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.

Governor Bill Lee will give his first State of the State address on Monday, March 4, 2019. The speech is highly anticipated, as it will signal to the state the administration’s priorities for the immediate future. It is where campaign promises, either become realities or go to die. He will undoubtedly address issues across the board, from roads to mental health to criminal justice, and all things in between. My interest will be squarely on public education.

What do I expect the Governor to say about education?

  1. His administration will focus on getting students ready for work.
  2. He will work to strengthen the public education system.
  3. He will look for innovative and student-centered strategies for public education.

How will he do that? Here is what I suggest he might say on Monday night:

He will stress the need to build better connections between labor and education. This will mean facilitating improved linkage between school districts, community and technical colleges, four-year colleges and universities, and local industry. Meaning the state must assess our progress towards the Drive to 55 Goal. Which may include outreach to middle school students about their goals and aspirations. This is likely why one of the first assignments given to the new Education Commissioner, Penny Schwinn, has been to meet with students. Likewise, we will want secondary students to start thinking about their career. Governor Lee will probably push toward greater access to high-quality dual enrollment and dual credit opportunities in technical fields across our state. Work-based learning may be referenced. Governor Lee sees this as an opportunity to help students develop the practical abilities that help them perform in project-based environments, learn to work with others, and grow the discipline needed for success in a competitive workplace. This will require new partnerships between industry and our schools, and may facilitate a more concrete connection between labor and education, which is a direction that the federal government has taken the past few years. The state will also need to expand and improve offerings in STEM.

Governor Lee will likely continue to highlight the work of his predecessors, namely Governor Bredesen and Governor Haslam, in looking at ways to strengthen the foundations of our public education system. It is uncertain if Pre-K will be included. I would argue that he will look at some of the efforts underway and consult with State Representative Bill Dunn on this matter. All success in public education hinges on quality instruction, so it begins with our educators. We all agree that every student deserves highly effective teachers and administrators. So, it would be no surprise to hear the Governor talk about his plan to better develop a pipeline to secure educators here in Tennessee. Compensation is the key to recruitment and retention. Our teacher compensation model needs to be competitive nationally. I expect the Governor to send a message to educators that he recognizes and appreciates their efforts, and he will work to see they are paid for their efforts. I also expect that the Governor will stress the need to build upon Governor Haslam’s efforts in literacy. We know that school safety will also be a priority, as well as the need for additional school counselors. It is important that focus in counseling goes beyond mere college and career, but also into helping students with mental health issues—-especially children who have experienced physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect. Governor Lee must address the testing issue. Too many policymakers and stakeholders have been waiting on a message from the governor about how he plans to improve our assessment system, to ensure that our metrics are empowering and informing, not inhibiting quality instruction, while providing accurate feedback for educators, parents, and students.

On the innovation front, the question is, will he or won’t he bring up parental choice, specifically regarding school vouchers and/or education savings accounts? The administration has signaled more of a wait and see approach thus far. If he plans to bring up school choice, it is more likely to be done in his first term. There has been some indication that the votes are simply not there for a proposal in the Tennessee General Assembly. The Governor is more likely to discuss changes he envisions in creating a modern high school. He is correct that for the last 50 years the way high school has educated students has largely remained unchanged. He may suggest that it is time to embrace new, flexible school models in our high schools. This means he must also discuss supporting locally-driven flexibility and innovation. On the campaign trail, he argued for the need to break down the barriers that have held our teachers, school leaders, and school districts back from creative solutions to the unique challenges of their communities. I would not be surprised to see something like innovation grants from the state for our districts. The question is whether he is willing to make some adjustments to testing, like a pilot project that allows some districts to use the ACT, ACT Aspire, or SAT Suites as a means of assessment in high performing districts. Lee understands when we empower school leaders to bring new solutions to the table and hold them accountable for results, we all win. By piloting innovative approaches that encourage our schools and their communities to work together and design solutions without bureaucratic hurdles, he could send a huge message across the state. Hopefully, Governor Lee will grab the bull by the horns on school finance and discuss the possibilities of a school funding formula to reflect changing 21st century needs. Because of our modern educational mission, priorities, and strategies, businessman Governor Lee understands better than most policymakers the required formula that will support teachers, fund facilities, and facilitate innovation and technology, while looking to better connect K-12 education with workforce needs.

