Tag Archives: parents and teachers

What Makes a Good Teacher?

By the number and content of the education bills that have been flying back and forth in the 2015 Mississippi Legislative session, it is easy to see that many of our legislators have little respect for teachers in the state. Much of their lack of respect for educators can be attributed to political agendas and a superhero complex. Politically they tend to ride on the coattails of whatever wind happens to be blowing at the time, and lately the fashionable political gale is education bashing. The other fashionable political trend is the superhero complex that so many of our elected officials have adopted. Too many of them think they have a super-sized “S” stamped on their chest, and all they need do to right any perceived problems is to huff and puff and legislate the problems away, especially in education. They believe that they alone are the saviors who can save the state from ill prepared, incompetent, diabolical teachers. However, when it comes to education, the vast majority of legislators likely do not have a clue about education other than what they hear in Walmart or in their church parking lot. Their negative perceptions of education are generally fueled more by personal experiences, experiences of family members, and public opinion than test scores or poor rankings. Unfortunately, sometimes these experiences and opinions are not the hogwash educators would like to attribute to them; sometimes they do have merit no matter how isolated the experience might be. It is unfortunate, but there are some weak teachers out there who give teachers including the good ones a bad name. Fortunately, there are many more good teachers than the handful of bad apples who get all the press and attention.

Like any other profession, education has people who need to be weeded out; they do not have the aptitude to teach, they do not have the knowledge to teach, they do not have commitment to teach, nor do they have the work ethic to teach. It is easy to be a teacher, but it is not easy to be a GOOD teacher. To be a good teacher, it takes a lot of hard time consuming work! For whatever reason, there is a mindset in our society today that teaching is an easy job anyone can do. It is unbelievable, but so many people think of teaching as little more than standing in front of a bunch of kids and talking or watching them color? If that was all there was to it, anyone could do it, but it takes more – a lot more. To be a good teacher a person must be motivated, committed, and driven to do what is best for children. To be a good teacher, an individual must also have the courage to stand alone against a society that seemingly takes pleasure in branding them as incompetent and self-serving. So, what could possibly motivate an individual with an advanced degree or degrees to subject himself/herself on a daily basis to such ridicule and disrespect? Why do smart people continue to work in a profession where they are not appreciated? The answer is they are professionals, they love children, they are working for the kids not the adults, and they are GOOD at what they do!

Until someone proves me wrong, I believe good teachers are the norm in education rather than the exception. Of course, there are some teachers who are better than others, but that is true in any profession. But, what makes one teacher better than another teacher? Maybe, it is that some teachers are not satisfied with just being good; they want to be the best. Maybe, the teachers who really set the standard for the profession are not satisfied that their students pass; they expect them to excel! Whatever the reason, the common denominator for all GOOD teachers is they CARE for their students, their colleagues, and their profession. They have high expectations of their students, of their colleagues, of their profession, and most of all they have high expectations of themselves. They refuse to settle for anything less. If every teacher had these traits, education naysayers would have little fuel to feed their negativism against teachers and the profession. Regrettably, that is not the case, so good teachers continue to be pulled down by a handful of misfits. That is a shame since Mississippi has so many good teachers trying to do what is right for kids.

What does a good teacher look like? Without fail I always found GOOD teachers have common characteristics that make them special – that make them not just teachers but good even great teachers. I have observed that good teachers are personally motivated to be the best teacher they can possibly be. They understand that it is their responsibility to teach and ensure children learn in their classrooms; they are driven personally and professionally by the success of their students.

What Makes a Good Teacher?

