A hundred years ago Mark Twain said, “We picked up one excellent word – a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get… It is the thirteenth roll in a baker’s dozen. It is something thrown in gratis, for good measure.” I also learned the word, ‘lagniappe’, on my first trip to New Orleans. It’s the little something extra that makes all the difference. It is the reason why the gumbo is better at one restaurant than another and the secret isn’t in the recipe.
Each month I pick one business or individual that exemplifies and make a donation to a charity of their choice.
School’s Out for Summer. Each year at our house, things ease up about this time of year. I sleep with the teacher. I also cook, dine, drink and live an extraordinarily rewarding life with the teacher. So, almost every night for the better part of nine months I hear the good, bad and ugly of what goes on at school.
I see the fun and interesting stories written by second graders who are just learning to create sentences and string them together to tell a story. I hear of the leaders in the class who set the example. I hear about the little ones who are struggling to learn because they do not have a home or family situation that is conducive to learning. I see the sadness and occasional tears in my bride’s eyes for the children who live with barriers to a good life that they do not even understand… Less-than-ideal family situations where single parents who love their children struggle to the best of their ability to feed, clothe and shelter their children while working multiple low wage jobs. Too many years there is also the ugly… Children struggling to survive in abusive family situations. Children with multiple brothers and sisters all with different fathers and none of which are a true ‘Daddy’. Children with parents in prison. Children who, at 7-years-old cry out for love and acceptance, yet behave in ways that make that very difficult.
I live with the teacher who does school work many nights and frequently visits her classroom on the weekend. The teacher who, most summers, has taken classes at our expense to improve her ability to serve families and their children. The teacher who has the tough discussions with tough parents. The teacher who loves kids that are tough to love and serves families that are tough to serve. The teacher who teaches accountability in spite of kids and parents who may fight accountability.
For me, there is simply no one more deserving of a Lagniappe recognition than teacher Mrs. Boek, my favorite. In reality, however, there are approximately 1.5 million elementary school teachers in the U.S. If the bell curve is a reasonably accurate generalization, then this lagniappe award is in recognition of the three hundred thousand who fall into the top twenty percent of educators. The navigators, the leaders, the passionate, dedicated teachers who are doing exactly what they are meant to do in the world.
In recognition and deep appreciation, this month’s Lagniappe contribution is made to the local education foundation.