Tag Archives: parent expectations

Twenty Tips for New Teachers (or Veteran Teachers)

Over the years, I have been asked numerous times for advice or tips I would offer new teachers or veteran teachers.  I always respond by saying the little I know is the result of professional reading (at least thirty minutes daily) and mistakes I made as a teacher and a school administrator.  I think the biggest mistake most teachers make is looking for perfection.  This mistake can cost them their joy as a teacher.  It causes them to lose sight of what teaching is about and why they signed on to teach in the first place.  Sometimes teachers become so blinded by the pursuit of perfection, they lose sight of the good they do, and as a consequence they drum themselves out of the profession.  No matter how badly they want it, there is no such thing as the perfect student, the perfect parent, or the perfect teacher, so my advice to teachers is to STOP looking for perfection, and replace it with an expectation of always “putting forth the best you can do.”  That is the highest expectation, teachers can ever hope to achieve from their students; it is the highest expectation they can ever expect of themselves.  Next, I would advise teachers to MAKE TEACHING A COMMITMENT:  commitment to the teaching journey, commitment to learning from mistakes, commitment to professional learning, and commitment to NEVER giving up on students or themselves.  After that, I would offer the following advice and tips:

  1. You WILL make mistakes – learn not to repeat them – learn to apologize and move on! Making a mistake is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign you are not sitting still;
  2. It’s okay to have fun! Good teachers figure out how to make learning fun!
  3. Use handouts as a teaching tool, not a “keep them busy” tool. Remember, teachers teach and subs give handouts!   Which are you?
  4. Use pre-test to assess your student’s existing knowledge. Pre-assessments will help you make your teaching more relevant and their learning more meaningful;
  5. Communicate with parents often! Nothing can be more unsettling to a teacher’s day than a surprised or angry parent who has been kept in the dark about their child’s progress;
  6. Greet students at the door like you are happy to see them – not like they are the plague;
  7. Be on time for duty! The safety of students and your career is on the line.  Monitoring duty in the cafeteria, in the hall between classes, before school, or after school is a necessity!  It is not a useless punishment your uncaring principal has placed on you;
  8. Make note of teachers who always complain and are unhappy – be nice to them, but stay away, unless you want to be like them;
  9. Be proud to be a teacher! You have the most important job in the world.  You influence young lives every day, so decide every morning if it will be a positive influence or a negative influence;
  10. Assign seats! Especially until you get to know your students.  Assigning seats also makes it easier and faster to take roll;
  11. If you do not plan to discuss and review homework in class the next day, DO NOT assign homework! Homework is only effective if it is used as a formative tool with timely feedback to students;
  12. DO NOT assign work in class that will not be discussed, reviewed, or graded. Like the teacher, students DO NOT need busy work;
  13. Never make an online assignment without first checking the websites, including links to other websites. Ask these questions – Is it active?  Like most everything, websites do not last forever.  Is it blocked by the school filter?  If blocked, seek help from the school technology person to unblock it.  Is it appropriate?  Make sure the content is appropriate for the student age level you teach as well as for the community the school serves;
  14. Always, always, always preview movies to be shown in class. Movies should be used sparingly in class and then only in small clips to support discussion of the lesson.  Showing a movie that takes up one to three days of class time is poor practice and a waste of instructional time.  Showing a movie in its entirety is lazy teaching;
  15. If you assign a book or website that may be controversial to students, their families, or the community do the following: (1) meet with the principal and seek his/her support by explaining why you have chosen the material and its value to the learning process; (2) Send home a notice to parents/guardians that some content may be offensive and explain why you believe it is necessary to use the material in class; (3) offer an alternative assignment for students and/or parents who object to the content (use of offensive language, use of graphic sex, etc.);
  16. Never argue with a student in class! You are the authority in the classroom!  If a student wants to challenge authority let him/her challenge the authority of the assistant principal or the principal;
  17. Teaching for student success:
    1. Pre-assess (pre-test) knowledge;
    2. Provide students learning targets based on pre-assessment needs;
    3. Teach what you want them to know;
    4. Use on-going assessment (formative) throughout the lesson. Check frequently for understanding;
    5. STOP and re-teach if and when necessary;
    6. Assess what you want them to know (summative);
    7. Use summative assessment as a formative tool (feedback) for student learning; and
    8. Re-teach if and when necessary.
  18. Being a TEACHER is NOT about teaching; it is about LEARNING! You may be the greatest presenter of content of all time, but if your students don’t learn, you have failed as a teacher;
  19. Remember, it’s okay to breathe! Teaching is a monstrous responsibility, but if you teach with the same passion and compassion you expect from your children’s teachers, you will be okay; and
  20. Enjoy the teaching journey! You are a part of an awesome group of people.  You are a teacher because you care.

