Tag Archives: commentary

20 Life Tips all Graduates Should Remember

The end of another school year, and a new batch of graduates are ready to take on the world.  Ready or not, they are about to collide with reality.  The biggest collision for most graduates will occur in accepting responsibility.  For most graduates, during thirteen years of K-12 school, responsibility has primarily floated precariously on the backs of family, friends, and teachers, who enabled them to taste and play at responsibility, but never really commit to it.  That will change dramatically after graduation.  Graduates will learn quickly the world is big, robust, and wonderful, but contrary to high school lore, it does not revolve around them.  Unlike high school, they will learn they are not the center of the universe.  They will come to understand that responsibility is not optional, but a prerequisite for everything of worth in life.  Along with learning to love and respect one another, it is the center piece that provides balance to the world in which they live.

Keeping life in balance is a full time job; therefore, to all graduates, I have a few tips I would like to offer.  Tips from an old guy who has been there is about as fair as it gets in life, so listen up:

20 Life Tips all Graduates Should Remember. . . .

  1. Life isn’t always fair, but it is still good;
  2. Don’t take yourself so seriously; no one else does;
  3. Make peace with your past, or it will screw up your present;
  4. If a relationship must be secret, you shouldn’t be in it;
  5. You are either living, or you are dying; the choice is yours;
  6. If you want to be a writer, write! Don’t talk about it;
  7. Don’t save the good stuff for a special tomorrow; today is special;
  8. Responsibility for your happiness begins with you;
  9. What other people think of you is none of your business, so leave it alone;
  10. Believe in Santa Claus and miracles;
  11. All that really matters in the end is that you loved;
  12. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up;
  13. If you don’t ask, you don’t get; if you don’t play, you don’t win;
  14. Life is not tied with a bow, but it is still a gift;
  15. Try as hard as you like, but the past cannot be changed – move on;
  16. A good cry is okay if you move on after it is over;
  17. The opinions of others do not define your reality;
  18. You miss every shot you don’t take;
  19. Surround yourself with people smarter than you; and
  20. Your most valuable asset is you; invest in yourself.

Congratulations graduates!  Your greatest journey is just beginning.

JL

©Jack Linton, May 21, 2017

100 Days of Madness

Over the past eight years, many people blamed President Obama for the growing divide in the United States, and there is little doubt he was a party to the problem.  However, he has been gone for over 100 days, and we are more divided than ever.  In the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s madness, the nation has been besieged with riots in the streets, claims of fake news, outright lies and twists on the truth, growing threats of nuclear war, continuous Presidential tweets that reek of schoolboy bullying and narcissism, and White House jockeying that appears cloaked in scandal and coverup.  As a nation, we have watched as a once proud political party jerked the power of the Presidency from the hands of their political adversary only to become mired in madness and drown in its own vomit.

This past week, President Trump continued to pile coals on an already blazing fire when he fired FBI Director James Comey.  Whether the firing was justified or not is debatable, but the timing and how it was handled was amateurish.  In what seems to be the norm with this President, he makes decisions on the fly, loosely coordinates a cover story with his staff, and later kicks their feet out from under them when the story begins to unravel.  For example, in an interview after firing the FBI director, he acknowledged his people had not been one-hundred percent accurate in their initial portrayal of the events surrounding the dismissal.  He said he is such an active President that there is no way his people can keep one-hundred percent up to date on everything going on with his Presidency.  If that is true, he has serious communication and logistical problems with his staff; however, it is more likely his staff cannot keep up because the President’s stories keep changing.

Look at the the story behind James Comey’s firing as originally reported by the President’s spokespeople to the news media.  They initially reported the Russian investigation had no bearing on the firing whatsoever.  However, the President later contradicted them when he admitted Director Comey’s investigation into Russian interference in the Presidential election and possible White House collusion played a key role in his decision to fire the director.  We also learned the President took issue with Director Comey’s refusal to pledge his loyalty to him.  Bravo for Director Comey!  Such a request was not only unethical, but in direct conflict with the Constitution of the United States.  Like the President’s oath of office, the FBI Director takes an oath of loyalty to the Constitution of the United States and not to any individual, including the President of the United States.

