Tag Archives: Mississippi

The Continued Success of the Petal School District is not Luck!

Is the only constant in this world the success of the Petal School District?  I was blessed to serve twenty-five years as a teacher, coach, and administrator in the Petal School District, and it was a great school district before I arrived on the scene, it was a great school district while I was there, and it is a great school district today.  Recently, the state released school accountability scores and rankings, and the Petal School District was once again ranked in the top five school districts in the state (number one in mathematics).  No one was surprised because no one can remember when or if there was a time in its history that Petal was not ranked at the top.  The mark of a great school district, athletic team, or great business is the ability to sustain success over time regardless of who is at the helm or in the trenches, and the Petal Schools have done a remarkable job of maintaining success even when key personnel have changed.

In the past four years, the District has had two superintendents, changes in directorships, and multiple changes in school principals and assistant principals, yet, it has remained a top-rated school district.  That is amazing!  However, what is more amazing is the District has maintained its success even with the loss of some great teachers who have retired or moved elsewhere due to family and career decisions.  Common sense says for a school to be successful it must have great teachers in the classroom.  In fact, research supports a quality teacher in the classroom is the most crucial factor in the education of a child.  However, in an era of state and nation-wide teacher shortages, it is not easy to find quality teachers to replace outgoing quality teachers even for a school district, like Petal, with a strong discipline and academic reputation, so how does Petal do it?

Having worked in the school district, I am very familiar with the “movers and shakers” (great educators) among the teachers and administrators, but until recently, while browsing the District website I was unaware of the turnover that has occurred over the past four years.  The school websites are filled with new teacher and administrator faces at almost every school.  Most of the old guard is gone!  The people I always believed made the schools great were missing, but success marched on without them.  How could that be?  Maybe, there is truth to the adage, “One monkey does not stop the show.”

Before I retired, I often bragged, the key to my success at Petal High School was the quality of teachers that lifted me and the students on their shoulders and made what sometimes appeared impossible possible.  Although many of the administrators and teachers who carried me to success are now gone, Petal High School and the District continues to be successful.  That is not only a tribute to the recruiting efforts of the District, it is a tribute to the foundation on which the District is built.  Superintendents, directors, staff, teachers, principals, and school board members come and go, but the two constants, the two non-negotiables, that never change in the District are “everyone is accountable for learning” and an undying attitude that “ALL children can learn.”  These constants result in a successful school district year after year regardless who leads the way in or outside the classroom.

Faces change, but as the battle-scarred veteran teachers gradually move on to another phase in their lives, fresh faces arrive to grow into their shoes.  Like those before them, they pick up the banner of excellence, refuse to lower standards for themselves or their students, and rise above the crowd.  They do so because that is the PETAL WAY; the only WAY for a Petal educator!  Petal educators expect the impossible of themselves and the children they teach, they rise above their imperfections and the imperfections of their students and show them what may seem impossible is but a grain of sand in their shoe.  They lift kids – their own and the kids of others – on their shoulders and carry them – sometimes kicking and screaming – to heights they would never know unless their teacher sacrificed a piece of their life, their heart, and their soul to show them the way.

However, where does the district continue to find quality teachers who have the ability to pick up where the masters left off and walk in their shoes?  Contrary to widespread belief, good teachers are not a dime a dozen; they are few and far between.  They cannot be contracted through Amazon and arrive in the classroom in two days, so where are they found?  Maybe, there is a secret door hidden under a green moss laden bluff somewhere along the Tallahala Creek where teachers with iron nerves who do not know the meaning of “quit”, teachers with hearts of glass kids can look into and learn trust, and teachers with eyes that say, “I am here for you – take my hand” stand waiting patiently for their time to step forward and cultivate our tomorrow.  Or, maybe quality teachers are born somewhere off the Gulf Coast in emerald waters salted lightly with rock flour and wisps of dreams and hope.  More likely, there are no secret doors or emerald waters, only a one-time school boy or girl who grew up to be a teacher with dreams to save the world one child at a time, and was fortunate enough to find like-minded people in a place that has yet to give up on its children and their dreams – the Petal School District.