These tips are basic, but if followed, they can serve the new teacher or the veteran teacher well.  Teachers must always maintain high expectations, accept nothing but the best from their students, and never give up on the least of them or themselves.  A tall order, no doubt, but kids will tell you – GOOD TEACHERS CAN DO ANYTHING!

JL

©Jack Linton, August 24, 2016

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What are Reeves and His Buddies in Jackson Smoking?

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

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

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

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

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

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

JL

©Jack Linton, February 8, 2015

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

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

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

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

Plan to Development State Standards and Assessments:

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

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

JL

©Jack Linton, February 1, 2015

2015 Legislators vs Educators: The Fight to Keep Mississippi on the Bottom

Governor Phil Bryant says the majority of the public is against the Common Core Standards, so he and the state legislators are obligated to help the public get what it wants by ousting the standards from state schools. However, when a petition requiring Mississippi fully fund education by amending the state constitution was signed by over 116,000 certified voters, the Governor hedged on supporting the public’s will in favor of supporting an alternative proposal by the state legislature designed to confuse the issue and almost assuredly defeat the public initiative. What gives? Does the Governor support the public or not? He is clear about his opposition to the Common Core Standards, and it is obvious he doesn’t support fully funding MAEP. So, when it comes to education, what does he support; what does he really want? He says he wants to see results. He claims too much money has been thrown at education with too little to show for it. He argues money is not the answer, but how would he know since he has played a significant role in short changing Mississippi K-12 education by 1.5 billion dollars over the past several years. His argument for results before funding or standards doesn’t hold water; to get results that lift Mississippi off the bottom of student performance, there must be adequate funding and rigorous standards in place, but maybe results are not the real reason behind his war on education.

Educators across Mississippi agree there is room for improvement, and they would like nothing better than to provide the Governor and state legislators the results they want to see. However, they are met with resistance from the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and state legislators at every turn. Why? It would be hard to believe the legislators are diabolical people out to get educators, but something smells in Mississippi. It seems the mindset in Jackson is to do whatever it takes to tear down K-12 education in the state, but to what end? Why are so many state legislators opposing more rigorous standards and full funding for education in one breath while calling for better student performance results in another? Many of these people are business men and women, so they should understand that outcomes are achieved in direct proportion to what you put in – whether it is in private business or education. You get what you pay and prepare for, so what gives in the Mississippi legislature?

It is becoming clear that opponents in the state legislature to rigorous standards and full funding of education want to keep Mississippi where it has been for over a hundred years – on the bottom educationally and economically. The Governor, Lieutenant Governor and many state legislators have never had any intention of fully funding education nor have they been serious about improving rigor and student achievement in the classroom. They want to ensure the present balance of the “haves” and the “have nots;” that is where their power lies, but of course, there is no balance between the two. Without rigorous education standards to challenge the state’s children as well as adequate funding to keep quality teachers in the classrooms, pay for resources and programs, and maintain adequate facilities, Mississippi is guaranteed to maintain its current socioeconomic imbalance, cheap labor force, and the submissive “Yes, Master” mentality of the poor. Adam Smith who is often cited as the “father of modern economics,” probably said it best, “The real tragedy of the poor is the poverty of their aspirations.” In Mississippi the aspirations of the “have nots” have never known equality with the “haves,” nor can they ever hope or dream of true equality in their fight for true liberty and pursuit of happiness without an education to give wings to their aspirations. Without properly educating all children, Mississippi’s perennial position of last in just about every education and economic category will continue unabated.

