Tag Archives: high school

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

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A Teacher, a Cucumber, and a Condom

I am glad to see the teacher in the Starkville Oktibbeha Consolidated School District, who had a student present a sex education demonstration with a cucumber and a condom, has been allowed to resume teaching. At issue was whether the teacher had violated House Bill 999, which reads in part, “The instruction or program (sex education) may include a discussion on condoms or contraceptives, but only if that discussion includes a factual presentation of the risks and failure rates of those contraceptives.  In no case shall the instruction or program include any demonstration of how condoms or other contraceptives are applied.” Although it is not likely the teacher or the student intended to violate the law, the wording of the bill makes it clear that sex education demonstrations such as the one conducted in Starkville are forbidden.

The purpose of those particular words in the bill is to protect innocent students from graphic displays of sexually arousing lewdness and the psychological damage that would surely follow. Of course, I am sure in this particular situation the psychological impact was about as devastating to the classroom full of high school juniors as it was to the cucumber. I am not saying the teacher should not have been reprimanded for violating the law although the Mississippi Legislature habitually violates the law when it comes to funding education without fear of reprimand, but suspending her for a week may have been a bit much in this particular case. Such a suspension is especially troubling when you consider there is a strong probability the teacher may have never heard of House Bill 999 prior to her rendezvous with the cucumber. However, there are those who will argue that ignorance of the law is not an excuse, and in most cases, that may be true, unless the law happens to be flawed as is the case with HB 999? For example, isn’t using sex education in schools to prevent teenage pregnancy, but not allowing any form of demonstration of how condoms or other contraceptives are applied, a little absurd? That is about as sane as teaching skydivers to survive jumping out of airplanes without first demonstrating how to correctly put on a parachute and demonstrate how it works? Let’s not beat around the bush, if we are going to make any headway with kids today about such issues as teen pregnancy, it is time to stop believing in chastity belts and move out of the dark ages.

Although I am not convinced schools are the best place to teach sex education in the first place, I do agree it is the easiest venue in which to capture the targeted audience. However, the issue is not really sex education. My issue is why do lawmakers, not only in Mississippi but across the nation, continue to force schools to do the job of mamas and daddies? Why do lawmakers and the general public continue to scream about the shortcomings of public schools, yet expect public schools to take responsibility for society’s problems and work miracle cures for those problems? Why can’t teachers concentrate on the jobs they were trained to do, and leave delicate family matters to the mamas and daddies, health department, or even the church? Or maybe, if state legislators want sex education taught in the public schools, they should consider volunteering to teach it in their home districts?

The teacher in Starkville was not a vile lecherous person. She did not have an evil agenda to corrupt young minds. Through the presentations, she was working with her students to apply the research, writing, and communication skills she had taught them; the sex education demonstration was simply a byproduct of her doing her job. I doubt seriously, outside of maybe a one time professional development or a reminder in a faculty meeting, that she had any knowledge of HB 999 much less any real training as a sex education teacher.

Maybe, the teacher should have screened the presentations and demonstrations prior to class. Maybe, she did, and not knowing about HB 999, she thought the demonstration was acceptable for 16 and 17 year old high school students. Or, maybe, the student made a last minute change to the demonstration without her knowledge hoping for a better grade.  Regardless of what happened, it is probably not fair to blame anyone or anything with the exception of a well-intended but flawed bill. The student was after the best grade possible, the teacher was doing her job, the Legislature originally passed the bill with the intent to help an escalating problem, teen pregnancy, and the school administration felt they had no choice but to suspend the teacher from the classroom until they could investigate the matter.  All of these had merit, so what went wrong?

The law itself is the culprit! Any law that abdicates parental responsibilities and places those responsibilities elsewhere, such as in the laps of schools, is flawed. Schools naturally take on the role of parents for many students, but to legally burden teachers with responsibilities that rightfully belong to parents is wrong even if it is the easiest and cheapest way to go about addressing issues. Also, if legislators insist on passing such bills as HB 999, they should at least give teachers permission to address the issues in a straight forward manner free of the archaic taboos that help feed the problem in the first place. If not, all that is being accomplished is the likely hood of chasing good teachers out of the profession.

Although the teacher in Starkville was reinstated to teach and hopefully exonerated of any wrong doing, she will most likely carry the scars of her traumatic and humiliating ordeal for the rest of her life. I truly hate that for her, but at the same time, I applaud her for actively engaging her students in the assignment. She could have just as easily played it safe and assigned them worksheets like they received during the week of her absence, or she could have given them the old “sit and git” routine of lecture and classroom busy work assignments. However, she chose to make a difference by actively engaging her students in learning. I just hope her run-in with a cucumber in a rubber overcoat doesn’t make a good teacher reconsider her career choice.

