Best Class Night Ever: Meet Mr. & Ms. Dade County High School!

May 25, 2015 at 1:30 pm
Kimberly Guffey and Tyler Seay on May 21, 2015

Kimberly Guffey and Tyler Seay on May 21, 2015

Graduation season is filled with great moments, and here’s my favorite of the year: Dade County High School’s Class Night. Media specialist Carissa Henry just finished her 15th year at Dade, and was filled with pride as she told me the story.

Each year, seniors nominate five girls and five boys to be candidates for Mr. and Ms. Dade. A school-wide election is then held, and the winners are announced on Class Night. It’s the grand finale of the awards program, the night before graduation. As with most schools, the “popular, athletic” students often win. When this year’s winners were announced on Thursday, “there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” according to Ms. Henry. It was the first time that two special needs students, Tyler Seay and Kimberly Guffey, were honored as Mr. and Ms. Dade County High.  Principal Josh Ingle told me, “When I saw their names a few seconds before making the announcement, I immediately had a “lump in my throat” and struggled to get it out!”

When I saw the photograph, it reminded me of my school days. It was a different time, for sure. In most schools, “special education” students were segregated from the “regular” students. Often, they were the ones who had to endure the leaky portable buildings, the makeshift classrooms in the gym, or some other rundown space. They had lunch by themselves, PE classes in some dark corner of the gym, and little or no contact with other kids. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way since then. That’s why Tyler and Kimberly are familiar faces, and top vote-getters at Dade County High. I take great pleasure in informing you that they are the popular kids.

Tyler is best known for riding his tricycle throughout the school, giving awesome hugs, and flashing his big smile. When people are standing around, he insists that they shake hands and he instructs them to say, “It’s nice to see you!” Kimberly loves music and sat in on chorus classes this year. She enjoys looking at books, going to church and eating Mexican food. Both students look forward to their daily trips to the office to visit with the staff and the guidance counselors. Each received a standing ovation Thursday night.

Tyler is 22 and Kimberly is 19. (Students in the special education program can return to school until their 22nd birthday.) Although Kimberly graduated with her age group of students Friday night, she will return to the high school program next year. Tyler will be begin attending Kaleidoscope, a north Georgia program designed for independent advancement for persons with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

Ms. Henry said, “Dade students go out of their way to embrace and treat all of our special needs students with love and acceptance. They have grown up with these kids and they have always been a part of their lives.”

As an example, student Loran Daniels gave the special education kids their own prom. The central office gave Loran a budget and she organized the party for students from the middle school and the high school. It was called the “Snowball,” complete with music and food.

Graduating senior Hayden Johnson, himself a candidate for Mr. Dade County High, said, “Seeing Tyler and Kimberly win Mr. and Ms. Dade was a big honor for the class of 2015. Every day those two bring smiles to students’ faces and they truly deserved it. The student body knew what the award stood for, and that there was no one better to represent our class than Tyler and Kimberly.”

Ms. Henry, justifiably proud of her school, summed it up well. “I work with some amazing kids, don’t I? Things like this remind me of why I went into education in the first place,” she said.

Tyler’s mother Tia told me, “I can’t say enough about the students and Tyler’s graduating class. Without them, Tyler and Kimmie wouldn’t have had this special time.” Her Facebook post was a thing of beauty. She wrote, “I am so proud of my son and how the Dade students have always showed love, caring and kindness towards him. They include him, they encourage him and they love his hugs. We were not expecting this amazing award or the very large trophy that came with it. I feel honored and so proud to be his Mom. I just looked at him tonight and thought, I did that. I really did that. And I did that well. Congratulations Tyler you continually amaze me. I love you with my whole heart.”

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Thank you Dade County High School students for ending the school year on such a positive note. You made it possible for two lovely young people to enjoy a moment in the sun, a spotlight they deserve as much as anyone else. Gone are the days when some students were denied that honor. Dade County High has shown a kind spirit and a warm embrace that we all should emulate.

 

 

 

 

A tribute to Officer Nathan Rogers: an American hero

May 23, 2015 at 12:48 pm

Update: here are funeral arrangements for Nathan Rogers:  Calvary Baptist Church of Red Bank, 5201 Dayton Blvd is where visitation will be held on Tuesday, May 26th, from 4:00 PM until 8:00 PM and Wednesday, May 27th, from 11:00 AM until 12:30 PM. The funeral will be held at Calvary Baptist on Wednesday, May 27th at 12:30 PM, followed by a procession to his burial at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.

