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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

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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

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

From the Mouth of an Elementary School Child

“My mom is a stay at home mom. She can’t keep a job,” are the words of a second grader when asked about her mother’s career. Simple, innocent, and truthful, the words of elementary school students can sometimes be very enlightening. An elementary teacher once told me about a third grader who came to class without her homework. The teacher asked her why her mommy or daddy didn’t help her with her homework. The little girl shrugged and said they didn’t have time. Not one to accept excuses, the teacher pressed further and asked why they did not have time to help her. “They were playing in the bedroom,” the little girl said. Simple, innocent, truth comes straight from the mouths of little ones, and that is why a wise teacher once told me to always be careful what you say or do around children as well as how you phrase a question or assignment to them. If teachers are not careful, their words and actions can come back to haunt them, and even well intended questions and assignments can sometimes dig up more information than the teacher would like or need to know.

Children have unique perspectives of the world that can be comical, heartwarming, and even shocking. Their words can make you laugh, cry, or raise your eyebrows, and sometimes their words will lift you up as well as cause you to stop and count your blessings. The little ones, influenced only by their perceptions of truth and the world in which they live, speak their minds and heart. There is no agenda for their words, their words have few filters and their words reflect a simplicity and innocence that often leave adults shaking their heads in wonder. You never know what you may hear and learn from children.

As an educator, I have collected some of the unique things kids say in school, especially those that made me laugh. Of the treasures I have collected, I must admit I am a little partial to the gems that come from the mouths of elementary school kids although the words of middle school and high school students can sometimes be just as innocent and straight forward. However, unlike middle and high school students, the little people are rarely trying to be funny – they just are! Such is the case with the examples I share in this article. The student remarks are innocent reactions and bits of conversation between students as well as between students and teachers in grades kindergarten through sixth grade. Each statement is real and was spoken directly to me, overheard by me, or shared with me by a teacher. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

From the Mouths of Elementary School Children:

  1. Boogers taste pretty awesome: I overheard this one as two first grade boys waited in the cafeteria line. Apparently they had been picking their noses and comparing notes on what they found. I skipped lunch that day.
  2. My mom takes shots for her diarrhea: The little girl who shared this tidbit with her teacher apparently confused diabetes with diarrhea.
  3. My dog and little brother eat out of the litter box: I was in a first grade classroom observing a first year teacher. She read a story to the class about a little boy with a secret. When finished reading, she talked with the boys and girls about good and bad secrets. Before she could finish, a little boy raised his hand and said he had a secret. The teacher asked was it a good or bad secret? The little boy looked around the room and whispered it was really bad. The color left the teacher’s face as she feared the worse, but before she could take the child aside, he announced his secret to the whole class, “My dog and little brother eat out of the litter box.” As the class erupted in laughter, the young teacher laid a hand over her heart and sighed in deep relief.
  4. Cats are smarter than dogs; they don’t eat poop: A teacher shared this one with me from a class writing assignment about favorite pets.
  5. Mommy has a tattoo on her butt: I was visiting a kindergarten classroom where the teacher was reading Peter Pan to the class. When Captain Hook appeared in the story, she stopped to ask the children what they knew about pirates. One little boy said pirates had a patch over one eye, another boy said pirates had a hook for a hand, and a little girl offered that her daddy had told her pirates had tattoos. The teacher was about to continue the story when a little boy raised his hand and said, “My mommy has a tattoo on her butt.” The teacher’s jaw dropped, and she looked wide eyed at me. Trying to keep my composure, I waved goodbye and quickly left the room doing my best to not openly laugh in front of the kids.
  6. My teacher gets real still when she farts: Sometimes teachers have to be extra careful with student assignments. A fourth grade teacher gave her students an assignment asking them to write a paragraph about an adult they liked other than their parents. The paragraph not only had to tell why they liked the person, but it had to tell one “fun” fact about the person they chose. The teacher was flattered when one of her students chose her, but became concerned and embarrassed when the child wrote as his fun fact, “My teacher gets real still when she farts.” There are few things more fun for a nine year old boy than a fart.
  7. Did you see Mrs. ???’s titties when she bent over your desk?: On another visit to an elementary, I was walking down the hall when about twenty-five feet in front of me two second grade boys stepped out of the boys’ restroom on their way back to class. The boys did not see me as they continued laughing and talking. As they passed the open door of a classroom one of the boys said loudly, “I saw Mrs. _____’s titties when she bent over my desk!” You could hear an audible gasp from the classroom, and a wide eyed teacher stepped into the hall. I immediately called the boys to me and spoke to them about the inappropriateness of what I had heard, and then I escorted them back to class. That afternoon, I met with the superintendent about the need for a professional dress code.
  8. My teacher sleeps with her mouth open: This was another student quote overheard in the hallway, which caused me some real concern. However, the sleeping teacher turned out to be a substitute teacher who decided being a substitute was not a good fit for her.
  9. Nobody shoots snot rockets better than Billie: Two fifth grade boys from different classes met in the hallway, and decided to check out the unlocked and open janitor’s closet. They could have investigated the room without getting caught if they had not stopped to spit loogies and shoot snot rockets into a mop bucket in the corner of the closet. Their goose was cooked when a passing teacher heard one say, “That’s not bad, but nobody shoots snot rockets better than Billie.”
  10. You look like you need a hug; I’m a really good hugger: This is maybe my all-time favorite. On my first day as an education consultant, I was buzzed into an elementary school feeling a bit lost and wondering if I really wanted to be a consultant. As I approached the school office a tiny first grade girl, Amanda, was standing in the hall just outside the door. Amanda looked at me and smiled, “You look like you need a hug,” she said, “I’m a really good hugger.” That hug not only made my day, but made the whole job more worthwhile. She reminded me why I was there, and she turned a frightening day into a wonderful experience and a lifetime memory. Thank you Amanda.

