"I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do." Helen Keller

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Fran Richardson
Welcome to my blog!I'm a teacher in a beautiful, small, rural town. I moved here a few years ago, but I have taught over 20 years in this same small town that is now my home. My experience is in teaching second, third, and fourth grades with one year in sixth grade. I am always reading, learning, and reflecting on what goes on in my classroom. I love the work that I do with the parents, my fellow teachers, and most all-my students.I hope you will enjoy reading my blog.
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Friday, June 17, 2011

Fantabulous Friday: Father’s Day

me and daddy beach 001
“But his blood runs through my instrument
And his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt
To imitate the man
I'm just a living legacy
To the leader of the band.”
“Leader of The Band” by Dan Fogelberg
[ From : http://www.elyrics.net/read/d/dan-fogelberg-lyrics/leader-of-the-band-lyrics.html ]

Father’s Day is always bittersweet for me. Bitter because my father, Don, passed away in June 2005 after a difficult four-month long battle with Stage 4 renal cancer. But Father’s Day is still  much more sweet than bitter to me because the times prior to that experience were times of great joy.

My father Don was a PE teacher and a  track and field and football coach. My father was not the typical bumbling jock-turned-coach portrayed in so many TV sitcoms and movies. My father was quick to point he was a graduate of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC. For people who do not understand,  NC is home to several prestigious universities: Duke, Chapel Hill ( University of North Carolina), and Wake Forest that have long both long traditions in the sport of basketball but in "educational excellence like an Ivy League of the South". ( Can you tell T have indoctrinated on this point?)

I am a teacher because of my Daddy. I have never seen someone who loved their work more. I have never seen someone who loved “the kids” as he called them more,  and this is a man who dealt daily with all the heartache and drama that goes with teaching adolescents. I have never seen anyone before or or since that worked so hard to change people’s lives so much  as he did with his caring attitude that went well beyond any field or classroom, well beyond any points on a scoreboard or grades in a book.    I don’t dare  call what Daddy did a  job. For Daddy, teaching was truly a life’s work. I admired that and aspire to that.

When I was 17, I was accepted to Clemson University’s elementary education program. While I was still in high school, several well-meaning folks told me what a waste it was for me to go into teaching. I heard comments like how little of my brain I would use. I heard what the condition was of schools and education in our county. ( This was 1981 so things weren’t so great back then either). I heard the pay was low, the hours were long, and the job was unappreciated, and I was making a grave mistake.

I can still remember the conversation when Daddy sat me down, and we discussed my future and the choice I had made in a major. He told me that I had chosen a noble profession- “as noble as a decision to go into the clergy”. ( This is the way the man talked so I warned you he was no dumb jock, and for those of you who knew him well, you know how he could be quite eloquent  when called upon to speak or write). Daddy went on to explain to me that teaching was a calling and “not all are called to do this great work.”

At 17, you cannot appreciate  nor fathom the life that lies ahead and how choices then will set your life on certain paths. While I listened intently to what  he was saying, it took several years before I realized the complexity of what he was saying to me. Thirty years later, and those words have an even greater meaning.
In laymen’s terms, what Daddy told me is this: Teaching is not for everybody. For many people, this is their Plan B. Some people who choose teaching don’t know any teachers,  have no idea what they are getting into, and know less of the nature of children, and worst of all, don't care. They don’t realize that teaching has it’s  tremendous highs but  also  crushing lows.

I learned how to be a teacher from watching my father live his life.From my father, I learned the each day I’m given a gift: a new day, a clean slate, a chance to start over.  I wondered when I was 17 why he made a point to tell me this pearl of wisdom: If you have a bad  day in teaching, tomorrow you get to start all over again and try again because  kids have that kind of forgiving nature.

The trying again is something I watched in my father as he fought cancer. I have often told people that we never had our “Tuesdays with Morrie” experience when he came home to die. He never accepted that cancer would defeat him.Until his last breath, he fought to live. He never gave up.

But that is how he lived his life. He never gave up. The worst kids were the ones he seemed to take under his wings and find something of worth in. The kids who often stood back in the shadows, those who were ignored or ridiculed and unloved were the very ones he turned into stars. The ones who were often so broken by life’s defeats were the very ones that he grew to love most, and like so many stray animals that he took in, they  were “adopted” and brought into my family as my brothers and sisters.

From my father I learned about leaving a legacy as a teacher, a mentor, and a friend.

