Report from Louisiana: Year Round School?

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Year-round school.  A lot of districts do it, but I am not a fan.

Louisiana’s (new) Superintendent of Education is proposing year-round school in our state. I know that there are a couple of schools in our local district that are already doing this, elementary schools mostly, but as a teacher, I must tell you, I don’t think I’d like this.

Here’s the thing. I need that summer to recharge. While most people are under the impression that teachers get “three months off” or “all summer off,” of course that is not the case. I am about to retire after twenty-five years in the classroom, and I can assure you that I’ve never ever had three months off, and I’ve never had a summer where I wasn’t required to do some sort of professional development.

Every five years or so we have some sort of curriculum change that requires professional development…training…inservice; new technology, new gradebook software, new this, new that…all of it requires PD. Time taken out of your “summer.” 

As rewarding as it is, teaching is exhausting work. And really, this isn’t the post where I want to defend the position that teachers are underpaid for what they do, and that yes, we knew what we got paid when we went into the profession. That is for another day.

But year-round school? Nope. Glad I won’t be there for that.

Kids need the break too, you see. Yes, indeed, some of them need school all the time; their life at home might be terrible and maybe they aren’t getting meals and maybe they don’t get enough supervision and sometimes the electricity and water aren’t even turned on.

Schools have become the place to catch all of these issues that are neglected at home. We feed our students breakfast and lunch, teach them sex education, breast cancer awareness and self-examination; we do vision and hearing checks, we help seniors sign up for Financial Aid. We provide jackets and clothing for kids in need and sometimes we pay an electric bill. Schools are now social support service providers and while I love kids and will help any child in need every single time, we have to wonder if this is the job of the school.

Are we losing sight of education?

Most opponents of year-round school suggest that kids need time to be with their families, to go on vacation, Disneyland! Most of the kids I teach can’t even dream of going to Disneyland and have never been on a family vacation; some are homeless and live in hotels. Most of my high school aged students work and they work hard, long hours.

When we shut down for Covid, our kids were working. They didn’t log onto Google classroom every day to do math problems and watch YouTube documentaries; they took advantage of the time to work, make money, pay bills.

Not all of them, obviously, but a lot of them. I know this for a fact.

And so as I consider the proposal of year round school, I am conflicted. I think about these kids; they need some down time, too. They are working, they are trying to survive, they are trying to finish school. Where’s the downtime? Teachers need to recharge, too, and a lot of teachers depend on summer jobs to supplement their salaries.

Schools can provide everything else. Can’t we provide a few weeks with no school?

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Office Space

By: Pat Austin

I have been thinking a lot lately about workspaces. As I transition into retirement, leaving my classroom of twenty-five years, I have been moving some things home and setting up a new workspace in my house.

When I wrote my first book, I did it on my laptop sitting at an antique oak desk in front of a big picture window in my living room where I can look out at the neighborhood, watch the rain, and cars speeding down my residential street.  The desk belonged to my grandfather in a railroad office and the top is scarred and marked with various scratches, dents, and ink spills. I have never had the least interest in refinishing it; I love its character.

Working on my second book now, I feel like I want to do this one in a different space. I know, that makes no sense whatsoever, but the opportunity has just sort of developed organically. I’ve inherited a powerful desktop computer from my gamer-son, so I bought a nice, new monitor and have set up a new space.  This time my “desk” is a marble topped wrought iron table that used to be my breakfast table. My chair is an old classroom teacher chair that I brought home and covered in pages from To Kill a Mockingbird, slathered with ModPodge, and finished with several coats of polyurethane. The result is pretty cool.

Speaking of cool office spaces, there is a guy I follow on Instagram only for his beautiful shots of his writing space. I don’t know him, never met him, but I feel like we would be friends based on his workspace.  The sepia tints, the browns and earth tones create a casual, moody vibe. Most of his photographs have a cup of coffee in them; that’s his schtick, I guess. The pictures are cropped in a minimalist fashion, drawing your focus to one specific item in the picture. The focus might be his turntable with an album cover of a cool jazz recording sitting on top or a neat stack of music biographies. It just looks cool, and I enjoy checking out his feed each day.