  1. Good teachers have high expectations for their students;
  2. Good teachers rarely miss a day from school;
  3. Good teachers understand education is all about LEARNING; teaching is simply a means to kick start the process;
  4. Good teachers truly believe all children can learn; they are committed to making learning happen in their classrooms;
  5. Good teachers do not teach sitting behind their desk. They understand that learning is an ACTIVE activity not a passive activity. Good teachers are up moving around and working with kids; they are engaged in learning with the kids;
  6. Good teachers never give up on their students;
  7. Good teachers are committed to being learners themselves. Good teachers are READERS – both professionally and personally;
  8. Good teachers understand that all children do not learn in the same way or in the same time;
  9. Good teachers do not work in isolation. Professional collaboration is essential to the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom;
  10. Good teachers understand that instruction is not “gut” driven, but rather “data” and “research” driven;
  11. Good teachers don’t check or send email or grade papers on student time. Student time is anytime there are students in the classroom;
  12. Good teachers respect children for who they are – not for who they want them to be;
  13. Good teachers understand that misbehavior in the classroom is a behavior/choice issue and not a personal issue directed at them;
  14. Good teachers do not waste students’ time with busy work;
  15. Good teachers provide feedback on student work including classwork, homework, and tests;
  16. Good teachers always come to class prepared;
  17. Good teachers make lessons relevant to their students;
  18. Good teachers do not argue with students in their classroom;
  19. Good teachers are not afraid to try new teaching methods or to take risks;
  20. Good teachers teach day to day routines beginning day one;
  21. Good teachers understand the culture behind the status quo, but they are never satisfied with it;
  22. Good teachers do not expend energy on the negative; good teachers spend very little time with negative people;
  23. Good teachers understand when they sign their contracts . . .
    1. they are signing on for inadequate pay for the job they are expected to do;
    2. they are signing on for overcrowded classrooms;
    3. they are signing on for hours of thankless time away from their families;
    4. they are signing on to be evaluated by an evaluation process with little relevance to what actually happens in the classroom;
    5. they are signing on to be evaluated by principals and/or assistant principals who often do not have a clue as to what they should be looking for in the classroom and who look at evaluations as something to be checked off their “to do” list rather than a tool to actually help the teacher;
    6. they are signing on to be led by a superintendent whose politics and political competency are often more important than what he/she knows about instruction and learning;
    7. they are signing on to ensure children learn to the best of their ability, and to that end “1 – 6” above do not really matter.

Good teachers believe the journey as a teacher is worth taking. They believe their journey can make a difference in the lives of the children they teach, and they pray it makes a difference in them as well. Good teachers understand that for learning to take place in the classroom, the teacher must be mentally and physically involved. Finally, good teachers understand the way to shut the naysayers up is to prove them wrong daily.   To do that, they understand they must be good teachers everyday not just some days. They understand . . .

  • You can’t be a good teacher if you don’t love kids;
  • You cant be a good teacher sitting on your butt;
  • You can’t be a good teacher worrying about your paycheck;
  • You can’t be a good teacher if you don’t love your profession;
  • You can’t be a good teacher if you aren’t prepared;
  • You can’t be a good teacher if you are not willing to do whatever it takes to ensure your students learn; and
  • You can’t be a good teacher if you think teaching is about you.

To be a good teacher, teachers must believe in their kids and themselves. After all, that is all that really matters in the classroom.

JL

©Jack Linton, March 17, 2015

Mississippi Stud with Apologies to Tennessee Ernie Ford: Mississippi Education in Perspective

Recently, I was playing some old songs on my guitar when I came across the classic Tennessee Ernie Ford song, “Sixteen Tons.” After thoroughly murdering the song, I lay my guitar aside, but I could not get the lyrics out of my head. Something about the words would not let me go, so I picked up the song for another look. The relevancy of the words to today’s world simply amazed me, especially their relevance to education in Mississippi. As I poured over the lyrics, I found myself tweaking them a little here and there until I had an updated version I call “The Mississippi Stud.” Of course, nothing can ever replace the original lyrics or the rich bass-baritone of Tennessee Ernie Ford singing “Sixteen Tons,” but the song’s original lament of hard times and struggles with “the man” experienced by coal miners of the 1940’s and 1950’s was so easily identifiable with the persecution of Mississippi educators by the Governor and other self-proclaimed education experts that I just could not resist. Like those miners, today’s educators in Mississippi are the victims of shameful bullying by the Governor and many legislators in Jackson, and unfortunately, like the miners, Mississippi educators have little choice but to obediently bow to the injustices of the “man.”