Daddy on sideline at Dentsville-1
The best example of what my father taught the kids he taught and coached is summed up in the article from The State Newspaper( Columbia, SC):

September 13, 1996
RICHARDSON TAUGHT PLAYERS TO WIN GAME OF LIFE:
COACH A FRIEND, FAMILY TO MANY DENTSVILLE KIDS
Author: Jim McLaurin, Staff Writer
In Don Richardson's life, the acorns never fell very far from the tree. And some of those acorns have made fairly good oaks themselves.
``I coached with Doug Bennett,'' said Phil Williams, head football coach at Buford High in Lancaster, speaking of the legendary high school coach from Swansea. ``I could sit here for four hours and talk about why Doug is one of the greatest who ever put on pads. I don't know if I could do that with Coach Richardson.
``But I'll tell you this: I never wanted to do for anybody like I did for Don Richardson. I loved Dentsville High School. I had great friends. But when I played football, I wasn't playing for Dentsville, or mama and daddy, and I wasn't playing for no girlfriend. I was playing for him.''
It is a rare gift that some coaches possess, that ability to get every ounce of courage out of a young player and have him display it readily on such a physical, violent stage as a football field. It is rarer still that one coach would inspire so many to follow in his footsteps. And do it well.
Tonight, when the lights shine on high school football stadiums across the state, they will be on at least four of Richardson's best. Williams' Buford team is ranked No. 2 in The State's Class A poll and Gary Smallen's Ridge Springs-Monetta team is sixth in that classification. Charlie Macaluso's Columbia High Capitals are No. 4 in Class AA and Phil Strickland's
Batesburg-Leesville Panthers are the defending champion in Class AA and currently ranked seventh.
``He was more than my first coach,'' said Macaluso. ``He was my next door neighbor and one of the people who encouraged me to play football to start with. He was coach of the B squad when I was in the ninth grade and, after he became head coach, he allowed me to come back and help him when I was going to (USC). Without his help, I doubt I'd have been able to get a varsity assistant's job my first year out of school.''
If you mention Richardson's name, the word ``love'' doesn't come up very often. Coaches don't talk that way. But it is implicit in every sentence.
Smallen, along with Williams, played for Richardson at the old Dentsville High from 1965-67 and Smallen's first coaching job was as an assistant when Richardson moved to Airport.
Today, Richardson, 64 and retired, is Smallen's volunteer assistant at RS-M.
``I don't consider it as him working for me,'' Smallen said. ``We don't have a coaching relationship. He's more like my godfather. He's pretty much the best and closest friend I have. He's my confidant and everything else.
``I tell my kids today -- when he's not around -- that they are pretty lucky to have somebody like that around. They know it, and their parents know it.''
Richardson's teams only enjoyed modest success, although the 1966 squad at Denstville went 7-2-1 -- losing only to eventual champions Batesburg and Brookland-Cayce and tying Airport -- but what he meant to his players won't be found on the left-hand side of the won-lost ledgers.
``He was a tough coach, a stern taskmaster,'' said Williams. ``Our Dentsville teams were known to be very physical, hard-hitting, because we hit every day in practice. If a day passed without us playing bull-in-the-ring, we felt we'd gotten away with murder.. . .
``But he was the kind of a guy who didn't have to say a lot, and didn't. When he looked you in the eye, you wanted to do it for him. All he had to do was look at me.''
But there's more to Richardson, Smallen added, than getting you up for a game.
``Coach has been a father figure not only to us, but to hundreds of kids out there, and not only athletes,'' he said. ``He is absolutely at his finest when he's out there with those ninth and tenth graders who look up to him so.
``We give awards, and when I give it, it's one thing. When Coach gives it, they end up hugging each other. It's just a different kind of thing.''
``He is the type of person who very rarely lost his cool,'' Macaluso said. ``That's one of the things I remember about playing for him. And he could also relate to his players and take a personal interest in them, like they were his own sons. He was personally interested in every kid. That has a lot to do with kids really respecting him.''
Down deep, Williams said, that was what Richardson was all about.
``Sometimes I ask him about it . . . you know, `Gee, Coach, I wish we could have won more for you; maybe people would remember you more.' He said, `I don't give a hoot about that. You put on my tombstone that I cared more about kids than I did about winning.' ''
That would be a fitting epitaph when the time comes, but not exactly accurate.
``We learned a lot from him,'' Williams said. ``And his philosophy is sure winning now.''
Copyright (c) 1996 The State Record Number: 9609130079


My Daddy and His Dentsville Boys ( 2003)


daddy and his dentsville boys 001
“And he gave to me
A gift I know I never can repay”

A song by Dan Fogelberg that reminds me of  my legacy -


Thanks, Daddy. I love you!
Daddy and Me 1985 001
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