Monthly Archives: March 2015

Crisis: How American Schools Waste Instructional Time

Over the years, American education has been compared to education around the world, and each time, the American education system has come up lacking. Recent reports such as PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) show the United States ranks 19th in reading, 29th in mathematics, and 22nd in science behind China, Korea, Japan, Switzerland, Finland, Canada, Germany and Poland to name just a few.  Critics of American education blame poorly prepared teachers, content-incompetent teachers and poor classroom instruction.  Teachers on the other hand say American students are performing poorly on international assessments due to inadequate resources; lack of family, public, and political commitment to education in America; and teacher salaries that are too low to entice and keep quality teachers in the classroom.  In truth, both the critics and teachers are making legitimate points, but the biggest truth is that American students are more likely to be short changed instructionally than their counterparts in higher performing countries where education is a government and public priority.  The biggest issue confronting American education is not quality teachers or funding, but rather the biggest issue in American education is compromised instruction.  There are many good teachers in America who do an excellent job teaching, but there are often so many distractions in the school day or school year that even the good teachers often find focusing themselves and their students on learning to be an almost impossible task.  These distractions are sometimes teacher generated, sometimes administrator generated, sometimes parent generated, and sometimes even society or community generated. I am talking about distractions that take away from the most important part of the school day – INSTRUCTION.  If educators, parents, the public and politicians truly want to see American students start closing the achievement gap that currently exists between America and high achieving nations, they must make protecting classroom instruction a priority, and start looking for reasons to teach rather than looking, accepting, or being complacent about reasons not to teach.

Why send children to school if they do not receive the instruction they need in the classroom?  I understand and agree that there are other important aspects of school such as celebrations, assemblies, pep rallies, etc., but those activities should be byproducts of instruction and not replacements for instruction.  It is absurd to assign students 180 days of instruction if they receive as little as a third of that number.  I mean absurd not in the sense that children do not need 180 days of instruction, but that it is ludicrous to believe with all the distractions in an American school day that students actually receive anywhere near 180 days of instruction.  In American schools, instruction often takes a back seat to student and teacher absenteeism, daily classroom interruptions, celebrations, reward days, classroom movie time and fund raising. Teachers may cry foul, but anyone who has been in education knows this is true.  Over the years, in the name of permissiveness, celebrations, special programs, fund raising, state testing and sensitivity, we have short changed the very reason we have school – daily instruction that leads to children learning.  If the number of interruptions to classroom instruction were documented over any given school year, it is likely that in many classes children are getting as little as 12% of the instructional time they should be receiving.  How can America realistically expect to compete globally when its children are deprived of as much as 88% of their education?  Most people will find this hard to believe, especially teachers, but look at the chart below and judge for yourself.

180 Instructional Days of Instruction or is There?

(1) There may be some variations between an elementary school and a high school. However, the number of days of lost instruction time tends to be relatively the same across schools.

(2) Non-instructional day = no focused instruction or a substitute teacher is in the classroom.

