It Takes a Village

A former high school teacher of mine retired this weekend. Hundreds turned out to wish him well and listen to him give a few words. Of all the things this wonderful man taught me in my impressionable teenage years – one thing stands out the most: the 7Ps. Now, before I explain what that is – let me tell you about this man. He is a retired Marine who helped teach the NJROTC program at the high school. His students were a mix of the eager wanna be soldiers, kids needing to fill a credit hour, lost souls sent by their school counselors (or their parents) to be straightened out, book worms, stoners, football players, cheerleaders, the average Joes and Janes, and students looking to flesh out a good college application. It truly was a good mix. No matter who you were going in – it didn’t take long to see who you’d be coming out: a member of a family.

During his retirement celebration, speaker after speaker stood up to share how he’d changed their lives. They called him a God-fearing father figure. An inspiration. A moral compass. He was/is all those things and more. When it was his turn to speak, he talked about what it was like to be the father figure to thousands of students over his two decades of teaching. He said, “it truly takes a village. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” It is so very true. While many of us were lucky to have parents who loved us, it was also such a blessing to have a family at school to watch your back and put you back in line, when you needed it the most. He was always good at putting us back in line.

Now, that brings me to what I said stood out the most from my time in his classroom: the 7Ps. “Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance.” This old military adage stayed with me from studying for my finals before high school graduation, to studying in college, to my years in news rooms and in my own household as a parent. Think about it. If you’d just plan it ahead of time – you’d get a much better result. Of course, there have been times I’ve forgotten (or neglected) to remember the 7Ps. It has never ended well.

I pray that we all have a teacher in our lives who can influence us in a way this man has. That we all find a life lesson that shapes us as individuals. That we can be that person to not only our own children – but to our friends’ kids. To the stoners, the book worms or those just needing that extra support and the knowledge that there is someone who cares about them. Who wants them in their family. Because it truly does take a village.

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