Monthly Archives: August 2014

Little Smiles, Big Hugs, and Huge Celebrations

Last week I spent four days in two elementary schools assisting with implementing professional learning communities. I always enjoy visiting elementary schools because other than an occasional “I want my mama!” tantrum wailing down the halls, elementary schools tend to be some of the happiest places on earth. There are little smiles, big hugs, and huge celebrations around every corner. There are knee high little people constantly pulling at your pants leg asking, “Who are you? Are you the president? Do you know Santa Claus? You look like Santa Claus,” and there is always at least one child who will offer you his foot, so you can tie his shoe. The neat thing is that after the shoe is tied, you can expect an appreciative hug that leaves a trail of snot down the arm of your jacket to the knees of your pants, but I have always been of the opinion that hugs are always worth a little snot.

The smiles and hugs alone make visiting elementary schools a joy, but when you add the never ending celebrations, the result is what Mardi Gras must look like in heaven. I mean these little people know how to party! You have not lived until you witness five and six year old children celebrate Caterpillar and Earthworm Month, or join them for Hotdog Week in the lunchroom. Whoever said a hotdog and an earthworm won’t fit on the same bun with ketchup has never witnessed the ingenuity of a six year old. There is also nothing quite as fascinating as watching a five year old try to lick ketchup off his chin before it drips onto his shirt, and when he fails, not missing a beat as he lifts his shirt to lick it clean.

The ones that I am most impressed with though are elementary teachers. Day after day, week after week, month after month, they find something for their children to celebrate. Walk into your nearest elementary school, and I guarantee you will see posters and decorations touting “Toot and Tell It Month,” “National Pickle Day,” or “Bring a Goat to School Week.” The list goes on and on and on. I would almost be willing to bet that other than Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter the list is so extensive that the teachers rarely ever have a need to repeat a celebration. I mean these folks celebrate any and everything! They can make a celebration out of a broken egg yolk.

Now, I admit as an educator coming from a high school background, I was once shocked at the level of commitment elementary schools have to celebrations. To my uninformed way of thinking, the seemingly never ending stream of celebrations constituted a grave misuse of instructional time. However, I have mellowed quite a bit since those days when I was repeatedly stoned and shamed by elementary principals and teachers for my lack of understanding. Maybe it is my age, or more likely one of the stones actually knocked some sense into me, but I have come to realize these celebrations are valuable learning tools for young children. Even if they were not learning opportunities, which they are, the celebrations are fun and build student interest in school. Maybe that is what is missing at all grade levels in schools today. Maybe what schools need is a little more fun – not only in elementary school, but middle school and high school as well. We might be amazed at the impact on behavior, attendance, and achievement if we created schools where children and teachers enjoyed being there.

Therefore, in an effort to show my support for making schools a more fun place to be, I am contributing a list of nationally recognized monthly and weekly celebrations. I am fairly certain that none of the celebrations on my list will be new to elementary school principals and teachers, and I am fairly positive that many middle school and high school principals and teachers will be just as inflexible as I once was and ask, “What in the name of a blue flaming hen is he thinking? What does he hope to accomplish? Has he gone absolutely mad?” My answer is simple. Sometimes it pays to be a little mad if it gets people to thinking what the best hope is for kids, and especially if it makes school a place where children of all ages want to be. Therefore, I challenge principals and teachers across all grade levels to find an excuse for celebrating from the list below, or better yet, create your own reason to celebrate. I think it is time to follow the lead of the elementary schools and build a little fun and celebration into our schools and the lives of our children! Who knows, it may be the missing “silver bullet” educators have been searching for years to find.

Linton’s School Celebrations: (These are actual celebration days, weeks, or months)

  • Oatmeal Month (January)
  • Spaghetti Day (January 4)
  • Cuckoo Dancing Week (Week of January 18th – I may take my wife dancing this week.)
  • Snack Food Month (February)
  • Procrastination Week (Second Week of March – Right before spring break – how appropriate!)
  • Egg Salad Week (1st week after Easter Sunday)
  • Frog Month (April)
  • Teacher Appreciation Month (1st full week in May)
  • Trauma Awareness Month (May – I wonder if there is a reason for Teacher Appreciation Month and Trauma Awareness Month to be in the same month?)
  • Bathroom Reading Week (Second week in June – Now this is my kind of celebration!)
  • Baked Beans Month (July – As a teacher, I would be glad this one comes in the summer.)
  • Clown Week (August 1 – 7 each year – All a teacher needs is another clown!)
  • Chicken Month (September)
  • Children’s Good Manners Month (September – Why not celebrate this one every month?)
  • Sarcastic Awareness Month (October)
  • Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day (First Saturday in November – For teacher’s only after school!)
  • Plan Your Epitaph Day (November 2 – Not sure what to think about this one?)
  • National Pizza With The Works Except Anchovies Day (November 12)

Happy Celebrating!

