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. 

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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.

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

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.

Humans are not designed to live alone.  We are by nature designed to live together in community to reach our full potential.  English poet John Donne wrote that “No man is an island.”   Our actions can influence everyone around us.  Lasting relationships are perhaps the key to a happy life.  It is one of the benefits of education and school as we meet and become friends with people.  Many of those friendships are lifelong relationships which can forever change your life.

In Christmas 1983, I was spending Christmas courtesy of the United States Marine Corps at the luxurious accommodations provided at the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.  I was member of the Marine Air Support Squadron 2, nicknamed the “Pacific Vagabonds.” We were part of the Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.   It was perhaps the loneliest Christmas I had ever experienced.  Personally, I had lost numerous family members and friends.  I had just turned twenty years old.  And I was never more miserable in my life.

Fast forward 35 years, I am now a father and grandfather.  In the time since my days in the Marine Corps, I married my wife (whom I met in Junior High).  I have worked as a middle and high school teacher, worked for a governor and been a part of university and several think tanks and owned my own business.  There is no physical gift in the world that means more than me than actually being with my family.  No job or gift or experience matches that of grandchild yelling “Pappy” as they fly into my arms. The best gifts in life are never the ones you will find under a tree. 

Focus on your relationships.  Relationships develop when people spend time together.  Whether it is with friends or family, it is how you get to know people and how you become known to others.  Faith is also a relationship.  There remains hope for all of us.  It is never too late to change in life, until life is gone.   

Build relationships with those around you. Those relationships will bring more love to the world. Our self-worth is built in who we are in those relationships, not what we can accomplish in an occupation.  Good relationships are based on respect.  If you give up on people, you could miss out on something extraordinary. Never give up.  Live in the moment.  This Christmas give the gift of yourself to others.

JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.

I have never shied away from sharing my Christian faith, as imperfect as it is.  I view faith as something personal, but appropriate to share with others, as long as someone is not compelled or required to conform to as a condition for employment or citizenship. We do not have a national religion, but we are still a nation that values belief in God.       

For educators, Christmas marks the half-way point in the year.  When school returns it will be a new year:  2019.   Educators will spend a few days at home with their own family at Christmas.  It may afford them an opportunity to catch up on reading as well as a chance to finish some personal chores left untended since school started.  Christmas is a special time for family, friends and faith. 

Christmas Day is one day a year we set aside to thank God for the gift of His son.  We must all eventually ponder the meaning of the life and death of a teacher from Nazareth, Jesus Christ. For those of a different faith or even no faith, it is also an opportunity to partake in the goodwill of friends and neighbors, who may be Christian.  This time of the year should reflect the best of mankind. For Christians there are five things to consider:

  1. Miracles.  We can claim Jesus is the reason for the season, but the truth is we get lost in the busyness of the holiday.  So, it is through childlike wonder we must remember a tiny baby in a manger born in Bethlehem.  And while we fully engage in myriad of events, we do not lose focus on this miracle of Jesus Christ living among us.  He is the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.
  2. Message.  The hopeful message of Christmas is that we are not alone.  God so loved the world that he sent His son Jesus Christ into a world of sin to restore the brokenness between God and Man.  His gift of love is better than any gift found under a tree.    
  3. Meaning.  Without Jesus birth, His death could never have happened.  Jesus’ death made possible the forgiveness of sins, which in turn enables us to look forward to living and reigning with Christ in the Kingdom of God.
  4. Mission.  Our mission is to serve others, in love, and with grace.  As Eugene Peterson wrote: “Christian spirituality means living into the mature wholeness of the gospel. It means taking all the elements of your life—children, spouse, job, weather, possessions, relationships—and experiencing them as an act of faith.”
  5. Ministry.  Ministry is more than just work done by clergy. The Greek word in the New Testament that is often translated as “ministry” is diakonia. The basic meaning of this word is “service.” The ultimate example of ministry is Jesus Christ Himself. Jesus of his own free will gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. His entire life on earth, and ultimately His death on the cross, was about others.  Ministry means to serve.   

Live life by those beliefs and values. Love God. Love each other. Love the world. Love the least. Make disciples of others.  When we lose ourselves in the service of others, we discover our own lives.  Mother Teresa said: “Give your hands to serve, and your hearts to love.”  That is the path forward for faith, and the “riveting, redemptive, and revolutionary story of God, who left His home to bring us home, and more profoundly, to make us His home” added Nathan Edwardson. 

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He is a lifelong educator.

JC Bowman 1983

In Christmas 1983, I was spending Christmas courtesy of the United States Marine Corps at the luxurious accommodations provided at the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan. I was member of the Marine Air Support Squadron 2, nicknamed the “Pacific Vagabonds,” We were part of the Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.   It was perhaps the loneliest Christmas I had ever experienced. Personally, I had lost numerous family members and friends.  I had just turned twenty years old.  Life is a cruel teacher. And I learned my lessons.   

