Children do not come with an instruction guide.   It would be much easier if they did.   So much time and effort go into child rearing.  It is beyond a full-time job.   Let’s be honest, being a dad is actual work—and it is difficult yet rewarding work.    

Too many men in society today want the title of Father, but they want to put in the work of a part-time casual observer.  Men who fail to invest in their children miss the wonder of life.  The men will likely reap the results of that part-time status.  If not in their lifetime, then in the lives of their children.  It is a vicious and unnecessary cycle, that we perpetuate from generation to generation.     

Too often, children are subjected to fathers who do not know how to love them, or who are just not there.  The absent fathers and the emotionally distant fathers create more lasting problems, much more than physical abuse.  Not that physical abuse is ever acceptable.   Wounds heal, emotional scarring could last a lifetime—if you let it.    

We know that childhood abuse and neglect, cause so many people to embark on lives of drugs or prostitution, sometimes even worse.  The absent and emotionally distant father helps create adults full of bitterness and anger.  A man who takes the title of Father seriously, helps create children that are confident and secure as adults—they break the generational curse of men who fail to father their children. 

The writer and missionary, Floyd McClung, Jr., suggested that as people consider their past, that they “forgive their parents for their faults.” That is a deep thought.  As I came to grips with my own strained relationship with my Dad, it made me realize that I, too, had my own short comings as a parent. Self-reflection is bittersweet, but necessary.  Reflection benefits our souls. 

You wake up one day and twenty years have gone by.  I wish I had spent more time with my own daughters, listened more to what was going on in their lives, and been slower to criticize their youthful expressions of their generation.  I wish I had held my children closer and longer.  They were in a hurry to grow up, and truth be told, it was what I assumed was the natural passage of life.  To take them into my arms as children again and sing to them in my off-key voice is a dream that can never be fulfilled.  My children are what mattered most in the world, and while I was out making a living, I missed parts of their life—and deprived myself of enjoyment that was Fatherhood. 

This Father’s Day, embrace your children for as long as they will let you.  For those with a Father, forgive them for their shortcomings. The grace you give will return in your own children.  For those without a Father, recall the good times, and work toward moving past the hurt and pain. You will not regret investing in your relationships, and few are more important than the image a child has of a Father. 

Some of us still need emotional and spiritual healing, breaking out of judgmental cycles, and dealing with the inevitable disappointments of life. When we go through life with a distorted image of what a father is or what it means to be a father, it means we miss one of the most critical parts of our lives.  We can grieve and fail to recognize our internal pain, or that of others.   

We must acknowledge our life experiences for what they were, and recognize what should have been.  Yes, life is unfair.  All men may be created equal, but not all fathers are up for the difficult challenge of fatherhood.  The good news is that if you are a Father or have a Father who is still alive, you still have time to rebuild together. 

##

JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

Teachers are some of the most admired people in our world. Teachers are role models. They inspire us and are admired for the skills they possess in helping others learn. Teachers are also normal people, who often get held to higher standards than politicians or even ministers. Like all of us, teachers make mistakes. However, no other group of professionals is as quick to give up on its members as public education administration when effective counseling would probably take care of the problem.

We know there is no magic fairy dust that is sprinkled on someone to make them an effective teacher. There is no genetic marker that an educator is born with that gives him or her a special skill. There is no Branch of Military Service equivalent that someone can join, like the Marine Corps, for example, that gives an individual training in moral, mental and physical strength needed to be successful in the education field. I would argue it is a lot of trial by error, support from colleagues and the prerequisite leadership in our schools that can shape the success or failure of an individual teacher.

I was blessed to have some extraordinary school leaders like Doyle Harmon in Meigs County, Tennessee and Ed Howard in Bradley County, Tennessee to really help guide me. However, one administrator, Ron Chastain, at Trewhitt Junior High School, really became a mentor, whether that was his goal or not. From him, I learned much about student discipline. I learned consistency mattered. I also learned that we needed to be empathetic, but also willing to be tough. He brought the right balance to the job.

Chastain, who still remains a friend, understood adolescent behavior better than anyone I have ever met. He understood that in order to teach, a classroom had to be orderly. In order to create a safe school for all students, discipline was required. I learned much more from Ron than I ever learned in my coursework in my undergrad and/or graduate work.

My question to policymakers: where can we find high-quality mentors for teachers and administrators? We take our new teachers and often toss them into the most difficult assignments like lambs to a slaughter. Then we wonder why discipline suffers and our teachers experience burnout and fatigue, ultimately leaving the profession. Administrators are often in the same boat. Sadly, we are missing that ingredient of mentorship in our schools today.