In June of 2014, I was fortunate to meet Chattanooga Police Officer Nathan Rogers, his wife Sarah, and several fellow police officers. I also spoke with Nathan’s father David. I wrote and produced the stories you will see and read below. Nathan passed away late Friday night, some 14 months after he was diagnosed with cancer.  He was only 31 years old.  His will to live surely extended his life beyond what doctors had predicted. He protected us all, here at home and abroad. I would like to offer this tribute in his memory.  Here is my original news story from June 2014:

Officer Nathan Rogers is embraced at Calvary Baptist Church, Nov. 9, 2014

Officer Nathan Rogers is embraced at Calvary Baptist Church, Nov. 9, 2014 (photo by Suzanne Lemery)

On Veterans Day 2014, Calvary Baptist Church in Red Bank honored its veterans. Among the honorees was a Tennessee Valley hero, Nathan Rogers, who has fallen upon hard times. I was honored to spend some time with Nathan and his wife Sarah recently. If you don’t already know and love him, I think you will by the end of this story.

Calvary Baptist youth minister Aaron McGuirt recognizes Officer Nathan Rogers

Calvary Baptist youth minister Aaron McGuirt recognizes Officer Nathan Rogers (photo by Suzanne Lemery)

In March 2014, Chattanooga Police Officer Nathan Rogers was protecting you and me. He was chasing a suspect through the woods and fell. He was slow getting up, and noticed a tingle, some numbness in his right side. This 30-year-old Marine just shook it off. Pain is part of the job. It comes with the territory.

But, the pain didn’t go away. It got worse. His steps were unsure, his speech became slurred. He knew he wasn’t up to the job. In a matter of weeks, this strapping six-footer had gone from one of the city’s fittest cops to a man who needed help getting around the house. He didn’t want to leave his job, but he knew he had to. His wife Sarah said, “He knew it was the right thing to do.”

The early diagnosis was hopeful. Sarah said, “We did X-rays, MRI’s, EKG’s, CT scans, you name it. She was afraid he was having strokes, but there was no evidence of that. Eventually, an MRI revealed a spot on his brain, but it had shrunk within a week. “They didn’t find anything serious,” she said, “So we thought it would just fade away.” When it didn’t, and his mobility declined further, doctors at Vanderbilt performed a brain biopsy. The new diagnosis: a form of brain cancer, glioblastoma, Grade 3. Surgery was not the preferred option. Instead, there would be immediate, aggressive treatment of chemotherapy and radiation.

Nathan Rogers in Iraq

Nathan Rogers in Iraq

A battle-tested combat veteran of two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Nathan finds comfort in the fellow Marines who surround him to this day. CPD Officer Curtis Roth is one of them. Like Nathan, he has pulled many an all-nighter on the streets of Chattanooga. “We’ve got his back,” Roth said. “Nathan would die for you. Among our officers, he was strongest, and most active. He’s a Marine’s Marine.”

Fellow Officer Jeremiah Cook remembers being a rookie patrolman who was in awe of his colleague’s bravery. “When other people run away from danger, Nathan is running toward the danger. Somebody has to do it. I saw him do that several times.”

He also appreciates his visitors from the police department and Calvary Baptist Church in Red Bank, where he and his family are members. Faith plays a big role in their lives. Sarah said, “We’re just taking it one day at a time. We know God will provide for us.”

Nathan with his parents, Janice and David Rogers

Nathan with his parents, Janice and David Rogers

Nathan’s parents are David and Janice Rogers, both longtime Hamilton County educators. David told me, “Nathan has always been such a great son, he’s always loved his family, has a big heart, and has always served his country with duty, honor, and respect. ” He speaks with pride of his son’s four years as a heavy machine gunner in the Marines, ending his active duty in the summer of 2006.

Fellow Marine and CPD Officer Curtis Roth summed it up beautifully. “Nathan’s life has always been about service, overseas and here at home. It’s all he’s ever known.

Sarah and Nathan Rogers

Sarah and Nathan Rogers, June 2014

(Special thanks to Suzanne Lemery Photography for the photos from Calvary Baptist Church)

Cracking the Middle School Code

May 20, 2015 at 11:14 pm
Sharing the stage with Ooltewah Elementary students

Sharing the stage with Ooltewah Elementary students

I was recently asked to speak to a group of fifth graders at Ooltewah Elementary School, as they marked the end of their elementary years. Now it’s off to the next step. I believe middle school is the time in which kids either head in the right direction, or the wrong one.

