Alex Bell had no intention of taking on a third job this summer.
By inclination and training, he is a teacher in a public school, so it is almost mandatory that he has more than one. Especially with two children under 2 at home.
Bell teaches history and social studies to eighth graders – something he’s wanted to do since he was in high school – at Meadowlark Middle.
He’s almost as passionate about the second gig, helping coach the NC Spartans AAU basketball team. “It’s also a very good additional income,” he said.
But the third, scrambling to speed up power washing operations during the hottest part of the year, can be dirty and wet work.
“To be honest, I hadn’t planned on doing it this summer,” Bell, 29, said.
But then his phone rang and a former student’s father made a call that Bell couldn’t bring himself to refuse.
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Bell and two assistants arrived in the driveway at 8 a.m. as promised.
After making sure they were in the right house – a yellow two-story with vinyl siding that could badly use some cleaning – the three-man team unloaded their gear and surveyed the job.
Bell, a 29-year-old sportsman, would handle the tougher parts, reaching the second floor balancing on an extension ladder.
The ground floor would be done by a former student named Talon Douglas and his cousin, Cohen Curry. They would walk around the house, cleaning windows, shutters and eaves.
“I told them to hold the ladder for life when I was on the ladder,” Bell said. “The rest was up to them. I was going to check and make sure it’s good. But they do a good job. »
And that’s why Bell had a third job he didn’t really need.
Power washing homes, driveways and patios isn’t about earning a nest egg or saving up for a week at the beach with your young family.
It’s about feeling the pride of an honest day’s work and fair pay.
“I had just decided not to when Talon’s dad called,” Bell explained, his gray NC State t-shirt and hat dripping with water. “I know his family very well. His dad wanted him to learn the value of a dollar and wondered if I had any jobs lined up and would need help.
Douglas, now a 15-year-old student at West Forsyth High, seemed like an ideal candidate. Like many young men his age, he had hoped for a summer filled with sleeping in and goofing off.
Seven a.m. wake-up calls and long mornings lugging pipes and heavy equipment in and out of a van weren’t exactly at the top of the agenda.
“My dad thought it would be good for me,” Douglas said.
To use a really bad pun, he went to work like a duck to water.
He took matters into his own hands, climbing a few rungs to reach the hard-to-reach places under the eaves while his cousin stabilized the ladder.
When he wobbled slightly — he was maybe 3 feet off the ground — Douglas gave his cousin a look that shouted, “Come on, man.”
It paid off as they split a good chunk of the day’s $250 fee. Bell makes sure of that.
“Really, coaching the Spartans is a really good addition,” he said. “It’s not about the money.”
It must work, he said, because Douglas told him that the morning chores meant he had “earned his nap”.
A vocation all year round
Lost in all of this – my words, not Bell’s – is the fact that a young man with a growing family is seven years into an honorable career and still finds it necessary to spend time away from his wife and two children to make ends meet.
The recently approved state budget included a 4.2% raise over two years, effectively matching a pay cut with record inflation of 9.1% blowing the family books.
Coupled with the fact that in 2021 lawmakers barred new recruits from participating in the state pension plan and eliminated salary increases for veteran teachers, it’s no wonder experienced veterans are shunning the profession.
For Bell, teaching is a vocation.
So when Douglas’ father called to ask if he would be willing to give the teenager life lessons, Bell responded quickly.
“It’s about investing in them,” he said.
The young Talon Douglas already appreciates it too. He laughed and agreed wholeheartedly when asked if the job would make him more likely to choose a line of work other than pressure washing.
“I mean, I like to learn new things and if I needed to (pressure washing), I could,” he said. “Extra money isn’t bad.”