Our suggestion is to ensure that money is included in the future Basic Education Program (BEP) to allow for mentorship to occur, either by utilizing highly effective retired educators or granting stipends to experienced classroom teachers with a proven track record in classroom management. This strategy will likely impact teacher retention efforts in a positive fashion and create a better school environment with more consistent discipline and student behavior. 

#####

JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee. To schedule an interview please contact Audrey Shores at 1-800-471-4867 ext.102.

It’s that time of year when we see changes in leadership across the state in our schools. Superintendents will leave and be replaced. It matters to all of us whomever a school board places in leadership. In some cases, you will see districts go outside their district and pick new leadership while others will promote from within. There are good choices and there are bad choices out there. So, to all school boards, we say: choose wisely. In my circle, we call this time of the year the Dance of the Lemons and/or the Parade of Favorites.

A school district must have competent leadership in managing the daily operations of the school district. A good superintendent leads the districts educational, financial and administrative performance; facilitates the performance of all personnel; and responds to and informs stakeholders and policymakers about the performance and leadership of the district. Probably one of the most important duties of the superintendent is to make sure district students are learning and achieving at the highest level possible.

A superintendent must understand effective academic practices and be supportive of the teachers and administrators in the district. Leadership, vision, and strategic thinking are critical skills for every superintendent. A successful superintendent should also be an effective and excellent communicator. If the only voice a superintendent will listen to is his/her own, or a few members of the school board, public education will eventually lose community support. Does that mean that we simply accept decisions from superintendents, without challenging them? Of course not!

Stakeholders and policymakers must particularly hold Superintendents accountable in regard to educational, financial and administrative performance. However, we should provide them latitude in regards to leadership, vision and strategic thinking on how to address the performance in those areas. And we must expect them to communicate effectively to ALL stakeholders.

Superintendent, like principals, must also demonstrate a keen understanding of teaching, learning and what works for students. As a change leader, a successful superintendent should emphasize the efficient use of resources, personnel, and data to break down resistance and drive systemic change; empower board and personnel to set goals, measure results, develop accountability, and support planning, evaluation, and resource allocation.

As far as degrees and experience go, that really depends on the person. Practical knowledge is likely more important than theoretical knowledge. We have all seen people with advanced degrees who were unable to apply that knowledge to the real world. I think the executive experience might be critical in a larger district. Keep in mind that education is a business, as much as it is a service. In most districts, the school system is one of the largest employers in the community. Teaching experience and some building-level administrative experience is strongly suggested, because it gives the person in charge at least a background in what the educators in the schools face on a daily basis.

In my own experience, I am never concerned with the WHO in a position. I would look at the philosophy of the person, their background and their vision. A smart school board would not focus on what an applicant would do similar to continue the work of the exiting predecessor, but rather on how he or she would differentiate from the previous occupant. You must have a plan to build on the work of the previous administration, not merely maintain the status quo.

Probably the greatest weakness of some superintendents, in my opinion, has been the lack of empathy toward educators. It is one thing to be relentless in support of excellence for children, it is another to manage completely by fear. Personnel drives policy. How you treat your employees is also a reflection of character. Several districts are well-known for unnecessarily treating educators harshly. These districts must understand that schools are not factories, students are not widgets, and personnel is not simply interchangeable on a whim.

Certainly, some educators have been forced to leave their school system for subjective reasons, rather than objective reasons. Actions speak louder than words. In some cases, dismissal may have been warranted, but in many cases, it appears circumstances were little more than personality conflicts and people not fitting into a certain educational or political environment. We have lost some good educators in our state because of this subjectivity, and I would argue many of these educators deserve another chance to keep their career going.

No matter who your district hires—whether from within or bringing in an experienced educator from outside—give that new leader a chance. Don’t be afraid to hold them accountable. Make sure that your local school board has fully vetted the candidate, and takes the time to select the best person for the children, educators, parents, and taxpayers in your community.

___

JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

It might not always be true, but it is as close to the truth as you might find on Mother’s Day: Everybody loves their mother. For the longest time, my customized ring tone for my own Mom was Merle Haggard’s song “Mama Tried”. The song was an ode to all of us out there, who didn’t always listen to their moms. No matter how much you thank the woman who does it all for her children, once a year is never enough.

Mother’s Day is certainly one of the most celebrated days of the year, and rightly so. Mothers hold a special place in our hearts. There is an unbreakable bond between Mother’s and their children. The prophet Jeremiah wrote about being set aside even before birth. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.”