Rather than make them endure a speech by a guy who last wandered the halls in the prehistoric era, I enlisted some help. I asked some bright 8th graders from East Hamilton, Red Bank and Ooltewah to share “the code” with me. What do they wish someone had told them when they moved up to middle school? As you’ll see from this Top 10 list, they had some great advice. You’re invited to share this with your favorite student.

# 10: Middle school is not what Nickelodeon makes it out to be. Everything won’t be handed to you. Don’t slack off, and don’t forget your work. It’s not cool. It’s not funny. It makes you look immature. Practice opening your locker, and being organized. Not being organized can be a big problem, and lockers are not fun when you cannot open them.

# 9: Don’t let people tell you that you are not important, and don’t let people bring you down because of your looks, your weight, or your clothes, because none of that matters. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Love yourself and do your best.

# 8: You don’t rule the world! Be nice. Don’t hate on people. Play a sport, or join a club. This will help you meet people, and get familiar with the school.

# 7: Middle school is a blast! But: your work will get harder, so don’t be lazy. Don’t play games all the time. And don’t wait until the last minute to finish your work.

# 6: When you come to middle school, it may seem intimidating. But remember, everyone else feels the same way.   Don’t be scared. You’ll meet new friends. It really is fun! You’ll have more freedom than you did in 5th grade.

# 5: Speak to your teachers at least once every day, and show them you respect them. If they know who you are, and they know that you care, they are more likely to give you help when you really need it.

# 4: You will have homework every day, sometimes in every class. Don’t put it off, do it as soon as you get home. Just make it a habit. It’s part of growing up. You don’t want to get behind, because there will be more tomorrow! You’ll have to work even harder to catch up.

# 3: Read as much as you can, even without being told. I would rather be ahead of everyone else, instead of always catching up. All you need to do, to succeed in 6th grade, is hang with the right group of friends, be prepared, get enough sleep, do your homework, and try your hardest.

# 2: If you like to socialize, do it between classes. You’ll get in trouble if you do it during class.   Teachers won’t put up with it. If you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to ask questions!

# 1: Some of your friends’ behavior will change, for the worse. Just because they get in trouble doesn’t mean you have to. Stay out of their drama. You will find new friends that you fit in with. They will be the ones you can trust, when you really need a friend.

Out of all the responses I received, this one was really special. It was written by Brienne Aune, who just finished 8th grade at Red Bank Middle School. I am sharing her complete letter, to her “Unknown friends in Middle School.”

“Hey guys! So a little birdie told me you were all going to middle school this upcoming year. So, as a friend you have never met, I have some advice. You’re probably freaking out about schedules and class changes. You have nothing to worry about! Teachers will guide you to your classes the first few days, and before long, you will know it like the back of your hand. Yes, it’s hard at first, but you’ll get used to it.

 Here is another thing that might be scaring you: homework. I’m sure you’ve heard that middle schoolers have a ton of homework. Sometimes it’s true. However, teachers and fellow students will help you get through it.

 Get enough sleep, buddy, because you’ll need to be awake to learn your lessons. I used to sleep in class and all I have to say about that is, DON’T DO IT! You don’t want to miss stuff you might need later.

 You might not enjoy all your teachers. Some might be nice, some might be mean. Some might be relaxed and easygoing, while others may be stiff as a board. Don’t let it get to you.

 As a friend, I’ve witnessed middle schoolers fall into the wrong crowds. Don’t be that kid. Focus on your work.

 Hey, I know you’re scared. I’m scared too. This is my last year as a middle schooler. Soon, I’ll be in high school. Maybe, just maybe, we can help each other overcome our fears. I believe in each and every one of you.

 Sincerely,

The Middle Schooler

Thank you Brienne, you said it better than I ever could have. You’ll do great at Red Bank High School.

 

“Why do we hate each other?”

May 17, 2015 at 6:05 pm

I got to know Akia Lewis, a 10th grader at The Howard School in Chattanooga after her principal, Zac Brown told me, “She’s one of our shining lights.”  He was so right.

Akia Lewis on April 12, after receiving her Carson Scholars Award at UTC

Akia Lewis on April 12, 2015, after receiving her Carson Scholars Award at UTC

It turns out I had actually met her a few weeks before, when she was among fifty local students who was named a Carson Scholar, in honor of her academics and community work.  I emceed the program at UTC on Sunday April 12, and I chatted with her before she came on stage, to make sure I would say her name right (it’s pronounced uh-KEE-uh).

She’s also very involved in the new Student Government Association at Howard.  I learned very quickly that she is passionate about her school work.  “She’s going places,” teacher Terry Farriss told me.