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD November 22, 2015

A Shovel and My Wife: Sometimes it Pays to be Lucky

It is hard to believe it has been two years since I retired after 37 years as an educator. After the initial withdrawal questions that I am sure most retirees experience such as what was I thinking to quit a perfectly good job; what will they do without me; what will I do without the daily interactions with people on the job; how will we pay the bills; and what will I do with all this free time; I finally came to grips with being a “has been” and moved on to being a “whatever I what to be.” It took some time, but I came to realize there is more to life than a “perfectly good job” that requires 12 to 14 hour work days; I learned to accept they, the job, will get along just fine if not better without me; I still miss the job specific interactive discussions that led to disagreements as well as confirmations, and kept me on my toes as a professional educator, but I have not had a single parent or teacher complaint in two years and that makes retirement heaven in of itself; as for “paying the bills,” my wife’s and my careers have provided us with a comfortable retirement with enough to pay the bills, and to occasionally travel and spoil the grandkids, so what more could we ask for or need; and when it comes to “what to do with my time,” the answer is very simple – WHATEVER I WANT TO DO! I sleep late almost every day; I play my guitar and sing along with cats screeching and dogs howling in agony; I write songs so I don’t make a mess of other people’s work; and I write stories, poems, and articles that hopefully are readable attempts at making people smile and think. I have no delusions of literary greatness, so I write what I have always wanted to say with little regard for political correctness, who it offends, or what people might think of me. But, most of all, retirement has given me the freedom to simply lie in my hammock all day with a cold drink in my hand and a smile on my face and be absolutely “sorry” if I so choose.

It goes without saying, “I am lucky,” but I have worked hard my entire life to be “lucky.” However, hard work alone will not make a person happy (I am), wealthy (I am not), comfortable (I am) or even lucky (I most definitely am); the right people, the right situations, and the right opportunities are also factors that determine a person’s worth as well as a person’s success. I have been blessed to have had such people, situations, and opportunities in my life. Looking back over my career, the biggest reasons for any success I had were God, the people I worked with, my father, a shovel and my wife.

I strongly believe the reason I survived as an educator as long as I did was due in no small part to the patience and sense of humor of God and the people I worked with over the years. I am sure I gave both God and the people who supported me, as well as those rearguard mumbling geniuses who were never pleased with anything I did, a good chuckle on more than one occasion. Although I did not always make everyone happy, it was not for lack of trying. I have always prided myself on trying to do the right thing, but doing the right thing as you see it does not always make you the most popular or liked person around. Leadership does not come naturally for most people, and I was certainly no different; I made good decisions and I made some “bone head” decisions, but as a leader I made the final decisions. I always felt the buck stopped with me, so ultimately all decisions rested on my shoulders even when that sometimes meant standing alone. It was during those “stand alone” times that the humor and patience of God and the people who supported me meant the most. They stood by me while I learned – often the hard way – and they provided the wisdom to help me learn to laugh at myself and understand no matter what decision I made, in the end, it all turned out as God planned it.

However, when it came to my father’s contribution to my success, patience and humor were in short supply. He had a sense of humor and could be patient at times, but those were traits he rarely shared with me. Nevertheless, the straight forward work ethic he instilled in me was a major cornerstone of my career. Although I hold three college degrees, including a PhD, I came from a background where graduating high school and getting a job were the expectations. College was not financially a practical option. A man in my family was expected to graduate high school, get a job that paid a decent wage, and stay with that job until retirement or death to ensure a livelihood for his family. Missing work other than for severe personal illness or emergency family illness was not a consideration. Growing up, I was taught if you agreed to take a man’s money for a job, you were to give the man an honest day’s work for his money, and I was taught the time for quibbling over wages was before you agreed to take the job not once you were on the job. These were the expectations handed down by my grandfather who labored for Hercules, Inc. in Hattiesburg, Mississippi for 40 years and by my father who labored there for 38 years. Both men rarely missed a day of work, and because of their influence I am proud to say I missed less than 10 days of work in my 37 years as an educator. The work ethic I was taught growing up helped me as much as anything to have a successful career. I can still hear my father say, “Boy, you will sometimes meet a man who is smarter or more talented than you, but you should never meet a man who can outwork you.” He said the only man he feared was a smart man with a work ethic, and if such a man existed and had common sense to boot, you might as well say, “Yes sir, boss,” and move out of his way. According to my father, knowledge, hard work and common sense were all a man needed to climb a mountain. Looking back on my career, I would have to agree.