The Mississippi Stud

[“Sixteen Tons” adapted by Jack Linton with apologies to Tennessee Ernie Ford]

Phil Bryant believes he’s the Mississippi stud;
He believes teachers are little more than mud.
Made of sand and mud and tears and moans,
He likes weak minds with backs that are strong.

He puts teachers down just to see them sweat;
Treats them with disdain with no regrets.
He believes educators are a bunch of duds;
No one knows better than the Mississippi Stud.

Teach twenty-nine kids, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt!
Saint Peter don’t call public school teachers home;
They owe their soul to the Mississippi Stud.

Teachers were born in the drizzlin’ rain,
Disrespect and trouble their middle names;
They were raised to be feisty by an ol’ mama lion,
But the Mississippi Stud commands they walk the line.

They arrive at school before the sun shines,
Carrying sacks of supplies bought with their dime;
Greet twenty-nine kids with one common goal,
And the Mississippi Stud says, “Well, a-bless your soul”

Teach twenty-nine kids, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt!
Saint Peter don’t call public school teachers home;
They owe their soul to the Mississippi Stud.

If you see him comin’, better step aside;
A lotta teachers didn’t, a lotta teachers cried.
One fist of deception, the other of lies;
If the right don’t a-get you, then left one flies.

Teach twenty-nine kids, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt!
Saint Peter don’t call public school teachers home;
They owe their soul to the Mississippi Stud.

But, Phil is not alone, there are many more –
Reeves, Gunn, Tollison, and Moore;
A pack of wolves smelling educator blood;
All paying homage to the Mississippi stud.

Kick out MAEP, Initiative 42, and Common Core;
Who knows what next they have in store.
Their vouchers and charters will drain public schools,
But, the Mississippi Stud says, “Hey, that’s cool.”

Teach twenty-nine kids, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt!
Saint Peter don’t call public school teachers home;
They owe their soul to the Mississippi Stud.

So, if you see him comin’, better step aside;
A lotta teachers didn’t, a lotta teachers cried.
One fist of deception, the other of lies;
If the right don’t a-get you, then left one flies.

Teach twenty-nine kids, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt!
Saint Peter don’t call public school teachers home;
They owe their soul to the Mississippi Stud.

Disclaimer [The small print]:  The chances of royalties for “The Mississippi Stud” are mathematically in line with the possibilities the Mississippi Legislature will fully fund MAEP for the 2015 – 2016 school year. However, sometimes it’s fun to dream. Maybe, teachers should have a pajama day to express that they have not given up on the dream.

Let me know what you think, and if you would like to add a verse or two, fire away. If you would like to change the title to “The Mississippi Dud,” that’s okay too. If Governor Bryant and his cronies in the state legislature can appoint themselves education experts, I am confident the rest of us are just as qualified to be songwriting experts. So, I hope educators have a little fun with the adaptation; the Lord knows they are due.

JL

©Jack Linton, February 15, 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

A Casualty of War: The Takeover of Mississippi Education

The hostile attitude held by so many Republicans toward education in Mississippi is sickening. Their view that Mississippi educators have let the people of Mississippi down is preposterous. The lip service they pay to supporting public education is highly questionable. Their refusal to work hand in hand with state educators to fix education problems in favor of resolving issues on their own is dangerous. Their desire to tear down every existing education fence without first understanding why it was built is absolutely crazy. Their methods that often smell of Orwellian “Big Brother” is horrifying. That they are Mississippians waging war against fellow Mississippians is disheartening.