School counselor Ismahen Kadrie asked Akia to read me the poem she had written.  Once again, it seems, we were linked to Sunday April 12, but I had no way of knowing that.

Akia told me, “When I woke up that morning, I said to myself, this is going to be a great day.  I felt good, I wanted to look good for this special day.”  The scholarship program, funded by Ben and Candy Carson, is quite prestigious.  The luncheon itself is attended by hundreds.  The winning students, their parents, teachers, and principals, treated to a grand meal and a salute to their achievements.  Each student gets their moment in the spotlight, greeted by loud cheers.  This was to be one of the best days of Akia’s 16-year-old life.

The program lasted for a couple of hours.  Akia enjoyed a delicious lunch, accepted her award, and posed for photos. She went home, and something terrible happened.  Around 5:00 that afternoon, one of her friends (“like my brother” she said) was shot to death in a drive-by shooting on North Germantown Road in Chattanooga.  Police say he was not the intended victim.

Kentrell Provens, April 5, 2015

Kentrell Provens, April 5, 2015

Kentrell Provens was a 16-year-old Brainerd High student.  He had been in some trouble, but nothing major.  His older brother was said to be a gang member, and to this day, police aren’t sure if Kentrell’s death was a random shooting, retribution, or a case of mistaken identity.  Like Akia, Kentrell was focusing on his school work, and had just made the Honor Roll at Brainerd.  Now, suddenly, just hours after mowing his mother’s lawn, he was dead.  Like so many other black youths in Chattanooga.  Day after day, year after year.

Akia had to do something to express her sadness, her frustration, her anger.  So she sat down and wrote this poem.  She shared it at school, and her teachers told her she should share it with others.  I’m thankful she shared it with me, and I’m proud to share it with you.

Here is the full text of Akia’s poem, “Why Do We Hate Each Other?”

Why do we hate each other?

Instead of building each other up,

We want to break each other.

Instead of giving them a hand,

We wanna take each other’s.

We tend to put each other down and then disgrace each other.

Why can’t we love each other?

It doesn’t have to be as much as you love your mother.

We’re all Gods children, so love your brother But no, you’d rather hate each other.

I can see you don’t care about the intelligence.

It’s pretty clear you want to hear the ignorance, But from listening to the ignorance, what do you get?

Tell me, exactly why do you benefit?

You shoot over a color,

You choose blue or even red

But why does it even matter, you can’t see anything when you’re dead.

You say if “homie” was starving you would give him your last bread, But let him say the wrong thing, that’s one shot to the head.

Our generation don’t square up anymore,

I guess we’re some shooters now.

That’s sad because a bullet doesn’t have a name and a child could get hit coming out the house.

And it’s like the lives that are lost don’t effect the ones doing the killing.

They only care about representing their sets and trying to make a living.

You swear you’re hard, tryin’ to tell a girl like me, I’m tripping,

But from my point of view, caring about another person enough to take his life is a bit feminine.

You would rather chill with your homies, then to get an education. A true man would look at you with disgust and let that be his motivation.

But I’m going to stop now,

For I know I’m wasting my breath.

For with ignorant people, it goes in the right, and out the left.

Making eye contact with the class of 2015

May 15, 2015 at 11:00 pm

class-13

I’ve met many high school seniors recently, and some have even asked me for a little advice. None of this is guaranteed, but I’ll give it my best shot.

I figure that within a decade or so, many of our graduating seniors will be doing a job that has yet to be invented.  That’s both exciting and a little scary.  Think about these words:  Twitter, Instagram, Pandora, Hulu, Google, iPhone, iPad, SnapChat, Pinterest.  We hadn’t heard those words a few years ago.  Now our teens can’t live without most of them.  What will the new words be by 2020?

I asked for guidance from my own sons, who are recent college graduates.  I said, “You’ve been there.  What would you tell them?”  They said, “Show up for class, be on time, and get to know your instructors.  Make sure they know your face and your name.”  As simple as it sounds, a lot of new college students don’t show up for class often enough, and unlike high school, no one’s trying to track you down when you’re absent.  But if you show up on time, and you develop a relationship with your instructors, it can pay off at exam time.  They’re more likely to give you help when you need it.  Perhaps showing up really is half the battle.

I believe school is never really out. Long after you get your diploma, there will be joy about learning something new. As much as I love music, every day I hear a song and discover some words, an instrument, or a meaning I hadn’t known before. Even when I figure out how to do something new on my phone, I have that same smile from when I learned the multiplication tables.

