Back in the early 90s, I was a counselor at a large high school in a high-poverty, high-gang area in Southern California. Kim and I had just gotten married, and we had Wil, seven or eight at the time, and Hannah, who was in day care. The school had approximately 2,400 students and among the student body, three active gangs: OVS (Ontario Villains), Pomona Kings, and Dog Patch. The principal, Bill, was fantastic, a great mentor, and I learned so much from him. Much of what I do and have become was a result of his influence.
It could have been a tense situation were it not for the wonderful, caring teachers and staff. I was part of a fantastic counseling team. I remember we had one shooting and a knifing that took place, both at lunch on separate days, and the way the faculty, staff and students responded was remarkable. No one died, thankfully, but as I recall it, I am still in awe at the school’s response.
I mentioned there were a number of remarkable staff. One teacher, in particular looms large in my memory.
An older guy, a math teacher. Graduated from an alternative high school. You know, the kind of school for struggling kids. Kids who don’t do well in a “normal” school. A school for kids who had run-ins with the administration, perhaps suspended long term.
In the years I worked with Don, he never told me why he graduated from an alternative school, other than to say, “School was not my thing.” Interesting that he became a teacher.
As a counselor (and later as an administrator), I learned that a school is much like a golf course. There are plenty of beautiful fairways to navigate, and more than a few rough areas, and of course, sand traps. There are the teachers you look for who will guide, nurture and love a kid. There were others that, depending upon the kid and the day, it could work out just fine. And then there were those you felt guilty for placing a kiddo in that teacher’s classroom. I think if you are a teacher, counselor or administrator reading this, you know who I’m talking about.
On the surface, and at first glance, you might think he was a curmudgeon. Cranky. A sand trap. Some of his department mates didn’t care for him. Saw him as an outsider. And I guess that description would be correct. For good reason, though.
Kids loved Don. “Mr. A” they called him. Gang kids. Popular kids. Athletes. Band and choir kids. All kids.
You’re probably thinking, “Must be a pretty easy teacher.” Dead wrong! Tough as nails. High expectations. But what came along with those high expectations was his willingness to work with each kid- no matter who- to reach and exceed past those expectations. What came with those high expectations was his refusal to let a kid fail.
He didn’t believe in kids failing. If a kid didn’t pass a test, the kid had to show up for tutoring and retake it. As many times as needed until the kid passed. Not the same test. He had a different test for each time a kid took it. Different problems, but the same number of problems. Same level of difficulty.
Kids would show up before and after school. Even kids who had other math teachers. Rival gang members sitting side by side. Athletes, band kids, quiet kids, popular kids, all sitting together relearning the material and retaking a test. And all passed! Each kid. Simply because Don refused to give up on them.
I asked him why. I mentioned he puts in enormous amounts of time and effort. He has to construct the same tests over and over. All he did was shrug, smile and say, “I had a teacher who didn’t give up on me. I want to pass it on.” And with that, he walked back to his classroom because kids were lined up at his door waiting to get in. Waiting to get in, because they wanted to get in. They knew Don wouldn’t give up on them. Something to think about …
Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!
To My Readers:
I mentioned in my last post that my ninth book, Fan Mail, has been accepted by my publisher, Black Rose Writing. The publication date is March 30, 2023. If you check out my author website at www.jrlewisauthor.blog/ you will find more about me, my writing, my books, and Fan Mail.
While you wait for Fan Mail to hit, I hope you take the time to enjoy my other work. The last four books have won twelve awards, while my Lives Trilogy has won two.
If you have read one of my books, I would like to ask a favor. If you could go online and write a review or, at the least, give a rating on the book, it would be of great help. Both a review and a rating would be wonderful. The review could be one or two lines. It doesn’t have to be long. Just let others know you read it and hopefully, enjoyed it. Obviously, 4s and 5s are the best. Thanks for this consideration.