Suicide is a major public health problem and a leading cause of death in the United States. The Veterans Administration reports that an average of 20 veterans succumbed to suicide every day. People who commit suicide often do not consider the emotional consequences for survivors, their families and friends. For depressed people, the holidays can be particularly difficult.   We experience added stress, loneliness and reminders of those we have loved and lost. If you have thoughts of suicide please get help immediately, or call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1–800–273–TALK (8255),24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When you next find yourself in need of help, please ask someone.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee

As a teacher I used to keep a framed picture in my classroom which said, “Your Life is God’s gift to you. What you do with your Life is your gift to God.” I truly wish every child could hear that repeated every day. And what teachers do with their gift benefits so many children on a daily basis.

Teachers are often on the front line of the poverty battle. It is important that children know from where their gifts originate. This Thanksgiving is a good opportunity to be thankful for the gift of life we have and the gift of others in our lives.

I have worked with many faith and community organizations and it seems to me that many of the problems they seek to address have one root cause: poverty. I take the problems of global poverty much more serious, and have noticed a rise in poverty in both urban and rural America.

It is the best American tradition of helping others help themselves. Now is an opportune time for compassion and justice to help the poorest people of our nation and the world. I see a passion for compassion diminishing in America. Government simply cannot meet the needs of all citizens. Faith and community organizations need help. They need your time and effort. They need your money and support. We should embrace government partnership with faith-based organizations and other non-profit community organizations to do the work of fighting poverty and other issues.

To his credit, former President George W. Bush recognized the poverty problem when he said, “The growing divide between wealth and poverty, between opportunity and misery, is both a challenge to our compassion and a source of instability. We must confront it.” “We cannot,” said the president, “leave behind half of humanity as we seek a better future for ourselves. We cannot accept permanent poverty in a world of progress. There are no second-class citizens in the human race.”

Bono, of the rock group U2, said in an interview, “It’s an amazing thing to think that ours is the first generation in history that really can end extreme poverty, the kind that means a child dies for lack of food in its belly. This should be seen as the most incredible, historic opportunity but instead it’s become a millstone around our necks. We let our own pathetic excuses about how it’s ‘difficult’ justify our own inaction. Let’s be honest. We have the science, the technology, and the wealth. What we don’t have is the will, and that’s not a reason that history will accept.”

Poor and starving people are not particularly appealing news stories, but fighting poverty is and should be a moral imperative for citizens in our cities, state and nation. I am impressed by country music singer Tracy Lawrence, who regularly takes time of his schedule to feed the hungry in Nashville, and in other locations across the United State. Most recently Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams-Paisley opened a free Nashville grocery store for those in need. That use of fame is a worthy cause that is under-reported in our country.

Faith reminds us that theological apathy is not an acceptable excuse. Yes, “the poor will always be with us.” However, Jesus, in his first sermon said, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.”

As we sit in our comfortable pews on Sunday morning singing about what it is like up there, we should remember that the poverty of spirit as equally lamentable to poverty of physical wealth. This Thanksgiving we should be thankful for both the small and large blessing in our lives. If you are a parent and your child is about to enter the world, it would be a great comfort to know that your country will use all of its resources to meet the most basic needs of all citizens, so they can succeed in our country.

To paraphrase an oft cited poem, “If you want to touch the face of God or His heart, it is not necessary to escape the surly bonds of Earth.” Take an interest in the things that interest God. Eliminate some of those nonessential things that clutter our lives. Recognize what is really essential: faith, family and friends. Embrace others. Treat everybody with dignity and respect. Lose control, let God love through you. Don’t fear the politicians. Hold them accountable. God will indeed hold us all accountable.

Think of those less fortunate this year before your Thanksgiving prayers, those in poverty whose plates are often empty. We are incapable of breaking the cycle of poverty without all of us working together. The number of hungry people in the world reached over 800 million, a harsh reminder that the world has yet to get serious about the challenge of ending hunger. We can make a difference, can’t we?

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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.

Heftiger Disput

During the holidays, our goal and objective is to have a peaceful gathering of family and friends.  Peace is not lack of conflict, it is the ability to manage conflict by peaceful means.  But is it possible to simply just avoid conflict when so many are outspoken about their beliefs?  Probably not, however, that should be our objective.

Conflict is inevitable, whenever humans live together.  However, it can be set aside for a greater purpose, such as fellowship, thanksgiving, worship, and helping others.  Dutch clergyman Henri Nouwen wrote that we find “words that do not divide but unite, that do not create conflict but unity, that do not hurt but heal.”  That is how we should approach interaction with family and friends over the holidays.

In modern times families have more commitments, and often there is a geographical distance between members of the family.  Historically, families do not gather together like they once did.  It would seem then, in the few minutes or hours that you may be with families and friends you can lay aside politics, and other items that divide families, ignoring past squabbles.  Simply enjoy the company of other people and give a moment of gratitude for our lives and blessings.  Failure to avoid conflict, may mean that some members avoid future family gatherings.  When that happens, everyone loses.

If you are sincere about making memories with people that you love the most you should avoid political talk and probably turn off the news.  Work on reconnecting with family and friends. Start new or enjoy old family traditions. If you are religious, do not change your belief to accommodate people who have entered your home. They already know who you are, and should respect it.  If you watch football or play football do that.  Watching the Macy Day’s parade on television on Thanksgiving was a tradition in my home.  Use laughter to defuse awkward conversations.  Remember the adage, it is hard to argue with food in your mouth, especially dessert.

