Tag Archives: respect for teachers

Warning Shot Fired at State Educators by Mississippi Legislature

After House Bill (HB) 449 in 2015 and HB 49 in 2016 failed to become law and silence state educators, the Mississippi Legislature may have delivered a coup de gras with the recent passage of HB 1643, Section 44.  Section 44 reads . . .

“None of the funds provided herein may be expended to make payments or transfers to the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents. Furthermore, none of the funds provided herein may be expended if any local school district expends any public funds to make payments or transfers to the Association.”

Over the years, the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents (MASS) has been a major education liaison between educators and the Mississippi Legislature.  After July 1, 2016, Section 44 may put an end to that relationship, but as grave as the loss of an association devoted to promoting and improving education may be, the gravest consequence of Section 44 may well be the silencing of educator voices across Mississippi.  By prohibiting payments from public funds to MASS and threatening to withhold state funds to any local district violating Section 44, the legislature fired a warning shot aimed at all state educators.  They sent a strong message that if any educator dares side or speak against them, as some superintendents did during the controversial and heated Initiative 42 campaign in the fall of 2015, there will be consequences to pay.

Bill author, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson, R–Poplarville, made it clear Section 44 of the bill is retaliation for what he called personal attacks against state officials by state school district superintendents during the Initiative 42 campaign.  He said, “When they attack people like that, they’re biting the hand that feeds them, and maybe the next time they need to think about that.”  However, the record supports the problem goes much deeper than Initiative 42.  Prior to the Initiative, House Education Chairman, John L. Moore introduced HB 449 in the 2015 legislative session that threatened to penalize educators $10,000 dollars for exercising their freedom of speech on school related issues.  He renewed his effort to silence educators in the 2016 legislative session when he introduced HB 49, which was basically a repeat of his failed 2015 bill.  The objective of both bills was to silence the voice of educators across the state who spoke in protest against state legislators who refused to honor the law and fully fund education.

Frierson said, “There’s very little trust between the leadership and school administrators and most of it goes back to the 42 campaign.”  He is right; little trust exists between state leadership and educators in general, and the vindictiveness of HB 1643, Section 44 will do nothing to build trust between the two factions.  The distrust between the two, which began long before Initiative 42, will only grow deeper as a result of such pettiness.  This rift began when state legislators repeatedly went back on their word to fully fund MAEP (Mississippi Adequate Education Program), and refused to work and listen to state educators on education issues.  This divide escalated with Initiative 42 when legislators placed an alternative measure on the ballot, which confused the issue and made it difficult at best for the Initiative to pass.  Trust between the two deteriorated further when legislators misled state voters with threats of budget cuts to other agencies if the Initiative passed – cuts that nevertheless became a reality after the Initiative was defeated.

HB 1643, Section 44 was a stroke of political genius.  By taking a less direct route than Moore and embedding the retaliatory action against school superintendents in the appropriations bill, Frierson kept his intentions under the radar as a part of the greater bill.  However, the impact on educators will be everything Moore hoped for, if not more.  Section 44 is most likely a death blow to MASS, and due to fear of reprisals against them, it may likely usher the end of educators speaking out for fairness, integrity, and common sense on education issues.  As Frierson would say, “If it does, it does.”  After all, why should free speech stand in the way of the greater power of the state legislature?

It is ironic some of the exact things the Mississippi leadership detests most about the federal government are forced on Mississippi citizens by the state leadership.  They detest the federal government usurping the power of local government, yet Section 44 tells local school districts how to spend local dollars.  They openly despise Common Core Standards because they argue the federal government bullied schools into using the standards or risk losing federal funds.  Doesn’t Section 44 do the same when it threatens to withhold state funds from local school districts that fail to take part in the legislature’s vendetta against the superintendent’s association?  It appears the Mississippi Legislature may be as power hungry if not more so than the federal government they rail so vehemently against.

Isn’t it also ironic America’s most basic right, free speech, is the right many Mississippi legislators want to strip from state educators?  In the United States of America (Mississippi is a part of the United States), instead of reprisals against free speech, shouldn’t there be reprisals against those who advocate such?  However, retaliation against either side will not resolve this issue.  As Frierson said the issues boil down to trust, and at this time neither the legislature nor state educators trust the other to do their jobs effectively.

After the defeat of Initiative 42, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves spoke about pulling both sides together as a family.  That has not happened.  All anyone needs to do is examine such bills as HB 49 and Section 44 of HB 1643 to see educators are not regarded as family by the state legislature.  If they were family, legislators would be more inclined to listen to them, and not try to silence them.  However, maybe Mr. Reeves’ words were for show only, and what Frierson, Moore and many others in the legislature really want is for educators to prostrate themselves before them.  If so, who is next – small business owners?  Ministers?   Simply put, Section 44 is nothing less than heavy handed tyranny that should scare all Mississippians into waking up!