Connect with me on Social Media:
Author Website: www.jrlewisauthor.blog/
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor
Facebook at: www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author
Amazon at: www.amazon.com/Joseph-Lewis/e/B01FWB9AOI /
Blaze In, Blaze Out: A Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner! A Reader’s Ready Recommended Read! A BestThriller’s Editor’s Pick!
Eiselmann and O’Connor thought the conviction of Dmitry Andruko, the head of a Ukrainian crime family, meant the end. It was only the beginning. They forgot that revenge knows no boundaries, vindictiveness knows no restraints, and ruthlessness never worries about collateral damage. Andruko hired contract killers to go after and kill O’Connor and Eiselmann. The killers can be anyone and be anywhere. They can strike at any time. They care nothing of collateral damage. Andruko believes a target is a target, and in the end, the target must die. https://amzn.to/34lNllP
Betrayed: A PenCraft 1st Place Winner for Thriller-Fiction! A Maxy Award Runner-Up for Mystery/Suspense! A Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner! A Reader’s Ready Recommended Read Award Winner! A Reader’s Favorite Honorable Mention Award Winner for Fiction-Crime-Mystery!
Betrayed is Now Available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback! https://amzn.to/3AfUUpS
late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, but no one is talking.
A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old
boy. Greed can be all-consuming, and seeing is not believing. No one can be
trusted, and the hunters become the hunted. https://amzn.to/2EKHudx
Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!
He blends in. He is successful, intelligent, and methodical. So far, he has murdered eight people. There is no discernible pattern. There are no clues. There are no leads. The only thing the FBI and local police have to go on is the method of death: two bullets to the face- gruesome and meant to send a message. But it’s difficult to understand any message coming from a dark and damaged mind. Two adopted boys, struggling in their own world, do not know they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement. https://amzn.to/2RBWvTm
Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner! Named “One of the Best Thrillers of 2018!” by BestThrillers.com
Caught in a Web is also available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback! http://bit.ly/2WO3kka
found the bodies of high school and middle school kids dead from an overdose of
heroin and fentanyl. A violent gang, MS-13, controls the drug trade along the
I-94 and I-43 corridors. They send Ricardo Fuentes to find out who is cutting
in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson. But he has an
ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay. Detectives
Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the
drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696
The Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they live in separate parts of the country, the lives of Kelliher, 11-year-old Brett McGovern, and 11-year-old George Tokay are separate pieces of a puzzle. The two boys become interwoven with the same thread Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their futures grow dark as each search for a way out. https://amzn.to/34nXBH5
Book One, Stolen Lives: Editor’s Pick by BestThrillers! Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner! A Crime Thriller finalist in the 2021 Best Thriller Book Awards!
Two thirteen-year-old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they will end up like the other kids they found- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. To make the investigation that much tougher, Kelliher suspects that one of his team members might be involved. https://amzn.to/3oMo4qZ
Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:
The boys are home, but now they have to fit back in with their families and friends. Their parents and the FBI thought the boys were safe. They were until people began dying. Now the hunt is on for six dangerous and desperate men who vow revenge. With no leads and nothing to go on, the FBI can only sit back and wait. A dangerous game that threatens not only the boys, but their families. https://amzn.to/2RAYIk2
Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
Three dangerous men with nothing to lose offer a handsome reward to anyone willing to kill fourteen-year-old Brett McGovern. He does not know that he, his younger brother, and a friend are targets. More than anyone, these three men vow to kill George, whom they blame for forcing them to run and hide. A fun vacation turns into a nightmare and ends where it started, back on the Navajo Nation Reservation, high on a mesa held sacred by George and his grandfather. Outnumbered and outgunned, George will make the ultimate sacrifice to protect his adoptive father and his adoptive brothers- but can he? Without knowing who these men are? Or where they are? Without knowing whom to trust? Is he prepared for betrayal that leads to his heartbreak and death? http://bit.ly/SplinteredLives
Photo Courtesy of Adrien Olicho and Unsplash.