I like my space where I write to be clear of clutter, except of course for my research. While writing Cane River Bohemia, I had stacks of books piled on the floor, piles of primary source material, letters, photocopies, my index card file, and a stack of USB drives, but it was all put away and organized at the end of the day.  But with my desk in the front, main room of the house, it was extremely difficult to concentrate. My family, as much as I love them, always walked by with a question about dinner, someone expressing their own boredom, my husband’s frequent “aww look at the cat!” statements, and the incessant television carrying on. I feel the need for a quieter space this time. In fact, I wrote all of Cane River Bohemia with headphones and my Writing playlist now that I think about it.

My new workspace isn’t perfect, and it isn’t complete. All I really want is a quiet space that is mine, and that is relatively free from clutter.  Will it help my writing? Probably not, but I’m having fun creating it, and isn’t that the point? It’s the journey, not the destination.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport, at Medium, and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Loose Thoughts

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT:  Random thoughts and observations today.

Help Wanted.  Have you noticed that nobody wants to work anymore? I mean, with this extended unemployment and the stimulus rollouts, the restaurants and shops around here are all begging for help. Almost everywhere you go there are help wanted signs. We went to a Mexican restaurant after church today and the first thing the hostess told us was “we are short of servers today – nobody wants to work…”.  It’s crazy.  I went to Bed, Bath, & Beyond later: also help wanted signs. They’re everywhere.  If you want a part-time job, this might be a really good time to find one. I’m thinking about it! I’m retiring from teaching in less than a month; a little side-hustle might not be a bad thing.

What? Retiring?!  Yes, after twenty-five years, I am done. As of May 28, I’ll be officially retired. Mentally, I’m already there. We took our end of course tests last week – six weeks early because the State was concerned about quarantines. So mentally, the students are done, too; they think, why bother? We took the test already.

To be honest, I’d love to have gone five more years and retire at 30 years; it is about a $300 a month pay cut for me to go now (thus, the side-hustle), but I can mentally no longer battle kids with cellphones, TikTok, terrible curriculum, and apathy. I. Just. Can’t. 

My husband has been retired from the police department for several years and he is bored senseless. I don’t think I’ll have that problem: I’m looking forward to time for writing, doing another book, a million and five home projects, working in the yard, and traveling. But, maybe I’ll tire of all that, too. He doesn’t really have many hobbies and I think it is important to keep busy. We will see. 

But, yeah: twenty-four more days of school. Do it.

Seacor Power Tragedy: President Donald Trump has donated 10K to the United Cajun Navy to help search and rescue efforts in the Seacor Power tragedy.

United Cajun Navy founder Todd Terrell confirmed Friday that the former president made a hefty donation toward the rescue efforts of the seven men who are still missing from the Seacor Power crew.

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended their search for the missing crew members on Monday at sunset. At that time, officials said they do not expect to find more survivors from the vessel.

Officials spent several days searching for the missing workers from the oil industry lift boat Seacor Power, which capsized on April 13 during a fierce storm in the Gulf of Mexico south of Port Fourchon. Six of the 19 workers on the boat were rescued within hours of the wreck; five more bodies were found in the water.

This has been a terrible tragedy and so devastating to watch and hear from these families. Heartbreaking.

Kudos to President Trump.  Thank you.

Y’all have a good week!

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport, at Medium, and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Dogs

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I have two rescue dogs; one is a black lab who my son found near death abandoned by a dumpster when the pup was about six weeks old. We named him Jazz and he is now twelve years old. We have another rescue, Kipper, who turns four this week. Kipper’s mother was a Boston Terrier and nobody knows what dad was, but everyone that sees Kipper thinks he looks like an American Pitbull. I do not. Kipper is not that big, not that chunky, not that muscular. But he sure is cute.

I have a real soft spot for dogs and I know the names of more dogs in my neighborhood than I do people. There is Toby who walks by everyday with his person. Toby has some sheepdog in him; he is also a rescue. Toby is one of those dogs that is just goofy and has such a happy look on his face. We always go outside and visit with Toby and his person when they come by. In fact, Toby will stop on the sidewalk in front of our house and wait for us to come outside. As soon as we open the door he will bound across the yard to say hello. He makes me smile.

Buddy is a black lab mix that lives around the corner and I see Buddy whenever I walk the block. Buddy lives on a corner lot and so there is a lot of traffic by his fence; his people have used brackets to put a wire basket filled with tennis balls on the outside of the wrought iron fence so people can say hi to Buddy and throw a ball for him. Buddy has more friends than most people I know.