If the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and the many legislators who have made it clear they have given up on children, teachers, and Mississippi education as a whole get their way, the only thing we will need to seal the deal as permanent bottom dwellers will be a state symbol for education in Mississippi. We have a state bird, state flower, and maybe soon even a state book. All these symbols, the mockingbird, the magnolia, and the Bible tell who we are as Mississippians. If the Common Core Standards are cast out and full funding of MAEP is not upheld, maybe the perfect state symbol for education would be a crumbling school house. What symbol would better explain our state leadership, our priorities, and who we are as Mississippians?

JL

©Jack Linton, January 18, 2015

Are Schools Really to Blame? The Truth About 5 Issues Blamed on Schools

I guess it is because I am a former educator, but I get angry and tired of hearing schools continually blamed for things they have little control over. I know there are issues where schools deserve the blame, but there is also a lot of undeserved blame going around. Recently I read an article about the child obesity epidemic in this country, and as expected the article placed a major part of the blame on poor diets in school cafeterias. I don’t discount that school breakfast and lunch menus have not always been the most nutritious, but I do have doubts as to the extent of their contribution to child obesity. Counting my years as a student in grade school and high school, as a teacher, and school administrator, I ate in school cafeterias for over 50 years, and I can honestly say that in spite of what the nutrition gurus say about school lunches, my weight problem has little to do with what I ate in school cafeterias. I wish it was that easy, but the real villain is the overweight person standing in front of me when I look in the mirror. I want all nutrition experts, health junkies, carb fighters, and food conspiracy lovers to listen closely for a minute; my weight problem and the weight problems of the vast majority of school children was not caused by eating tiny 1 ounce servings of bread, 2 ounce servings of vegetables and carbs and, and 2 ounce servings of meat or a meat alternative protein in the school cafeteria nor was it caused by the slightly larger servings of hamburgers, pizza and French fries served by school cafeterias. I agree that the 180 lunches and maybe 180 breakfasts a child eats in a school cafeteria in a school year have not always been the healthiest meals, but school cafeteria food is a minor contributor at best to child obesity. Like me, the major reason most children are overweight is the second and third servings of mama’s home cooking along with the candy bars, chips with salsa, cakes, cookies, sodas, and popcorn eaten after school or between meals while sitting in front of the television. Unfortunately, sitting in front of the television is the only consistent exercise most children experience (myself included) and that coupled with all the junk food they consume outside of school is the major reason behind child obesity as well as adult obesity. School lunches may be a contributing factor, but more likely, school lunches are just another easy target on the blame list for schools.

Please, do not get me wrong, I am all for children eating healthy, but it is time to get off the “let’s blame schools” bandwagon. Today, if there is a problem with something in society, the politically correct response is to point the blame finger at schools. Schools are continually taking left jabs to the forehead, right hooks to the jaw, sucker punches to the gut, and kicks to the groin. The list of societal ills blamed on schools grows every year. Schools are to blame for childhood obesity (cafeteria lunches); schools are to blame for the lack of discipline and bad behavior in kids (poor classroom discipline and removing the paddle); schools are to blame for the decline of the moral fiber of our nation (prayer removed from school); schools are to blame for the academic decline of our nation (poor performance as compared to other countries); and schools are to blame for students hating school and not valuing an education (school dropouts). I am sure I am leaving something out, but that is enough to make anyone with any common sense shake their head in disbelief.

Schools absolutely have problems that need fixing, but schools are not responsible for all the problems we are facing in this country. In most cases, the problems schools are blamed for are a symptom of bigger problems in society. Obesity for example is a nationwide problem wrapped in our addiction to junk food and lack of physical activity, so why not pick on the junk food companies and television and cable networks and leave schools alone? That won’t happen because the big boys will come out swinging whereas the mild mannered little schools will meekly offer the other cheek when the blame is dished out. Regrettably, the blame game escalates each year, and until a miracle happens or there is a major revolt by educators, it will continue to do so. If you need evidence, take a look at the following issues blamed on schools by society, the media, the politicians, and anyone else in need of a whipping boy:

  1. Schools are to blame for childhood obesity: (Even though I have addressed this one, here are a few more items you may wish to consider about the relationship of child obesity to the food served in school cafeterias) The real problem is not the combined 360 breakfasts and lunches a child may eat at school during a school year, but rather the 735 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners the child eats at home; the 365 days of between meals snacks the child eats at home; and the 365 days of sitting at home in front of a television with no physical activity other than operating a game control or TV remote. To put it bluntly, child obesity is impacted most by lack of physical activity at home as well as the endless supply of junk food children eat at home.
  2. Schools are to blame for student bad behavior: There are those who believe that poor school behavior can be linked to poor behavior in society. They reason if kids were taught in school to respect others, they would be better equipped to respect the law and other people when they finish school. Also, they argue that there would be fewer prison inmates if schools taught children the value of an education and to stay in school. Some people even claim society began its decline when corporal punishment (the paddle) was removed from schools, but the biggest reason for the overall decline in civil behavior in our society has little to do with our schools. The decline is more likely due to the transfer of parental responsibilities from the home to the schoolhouse. The lack of discipline in society today is a direct reflection of the tolerance level of parents/guardians and what they are teaching or not teaching their children at home. Although schools do their best to be surrogate parents, schools cannot replace the parenting children need at home to become productive well-adjusted citizens. Parents cannot abdicate their responsibilities and expect all to turn out well. It doesn’t work that way – never has and never will.
  3. Schools are to blame for the decline of the moral fiber of our nation:  “Our schools and society went to hell in a hand basket when they took prayer out of the schools.” For years, I have heard that statement almost word for word from well-meaning people, but contrary to popular misconception, children can pray in school. The reason children do not pray in school is not because they can’t, but because they do not pray at home. Any child can pray in school; it is a personal choice that is supported by the Constitution of the United States that cannot be denied by the courts, the government, or the political or personal ideologies of others. Prayer resides in the heart and soul of each individual and cannot be removed without consent of the individual; therefore, prayer can never be removed from school as long as it is embedded in the values instilled in the home. The moral fiber of a nation begins with mama and daddy, not with laws, policies or government and its institutions. Schools simply imitate the society in which they exist. For example, schools are a direct reflection of our society’s judgmental approach to life rather than an approach of compassion and understanding. In today’s society we are quick to judge anyone who does not think as we do, believe as we do, or live the life style we do. This same judgmental attitude is rocking our kids to the core in our schools. Judging of others breeds distrust, intolerance, contempt, and shallowness, which can be seen in such forms as bullying and social cliques in our schools. I agree prayer in school may help with such issues, but the answer to the moral concerns in society and our schools begins with parents teaching moral values and praying with their children at home. The moral foundation of society is founded and nurtured in the home, not necessarily in the school.
  4. Schools are to blame for the academic decline of our nation: No matter what the profession, there are individuals within the profession who need to do a better job or find a new profession, and the teaching profession is no different. However, overall teachers do a remarkable job considering the obstacles they face, but regardless of how competent a teacher is and how hard the teacher works, academic success begins at home. There are too many parents who are spectators in the education of their children; they depend exclusively on the teacher to educate their children. However, educating a child is not a spectator sport. Parents cannot be content to watch from the sidelines; they must get involved. The value of an education must be taught and reinforced in the home as well as at school. Children with parents who value education have the greatest chance at academic success because the parents make sure their children are in school when the school doors are open. Over the years, one thing I have noticed over and over again is that the children of parents who make sure they get to school on time and stay in school throughout the school day are more likely to do well in school. Teachers cannot teach a child if the child is not in school. However, it is common for the teacher to be blamed for the child’s habitual absence from school and poor academic performance – the teacher doesn’t like my child, the teacher is out to get my child, the teacher doesn’t know how to teach, the teacher has class favorites or the teacher grades unfairly. Rarely is it ever the child’s or the parent’s fault. Parents need to stop and think before laying all the blame on the teacher; they need to quit reasoning like a child, put on their big boy and girl pants and start using the reasoning skills of an adult.   If a child is doing poorly in school, it is most likely due to the child not coming to school, not doing the work when in school, not putting enough time into the work or the child needs extra help.
  5. Schools are to blame for students not liking school:  When children enter kindergarten, they come with an open mind eager and ready to absorb any and everything. They are like sponges; they cannot get enough. They want to be in school, and they enjoy school. Unfortunately, all children do not maintain their love for school. Why? Sometimes it is the fault of the school – a bad experience with a teacher, lack of success in the classroom, or lessons with no relevancy to the child’s life. Sometimes it is the parents fault – siding with the child against the teacher, continuously speaking negatively about the school or teachers, lack of interest in how their child is doing in school or too busy to pay attention to how their child is doing in school. Also, sometimes the fault lies with the student – they insist school is not cool, they think school is boring or they feel school is not fun. Guess what kiddos and parents, life is not always cool, easy or fun, and it is never too early for children to start learning that lesson at home as well as in school. It is better they find it out while in school and living at home than when they finish school and get out on their own. Granted, teachers should do their best to make learning as relevant and fun as possible, but that does not necessarily mean that school has to always be entertaining. The bottom line is that kids go to school to learn, and learning will quite often be less enjoyable than sitting in front of their Xbox, Play Station or playing some mind riveting game such as Angry Bird or Zombie Zappers on their tablet. Children need to be taught that school is their job regardless of whether or not it is entertaining, and that doing their best is the expectation for that job. However, for children to make that connection, parents must begin teaching that lesson at an early age at home. Parents must teach their children that school is important, and that going to school is not an option to be discussed or debated. There is nothing wrong with a child being told they are going to school whether they like it or not. Of course, teaching them early is the key. Parents cannot wait until middle school or high school to take an interest and try to teach the importance of an education; if they do, it is too late.