I have nothing against the Republican Party or the Democratic Party; over the years, I have probably voted Democrat or Republican an equal number of times. My vote has always gone to the man or woman I believed had the credentials, experience and integrity to lead and do what was right for the people. Lately though, with the lack of cooperation exhibited by both parties, I find support for either to be difficult. It is problematic for me to support what has become a messy Red and Blue political war at the expense of the American people. What went wrong with the political party system? How did politicians at both the national and state levels come to believe they know more about what is best for the people than the people? When was the Constitution amended to give Republicans or Democrats the power and authority to rule over the people rather than serve the people?

Some say it began with the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States. That may be true, but I believe the roots go much deeper. I believe it began when we lost respect for ourselves as a nation and a people. Recently, I watched the combined United States House of Representatives and Senate act like bad-mannered schoolboys as they riddled the President’s State of the Union Address with unrelenting disrespectful side chatter. Members of Congress do not have to like the man in power, but the man in power is the President of the Greatest Nation the world has ever known, and he is the elected choice of the people. Regardless of the man, the office of the President deserves to be treated with respect, but maybe respect is too much to ask when apparently so many no longer respect themselves or the Congressional offices they hold.

Since 2009 when the childlike pettiness and mule-headed refusal to work together began to truly escalate, the party system (Democrat and Republican) in the United States and at the state level has served little purpose other than to take up space. In his Farewell Address, George Washington warned this would happen, “It (party) serves to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another. . . It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption . . . .” Doesn’t that sound exactly like both political parties at the national and state levels today? Their inconsequential jealousies and blatant animosity toward one another have nearly crippled our nation, and it is threatening to do the same to Mississippi.

The spirit of war that this jealousy and animosity has created between the Red (Republican) and Blue (Democrat) political parties is destroying the very foundation of our state. Unfortunately, in Mississippi, children, teachers, and school administrators are the first to be caught in the crossfire. Education has become a convenient rallying point for the Governor and Republicans’ obsessive fears of takeover by the extremes of the Obama socialist left on one side, and what they deem an incompetent education system that has strayed too far from the conservative values of the Republican Party on the other side. Yet, as the Republicans stage their own state takeover, they refuse to listen or work with state educators, and they propose bills just as heavy-handed and to the left as any regime with intentions of suppression. When it comes to education, not working hand in hand with state educators for improvement is shameful. When it comes to taking away the rights of the people, it does not matter if it is Obama or the Republicans leading the charge – both are wrong.

Although wariness of big government is not completely unhealthy, tearing apart an education system without knowing what you are tearing down, and then trying to legislate it back together is foolish. That’s like putting together a commercial airliner with Elmer’s glue; it looks good on the runway, but falls apart in the sky. You cannot fix the state’s education problems with Elmer’s glue/rhetoric nor can the problems be fixed with legislated band aids; it sounds good in theory and in the media and looks good on paper, but such superficial solutions will still fall far short of the educational needs of the state’s children. The first steps in improving an organization is to establish stringent guidelines for the product produced, secure funding, and hire the best people possible. Therefore, the first steps to improving education are to stabilize and strengthen it with stronger education standards, provide adequate funding that provides adequate resources and facilities, and secure incentives for recruiting bright young minds to be teachers. The Republicans who often speak of operating education more like a business do not seem to understand this, or they choose to ignore it. Instead, they are convinced Mississippi will be better served if they simply crusade to save the people of Mississippi from the incompetence of state educators and the socialist left of the Obama regime by increasing rhetoric and passing more laws.

I am afraid there is much more going on here than just a fight against incompetent teachers and protecting the people from Obama’s socialism. If you look closely at the Republican education bills proposed by the 2015 Mississippi House and Senate, it becomes clear this fight has very little to do with incompetent educators or the socialist left. This is a fight for power; a fight to dismantle the public school system in Mississippi to ensure the socioeconomic status of the “haves” and the “have nots.” Under the pretense of parental choice, this fight is about directing public dollars to charter schools, private schools, and homeschooling to ensure a segregated education. This is a fight that if lost will set Mississippi back at least a hundred years.