180 Days for Instruction Reason for Lost Days of Instruction Days for Instruction Remaining
– 45 days Days used for state test review and testing as estimated by Mississippi Association of State Superintendents That leaves . . . .135 days for instruction
–   1 day Last day of school is pure waste of time That leaves . . . .134 days for instruction
– 16 days Unit Tests (average 1 every 2 weeks) – Few teachers begin new instruction on Unit Test days even after the test. That leaves . . . .118 days for instruction
– 16 days Review days before unit tests. That leaves . . . .102 days for instruction
–   8 days Final exams – Schools often set aside two days each nine weeks for final exams, so students do not have to take all their exams on the same day. This results in no instruction during either of these days. That leaves . . . . 94 days for instruction
– 16 days Reviewing for final nine weeks exams. [Some schools have eliminated 9 weeks exams, which makes not only to protect instructional time, but because the vast majority of 9 weeks exams have never been comprehensive, the test is little more than a unit test and it serves little if any overall comprehension purpose. Basically it is a means of inflating 9 weeks grades.] That leaves . . . . 78 days for instruction
–   2 days Movie days for relaxing and winding down after state test days. That leaves . . . . 76 days for instruction
–   1 day After all state tests are completed, there is a school wide celebration with movies, games on the playground or football field, and absolutely no instruction. [Not a particularly bad idea if not for all the other missed instructional time.] That leaves . . . .   75 days for instruction
–   1 day Monday after homecoming – Time used to share homecoming memories and relax from the hectic weekend. That leaves . . . . 74 days for instruction
–   1 day Monday after prom – Time used to share prom memories and relax from the hectic weekend. That leaves . . . . 73 days for instruction
–   1 day Day before Thanksgiving break – Students are too excited to test and there is little reason to start something new, so they relax and get mentally ready for the first big holiday of the school year. That leaves . . . . 72 days for instruction
–   1 day 1st day back after Thanksgiving break – Time used to share Thanksgiving memories and relax from the hectic week. That leaves . . . . 71 days for instruction
–   1 day Day before Christmas Holidays – Maybe some short exams (most students are exempt if exemptions are allowed), class parties (sanctioned or not), students are so excited there is little reason to start something new, so relax and get mentally ready for the best holiday of the year. Besides many parents will allow their child to stay home and begin the holidays early.  Also, day before Christmas break is a half day, which makes instructional difficult at best. That leaves . . . . 70 days for instruction
–   1 day 1st day back after Christmas holidays – Time used to share Christmas holiday memories and what Santa left under the tree. That leaves . . . . 69 days for instruction
–   1 day 1st day back after Spring break – Time used to share Spring break memories and relax from a week of laying out in the sun by the lake or on the beach. That leaves . . . . 68 days for instruction
–   1 day Day before Easter break – Students are too excited to work.  Many students will be absent since families start the holiday early. That leaves . . . . 67 days for instruction
–   1 day 1st day back after Easter break – Time used to share Easter memories and to mentally get ready for the long haul to Summer break. That leaves  . . . . 66 days for instruction
–   1 day Yearbooks are IN! Students spend day signing yearbooks.   One of those non-instructional days that would not be so bad if not for all the other instructional time missed. That leaves . . . . 65 days for instruction
–   4 days Teacher stress days – teachers are human and sometimes, they are just not mentally prepared to teach, so busy work is assigned. That leaves . . . . 61 days for instruction
–  3 days Teacher professional development days – A substitute teacher is in the classroom. That leaves . . . . 58 days for instruction
–   4 days Teacher absent for personal business – A substitute teacher is in the classroom. That leaves . . . . 54 days for instruction
–   2 days Teacher absent due to family illness – A substitute teacher is in the classroom. That leaves . . . . 52 days for instruction
–   4 days Teacher absent due to personal illness – A substitute teacher is in the classroom. That leaves . . . . 48 days for instruction
–   1 day Teacher absent for jury duty, military etc. – A substitute teacher is in the classroom. That leaves . . . . 47 days for instruction
–   2 days Field trips – Field trips are great for the class conducting the field trip, but the fact remains students are missing instruction in other classes. This would not be so bad if not for all the instructional time missed. That leaves . . . . 45 days for instruction
–   3 days Cumulative instructional time missed for pep rallies, special programs, etc. Again, this would not be so bad if not for all the other instructional time missed. That leaves . . . . 42 days for instruction
–   7 days Student absenteeism/checkouts/check-ins That leaves . . . . 35 days for instruction
–   2 days Showing a full movie in classroom takes at least two days – Instructionally this is not a sound practice – showing a few clips from a movie to support instruction makes much more sense. That leaves . . . . 33 days for instruction
–   4 days Regardless of the reason, pulling students from class for counseling, tutoring, drug testing, inclusion services, parent conferences, etc. results in lost instructional time in the classroom.   Once again, this would not be so bad if not for all the other instructional time missed. That leaves . . . . 29 days for instruction
–   1 day End of Year parties/celebrations That leaves . . . . 28 days for instruction
–   2 days Cumulative time wasted for daily roll call each day– That leaves . . . . 26 days for instruction
–   4 days Cumulative time wasted allowing students to stand at door, sit quietly, or talk quietly the last ten minutes of class. That leaves . . . . 22 days for instruction
–   1 day Cumulative time wasted due to office inter-com interruptions. That leaves . . . . 21 days for instruction

21 FULL DAYS OF INSTRUCTION!  That is absolutely insane!  Of course, there are teachers who are masters at keeping their students focused even through all the distractions, but even in those classes there is often a lot of missed instructional time that the teacher has no control over such as student absenteeism, student check outs, late student check ins, inter com interruptions, students pulled out in the middle of class, students missing class due to field trips in other classes, students leaving early for extra-curricular activities, teacher illness, etc.  There are too many days when an off the street substitute teacher is in the classroom, and too many days when a substitute teacher could easily replace a higher paid teacher who is wasting instructional time by taking two or more days to show a movie, allowing unengaged down time in the classroom, or assigning busy work or any of the other instructional time wasters listed in the chart above.  Of course, principals and assistant principals are just as guilty of interrupting instructional time by over use of the inter-com and pulling students out of academic classes in the middle of class (Administrators should not pull students from class unless it is a discipline issue that must be handled immediately).

