Tag Archives: elementary school

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

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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

What are Reeves and His Buddies in Jackson Smoking?

This past week Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves once again expressed his objection to the amount of money school districts spend on central office administrators and school principals. Apparently, he believes if districts spent less money on administration the need for fully funding education would be far less urgent since money spent on administrators could be funneled into the classroom. That is all well and good if it was not just another political smokescreen designed to confuse and divide. Honestly with all the smoke coming out of Jackson lately, I am beginning to wonder what they are smoking up there. I am not saying that administrative costs do not need to be looked at, but if Reeves would spend some time in the shoes of school administrators or at least talk to them, he might at least change the filter on whatever it is he and his Republican buddies are puffing.

If there are school districts that are top heavy with administrators as Reeves claims, those districts are the exception to the rule. Most school districts in Mississippi operate with minimum administrative support. At the school level there are many schools that operate with one school principal and maybe one assistant principal, and if the school is an elementary school, the odds are there is only a principal and no assistant principal. Of course Mr. Reeves would argue that is the way it should be, but he has never tried to manage a school on his own or be an instructional leader, arbitrate faculty /staff disagreements, be a fair and consistent disciplinarian, offer counsel and guidance to kids, be a psychologist, function as a surrogate parent, act as school test coordinator, be the school technology guru, mediate faculty/parent conferences, direct after school programs, attend special school events/extra-curricular activities, and maintain some semblance of balance with his own family all in the space of one day. I am not saying he is not a busy man, but I am saying few people understand what busy means until they have spent time as a school principal.

Most principals arrive at school between 6:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. and put in 10 to 12 hour days before they can even think about going home to their families. If they are a high school principal or high school assistant principal, they usually do not get home until somewhere between 10:00 p.m. and midnight five nights out of every week due to supervising sports, concerts, academic events, and other after school activities. If Reeves has his way and the number of administrators is cut, who will work all those extra hours that are necessary to provide a quality educational experience for children? It is not humanly possible for one administrator to adequately fulfill all the expectations placed on a school administrator by the school, the district, the state, the teachers, the students, the parents, and the community! My guess is that Reeves and his buddies think any administrative responsibilities that one principal cannot get to during the school day can be dumped on teachers who are already maxed out to their limits? You can only pile so much on school administrators and teachers before they break and tell the state to take the job and stick it where the sun does not shine. I am not so sure Mr. Reeves understands that, but again, maybe he does.

Another thing Reeves and his buddies in Jackson fail to understand is that every time they pass a piece of education legislation adding a new program or policy because it sounds like a good idea to them or they are delivering on a favor, they are creating a need for additional administrators to monitor compliance. Monitoring compliance just about always falls directly on the shoulders of the busiest people in the school district – the school principal or the assistant principal if the school is lucky enough to have one. When additional duties are added to the table and nothing is taken off the table, it stands to reason there will be a greater need for additional administrators. The Lieutenant Governor can look at the bulging bureaucracy of state government and see that is true. So, if he wants fewer school administrators, he should do everything within his power to steer legislators away from legislation that will create a need for additional administrative help.

Also, if Mr. Reeves is truly concerned about overly excessive administrative costs in the state, maybe he and the Governor should take a long hard look at the excess in their own backyards. How many hundreds or thousands of state government administrators are currently sucking Mississippi dry? While pointing fingers at school districts as being administratively top heavy, Reeves has at least six administrative positions on his personal staff, and the Governor has at least thirty administrators and administrative assistants on his staff.  Attorney General, Jim Hood heads up 31 divisions all with directors and various other administrative positions. Secretary of State, Delbert Hosemann, has a staff of 110+; State Auditor, Stacey Pickering, has a staff of 125+; and State Treasurer, Lynn Fitch, has a staff of at least 40. These examples packaged with other state elected and appointed administrative positions and their administrative support staffs as well as affiliated local bureaus and commissions provide a clearer picture of where administrative excess actually lies in Mississippi. Not counting elected positions, there are 136 state government agencies in Jackson which are manned by directors, commissioners, assistant directors, deputy directors, assistant commissioners, deputy commissioners, administrative support staff, and clerical support staff. I believe I am safe when I say few if any of them are called on daily to be a mama or daddy to another person’s child, a mentor, an academic leader, a minister, a friend, a believer, a hall and restroom monitor, a janitor, a cheerleader, a bureaucratic paper pusher, a punching bag for political gain, a passive crap dump for abusive parents, a chauffeur when there is no one to take a child home after a game, as well as a mama, daddy, and husband/wife to their own family, and all of that in a twenty-four hour day.