JL

©Jack Linton, August 25, 2014

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Mississippi Headlines of the Future

I have an old crystal ball that collects dust on a bookshelf in what I call my study, or as my wife more appropriately calls it, my junk room. I don’t remember where it came from, but I have had it since I was a boy. There is nothing really special about the ball, but sometimes late at night if I concentrate really hard on it, I can actually see newspaper headlines from the future floating inside. The predictions revealed in these headlines are sometimes debatable, but like any prediction, if you hang around long enough, their accuracy will eventually be revealed.

Mississippi Headlines March 3, 2015 through April 1, 2019

March 3, 2015

Phil Bryant Seeks Second Term as Governor

 Jackson, Mississippi. Governor Phil Bryant officially announced his intentions today to seek a second term as Mississippi’s governor. He promised to continue his fight against federal government interference in state affairs such as education, but he dodged questions regarding common core standards by saying, “Under my watch as governor, Mississippi has moved forward with common core standards implementation in our public schools. I am very much in favor of standards, but I am also very concerned about government interference in local affairs. I sincerely believe minus the political restrictions of my first term, standards for our children minus federal government interference will move forward in Mississippi.”

 

July 4, 2015

Mississippi’s Chris McDaniel Announces for Presidency

 Jackson, Mississippi. Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel announced today his candidacy for President of the United States. McDaniel, formally a Tea Party backed conservative who lost a bitterly contested state runoff for the Mississippi Republican nomination in June 2014, said his conservative ideas are the life blood of the nation and along with his tenaciousness to never say die, he believes he is the only man qualified to put America back on its feet. He also said his announcement to run for the Republican nomination for president in no way jeopardizes continued efforts to have the 2014 Mississippi Republican runoff election overturned. He added that as long as there are Mississippians willing to send $5, $10, $15 or more to support his fight for justice, he will continue to battle for integrity in the election process at least until his children finish college.

 

July 29, 2016

McDaniel Denied Republican Presidential Nomination – Supporters Rumble

Cleveland, Ohio. A day after Mississippi’s Chris McDaniel was denied the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, shocked and dismayed convention organizers are still picking up the pieces of what some are calling “The Rumble in the Jungle II.” After an hour and twenty minute non-concession speech filled with name calling and wild claims of irregularities in the nomination process, trouble erupted when convention security attempted to escort McDaniel from the platform. Video of the incident shows a security officer lean over and whisper something to McDaniel who paused, turned blood red, and wrapped both arms around the podium while yelling over and over, “I am not leaving! No! No! No! It’s mine! It’s mine! It’s mine!” The video shows all three of McDaniel’s supporters jumping on the platform and then hurling chairs and tussling with convention officials and security. Mayhem ensued throughout the convention hall, and to restore peace, the hall had to finally be evacuated.

In a statement to the press this morning, McDainel was emphatic that he and his supporters had done nothing wrong. He also said in days to come he would seek legal advice as to how best to proceed, and said legal action was a distinct possibility. Before, leaving his hotel in a white limousine with license plates “I THE WAY,” McDaniel shook hands with several onlookers and encouraged them to send him whatever they could afford to fight what he described as “the continued conspiracy and fraud rampant in my beloved Republican party.”

 

November 15, 2016

Phil Bryant Vows to Fight Common Core

Jackson, Mississippi. In Governor Phil Bryant’s first public address since being reelected as governor last week, he said he is in full support of doing away with common core standards in Mississippi, and will sign any legislation that comes before him that will effectively strike common core from Mississippi’s vocabulary. When reminded about his statement prior to the election where he implied his support of common core, Bryant snapped, “I implied nothing. I said very clearly common core standards were implemented statewide during my first term, and that I supported standards for our children. I did not say I supported common core standards.” When asked if he thought his pre-election statement may have deceived some voters, Bryant shrugged and said, “Oh well, I guess they won’t vote for me next time.”

