Banks County Opinions...

DECEMBER 29, 2004


Column

Shar Porier
T
he Banks County News
December 29, 2004

Teachers can make a big difference
Maybe it was all the reading I did throughout my life that prodded me toward writing. I liked to write.
My Dad always liked to read my meanderings, my poetry. We even wrote a few songs together.
There were teachers who encouraged me to write throughout my school years, thought I had a talent for it. The problem was, I was shy and afraid of what my classmates would say. My writing was not the Shar they knew. I was sure I’d be ridiculed.
In sophomore English class, I had a teacher, Mrs. Boer, who was not particularly fond of me. I had already read most of the books we would cover. (I began reading at a very early age and read far in advance of my classmates.) So, I was slack in my book reports, kept it simple. I knew I could have done a better job and I felt that she knew I could do better. I was classified as one of the “lazy-just-do-enough-to-get-by” kids. She wrote me off. I still made A’s and B’s, but she had this attitude and I had this attitude and we just tolerated each other.
Then one day, while studying Hamlet, (one of my favorite plays of Shakespeare), she assigned us an out-of-the-blue, weird chore-write our own eulogy. Good grief.
I sat at my homework table and looked at that blank sheet of paper. I’d scribble something down and toss it. This assignment was really a pain. I sat back and laid the pen down. I closed my eyes. I wasn’t going to be able to do this. How do I know what I want said about me at my funeral? Alas, poor Shar, I knew her well…
I was getting sleepy, bored. Had to finish this, though.
Picking up the pen, I just started writing and found that I was writing about the me that I kept hidden. The words flowed and in a short time, it was finished. It was good and I felt pleased. Sort of surprised myself.
The next day, she graded the eulogies while we took a pop quiz. I finished and sat quietly watching her with that red pen in hand.
After all the tests were turned in, she picked up our papers. She said there was only one that moved her. She even fussed a bit about some of the wisecracking one-liners some of the kids had turned in.
”This one,” she said, “is surprising. It is one of the best works I’ve read.”
She had this strange, quizzical look on her face as she turned to me. I knew it was mine. She was going to read my eulogy.
She read it with such tenderness. The class was even caught up in it. They wanted to know who wrote it. She just smiled and stuck it back in the stack. They tried to guess as she handed them back. When she handed mine to me, she asked me to come back after my last class.
When the last bell rang, I headed up the stairs wondering what she wanted with me. When I got to her room, I heard her talking with someone, another woman whose voice was somewhat familiar. Rounding the corner, there was the journalism/drama teacher, Mrs. Warzell.
She asked to see my assignment and after reading it, offered me a spot on the school newspaper. I jumped at the offer, started the next day in a class normally open only to seniors.
It still amazes me that a eulogy got me on the paper and in contact with one of the most eccentric teachers on staff. Maybe that’s why we hit it off so well. She coerced me into all the aspects of managing a newspaper – content, design, paste up, ads. I suggested we go to a weekly and organized a team of ad reps from the business majors. I put them to work selling ads. I pressed to include a comedic satirist, in spite of his average grades and unpopular status. He flourished with his weekly column that became a school hit. It was all coming together and we entered the high school contest and received first place awards for two consecutive years in the state competition. Our circulation even went out into the community. It was a great time.
When it was time to talk college, journalism wasn’t part if my agenda. Working for school newspaper was one thing, but a career? The experience I had when I was selected to work at the city paper for a week was still fresh in my mind. I was supposed to be assigned with the photographers. However, when the editor saw I was a girl (my nickname was Charlie, on the softball team we all had nicknames), I got stuck typing up wedding and social announcements. I was insulted beyond words. The editor wouldn’t let me go out with the men photographers, even though I was good considering the “antique” camera I used. He wasn’t going to let me go out on assignment. I wasn’t just some typist. I was a “reporter.”
Even though I won a small scholarship from the city paper and a partial scholarship to Columbia University, it was beyond my means to pay for books, housing and food. It was expensive. That meant a job. Columbia was a tough school and I wasn’t sure I could keep up with classes and homework and work 40 hours, too.
So, I turned my back on writing and instead thought about a medical career and went into pre-med at a university closer to home.
It seemed an easier choice—just dry stuff that required no imagination or creativity. Just a lot of memorizing. That I could do with no problem, But once I got in, the same chauvinism existed there as well. I stuck it out and made it to med school. There came a point when I just had had enough. It just wasn’t worth it. Besides, there were those cadavers, just couldn’t deal with them either.
Over the years, I kept writing from time to time. Started a journal, started a family newsletter, wrote a few songs–just fun stuff.
Now, nearly 40 years later, I am fulfilling my life-long dream. I have worked for a few newspapers in Georgia. None have been as pleasurable as The Banks County News. We don’t deal in column inches, or editors that knock out the meat of a story to please the fat cats that rule other news organizations. It’s a family-run paper that prides itself on answering to no one and exposing or challenging those newsmakers who want to keep certain things quiet. If only all the media outlets had our freedom of speech. It’s just like the paper I ran in high school—open, informative, entertaining.
Many people have asked if The News was just a stepping-stone to go on to a larger new organization. When I tell them, “been there, done that,” they look a bit perplexed.
Call me crazy, but I don’t want to go anywhere else. I found my niche and couldn’t be happier. It’s been a fun five years.
Mrs. Boer and Mrs. Warzell, wherever you are, thank you!
Shar Porier is a reporter for The Banks County News.