Yes, year after year, it amazes me how superintendents, directors, staff, principals, teachers, and even school board members can change, yet, the school district continues to not only be successful but thrive.  Working hard and smart with kids as the bottom line while plugging in a sincere love for them and passion for learning is a surefire formula for success, and that success becomes even more sustainable when everyone from the superintendent to the custodian understands everything a school district does is about kids.  “Doing what is best for kids” is what ensures success for the District regardless of who the superintendent or the teachers in the classroom may be.  When a school district asks, “What is best for the kids?” prior to every decision it makes, it cannot not help but be successful year after year.  That single question puts every decision and every action in the proper perspective for a school district.  It enables a small, underfunded (by the state) school district like Petal to succeed where others fail.  My hat is off to those who laid the foundation, to the old guard who remain as models of commitment and excellence, and to those brave new faces that are carrying on the tradition of Petal excellence.  My hat is off to the Petal School District for always putting kids first.  By doing so, the District will always be a success!  Congratulations, Petal educators for another successful school year! You deserve every accolade laid upon you!  Your success is not luck!  You work hard for your success, so take a few minutes to enjoy a job well done, then get back to work – the kids need you.

JL

©Jack Linton, August 24, 2017

Advertisements

Delbert Hoseman has it Right

Under Barrack Obama, one of the reasons people screamed “bloody murder” over Common Core Standards in public schools was they thought the Federal government was prying into their lives and attempting to mine personal information about their children.  Now, under the presidency of Obama’s successor, the man most of these people voted for and support, the Federal government is truly digging for personal information.  What gives?  Where is the outcry that Washington is sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong?  Where is the outrage over the millions of dollars being spent to fund President Trump’s Commission on Election Integrity, which is little more than an excuse to collect personal data on citizens and stroke the President’s ego?  The Commission says they only want to “root out” voter fraud; therefore, it is okay for Washington to ask states for the names, birth dates, and social security numbers of state citizens.  Hogwash!  The Commission on Election Integrity is a barefaced example of government infringement on the rights of private citizens.

Fortunately, at least one Mississippi state official, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, has taken a stand against President Trump’s commission and says he will deny access to confidential voter information.  Maybe, he recognizes, like so many others across the nation, little if any voter fraud took place during the Presidential election, or maybe, he is simply doing his job and standing up for the privacy of Mississippi citizens.  Most likely, he is doing both.  The fact that he has the courage to tell the Feds to “go jump in the Gulf of Mexico” is a testament to his integrity and commitment to do right by state citizens.  Kudos to Mr. Hosemann!

The fact the voter fraud debate is still circulating when there is no proof, only speculation about possible fraud, is ridiculous.  The election is over and the verdict is final; Donald Trump won the election by the same process as Ronald Reagan, George H. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barrack Obama.  It is senseless for Trump detractors as well as Donald Trump to continue to fuel the issue that never was.  Like him or not, Donald Trump did what he needed to do to win the election, and the Democrats did not.  He was elected by the same electoral college that elected every President that preceded him, so the Democrats and other naysayers need to accept the verdict and move on.  In the 2016 Presidential election, the popular vote was not the deciding factor nor does it matter; the electoral college was the balancing factor that mattered.

Donald Trump also needs to get his ego under control and accept he did not win the popular vote.  “Trumping up” bogus voter fraud speculation to justify his failure to win the popular vote will not change that fact.  He needs to accept that he is simply not as popular as he thinks and understand that if there was truly widespread voter fraud, as he claims, he most likely would have lost the election.  To anyone with a lick of common sense, it is obvious the whole popular vote issue is built on hard feelings on the Democratic side and vanity on the Trump side.  Both sides need to get over it; there are much bigger fish to fry than a petty popular vote vs electoral college vote debate.