Rico and Colt live next door to me. Colt is an Australian Shepherd and never ever sits still. He is the very definition of a live-wire. Rico is a Chow and he has some kind of lupus that causes sores on his nose. His nose is always raw and it is aggravated by the sun. His people have installed a series of large umbrellas across their patio to protect Rico from too much direct sunlight when he is outside. Rico seems totally unbothered by his condition, however, and is as happy and loving as he can be. He is a stunningly beautiful dog.

Demi lives across the street. Demi’s mother used to have the most beautiful, manicured yard that she worked in all of the time, but dogs have a way of changing the way you live, and Demi digs holes. There is an iron fence around their front yard and I can see Demi digging holes from my front window. Some of the holes are probably close to the water table; sometimes I look over there and can see nothing  but Demi’s tail and dirt flying.

There is something about a dog that makes me happy and calms me down. There’s that whole unconditional love thing, but it’s more than that. They are always glad to see you; they never question you and they don’t care about your politics. I can not imagine a home without a pup, and when we lose them it is like losing a family member. It hurts just as badly. I have a friend who is a chemist, and she lost her dog of twelve years about three years ago. She and her son still drive out to his grave, in a local Pet Cemetery, two or three times a month to place flowers.

I’ve always believed rescue dogs are more grateful, but that probably is not true. It’s just that I’ve always had rescue dogs. Even as I type this, Kipper is asleep next to me on the couch and Jazz is asleep on the floor at my feet. Just another lazy afternoon. And the older I get, and the crazier the world gets, I find that I more often prefer the company of dogs than to people.

Any dog lovers out there? Tell me about your dog!

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport, at Medium, and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Dystopian Shreveport

By: Pat Austin

Living in Shreveport these days is turning into some kind of twisted, dystopian experience. It feels like those opening pages of Atlas Shrugged, where everything is gray, gloom, dying, oppressed. It is no exaggeration to note that shootings occur every single day in this city, sometimes multiple times, and often with injuries or fatalities. It is tragic anytime a life is lost to this senseless violence, but it seems even more so when an innocent life, or a beautiful child, is lost.

And we accept this.

On March 20, 2021, five-year old Mya Patel was killed when she was hit by a stray bullet.

Wednesday, March 24, social media reflected multiple audio recordings of shots fired early in the evening, shots I heard clearly while reading in my bedroom.

March 30, a woman a few blocks from me was shot in the hip; luckily she is okay.

March 31, Xavier Griffin, 19 years old, shot and killed.

April 2, one was killed and others injured in multiple shootings.

Last night a woman was shot in the chest in the parking lot of the Masonic Lodge.

It is literally every single day or night – doesn’t matter what time — and we are doing nothing about this. You can check the Caddo 911 Active Emergency Events page and almost every single time you’ll see a shots fired or a shootings call, and those don’t include the ones that never make it to the page or are “holding,” waiting for available officers.

We are doing nothing about it.

“But, what can we do?!”  I hear you. I don’t have those answers. My layman’s opinion would be to first work through the local elections process to elect leaders tough on crime, willing to enforce penalties on criminals. From the mayor, to the District Attorney, to the city council and the parish commission, we need support.

We need police officers and the money to pay them. Shreveport ranks woefully low in police pay and our officers do not stay. We need the best and the brightest, willing to work hard for good pay.

We need jobs. We need businesses to come here to grow the tax base and to provide employment. We need all levels of jobs, from the trades to the administrative. We can’t continue to depend simply on service industry jobs as our main employers.

Businesses won’t come without decent infrastructure. Our streets are literally crumbling, our water system is collapsing (not to mention their mismanaged billing practices), and the city is covered in trash, litter, and empty buildings.

We need a vibrant downtown. The downtown area is trying: there are some places to eat, a few renovated buildings for apartments, you can see a movie, look at buildings. Many people avoid downtown due to safety issues. Maybe we need bicycle or mounted units there. Maybe we need more options for our large homeless population on the streets there.

We need so many things. Old time Shreveporters often speak of the “good ol’ days” when we had sports teams like The Shreveport Captains, where families could go enjoy a game on a pretty afternoon or evening. Now, our baseball stadium is empty, crumbling, and filled with bats and toxic guano.

For the most part, unless you want to drink or gamble, there is not much for families to do here. There are a few things…SciPort is downtown, and the Aquarium.

