You're blowing it son


April is nearing its end, and May is now in plain sight. Maybe more for some than others, it seemed as if this school year went by whirlwind fast.

It seems as if virtually yesterday we were making sure kids had everything they needed for their first day last August. Here we are now almost nine months later with summer vacation in very close sight. But more importantly, graduation ceremonies no doubt have become the primary focus for local seniors and their families.

Now, it’s crunch time.

For the next few weeks seniors no doubt are going to be filled with excitement and anxiety. All graduation requirements have to be submitted, and final assignments and projects have to be completed. Of course there’s also coming to terms with saying goodbye to teachers and close friends.

Maybe now would be the perfect time to acknowledge everything public educators in fact do day in and day out. After all with student’s public education careers culminating in a cherished ceremony in mere weeks, we as a community have to give thanks and appreciation to all school district staff and faculty who made it a reality.

From caretakers to secretaries, from teachers all the way to administrators; they all share one common goal and that is seeing each and every student succeed.

In all actuality, it’s a long-term operation which began thirteen years ago when several dozen five years old walked into school for their first day of kindergarten.

Flash ahead over a decade later, each will be at a particular crossroad where only they themselves truly know where to go from here. With years and years of help and guidance from various teachers, there’s a very good chance each and every one of them has a strong idea.

And hey if they still don’t know just yet, that’s perfectly fine. Eighteen years old is a legal adult yes, but in the eyes of the rest of society they’re still just kids trying to figure life out like the rest of us.

It is from here on out, however, where students will have to remember on their own valuable lessons taught in the classroom. Now is when it all starts to come into play.

Make no mistake, they will remember a teacher’s words when they need it the most.

If we go back and reflect, we are going to remember a teacher or two who may have stood out more than the rest of them. Maybe they seemed to genuinely care and had a passion for their work. Maybe they gave off such positive energy where it was impossible to not pay attention. Other times we were blessed to have one teacher who brightened up a room and just brought out the best in everyone.

All good things of course. Having said this, it would be fair to say the best teachers were the ones who didn’t let us coast. They were the ones who had energy, passion and fire but were not there to be liked. Maybe they never sent off warm, fuzzy feelings and maybe we were relieved when their class was over. 

But, they came across so strong at times there was no way we could forget what they were trying to tell us.

They picked no favorites and wanted the best for everyone, but were not afraid to let someone know when they were not fully applying themselves.

One memorable moment in sports history ties directly into this. Appropriately enough it is remembered for something a coach or trainer did, not an athlete. 

It was on September 16, 1981, in Las Vegas where legendary International Boxing Hall of Famers “Sugar” Ray Leonard and Thomas “Hitman” Hearns would face off in the first of two meetings for an undisputed welterweight title unification bout.

During the course of the scheduled 15-round fight, Hearns would use his superior reach and fluid footwork to build a comfortable scorecard lead over Leonard headed into round 13.

Known for lightning-fast hands and crafty in-ring intellect, Leonard had grown visibly frustrated in not being able to score on Hearns going into the final rounds.

Spectators could see in his eyes, which were beginning to swell, Leonard was about to lose his title to the Hitman.

As fate would reveal itself Leonard’s trainer and mentor, Angelo Dundee, was having none of it. Knowing full well Leonard was more than capable of beating Hearns, Dundee clearly was not happy with the performance his fighter was giving that night.

As many of you boxing fans do not need to be reminded, Dundee is often regarded as one of the greatest trainers to have ever lived; working most notably with Muhammad Ali throughout the vast majority of his professional career. Dundee would be in Ali’s corner for his legendary fights with Floyd Patterson, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Leon Spinks, Earnie Shavers, Ken Norton and Larry Holmes.

Growing just as concerned and frustrated with the way things were going as his fighter, Dundee hopped through the ropes as Leonard sat down on his stool and snapped the now famous words.

“You only got nine minutes! You’re blowing it now son! You’re blowing it! Ray you gotta separate the men from the boys now! You’re blowing it! You gotta take it away from him okay! Lots of SPEED!”

Usually known for a calm voice of reason amidst sanctioned violence and chaos, Dundee knew the fight was slipping away and was not about to let it happen. Now was the time to motivate Sugar in a different way.

Leonard would later account, “This was after all the man who had saved Ali so many times before.”

Leonard rose from his stool at the start of the round and heeded Dundee’s words. The gameplan was out the door, the strategy was not working and time was running out. Leonard went back into the fight with bad intentions as they say in boxing.

Leonard bravely summoned the strength and let his hands go, landing hard straight right hands and left hooks on Hearns leading to a crowd-pleasing 14-round TKO.

Whether a boxing fan or not, we just can’t but help remember this peculiar moment in sports. It’s an iconic instant where a small, aging, rimmed-glasses wearing, curly-haired Italian from Philly climbed through the ropes between rounds of a world-class title fight and shouted at his famed champion, “You’re blowing it son!”  

It almost satisfyingly has the capacity to remind us of a coach or teacher who knew how to push us when the time came. The best teachers are the ones who sincerely get to know their students, and understand when and how to motivate them when that moment arrives.

They understand there is a time to talk, a time to listen and a time to motivate.

In other words, they’ll figure a way to bring out the best in us when “we’re blowing it.”

This is a big thank you to every, single, educator in the district who worked so hard and diligently all year to bring out the best in our kids.

And don’t worry, none of them are “blowing it,” so keep up all your amazing work!