Thank God, at least one public official, Delbert Hosemann, seems to recognize a non-issue when he sees one and has the courage and integrity to say so.  Mr. Hoseman has it right, and it is time President Trump, the Democrats, Trump haters, and Trump supporters stop sending this country on “wild goose” chases.

Thank you, Mr. Hosemann for stepping up.

JL

©Jack Linton, July 2, 2017

Cashing in on Fear:  The Catalyst Behind the Trump/Devos Education Budget?

The current focus on public school improvement is flawed.  Politicians, the public, and even some educators are caught up in a oversimplified mindset that lumps all public schools into one huge cesspool of incompetence.  It is dangerous to generalize anything, and public schools are no different.  It is not public schools in general we need to fix, but what is happening within each individual public school that needs our attention.  Many public schools are doing an excellent job educating children, but unfortunately, they are being dragged down the rabbit hole with those that are doing a poor job.

To say all public schools are bad and in need of improvement is a generalization that is simply not true.  According to education researcher John Hattie, the single biggest variance between a good school and a bad school is the quality of the teacher in the classroom.  Dismantling public schools in favor of charter schools and creating an open-door policy for parents to send their child to the school of their choice will not resolve inconsistent quality issues in the classroom.  Due to the human element, classroom quality issues are as likely to show up in charter schools as they are in public schools.  It is not a public school or charter school that makes the difference in a child’s education.  As Hattie points out, it is the quality of what transpires in the classroom that makes a difference.  Simply being hired by a charter school will not make a person a better teacher.  Enrolling a child in a charter school is not a guarantee of academic success or teacher competence in the classroom.  With the future of public schools in jeopardy and a shrinking teacher pool, it stands to reason today’s public school teachers will be tomorrow’s charter and private school teachers, so unless we resolve the quality issue we are doing little more than transferring the problem from one school to another.   Proponents of charters will argue charter schools will only hire the best teachers and cull the weaker ones.  They may try, but I am afraid they may find as the public schools have found, there are not a lot of master teachers walking around looking for a job.  Pile that problem on top of current hiring practices in many charter schools such as hiring unlicensed and inexperienced teachers and you have a recipe for disaster waiting in the wings.  Unless, charter schools can find the magic teacher formula that has eluded public schools, their savior status will quickly fade.  Unfortunately, at that point, we will have to sleep in the bed we have made due to a misplaced focus.

Some will say I am putting the blame on teachers, and yes, I am, but there is enough blame to go around for everyone including school administrators, school boards, politicians, parents, the public, and the students.  Everyone must share in the blame when students do not learn, but in rank order, teachers, students, parents, and school administrators are the most responsible.  Sorry, educators, but that is the bottom line truth in a nutshell.  Sorry, parents and politicians, but charter schools and private schools will not resolve the issue, especially since those schools have the same problem of finding quality teachers as the public schools.  At least, public schools have minimum standards teachers must meet to teach while most charters and privates schools can and often do hire almost anyone off the street.  Therefore, being called a charter school does not make a school better.  Regardless of what politicians say, and many parents believe, parent choice is nothing more than a distraction that takes away from the real education focus needed to fix schools and ensure students learn.  For any school to be successful – public, charter, or private –  the focus must be on quality, attitudes, and commitment. Promoting dismantling public schools shows a lack of commitment in any of these areas, and that lack of commitment has escalated over the past 16 years mainly for one reason – fear.