The biggest problem in education is not poor teachers, but rather, missed or wasted instructional opportunities in the classroom!  Teachers and school administrators must accept their share of the blame, but parents (student absenteeism, late check-ins, early checkouts) and American society (attitude that the main purpose for school is to have a good time and build fun memories) must wake up and realize they are just as much a part of the problem.  Over the past thirty years, feeling good about school has become more important than what is learned in school.

The amount of missed/wasted instructional time that has been allowed to infiltrate American classrooms is troubling.  The chart above may be a bit of a stretch (hopefully), but even if our students are receiving 90 days of instruction each year they are still being short changed.  Ninety days of instruction per year for thirteen years (K – 12) is instructionally equivalent to a 6th grade education.  What are American graduates supposed to do for the seven years of knowledge they have been denied – pick it up through osmosis?  Protecting instructional time is everybody’s responsibility including teachers, administrators, parents, and American society as a whole.  Until classroom instruction is once again a priority  in American schools, American students will continue to trail the rest of the world academically.

There is nothing wrong with celebrating the accomplishments of students, providing special programs to expand student learning opportunities, conducting field trips to help students relate classroom learning to the real world, or even taking time to let students share with their classmates what is happening in their world outside school.  As long as these activities are byproducts of learning supported by relevant instruction, they are important, but when they become a means to circumvent or take a break from instruction and learning, their educational purpose ceases.  Educators have 180 days each year to make an academic difference in the lives of their students, and they cannot afford to lose any of those days.

JL

©Jack Linton, March 29, 2015

Funding Mississippi Education and Seceding from the Union

I see where Governor Phil Bryant will sign the state Senate’s education funding bill although it short changes K-12 education by another $211 million dollars. I could rant and rave about how little the Governor and the state legislators value education, but these men and women have children and grandchildren of their own, so it’s hard to believe they do not value education to some extent. More likely the truth is that Mississippi is a poor state that truly cannot financially afford to do what is right educationally for its children. However, the problem with that truth is that it makes the Governor’s and legislators’ aversion to the Federal dollars that have financially propped up Mississippi for years, and their support for doing away with state income taxes that account for 31% of the state’s total revenues even more bewildering. This is a troubling paradox which stands to be corrected only through the ballot box, but Mississippi has long been enamored with its paradoxes, so sanity is not likely to occur through the vote.

If we accept the truth that Mississippi is a poor state that truly cannot afford to fully fund education, then we must also accept the truth that cutting a third of the state’s revenues is not a practical solution to providing for our children’s education or any of the other countless services needed in the state. Anyone who does not accept that truth either has a private bankroll capable of providing for all their children’s needs, including education, or they know of some secret stash the state has hidden away in a Richton salt dome. But, this is not just an education issue; it is an issue that permeates all agencies and divisions of the state. It is an issue that cannot be resolved by throwing away your wallet and praying for heavenly intervention although when it comes to funding education in Mississippi, educators have been praying for heavenly intervention for years.

Many state legislators call for improvement in education before they “hand out” more money. I agree there are improvements that can be made in education, but withholding funding to make that point is grossly negligent on the part of our legislators. Withholding funds until improvement is realized as so many legislators advocate does not resolve the problem, but rather exacerbates the problem.   Also, although it is highly laughable, too many of our leaders in Jackson believe Mississippi teachers are getting rich off the state. As a result, our children are growing educationally poorer due to distrust and declining legislative financial support. However, the biggest problem with our leadership in Jackson is they fail to understand the education funding issue in Mississippi is not about teachers; it is about children.