The White House madness has now escalated from Russians to pledges to possible taped conversations with President Trump’s tweet to ex-Director Comey threatening the possible existence of secret tapes made of their conversations.  Maybe the President needs to study history!  In 1973, President Richard Nixon got into a hell of mess with secretly taped conversations, which led ultimately to his resignation in 1974.  Maybe the tweet was simply the President making up garbage once again – who knows!  Made up garbage certainly fits the bill for the madness surrounding a President who says whatever he feels his supporters what to hear regardless of authenticity, shrugs it off when called to task, and moves on without an ounce of accountability.  That is madness!

Some people say such madness would have never occurred under a Hillary Clinton Presidency, but I am not so sure.  If she had been elected President, I believe things in Washington would be much quieter, but I don’t believe she would have accomplished any more in her first 100 days than President Trump.  I am afraid, she would have consumed her first 100 days sitting in front of the mirror admiring the new President of the United States.  That would be madness of a different kind, but nevertheless madness.  Of course, everyone knew when Clinton and Trump became nominees for the Presidency we were in for a long maddening four years regardless of which one was elected.

JL

©Jack Linton, May 15, 2017

Jimmy Kimmel Stands Tall!

After David Letterman and Jay Leno retired from late night television, I thought the end had come for quality late night talk shows.  However, I have been pleasantly surprised by three of the four new late night hosts.  Jimmy Fallon with his boyish charm, sappy games, and decent interview skills emerged as my favorite, but to their credit Jimmy Kimmel and Steven Colbert are close on his heels.   The only miscast has been Seth Myers.  Poor Seth can’t seem to shake himself free of his old Saturday Night Live routines.  His show comes across as a SNL rerun, especially the first half of the show when his skits are often little more than SNL rip-offs down to the writing style and intonation of the delivery.

Up until a week ago, my order of preference for watching late night television was . . . .

  1. Jimmy Fallon: Fallon is a multi-talented host who comes across as extremely likeable.  He is the best interviewer of the four.  His biggest flaw is he plays it too safe, and has hit on a formula that with time is likely to grow old.  His house band, The Roots, is by far the best late night band on television;
  2. Jimmy Kimmel: Like Fallon, Kimmel comes across as approachable and likeable, which makes him a perfect late night host.  His video challenges are fast becoming legendary although at times controversial.  Unlike Fallon, he does not always play it safe.  He has been known to joust in murky waters with needle tongued jabs at politicians, but almost always with a mischievous little boy smirk on his face;
  3. Steven Colbert: Unlike Fallon and Kimmel, Colbert’s commentary can sometimes be down in the dirt mean.  He is not above outright attacks against those in the public he personally finds despicable and in need of having their faces rubbed in the mud.  Although I enjoy watching Colbert, he can sometimes go too far and pummel his audience with his personal politics.  However, there is no denying he is awfully good, especially when he is so often “point on” with his views; and
  4. Seth Myers: Seth Myers is by far the weakest of the four hosts.  His interviews are extremely thin, and as an added distraction every interview is saturated with his silly school girl giggles.  Myer’s biggest handicap is he can’t seem to shake Saturday Night Live from his system.  That is unfortunate since it is obvious the man has standalone talent.

However, that was my list several days ago.  Recently something happened that made me rethink my rank order.  No, Seth Myers was not fired.  Actually, Seth has shown some improvement, or maybe he is growing on me.  Lately, he seems to be wittier and more in tune to with his subject matter.  He is no longer simply reading jokes someone wrote for him, he is delivering his lines with authority and an underlying message that is not only funny but scary as hell.  He is still a little too much SNL, but he is growing.

However, Seth Meyer’s improvement did not cause me to rethink my list.  Jimmy Kimmel’s heart-felt message about the medical problems faced by his new born son was the catalyst behind rethinking the list.  Although critics, primarily Republicans, screamed he used his son to make a liberal political statement about Obamacare, nothing could be further from the truth.  It takes courage to put potential harm to your ratings aside and lay yourself open like Jimmy Kimmel did a few days ago on his show.  He spoke from his heart, and spoke a message that any father – any human being – can understand.  He was not speaking for The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and trying to sway political winds in favor of the embattled healthcare act!  He was not taking a political stand!  Jimmy Kimmel was speaking with the heart and voice of a father and with the passion of a human being pleading for all human beings to have compassion for those less fortunate.  He said no parent should have to watch their child die because the parent cannot afford to save their child’s life.  If that plea was political, in the name of God on High, we desperately need more such politics!