Since 9/11/2001, America has been at the mercy of fear.  Fear is the root of our current state of dysfunction in all areas of our lives including education.  We are currently in a state of dysfunction that is more dangerous than maybe anything this country has ever faced; we fear terrorists, we fear immigrants, we fear the Republicans, we fear the Democrats, we fear conservatives, we fear liberals, we fear any belief outside our own, and we fear and mistrust the color of a man’s skin.  This is not the first time in our history we have been in such a state of distress, but it is one of the few times in our history we have allowed fear to rule our lives and distract our focus.   In the 1960s, we feared thermonuclear warfare with the Soviet Union, but instead of allowing that fear to distract us, we used it to sharpen our focus.  Out of that fear, we put a man on the moon, built a national highway system second to none in the world, put greater focus on math and science in our public schools, and created the Internet as part of national defense.  Fear created a constructive response rather than the unconstructive response we are seeing today.  Since 2001, we have used fear as an excuse to fight two wars against terrorism with little to show for the loss of blood of the brave men and women who served our country, used fear to turn our political system and nation upside down, used fear to turn citizen against citizen, used fear to isolate ourselves from the world, and used fear to create a dysfunctional education dialogue that threatens to destroy an institution that helped make America great – our public school system.  In the 1960s, we turned fear into productive action while today we have allowed fear to drag us into uncooperative thinking and inaction.

Over the last 16 years, fear has ruled our lives and governed how we respond to events and issues.  Our answer to just about everything today is to lash out negatively, cast blame, and think in short term solutions.  The current dysfunctional focus on public schools is an excellent example.  In the 1960s, when we were caught up in an arms race with the Soviet Union, we did not scrap our education system or try to improve it with our heads in the sand.  Of course, back then, there was an “us versus them” mentality in America and not the present “us versus us” mentality.  Today, there is a political venom flowing through the veins of our country that no amount of antidote is likely to cure.  We are trapped in pockets of group think where outside views are considered a threat and too often solutions are reactions to distractions rather than the real issues.  Charter schools and vouchers are prime examples of such distractions.  These vehicles of parent choice distract from issues such as teacher quality and child poverty.  Such distractions can easily be seen in the education cuts proposed by President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy Devos in their 2018 education budget.  Instead of cutting vital education programs that support millions of public school children across the nation, they could have easily used a portion of the $21 trillion saved by dropping out of the Paris Climate Accord to fund their pet charter school and voucher projects, yet they chose to cut public education by over 9 billion dollars or roughly 14 percent.  Why?  Could it be they understand the best time to push a personal agenda is during times of fear?

Any budget is a statement of values, and the Trump/Devos education budget is no exception.  Anyone who looks closely at the suggested budget cuts and to the areas the cuts are redirected can see the ultimate goal is to dismantle public education in favor of parent choice options.  If passed, the Trump/Devos budget will cut the United States Department of Education funding by $9 billion and redirect $1.4 billion of that money to school choice.  The cuts will eliminate at least 22 programs including $1.2 billion for after school programs which will have a negative impact on 1.6 million, primarily poor, children; $2.1 billion for teacher training which is a vital component for developing quality classroom teachers in both charter and public schools; $27 million for arts education; $72 million dollars for international and foreign language programs; and $12 million dollars for Special Olympics programs.

President Trump and Betsy Devos say the federal government does not need to be involved in these programs.  According to them, the programs being cut can be more effectively handled and funded at the state and local level.  Maybe, they can be handled more effectively at the state level, but how can a poor state such as Mississippi fund these programs when it cannot afford to adequately fund the state public school programs it has?  Mississippi can’t, so where does that leave after school programs, arts education, foreign language programs, and the Special Olympics in the state?  It means either the citizens of Mississippi will pay higher taxes to foot the bill, or those programs will be discontinued.  Likely, the programs will be dropped or phased out.

Most people in Mississippi will feel some concern for losing after school programs, arts education, and especially the Special Olympics, but in a state where so many believe English is the only language needed in America, the loss of foreign language will barely be given a passing thought.  That is a shame.  I have a PhD, but by global standards I am illiterate.  I regret to say I speak one language, English, and although that has been good enough for me, it most likely will not be good enough for my grandchildren and especially my great grandchildren.