When it comes to making a living for their families, teachers in Mississippi are in the same boat as the majority of the people in the state; they struggle. Most families in Mississippi, including teacher families, do not have a bankroll capable of providing private education for their children, nor do they have a key to the mystical stash in Richton; they depend on a free public education for their children’s future. Therefore, instead of conjuring up ways to throw away a third of the state’s revenue, we need legislators who think outside the proverbial box to find ways to better address state funding not only for education but for all areas that depend on state funding. To do that, our leadership needs to look for ways to consolidate spending as well as avenues for creating new revenue dollars rather than proposing schemes that will further cripple the state. Therefore, in line with the current trend of enigmatic thinking engulfing our state and country, I want to share some practical funding suggestions and benefits of thinking creatively and not foolishly.

Practical Suggestions for Funding Mississippi Education

Practical Suggestion #1: Consolidate elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools at the county level.

Benefit: Under this plan, the state would save money by having only one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school in each county. By slashing the number of schools in the state by 75%, the savings in administrative and instructional personnel as well as support staff alone would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. So what if it means mega schools of three to four thousand kids, the savings to the state would make it more than worthwhile.

Practical Suggestion #2: Consolidate or reduce the number of state senators and state representatives to Jackson.

Benefit: Under this plan, the state could have one senator from each county, which would increase the Mississippi Senate from 52 members to 82 members. Second, three representatives to the state house would be elected from each of five state congressional districts such as the Coastal District, Central District, Capital District, Delta District, and Hills District. In each district, one Republican, one Democrat, and one at large representative to the State House of Representatives would be elected. This would reduce the number of state representatives from 122 to 15. This plan would reduce the overall number of state legislators from 174 to 97, which would save the taxpayers around $2,000,000 annually if not more.

Practical Suggestion #3: Conduct a study to look for redundancy in the 138 state agencies and departments. Reduce the number of state agencies and departments as indicated by the study through consolidation.

Benefit: Considerable savings could be made by consolidating some of the 138 state agencies. Savings would come by eliminating redundant directorships, support staff and clerical staff.

Practical Suggestion #4: Direct MDOT to be more conservative and repair state roads and highways with pea gravel instead of expensive paving. Also, to save money on bridge repairs, MDOT should think outside the box, and build ramps on both sides of deteriorating bridges.

Benefit: Money saved by MDOT to repair roads and bridges would actually be redirected back to the working sector. For example, mechanics would benefit greatly from automobiles constantly in contact with pea gravel potholes and ramping over creeks, rivers and overpasses where bridges once stood. I can also see a sudden spike in business for body shops as people across the state opt to have their cars painted orange like Bo and Luke’s car on the Dukes of Hazard! In addition, gas stations would benefit from the need for higher priced high octane fuel, car dealers would benefit from selling more souped up automobiles, insurance companies would benefit by charging higher rates, and the demand for emergency response and medical personnel would skyrocket.

Practical Suggestion #5: Require all adults in the state to exercise their second amendment rights and carry a firearm. This would effectively reduce the number of sheriffs, deputies, highway patrol officers, police officers and other law enforcement personnel needed in the state.

Benefit: Money would be saved by moving to a vigilante style of citizen law enforcement. What law enforcement personnel left could spend their time helping coroners identify bodies.

Practical Suggestion #6: Completely restructure K-12 education by placing one certified teacher in each school as the lead teacher, and since anybody can teach, hire substitute teachers off the street to teach classes. For administrative positions such as principals and assistant principals, conduct a monthly community lottery to draw names for a lucky citizen to serve in those positions for a month, or better yet, draw the lottery names from a hat containing the names of state legislators. For clerical positions, it would be the civic duty of all citizens to sign up to serve in their local school for one week each year.

Benefit:   This plan would allow the state to funnel the majority of public school dollars to private schools and charters and populate those schools with elite upper class, white middle class, and minorities with unique athletic skills while reserving public schools for poor whites and non-athletic minorities. This would save the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

Practical Suggestion #7: Charge parents for any absentees their child accrues beyond 10 days unless the child is hospitalized or is bedridden for more than three days under a doctor’s care.

Benefit: Charging parents for excessive absenteeism makes sense. The money paid by parents would go to help offset the expense of providing tutoring services, loss of state funding to schools and summer schools.