Jimmy Kimmel spoke from the heart.  Politics speaks from the pocketbook.  Jimmy Kimmel did not have to worry about paying for his son’s operation; his pockets are deep.  His plea was for those without deep pockets.  His tears were not only for his son, but for the realization that all children are not as privileged as his child.  His heart was breaking for the parents who without proper health care might have no choice but to watch their child die.  In the greatest most affluent nation on earth the health of a child – the life or death of a child – should not depend on the wealth or lack of wealth of the parents or guardians.  Thank you, Mr. Kimmel, for having the courage to publicly show your humanity.  You, Sir, are my new number one late night host!

JL

©Jack Linton, May 9, 2017

Teachers and Administrators don’t Enforce Rules:   A Case against School Dress Codes!

 

Teachers who do not consistently enforce school rules are not always bad teachers or irresponsible individuals; sometimes some of the best most dedicated teachers in a school do not follow the rules.  Some teachers, like some school administrators, hate confrontation, and enforcing rules means confrontation with the student, confrontation with parents, possible confrontation with the administration, and often negative vibes from students as well as other teachers.  For some, enforcing rules makes their lives messy, uncool, or even unpopular.  Others don’t enforce the rules because they feel they have more important things to do, and then there are those teachers who do not agree with the rule, so they simply ignore it.

So, why have rules in school?  If so many teachers look the other way rather than enforce the rules, why should schools bother with rules in the first place?  The textbook answer is that rules ensure a safe and orderly learning and teaching environment, but do they really?  It can be argued that rules provide a fighting chance to bring order to the chaos; however, is that what educators really want?  No!  What teachers really want is for kids, parents, and school administrators to leave them alone.  For many teachers, rules are tools of convenience frowned upon as an inconvenience and waste of time that creates negative confrontations.  They see teachers and administrators who dodge the rules as the smart ones.  Maybe, they are right, and if so, maybe, rules are not needed in schools!

However, regardless of what some may think, there must be rules!  Rules are necessary to enable teachers to teach and students to learn.  Unfortunately, like all things, there are good rules and rules that are questionable or make little or no sense.  For example, rules dealing with dress codes most definitely fall into the questionable category.  As a former teacher and school administrator, I believe dress codes are necessary, but it has been my experience few teachers agree with me.  Very few teachers really care what students wear to class.  I say this because very few teachers write up students for dress code violations, and the ones that do are often ridiculed by their colleagues.  So why have rules, especially a dress code?  Why hold a student accountable for a dress code that five out of six teachers in the school day ignore?  What is the school administrator to do when the sixth-period teacher turns a student into the office for coming to class naked when that student attended five previous classes in the buff and not a word was said by previous teachers about exposed wingydings in class?  The only option the administrator has at the end of the day is to give the kid a hat and send him home.  Now, I am slightly exaggerating, but when it comes to dress codes, it is truly almost that bad.  I realize correcting a student for a dress code violation shaves precious seconds off teaching the test, especially when there is not a single question on the state assessment that deals with student nudity, unless, maybe, someone slips in a liberal writing prompt.

Over the years, as a school administrator, I developed and enforced more than my fair share of school rules including rules governing dress codes.  To this day, I have forty year old former students walk by me in the mall and intentionally pull their tucked shirttail from their pants with a wink (tucking shirttails was probably the most despised rule I ever implemented as a principal).  I was a stickler for rules, and maybe too much so, but I believed then, and I believe now if you have a rule it should be enforced.  I also believe using a rule for any reason other than its original intent (i.e., allowing students to break the rule as a reward) is counter-productive and sends a mixed message to students, parents, and the community.