I would tell this year’s seniors that the high school teachers they have long feared, now have a new role: lifetime friends.  Recently I saw Ed Carter, my American history teacher from North Sand Mountain. I always thank him for instilling my love of history, politics, and government.  I give him a lot of credit for whatever success I’ve achieved.  He taught me all the presidents too, in order.  I learned them in 8th grade and still know them today, even the “new” ones.  I can recite them for you on demand, next time you see me. (Now the pressure is on me.)

I would tell them that money can indeed come in handy, but it sure doesn’t bring you love or happiness.  Watch the news and you’ll see a lot of angry, sad millionaires, every day.

I would tell them how much I admire people who win without bragging, and who lose without making excuses.  The way I see it, if you’re good at something, even if you’re the best, you will never have to tell everyone.  They will figure it out on their own.

I would tell them that this old saying is true: “If you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”  Thankfully, that happened to me.

I would offer some brief driving tips: buckle up, use your headlights in the rain and fog, and never text while driving.  I don’t like to read names on the news unless it’s for something good.

I would say that even in this age of texting and tweeting, personal contact is still the best way to communicate. Set aside some time every day to put your device away.  Look at people, right in their eyes.  Talk to them, listen to them.  At any college campus, you’ll see students randomly bumping into each other, and carelessly walking into traffic. This is not a good trend.

I would tell them many employers still value good spelling and punctuation. All those cute abbreviations and shortcuts used on social media may not go over so well in the job application process.

I would caution them about their social media posts. Potential employers will check them out, and somehow they stick around forever. Think before you post.

[2012-05-03] 보행자 이어폰, 연대 앞 / 김도훈

Once you get that job, if a customer (or boss) tries to get your attention, and you can’t hear them over your earbuds, you may soon be looking for another job. (Not a good idea to wear them while driving, either. You’ll want to hear that ambulance coming through.)

I would tell them when their doctor says to wear plenty of sunscreen, he’s not kidding!  I hope today’s teens do a better job of following those instructions than I did.

And I would tell them to try to do something nice for someone every day, without being asked.  That always seems to put the cherry on my hot fudge cake.

Congratulations, Class of 2015!  Now, go rock our world.

Happy 65th birthday, Stevie Wonder!

May 13, 2015 at 12:35 pm

Here’s a great trivia question for you, the next time you want to stump your friends.  “Who had a #1 record before the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones, and is still performing today?  And by the way, this performer is several years younger than any of those guys.”  The answer is Stevie Wonder, who turns 65 today.

Before he turned 13, he had recorded “Fingertips,” which topped the charts in the spring of 1963. By then, he had already mastered the harmonica, piano, bass and drums.  And “Little Stevie Wonder,” as he was known back then, could sing like crazy too.

Born six weeks premature, Stevland Morris was blind at birth.  Talk about a rough childhood.  His mother Lula Hardaway insisted he get no special treatment.  She wanted him to be raised just like the other boys, including his siblings.  So he played hard in the fields and streets of Saginaw, Michigan, often nursing injuries from running into things or falling into ditches.  Mom lived a tough life too.  Her husband, who may or may not have been Stevie’s dad, forced her to sell her body.  Some of the proceeds from this illicit activity were used to buy Stevie toy musical instruments, and eventually a  real harmonica and drum set.

Stevie Wonder, age 13

Stevie Wonder, age 13

Stevie’s church performances became the talk of Saginaw, and when word spread to Detroit, about 100 miles away, Motown Records founder Berry Gordy and his promotion team called Little Stevie the “8th wonder of the world,” and his showbiz name was sealed.  Gordy recorded Stevie’s “Fingertips” performance before a live audience, and watched it sail to the top of the charts.  Gordy, known as a stern taskmaster, took the teen under his wings, and made sure he stayed out of trouble during his teen years.  He hired Ted Hull, a teacher of the blind (and a Chattanooga native) to be Stevie’s tutor and road companion.  Even in his teen years Stevie loved the ladies, and part of Hull’s job was keeping a close eye on Stevie.  Due to his blindness, the clock had no relevance to Stevie: there was no day or night.  So Hull had to stay on constant guard to ensure that the precocious teenager wasn’t entertaining female guests in his hotel room.