 

March 21, 2017

Phil Bryant Strikes Down Common Core Standards

Jackson, Mississippi. Saying common core standards were a failed program supported by big government and people of questionable education merit, Governor Phil Bryant signed legislation today that effectively strikes down common core standards in Mississippi. He said this is something he has believed in for quite some time, and that he felt in his heart it was the right thing to do. However, he did say he might reconsider his action if governors in surrounding states such as Louisiana, Arkansas, and Alabama retracted their plans to oust common core standards or held fast to their support of the standards. When asked if that wasn’t being wishy-washy on the issue, Bryant said, “No, that’s being realistic.”

 

April 17, 2017

State Legislature Writes Mississippi Standards

 Jackson, Mississippi. In an anticipated move following striking down common core standards in Mississippi a little over three weeks ago, Governor Phil Bryant announced plans for Mississippi’s new standards. Under Bryant’s plan the new standards will be authored by legislators in both the state senate and house. Bryant said in a prepared statement, “It is time to put education back into the hands of the people who truly know and understand what Mississippi children need.” There was no immediate time line given for developing the standards, but legislators are expected to begin writing the new standards as soon as they fully fund MAEP.

 

February 14, 2018

Conservative Citizens Council to lead Mississippi Education

 Jackson, Mississippi. While state legislators continue to struggle with developing new state education standards, in a not so surprising move Governor Phil Bryant announced he will completely dismantle the Mississippi Department of Education by the end of the current 2017-2018 school year. In its place he will establish the Conservative Citizens Council of Mississippi to oversee education in the state. The Council will be made up of 12 committee members including the governor, attorney general, one at large attorney, five at large citizens with or without children in the public school system, two state senators, and two state representatives. The governor and attorney general will be automatically seated on the committee while all other committee members will be selected by the governor. When asked about teacher representation on the council, Bryant replied, “As council members we represent the teachers as well as the children of the state.”

 

April 1, 2019

Chris McDaniel Joins Fox News

 New York. Fox News announced today that former Mississippi state senator and presidential candidate, Chris McDaniel, will join the Fox News family. McDaniel will replace Glen Beck who recently announced his bid for the Republican nomination for president. Sponsors such as Pampers, Huggies, Similac Formula, Britax, and Johnson’s Essentials for Babies have expressed a strong interest in sponsoring the show. “Chris McDaniel is an iconic whiner who our customers can readily identify with,” a representative from Johnson’s said. “Chris gives us the “wah! wah!” factor we have been missing lately on television,”

 

There were a few more surprising headlines floating around inside my crystal ball, but it just didn’t seem right to reveal all of them and spoil the fun of surprise some of them will surely bring. According to my crystal ball, it will certainly not be dull in Mississippi during the coming years, so hold on for a very interesting, often humorous, and sometimes bumpy ride.

JL

©Jack Linton, August 16, 2014

The Gospel of Doody McGregor

Doody McGregor was not a local, but he lived the final years of his life in Luxley Crossing. Mississippi. He died in a terrible fire that swept through his trailer in the early hours of Friday morning. Pastor David announced in church Sunday morning that his only family, a sister who lived in Dayton, had decided to have him cremated. The boys in the congregation of The First Baptist Church of Sweet Deliverance were confused as to what his death had to do with coffee, but later they learned his death had everything to do with his penny pinching.

Doody, who depending on who you talked to and how much hillbilly pop or rotgut moonshine he had consumed the night before, was estimated to be between 45 and 65 years of age when he passed. In spite of the age difference between him and the boys, they had taken a liking to him from the very first day he came to work for the Sweet Deliverance Church. The deacons’ wives said maturity wise he was a perfect match for them. That didn’t bother Doody though; he didn’t like the old busy bodies any more than he liked their husbands.

For the boys, Doody had been sort of a hero. He had enlightened them with stories of heroic adventures in far off places they had only heard about in school. Unlike the adults who scoffed at his claims of world travels, to them his stories were as real as the Biblical stories Pastor David told from the pulpit. They had never met a person so worldly, straight forward and open, nor had they ever met an adult who paid them so much attention and was not afraid to get down on their level. Until Doody came along, the young people in the church were to be seen and not heard, but he changed that; he paid attention to them and actually listened when they spoke. Unlike the other adults in the church, he did not go around trying to prove how adult he was by acting above the kids or ignoring them.  The youth in the church had always been treated with kindness, but although Doody was like the other adults in that he stressed the importance of education and being a good citizen, he was the first adult they had ever known who treated them with respect. He was also the first person they had ever met who was not afraid to say his piece to Pastor David although when he did, he was careful to do so behind closed doors or out of ear shot. Likewise, he was the first person they had ever met who spoke of Methodists, Catholics, and Pentecostals as anything but heathens. The idea that God may not have been exclusively Southern Baptist had never occurred to them until Doody came into their lives.