Make the effort to create a relaxed environment.  Be focused to all your family relationships in between holidays, so that hurt and resentment don’t build up in between visits.  Time is important.  Set a time to start and a time to conclude an event.  We all have that family member who overstays their visit.  If you are not certain who that family member is, it’s probably you. Also, make sure you do your part to help out.  Hosting a family holiday is a lot of work.

Family holiday time is not the time for therapy. Turn to professionals for that, and handle in private. It is important to be reminded that you are not forced to spend time with people who are harmful to your mental health, even if they are your relatives.  However, with proper ground rules and a positive attitude you can avoid conflict and reduce the stress, making the holidays successful for everybody.  If you are still uncomfortable, have another piece of pie.

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.

Tennessee is the Volunteer State. It is called the Volunteer State because in the times of crisis that our nation found itself, whether a natural crisis or in defense of our country, our citizens were the first to respond.

Members of my family have fought, and some even died, for the defense of our country. I am proud to have served in the Marine Corps and appreciate my fellow veterans. Anyone who has served will tell you it was an honor to wear the uniform of our nation and take the vows to defend our citizens, our country and our Constitution. Military enlistment has no expiration date.

This Veterans Day, in the year 2018, we must do more than repeat the well-deserved praises of the bravery and patriotism that our veterans embody. That was established the day they put on the uniform. Rather, we should reflect on how we are treating our veterans.

We know that the average number of veterans who commit suicide remains at 20 a day. We know that younger veterans are among that number. Suicide is a complex issue, and veterans are not getting the help they need. Why is this not a national priority? It is good political rhetoric during campaign season.

A lot of veterans end up teaching in Tennessee classrooms across the state. For them teaching is an extension of their service to their state and nation. Our classrooms are full of children who are the sons and daughters of active duty military and veterans. Tennessee has more current and former military among our citizenry than most states. So, on this Veterans Day let us remember the service of our veterans. Let us keep our promises and obligations to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much so we can live freely.

Veterans who are in crisis or are having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a Veteran in crisis, should call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year at 800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/get-help/Chat, or send a text message to 838255.You can learn more about VA’s suicide-prevention resources and programs at www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention.

Our veterans have served America with the fervent belief that freedom and democracy are ideals to be upheld around the world. The late Virginia Senator John Warner reminded us: “Tragically, the effort to make America and the world safer and to defend freedom around the world is not without an enormous cost to this Nation in terms primarily of lost lives and those who bear the scars and the wounds of war, and their families who must bear these losses. “It is time we make those who serve our state and nation a higher priority.

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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.

PocketConstitution

On September 17, 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met to sign one of the greatest documents ever created:  The United States Constitution. In 2004, the late Senator Robert Byrd led the effort to rename the day “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day,” which requires public schools and institutions to provide information on the history of the country’s constitution.   Our Founding Fathers would likely be pleased that the document they signed 231 years ago is still providing inspiration and guidance for American citizens and other countries around the world.

I was re-reading a letter I wrote to an attorney nearly two decades ago, who was striving to remove any vestige of our Judeo-Christian heritage from our country.  I have always maintained that religion has an appropriate role in the public square.   His position, of course, is that faith should be removed.  My answer to him was simple: “base your arguments on the US Constitution, not letters from dead Presidents.”  He had a clear misunderstanding of the Establishment Clause, despite the law degree, and was citing a letter in defense of free exercise of faith from a man who was not even present at the passage of the Constitution.

The United States Constitution is the one document in our public life that operates as a social contract between citizens and government, defining our basic rights and the limits of government with three main purposes:  First, it creates a federal government comprising of a legislative, an executive, and a judicial branch, with a system of checks and balances among the three branches.  Second, it shares power between the federal government and the states.  And third, it safeguards the liberties of all citizens.

The United States Constitution is an indisputably remarkable document, enduring in a world much different than the one in which it was written.  Our founding principles are critical as our country moves forward, if we are to survive as a nation.  It is one area in which Americans are likely to find agreement.  The power, scope and reach of the government is clearly defined by a simple reading of the document.   Since the only oath every member of Congress takes is to defend the Constitution, it would seem that citizens would place a high priority on this governing document.  However, we are reminded, that interpretations of the Constitution can hold opposing views.

Limiting the power of government and protecting the rights of our citizens is something we must all make a conscientious effort to protect. We should be especially appreciative for the protection afforded in our Bill of Rights, especially our most fundamental rights—freedom of speech, religion, protest, and our speech, religion, protest. A free society does not just occur. It has to be deliberately and intentionally preserved. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

The founders knew it wasn’t a perfect document, yet the Constitution has adapted and prevailed. On Constitution Day, take a few minutes to read the document for yourself.   In order to protect the values, we hold so dear, we must guarantee that generations to come will embrace and uphold the one thing that sets us apart from every other nation. That one thing is the United States Constitution.

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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.