When Stevie was 17, he had a huge crush on Angie Satterwhite, who he called the first love of his life.  When you hear the songs “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” and “I Was Made To Love Her,” they’re about Angie.  In the latter song, he wrote these words: “I was made to love her, built my world all around her….had a childhood sweetheart, we were always hand in hand.”  That same year, the teenager wrote “My Cherie Amour” about Angie: “lovely as a summer day….how I wish that you were mine.”  But the relationship didn’t last, and three years later, he wrote “It’s A Shame,” recorded by the Spinners, which was about Angie’s cheating: “It’s a shame, the way you mess around with your man…Why do you use me, try to confuse me? How can you stand to be so cruel…”

So, to sum up, barely out of his teens, he had written or recorded EIGHTEEN top-20 hits, selling millions of records, and appearing in sold-out concerts worldwide.  All of this during the British Invasion of the 1960s, some pretty tough competition.  How would he top this?

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By owning the 1970s, that’s how.  Album after album, each packed with hit songs, one right after another.  “You Are The Sunshine of My Life.”  “Living For The City.”  “Sir Duke.”  And in my opinion, maybe the best all-around song of the decade, start to finish.  “Superstition” had everything.  From the first notes on the drum, to the futuristic-sounding keyboard (I thought it was a guitar) that Stevie himself played throughout the song.  Great vocals, great lyrics, great beat.  It simply doesn’t get any better than “Superstition.”

Through it all, he’s been a busy man, in every sense of the word.  He has nine children with five different women. One of those children, Aisha is now 40 and performs with her dad in concert.  She’s the baby girl you hear on “Isn’t She Lovely,” his joyful ode to fatherhood.  He’s written hits for other artists: “Tears of A Clown” for Smokey Robinson, “Tell Me Something Good” by Rufus, and most amazingly, “Until You Come Back To Me” for Aretha Franklin (he wrote this at age 13!)

He was almost killed in a car wreck at the age of 23, and says the near-death experience and the challenges of recuperating helped him understand the suffering of people worldwide.  The songs that followed reflected more social activism, and less romance.

Stevie Wonder 2014

Stevie Wonder 2014

Someday, someone will make a movie about the life and career of Stevie Wonder.  What a story it will be.  Happy Birthday Stevie, and thanks for all those memorable grooves.  You are the soundtrack of my life.

(Much of the information in this story is from Mark Ribowksky’s great 2010 book, “Signed, Sealed, and Delivered, the Soulful Journey of Stevie Wonder.”

50 years ago today: Five notes that changed the world

May 12, 2015 at 12:30 pm

Over the years, various writers and polls have listed the top rock ‘n roll songs of all time.  Most of the time, this song is in the Top 10: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones.

Fifty years ago, on May 12, 1965, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts, Brian Jones, and Bill Wyman went into RCA Studios in Hollywood and recorded their most enduring hit.

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A week earlier, Keith Richards woke up in his hotel room with the guitar riff and lyric “Can’t get no satisfaction” in his head. He recorded it on a portable tape deck, went back to sleep, and brought it to the studio. The tape contained the soon-to-be-famous guitar riff followed by the sounds of him snoring.  Mick wrote the rest of the song.  Keith is responsible for the title, double negative and all.  Having been a Chuck Berry fan, it’s possible that he may have heard an early Berry song called “Thirty Days,” in which Berry sings, “I don’t get no satisfaction from the judge.”  Who knows what Keith was dreaming about in those days?

In those early days, the band was very much a democracy.  They took a vote on whether “Satisfaction” should be released as a single.  Mick and Keith voted no.  They felt it was unfinished, too raw.  They wanted to add a horn section.  The other band members outvoted them. I guess Mick and Keith weren’t always right, huh?

Fifty years later, Mick is a 71-year-old great-grandfather, and will be complaining about his lack of satisfaction during yet another sold-out concert tour later this year.  The tour includes stops in Atlanta (June 9) and Nashville (June 17).  1965 was an incredible year for music, with the Beatles, Beach Boys, Motown artists, Bob Dylan and many others at their creative peak.  This Rolling Stones song still sounds good today:

 

Teachers night out: let’s go to the Lookouts!

May 11, 2015 at 2:14 am

Teachers certainly do some great things in the classroom.  But what about after school activities? Often overlooked are the “little extras” teachers do that really make a difference in the lives of children.  I’m proud to share one of those stories with you today.

Sometimes I see a picture, or a Facebook post, and I just have to find out more about it.  Adam Conner shared photos of his friend, Mandy Love, who teaches 2nd grade at East Side Elementary School, just off Main Street in Chattanooga.  East Side is a “free and reduced lunch” school, meaning almost all its students are from low-income homes.  The photos you’ll see here are from a recent weeknight outing, in which Mandy, and other local teachers, take their five most improved students out to the game as an end-of-school reward.  The Lookouts provide the seats and the hot dogs, and the teachers provide the transportation.