One thing I have learned about elementary school children in my brief time with them as an educator is that they never fail to fascinate. Whether they are talking about their home life, their take on bodily functions, or winning hearts with a word, smile, or hug, they never cease to amaze. Their insight into their world and the world around them is priceless. They rarely miss anything, and when they decide to share, adults better hold on; there is no telling what they might say. Art Linkletter said it best, “Kids say the darndest things!”

JL

©Jack Linton, December 6, 2014

Mississippi Headlines of the Future

I have an old crystal ball that collects dust on a bookshelf in what I call my study, or as my wife more appropriately calls it, my junk room. I don’t remember where it came from, but I have had it since I was a boy. There is nothing really special about the ball, but sometimes late at night if I concentrate really hard on it, I can actually see newspaper headlines from the future floating inside. The predictions revealed in these headlines are sometimes debatable, but like any prediction, if you hang around long enough, their accuracy will eventually be revealed.

Mississippi Headlines March 3, 2015 through April 1, 2019

March 3, 2015

Phil Bryant Seeks Second Term as Governor

 Jackson, Mississippi. Governor Phil Bryant officially announced his intentions today to seek a second term as Mississippi’s governor. He promised to continue his fight against federal government interference in state affairs such as education, but he dodged questions regarding common core standards by saying, “Under my watch as governor, Mississippi has moved forward with common core standards implementation in our public schools. I am very much in favor of standards, but I am also very concerned about government interference in local affairs. I sincerely believe minus the political restrictions of my first term, standards for our children minus federal government interference will move forward in Mississippi.”

 

July 4, 2015

Mississippi’s Chris McDaniel Announces for Presidency

 Jackson, Mississippi. Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel announced today his candidacy for President of the United States. McDaniel, formally a Tea Party backed conservative who lost a bitterly contested state runoff for the Mississippi Republican nomination in June 2014, said his conservative ideas are the life blood of the nation and along with his tenaciousness to never say die, he believes he is the only man qualified to put America back on its feet. He also said his announcement to run for the Republican nomination for president in no way jeopardizes continued efforts to have the 2014 Mississippi Republican runoff election overturned. He added that as long as there are Mississippians willing to send $5, $10, $15 or more to support his fight for justice, he will continue to battle for integrity in the election process at least until his children finish college.

 

July 29, 2016

McDaniel Denied Republican Presidential Nomination – Supporters Rumble

Cleveland, Ohio. A day after Mississippi’s Chris McDaniel was denied the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, shocked and dismayed convention organizers are still picking up the pieces of what some are calling “The Rumble in the Jungle II.” After an hour and twenty minute non-concession speech filled with name calling and wild claims of irregularities in the nomination process, trouble erupted when convention security attempted to escort McDaniel from the platform. Video of the incident shows a security officer lean over and whisper something to McDaniel who paused, turned blood red, and wrapped both arms around the podium while yelling over and over, “I am not leaving! No! No! No! It’s mine! It’s mine! It’s mine!” The video shows all three of McDaniel’s supporters jumping on the platform and then hurling chairs and tussling with convention officials and security. Mayhem ensued throughout the convention hall, and to restore peace, the hall had to finally be evacuated.