Therein lies my issue with current dress codes in schools.  Instead of teaching a lesson or addressing a safety issue, dress code rules in many schools today have become a part of the school reward system.  If students exhibit good behavior for the month, if there is a big district game, if a student collects the most Popsicle sticks, if a student brings a dollar to school, and the list goes on and on, they are allowed to break the dress code rule on a specified day such as Friday.  For example, they are allowed to wear clothing such as jeans or apparel outside of school colors.  That may sound innocent, but if the rule was important enough to be created, it should be important enough to be enforced consistently five days a week.  If it is okay to excuse students from the dress code on a game day, as a fund raiser reward, or for any other excuse, why have the rule?  It is counterproductive to the intent and purpose of a rule to permit students or adults to break a rule as a reward.  I am not against rewarding students, but don’t reward them by allowing them to break school rules!  Schools always talk about teaching kids to be good citizens; how can teaching them it is okay to break rules be good citizenship?  We have enough rule breakers in our society without training more.  If it is okay to reward students by letting them break a rule, maybe that rule is not relevant and should be done away with for every day of the week and not just on special occasions.   If eliminating the rule for one day is not a problem, the odds are good it would not be a problem if eliminated completely.

When it comes to school rules, it is fairly simple.  If a school is going to have a rule, it should be enforced consistently across the calendar.  If a teacher signs a contract to work for a school district, the teacher should be up to the task of enforcing the rules of the district or look elsewhere for employment, preferably in another profession.  Enforcing rules is not a fun job for administrators or teachers, but it is a necessary job made more difficult when a rule is used contrary to its intent.  If a school ever finds it okay to allow students to break a rule, it is time the school re-evaluated that rule.  If wearing jeans to school is okay on certain days as a reward, then it is ludicrous to ban them on all other days since it is obvious jeans do not pose a threat to a safe and orderly school environment.

If a school rule can be suspended as a whole or in part as a reward, then the rule has little if any bearing on the orderly function of the school and should be eliminated from the student handbook altogether.  The purpose of a school dress code is not to teach kids that rules are made to be broken or to provide a cash cow for local clothing vendors.  The purpose of the code is to enhance school safety and student learning five days a week.  Giving students permission to break a rule periodically sends the message to adults and students alike that the rule has little to do with safety and learning – at least not every day of the school year.  The bottom line is enforcement of rules must go beyond convenience; teachers and administrators should enforce the rules (dress code or any other rule) or dump the rules!

JL

©Jack Linton, February 12, 2017

Six Quick Questions for President Clinton or President Trump

The name calling, theatrics, and worrying are almost over.  After nearly two years of scandal, controversy, and boisterous policies that often beneath their rumbustious surfaces lacked sensitivity and understanding of the fears and vulnerability of the American people, the race for the Presidency of the United States is thankfully coming to an end.  Political campaigns traditionally offer little substance, but the 2016 campaign will most likely go down in history as the loudest campaign with the least substance of all.  Fortunately, come Tuesday, voters will decide which of the two most despised presidential candidates in history will lead the nation for the next four years.  Some will rejoice for the victor, but most will sigh in relief that it is over regardless who wins.

Wednesday morning, November 9, will definitely bring a sense of relief and hopefully peace.  In America’s most contentious and bombastic election, the American people have been played and manipulated to the fullest.  They have been baptized in ignorance, misinformation, and deception to the point they are disgusted with the whole ugly process.  The credibility of both political parties has been greatly compromised and both will most likely be stained for years to come.  Most people will agree, it would have taken a complete “do over” to lend any credibility to the campaign, but that was impossible once the political machine was rolling.

Politics have always been about sleeping in the bed you make, and unfortunately, during the 2016 presidential campaign, the people were forced to sleep in the lumpiest, most bizarre, uncomfortable political bed of all time.  Millions tuned into the news and social media each evening hoping to gain insight into a campaign that often resembled caricatures of the blind leading the blind.  During a campaign conducted more for the benefit of the two parties than the American people, few of the voters’ questions were answered in a sincerely honest way on either side of the fence.  Their questions and concerns were lost under the smoking cover of deleted emails, lies, misinformation, barroom antics, and locker room talk.   As a result, America is likely to remain doomed to crawl under this rhetorical fog for at least the next four years and possibly much longer.  Therefore, in one last attempt to get some clarity, there are six questions, as legitimate as the 2016 campaign itself, that the winner needs to address before he or she takes a two month hiatus from the public to begin the transition to the White House.  The questions may be uncomfortable, but no more so than the discomfort experienced by most Americans during the travesty of the election campaign.