Just think how much money Mississippi would save if such a plan was adopted! This plan would allow the state to save so much money that Mississippi could afford to secede once again from the distrustful United States of America. By doing so, Mississippi would no longer be enticed to accept those evil nasty Federal dollars the government keeps trying to shove down our poor throats to offset the expenses of such things as education and health care. With this plan there would be so much extra revenue pouring into the state coffers, Mississippi could afford to entice companies to build in Mississippi with one-hundred year state tax exemptions; the state would even have enough money to pay the cost of moving the companies’ management and workers to Mississippi. Finally, we could elect our own president, Bubba, field boss, or master or whatever the state legislature decides is best for us. There would be no state taxes! The only requirement would be to raise cotton in your backyard, and happily sing, “We Have Overcome” in tribute to the personal and political agendas and opinions of those who know best in Jackson.

JL

©Jack Linton, March 24, 2015

What Makes a Good Teacher?

By the number and content of the education bills that have been flying back and forth in the 2015 Mississippi Legislative session, it is easy to see that many of our legislators have little respect for teachers in the state. Much of their lack of respect for educators can be attributed to political agendas and a superhero complex. Politically they tend to ride on the coattails of whatever wind happens to be blowing at the time, and lately the fashionable political gale is education bashing. The other fashionable political trend is the superhero complex that so many of our elected officials have adopted. Too many of them think they have a super-sized “S” stamped on their chest, and all they need do to right any perceived problems is to huff and puff and legislate the problems away, especially in education. They believe that they alone are the saviors who can save the state from ill prepared, incompetent, diabolical teachers. However, when it comes to education, the vast majority of legislators likely do not have a clue about education other than what they hear in Walmart or in their church parking lot. Their negative perceptions of education are generally fueled more by personal experiences, experiences of family members, and public opinion than test scores or poor rankings. Unfortunately, sometimes these experiences and opinions are not the hogwash educators would like to attribute to them; sometimes they do have merit no matter how isolated the experience might be. It is unfortunate, but there are some weak teachers out there who give teachers including the good ones a bad name. Fortunately, there are many more good teachers than the handful of bad apples who get all the press and attention.

Like any other profession, education has people who need to be weeded out; they do not have the aptitude to teach, they do not have the knowledge to teach, they do not have commitment to teach, nor do they have the work ethic to teach. It is easy to be a teacher, but it is not easy to be a GOOD teacher. To be a good teacher, it takes a lot of hard time consuming work! For whatever reason, there is a mindset in our society today that teaching is an easy job anyone can do. It is unbelievable, but so many people think of teaching as little more than standing in front of a bunch of kids and talking or watching them color? If that was all there was to it, anyone could do it, but it takes more – a lot more. To be a good teacher a person must be motivated, committed, and driven to do what is best for children. To be a good teacher, an individual must also have the courage to stand alone against a society that seemingly takes pleasure in branding them as incompetent and self-serving. So, what could possibly motivate an individual with an advanced degree or degrees to subject himself/herself on a daily basis to such ridicule and disrespect? Why do smart people continue to work in a profession where they are not appreciated? The answer is they are professionals, they love children, they are working for the kids not the adults, and they are GOOD at what they do!

Until someone proves me wrong, I believe good teachers are the norm in education rather than the exception. Of course, there are some teachers who are better than others, but that is true in any profession. But, what makes one teacher better than another teacher? Maybe, it is that some teachers are not satisfied with just being good; they want to be the best. Maybe, the teachers who really set the standard for the profession are not satisfied that their students pass; they expect them to excel! Whatever the reason, the common denominator for all GOOD teachers is they CARE for their students, their colleagues, and their profession. They have high expectations of their students, of their colleagues, of their profession, and most of all they have high expectations of themselves. They refuse to settle for anything less. If every teacher had these traits, education naysayers would have little fuel to feed their negativism against teachers and the profession. Regrettably, that is not the case, so good teachers continue to be pulled down by a handful of misfits. That is a shame since Mississippi has so many good teachers trying to do what is right for kids.

What does a good teacher look like? Without fail I always found GOOD teachers have common characteristics that make them special – that make them not just teachers but good even great teachers. I have observed that good teachers are personally motivated to be the best teacher they can possibly be. They understand that it is their responsibility to teach and ensure children learn in their classrooms; they are driven personally and professionally by the success of their students.

What Makes a Good Teacher?