The only thing that may be top heavy about school administrators are the hearts beating in their chests – hearts that like the hearts of teachers do not deserve to be stepped on and ground in the dirt by power hungry politicians who have shown little support or compassion for Mississippi public school educators during the 2015 Mississippi State Legislative session. Unfortunately, as long as smoke boils from the war pipes of state legislators, state educators will continue to suffer. Who knows what they are smoking in those pipes or why, but whatever it is it is not good for the future of Mississippi. I would say “shame on you” to state legislators for what they are doing to public education in Mississippi, but it seems shame is a badge too many of them are wearing with pride these days.

JL

©Jack Linton, February 8, 2015

Peace Offering to the Mississippi Legislature: Let’s Be as Happy as a Clam

PARCC is gone! As Gomer Pyle, the simple-minded auto mechanic from the Andy Griffith Show of the 1960’s, would say, “Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!” But, it’s not really a surprise. With the on-going struggles to deliver and receive the assessment electronically, inability to provide assessment results in a timely manner, failure to adequately address teacher fears and questions about the test, and growing parental concerns as well as mounting political pressure, it was only a matter of time before the PARCC assessment was dropped. If the Mississippi legislators have their way, the next task will be to bring to life the Commission on College and Career Readiness to oversee the development of not only a new assessment but new standards as well. The legislative promise of homegrown standards and assessments free of influence from Washington, standards and assessments more relevant to the children of Mississippi, and standards more satisfying to parents as well as the general public will be welcomed by many.  Although the legislators do not promise rigorous standards or assessments designed to improve Mississippi education, maybe they know best; maybe, they they do know what Mississippi needs after all.

My only hope is that the Governor and Lieutenant Governor will place people on the new commission with the expertise and experience to understand the magnitude and scope of creating/writing new standards and assessments. Of course, since this is a time sensitive project, I will be surprised if the Governor does not already have someone waiting in the wings with a set of user friendly standards ready to be rolled out and implemented across the state. Whatever the case may be, one thing is for sure – Mississippi needs a break from all the ill-will currently associated with education.  The best way to do that is for the new commission to develop assessments that are appealing to all stakeholders whether they create the standards from scratch or already have standards packaged and ready to be rolled out.

Therefore, I am extending the olive branch of peace, and to show my sincerity, I would like to offer a foolproof plan for selection of standards and creation of supporting state assessments. Hopefully, the powers in Jackson and their new commission will consider this plan or a similar plan for the peace of mind and good of all. It is time for the hostilities to end and get everyone on the same page, and I believe such a plan as the one I present below will do the job.

Plan to Development State Standards and Assessments:

  1. Step one: Develop or adopt new state standards. Legislators need to do whatever they think is best. The good teachers will continue to build rigor into their lessons regardless of the standards, the marginal teachers will be happy to follow whatever script they are presented, and the poor teachers will be thrilled that they can once again relax and enjoy the paycheck;
  2. Step two: Before final approval of the new standards, develop a battery of homework examples that support the new standards, and then administer the examples to the whole legislature including the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. If there are any homework problems the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or legislators do not fully understand or they cannot work, throw the associated standards out;
  3. Step three: Next, administer the remaining homework examples to parents across the state. The easiest way to do this is through Facebook. There are more parents and people in general who are education authorities assembled on Facebook at any given time than there are anywhere in the world. We need to start using their expertise to our children’s advantage. If there are any homework problems the parents do not understand or cannot work, throw the standards associated to the overly problematic and/or rigorous homework out;
  4. Step four: Finally, administer the remaining homework examples to students. If any of the examples cause students to think longer than ten seconds, write more than two consecutive coherent sentences, or are so involved that they infringe on after school baseball, gymnastics, dance, bolo, chess, tennis, swimming, TV time, or any other nonacademic activity, throw out the standards associated to those homework examples;
  5. Step five: What is left will be the final draft of the state’s new standards. At this point, go ahead and print the standards. Step six is just a formality;
  6. Step six: The new commission can now submit their recommendations for the new standards to the State Superintendent of Education and the State Board of Education for their approval. Of course, since the State Superintendent and the State Board will only have authority to approve what is recommended to them by the commission, they will be compelled to pass the recommendations, which is exactly what we want them to do – right?; and
  7. Step seven: CELEBRATE! The Governor should lead the state in a celebration of this monumental accomplishment. Mississippians will finally be able to stand proudly and thumb their noses at Washington. Once again we will be a state of hospitality where our children peacefully reside on the bottom of the achievement ladder. There is nothing more appealing than submissive peace of mind.

I sincerely hope my plan will at least be considered; it should appease everyone. The students will not have to worry about being challenged, parents will not have to worry about their babies being subjected to academic stress or heaven forbid not getting an “A”, and state legislators will not have to worry about losing control to Washington or not having cheap labor available for years to come for the tax-exempt businesses they recruit to the state.   It’s time we accept that our state legislators have the people’s best interests in mind, and that they are the MAN! Everyone knows if you stand against the MAN, as singer/songwriter, John Prine, says, “You’re never gonna be as happy as a clam.” So, I encourage everyone to stand by the MAN and be “as happy as a clam!” Stand behind the good intentions of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and legislators who know and always will know better than the people and especially educators what is best for Mississippi.

JL

©Jack Linton, February 1, 2015

From the Mouth of an Elementary School Child

“My mom is a stay at home mom. She can’t keep a job,” are the words of a second grader when asked about her mother’s career. Simple, innocent, and truthful, the words of elementary school students can sometimes be very enlightening. An elementary teacher once told me about a third grader who came to class without her homework. The teacher asked her why her mommy or daddy didn’t help her with her homework. The little girl shrugged and said they didn’t have time. Not one to accept excuses, the teacher pressed further and asked why they did not have time to help her. “They were playing in the bedroom,” the little girl said. Simple, innocent, truth comes straight from the mouths of little ones, and that is why a wise teacher once told me to always be careful what you say or do around children as well as how you phrase a question or assignment to them. If teachers are not careful, their words and actions can come back to haunt them, and even well intended questions and assignments can sometimes dig up more information than the teacher would like or need to know.

Children have unique perspectives of the world that can be comical, heartwarming, and even shocking. Their words can make you laugh, cry, or raise your eyebrows, and sometimes their words will lift you up as well as cause you to stop and count your blessings. The little ones, influenced only by their perceptions of truth and the world in which they live, speak their minds and heart. There is no agenda for their words, their words have few filters and their words reflect a simplicity and innocence that often leave adults shaking their heads in wonder. You never know what you may hear and learn from children.

As an educator, I have collected some of the unique things kids say in school, especially those that made me laugh. Of the treasures I have collected, I must admit I am a little partial to the gems that come from the mouths of elementary school kids although the words of middle school and high school students can sometimes be just as innocent and straight forward. However, unlike middle and high school students, the little people are rarely trying to be funny – they just are! Such is the case with the examples I share in this article. The student remarks are innocent reactions and bits of conversation between students as well as between students and teachers in grades kindergarten through sixth grade. Each statement is real and was spoken directly to me, overheard by me, or shared with me by a teacher. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

From the Mouths of Elementary School Children:

  1. Boogers taste pretty awesome: I overheard this one as two first grade boys waited in the cafeteria line. Apparently they had been picking their noses and comparing notes on what they found. I skipped lunch that day.
  2. My mom takes shots for her diarrhea: The little girl who shared this tidbit with her teacher apparently confused diabetes with diarrhea.
  3. My dog and little brother eat out of the litter box: I was in a first grade classroom observing a first year teacher. She read a story to the class about a little boy with a secret. When finished reading, she talked with the boys and girls about good and bad secrets. Before she could finish, a little boy raised his hand and said he had a secret. The teacher asked was it a good or bad secret? The little boy looked around the room and whispered it was really bad. The color left the teacher’s face as she feared the worse, but before she could take the child aside, he announced his secret to the whole class, “My dog and little brother eat out of the litter box.” As the class erupted in laughter, the young teacher laid a hand over her heart and sighed in deep relief.
  4. Cats are smarter than dogs; they don’t eat poop: A teacher shared this one with me from a class writing assignment about favorite pets.
  5. Mommy has a tattoo on her butt: I was visiting a kindergarten classroom where the teacher was reading Peter Pan to the class. When Captain Hook appeared in the story, she stopped to ask the children what they knew about pirates. One little boy said pirates had a patch over one eye, another boy said pirates had a hook for a hand, and a little girl offered that her daddy had told her pirates had tattoos. The teacher was about to continue the story when a little boy raised his hand and said, “My mommy has a tattoo on her butt.” The teacher’s jaw dropped, and she looked wide eyed at me. Trying to keep my composure, I waved goodbye and quickly left the room doing my best to not openly laugh in front of the kids.
  6. My teacher gets real still when she farts: Sometimes teachers have to be extra careful with student assignments. A fourth grade teacher gave her students an assignment asking them to write a paragraph about an adult they liked other than their parents. The paragraph not only had to tell why they liked the person, but it had to tell one “fun” fact about the person they chose. The teacher was flattered when one of her students chose her, but became concerned and embarrassed when the child wrote as his fun fact, “My teacher gets real still when she farts.” There are few things more fun for a nine year old boy than a fart.
  7. Did you see Mrs. ???’s titties when she bent over your desk?: On another visit to an elementary, I was walking down the hall when about twenty-five feet in front of me two second grade boys stepped out of the boys’ restroom on their way back to class. The boys did not see me as they continued laughing and talking. As they passed the open door of a classroom one of the boys said loudly, “I saw Mrs. _____’s titties when she bent over my desk!” You could hear an audible gasp from the classroom, and a wide eyed teacher stepped into the hall. I immediately called the boys to me and spoke to them about the inappropriateness of what I had heard, and then I escorted them back to class. That afternoon, I met with the superintendent about the need for a professional dress code.
  8. My teacher sleeps with her mouth open: This was another student quote overheard in the hallway, which caused me some real concern. However, the sleeping teacher turned out to be a substitute teacher who decided being a substitute was not a good fit for her.
  9. Nobody shoots snot rockets better than Billie: Two fifth grade boys from different classes met in the hallway, and decided to check out the unlocked and open janitor’s closet. They could have investigated the room without getting caught if they had not stopped to spit loogies and shoot snot rockets into a mop bucket in the corner of the closet. Their goose was cooked when a passing teacher heard one say, “That’s not bad, but nobody shoots snot rockets better than Billie.”
  10. You look like you need a hug; I’m a really good hugger: This is maybe my all-time favorite. On my first day as an education consultant, I was buzzed into an elementary school feeling a bit lost and wondering if I really wanted to be a consultant. As I approached the school office a tiny first grade girl, Amanda, was standing in the hall just outside the door. Amanda looked at me and smiled, “You look like you need a hug,” she said, “I’m a really good hugger.” That hug not only made my day, but made the whole job more worthwhile. She reminded me why I was there, and she turned a frightening day into a wonderful experience and a lifetime memory. Thank you Amanda.

One thing I have learned about elementary school children in my brief time with them as an educator is that they never fail to fascinate. Whether they are talking about their home life, their take on bodily functions, or winning hearts with a word, smile, or hug, they never cease to amaze. Their insight into their world and the world around them is priceless. They rarely miss anything, and when they decide to share, adults better hold on; there is no telling what they might say. Art Linkletter said it best, “Kids say the darndest things!”