To address these five issues with any hope of bringing about change, the key is to begin at home. However, many people refuse to believe that, especially when it is much easier and cleaner to blame schools. The blame pointers have few qualms about pointing fingers at schools or teachers and painting them as scapegoats for society’s ills. Why? The answer is simple; schools (teachers and school administrators) rarely fight back. They are easy targets who rarely stand up for themselves, so they continually get kicked around since society knows they will meekly nurse their bruises and quietly go about their business of teaching, loving, mentoring, and parenting the kids they teach. Schools are certainly not without blame, but the blame thrown at schools is quite often a symptom of a greater root problem; a root problem that most often can be traced back to the home.

JL

 

©Jack Linton, October 18, 2014

Disciplining Children: A Parental Choice

How parents discipline their children should be a personal decision, but just about everyone has an opinion on the subject, which often leads to controversy that overshadows the will of the parent. Parents discipline their children out of love and a sincere belief they are teaching them the difference in right and wrong, to respect themselves and others, and that there are consequences for inappropriate behavior and bad decisions. They see discipline as a teachable moment that will lead to better choices and better behavior. Ultimately, by setting behavior parameters and holding children accountable to consequences for their actions, parents hope to enable their children to learn to discipline themselves as they grow into adulthood. However, getting to that point is often a struggle for even the very best parents.

Although parents understand discipline is a necessary part of teaching children how to interact positively and successfully with others, they often struggle with what kind of discipline they should use. Most parents tend to discipline their children the same way they were disciplined by their parents. If their parents used corporal punishment (i.e. spanking, a belt, or a switch), they tend to use corporal punishment with their own children. If they grew up in a home where corporal punishment was rarely or never used to address inappropriate behavior, they are less likely to use it with their own children. Parents who support corporal punishment believe when used with care and moderation it can be the most effective form of getting a child’s attention and reinforcing good behavior, but opponents of corporal punishment regard it as a form of child abuse that should not be tolerated. While proponents of corporal punishment agree that child abuse should not be tolerated, they also believe how a child is raised and disciplined is the parents’ personal business, and they take serious issue with anyone – family, friend, stranger, or media – trying to tell them how to raise and discipline their children.