Questions for Mr. or Mrs. President

  1. A question for the Democrats if they win the White House: President Clinton, how do you plan to convince America you know the difference between the truth and buggering the truth?
  2. A question for the Republicans if they win the White House:  President Trump, if you put a stop to immigration, what will become of IHOP?
  3. A question for the Democrats if they win the White House:  President Clinton, to qualify for the tax breaks you promised middle class families, how do I set myself up as a non-profit organization similar to the Clinton Foundation?”
  4. A question for the Republicans if they win the White House:  President Trump, how do I set myself up as business corporation to avoid your middle class tax increase and take advantage of your proposed corporate tax cuts?
  5. A question for the Democrats if they win the White House:  President Clinton, this presidential campaign has shaken America to its core, and exposed American insecurities.  How will you help Americans, especially those on Facebook, feel good about themselves again?  You know the ones who post such messages as – “If you are truly my friend and care about me and my dog and also my cat, you will like and paste this post to your timeline and my timeline, so I can leave you a comment;”  and
  6. A question for the Republicans if they win the White House:  President Trump, you have said climate change is not a real issue, so do you also see explorers who visit both the North Pole and South Pole as bi-polar?

To some, these questions may seem a bit shallow, but the odds of getting a legitimate deep response to any question after the election are even greater than the odds prior to the election.  Face it, the Democrat and the Republican Parties, have taken Americans for an old fashioned hayride soiled by bull poo.  Though it is highly unlikely the election process is rigged as claimed by some, it has been clear for quite some time the legitimacy of either candidate for the presidency is highly flawed at best.  The only consolation is that maybe when we tackle this process again in four years, we will pay closer attention and get it right the next time.  Until then, Americans will sleep in the bed they and their political parties, which lately only pay lip service to representing the people, have made for themselves.  The coming four years may be rocky, but we will make it through them.  How do I know?  It’s simple; there are too many deep rich pockets involved for the future of this country to go any other way.

JL

©Jack Linton, November 7, 2016

The One I Took for Granted

Yesterday, I watched a leaf dressed in orange, red, and yellow let go its hold of the mother tree and spin lazily to the ground.  A leaf,when green, I barely noticed.  Watching its descent, I marveled at the grace frozen in that simple moment.  No struggle, no effort to delay the journey, the leaf simply let go.  The green leaves whispered goodbyes as it danced downward pass them limb to limb before breaking free beneath the canopy.  It spun, dipped, and hovered over color clad siblings waiting in loose piles; piles until now I had barely noticed.  Settling, it lent its color to the harvest hues of others, and there it lay stirred only by the slowly dissipating murmurs of its brothers and sisters turned brown at the edges.  The leaf, when green, I barely noticed – the one I took for granted – closed its eyes and slept.

Today, I chose to stay glued to my cell phone while visiting with family.  There was nothing they were saying we wouldn’t talk about later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My family, I took for granted.  Today, I chose to go fishing with buddies and miss my daughter’s recital.  There would always be another I could go to later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My daughter, I took for granted.  Today, I failed to call my parents just to say I love you.  It was nothing I had not said a million times that I could not say later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My parents, I took for granted.  Today, I chose to be miserable and unthankful.  I felt like wallowing in self-pity; I could be thankful later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My life, I took for granted.  Unlike the leaf sleeping at journey’s end, I chose sleep as my journey.

Life is at its fullest when we live to make memories with those that matter.   When the leaf was green and full of life, I barely noticed it at all.  I missed it budding, the first time it celebrated the warmth of sunlight, its first taste of rain, and the spider that wove its web from its stem to the branch.  I took it for granted.  Not until, by chance, I caught the leaf’s last dance did I understand the finality of waiting for tomorrow – tomorrow can never replace the warmth and joy of the present.  The time to embrace family, friends, and even a leaf is before each becomes a memory.  As sad as it may be, candles often burn out before tomorrow.