JL

©Jack Linton, June 4, 2016

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

Education Questions All Mississippians Should Ask

Over the past several months I have written about Common Core Standards, MAEP, and other topics related to Mississippi education. I have given my opinion as well as presented facts in an effort to understand what is going on in Mississippi. However, a year later I along with many other educators are still asking questions that fall on deaf ears or are completely ignored. The questions we are asking are not questions that just educators need to be asking; all Mississippians who are concerned about the future of our state and children should be asking these questions. Although there seems to be few willing to listen and even fewer willing to take action, the bigger problem comes in the form of those who “know it all,” those who are apprehensive about saying anything, and those poor apathetic souls who stick their heads in the sand and ignore what is happening. Education in Mississippi is coming unraveled around us, and because of these attitudes little is being done to stop it. State leaders in Jackson have made it clear they believe the education system in Mississippi is broken primarily due to the incompetence of educators across the state, and that they alone know how to fix it. With the exception of a few, education leaders across the state have been strangely silent on the issues, and when they do speak they tread lightly for fear of possibly angering the leadership in Jackson and bringing down more condemnation on their heads. Many teachers have simply battened down the hatches to weather the storm with the mindset “this too shall pass,” and maybe it will, but at what cost? When it comes to education, there are few on the same page anymore. Little trust or respect remains between educators and those they elected to represent them in the state legislature. Legislators have made it clear they do not want to be bothered by educators; they believe they know what Mississippi needs educationally, and that educators should stay out of their way as they go about taking control of the state’s education system. The Governor has made it clear that when it comes to decisions regarding education that he, the legislature, and the public are the ultimate decision makers regardless of what educators say. The 2015 Mississippi legislators have made it very clear that educators do not have a voice in Mississippi, and it has become painfully apparent that educators no longer know which way to turn or who to turn to.

Any group without a voice is an oppressed group, and lately the most oppressed group in Mississippi has been educators. Napoleon Bonaparte said, “Among those who dislike oppression are many who like to oppress.” In recent memory, I cannot think of any greater oppressors of a single group in Mississippi than the oppression that has been demonstrated by Governor Phil Bryant and his Republican buddies in the state legislature toward state educators. When a bill is introduced such as HB 449 that advocates silencing educators, that bill is an act of oppression.   When comments of expertise by the state’s top education leader on an impending education bill is solicited by Democrats but denied by Republicans in favor of hearsay and parking lot opinion that is oppression. When the unqualified opinions of a few regarding state standards are given consideration over the expertise of state educators that is an act of oppression. For whatever reason, Republican legislators headed by Phil Bryant and Tate Reeves would rather bruise the heads of teachers and school administrators under their boot heel than work side by side with them to improve Mississippi. What a shame! The current state of affairs in Mississippi differs little from what can be expected of children fussing and fighting on the playground. We could accomplish so much more if the boys and girls in Jackson could learn to play together and with others more effectively.

Unfortunately, that will probably not happen, which means we most likely will be asking the same questions we are asking this year again next year. Of course, who’s to say anyone will listen next year any more than they have listened this year or any previous year for that matter? Until someone truly listens, questions about Common Core Standards, college preparation, MAEP, and the Third Grade Reading Gate will always be on the table; down the road they may be called something different, but the issues will remain the same. So, why not address the questions now, so we can regain a bit of our dignity and move Mississippi forward? Anyone looking at the questions understands all it takes is a little common sense and gumption to do what is right.

Education Questions All Mississippians Should Ask:

  1. Common Core Standards:
    1. Would it make sense to spend millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours to build a bridge and then refuse to use it and demand it be torn down because it was discovered Federal dollars may have been used to construct the bridge?
    2. Would it make sense to spend millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours to build a bridge and then without ever conducting the first structural analysis or running the first vehicle across the bridge call it “failed,” and demand it be torn down?
    3. If neither situation makes sense, then why does it make sense for Common Core Standards?
  2. 50% of high school graduates are not prepared for college:
    1. If 50% of Mississippi high school graduates are not prepared for their first year of college, why are state leaders condemning education as a whole?
    2. If 50% of Mississippi high school graduates are not prepared for their first year of college, wouldn’t it make more sense to look at the data to determine who the students are who are not prepared, where they come from, and the demographics of the schools they attended before condemning all schools and teachers? What if we found it was a poverty related issue and not an instructional issue, or what if we found it was indeed an instructional issue? Isn’t that what we need to know and address? Wouldn’t it make more sense to pinpoint the problem rather than to lay a blanket of blame on all teachers?
    3. Also, wouldn’t it be much wiser to look at the 50% who are prepared for college and study why they succeed when others fail. Wouldn’t it make sense to take what we learn from the study and replicate what led to the upper 50%’s success?
  3. MAEP:
    1. Why are so many state legislators opposed to fully funding MAEP (Mississippi Adequate Education Program)? Do they have an agenda, and if so, what is it? Obviously they know something the rest of us do not know, or do they?
    2. Instead of all the games, wouldn’t it be smarter to change MAEP to the MISSISSIPPI ALMOST ENOUGH PLAN, and forget it?
    3. Wouldn’t it be smarter not to worry so much about MAEP and focus on establishing bread lines and shelters for the unemployable, funding larger prisons, and improving airstrips and shopping malls for corporate America as they flock to Mississippi to take advantage of the state’s billion dollar tax breaks as well as a minimally educated cheap labor force?
  4. Third Grade Reading Gate:
    1. I don’t always agree with Phil Bryant, but Mississippi needs a reading gate (I believe the gate should actually be a year earlier, but third grade is a start), so wouldn’t it be wise to go ahead and hold students and schools accountable for the Third Grade Reading Gate this school year as planned?
    2. What will delaying the reading assessment for a year accomplish? A year from now, education will most likely still be underfunded and most likely, there will still not be enough reading coaches in place to make a dramatic difference, so why bother to delay?
    3. On the positive side, wouldn’t taking the reading test help the schools gather baseline reading data that can be used to make a difference? Does it really matter if it’s 25% who fail this year or 14% who fail the reading test a year from now? Aren’t both unacceptable? Who are we protecting by delaying, the children or the adults?