Family feuds can start and friendships strained or ended when well-meaning relatives and friends offer parents unsolicited advice as to how to discipline their children. Heaven have mercy on meddling strangers who dare offer their two bits about discipline. Such interference is considered an intrusion into private family affairs, and nothing will bring about anger quicker, especially in the South, than an outsider interfering with family. How parents discipline their children is personal, and even those who struggle mightily with disciplining their children take offense to unwanted advice from outsiders. My father was such a parent.

If I had to describe my father’s parenting skills, I would have to say highly effective. I doubt very seriously if he ever read a book on parenting, but rather his parenting skills came from an innate primitive instinct; the kind that has been at the core of human existence since mothers first squatted in a bed of leaves to give birth and fathers carried clubs made of tree stumps to keep women and children in line and wild animals at bay. The same was true in my father’s house, except his club of choice was a leather belt used not only to keep his pants up, but to keep his children in line as well. His belt sometimes left tread marks across my deserving behind, but never anything that better choices and good behavior would not quickly heal and prevent in the future. Unlike my mother, he did not believe in repeated warnings to curve bad behavior. With my father there was “the look,” and if that did not suffice, next came the belt. He expected his children to know how to behave, and when they did not, he reinforced his expectations quickly and justly. He did not play games when it came to his children knowing how to act properly.

For example, when traveling with children, all parents have experienced hearing from the back seat “Are we there yet?” for the hundredth time, or ten minutes after pulling onto the interstate hearing Junior say, “I need to pee pee,” followed less than a minute later by big sister’s ear splintering scream, “Gross! Daddy, Junior got pee on my blanket!” If that is not bad enough, the unending adversarial yammering from the backseat will cause most adults to swear off ever getting into a car with anyone under age twenty-one again. There is little that can be done to make such situations bearable other than ear plugs and silently praying over and over, “This too shall pass, Lord. This too shall pass.” When you have kids, you learn to either endure what goes on in the backseat or stay at home.

My father would have taken exception to both enduring it and staying at home though. He enjoyed taking a family vacation to the Ozark Mountains, the Smoky Mountains, or the beach every summer, and he taught my sisters and me how to behave on long trips in the car. We could talk politely and quietly, as long as our voices did not rise to or above the songs of his boys – Hank Williams, Hank Snow, and Ernest Tubb – wailing from the crackly AM radio in the front dash, and should we forget, Mama was allowed to warn us once to settle down. Being a patient man, my father would wait to see if her warning made a difference in our behavior; he could endure about twenty minutes of “combative yapping” from the backseat before he pulled off the side of the road and took off his belt. When he was finished, my sisters and I did not need to be strapped in our seats to be still (Our old Chevy did not have seatbelts anyway) or told to sit down and be quite again; we were very content to sit quietly and be “seen and not heard” for the remainder of the trip.

I am not saying my father’s way was the best way, but it worked, and it worked well. With the exception of potty training, which he left entirely to my mother, my father “ruled the roost” and if discipline was needed, he had one answer, a belt. His belt brought quick resolution to sibling squabbles, dishonesty, disrespect, getting in trouble at school, general obnoxious sassiness, and misbehavior in general. He was not afraid to “man-up” and mark his territory as the “alpha male” in the family. Some might say he was no better than the primitive parent swinging the tree stump, but I don’t believe he would have actually used a tree stump on us even if one had been handy. Nevertheless, my sisters and I knew better than to press our luck. As kids growing up in the sixties, we were not brave enough or fool enough to tempt him. Much like the primitive fathers thousands of years before him, my father ruled by “rank and order,” he had the rank and he gave the orders, and if you wanted to be able to sit comfortably, you did as you were told. Maybe there is something we can all learn from parents who love their children enough to mark their territory and establish and enforce the parameters of their endurance.

I understand fully that in today’s society my father would have been criminalized in the media as a barbaric child abuser, but other than the embarrassment of being scandalized for trying his best to be a good father, he would have cared less what society thought. His children grew up knowing there were boundaries and consequences for everything they did, and that in their father’s house “because I said so” was not a cop out, but a commandment to be respected and honored. Consequently, his children grew up loving and respecting him, and knowing he loved them and would always be there for them. That was all that mattered to him. He had little patience for anyone telling him how best to raise or discipline his kids. That was his job, and he took it very seriously.