Mothers know and love us as we grow inside of them. They love us even before they meet us. It is a love that goes beyond explanation, it brings out the strongest emotions in the human soul. Her raw feelings will run deep and certain, she will expose her deepest emotions to protect her children. She knows the baby she holds in her arms will grow quickly. A mother’s love is the closest thing most children will experience to God’s love for us.

I am occasionally jealous of my wife, at least sometimes. Our children will call her and share stories of my grandchildren, their careers, or just about life. I get the information second hand because she is their confidant and advisor. I have deep conversations with them, but not as frequent and not as intimate. It is just part of her role as a Mom. And I admit I was just as guilty with my own mother, sharing things I would not tell my own dad. It is normal.

There are times only when the love of a Mother can comfort us. Her love helps take away our worries and frustrations. Most of the time our Mom knows the right words to speak to us. “Mothers are the strongest and first connection we make in life,” according to writer David Kessler. That bond is seldom, if ever, broken.

Judith Orloff, a psychiatrist and author of The Empath’s Survival Guide wrote: “Mothers have a sixth sense about their kids because of their strong connection genetically, emotionally and by virtue of carrying the child in their womb for nine months,” She adds, “Adopted mothers can also feel this connection on a soul level, and their intuition can reach out to save their children too.” We should reflect on a mother’s sacrifice of tears, toil and time.

We could never set aside enough days in a year, or hours in a week to honor the women that shape and inspire our lives daily. We should remember the mothers, wives, daughters, aunts, sisters, grandmothers, mothers-in-law, stepmothers, godmothers, friends, teachers and all women in our lives this Mother’s Day.

– – –

 JC Bowman is executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville. 

Life can teach us some tough and painful lessons.  There are many experiences we wish we didn’t have to go through.   It seems, sometimes, we take one step forward, and then two steps back. 

We can learn these lessons through our own experience, or by watching the events of other people’s lives.  It can be painful and it can drive even the strongest person to their knees.  Grief, disappointment, hurt, pain, anger, sadness, and even tears are all just a part of life. 

Difficult times have a particular way of reminding us of what is essential, and who is important in our lives.  We must recognize that there is something deep and hidden inside of us during these hard times.  The will to survive is bred into every person who has ever been born. 

We should remember the little things, and keep our focus on what really matters: life, hope, dreams, and love.  For some, it is an unwavering faith in God that still guides us through the darkest times. 

if we are honest with ourselves, nothing in the world will hit you as hard as life.  Often you will be blindsided, caught off guard at the most inopportune time.   And if you let it, life will keep beating you down.  

The scars of our life are more than souvenirs, they shape who we become.  More importantly, how we react to heartache, failure, unhappiness, sorrow, and lamentation influences our outlook on life.  Malcolm X wrote: “Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.

When I am at the lowest points in my life, I escape into my words, and the words of others, to capture the rawness of life and look for a sense of hope. Every battle and every fight, every tear, I write it down so others may find courage or find hope, or just to know they are not alone. 

From the depths of my soul, I am not afraid to expose my own brokenness for the world to see.  I have learned that even if it doesn’t help my own struggle, my words may capture the exact emotion someone else is experiencing.  We need more people that can offer hope through life’s difficult times.  We need those who can demonstrate love, patience, forgiveness, kindness, and humility. We should embrace those people and keep them close, for they are very rare these days.

For every step forward we take in our life, we have to make sure that we do not take two steps back in channeling our emotions because of what life has hurled at us.  The dark premises of human weakness, along with the issues we face in this world, means we have to be resilient.    

Every person who has ever walked upon this earth have experienced painful situations in life, and have questioned whether or not they were going to get back up.  And if I fall, I will rise again.  It’s not the fall that defines us. It is our actions afterward that build our character. 

As long as I have a breath, I will keep trying and keep going.  I won’t quit at life.  One step forward.  One step at a time.

##

JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a speech to those assembled at the conclusion of the march from Selma to Montgomery.   He told the audience “truth crushed to earth will rise again.” Then he added, “no lie can live forever.”  King also reminded the crowd: “because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The driving force of Martin Luther King’s philosophy was the certain idea that Jesus is the truth. He believed that and he spoke of it in most of his public speeches.  King wasn’t a politician arousing a crowd with inferences to God, he was a minister evoking Christ to connect to issues facing the world.  Whether or not you agree with his worldview, he was who he was—a believer in Jesus Christ.