With such Republican sponsored bills as HB (House Bill) 449, designed to take away the First Amendment right of state educators, and SB (Senate Bill) 2249, which will create the Mississippi Commission on College and Career Readiness and strip the State Superintendent of Education as well as the State Board of Education of their duties as education policy makers, it is fast becoming clear that the “bad guys” on the left the Republicans have so vehemently cried against may have been on the right all along. Proposing a law to hush educator questions and concerns or imposing Gestapo like laws to strip the Constitutional authority granted a state agency are actions Americans may expect of hostile socialist and communists takeovers, but not from an American political party. There is nothing conservative or American about such actions; such actions go against everything Americans believe! Yet, this is happening in Mississippi. There is always hope that such bills as HB 449 and SB 2249 will not make it out of committee, but since the state’s Republicans have appointed themselves as education’s judge, jury, and executioner, I would hesitate to bet money against either of these bills. The Republicans often paint themselves as conservatives, but some of the recent bills they have proposed are anything but conservative. As unbelievable as it may sound, the Republican Party in Mississippi has moved so far to the right that they are now on the left. The only positive I can see is that their red colors fly well on the left.

JL

©Jack Linton, January 26, 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

Mississippi Bullies and the Common Core Carousel

Educators are not perfect, but it is rare to find one who does not care for children and have their best educational interests at heart. They devote themselves to years of rigorous training to become knowledgeable education leaders in the classroom as well as knowledgeable school administrators. Yet, some politicians would have the public believe Mississippi educators are not equipped or competent enough to make educational decisions for what is best for Mississippi children. The recent comments by Governor Phil Bryant and Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves promoting kicking the Common Core Standards out the door and setting up a task force composed of parents and legislators to rewrite the Standards is a prime example of their lack of confidence in the expertise of Mississippi educators. While educators across the state from the State Superintendent of Education down voice their support for the Standards, Bryant and Reeves have turned a deaf ear to them. When asked to clarify their opposition to the Common Core Standards, Bryant and Reeves point to the failed argument that the Standards are Obama’s standards and not the State of Mississippi’s standards. Although it has been pointed out again and again that the President had nothing to do with writing the Standards, Bryant and Reeves refuse to dismount that dead horse. It is unfortunate that their Obamaphobia blinds them to the promise of a better education and future that the Common Core Standards hold for the children of Mississippi.

These two politically motivated self-proclaimed education gurus also claim the Common Core Standards are too confusing and frustrating for parents to understand, so the standards must be thrown out or at least dumbed down – excuse me I meant to say amended.   However, as anyone with any common sense knows, the truth behind the frustration with the Standards can be directly linked to Mississippi’s failed education standards of the past. Maybe if Mississippi teachers had all along been teaching to standards half as rigorous as the Common Core Standards, there would be far less confusion and push-back against the Standards. Teachers who have embraced the Common Core Standards say it is the adults who are having the biggest problem with the Standards – not the children. But, maybe Common Core Standards are not really the issue at all; maybe the only real issue is Obamaphobia. I wonder if George W. Bush was still in office if the Common Core Standards would be an issue at all.

In another recent example of education sabotage, Governor Bryant openly doubted the authority of the State Superintendent of Education and subsequently the State Board of Education to make decisions about education policy. In his clueless overreach of his own authority, he said the power to make educational decisions and policy lay with the public and the state legislature and not the State Superintendent of Education. It is ironic that the Governor cries out against the tyranny of federal intervention in state affairs every chance he gets, yet he has little problem exercising his own brand of tyranny over the Mississippi Department of Education and educators in general. His lack of support for educators and the whimsical support of education by Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves are knives in the backs of educators who blindly voted for them in the last election. Unfortunately, if the Governor and Lieutenant Governor have their way, the real bloodletting of public education in Mississippi may have only just begun.

With the negativity and abuse continually directed at educators, it is a wonder anyone still wants to be a teacher. The ones still teaching are a testament to their dedication to the profession, their abuse repelling thick skin, and their love for the children they teach. Of course, educators know from the start that the life of an educator is not easy – never has been nor will it ever be. They enter the profession knowing they will never be paid adequately for the long hours they devote to their students, and that they will spend more time with other people’s children than they do their own.  Despite their sacrifices, teachers understand they will rarely receive the respect they deserve; however, they should at least be able to count on the respect and support of a governor and lieutenant governor they helped elect and not be cast as a scapegoat for political gain.