I recently read over 80% of the world’s population has access to a cell phone or mobile device, and within a year – a couple at the most – that number will grow to 90%.  According to David Rothkopf, author of The Great Questions of Tomorrow, we are possibly only a couple of years from every man, woman, and child in the world being connected for the first time in history through a man-made system.  Companies like Amazon have already gone global, and others will soon follow.  I am not talking about moving companies overseas; I am talking about Internet presence.  Amazon can touch anyone in the world whenever they please.  That is the future for all of us.  Our kids better be able to communicate with the world when that happens.  They will not only need the latest and the greatest technology tools, but they will also need a second language and preferably a third language if they hope to compete in the world market.  Speaking only one language will no longer be good enough even for Mississippi, yet, we have a President and Secretary of Education who want to cut foreign language programs.  Why?  How does that make any sense at all unless we are in such fear of the world that we plan to remain isolated indefinitely.

A contributing factor to fear is the unknown, and since 2001, as a nation we have been grappling with fear of the unknown:  fear of unseen and often unknown terrorists, fear for our livelihoods amid fluctuating markets, fear of leaders who so often put their personal agendas above the good of the people, fear of losing our guaranteed rights as citizens, fear of changing attitudes and values, and fear our public schools are no longer in capable hands.  We have seen our leaders grasp at straws for solutions, and turn against each other in the process.  We have witnessed politicians wage war on science somehow ignorant to the facts that throughout history governments who denounced science often lost.  We have watched as our leaders and our people have grown closed minded to the diversity that made us the greatest country in the world.  And, now rather than focus on the real issues, of teacher quality, academic support systems, and poverty, we are watching helplessly as our leaders slowly dismantle a once proud education system that produced Americans who revolutionized land and air transportation for the world, turned simple farmers into a skilled labor force for industry, and lay the knowledge foundation that led to the world’s first heart transplant, harnessing of nuclear energy, put the first man on the moon, and produced some of the world’s greatest literary giants.  Unfortunately, our leadership is in the market for a new vehicle, and they will not be satisfied until that vehicle is sitting in the garage with or without wheels.  It is sad, they do not understand there is no need to reinvent the wheel; all that is needed is to fix a spoke or two in the old wheel, so we can focus on what really matters – our children’s future.

JL

©Jack Linton, June 18, 2017

Facebook is People Being People

Sometimes people get upset and bent out of shape over posts on Facebook – sometimes for good reasons, and sometimes for reasons not so good.  There are times when you laugh with people on Facebook and times when you want to wring their necks.  If you choose to be a part of social media, you will experience both.  Why?  It is simple.  Facebook is people being people, and if you can’t accept that, you have no business being on Facebook.

At the end of the day, there is one given with social media – people will post just about anything for just about any reason.  That means the odds are excellent you can find something to offend you if you look hard enough, or you are in the right frame of mind to be offended.  There are offenses to meet every taste on Facebook from really rotten truly offensive stuff to petty, silly, downright ridiculous stuff.  At times, people even get their panties in a wad over innocent things that were never intended to offend anyone, but what is sad is when the offended person refuses to let it go regardless how many apologies are forth coming.

Please, let me repeat!  Facebook is people being people, and if you can’t accept that, you have no business being on Facebook.  People post for a variety of reasons, and other than holding a stinky rotten cheese stick to their head, there is little anyone can do about it.  If a person owns a computer, tablet, or smart phone, with a Facebook app, they can post whatever they please.  If it offends, you can laugh it off, you can ignore it, you can lash out, you can hold a grudge, you can act like a blooming idiot and make a fool of yourself, you can offend them back, you can dig up dirty laundry you know about the offender and post it, or you can unfriend the offender, but that is about all you can do.  As of now, offending someone – intentionally or unintentionally – is not punishable by prison time or the death chamber, so move on – let it go, especially if the offending person offers an apology.  Remember, Facebook is people being people, so accept it, or go do something more constructive with your time like read a book.