  1. Good teachers have high expectations for their students;
  2. Good teachers rarely miss a day from school;
  3. Good teachers understand education is all about LEARNING; teaching is simply a means to kick start the process;
  4. Good teachers truly believe all children can learn; they are committed to making learning happen in their classrooms;
  5. Good teachers do not teach sitting behind their desk. They understand that learning is an ACTIVE activity not a passive activity. Good teachers are up moving around and working with kids; they are engaged in learning with the kids;
  6. Good teachers never give up on their students;
  7. Good teachers are committed to being learners themselves. Good teachers are READERS – both professionally and personally;
  8. Good teachers understand that all children do not learn in the same way or in the same time;
  9. Good teachers do not work in isolation. Professional collaboration is essential to the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom;
  10. Good teachers understand that instruction is not “gut” driven, but rather “data” and “research” driven;
  11. Good teachers don’t check or send email or grade papers on student time. Student time is anytime there are students in the classroom;
  12. Good teachers respect children for who they are – not for who they want them to be;
  13. Good teachers understand that misbehavior in the classroom is a behavior/choice issue and not a personal issue directed at them;
  14. Good teachers do not waste students’ time with busy work;
  15. Good teachers provide feedback on student work including classwork, homework, and tests;
  16. Good teachers always come to class prepared;
  17. Good teachers make lessons relevant to their students;
  18. Good teachers do not argue with students in their classroom;
  19. Good teachers are not afraid to try new teaching methods or to take risks;
  20. Good teachers teach day to day routines beginning day one;
  21. Good teachers understand the culture behind the status quo, but they are never satisfied with it;
  22. Good teachers do not expend energy on the negative; good teachers spend very little time with negative people;
  23. Good teachers understand when they sign their contracts . . .
    1. they are signing on for inadequate pay for the job they are expected to do;
    2. they are signing on for overcrowded classrooms;
    3. they are signing on for hours of thankless time away from their families;
    4. they are signing on to be evaluated by an evaluation process with little relevance to what actually happens in the classroom;
    5. they are signing on to be evaluated by principals and/or assistant principals who often do not have a clue as to what they should be looking for in the classroom and who look at evaluations as something to be checked off their “to do” list rather than a tool to actually help the teacher;
    6. they are signing on to be led by a superintendent whose politics and political competency are often more important than what he/she knows about instruction and learning;
    7. they are signing on to ensure children learn to the best of their ability, and to that end “1 – 6” above do not really matter.

Good teachers believe the journey as a teacher is worth taking. They believe their journey can make a difference in the lives of the children they teach, and they pray it makes a difference in them as well. Good teachers understand that for learning to take place in the classroom, the teacher must be mentally and physically involved. Finally, good teachers understand the way to shut the naysayers up is to prove them wrong daily.   To do that, they understand they must be good teachers everyday not just some days. They understand . . .

  • You can’t be a good teacher if you don’t love kids;
  • You cant be a good teacher sitting on your butt;
  • You can’t be a good teacher worrying about your paycheck;
  • You can’t be a good teacher if you don’t love your profession;
  • You can’t be a good teacher if you aren’t prepared;
  • You can’t be a good teacher if you are not willing to do whatever it takes to ensure your students learn; and
  • You can’t be a good teacher if you think teaching is about you.

To be a good teacher, teachers must believe in their kids and themselves. After all, that is all that really matters in the classroom.

JL

©Jack Linton, March 17, 2015

How School Makes You a Better Lover

There are many things true about school, but the most common truism is that school prepares you for life. Not only do academics prepare you for career choices, but what you learn about getting along with others can put you on the right track to building lifelong relationships. Beginning with the first day of kindergarten, teachers teach relationship skills that are so crucial to a happy life. Both boys and girls are taught how to get along and respect one another, but the lessons taught may actually be more important for the boys. Through their grade school lessons, boys learn there is a direct connection to getting what they want, such as recess, and learning to get along with others, especially when dealing with girls. So, if they pay close attention, the lessons will serve them well later in life.

This is especially true as boys grow older and begin to take an interest in girls, which eventually leads to a young man and young woman making the ultimate relationship commitment – marriage. During the first few months of marriage life is complete bliss for the couple; they are inseparable, and they cannot get enough of each other. However, marriage like chocolate pie can grow a bit bland over time unless a little whip cream and strawberries are thrown in for good measure. Yet, even the best chocolate pudding, the flakiest crust, and the freshest strawberries are not always enough. Sometimes it takes refocusing on the relationship itself, which the young man may see as requiring a secret code decipherer to make sense of the relationship. But, it doesn’t have to be complicated. There are two secrets to getting a relationship back on track: focus the relationship on what is most important – HER, and revisit the lessons about working with others learned in grade school. That may sound a bit simplistic, but it’s no secret that what you learn in grade school can actually make you a better lover.