Educators work in a society where education is undervalued, and the political and public perception is a student succeeds in spite of the teacher and fails because of the teacher. Such views are disrespectful and are a major reason at least half of all educators leave the profession within the first three to five years.  Why stay in a profession where the political and public opinion is so sour toward your profession? Why stay in a profession where the opinion of every local yokel holds more educational clout than the opinions and expertise of educators? We trust our automobiles to the expertise of a mechanic; we trust the construction and safety of the many bridges we travel to the expertise of an engineer; we trust our physical well-being to the expertise of a medical doctor; so, doesn’t it stand to reason we should trust educational decisions impacting the future of our children to the expertise of educators? After all, the mechanic, the engineer, medical doctor and educator are the experts in their fields. If an educator’s expertise is always in question, why should a young educator stay in the profession? Why stay in a profession where the Governor and Lieutenant Governor believe they know more about education and what is best for children than the education experts? I wonder if any of the education naysayers in this state ever stop to think about what they are doing to public education. By itself, the number of educators leaving the profession is enough to show the crippling impact of negativism on public education in Mississippi as well as on the nation.

The Governor and Lieutenant Governor’s low regard for Mississippi’s educators is appalling, especially their total disregard for the constitutional authority of the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent of Education to make educational decisions and policy. Also, their disdain for standards designed to teach children to reason and think on their own is absolutely beyond comprehension. However, just as appalling and beyond comprehension is that Mississippi educators tolerate their disrespect. The words and actions of the Governor clearly demonstrate he regards educators as second class citizens not worthy of an equal voice with the general public. When he speaks about the public, he is referring to the public who will re-elect him for a second term and not educators. He understands politics and knows historically educators, due to their lack of unity, are not a threat to him or his policies. Why cater to the lambs when there are so many hounds and the wolves prowling at his door?

The perception of educators as second class citizens is not likely to change unless educators are willing to take a stand against political hypocrisy, and Mississippi’s two-hundred year love affair with ignorance! Sometimes in Mississippi, we seem to be so proud of our legacy of ignorance and so in love with the past that we are blind to the future passing us by. Thankfully, educators are in the business of stamping out ignorance, but ignorance is like a forest fire.  Once out of control, it is almost impossible to get it back under control until it has burned itself out.  Unfortunately, there is little evidence that the “good ole boy” induced ignorance that has engulfed education in this state is anywhere near burning itself out. That is indeed unfortunate since Mississippi’s children can no longer afford to lose ground academically to the rest of the nation and world.

So what can be done? The first thing that has to happen if educators are to get the respect they deserve is they must stand up for themselves! The Governor believes education belongs to the public, so educators must show him they are an integral vote casting, tax paying part of the public as well. Educators need to unite and speak out LOUDLY! They need to speak out until they are heard and changes in attitudes and policies are made that provide a healthy education system for the children of Mississippi as well as respect for the state’s educators. There is more good happening in education in this state than “good ole boy” politicians such as Bryant and Reeves would have people believe. Regrettably, teachers do such a poor job of marketing themselves and the good they do that the good is often lost in the ever swirling clouds of political smokescreens.

Politicians such as Bryant and Reeves continually manipulate and create their own press by telling the people what they want the people to believe. When it comes to what is happening in education, the majority of the public knows only what they hear on the ten o’clock news and read in the newspapers. They believe the negative about education because that is what they hear and read the most. So, for public education to survive, it is critical for educators to create their own press. They must use every means available to promote the positives about their profession and themselves. They must make a concentrated effort to ensure the public hears and sees the good that is happening in public school classrooms. It is time for Mississippi educators to shed the lamb’s skin, and take on the mantle of the lion. It is time to tell Bryant and Reeves to leave their politics out of education, and let those who have the credentials to teach and make decisions about education do their job. If educators do not unite and speak out for themselves, there will be no end to the present Common Core carousel until it crashes and burns along with our children. If educators do not unite and speak out for themselves, there will be no end to the constant political bullying they receive at the hands of politicians such as Phil Bryant and Tate Reeves.

