Jody Fuller

It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again.

Back when I was a kid, we didn’t go back until the Tuesday after Labor Day and that was after a 24-hour dose of the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon featuring Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Wayne Newton, Tony Orlando and the aforementioned Jerry Lewis. Man, those were the good ol’ days. And it was cool at the bus stop in early September. Now, kids go back in the middle of the dadgum summer.

Teachers go back to school too and that’s what I’m writing about. I love teachers. None of us would be who we are without teachers. And once a teacher, always a teacher. I still address my teachers as I did when I was in school. It makes me uncomfortable when I hear some of my friends call our teachers by their first name. I just can’t do it. Maybe it’s just a military thing.

I think I mentioned last week I was right in the middle of speaking at a lot of teachers’ institutes, also called in-services. It was quite a run. I met so many amazing educators as well as the wonderful support staff. I met coaches, custodians, counselors and cafeteria crews. I met bus drivers and band directors. It takes everyone on the team to ensure a child has a proper education.

My first one took place in Darien, Georgia, for McIntosh County Schools. That was a very neat and historic little town in southeast Georgia not far from Brunswick. Dr. Barge, the superintendent, took me out to eat at a nice little restaurant right on the water. Shrimp boats lined the river. Of course I went full Forrest Gump when I saw them.

It went well but they were kind of quiet. The auditorium wasn’t that big but they sat in the back and on the ends, so the whole middle section was empty.

Comedians and certain types of speakers feed off the energy of the crowd and I don’t know why but teachers and preachers are bad about that. You think they’d be fighting to sit up front.

Anyway, I enjoyed it and got a lot of great feedback. I really liked Dr. Barge too. This is likely his last year in education, so he wanted to do something a little different. I’m thankful he chose me.

The second one was for Huntsville City Schools, which was the largest one I’d ever done. It was at the Von Braun Center, a huge concert venue. There were around 3,000 people there. They were so pumped. Faculty and staff from each school wore matching T-shirts and sat together. Some brought their bands as each school vied to win the coveted “spirited award.” There was so much energy.

Mrs. Finley, the superintendent, is an Auburn graduate and did her internship under Mrs. Dukes at Opelika High School in the spring of 1992. “She taught me everything I needed to know to be a classroom teacher,” Finley said.

I had a great time but my speech just couldn’t match the energy and loudness they had. I got one message on Facebook that was critical of some of my subjects. I’d never gotten anything like that before. I’ve gotten a couple of negative emails from readers, both from earlier this year. My intent was good, and I understood their gripes, but this one blew my mind. Still, I received a standing ovation from the other 2,999 folks in attendance, so I guess I did OK.

The third one was a big surprise. I did Russell County Schools just down the road and they were awesome. There are so many good things going with that system.

“They are on the move and ain’t no one stopping them now” was their theme. Dr. Coley, the superintendent, has done an amazing job.

I’ve heard from numerous friends who are employees of the system raving about the dynamic leadership at the central office.

It was a country theme including a goofy-looking Hee Haw horse and everything. Dr. Coley and crew had everyone pumped. Proportionally, they were as loud as the Huntsvillians, if that’s a word. I had to leave shortly after my portion but they fixed me a BBQ plate that was catered by a restaurant in Phenix City. That was so nice of them and it was quite tasty. I felt so at home. I hated I had to leave early.

The weekend brought a welcomed and much-needed break but I was right back at it Monday morning for Sylacauga City Schools. My friend Dr. Segars gave me this wonderful opportunity. He is a retired lieutenant colonel from the U.S. Army and a former educator at Auburn High School.

I had a good time there. The mayor even gave me a lapel pin. It was in a nice auditorium and everyone listened, learned and laughed. It was good but it was kind of quiet. People were spread out.

The last one is the one I was worried about. It was for Dale County Schools at Flowers Theater in Ozark. Once again, the teachers filled in from the back. Thankfully, by the time we started, they had filled in all the way up to the second row. Mr. Baker, the superintendent, welcomed me with open arms. I met a whole lot of good people and even saw a friend from Opelika.

Let me just tell you as grateful as I am for the other opportunities, this was far and away the best one. Perhaps it was just the acoustics of the theater combined with the room being full. They laughed loud, hard and long when I wanted them to and they listened intently when I needed them to. I’m hard on myself but it was the only A+ of the week. Dale County Schools is a remarkable school district. Those kids and families are lucky to have such dedicated teachers and administrators.

So teachers I love you. I thank you for what you do. When it gets tough, remember why it is you do what you do. When you remember, it makes it a whole lot easier to get up each day and go do what you do. Read that again.

I hope you all have an amazing school year.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com.