Thursday, July 23, 2015

Small Town Fatigue

I feel like John Mellencamp's "Small Town" was written for me.
Well I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Probably die in a small town
Oh, those small communities
I was born and raised in Kellogg, Idaho, and the Silver Valley area. I've lived here nearly my entire life. In fact, the only time I didn't live in Kellogg, was the 30 or so months I lived in Moscow, while attending the University of Idaho (Go Vandals). I spent my childhood on the tail end of the "Uncle Bunker" days and remember the good ol' days as though they were yesterday. I remember the sound of the shift siren at Bunker Hill, I remember the sound of trains as they charged through Kellogg on what is now the Greenbelt along aptly named Railroad Ave. I remember the smell of the smelter smoke and I can still remember when they would sprinkle slag on the roads for traction, which I learned later, is one of the most harmful things you can do to a car. I also remember using a putter out of the bunkers at Pinehurst Golf Course, (I still call it Kellogg Country Club) because they weren't filled with sand, oh no, they were filled with nothing but the finest slag from Bunker Hill, and were rock hard a majority of the time. All of those memories are vivid to me, and though some were detrimental, they symbolized one thing... money. The smell of the smelter, the strobe-like blinking lights of the smelter stacks, the sound of the trains, all of them symbolized money. Even though it was the tail end, I experienced a thriving economy in the Silver Valley.

I also lived the down-turn. I witnessed friends moving away as dads got laid off. I experienced several school closures and/or modifications and numerous cuts to programs and teachers. I also saw the closure of the YMCA, and many of the opportunities that came with it. I have lived it, as a child, young adult, and now as a parent. It seems like since I graduated from Kellogg High School, there has been nothing but less money, fewer students, and bad economic news. I shudder to think what this place would be like without Dave Smith Motors and the few remaining mines that we are clinging to. But I know that it can always get worse. Even looking back on my tenure with the Kellogg School District, I had no idea how well we had it in the mid 90s. Little did I know that things would continue to decline for the next 2 decades. But with a few exceptions, there has been little to no sustainable growth or improvement (as a Senior in HS I thought the gondola and Silver Mountain would save the day... while a great opportunity, the economic impact  has not been great, other than inflated housing) and each year the theme has remained the same: more cuts needed, less funds, do more with less.

This post is not a complaint about my community and home town. I love it here. But I'm tired. Yes, I consider myself a "can do" person, glass half full, if you prefer metaphors. I try to be optimistic about everything, but I'm getting worn out. I believe most of the cause of this is the emergence of social media, and me constantly reading frustrations and complaints about our communities and schools. Many times it is hurtful venting, accusations, misinformation, and complaints from people I know, grew up with, and sometimes am related to. It all begins to add up, and take a toll on my attitude and well being. "You need a thicker skin," most say, when I tell them about this fatigue. "You are biased," they retort when I try to explain reasoning for decisions made by our school district, my employer. For me it isn't as easy as looking the other way, or having a thicker skin. I know nearly every person making comments. I can never get away from them. When I hear the comments, requests, complaints, and frustrations throughout the community, I try to figure out how on Earth it would be possible to meet all the needs. Many of my co-workers and I are giving 100% every day to ensure our schools are the best that they can be. It is hard not to take things personally.

This post is also not an attempt to illustrate that everything the Kellogg School District does is right, the best, or perfect. No school district, business, or entity, for that matter, is perfect. I also don't agree 100% with every decision made by my school district. But I do believe in what we are trying to accomplish, and I believe that teamwork is better than constantly undermining each other and spreading biased or inaccurate information. I also truly believe that most of my co-workers have the same determined goals for our community and our students. Blaming individuals or groups, or people we don't like is not a constructive way to accomplish anything. We can do better than that, and frankly, we need to now, more than ever.

I suppose this post is sort of a cathartic release for me. I guess it is also my motivation to not take things personally & to consider why people say what they say. I often find myself holding things people say about my place of work against them, and that impacts my attitude. I encourage, and push our leaders to be active on social media, and to connect with the community. This isn't always easy, as it means me being exposed to comments and opinions from every pocket of the community. I get defensive. I get offended. I suppose I need to let things go, or at least try to look beyond the hurtful rhetoric and find legitimate criticism, that can help me improve, or communicate to others for improvement. I know that especially during tough economic times, opinions will be even more emotion filled. I need to remember that and consider it when processing everything. My community, my home town, needs me to do this.


  1. Thank you for the read. Honestly you covered the topic and broadly examined all areas. If i was to write this i would have done a few things differently myself but you have definitely inspired me to get into the world of blogging. Thanks heaps for the post i college paper writing service really appreciate it. Have a good day and keep blogging

  2. Very inspiring article on finding purpose through the challenge. Thank you!