Before anything else happens, safety has got to be addressed. Perhaps I am alone in my concern. Perhaps I am in the minority when I balk at going to Betty Virginia Park to walk or spend an afternoon outside. Maybe I’m the only one who is constantly on guard when I walk my neighborhood.  Maybe nobody else has started taking their dogs out at night earlier, or in the backyard rather than the front yard. Maybe nobody else has installed surveillance cameras around their home. Maybe I’m the only one much more cautious about locking their car at night. Maybe nobody else has had packages stolen off their front porch.

Maybe all this is just my perception.

I long to see a thriving Shreveport with businesses like when we had Western Electric, General Motors, Kast Metals, Libby Glass, Poulan WeedEater, to name a few. The Captains played baseball in their new stadium and people sat in the beer garden eating hot dogs and sipping nickel beer. New malls and shopping centers dotted the city, and parks were growing. People ate at local restaurants, like Sansone’s, Brocato’s, Abe’s, Monsour’s, The Centenary Oyster House, George’s, and Fertitta’s, to name a few. Downtown was bustling with department stores like Selber’s, Hearne’s, Rubensteins, and Palais Royal. You could grab lunch at a nice, fancy place downtown or a quick, inexpensive burger place. You felt safe. You could park in the Selber’s parking garage and not worry about your car or about getting panhandled or mugged. Shreve Square was hopping on weekend nights: great bands in multiple clubs, people walking between them, great restaurants, good times.

We could reminisce about the glory days forever, and everybody knows times change and nothing stays the same, but the truth is, other cities adapt better than we have. When you travel, when you leave the city and see other places, even places within say a three hour radius, it is stunning to see the difference.

It’s possible to have a clean city with happy people. But Shreveport feels like a city with a cloud of gloom over it. We can talk it up and pretend to be positive. I know people will jump on me and say that it’s the negative people like me that keeps it down. “If you hate it here so much, why don’t you leave!?” I’ve heard it.

The answer is I’d like to be part of a solution, not stick my head in the sand and pretend like it’s great. It’s not great. Listen to that gunfire every night and tell me how great that is.

So. What’s the solution. What do we do? Is this a nationwide problem or is it unique to Shreveport, to Louisiana, to cities with inept political leaders? The city, like so many others across the nation, is decaying from the inside out. I’ve lived in my home for almost forty years and now I wonder if I’ll even be able to sell it when I finally decide to get out of here. And we live in one of the better neighborhoods; it’s an older neighborhood, but has always been considered a good one.

Now?  I’m ready to pull the plug.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Downsizing

By:  Pat Austin   

SHREVEPORT – With my retirement in a couple of months drawing ever closer, and as crime and violence in Shreveport becomes ever more prevalent, we have been giving more and more serious thought to pulling up and moving out of this hellhole  town, and moving to the small community in south Louisiana where we visit five times a year.

No place is perfect, I know this, but some places are more perfect than others.

But this moving thing? It isn’t as easy as it sounds. I have lived in this house since 1978 and my grandparents lived here before me. My mother grew up in this house. It’s not a fine, family home passed down from generation to generation – it’s a comfortable, two-bedroom house in an aging neighborhood.

The problem is that I look around me and I wonder, what am I going to do with ALL THIS STUFF?!  My goodness but I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff.  And I often tell my husband that he is just one paperclip away from being a hoarder.

I want to downsize.

There are days when I look around and think, “Why on earth am I keeping this?” and throw it, whatever it is, into the trashcan. There are other days when I want to list everything I own for sale online. I could pay off a couple of credit cards with the proceeds, I am certain.

I went through a Depression glass phase a few years ago and now I have three china cabinets filled with the stuff. Ok, it’s pretty, but why do I need six lime green salad plates? Or three clear pink coffee cups? An assortment of cut crystal bowls. Vases, pitchers, salt and pepper shakers, and toothpick holders. I have probably fifty of those tiny, individual salt bowls. Several of those have tiny sterling silver spoons with them.

Why do I need to keep all this stuff?!  My children will not want this after I am gone. Of this, I am certain.

I have some 200 DVDs.  In this age of streaming video, why do I still have these? And let’s please not even open the discussion on books. I am literally drowning in books and I can say in all honesty that I do purge these once or twice a year and donate them to the university book bazaar fundraiser. I still have enough books to fill a U-Haul.

Once I actually retire, I will purge a lot of clothes from my closet, but t-shirts, man, I have a lot of those. Way too many.