Isn’t it a shame we have to ask these questions over and over – year after year? Why can’t legislators and educators work together for the common good of our children?  Why do our elected representatives insist on being adversarial?  Believe it or not educators are the good guys!

JL

©Jack Linton, February 22, 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

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

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

A Message from a Teacher to a Parent

Dear Parent,

I am a teacher, and I love what I do, but in the past year I have received ugly emails from disgruntled parents, received angry telephone calls after 10:00 p.m., been yelled at like a dog in front of children, been called a liar and vulgar names, and threatened with physical harm.  Some people shrug and say all this goes with the territory, but I disagree.  No one deserves this kind treatment regardless of the “territory!”  I am sorry that I may not always meet your expectations, but I do my best, and I take pride in my profession and the difference I make in the lives of children.  However, since you seem to think I fall short of the expectations you have for your child’s teacher, please bear with me as I address each of your expectations . . . .

1.  You expect me to teach your child to read, write, do math, and think critically.  Yet, you bring your child to school late and check him out early regularly!
2.  You expect me to be responsible for your child learning and being successful.  Yet, you are not responsible enough to make your child go to school.
3.  You expect me to teach your child to love learning and be a life-long leaner.  Yet, the only learning taking place in your house is in front of a television.
4.  You expect me to have rules and order in the classroom.  Yet, I am at fault when your child breaks the rules or disrupts class.
5.  You expect me to teach your child to respect others and to be a good citizen.  Yet, you come to the school confrontational, cursing, and acting a fool.
6.  You expect school problems can be resolved by bringing back prayer.  Yet, when did you last pray with your child before he or she left for school?
7.  You expect me to teach your child how to be responsible for his actions.  Yet, you raise hell when your child is scored low for missing deadlines.
8.  You buy season tickets to support your child in extracurricular activities.  Yet, when was the last time you showed your face at a PTO meeting?

And finally . . . .

9.  You have no idea how hard I’ve studied to be a teacher who makes a difference.  Yet, I spend my time doing your job – being a father and mother to your child.
10.  You have no clue the level of accountability I am held to for your child’s learning.  Yet, you refuse to accept your responsibility as a parent for your child’s learning?

You have not realized this yet, but you and I have a common bond that binds us, so, maybe you should try working with me instead of against me . . . .

After all we are talking about YOUR CHILD.

Sincerely

Your Child’s Teacher

I don’t mean to offend, but . . . . 

what you see printed above is often how teachers feel.  Teachers are not perfect, but it is rare to find one who does not genuinely care for the children they teach.  Teachers enter the profession knowing they will never be paid adequately for the hours they devote to their students.  They enter the profession with an understanding they will spend more time with other people’s children than they do their own.  They also understand they will always be the scapegoat for politicians trying to make a name for themselves.  They understand that by the very nature of their jobs, they will always be easy targets for yellow journalism.  They understand they live in a society where a student succeeds in spite of the teacher, and fails because of the teacher.

Maybe that is why 50% of all newcomers to teaching leave the profession within the first 5 years.  Why?  Maybe it is because over 400,000 teachers are either physically assaulted or threatened each year as reported by the United States Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics. Maybe it is because every time teachers turn around, there is another politician proclaiming how “sorry” and “worthless” teachers are.  Maybe it is because everybody is an expert when it comes to teaching.  As a result, everyone has an opinion as to what is wrong with American education and what to do about it, but when was the last time someone asked or listened to a teacher about how to fix education?  Maybe teachers leave the profession because they are treated like they are not real people.  Pets are treated with more kindness and respect than teachers.  Respect?  Of course, the key to teacher longevity is RESPECT, or I should say LACK OF RESPECT is probably the number one reason teachers leave the profession.

Will it ever change?  Probably not.  Teachers 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 ignorance wild-fire that has engulfed education in this country is any where near burning itself out.

That is indeed unfortunate, since this nation’s children cannot afford to continue to lose good teachers.

I don’t mean to offend, but . . . .

JL

©Jack Linton, December 30, 2013