On the field before the Lookouts game

On the field before the Lookouts game

Mandy does this each year, and she loves every minute of it.  She’s one of those teachers who takes a special interest in her students.  She has taken them trick-or-treating on Halloween, and has made sure Santa Claus pays them a visit at Christmas time.

East Side is heavily Latino these days.  In fact, 15 of Mandy’s 19 second graders are Hispanic.  “They’re almost always from large families,” she said, “and they’ve never seen much of anything outside the school, their home, and trips to the grocery store.”  Even though they live minutes from Chattanooga’s beautiful attractions, many haven’t been exposed to the riverfront.  For each of these five 2nd graders, they had never been inside a baseball stadium.  Until now. (Their names appear under the photo at the end of this story.)

East Side students as the National Anthem is played

East Side students as the National Anthem is played

“They’re familiar with the National Anthem,” Mandy said. “Our principal Stephanie Hinton makes sure we say the Pledge of Allegiance each day, and once a week we play the National Anthem, so they know about putting their hand over their heart.”

Entering AT&T Field was “a sensory overload,” according to Mandy. “The sights, the smells, the manicured field, the colorful signs, the hot dogs.  They took it all in.”  When a foul ball landed near them in the stands, they were surprised to learn that the person who retrieved the ball didn’t have to throw it back!

The night at the Lookouts game was just part of their activities.  “I wanted to really reward them,” Mandy said. “This isn’t just for academics, these are children who have learned about manners, how to be polite, and how to be compassionate.  They really aim to please.”

East Side students on the Walnut Street Bridge

East Side students on the Walnut Street Bridge

The evening began with a stroll across the Walnut Street Bridge, and a visit to the nearby Ice Cream Show.  She said, “When people see this white woman with five Latino kids, they look us over for a few seconds, and then they usually realize that I’m their teacher.  They almost always smile and tell me how well-behaved the children are.  I feel like the mother hen, I’m comfortable taking them anywhere.”

Mandy has taught at East Side for ten years, a period in which Latino students have increasingly become the majority.  She said, “A few of the little ones come to us still learning English, but it doesn’t take them long.  Many of my 2nd graders know two languages, sometimes three.  Some of them translate for their parents, who haven’t lived here very long and are still struggling to grasp English.”

“Many of my students who are the oldest child in the family are very nurturing,” she continued.  “When we have some extra pieces of fruit in the classroom, they will politely ask me if they can take one home.   They don’t say it, but I know they’re taking it to their little brother or sister.  It’s very sweet.”

Clockwise from lower left: Christian Perez Lucas, Charly Morales Perez, Andrea Perez Morales, Anyeli Fuentes Mendez, Jason Braulio Lopez, and teacher Mandy Love.

Clockwise from lower left: Christian Perez Lucas, Charly Morales Perez, Andrea Perez Morales, Anyeli Fuentes Mendez, Jason Braulio Lopez, and teacher Mandy Love.

Mandy graduated from Ringgold High School, then UTC, and admits some of her teacher friends ask her why she stays at a lower-income school.  She says she drives past several more affluent schools on her way to work each day.

“I could ask to transfer just about anywhere,” she said.  “But the reason I stay at East Side is to be with these kids.  They’ve seen a lot in their young lives, and they need stability.  I know I’m their teacher, but I’m learning so much from them too.  Sometimes I’ll see a child fall down, and one of my little 7-year-olds will rush over, put her arm around the child, and make sure she’s okay.  That’s a good, good feeling.”

Mandy doesn’t have any children of her own, and admits that may give her more “personal” time to spend with her school family.  “We may look a little different when we’re out on the town,” she said. “But as far as we’re concerned, there’s no color.  We’re just one big happy family.”

 

 

 

Missing that smile on Mother’s Day

May 10, 2015 at 12:35 pm

dcruth

Mother’s Day should never be routine, but despite our best intentions, it happens.

If you’re fortunate enough to live in the same zip code, you visit Mom. You go to church with her, take her out to eat, buy her something that looks nice or smells good.

If you live out of town, you order a corsage, or you send flowers, and always a card.  Since my mom was always nearby, the routine was church, lunch, and a white corsage.  Yes, it was a routine, but one that both of us enjoyed.

