It Takes a Village | Mark’s Remarks

You’ve heard the phrase. It used to be, long ago, that the entire village helped raise children. Everyone watched out for the kids. There were people who would help in areas where parents couldn’t. If the kids messed up, the parents found out about it because a bunch of other folks were watching. There was no judgment. Everyone was in the same boat and all that watching over was for the kids’ own good.

I heard a story once about a few little boys running around uptown. One of them crossed the street in the wrong place or without looking both ways or something of that sort. The boys’ kindergarten teacher, who witnessed the whole thing, hollered the little jaywalker’s name, asked him to come over to her, and promptly paddled his fanny.

I hope I got the story right. Boy, those days are long gone.

Still, I’ve had plenty of times where folks expected the school teacher in room to be the crowd control. “You’re a teacher. Can’t you do something?” Numerous times someone has called on me to open my big mouth (trained on the playgrounds) and command attention. I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed.

Once, a mother asked me to tell her daughter why she wasn’t allowed to walk on Main Street at night with one of her little friends. I took one look at the little girl, then back at her mother and said “You can’t walk on Main Street because your mother is the boss and you must do everything she says.” I didn’t give the kid an answer to “why” or go into detail. Listen to your parents. Do as they say.

I ran into a few of my students once when I was out jogging (this was a few belt notches ago) and when I say “ran into,” I mean it literally. I was coming around the side of a building at a pretty good pace. I’m thinking it must have been the end of the jog because I tend to speed up when I see the end of the line. Anyway, I ran smack dab into three students, safely tucked around the corner of the building, smoking cigarettes and having a great time.

Now, these kids were older. All of them had their driver’s licenses. One of them had a beard and all were deep-voiced and even a little scary looking. But there they were, smoking away.

We all stared at one another for a little while. I had all three of them in class. For a minute, after I caught my breath, I pretended not to notice the cigarettes. The longer I stood there and talked to them, the more uncomfortable they got.

“What are you all planning on doing when you get out of high school?” I asked them. There was a lot of hem-hawing around. It was sort of fun for me, actually.

After a little while, I thought maybe the kid with the cigarette behind his back might be getting a little warm. So finally, I asked him how his folks were. Then, just when they thought a lecture was coming, I took a good look at their cigarettes, told them to have a good night, and off I went. I never did say anything to their parents.

Just the other day, I was stopped up on Main Street waiting for someone to turn. I hardly ever look at folks in cars coming at me, but I just so happened to look at a car going a little too fast. As I glanced over, sitting high up in my mini-van, I clearly saw the speeding motorist. Again, he was a former student. There he was, driving too fast for Main Street and looking down at his phone. Yes, texting and driving.

I thought about his parents and I thought about how they would read him the riot act if I were to call them up. For a minute, I thought about how they would perceive my tattling. Even though I bet they would be grateful, I decided against it.

A few summers back, a teacher told me about being at a neighborhood pool. She noticed one of her former students, clad in a very small swimsuit and barely in her teens. There she was, splashing around with about three adolescent boys. As the lady watched, she noticed that there was quite a bit of inappropriate horse play and quite a few inappropriate words being used. She was in disbelief, actually.

Knowing the parents of this girl, she contacted them immediately, thinking that she might be doing them a favor. She chose her words carefully and she tried to be tactful in her approach. She was pretty sure the parents would be shocked and appreciate her call.

They did not. They were offended and basically told her to mind her own business. Who was she to be judging and tattling? Indeed. Who was she?

One time, a couple of boys were knocking the tar out of each other and racing down the hallway of our church. One of my friends, raised in a similar household as mine where kids toed the line, reprimanded them for running in the church building and basically beating one another up. She stopped them because no one else was saying anything. One of the fathers came along and said “Oh come on, let ‘em be kids.”

No, school teachers aren’t the only type of people who have the attitude that kids need to behave properly. Any number of people would have turned in the smokers, blown the whistle on the texter and told the girl in the swimsuit to settle down.

There are plenty of folks sitting in pews at church who would like to hop up and jerk a knot in the tails of some of these rowdy kids. It’s not just teachers who long for the days when people did a better job at watching over and teaching their kids.

So what should we do? Should we throw caution to the wind and blow the whistle on these kids? Should I have my cell phone ready to go every time I see a student speed through the parking lot? Do parents really want others to let them know? It’s really a tough call.

I don’t know if you know my kids. However, if you do, I am now giving you permission in writing to let me know. Let me know if you see anything I need to know about. Furthermore, you have my permission to tell them to knock it off. “Your dad would want me to tell you.” Go ahead, blow the whistle.

Yes. I still think that sometimes, it certainly does take a village.

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Mark Tullis

Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.
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