 Grade School Lessons that Make a Better Lover

  1. In school you learn to pay attention to the details: Wives often complain their husbands do not pay attention to the details that matter. Although guys can sometimes be pig-headed about it, deep down they know that the only details that really matter are the details embraced by the women in their lives. In school, guys learn that details such as recess and naps are not on the table until they take care of the details the teacher (female) believes to be important first. That priority is reinforced by mama at home, and by the time a guy is married he understands fully “the devil is in the details,” which simply means he can prolong his misery or he can take care of the details as his teacher, mama, or wife sees them and live a happy life. That is unless he likes things such as recess and naps and love making withheld indefinitely;
  2. In school you learn to communicate: The second lesson guys learn in school is to listen to the teacher if they expect to go outside for recess. Although many males struggle with this one throughout their lives, the same principle applies to quality and quantity in their love life. In school an expectation of recess meant listening to the teacher, so it should not be a surprise that in marriage an expectation of extracurricular favors is often preceded by listening to the wife. In fact, studies have shown that listening may be the number one cure for bedtime headaches in a marriage. For men, the best prescription for a happy love life is to take one “I listen and she talks” pill every evening when he gets home from work;
  3. In school you learn to share: One of the most important lessons guys learn in school is sharing. I hated sharing my colors in grade school, but I learned early that the only way I could get a bite of Betty Sue’s chocolate pudding her mother always packed with her lunch was to let Betty Sue use my favorite blue crayon. The problem was she never gave it back; she said it was only fair since I never gave her chocolate pudding back either. That was my first lesson in the universal law of sharing whether it be in grade school or marriage – what is hers is hers and what is mine is hers. When it comes to male/female relationships, this is the one universal law that trumps all other universal laws;
  4. In school you learn to keep moving/stay active; you learn to keep things exciting: This is a major survival skill for a man to learn in a marriage. Wives expect an active mate who takes out the garbage, feeds the cat, harvests the goldfish poo, paints the kitchen, mows the lawn, walks the dog, and doesn’t think about settling down with the newspaper until the “honey do” list is complete and he has asked at least three times if there is anything else she would like for him to do. Wives expect an exciting mate, which translates into someone who brings her flowers, buys her new furniture, surprises her with heirloom jewelry, a cruise, or a new car periodically – say like weekly or every other week at the least. This is the one item learned in school that goes the farthest in promoting a healthy love life – at least periodically;
  5. In school you learn to stay awake: This one goes hand in hand with communication. A guy should NEVER allow himself to drift off to sleep during communication time! Never mind that she may be on the third or fourth telling cycle, that you lost interest after the part where her girlfriend got a new boob job, that you could care less if her mother has an infected cold sore inside her upper lip, or that the price of sanitary napkins have gone up for the third time in a month. The best advice for men is to pretend it’s Mrs. Cosper’s freshmen botany class and to prop their eyelids open with a pencil eraser, scotch tape, or bubble gum. Remember, if you sleep during her fun time, she will sleep during yours;
  6. In school you learn to work together and even at times accept compromise: To help boost his love life, a man must learn to compromise, compromise again, and then compromise some more. This does not mean he should do all the compromising, but if he doesn’t, he shouldn’t be surprised when his love life suffers; and
  7. In school you learn to raise your hand and wait for permission to speak: There is not a lot that needs to be said about this one. Getting permission to speak is a no brainer that all husbands must learn.

That’s it – seven simple grade school lessons guaranteed to lead to a better love life. All it takes is a guy who doesn’t mind taking the most important thing in his life – his pride – and swallowing it for forty, fifty, or if he’s really lucky sixty or more years. So, guys, the next time your love life is not going exactly like you want it to go, remember the seven relationship lessons taught in grade school, and along with that, remember regardless of the place, time, or situation, she always comes first in everything.

JL

©Jack Linton, March 10, 2015

R & B on the Come Back?