Nevertheless, there are those who will argue the discipline administered by my father was abusive. On the other hand, there are also those who can argue that it is abusive to families and society in general to let children run rampantly out of control and undisciplined, but that is exactly what we are seeing more and more of in American culture. We have come to a place where parents are afraid to discipline their children for fear of being ostracized by society and branded a criminal by the media. Now I am not advocating taking a tree stump to a child, or even a belt for that matter. All I am trying to say is children need discipline, and the method my father and his father before him chose to discipline their children was a parenting choice that worked for them and their children.

Parents should have the right to choose how they discipline their children without fear of being branded a criminal. If the intent and purpose is to discipline the child and they do so within reason (broken bones, severe bruising, and ripped flesh are not within reason), discipline choices should be left in the hands of the parents. I have been spanked with an open hand, swatted with a belt, and stung with a switch, and the only lasting imprint on me was a greater desire to make better choices, respect others and not do anything I would be ashamed or afraid of my father finding out about later. My father has been gone nine years, and I still do my best to make the right choices, respect others, and do the right thing. I have his belt and his love to thank for that; thank God he had the right to choose what he felt was best for me.

JL

©Jack Linton, September 21, 2014

12 Things about Kids the Parenting Guides Won’t Tell You

Every parent wants the best for their children. That does not mean that parents always know what is best for their children. For most parents, their first revelation about parenting is they need help. They learn that something that looks so simple is one of the hardest tasks they will ever undertake in their lives. Every day there seems to be a new twist to parenting. Just when parents think the corner has been turned for the better, some bizarre, terrifying, mind boggling, or unexpected something smacks them upside the head. Even when they are lucky enough to learn how to muddle through and get by, there is often a lingering feeling that something is missing or there is something they should be doing as a parent that they are neglecting. As a result, parents look for advice on how to raise their children; they seek help from their parents and grandparents, they listen to friends, and they read just about everything they can find that will make them a better parent.

Book stores devote whole sections to “how to guides” for parents. There are guides on how to be a better parent, guides for reading with children, guides for teaching children responsibility, guides for connecting with children, guides for conflict management, and the topics go on and on. Everyone who has ever been a kid, had a kid, or carries a PhD in kid and adolescent psychology has a theory, opinion or insight into the mystery of how and why children think and act as they do. Most of these guides offer parents sound advice on how to deal with the day-to-day challenges and surprises of raising children, but unfortunately, these guides also often leave out key information. The reasons behind the omissions could be debated at length, but suffice it to say most often the reasons lie in the author’s core beliefs (The book is secular in tone, and anything spiritual is avoided) or in the economics of the author’s wallet (The author is saving the information, so parents can dish out another $29.95 for the author’s next book).

However, there are no politically correct strings or monetary motivation attached to this article; the sole purpose is to provide parents with the information the parenting guides do not always tell them or won’t tell them. Hopefully, the list below will elicit a smile, offer some insight into kids, or maybe cause reflection on the parent/ child relationship. After all, parents want what is best for their children, and for that to happen, they need all the help they can get.

  12 Things about Kids the Parenting Guides Won’t Tell You

  1. Kids are God’s way of telling adults they are not in control;
  2. Kids enter pre-school/kindergarten on fire to learn. It is the parents’ and teachers’ responsibility to keep that flame burning throughout the child’s school career;
  3. Kids and dogs are about love and a perpetual financial commitment;
  4. Naps are more for parents than for kids.  Parents need the down time to replenish their batteries more than kids who run on EverReady;
  5. Kids have the capacity to learn any language introduced to them, but yet, they can’t understand what “No” means;
  6. When a kid ignores you, it is not personal; there are other things on his mind – like himself;
  7. There is no life after kids; they never go away;
  8. A kid’s first addiction is chocolate milk;
  9. Kids are internally wired to embarrass parents every chance they get;
  10. Never ever eat anything off a kid’s plate;
  11. From birth to the age of 25, the funniest thing in the world to a kid is passing gas; and
  12. Kids are God’s way of telling parents life is worth living.

JL                    ©Jack Linton, September 13, 2014