JL

©Jack Linton, December 6, 2014

Hoodwinked: The Fight for MAEP Funding

Recently former governor Ronnie Musgrove filed a lawsuit on behalf of 21 Mississippi school districts demanding the state pay 230 million dollars that the school districts claim they have been denied through shortfalls in MAEP funding. In response, Attorney General Jim Hood said the case is without merit and should be thrown out of court. Whichever side you are on there is one thing for certain, this is a case that will do little to mend the bad feelings and lack of trust and respect between state legislators and state educators. When all is said and done, even school districts not involved in the lawsuit may very well be left with a bad taste in their mouths. If the court rules in favor of the state, educators will no doubt feel they have been betrayed, and if the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, a wedge will likely be driven between legislators and educators that will make future education funding even more difficult. This case should be about what is best for the children of Mississippi, but unfortunately that stands to get lost in debate and political theatrics when lawyers from both sides start butting heads in court. In the end it will not be about who is right or wrong, but who can present the most compelling case, and you can bet that money rather than children will be at the center of it all.

In question is the 2006 Mississippi law that says Mississippi’s school aid formula (MAEP) “shall” be fully funded. The 21 school districts filing suit claim the law mandates the state legislature fully fund K-12 education each year, but Hood argues that the 2006 law has no power to bind future legislatures. However, common sense would argue that if the law is nonbinding why have it? What good is a law or the funding formula it supports if legislators have the discretion to follow it or not? That is like saying people have the discretion as to whether or not they pay their taxes. When it comes to taxes, people “shall” follow the tax laws or face penalties and possible criminal action if they don’t. Why then shouldn’t state law makers be held to the same measure when “shall” is used in the 2006 MAEP law?

A recent statement from Jim Hood’s office read, “One session of elected legislators cannot dictate the discretionary budgeting and appropriation authority of a future session of elected legislators.” The MAEP law does just that, it dictates that MAEP “shall” be fully funded, but isn’t that what a law is supposed to do? Isn’t the purpose of a law to ensure equality of rights and protections for all people with the intent that those laws will remain binding for all subsequent years and generations unless amended or repealed? To imply that authority for budgeting and appropriations is discretionary and not binding for future legislative sessions is highly questionable. If what Attorney General Hood is saying is true, does that mean that all prior legislation is nonbinding for each new legislature or does it mean each new legislature has the discretion to pick and choose the laws they will support and uphold? Mr. Hood needs to be careful; his discretionary claim may actually open more worm holes for state legislators to wiggle through than he can possibly foresee.

The Attorney General says that the state’s argument in the case is based on a common sense principal. He writes, “If the principle did not exist, as the school districts’ ill-conceived mandatory appropriations theory here contemplates, the 2006 Legislature could have enacted a statute providing every subsequent legislature ‘shall never appropriate more than $1 to any school district’ in any given fiscal year.” Maybe the 2006 Legislature could have done that, but they didn’t because, as the Attorney General is well aware, there are checks and balances in place as protection against such arbitrary, capricious, and callously irresponsible legislation? Those checks and balances consist of a 174 state legislators in the senate and house, the governor, and the state’s citizens who would not tolerate such ridiculous appropriation legislation. Those same checks and balances were in place in 2006 when in an effort to quell the continuous bickering over MAEP funding, the state legislature, with approval of the governor and support of Mississippi citizens, passed a law requiring MAEP be fully funded each year. Of course, Mr. Hood argues that the law was not intended to bind or apply to future lawmakers, but hopefully, he is wrong, and the 2006 legislators had more integrity than to pass a law they never intended to follow. If not, there is a bigger issue here than simply the interpretation of the law. If there was never any intent to follow the law in subsequent years and the 2006 legislators did not intend to bind future legislative sessions to the law as Mr. Hood states, then the 2006 law as presented to the public and especially educators was nothing short of fraud. For Jim Hood to say the interpretation of the 2006 law by school districts is ill-conceived and a contradiction to the principal of common sense is ludicrous. If anything, Hood’s argument may wrongfully bring into question the integrity of the 2006 legislature as well as his own common sense.

JL

©Jack Linton, October 11, 2014