He lived in an old dented and chewed travel trailer in an even older depressed trailer park behind the church, and he was as much part of the church’s outreach program as he was an employee. In a rugged rundown sort of way he was a handsome man, which partly explained why Deacon Leroy’s wife, Thelma, pushed the deacons so relentlessly to have compassion for those less fortunate and give him a job. Add rugged good looks and compassion to the rumors that he had a fortune stashed somewhere in his beat up old trailer, and in the eyes of Thelma, he became the perfect person for the part time handyman job. She had an appetite for good looks and money both of which she had missed out on when she married Leroy Jenkins.

The rumors about Doody’s hidden fortune grew partly from the fact that he was absolutely the stingiest man in town.   When people speculated he still had the first penny he ever earned, they didn’t know how close to the truth they actually were. In fact, he still possessed just about everything he had ever owned. One look at the piles of clutter in his trailer was a testament to that; however, he was not just a hoarder, he was a skin flint in the truest sense of the term. From using a penny to replace a fuse in the electrical service panel in his trailer to using duct tape to stop kitchen and bathroom leaking pipes, he never really fixed anything if there was a cheaper quicker way to get the job done; he was the ultimate cheapskate. Another example was the dingy white picket fence around his trailer. He always kept the gate padlocked – not because he did not want visitors – but rather because he didn’t want to wear the hinges out. To accommodate his infrequent visitors, mainly Thelma Jenkins and one or two other ladies from the Ruth’s Circle women’s ministry, he had a step-over to either side of the gate. The step-overs proved to be rather awkward for the church women bearing casseroles or freshly baked pies to maneuver, but Doody never offered to unlock the gate nor did he ever tire of sitting on the steps of his trailer and watching the ladies struggle to be lady-like as they stepped across the step-over in their hip hugging Sunday go to meeting skirts and dresses. Besides being stingy, he could sometimes come across as the epitome of a dirty old man.

John Carter was the first Doody convert among the boys. On Wednesday night between Royal Ambassadors and the prayer service, Sunday morning between Sunday school and worship service, and Sunday night between youth Bible study and night worship, Doody held court on the back steps of the fellowship hall. There the boys gathered around him to hear him tell his latest story, play the harmonica, or listen to him talk about life in general. There on those steps, Doody lifted the weight of the world off John Carter’s shoulders. While hiding a cigarette in the palm of his hand and occasionally bending low and taking a deep draw from between his knees, Doody confirmed what John Carter had always suspected and hoped was true – Catholics were human and no more likely to go to hell than a God fearing Baptist. With this revelation, he started smiling, his eyes watered up, and he lunged forward wrapping his arms around Doody’s neck. He was sweet on a Catholic girl who lived down the street from him, but up until that moment, he had kept her at a distance for fear of angering God and his daddy who would have removed several layers of hide from his backside with his belt had he known his son was fond of a Catholic girl. In the 1960’s, fear of God and the belt were often more than enough to keep young people from straying too far from the fold.

Youth in the First Baptist Church of Sweet Deliverance were so indoctrinated with hell, fire, and brimstone that they were scared to death of God, and terrified of dying on his angry side. Doody advised them to chill and be more open-minded. He cautioned the boys about dying and then discovering too late at the gates of heaven that God was not Southern Baptist after all, but a Methodist, Catholic, or heaven forbid a Pentecostal! Bottom line, he advised them to keep their options and minds open and not risk not getting into heaven on a technicality. Of course, when the deacons heard about such talk, they wanted to get rid of Doody immediately, but to their amazement Pastor David would have nothing to do with such action. In the deacons’ eyes, God’s way was the Southern Baptist way with no room to stray to the left or the right, and they could not understand why the pastor would jeopardize that by putting up with Doody.