People being People on Facebook:

  1. People who post to witness and share their religious status;
  2. People who post because they are lonely and seek human contact;
  3. People who post to be funny or humorous (at least they try);
  4. People who post to share something that makes them happy or excited;
  5. People who post to affirm their existence;
  6. People who post to share a political or social view or rant;
  7. People who post because they are on Facebook and don’t want to be perceived as lurking in the background;
  8. People who post to provoke a rise out of people or get their goat;
  9. People who post to Facebook as a family scrap book;
  10. People who post because it is easier to post to Facebook than actually talk to people;
  11. People who post because they like noise of any kind in their lives;
  12. People who post because they don’t have a life;
  13. People who post because deep down they really like people and like being around them;
  14. People who post on Facebook because they have a short attention span and cannot read or write anything beyond a handful of sentences;
  15. People who post because Facebook is the only family they have;
  16. People who post to share their pity party;
  17. People who post to keep up with friends;
  18. People who post because it gives them a sense of being somebody;
  19. People who post to simply inform; and
  20. People who post because they can.

Facebook is people being people!

JL

©Jack Linton, April 27, 2017

The Human Achilles Heel – Reading

Zombies can teach us a thing or two about the importance of reading.  However, getting a zombie to sit down for an interview and talk without it biting your head off is tricky at best.  While most people live in a world of rush, rush, rush, zombies have learned to slow the world down.  They understand slow and intentional is the key to everything, especially a prosperous life.  It is the difference between indigestion and a heart attack.  Therefore, they never rush into anything, especially taking over the world.  They are slow, methodical, and intentional to a fault.

For example, look at reading.  Reading is an intentional activity exercised by higher order species.  In other words, if you walk upright without your knuckles dragging the ground and you have a lick of sense about you, in theory, you should be a reader or at least capable of reading.  Of course, there are always exceptions such as the politicians running the government or those poor souls who buy into late night infomercials on television.  Those wacky doodles aside, serious readers such as zombies are intentional about their reading.  In fact, they are often more intentional about reading than they are about cannibalism.  When they get involved in a good book or find a fascinating resource, they sometimes go days without eating anything other than a slice of ear or a quick eyeball – you know, snack food.

Most zombies I have interviewed say it is easier to find someone to eat than it is to find a good book to read and the time to read it.  Finding time to read is difficult, but zombies have made time for reading a priority even when it means not going on the prowl as much as they like.  To their credit, they, unlike humans, live by a code that emphasizes daily reading.  They know a thing or two about brain dead, so unlike many humans, they are relentless in their pursuit of stimulating brain activity.

Even zombie leaders look for ways to scratch out a few minutes to read, and they are intentional when it comes to modeling reading for their followers.  That is why it is not uncommon to find huge herds of zombies reading as they migrate across the nation.  Finding a zombie reading on doorsteps outside a home staked out for lunch or dinner is even more common.  Such devotion to reading can be attributed to great leadership.   Great leaders insist on knowledgeable and healthy followers, and there is not a better way to increase mental and physical health than to read.

There has been a great deal of research into zombies, and one of the most interesting findings has been the revelation that it is their devotion to reading that makes them so formidable.  Their success at moving massive herds across deserts and through noon time traffic jams in New York, Atlanta, and Eastabuchie is not luck.  By reading regularly, they keep up with such important information as the latest migratory data and traffic avoidance strategies.  Although they might turn stomachs on first look and appear frightening, in truth, they are far less terrifying than humans who don’t read.  The research clearly indicates, as a species, they are simply better readers than humans and therefore tend to be more rational thinkers.

Some will argue that is not true.  However, all anyone needs to do is look at human Facebook pages, Twitter messages, and text messages to see humans have an aversion to reading anything beyond a hundred words with a strong preference for forty words and under.  It is hard to say if they are genetically tied to a minimalistic reading quota, they are genetically lazy, or simply brain dead.  A quota or lazy gene may be legitimate issues, but brain dead is not an excuse – especially for humans.  Zombies are brain dead, but that does not prevent them from out reading humans ten to one.  When you take into consideration there are unrealistic restrictions that prevent zombies from having an Amazon.com account or a library card, a ten to one ratio is beyond remarkable.