Dishes. I have several complete sets of dishes – at least two are antiques, wedding china from both sets of grandparents. My mom’s sterling silver flatware. Kitchen Kitsch – vintage canisters, jadeite, vintage ice cream scoops, enamelware bowls of all sizes, and an assortment of drip coffeepots. Now, the coffeepots I can use – when the power is out, a good old-fashioned drip coffeepot can replace the Keurig or the Mr. Coffee in a heartbeat and taste much better. But do I need six of them?!

Old electronics that I don’t know what to do with. We have at least six old computers around here.

This is getting embarrassing now that I’m writing this.

And sweet goodness I haven’t even gone to the garage yet, but that’s easier because most things in there can go straight to the trash. That’s sort of a wasteland before the final commitment to throw away. An old twin mattress, a wooden rocking chair nobody had room for, now covered in mold. Countless boxes of Mardi Gras beads. A couple of discarded weedeaters.  A broken table someone thought we might fix but never did. Lawn chairs. A non-working window air conditioner unit.

In a way, I envy people that move often because I am certain they don’t accumulate junk like all this. I look around and some of the things I really treasure and have a sentimental attachment too, but others, not so much. I tried reading that Marie Kondo book once about throwing out things that don’t “spark joy,” but the thought of picking up each item in my house and deliberating on whether or not it sparked joy seemed like such a massive undertaking I just couldn’t do it.

I do think it is time to start asking myself some hard questions about what I need to keep in my life and what needs to find a new home, or the trash bin. And it would be pretty cool if I could sell off some of these things that might have value to someone else now that I’ve enjoyed them for a while. And perhaps if I can downsize significantly, I can actually see my way clear to sell my house and move away to a place where people don’t get shot every single day and where you don’t hear gunfire when sitting inside your own home at night. The lawlessness here is really prompting some serious thoughts of change.

But before I rent the moving truck, I have to go throw out my collection of Southern Living magazines, the tarnished brass candlesticks that have been stuck in a drawer for two decades, the size three jeans that I will never fit into again, the wooden fish I bought at Pier I twenty years ago because I wanted to live at the beach, the Rolling Rock salt and pepper shakers with missing caps, a couple of broken tv trays, and a beat up Easter egg tree with missing ornaments.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Biden’s job-killing environmental agenda hits Louisiana hard

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I am just off Spring Break where we spent five days in my beloved south Louisiana; we go to Arnaudville, LA in St. Landry parish five times a year and I really hope to move down there in the next year or two. I’m not sure I’ll be able to sell my house in Shreveport; I’m not the only one who wants out of here.

I find it interesting to note that we paid twenty-cents a gallon more for gasoline coming home than we did going down. I mean, WHAT?! 

You hear some talk and a little anxiety about Biden’s environmental agenda in that part of the state where most are conservative; it’s over in New Orleans where you get the Democrats, but in Acadiana, there are a lot of conservative voters.

As the Biden-Harris oil and gas job killing agenda continues to unfold, there is some anxiety and concern over job loss and rising gas prices. Consider this news out of Lafayette:

 Louisiana officials say the state’s oil and gas industry is in danger.

This comes after President Joe Biden cancelled a March oil lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico. Nearly 80 million acres of available leases would have been sold this week.

The damage to Louisiana’s oil and gas companies started in January when President Biden signed an executive order banning all new oil and gas leases on public land and waters for 60 days.

“Right now I think we’re still pretty much in the holding pattern. It was a 60-day ban, and he was going through relook at it, the president,” Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Mike Moncla said.

Moncla says their worst fear was that the president would extend that ban past 60 days.

“Since that time, Governor Edwards has sent him a great letter letting him know exactly what that would mean to Louisiana, all of the economic and finances that come from our offshore work,” he said.

He says as the 60-day ban comes closer to its end, President Biden isn’t easing restrictions.

He’s enforcing new ones, cancelling the 80-million-acre Gulf of Mexico oil lease sale that was scheduled for March 17 in New Orleans.

“It would kill our state. It would kill workers,” Moncla added. “It would kill jobs, and it would be a terrible thing.”

Moncla says all they can do now is wait.

We are talking thousands of jobs, y’all:

Leaders in coastal parishes like Lafourche, who would be impacted the most, worry.

“The major sector in Lafourche, 5600 residents who work in exploration, 4100 work in oil service and 4100 and shipbuilding,” said Lafourche parish president Archie Chaisson. He says the oil industry is now producing jobs with an average wage of $82,000 a year, that could be lost if the moratorium remains in place.

This is not good, not good at all.