Like Dr. King, I don’t pretend to be anything I am not.  I have lived a full life and made mistakes.  I am comforted by my own faith in Christ.  I see the moral and earthly struggles faced by others and understand but by the Grace of God, there goes I.  It shows up in my work as executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee.  It shows up in my drive to make our organization the best association for educators in Tennessee. I have compassion for our members and the difficult job they do, and have the empathy that educators need.  But it is a two-way street.  So many teachers and administrators call and encourage me.  They appreciate our work for them and they share their success stories in education.  It cannot help but inspire me, as well as others.  Educators see miracles every single day.

Too many in our state and nation believe the lie that public education is failing.  Do we have failures?  Yes, there are things that go wrong every single day.  But looking at the big picture, the arc of the universe, as King may say, it is a beautiful success story.  Children are dropped off at a school, unable to read and write, growing up in some of the worst conditions possible.  They come from crime riddled neighborhoods, drug infested homes, often being raised by single parents and some, with no parents.  Many have no responsible adults in the picture.  Food and shelter are uncertain.  Yet teachers, some who may be unconnected themselves, make an impact that helps that child survive for a day, a week, a month and then a year.  Somehow, those children grow up.  Then the miracle they see is that the child becomes a productive citizen capable of thinking for themselves.  They didn’t become a statistic.  They didn’t die.

We all get angry.  Even God repeatedly describes himself in Scripture as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”  However, too often anger produces in us, “quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.” It also produces “enmity, strife . . . fits of anger [i.e. tantrums], rivalries, dissensions, [and] divisions.” We must balance that personally and professionally.  We must avoid the negative.  There is no perfect anger.  We should allow mercy to triumph over judgment for others, and we must remain committed to love.

When I deal with angry teachers I am reminded frequently of another lie, that anger solves problems.   We see that manifested when administrators are angry at teachers or vice-versa.  We see it on full display from teacher unions.  They really believe dissension and division resolves issues; it doesn’t. That is why we see hostility, anger, slander and gossip on frequent display from them.  I have been subjected to regular attacks personally, often based on little or no truth by paid union stalkers.  Because of my faith, I am able to persevere.  I get to witness the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice.  Truth will eventually prevail.   It is a beautiful reminder that no lie can live forever.

##

JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.  Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

This weekend marks a Holy Week for many citizens across Tennessee and the world, as we celebrate Passover and Easter. In America, religious beliefs are critical to many of our founding principles. There is no denying the significant impact that faith has had on our nation, from the Puritans to our present day. America was “settled by men and women of deep religious convictions who in the seventeenth century crossed the Atlantic Ocean to practice their faith freely.”

George Washington declared in his Farewell Address, that of “all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports.” So, it is no surprise that as a nation, many of our citizens still embrace faith and trust in God. We pass along our faith rituals, habits, customs and traditions to our own children in our homes and places of worship.

Passover begins at sundown on Friday, April 19, and ends Saturday evening, April 27. The first Passover Seder is on the evening of April 19, and the second Passover Seder takes place on the evening of April 20. Jewish people everywhere will sit with their families and friends for the celebration of Passover—a celebration of freedom. The Passover meal is rich with tradition and symbolism. Ronald Reagan commented, “Its observance reminds us that the fight for freedom and the battle against oppression, waged by Jews throughout their history, is one of which all free people are a part.”

Easter celebration marks the end of Holy Week, in which Christians commemorate the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. On Friday, and culminating on Sunday morning, Christians will celebrate with their families the resurrection of Christ, and His victory over death. Billy Graham stated it like this, “God undertook the most dramatic rescue operation in cosmic history. He determined to save the human race from self-destruction, and He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to salvage and redeem them. The work of man’s redemption was accomplished at the cross.” For Christians, Easter is a time of hope.

Professional Educators of Tennessee is not a religious organization. However, many of our members are women and men of faith. In fact, our public schools are filled with many Godly people who see their role in education as a “calling” to do something to help our future generations. Whether it is a bus driver, cafeteria worker, custodian, teacher, principal, or director of schools, Tennessee has many individuals of faith who serve their communities in these critical roles.

To them, and to all people of faith, we offer our warmest wishes to all who celebrate Passover or Easter. We hope this time is filled with happiness and spiritual fulfillment. As Robert Kennedy reminded us, “At the heart Western freedom and democracy is the belief that the individual man, the child of God, is the touchstone of value, and all society, groups, the state, exist for his benefit.” We hope, in the spirit of many of our earliest settlers, that men and women everywhere will be able to practice their faith freely and worship God in the manner of their choosing—not just at Passover and Easter, but every day.


JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

There is no doubt that the “community organizing” methods and philosophy developed by Saul Alinsky have had a penetrating effect on our politics. However, has it made government more responsive or improved results for citizens?  That is highly doubtful.