On the other side, the human side, it is a safe bet in today’s America that anything written beyond one-hundred words will effectively turn off ninety-five percent of the American population.  If a foreign government wished to successfully invade and conquer the United States all they need to do is offer free cable, internet, cell phones, and electronic tablets to the public on any day of the week and especially on Super Bowl Sunday.  In the United States, the less than five percent reading or abstaining from electronic stimulation on any given day would be hard pressed to repel a foreign invasion.  The same can be said of a zombie invasion.  The only difference is the zombies are already here.  They have grown from a aggravating parasite to an immediate threat to the human way of life, and they have done so by intentionally reigniting brain electrodes while humans in America have effectively electronically sterilized their brains!

Because they are prolific readers, the zombie general population is as much as eight steps ahead of the human general population.  To put this in proper perspective, it is like comparing the brain activity of an amoeba to the brain activity of Albert Einstein where the amoeba represents the non-reading human population and Einstein represents a zombie nation of readers.  Before they became readers, zombies rambled aimlessly across the nation getting their heads split by machetes or screwdrivers driven through an eye socket into the brain.  Other than the occasional rat killing, there was little for zombies to look forward to in life.  However, once they turned to reading, their lives changed for the better, especially after they formed book study groups to study such classics as Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.  Through reading, the Zombie Nation has reinvented itself, and as a result, these blood gurglers of the dead are fast becoming unstoppable.

While American leaders indulge in self-importance, self-righteousness, party agendas, conspiracies, and the dumbing down of their followers, zombie leaders are growing themselves and building a base of highly literate followers.  They are constantly reading, researching, trying new ideas, embracing them when they fit, and discarding them when they don’t.  They are slowly taking control of America, and they are doing it without firing a single shot.  They are intellectually preparing themselves for the day when American humans can no longer read much less comprehend their gun manuals.  The human Achilles heel (reading) has become the sword by which zombies will inherit the nation.  While humans have become complacent and comfortable in who they are and in what they do, zombies led by the example of wise well-read leaders, are reading every cookbook in America in preparation for the day they take over.  Complacency rarely happens with zombies.  Their intensity is unrelenting!  They never relax; they are totally focused on their next book and meal.

JL

©Jack Linton, March 21, 2017

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JL

©Jack Linton, February 12, 2017

Copy Machines are Responsible for the Demise of Public Schools

Since the beginning of civilization there have been schools to educate citizens with the knowledge and skills needed to be productive in the community.  Most early schools were available only to a select few, but as time passed, the concept of educating everyone became more acceptable, specifically for religious reasons.  For example, in the United States, the first schools were decreed by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1647.  Those early schools were intended to teach all Puritan children to read the Bible and receive basic information about the Calvinist religion.  Since that decree to establish elementary and Latin schools in every town, schools have grown from the one room school houses of the early Colonial days to the mega multi grade complexes of the present day.  Today, there are fancy boarding schools for the affluent, religious schools to ensure the propagation of spiritual doctrine, private academies for those with societal peculiarities, and free public schools intended to provide all citizens an equal opportunity for a quality education.  All have their place, but none more so than free public schools.

Regardless of what some may say, public schools have been the educational mainstay of the United States.  Although under attack lately for a grocery list of ills that encompass about every evil known to man, public schools have nevertheless been an integral force behind the success of the United States.  Few nations provide all citizens the education opportunities the United States provides its citizens, and regardless what the haters say, overall, public schools have been a tremendous success though at times they struggle with change.  However, in fairness, the inability to change has not always entirely been the fault of public schools.  Quite often shortcomings are due to outside forces beyond their control such as politics, an obtuse culture, or an ill-informed public.  Nevertheless, sometimes public schools are to blame.  That is especially true when a good school idea such as copy machines morphs into a bad idea.