When it came to the deacons, Doody didn’t care too much for any of them. However, he had the utmost respect for Pastor David. He felt he was as good a man as God ever allowed to walk the earth. He acknowledged him as a devout Christian at war with the devil although the pastor’s tactical errors in his sermons sometimes sent him out the back door to catch an early smoke.  He saw Pastor David as a man’s man; there was nothing squirrely or timid about him. He did not beat around the bush. If a person was a sinner, he called him a sinner to his face; if a person acted like a heathen, he would put him in his place before God and anyone else who happened to be standing next to him; and if a person broke the commandments, he did not shy away from calling him out by name in church. He was a man of power in the community, a mover of men, a true liaison with God. He was the one who cemented the congregation’s beliefs in Jesus, mama, and guns. He instilled in his congregation the fear of God, and until he met Doody, he instilled in them suspicion of anybody north of the Mason Dixon Line, and contempt for anybody who thought, talked, or acted differently. He promoted an unwavering distrust of anyone who did not conform to the Southern Baptist idea of what is right, wrong, or normal. In other words, he taught his congregation that the Gospel was what he and the annual Southern Baptist Convention said it was, and it was final, complete, and absolute. Why he threw all that out the window when it came to Doody, no one had a clue. Maybe it was because both men stood up for what they believed regardless of what others thought, and in that they found a mutual respect for each other.

Some speculated Pastor David was willing to put up with Doody’s dubious background, ogling the women, being a questionable influence on the boys, and the occasional biting jab or argument as an example of the pestilence God could rain down on backsliders at any time.   More realistically, it most likely had everything to do with Doody being a good worker although one who worked at his own pace, and Pastor David’s commitment to witnessing to wayward souls.  As for Doody, he hung around because Pastor David was the closest thing to a true friend he had ever known. Pastor David and the boys had become his family.

For the boys in the church, Doody was their link to how the world outside the church thought and acted. Before he came to the church, Sunday morning and evening worship services and Wednesday night prayer meeting were not only spiritual outlets, but they were the only social outlets other than school for them. The church was everything that Facebook is to today’s generation. It was the social media of the day; it was the connection to the world even if it was the world as the deacons and pastor saw it.  On the social side, there was often enough drama brewing in the fellowship hall kitchen to put even today’s reality shows to shame. Why did the preacher visit Widow McKinley three times in the past week? What was in the plain brown package delivered to Miss Gloria’s house? Why did Sarah Madden start using so much makeup? Did you hear the McLaurin twins are dating the same girl over in Perry County? When was someone going to talk to the preacher about his overlong sermons? There was always drama, or if not, there was always someone willing to start some. Along with the gossip and drama though, the congregation came together to worship, trade recipes, talk about their families, fan the spark of romance, talk local as well as state and national politics, and eat. Boy, could they eat, and Doody was the king of eating, especially when it came to dinner on the grounds.

The first two things children were taught in church were sin is a four letter word and how to bless their food. Doody always said all you needed to start a church in the South were three ladies who knew how to fry chicken, cook a mess of field peas and okra, fix chicken and dumplings, and bake an apple or pecan pie (preferably both). Food was the church calling card, especially for young families struggling to make ends meet who quickly learned that families ate free on Wednesday night.   Of course, the biggest draw for any Southern Baptist church was bringing the congregation together as a church family for dinner on the grounds. There is no such thing as someone going hungry at a Southern Baptist dinner on the grounds. The only down side to these potluck extravaganzas was watching folks pick fried chicken, fried pork chops, barbeque spare ribs, and pot roast from their teeth with toothpicks and pocket knives after dinner. Doody always agreed the aftermath was not a pretty sight, but he said the variety and quality of food more than made up for any ugliness that came afterwards.

Another piece of advice that Doody offered dealt with relationships. He said the only two relationships a man needed to cultivate in church were the one he had with his pastor and the one he had with the ladies. John Carter asked him if he meant the young ladies or the older ones. Doody said both. John Carter looked confused and said he was fine with hitting on the young ones, but church women over 40 seldom smiled, and paid more attention to the men and boys napping in church than they did the sermon. Doody said that’s because men and boys sometimes forget that ladies over forty like being hit on too.

No one expected it to happen, but Doody grew to love the church, and the truth be known, the church grew to love him. One day during coffee and biscuit time before Sunday school, Pastor David noticed him leaning on his mop with a troubled look on his face. He said he was concerned because two new churches were opening in town, The First Renewed Faith and Unyielding Believers Baptist Church was moving into the vacant feed store a couple streets over, and just outside of town The Backwoods Revival of True Believers Baptist Church was opening its doors in the old vacant beer barn. Doody said he was afraid the church market in Luxley Crossing couldn’t support another church much less two. From the pulpit that morning, Brother David tried to sooth concerns about the new churches. He assured everyone the new churches were part of God’s plan to provide as many worship opportunities as possible in the community and that there was no need for concern. After the pastor’s reassurance that all was as it should be, the congregation moved on to the next drama – that is all but Doody. He continued to worry and fret for another three months. It was never proven, but it was always highly suspicioned that he was behind the rumors that The First Renewed Faith and Unyielding Believers Baptist Church practiced animal sacrifice, and The Backwoods Revival of True believers Baptist Church served beer and pretzels for the Lord’s Supper.  The rumors proved effective whoever started them. Both churches closed their doors for good within three months citing poor attendance as the reason.