Reportedly, Governor John Bel Edwards has written a letter to Biden asking him to reconsider cancelling these leases, but honestly, who thinks that is going to do one iota of good? I’m not holding my breath.

We are not in a good place right now, and I have grave concerns for the future of my state if this continues. I thought the Obama years were terrible, but I think this might be a worse ride than that was.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Stubborn People, Spring Break, and Shreveport Violence

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Last week I was unable to post as I had to drive my son to have his wisdom teeth removed and I failed to get a post together ahead of time to schedule. I appreciate Pete’s patience with me when these things happen. But, let me tell you, my son is the epitome of hard-headed and by, oh….say…..noon last Monday I was complete over this wisdom teeth adventure.

The oral surgeon of course told him no eating solid food for three to five days in order to allow healing and so not to disturb the protective blood clots. Literally nothing I could name for a meal was satisfactory. He wouldn’t listen to any directions, and even wanted to go outside and shoot the basketball literally three hours after the procedure. After reminding him that his post-procedure directions said no exercise or strenuous activity (to control bleeding), he went out anyway.

I was so exasperated by then, I reminded myself that he’s an adult, I left the gauze out for him and told him if he starts to bleed out to call 911. Whatever. People have to make their own mistakes. I left and went to the grocery store and pharmacy.

When I came back, he wasn’t feeling so great but now that we are a week out, everything is back to normal.

Stubborn!

It’s been a big week for me on other fronts: I’ve put in retirement papers and will be leaving the classroom after twenty-five years. I received confirmation and “approval” of my papers this week. I’m already clearing things out of my classroom and emptying files. We are on Spring Break and I’m heading back down to south Louisiana for the week. I need to unplug and recharge for the last nine weeks of school.

I am anxious to get out of Shreveport, not just this week, but after retirement. I don’t know if it is the times in which we live, and perhaps it is this way everywhere, but there is not one single day that goes by in this town when there isn’t a murder or at least a shooting. Every.Single.Day. This past week, some poor guy from Texas was just driving through town on I20 when someone pulled up next to him and started shooting, killing him. To be fair, I don’t know if they knew each other, but good grief. I’m tired of the violence.

We don’t live in a bad neighborhood; we live in an older neighborhood, but it’s considered a good part of town, and I often hear gunshots when I take my dog out at night. They’re usually in the distance, not right near me, and sound travels at night, but it’s enough to make you want to get out of town. When we go to our place down south, we are in the country, basically. It’s a small town of about 1,000 people. You can hear some traffic noise, wildlife or fish splashing in the bayou, church bells on the hour, half hour, and quarter hour, but never gunshots.

Our police force tries, but they are woefully underpaid and outnumbered. It appears to be a losing battle, and our novice, young, Democrat mayor who has higher political ambitions, has no idea how to fix things. It’s time to move on.

At any rate, there you have my random musings for the week. Be safe, be kind, and take care.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Teacheritis

Photo by Dan Dimmock on Unsplash

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I have about three months left in the classroom until I retire. I hope I can make it. It’s close…so close, yet seems so far away.

I have loved teaching; I’ve loved my kids, but I am so done with administrative decisions that devalue the human being in front of that classroom. I know every single job has its drawbacks and there are those ridiculous things that irritate a person everywhere they go. I’m not alone.

I am sure that part of my current negative attitude is more due to the fact that I’m about to be able to walk away than that my workplace is unbearable, because it is in no way unbearable. I love my admins in my school, my co-workers, my students, and my classroom itself.

And if this was a normal year, without Covid, it would certainly be better. But, y’all. I am exhausted just thinking about these next few weeks. This has been the most difficult year of my career.

Tell me if I’m being petty or ridiculous. It won’t hurt my feelings.

I have to be in my classroom or on duty to supervise kids at 6:55. I have first block planning, so I don’t have a class until 9:05, but that first block planning is often taken over by meetings, trainings, and on rare occasions covering another class. We will give the ACT test in two weeks and I won’t have a planning period then, but, mostly I have first-block planning.

My first class is at 9:05 and runs until 10:40. Next class, 10:45 – 12:15. At 12:15 students have lunch and beginning this week they will eat in my classroom as we attempt to make-up those snow days. I am required to have some instructional video or activity for them during this lunch period. And I must, of course, be in the room to supervise. Then my last class comes in at 12:40 – 2:15.

I have to go from 9:05-2:15 without a restroom break, unless I call someone, anyone, to come relieve me for a minute.

Not so bad, you think? Right? Hey, at least your day ends at 2:15, right?  No, not right.