JL

©Jack Linton, October 31, 2016

Riding Tall in the Saddle

As a young principal, I wish someone had sat me down, unscrewed the top of my hard head, and poured some common sense into my empty skull.  I would have been a much better leader if they had.  I learned about leading through trial and error with, unfortunately, more error than I would like to admit.  I now realize what many of my colleagues and staff could have told me years ago if I had been more inclined to listen – I blew it as often as I got it right.  Looking back at those early years, I thank the good Lord in heaven for having a sense of humor and allowing me to continue to learn and grow – heaven knows I didn’t always deserve it.   However, leadership is a journey, and learning from your mistakes is as much a part of the journey as getting it right – maybe even more so.

I learned the hard way that leading people is basically the same whether you are motivating a class full of middle school or high school students, coaching an athletic team, or involved in leading an organization with hundreds of employees.  Leadership is about being prepared to lead, establishing and building a foundation or platform from which to lead, and sustaining a clear focus on the cornerstones that lead to success.  Leadership is about knowing when to build fences and when to tear them down.  Leadership is about leading, not controlling, and most of all, it is about understanding THERE IS NOTHING SACRED ABOUT LEADERSHIP.  It is a people thing that will and should change to some degree as often as the people may change.  However, this takes time to learn, and although I wish I could say otherwise, I was a slow learner.

Being a leader is hard sometimes rewarding work, but more often frustrating and tedious work.  It is never ending, and it is all consuming.  It is unfortunate, but when you take a leadership role, such as principal, more often than not everything else takes a secondary role in your life.  That is why it is so important to have a spouse and family who understand the commitment and sacrifices leadership demands.  A supportive spouse and family are a must, especially if they understand the rank order of family and work are more often blurred than concise.  Family should always take precedence over work, but there are times when for a leader to function effectively, his job may briefly take priority.  The leader, on the other hand, must guard against such moments of necessity becoming the norm; he must always remember relationships are about balance, and he must do whatever it takes to maintain the balance between work and family.

Although I never did it well, I learned balancing relationships is crucial to successful leadership.  It is difficult to move an organization forward if relationships are rocky at work or at home.  Leadership is the art of moving people toward a common goal, and that cannot be accomplished effectively without strong relationships both at home and on the job.  Although there may be nothing sacred about leadership, relationships are the glue that holds everyone and everything together and enables the leader to focus on leading.  Relationships are critical and must be nurtured and cared for carefully as well as tenderly.

Relationships can be scary, especially for a first-time leader.  Relationships take trust, and at first, trusting anyone other than yourself is hard to do.  Therefore, the young inexperienced leader tends to read, research, and pray – pray a lot – for a secret formula or magical spell that makes his job easy.  In the beginning, I knew such formulas and magic had to exist.  Everywhere I turned, I saw people in leadership roles that carried themselves with such confidence that I knew there was something I was missing.  They possessed a confidence to ride tall in the saddle that was magical almost majestic.   I wanted what they had!  Fortunately, after years of trial and error, I finally discovered that great leadership is the result of an uncompromising work ethic, perseverance, getting up when you are knocked down, and luck as well as maintaining relationships that cushion the falls and brush you off when you climb back to your feet.  It wasn’t magical at all!

As my experiences grew, I learned through osmosis and hard-knocks when it was okay to bend and break the rules, when to stand alone, how to pick my battles, and when to challenge and cross over established boundaries.  It probably took too long, but I finally learned the secret to leadership lies in the ability of people in leadership roles to do whatever it takes to make positive things happen around them.  Leaders make things happen even when it is not popular, and they do not compromise success by taking a wait and see approach; they are proactive.  In other words, leaders learn to do two things: they learn to build relationships with others and they learn to build a relationship with themselves.  They do that by developing an inner confidence and trust as well as confidence and trust in others.  It is that trust that gives a leader the courage and confidence to ride tall in the saddle.

JL

©Jack Linton, October 23, 2016