounced.
I had no idea he was on the mountain, until I came in from working the West Forty, drenched in sweat from the muggy Saturday morning, and found him gazing around in wonder at the spring floral display to be found-everywhere. With thundershowers looming and the temperature not stuttering at ninety degrees, Ben-Jammin was a breath of fresh air.
I say that because he inspires me. I know what his job entails, especially when I ponder the notion that I might still have been in the classroom, were it not for standardized testing. I also know how filled his calendar is.
Meetings, public fund raisers, fund raisers which spill over into one’s personal space, prep time, supervision responsibilities, the list is endless. Teaching consumes the mind if it is being done correctly. There is no other alternative.
When I seriously contemplate a return to the classroom, especially if it were only for a single two-period reading/language arts block, I pause for a moment to linger at the intersection of Warm and Fuzzy. Then I step out into the roadway and get lambasted by a Greyhound bus.
I think about the daily commute to town, the impossibly long hours, the load of work I used to bring home, and the problems stemming from trying to stay hydrated. Next I remember the challenging personalities one encounters in the field, and finally I dwell on my current occupation of farmer.
I’m good, thanks.
All of this makes me appreciate what Ben is doing even more. I also know that he has gained recognition and appreciation beyond that of an admiring dad. I know that the state Superintendent of Schools paid a personal visit to Ukiah High School earlier this school year, to observe Ben teaching.
Hey, I was no lightweight myself, but the only head honcho to ever visit me, was employed by Laytonville Unified SD. The state Superintendent of Schools does not have time on the schedule to observe all of the Health Occupations teachers in California, so I figure he had pretty good cause.
I wonder if it was the time period that Ben devoted a week to raising students’ awareness of the dangers of smoking tobacco. He assumed the role of a person who was dying from the results of having smoked over the course of his life, including dressing the part.
As the week progressed, Ben’s physical appearance regressed. By Friday he was on a gurney in hospital garb, obviously on his last legs. As he was being trundled across campus at peak time, he clutched a ciggie, imploring all those he encountered for a light.
I am beyond impressed: I am flummoxed. I am also proud as hell.
I spend much time with Casey and Lito, here on-farm, but I think about Ben a lot. His is as hard a job as farming is, only for different reasons. I am proud that all three of Annie’s and my sons, are community contributors.
For me that’s as good as it gets.