Copy machines are ingrained in public schools to the point that the odds of doing anything to jeopardize their existence are slim at best.  Tinkering with them can get a person strung up by his thumbs even though these machines are an example of a logical, well intended solution to a school problem that has mutated into a monster.  Copiers often masquerade as essentials when in reality schools would most likely fare much better without them.  Due to the aura of innocence that surrounds these machines, few people in or outside education recognize the serious negative impact they have on America’s public schools.  However, it is time to expose the monster for what it truly is!

What would you say if I said copy machines are responsible for the demise of public education in the United States and should be outlawed in public schools?  If you are a teacher who is dependent on the copier for copying worksheets and tests, you might think I am crazy!  If you are Joe Public burdened with ever increasing taxes to pay for such 21st Century playthings, you might cry “Hallelujah!”  Whereas, if you are a parent who too often is confronted with volumes of handouts crammed in the bottom of their child’s backpack or inch thick packets of handouts sent home as homework, you might sigh with relief, “It’s about time.”  On the other hand, if you are a politician committed to a never ending war against public education, you might feel a tinge of excitement.

Unfortunately, copy machines are indeed responsible for the demise of public education.  It’s not simply passing out endless homework and busywork packets that canonize copiers as a lethal schoolhouse disease slowly sucking the life blood from public schools, but the fact that copiers directly lead to other school related cancers such as state testing.  From the mimeograph machines of the late 19th century to the super-fast, high efficiency digital duplicators used today, a direct line of decline in public education can be tracked.  From the beginning, copiers generated an unnatural gluttonous need for paper, which in turn created a strain on the timber industry to provide pulp to paper manufacturers at a reasonable cost.  When paper manufacturing costs rise, textbook prices escalate, and as a result, school districts can no longer afford to maintain up to date textbooks .  Without the latest textbooks, teachers are more likely to use copy machines more frequently to provide current materials to their students.

With the decline of textbook sales, textbook publishers were forced to find a viable educational alternative or go out of business.  Therefore, they turned their attention to the test producing business, which required less paper per unit to produce while escalating overall paper volume usage exponentially.  With the help of their lobbyists in Washington, they were able to finagle policies that required all students to take their tests.  Since testing mandates are virtually free of testing exceptions, the publishers basically found a lucrative never ending market for their number one new paper product – state tests!  As a result, today, states divert billions of education dollars each year from public schools to the test publishers, which more than makes up for lost textbook revenue, and they ultimately owe it all to the copy machine.

Copy machines are the catalyst for this cycle, and consequently must shoulder the blame for the current state of public education in the United States.  This cycle greatly benefits paper manufacturers, test publishers, lobbyists, and politicians, but does little for public education in return.  The bottom line is that public schools now spend more money on copiers, paper, and testing than they ever did for textbooks.  So, should there be any question as to why there is not enough money to hire quality teachers or properly maintain school facilities?  As long as there are copy machines in schools, paper manufacturers, test/textbook publishers, lobbyists, and politicians will continue to get richer while public schools fiscally slowly spin down the drain.

When these costs are coupled with the diversion of public tax dollars from public schools to support special interest projects such as charter schools, private schools, and vouchers, it is easy to see why public schools are gasping for life.  Unfortunately, little can be done to keep public school funds from being diverted to such special interest projects, but there is something educators can do to facilitate some relief.  They can GET RID OF COPY MACHINES!  Schools have little control over funding, but they can remove copy machines and hopefully, over time, minimize the damage these monsters cause.  Chain them up, haul them to the dump, or convert them to garden sculptures, but get them out of the school house.  Parents and politicians are always talking about the “good old days” when they were in school, so why not go back to ink wells, mimeograph machines, and numbering a sheet of notebook paper from one to ten before taking a test?  Since apparently no one is to blame for under-funding education or testing the life out of education, why not put the blame where it belongs – on copy machines?  With copy machines, we have a scapegoat everybody can live with at least for now!

JL

©Jack Linton, December 12, 2016