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Column

Angela Gary
The Banks County News
December 29, 2004

Another Christmas with a toothache
I have decided to start saving now for may annual holiday “tooth fund.” Some people have a fund where they set aside money for Christmas shopping each December. I shop for the holidays year-round, so I don’t need this fund. What I need is to save for that dental bill that hits me every December.
Last year, I had my wisdom teeth taken out on Christmas Eve. That was quite a little bill I had during the holidays. I also had a swollen mouth for Christmas, which limited my holiday eating to liquids and soft foods.
Some people ask why I had my wisdom teeth taken out on Christmas Eve. If you’ve ever had a toothache, you don’t ask that question. It’s awful and you will do whatever is necessary to stop the pain.
This year, a toothache hit me on Dec. 17. I was in a lot of pain that weekend and didn’t leave home. I called my dentist’s office first thing that Monday morning and was given an appointment for 2:30 p.m. Tuesday (not what you want to hear from your long-time dentist when you are in severe pain, but that’s another story).
After two dentist visits to my regular dentist and an oral surgeon, I had spent $200 and found out that the tooth we had narrowed the pain down to wasn’t broken, cracked or fractured and didn’t have a cavity in it. If all was well, why was I doubled over in pain coming from my “tooth.”
The oral surgeon said it could be an inflamed nerve in one of my teeth. He couldn’t say which one. Maybe it was the one we had X-rayed, or maybe it was the one beside it. I just cried and begged him to pull the tooth. I didn’t care. I just wanted the pain to stop. They don’t look favorably on that when they aren’t sure which tooth is causing the problem.
I was referred to an endodonist and given an appointment on Jan. 4. I was resigned to popping pain pills, antibiotics and another pill for inflammation through the holidays. I just took my handful of pills every four hours and chewed on the other side of my mouth.
On the Sunday after Christmas, I decided to cut back on the pain pills and see if my “unbearable pain” was any better. Guess what, the pain was gone. I had my very own Christmas “miracle.” No more toothache. I haven’t canceled my endodonist appointment yet. I want to make sure my toothache doesn’t return. I’ve also decided to start saving for next Christmas. I’m sure I will have some dental emergency around mid to late December. It pays to be prepared for these things.
Angela Gary is editor of The Banks County News and associate editor of The Jackson Herald. She can be reached at AngieEditor@aol.com.


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