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Not Bad for a Near Flunky

(ROCKWALL, TX — April 6, 2018) As I drive back to Memphis I often pass an exit labeled, “Gill Campus.” Pride follows the memory of the day the local community college dedicated their campus with my dad’s name on the front, and what’s funny is Dad nearly flunked out of school.

He graduated what I call, “Thank the Laude,” which translated means, “His teachers passed him so he couldn’t come back.” If they would’ve had the STAAR test in his day, his name would’ve definitely made the list of failures.

Despite his poor school performance, he attended tech school for drafting, eventually working at International Harvester designing tractor parts.  Then after a small stint in the Air Force, he realized his “calling” and with the G.I. Bill, moved his family to Davenport, Iowa, to attend Palmer Chiropractic College. Loading trucks at night for Nabisco wasn’t the greatest atmosphere for study and he’d be dead tired for his early morning classes, but he graduated and became one of the first Chiropractors in Tennessee. Later, he ran for State Representative and campaign signs reading, “Let’s Put Gill on Capitol Hill,” dotted yards all around our neighborhood.  Against the odds he won and began a 20-year side-career as a legislator while practicing Chiropractic in an office on the side of our house. Newspapers labeled him a model legislator and folks still reminisce about how he helped those in need. His final government work was for the land and the wild as he accepted the governor’s appointment to Commissioner of Conservation, a job of managing the extensive wetlands, wildlife reserves, and all 52 state parks of the Volunteer State.

Not bad for a near flunky.

This he accomplished without a mom demanding from teachers another re-test or a dad sending unsolicited game films to get a college coach’s attention. My dad went to the school of hard knocks and it paid off. From a childhood wading in underground sewers gathering lost change to afford meat, to riding a bike for work 12 miles round-trip after school, only to hand his entire paycheck over to his mother; Dad learned the value of honesty, hard work, and determination.

I’ve worked with teenagers professionally for 25 years and I’m continually shocked, not at them, but at the extent that parents will go to keep “junior” comfortable and to insure his future success. Sadly, the cost of such insurance often cripples the kid’s future. They’re no longer allowed to struggle, experience failure, or go through setbacks where they must wait for benefits. I’ve seen moms so wound up at testing time, you’d think their 6th grader already had an offer from Harvard.

Parents: take a breath, step back, and see a bigger picture.

Teaching a decade in the public school system has shown me that a kid’s biggest need isn’t prestigious offers; it is character, a good work ethic, and respect. It doesn’t matter if they are a brain surgeon or a welder, what matters is that they do right, show up ready to work on time, and obey the authority in charge. If they have those things ingrained in them, then the STAAR scores will take care of themselves, as well as the ACT, SAT, ASVAB, or whatever test you want to throw at them.

My dad was a pure example of a flunky figuring it out and making much of every opportunity. He didn’t attend prestigious schools or play on championship teams; He struggled, but through the struggle he learned, and to this day, after several years removed from his death, his memory lives on, and that’s quite an accomplishment.

By Scott Gill of Rockwall. Scott is a teacher, coach, and author of “Goliath Catfish.” Follow Scott’s blog at puptentpapa.blogspot.com and read his “Front Porch Ramblings” at BlueRibbonNews.com.

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