Papers must be graded, lessons prepared, presentations done, copies made for the next day. Grades must be entered into the online gradebook, and then you have parent conferences or calls to make. There are the Behavior Tracking Forms to be filled out, emails to be read and responded to, and other random paperwork that comes across my desk. Time must be made to meet with or check on my mentor students. And don’t forget the cleaning and sanitizing because of Covid that needs to be done to the computers and desks.

Truly, I’m exhausted.

I honestly know on some level that it’s because I know the end is nigh, but really, it’s so easy to feel like the tasks just keep piling on. Nothing is ever taken away, just more piled on.

Okay, so I’m venting. 

I think it’s really best that I retire now, at 25 years, rather than go to 30 years for a little more money. I don’t think I have the tolerance or the energy to do all of this. I’m not sure I’m giving my students my very best anymore.

And that breaks my heart.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport, at Medium, and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: How the South was Crippled by a Snow Storm

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – As you are probably aware, the South was hit with a crippling snowstorm last week, something for which we are woefully unprepared.

In Shreveport it has been a “perfect storm” of catastrophe, and while I realize it could be so much worse (see: Lake Charles, LA where many still live in tents or gutted homes due to hurricanes), it has been mind boggling how less than a foot of snow can cripple a city for over a week.

Is it any coincidence that Shreveport’s infrastructure is crumbling, literally, and we have had three mayors since 2006, all Democrats?

Our water system is literally crumbling under the pothole ridden city streets. During this snow and ice event last week at least eight major water mains have broken and countless other leaks and breaks across Shreveport. As a result, some 10,000 people in town still do not have water, now into Day Seven. Most other water customers have very low water pressure. We have been under a boil advisory for a week and will be for at least five more days, minimum.

Other cities around us, I know, are also under boil advisories; we are not the only ones, to be fair.

But our Shreveport leadership had virtually no plan to address the aftermath of this storm. We do not have snowplows down here or stockpiles of salt for the roads. We don’t get this kind of thing very often, but when you have at least a week’s notice that a storm is coming, wouldn’t you expect leadership to have a plan for recovery?

Local volunteers are the ones who got out with tractors and other construction vehicles and on their own dime cleared the roads in the city.

Neighborhoods pulled together: those with water shared it with those who did not. No water distribution sites were set up by the City until seven days after the storm hit. Neighbors took care of each other.

If your water needed to be cut off at the meter because of a break, a neighbor was there to help you; if you called the City for help you either got a busy signal or a promise to come out in a day or two.

When the grocery stores were literally bare because trucks were stranded on the interstate for miles in both directions, neighbors shared their food and set up sites at local churches. The community donated meals to the veteran’s home who had no water and no food to feed the men.

On Saturday, six days after the storm and two days after the volunteer network cleared the roads, Mayor Adrian Perkins showed up for a photo op on social media praising the National Guard who just rolled into town to clear roads. I’m not throwing shade on the National Guard, but I have to wonder why a photo op is more important to Adrian Perkins than actually taking care of his people.

Three days ago, our City Council had “an emergency” meeting on Zoom to address overtime pay for city workers in this crisis and other issues. There were representatives from the water department and homeland security there as well. Shreveport’s Chief Administrative Officer, Henry Whitehorn (appointed by Mayor Perkins last year), told residents without water that they could call 211 and the city would pick them up and take them to a safe shelter until the crisis was over. People began calling 211 and nobody there knew anything about that, but they could provide the phone number to the food pantry.

Yesterday, seven days after the storm, the city set up a handful of water distribution sites that would open at noon. By 12:01 the site nearest to me was out of water (they started early) with lines of cars backed up for miles, waiting. There is no water in the stores to buy. The National Guard brought in water and people sat in these lines all day and got a case of water. The effort continues today, primarily by local volunteers and nonprofits.

All in all, this has been a mess and an utter failure of City leadership. From the power grid failures, to water failures, to leadership and communication failures, what has kept people going has been each other. Neighbors helping neighbors.

If this event has taught me anything, it is perhaps that sometimes we need to slow down, quit staring at screens, and become more involved in our communities. Appreciate the little things, like a toilet flushing without having to manually fill up the tank because there is no water pressure. Don’t take things for granted, like clean water coming out of your faucet. Help those among us that might need lifting up.

And hey, I’m ready for spring, y’all. Snow is pretty for a minute, but this girl is ready for spring.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.