R & B has been all over the news lately in Mississippi, but sadly, I am not talking about rhythm and blues but racism and bigotry. Although Mississippi has gone to great lengths to cast aside its image of intolerance and build an image of tolerance and enlightenment, there are still some people, as we have seen lately, who refuse to learn from the mistakes of the past. Call it ignorance, hatred, or a combination of the two, they insist on judging their fellow man rather than trying to understand him, and that is unfortunate for all Mississippi. As long as there are people who embrace intolerance, Mississippi’s sordid past will never go away completely.

Like the measles, racism and bigotry are diseases we had hoped with heightened awareness, an enlightened spirit and time we could eradicate. Yet, with the recent racist remarks of Mississippi State Representative Gene Alday and the despicable racially motivated beating death of Gary Anderson in Jackson, the disease has shown itself to be just as ugly and present in our state today as it was fifty years ago. Hopefully, the hurtful ignorance of Mr. Alday’s words is not an indication that such feelings exist throughout the state legislature, but when an elected official speaks so irresponsibly, his words can’t help but reflect negatively on peers and colleagues as well.   Likewise, the horrific action of the young people who beat Mr. Anderson and then ran over him with a pickup truck not only brings back memories of the racial injustice and horror of Mississippi’s past, but sheds serious doubt on the state’s progress toward racial tolerance. We can only pray this was an isolated incident, but even an isolated murder of a man due to the color of his skin should not happen in the 21st century. So, why did it happen? Where did these young people learn to hate and have such intolerance for a fellow human being? Mr. Alday is of an age where his words might be weakly excused as ignorance from a past era, but what is behind the hatred that led to Mr. Anderson’s death?  Where was the tolerance that these young people should have been taught at home, in church and in school?

Unfortunately, tolerance seems to be in short supply these days, especially if what people are asked to tolerate does not fit neatly into what they consider the norms. Social media are prime examples.  Often through social media, people express their biases with little regard that there are most likely impressionable kids in their audience.  For example, there are people on social media who advocate an America made up solely of English speaking Christian non-immigrates. That is all well and good, but does that mean if a person speaks English but worships in a Jewish synagogue, he does not belong in America?  I think not, but a child who does not understand that religious expression is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, may think otherwise, especially if he/she is subject to the same biases at home.  Also, the proliferation of the non-immigrant myth is as ludicrous as it sounds, but this is not an argument for or against immigration, but rather an argument against the bigotry of standing behind America as a one language, one religion nation.  It is bigotry since such views show a distinct intolerance of the language and religious beliefs of other citizens of the United States.   If adults choose to be narrow minded, that is one thing, but what happens to children who are exposed to such narrow minded thinking day after day?  What happens when they do not have proper guidance in dealing with such ideas of intolerance?  Do non-English speaking people who do not practice Christianity become less human to them?  What if the color of their skin is black, brown, or yellow – does that make them less human? The scariest part is that social media is only a small part of the problem; it is just one example of how children can be exposed intentionally or unintentionally to bigotry.

Racism and bigotry go a lot deeper than social media, the color of a person’s skin, lifestyle, or beliefs. There are those who make a living on racism and bigotry – some in the name of money, some in the name of God, some in the name of civil rights, and some in the name of hatred and ignorance. And, then there are those who truly strive to rid the world of racism and bigotry. They understand the two come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They understand that both are an adult problem. Racism and bigotry are an adult disease without regard for race or class that are forced on children who in turn become adults forcing it on their children. This perpetual cycle of collective cultural ignorance exists in our communities, our schools, our churches, and our government, but although it grows and is often allowed to fester in these places, none of these is the root of its ugly beginnings.

Racism and bigotry begin at home with the mamas, daddies, grandparents, aunts, and uncles who intentionally, unintentionally, or out of ignorance feed it to children.   Children are not born into this world hating! Children are not born into this world caring if another person’s skin is white or black! Children are not born into this world concerned about another person’s lifestyle! Children are born into the world only with the imprint of God on their souls. It takes a nurturer to wipe that from them and replace it with hate and prejudice. The home is where racism and bigotry are cultivated, massaged, nurtured, and molded into the disease that unless we find a way to vanquish it forever will eventually destroy us. Racism and bigotry may begin in the home, but the road to victory over racism and bigotry begins in the home as well. Mother Teresa said it best, “Peace and war begin at home. If we truly want peace in the world, let us begin by loving one another in our own families.”  Likewise, peace from racism and bigotry comes with tolerance and tolerance begins in the home.

JL

©Jack Linton, March 1, 2015