What happens when Saul Alinsky and his tactics do not go far enough for you?

We are probably about to find out. There are seemingly no longer limits to acceptable behavior in society, no moral conscience for some people and Alinsky’s radical “methods” are now the new normal. Combined with the usual Orwellian double-speak from those trained in Alinsky tactics. They can attract the gullible.

Alinsky famously referenced his admiration for Lucifer in his book Rules for Radicals. I really do not care to speculate what the motivation was; it is in front of the book.  Alinsky adhered to a Marxist ideology.  People should read Rules for Radicals for themselves.  Some of the rules that are often cited, and are subsequently employed regularly are:

  • “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
  • “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
  • “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”
  • “Pick the target, freeze it, person­alize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not instit­utions; people hurt faster than instit­utions.

The objective of most community organizers is to inject politics into every issue, every debate. It is dangerous to induce immoral and scrupulous tactics solely for political gain for the “militant minority.”  One overarching goal is never-ending conflict.  They simply move from issue to issue.

The reaction community organizers seek: is to identify activists, who can build a larger, more robust militant minority within organizations they control.  This warped strategy leaves the majority of people in organizations impacted by community organizers pushing this radical agenda underserved.   This approach is why so many labor unions are dying, as they only exist to serve the excessively bureaucratic union leadership.  This leadership often encompasses a socialist agenda at odds with a majority of the members.

The question for all of us, is how far is too far? In the world of Alinsky, “organizing” is simply the revolution.  Who leads the revolution?  The community organizers who control the radicals/militant minority will be the leaders.  And for many, Alinsky is just a stepping stone for the next wave of issues that will emerge.  And the organizer knows that there can be no action until those “issues are polarized.”  There is no solution possible, when conflict never ends.

– – –

JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.

I have never been an advocate of strikes, particularly in the public sector. Beginning last year, and in recent days, several media outlets have contacted our organization about “teacher strikes” in Tennessee. Members of our organization have always believed that educators have the right to teach without being forced to join any particular organization, and that strikes or work stoppages are detrimental to children, parents, the community and the profession. 

Strikes are rooted in the erroneous, Machiavellian belief that the end justifies the means and is also emphasized in the works by Saul Alinsky. 

Most educators understand the important role that our public schools play in society.  In many cases, public schools offer the critical support necessary to maintain student health, nutrition and safety, including students with severe intellectual disabilities and serious health conditions. This includes many children living in poverty, and those who are homeless. Professional activists and agitators that urge educators in our state to strike do not care about these children, and truth be told, have little concern for the professionals in our classrooms. 

A strike is a throwback to an archaic factory model of governance. More importantly, public servants usually have a higher expectation associated with their trusted role. 

Governing magazine’s Heather Kerrigan points out: “Teachers, firefighters and police are the public workers who people feel a lot of empathy for because of the challenges of their job.” She adds: “I think that public opinion and tolerance level for public-employee strikes is probably fairly low.”    

So, as you read or hear buzzwords like “collective action,” “sickout” or “strike,” remember that it is critical we avoid alienating the public. The old expression rings true:  don’t bite the hand that feeds you. 

However, we can and must inform citizens through a more positive means about significant issues impacting our public schools and the children we serve. Educators do need to be more vocal about spending priorities at the federal, state and local levels.  It is why educator associations like ours are vital and why we have been engaged in the debate. 

Tennessee has made tremendous investments in public education in the last decade.   Not including new investments projected by Gov. Bill Lee’s budget, Tennessee added $1.5 billion in new dollars to public education from 2011 to 2019 under former Gov. Bill Haslam. There is still much more work to do. 

We must continue to invest in our educators and teacher assistants, and critical school staff, making sure those dollars reach their pockets. We must work to reduce testing and give districts other options to measure student achievement. We still need to work to create a simpler and more fair evaluation system. We must address student discipline issues that are spiraling out of control. 

We survey our members on a regular basis and these are issues of importance across the state. 

However, it really does not matter our opinion about strikes. Teacher strikes have been unlawful in our state since 1978. 

Public education in Tennessee wins when we all work together through civil discourse to address our considerable issues. Education is the great equalizer for all children in the state. Passionate and effective teachers, principals and superintendents must lead with creative solutions to problems and not with outworn strategies from the industrial age.

In the 21st century, we must be policy driven, mindful of economic concerns, providing realistic answers to difficult challenges. Adversarial tactics spurred on by outside groups with dubious agendas simply will not benefit Tennessee educators or children.       

JC Bowman is the executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a nonpartisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville.