Thursday, December 5, 2013

Theory 24: Teachers are money hustlers, ya'll.

Reader friends, I have really missed my weekly exercise in sarcasm (it’s the only exercise I do). To all of ya’ll who read and shared the first five chapters of The Eye of Adoption (my blog posts in November—National Adoption Awareness Month), I shout out a huge THANK YOU!!! I took a risk there, but it paid off. New readers, particularly waiting mothers, found The Eye of Adoption and found a new friend—me—on every page. Ya’ll would not believe the stories I hear from families battling infertility or riding the complex currents of adoption. Those chapters will stay in the blog archive and are also on The Eye of Adoption Facebook page in the notes section. Share at will.

If I were independently wealthy, I’d write a separate blog (maybe even a book) detailing the incredible stories I hear from waiting and adoptive mothers. But, I need insurance and a paycheck, so, for now, I’ll just post our Friday laughs to this blog, write my little “Stop and Think” article for the local Hibu magazines, guest post for other bloggers, and market the heck out of The Eye of Adoption.

Working girl

I am a middle aged, mid-sized woman going through the daily grind in a middle income and wonderful teaching job. I’ve always been an overachiever and pretty ambitious. Heck, I get up at 5:00 am to write. Hmmm, I don’t have time to exercise, but I make time to write. My rear end definitely shows my preference. Tall Child thinks I’m nuts but, between you and me, he spends more time on Sunday battling my cousins and friends in Fantasy Football than I do writing all week. I guess our gambles are similar. He hopes to win the pot. I hope to sell more books. By the way, this blog will morph into a book and I want YOUR theories! Mint Julep and Delicious have given me some stellar ideas. Y’all need to like Theories: Size 12 on Facebook so we can chat it up and you can be part of the Theories: Size 12 paperback and Kindle.

See how fluidly I “sold” my Facebook page? I just mentioned the book four times and Facebook 4 times. See how I am warming you up to one day purchase ten copies of Theories: Size 12? Did you know Kindle sells the Theories: Size 12 blog now for only $.99 a month? Smooth.

In Theory 23: God and prayer are most definitely in schools, I wrote of my first year teaching in an urban school. I couldn’t pronounce some of the students’ names (the school is an English as a Second Language hub and quite diverse), so I nicknamed them based on behavior. One day, it dawned on me that fast typists could make some cash tapping out other kids’ papers. I said so aloud, and my student named “Always Stands” shouted, “Mrs. D, you a hustler. You always tryin’ to make money.”

I replied, “Well, Always Stands, I paid $1800 in daycare before I got my first teacher paycheck for Knox County, which was $1900. So, yes, I have to hustle.” I told my affluent friend OMGG the sum of that first paycheck and she laughed the mascara right off her face. Honestly, Tennessee isn’t exactly known for its high-paying teaching jobs. Most of us love teaching, but we also seek financial security, so, we hustle.

One of my colleagues said just last week, "I think I've designed an app that I can retire on."

I’m tossing out only a few adventures in money-making my teacher relatives, friends, and I have attempted. I labeled each with cautionary headings in the vein of Theory 3: You should be nice to everyone you meet, because you will meet again, especially if you were not nice in the first place.

Fellow educators, I hope you like your nicknames, and I hope you’ll share these anecdotes with students (after semester exams, of course) and save us some summer stress.

Cautionary Tales:

Finish your homework for English class. Your teacher may stir your green beans this summer.
Teachers know concessions stands, so transition to restaurant work is natural. Plus, living in a series of tourist towns that lay a path to The Great Smoky Mountains gave my teachers ample hustling opportunities. Delicious, Mooch, Big Booty J, Moon, Baby, and others tossed salads and dished desserts to nine million tourists gobbling their ways through Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Delicious and BBJ made appearances at Hobie’s, Howard’s, The Green Valley Restaurant, and Applewood. I don’t know many Gatlinburg teachers who didn’t serve a tour at The Heidelberg Restaurant at Ober Gatlinburg (where the Tram lands). Even the grammar school music teacher, “The Instrumentalist,” donned lederhosen and played brass and percussion for the Oompah Pa Band. Gatlinburg-Pittman Highlander teachers quickly shed their kilts to make some German dough.

See Theory 7: Everyone should work in a restaurant (Part 1, Part 2) for more entertaining and embarrassing adventures in food service.

Once, in the teachers’ lounge at Gatlinburg-Pittman, a then chunky Delicious joked, “I am sick of waiting tables. I may try prostitution this summer.” Her co-worker “Πr2” asked, “Are you going to charge by the pound?”

Don’t eat the yellow snow cones if you smarted off in history class.
Handsome teacher “Magnum P.I.” chipped and flavored ice for hot tourists on Gatlinburg’s main strip. Our Honors Typing (that’s what we called it) teacher “Goose” powdered greasy funnel cakes in his own booth just a few yards away.

Late for practice? That may cost you extra at the baseball card show!
Magnum P.I. also hosted the occasional baseball card trading show in a borrowed hotel conference room – usually the Howard Johnson. Cousin Roscoe (son of BBJ) and friends (then ages 12-14) helped him out. Once, Roscoe begged me, “Bug, give me just one of your summer paychecks and I’ll double it at the baseball card show this weekend.” Hustlers beget hustlers, ya’ll. FYI – Don’t have a car wash at the top of a mountain. Hustle smart.

Teachers get physical in the summer.
“Mystery Coach” loaded—hand-under-hiney style—tourists into sight-seeing helicopters.

Grammarians with gusto make Great Tour Guides – Tell Your Granny!
Teacher “Tush” owned the microphone when she hopped on crowded tour busses as they cruised into the Smith Family Theater parking lot in Pigeon Forge. By the way, Smith Family Theater entertainers are former teachers. My cousins. Mentioned elsewhere in this blog. They really don’t want to go back to teaching, so please see their show when you visit The Smokies. Best Show in The Smokies for years running—as determined by The Mountain Press readers! Hustlers hustle for other hustlers, ya’ll.

Want extra credit? Bring your married aunt and uncle who make a combined income over $60,000 and have decent credit to Coach Bama’s timeshare booth!
Timeshare booths perch at busy spots along the PF and G-burg drags. Calm, sweet, honest Coach Bama raked in a few good sales before he had to start basketball camps. Camps. Consider these the super hustle. Coaches spend entire weekends managing schedules, phone calls, disputes, money, and snacks. Exhausting. I tried it.

Students' parents: Support your teacher friends when they hustle. They will return the favors!
I held a “Jody Camp” a few summers ago. I toted and hollered at 5 campers for 5 days. Sharky, Gnome, “Brother,” “Boyfriend,” and “Angel #3” picked blackberries, swam, played monopoly, and cruised the farm. I scored a little cash but a priceless week with my friends’ children. That was some of the hardest money and those are some of the funniest memories I’ve ever made. “Brother” (who was my oldest camper at age 12), later used me as a reference to apply for a camp counselor job. My recommendation surely sealed his young hustler deal!

Prefer a sanitized inner tube for the lazy river? Get your pronouns straight.
Teacher “Wild Onion” expertly doled out tubes to SPF’d tourists at a local water park. Meanwhile, just across the cement pond, sweet science teacher “Daisy” served up nachos and fountain drinks.

Practice your clarinet like a good geek because your band director may soon be your boss, or worse, your employee.
As a teen worker at The Track, I handed out skee-ball prizes to indecisive goobers. I rescued fat tourists with no hand-eye coordination as they frantically circle spun strained rubber boats in the center of bumper boat pools. I handed out golf clubs and neon balls in the putt-putt booth. I labored under the watchful eye of my high school band director, “Music Man.” Music Man moved up the management ladder quickly. Track owners trusted teachers to separate scraped up tourists from go-cart asphalt and serve concessions. Teachers are used to saying “Wash your hands,” “Wait your turn,” and “Do the math” (mini theory: people can’t count once they leave home). But teachers who applied took the risk of being managed by a former student. That’s just a gamble teachers take.

Don’t underestimate your teachers. They are trained researchers and industrious risk-takers.
Delicious and I made a gamble once. We bet on Mother Nature’s bounty on The Crippled Beagle Farm. We heard that one of my elementary teachers—let’s call her “Ginseng Guru”—was digging and selling ginseng for over $1,000 a dried pound. We freaked; $1,000 is serious money. With student loan and medical debts out the yin-yang, Delicious and I were gonna dig out of the recession with some Crippled Beagle ginseng! We made a plan. I scoured the internet and learned to locate ginseng using companion plants, to dig only plants with three or more prongs and five years of maturity. I knew how to dry and sell the roots and even lined up two buyers. I watched videos and printed pictures. We set a digging date. Obviously, plants are easier to find in the spring. But we were fired up, so we started our hunt on a cold, wet, January Saturday. We wore old farm clothes and carried grocery sacks and different size shovels. Delicious did no research, so when I told her ginseng grows on steep hills, she choose to support me from below. Delicious poked her walking stick through mud and black walnuts behind the barn and made a verbal shopping list while I climbed, slid, and cussed. My miserable hunt lasted 90 minutes and resulted in three plants. I think that, with my misted hair, aching knees, and desperation for easy money, I saw mirages in the undergrowth. I dug some kind of ginseng fool’s gold green stuff. Now, listen, poaching is a big issue for ginseng farmers, so let me make this clear. No hunting is allowed on The Crippled Beagle Farm. Ever. For critters or roots. Plus, if there were Ginseng on my farm, I’d wouldn’t be hustling so hard at school teaching, now, would I?

 Thar's gold in them thar hills!

One of Knoxville's greatest ladies—"Downtown Queen"—taught PE for many years. She once confessed to me, “I was so happy when I retired from teaching so I didn’t have to buy any more junk from my colleagues! If other teachers are so broke they have to sell stuff, what makes them think their teacher friends can afford to buy it? Every time I went in the teacher’s lounge there was some product or some catalog laid out by the microwave.” They were hustling, my Queen. Which brings me to Theory 25: Dang you Tupperware ladies, dang you. But I do love your products.

See you next Friday! Until then, think outside the barn.

Also, visit or my website to read about my book, The Eye of Adoption, my short story, Field Day, and my collection of essays for parents and teachers, Parents, Stop and Think.

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Just thinking outside the barn...

Just thinking outside the barn...