The fourth factor that influenced my career was a shovel. In fact, a shovel was the second biggest motivation I had for not following in my grandfather’s and father’s footsteps and going to work for Hercules after I finished high school. Actually, that is exactly what happened; I graduated high school in May 1971 and started to work at Hercules in June 1971. I couldn’t have been happier! I had worked a couple of part time jobs while in high school for about $1.35 per hour, so when Hercules offered me $2.50 per hour for a 40 hour week, I thought I had it made! Making a $100.00 weekly wage was more money than I had ever seen or dreamed of in my life. I would have probably retired from Hercules if not for a girlfriend who was a lot smarter and wiser than I was and a shovel stuck fast in Mississippi red clay.

My first week at Hercules, I spent unloading and stacking 55 gallon steel barrels (Thank God they were empty!). I am not sure how much each of those barrels weighed, but I can tell you rolling those barrels into place and stacking them in rolls a hundred feet or more long and five to six barrels high whipped a skinny 140 pound 17 year old’s butt! I have never been as tired in my life as I was at the end of a day stacking those 55 gallon steel drums. However, that $100 dollar paycheck dangling in front of my sweat blurred eyes kept me motivated. When at 7:00 a.m. Monday of the second week they handed me a shovel and told me and one other rookie to dig a ditch two feet wide by three feet deep around a group of storage tanks near the front of the plant, my motivation began to waver. It took us three days to dig that ditch, and then on the fourth day, the foreman told us to cover the ditch over; there had been a change of plans. Week three, the two of us were taken to the middle of the plant and assigned to dig a three foot wide by four foot deep ditch. We spent a week under the sweltering Mississippi sun with shovels and picks digging that ditch, or I should say, I spent a week digging that ditch since my partner spent the majority of his time leaning on his shovel, singing hymns and praying for deliverance from the trench he had appropriately named “Hell’s Door.” God must have heard his prayers because just before noon Friday of that week my shovel became wedged in a crack in the hardest, driest red clay I had ever seen in my life. I could not force the shovel deeper into the crack nor could I pull it out of the crack, so I grabbed the pick and commenced to hammer on the shovel head and claw at the dry clay to try to free it. About that time, the foreman over the job and an assistant stopped to check our progress. He said something about the heat and then he started choking, sputtering, and pointing to where my shovel was wedged in the clay. His assistant’s face went pale. He yelled something at me that I could not understand and jumped into the hole, grabbed me and literally lifted and threw me out of the ditch. After the two men caught their breath, they angrily scolded the two wide eyed, sweat drenched kids in front of them. It turned out the red clay my shovel was wedged in was not red clay at all. It was red concrete marking a high voltage electrical line just inches below the tip of my shovel. One more good whack with the pick against the shovel, and I most likely would not be here today. My partner quit that afternoon. I made it through the rest of the summer, but shortly after the red clay incident, I followed my girlfriend’s advice and enrolled in college for the fall. Although at the time I had no idea what it might be, I decided there were better ways to make a living. The Mississippi sun and that shovel wedged in red concrete were all the motivation I needed to look for something new.

Everything I have mentioned played a significant part in my career success. However, the biggest reason for any success I have had in my career or life came from the single most important person in my life – my high school sweetheart, my girlfriend, my wife. Without her, I would never have finished my undergraduate degree much less my doctoral degree. Without her belief in me, I would not have survived when so many others doubted me. She gave me the courage and motivation to keep moving forward when it would have been so easy for me to say, “To hell with the world; I quit!” She stood by me when I am sure it would have been easier for her to say, “To hell with you; I quit!” Without her, I would not have had a career, nor would I have had a life of any quality or worth. Without her, I wouldn’t have the three greatest kids a man could have. In fact, without her, I would probably be an old single guy frequenting church socials and local bars looking for love with blue haired ladies wearing pink skirts too short to hide cellulite and varicose veins. Thank the good Lord, my wife saved me from such a life. She helped me grow up, clean up, and rise up to meet life’s many challenges. Anyone who knows me and has also met her will attest to the fact that she is certainly more beautiful, intelligent, and unselfish than I deserve. A buddy once said after meeting her, “Wow! How did you manage that? You are so out of your league.” As I explained to him, it’s called luck, and sometimes it is better to be lucky than good looking, smart, wealthy, or charismatic. I may fall short in all those, but I am LUCKY, and luck has served me well.

JL

©Jack Linton, July 14, 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

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

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

Little Smiles, Big Hugs, and Huge Celebrations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Celebrating!

JL

©Jack Linton, August 25, 2014