JL

©Jack Linton, December 12, 2014

Things about Teachers Your Child does not Want You to Know

When it comes to self-preservation, 99.9% of children will tell an outright lie or tell only the part of the truth that is in their best interest, especially when it comes to school. Many parents find this hard to accept, and although it is a flaw inherent in all who walk erect, they are offended by anyone who would dare suggest their children will not always tell the truth. Yet, telling a lie, shading the truth, or bending the truth to sway favor, to hide involvement, or to shun responsibility is a human trait that cannot be denied. Good parenting, the best mentors, Sunday school, membership in the choir, or good deeds in the community will not completely absolve this human flaw. This is not a condemnation of children but rather a confirmation of their less than perfect humanity.

Children understand their parents need to believe they are perfect and not capable of falsehoods, and they play that card to their fullest advantage. They are experts at presenting themselves as the innocent victim when sometimes nothing could be further from the truth. They understand that their parents are devoutly protective and will take their side of any story, especially if their story is contradictory to the story of a stranger such as a teacher. Children recognize that it is in their best interest to maintain a certain amount of distance between their parents and teachers at all times; they know that familiarity between the two breeds problems for them.   In their minds, life works best when they can keep their parents in the dark about school and at odds with their teachers. Children do not want their parents digging deeper into their story before reacting – gut or knee jerk reactions are much more likely to go in their favor. Therefore, the last thing they want is a prudent parent who seeks the truth by listening to both sides of the story before reacting, and the best way to prevent that from happening is to convince their parents that they are innocent victims of a conniving ill spirited teacher. This does not mean children are evil, but that they are committed to the human pursuit of happiness and the joys of liberty, both of which in their minds are often compromised by school in general and teachers in particular.

As a result, there are certain things that children would rather their parents not know about their teachers. For example, they are happy for their parents to believe their teachers are mean and uncaring, do not like them, pick on them, and that nothing of any educational value ever takes place in their classroom. As long as parents believe everything their children say about their teachers with little or no consideration that there may be some deception at hand, children are in total control. The only threat to their control occurs when parents and teachers get too close, or the parents catch the “sensible bug” and start questioning and digging for the whole story. Children understand their goose is cooked if their parents discover they are not above manipulating the truth. Consequently, maintaining a degree of separation between parents and teachers is crucial to preserve their pursuit of happiness and liberty.

So, how do children keep parents and teachers from becoming too chummy? That is quite simple; they use the old battle worn tactic of divide and conquer. Children know if they keep their parents believing their teacher is treating them unfairly, or their teacher is incompetent that they can be reasonably assured their parents will stand firmly entrenched in their corner with little inclination to listen to anything negative an inept teacher who is mistreating their baby has to say. In effect, children portray themselves as innocents awaiting rescue by knights in shining armor (parents) from the evil villains (teachers). This estranged relationship between parents and teachers ensures the separation of powers (parents from teachers), and effectively camouflages all that children do not want their parents to know about their teachers, such as . .

  1. Children do not want their parents to know their teacher is actually pretty nice. They do not want their parents to know that . . .
    1. My teacher greets me with a smile every morning though she knows she will rarely get one in return;
    2. My teacher patiently answers my questions even when I ask the same question for the sixth or seventh time;
    3. My teacher does not pick on me or single me out. My teacher has the same expectations for me as she does for all her students;
    4. My teacher remembers my birthday even when no one else does; and
    5. My teacher encourages me and makes me feel important even when no one else believes in me.
  2. Children do not want their parents to know their teacher did not really say or do that. They do not want their parents to know that . . .
    1. My teacher did not say I was a dummy; she said I needed to study more;
    2. My teacher did not say I was going to fail; she said I had several assignments I needed to complete before report card grades were assigned;
    3. My teacher did not yell at me to “shut up;” she begged, “I love you, so please shut up;”
    4. My teacher did not embarrass me by yelling at me; she became excited when she saw the paperclip I stuck in the electrical outlet; and
    5. My teacher did not say she was not here to teach me; she said she was not here to give me the answers.
  3. Children do not want their parents to know their teacher sent the information home twice. They do not want their parents to know that . . .
    1. I did not bring it home because it was not cool;
    2. I did not bring it home because I do not want you meddling in my life at school;
    3. I did not bring it home because I do not want you to have a conference with my teacher;
    4. I did not bring it home because the less you know, the better life is for me; and
    5. I did not bring it home because you might find out I am the problem and not the teacher.
  4. Children do not want their parents to know their teacher posted rules and consequences. They do not want their parents to know that . . .
    1. My teacher made sure students were aware of classroom rules and expectations;
    2. My teacher made sure students were aware of consequences for bad behavior;
    3. My teacher did not break the rules; I did;
    4. My teacher did not choose the consequences for my bad behavior; I did; and
    5. My teacher has high expectations for good behavior in her classroom; she does not warn repeatedly but follows rules and administers consequences consistently and fairly.
  5. Children do not want their parents to know their teacher gives adequate time to complete assignments. They do not want their parents to know that . . .
    1. My teacher gave me eight weeks to research, write, and turn in my project. It is not my teacher’s fault I waited until the night before it was due to begin working on it;
    2. My teacher gave me adequate time plus additional time to complete my test. It is not my teacher’s fault that I waited until the morning of the test to start thinking that maybe I should have studied for the test;
    3. My teacher gave me adequate time to complete or at least partially complete my homework assignment in class. It is not my teacher’s fault that I chose to use that time to daydream or socialize with my friends;
    4. My teacher gave me adequate time plus extra time to finish my classwork. It is not my teacher’s fault that I did not pay attention in class and had to stay in during recess or break to complete my assigned classwork; and
    5. My teacher gave me opportunities to redo assignments as well as retake some tests. It is not my teacher’s fault that I am failing. She is doing everything humanly possible to ensure I learn and pass despite very little effort on my part.
  6. Children do not want their parents to know their teacher comes to class prepared to teach. They do not want their parents to know that . . .
    1. Contrary to what I tell you, my teacher is always prepared to teach; however, I am not always prepared to learn;
    2. Contrary to what I tell you, when I pay attention and apply myself to the lesson I do learn something every day;
    3. Contrary to what I tell you, my teacher is very knowledgeable; however, I am more concerned with socializing, sports, planning my trip to the mall after school, and who went out with who this past weekend to pay attention;
    4. Contrary to what I tell you, my teacher makes learning interesting and relevant; however, I am too tired to keep my eyes open from staying out late or talking on my cell phone into the early hours of the morning to keep up and adequately participate in class; and
    5. Contrary to what I tell you, my teacher treats me with respect, has high expectations of me, cares about me, and does everything within her power to ensure I learn; however, it is easier for me to make you believe she does not like me and treats me unfairly. Once you accept that, it is easy to get you to blame all my self-inflicted problems on my teacher, which effectively vanquishes all my responsibility as a student. Thank you mom and dad!

These are just a few of the things children do not want their parents to know about their teachers. For them school is often seen as little more than an infringement on their happiness and liberty, and that will most likely only change with time and maturity. Happiness for a child has nothing to do with their future; it is cemented in the present. School for them is a fog shrouded social networked tunnel where the future is now. They live day to day with little thought outside their friends, the mall, dating, and liberty from the oppressive constraints of school and parents. If they can create or manipulate a divide between the two, so much the better since in their minds they can at least for a short time free themselves of any responsibility that threatens their idea of happiness and liberty.

JL

©Jack Linton, October 30, 2014