In a statement to the press this morning, McDainel was emphatic that he and his supporters had done nothing wrong. He also said in days to come he would seek legal advice as to how best to proceed, and said legal action was a distinct possibility. Before, leaving his hotel in a white limousine with license plates “I THE WAY,” McDaniel shook hands with several onlookers and encouraged them to send him whatever they could afford to fight what he described as “the continued conspiracy and fraud rampant in my beloved Republican party.”

 

November 15, 2016

Phil Bryant Vows to Fight Common Core

Jackson, Mississippi. In Governor Phil Bryant’s first public address since being reelected as governor last week, he said he is in full support of doing away with common core standards in Mississippi, and will sign any legislation that comes before him that will effectively strike common core from Mississippi’s vocabulary. When reminded about his statement prior to the election where he implied his support of common core, Bryant snapped, “I implied nothing. I said very clearly common core standards were implemented statewide during my first term, and that I supported standards for our children. I did not say I supported common core standards.” When asked if he thought his pre-election statement may have deceived some voters, Bryant shrugged and said, “Oh well, I guess they won’t vote for me next time.”

 

March 21, 2017

Phil Bryant Strikes Down Common Core Standards

Jackson, Mississippi. Saying common core standards were a failed program supported by big government and people of questionable education merit, Governor Phil Bryant signed legislation today that effectively strikes down common core standards in Mississippi. He said this is something he has believed in for quite some time, and that he felt in his heart it was the right thing to do. However, he did say he might reconsider his action if governors in surrounding states such as Louisiana, Arkansas, and Alabama retracted their plans to oust common core standards or held fast to their support of the standards. When asked if that wasn’t being wishy-washy on the issue, Bryant said, “No, that’s being realistic.”

 

April 17, 2017

State Legislature Writes Mississippi Standards

 Jackson, Mississippi. In an anticipated move following striking down common core standards in Mississippi a little over three weeks ago, Governor Phil Bryant announced plans for Mississippi’s new standards. Under Bryant’s plan the new standards will be authored by legislators in both the state senate and house. Bryant said in a prepared statement, “It is time to put education back into the hands of the people who truly know and understand what Mississippi children need.” There was no immediate time line given for developing the standards, but legislators are expected to begin writing the new standards as soon as they fully fund MAEP.

 

February 14, 2018

Conservative Citizens Council to lead Mississippi Education

 Jackson, Mississippi. While state legislators continue to struggle with developing new state education standards, in a not so surprising move Governor Phil Bryant announced he will completely dismantle the Mississippi Department of Education by the end of the current 2017-2018 school year. In its place he will establish the Conservative Citizens Council of Mississippi to oversee education in the state. The Council will be made up of 12 committee members including the governor, attorney general, one at large attorney, five at large citizens with or without children in the public school system, two state senators, and two state representatives. The governor and attorney general will be automatically seated on the committee while all other committee members will be selected by the governor. When asked about teacher representation on the council, Bryant replied, “As council members we represent the teachers as well as the children of the state.”

 

April 1, 2019

Chris McDaniel Joins Fox News

 New York. Fox News announced today that former Mississippi state senator and presidential candidate, Chris McDaniel, will join the Fox News family. McDaniel will replace Glen Beck who recently announced his bid for the Republican nomination for president. Sponsors such as Pampers, Huggies, Similac Formula, Britax, and Johnson’s Essentials for Babies have expressed a strong interest in sponsoring the show. “Chris McDaniel is an iconic whiner who our customers can readily identify with,” a representative from Johnson’s said. “Chris gives us the “wah! wah!” factor we have been missing lately on television,”

 

There were a few more surprising headlines floating around inside my crystal ball, but it just didn’t seem right to reveal all of them and spoil the fun of surprise some of them will surely bring. According to my crystal ball, it will certainly not be dull in Mississippi during the coming years, so hold on for a very interesting, often humorous, and sometimes bumpy ride.

JL

©Jack Linton, August 16, 2014