Now, four years after my mother died at the age of 90, I miss that routine. I see the commercials: “Don’t forget Mom!” “Be sure to call your Mom!”  I feel like Bear Bryant did in those wonderful Southern Bell commercials. He’d solemnly look into the camera and ask, “Have you called your Mama today? I sure wish I could.”

Since my mother gave birth to me at the age of 36, I was fortunate to have her near me for such a long time. I have friends who lost their mother at an early age, and I always felt sad for them when they would hear see those cheery Mother’s Day commercials.

On this Mother’s Day, I’m remembering two stories about Virginia Ruth Norris Carroll, or as my dad called her, “Ruthie.” One is kind of funny, the other one still makes me sad. Let’s do funny first.

During my KZ-106 Chattanooga radio days in the late 70s, I had just broken up with a girl, or maybe she had broken up with me. Either way, I was feeling down. Like many “newly single” guys, I started over. I grew a beard.  Mom didn’t like it. She missed my baby face, she said. For the next 14 years, she would frequently remind me how much she disliked my facial hair. “When are you going to shave that beard?” she would say. But I kept it, even into my TV news career. My wife and kids had never seen me without it.

One summer day in 1993, I looked in the mirror, got out the razor, and shaved it off. I thought, “I’m gonna make Mom happy. When I go out to see her this weekend, her son’s “baby face” will be back, and she’ll be thrilled.” You can probably guess what happened next. Mom took a close look at my clean-shaven face, scrunched her cute little nose and said, “You need to grow that beard back.” Ah, mothers.

Now the sad one. I like to think I’m a decent enough guy, but every now and then, I fail at basic human behavior.

Mom was a child of the Depression, and grew up cherishing every bit of food in her kitchen. Those of us who came later had no idea: food was in the stores, it was in our pantries, and it was plentiful.  Mom was reluctant to toss anything out of the refrigerator. One evening the smart-aleck jokester in me came out. One by one, I would take a jar out of the refrigerator and make some wisecrack about the expiration date. “This one goes back to the Eisenhower administration.” “There’s something growing in this one.” There were more knee-slapping insults. Anything for a laugh, right?

Then I noticed some tears on my mother’s face. Her only son, was making jokes at her expense. As soon as I realized what I had done, I felt very small. I had made my mother cry. I offered an awkward apology. “I was just trying to be funny, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”

She got over my so-called comedy show. But I never quite recovered. It still resides in my memory like a fungus. She never knew it, but I spent the rest of her life trying to make that up to her. Long after Alzheimer’s robbed her of her memory, I felt like I owed her so much. I could never do enough to make it right, but I gave it my best shot.

My sisters and I were fortunate during Mom’s ten-year journey with Alzheimer’s. She was cheerful and pleasant during her twilight years, just as she had been in her prime. My dad had been an excellent caretaker until he suddenly became ill, and died in 2005. As a new chapter in our lives began, I looked forward to my weekend visits with her, taking her to church, going out to eat or just sitting at home watching the Braves (her favorite was Chipper Jones). Later, my visits to her nursing home were just as pleasant. She always smiled as I entered her room.  I know I will never see as sweet a smile again.

ruthie2010

We all strive for a long, healthy life. Although my mother’s mind was foggy near the end, she still enjoyed being around her family. I felt blessed that she knew who I was. I was among a dwindling number of people, a handful at best. Most of her acquaintances didn’t realize that. She pretended she knew everybody.

Still, when you live to be 90, most of the people who knew you when you were a teen, a young adult, or even a middle-ager are gone. By living into her golden years, most of those who saw her at church, or even casually, knew an elderly woman who used a walker. A woman with a ready smile, but no real personality beyond that smile. A woman who would respond to greetings, but would not start a conversation. They didn’t know her when she was someone’s little sister, someone’s girlfriend, a wife, a mom, a co-worker.

For her funeral, I thought it would be nice to put together a little video, featuring some classic photographs. It was a way to introduce “Ruthie” to those who didn’t -really- know her. It was a way to help them understand why I’ll always miss that smile.

I hope Mother’s Day was never routine for her. I hope it was special. No doubt about it, I owed her that much, and a lot more.

Funniest 2 minutes you’ll see this week

May 9, 2015 at 1:27 pm

I’ll cut to the chase.  If you want to laugh, really hard for a couple of minutes.  Watch this video.  The mayor of Georgetown, Texas took a bathroom break during a city council meeting.  He left his microphone on (yes, much like the “Naked Gun” movie with Leslie Nielsen).  The vice mayor is talking about a very serious subject.  You know what happens next, but it’s funny anyway.  Enjoy!