Over time, Doody became a fixture in the church, and when he died many in the church, especially Pastor David and the boys, felt a part of the church died as well. However, his death may have actually saved the church. The investigation into the fire in his trailer revealed the fire had started in the electrical service panel where he had placed a penny behind one of the fuses rather than buying a new fuse. As a result, heat built up in the circuit and eventually caught fire destroying the trailer and ending Doody’s life too soon.

A few days after the fire, Pastor David replaced the old electrical service panel in the church with a new panel. The deacons griped and fussed that replacing a perfectly good panel was fiscally irresponsible, but Pastor David insisted and the old panel was replaced. The next Sunday, he told the congregation Doody spoke to him through a dream. He said he argued with Doody until the early hours of the morning before Doody finally convinced him to change out the service panel. Later that morning, he said he called an electrician who found three pennies behind fuses in the church electrical panel. The electrician told him God had to have been watching over the church because it was only a matter of time before it burned to the ground. Pastor David wiped a tear from his eye and smiled at the congregation and especially at the boys sitting in the back pew. “God was indeed watching over us,” he said, “along with an angel, our friend Doody.” With those words he closed the service and led the entire congregation to the back steps of the fellowship hall where they sat telling Doody stories for the rest of the afternoon.

JL

©Jack Linton, August 10, 2014

14 Radically Sane Ways to Improve Mississippi Schools (or Schools in any State for that Matter)

August and another school year has arrived. As a former principal, I look at August as the time of year for implementation of new ideas that have been discussed and planned during the previous school year. Plans designed to hopefully make school better for both students and teachers. After countless hours of study and planning sessions, August is the opening curtain for what the school administration always hopes will be well received improvements over the previous school year. If the principal is lucky, one or two of his well-intentioned improvements will be greeted with approval while decisions to tweak or maybe even toss less well received improvements will have to be considered. Regardless, of the reception, the opening of school in August also means it is time for the principal to start thinking about follow-up plans as well as projecting what critical issues may need to be addressed in the future. It is a never ending cycle.

After spending twenty-one years in school administration, it is difficult during this time of year not to think about improvements that would make school better for students as well as faculty and staff. As a principal, any improvements I planned had to be within policy boundaries, had to be cost effective, had to be enforceable, and most important, the improvements had to be in the best interests of students first and then faculty and staff. However, now that I am retired, I have the luxury to dream a little when putting together a list of school improvements, so the 14 items presented in this blog come from my dream list of ways to improve school and positively impact student learning. None of them are earth shattering, but each one of them could make a positive impact on how schools do business. The list is not in any kind of order, but rather constitutes random thoughts about what I believe could make a difference for students and teachers.

 14 Radically Sane Ways to Improve Schools:

(1)   To Improve Schools: Treat the best teachers like CELEBRITY STARS! Provide them higher pay and more privileges!

Rationale: Do whatever it takes to keep great teachers in the classroom and out of administration, private business, or any other number of things they could do to make more money.

Quote:  “Education can be encouraged from the top-down but can only be improved from the ground up” – Sir Ken Robinson

(2)   To Improve Schools: Require school principals and assistant principals in grades K – 12 to teach a class in their area of expertise once each quarter or at least once each semester. The class must be taught using the same curriculum, instructional practices, guidelines and protocols as established for all classroom teachers in the subject area taught.

Rationale: It is crucial that school administrators stay in touch with what it is like to be a teacher in front of the classroom. In today’s world of accountability, for the school administrator to effectively evaluate teacher practice, he/she must have a practical working knowledge of the instructional practices being evaluated. The administrator should not only be able to evaluate instructional practices, the school administrator should be able to model the instructional practices as well.

Quote: “Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.” – Will Durant

(3)   To Improve Schools: Require a certification process for education consultants prior to their working in any school.

Rationale: Anyone can hang a sign, create business cards, and market themselves as an educational consultant who can improve schools. However, the question is do they actually have the expertise to back up their claims? Some may, but many do not! Billions of dollars are being spent across the United States on consultant led professional development that is neither relevant nor likely to provide the school improvement advertised. Just because a person spent 25+ years in education, made a lot of contacts in education during his/her career, hopefully worked for an excellent school district, or is good friends with the superintendent does not necessarily mean that person will make a good consultant. Granted some of the above may indeed contribute to an individual’s success as a school improvement consultant, but there should also be a required certification process involving some kind of accountability measure that all educational consultants should be required to complete prior to offering their services.

Quote: “All too many consultants, when asked, ‘What is 2 and 2?’ respond, ‘What do you have in mind?’” – Norman Ralph Augustine

(4)   To Improve Schools: Other than student management systems, teacher/student classroom computers, and some online web-based courses, eliminate canned computer programs and computer labs that are usually outdated or in poor maintenance. Embrace BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)!

Rationale: Technology budgets in schools are skyrocketing, but it can be argued if the impact on learning is worth the cost. Other than using technology as a management tool for taking roll and emailing parents, there is little that expensive classroom technology can offer that a student’s personal cell/smart phone cannot also offer equally as well if not better. For example, many classrooms today are equipped with smart boards that are used as little more than glorified overhead projectors for note taking and PowerPoint presentations. Also, it is not uncommon for a school to spend ten to fifty thousand dollars or more on web based programs with subscriptions that must be renewed yearly. When the cost of such subscriptions is calculated based on the number of students the program actually reaches, schools and students would often be better off if the money was used to hire more teachers or teacher assistants? The argument that money spent on personnel is a recurring expense as compared to the one time expense of technology becomes a non-issue when the recurring cost of annual technology subscriptions and maintenance are factored into the equation. Technology is a tool of education and not the savior of education; therefore, it is time to STOP trying to find short cuts to learning by spending money on technology. Learning needs the human touch, so spend the money being spent on instructional technology on quality teachers. Most students in our schools come equipped every day with a smart phone that is up to date and more powerful than the outdated clunkers in most computer labs and teacher classrooms. Allow teachers to allow their students to use these devices in the classroom. The argument that it would cause too many disruptions is an overused excuse of antiquated thinking.

Quote: BYOD attempts to leverage existing assets that are natural to learners, and not subject to Draconian district policies. – Terry Heick.

(5)   To Improve Schools: Allow teacher representation on the school board.

Rationale: In the real world, bankers sit on financial committees, doctors sit on medical committees, and lawyers sit on legal committees, so why shouldn’t teachers sit on the most important school committee in the school district – the school board? Teacher representation on the school board would certainly go a long way toward improving teacher morale and teacher ownership in the district mission not to mention provide relevant input that is sometimes missing in school board meetings.

Quote: “In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.” – Mark Twain.

(6)   To Improve Schools: Provide embedded collaborative time for teachers to be professionals.

Rationale: Schools and teachers who refuse or who are reluctant to share ideas and practices are obsolete!

Quote:   “The secret is to gang up on the problem, rather than each other.” – Thomas Stallkamp

(7)   To Improve Schools: STOP being territorial, and allow children to enroll in online classes and work from home.

Rationale: Educators need to embrace the best learning environment for the child. For some students the social aspect of school may be a distraction for them or their family, so why force them to go to school when they can do the same work from home? Education is about learning; it is not about where it takes place! Although the impact of technology in the classroom on learning can be argued, the impact of technology as a tool to tear down school walls and open doors of opportunities for learners of all ages is unquestionable.

Quote: “Isn’t it ridiculous for education to lag behind in an innovation that has revolutionized communication, workflow, and information dissemination? That doesn’t sound very ‘educated’ to us.” – John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems

(8)   To Improve Schools:  STOP putting students in grades based on age.

Rationale: Just because students were born in the same year doesn’t always mean they are at the same place cognitively or maturity wise. Advancement/placement should be based on achievement rather than age. It is time we stopped trying to stuff all children in the same pigeon hole! Promote students based on academics and maturity and not because they had a birthday.

Quote: “Being ready isn’t enough; you have to be prepared for a promotion or any other significant change.” – Pat Riley

(9)   To Improve Schools: DO AWAY with grades, and STOP ranking kids like race horses!

Rationale: The sole purpose for grades is to rank children! Grades are for teachers, parents, and colleges to rank and label children as excellent, average, or failure. In today’s grading systems, it is all about where you begin that matters, but shouldn’t it be about where you end that matters most? I’ve never understood grading in school. Success in everything you do in life is measured by where you finish except for grades in school, and then it’s measured by your average performance. Who made up that stupid rule?

Quote:   “If you read my sixth-grade report card, you’d notice that I started with unsatisfactory grades. My teacher sent a note home to my mother that said I was a ‘good boy,’ but I needed to be watched. She put a ‘body’ on me. Our children are trying to tell us something. They are trying to tell the black mayors, school superintendents, teachers – all of us, that they need a whole lot of bodies on them.” – Bill Cosby

(10)   To Improve Schools:  Require college and university education professors to teach at least one semester in the public school classroom every five years.

Rationale: Like school administrators college education professors need to stay in touch with the reality of teaching in the classroom. To teach and advise prospective teachers, they need to know there is more to teaching than what can be found in a textbook on teaching theory. The best way to do that is by requiring periodic teaching assignments in public school settings.

Quote: “I am my own Universe, I my own Professor.” – Sylvia Ashton-Warner

(11)   To Improve Schools: Take reading and writing seriously!

Rationale: Teach children to read and write well! Everything they do in life will depend on these two skills. Teach them to write cursive; cursive writing is a motor skill that scientists are discovering is an important tool for cognitive development, particularly in training the brain to learn. In grades K – 6, focus on reading, writing, math, and the arts with major emphasis on reading and writing. I am not trying to ignore science and social studies, but if a child can read and write and has the discipline associated with the arts, he/she can learn science and social studies through reading and writing in K – 6 and departmentalized focus in grades 7 – 12. Also, require students to take a writing class (non-fiction, fiction, journalism, or business writing) each year beginning with 7th grade.

Quote:  “I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss—you can’t do it alone.” – John Cheever

(12)   To Improve Schools: Recognize a child not coming to school is a PARENTAL PROBLEM, so STOP penalizing schools for a parent problem! Charge parents a STATE TRUANCY TAX for each day their child has an unexcused truancy from school. If the tax is not paid, assign parents and truant students to community service and enforce it!

Rationale: It is the parent’s job to get their children to school, and it is the teacher’s job to teach them and ensure they learn once they get to school. Instead of taking money from schools for truancy take it from parents who can’t, won’t, or don’t know how to be adults and get their kids to school. Schools are committed to teaching kids; parents must in turn be committed to getting their kids to school.

Quote: “The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed.” – Martina Navratilova

(13)   To Improve Schools: REWARD teachers who do not miss school! Provide MONETARY INCENTIVES for teachers who do not miss school for illness, personal time, and only for very limited professional development.

Rationale: We are spending far too much money on substitute teachers. We are also doing a grave injustice to children by putting their education all too frequently in the hands of substitute teachers. Most substitutes are well intentioned people who do their best to follow the teacher’s directions; however, if substitutes could teach a classroom adequately, there would be no need to hire teachers. Subs are poor replacements for certified teachers; therefore, students are the ones who wind up on the short end of the deal. So, why not provide incentives to keep teachers in the classroom? Of course, some might argue that being in the classroom is what teachers are paid for in the first place.

Quote: “Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater.” – Gail Godwin

(14)   To Improve Schools: Instead of always focusing on areas in which students are weak, FOCUS on their strengths!

Rationale: All too often, we spend more time focusing on a child’s weaknesses and not enough time focusing on his/her strengths. We spend so much time trying to keep all students at the same level that we end up ignoring or neglecting the areas in which a child may be able to excel. In the real world all people are not good at the same things; people have different talents, so why not focus on a kid’s talent rather than his/her weaknesses. Why must all students be even or all the same?   If a child’s aptitude leans more to art than math, why not allow that child to focus more on art? This doesn’t mean that educators should ignore the core disciplines such as math, science, language arts and social studies, but rather it means educators should stop trying to force all children to be the same and understand that it is okay if some children have greater interests in other areas than the core disciplines. Such an educational mindset would probably take a big bite out of high school dropouts and would more than likely have a positive impact on student discipline in the classroom.

Quote:    “In a society that tries to standardize thinking, individuality is not highly prized.” – Alex Grey

There are probably other ideas for improvement I could have listed, but these are the ones that have been stuck in my head the longest. You may not agree with any of them, but that is okay. One good thing about being retired is that I no longer have to seek anyone’s approval but my wife’s, and she is very good at ignoring me or putting me in my place if she doesn’t like what I have to say.

JL

©Jack Linton, August 3, 2014