I expect the speech of a lifetime from Governor Lee on Monday night. The State of the State is his one opportunity to lay out for all Tennesseans why we are the best state in the nation for education and in turn, the best place to raise a family. Tennessee continues to be a state that is moving forward.

##

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.

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.

##

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

2018 Suicide Prevention Poster

Every day we lose three people to suicide in the state of Tennessee. Here are a few more facts for the Volunteer state:

  • We lose one person aged 45-54 every two days
  • We lose one person over the age of 65 every three days
  • We lose one person between the ages 10-24 every four days
  • Suicide is the 2nd Leading cause of death of Tennessee youth aged 10-24.
  • There were 1,110 reported suicide deaths in Tennessee in 2016
  • Tennessee suicide rate = 16.2 per 100,000 (National suicide rate in 2015 = 13.3 per 100,000)

What can you do?

1) Be aware of the warning signs:

  • Threats of suicide or statements revealing a desire to die.
  • Previous suicide attempts or self-harm.
  • Depression (crying, changes in sleeping/eating patterns, hopelessness, loss of interest in hobbies/activities).
  • Final arrangements (e.g. giving away prized possessions).
  • Drastic changes in personality or behavior.

2) Take the following steps if someone you know is contemplating suicide.

  • Keep calm and take it seriously. Do not minimize the threat or assume it is a joke or a way of getting attention.
  • Discuss suicide openly and directly.
  • Listen. Show your support and concern.
  • If possible, remove objects such as guns or pills that could be used to inflict self-harm.
  • Get professional help.

My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.

JC Maxim 9

donovan thinking

The future doesn’t belong to the brilliant, but rather to the resilient.  Resilience is the ability that allows people that have a setback in the goals to comeback stronger than ever in their life.  Psychologists have identified a few of the factors that make somebody resilient, among them:  a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to control emotions, and the capacity to see failure as temporary.

Peter Buffett wrote: “Our journey in life rarely follows a straight line but is often met with false starts, crises, and blunders. How we push through and persevere in these challenging moments is where we begin to create the life of our dreams.” Sometimes failure and pain are our life’s greatest teachers. The toughest people are the ones who love despite personal shortcomings, cry to themselves behind closed doors and fight battles that nobody may even know about.

 

 

Life is about transcending your circumstances, taking control of your destiny, and living your life to the fullest.  Educators must embrace that mantra in the classroom, and out of it.  As Jake Owen’s recent summer tour “Life’s Whatcha Make It,” he describes it like this:  “[If] you wake up in the morning and you’re happy and you go forward with a smile on your face and want to make it great, most likely, it’s gonna be a great day,” he says. “If you wake up on the wrong side of the bed with negativity in your mind, that’s pretty much how your day’s gonna go.”

It was the movie character, Ferris Bueller, who reminded us that: “Life moves pretty fast. You don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  One of the things that’s people fail to do is appreciate the good things in life.  For most of us, we enjoy a roof over ou

r heads, food on our table, good health, a family that loves us, friends who care, and the opportunity to work a job we like for money.  So, the first step to making the most out of life is deciding what you want to achieve.  What are your goals in life? Do you appreciate what you have?  If you cannot answer that affirmatively, chances are you will never be happy.

Much has been made of what motivates people to teach. A career in public education is one of the most altruistic and generous career choices.  It will never be for the money.  And if you have been deceitfully convinced that it is a paycheck for what draws people into public education then you have lost the vision and purpose of education.   Teachers don’t teach for the income.  They teach for the outcome.   It truly is about your students’ success.  And that is not measurable on a test score, and their success might not be visible until those children reach adulthood.

Teachers are some of the most resilient people I know.  Good teachers know how to bring out the best in students. Still they do not have the ability to control their work environment, their salary, or how those around them respond to changes—from supervisors, to colleagues to students.  When you study great teachers, it is likely you will realize it is the immeasurable things like their caring and hard work, rather than their technique or test scores that set them apart. Teachers who take an actual interest in their students’ lives are the ones students become inspired by, and learn the most from in a classroom.

I was taught first at home, then reinforced later by my time in the Marine Corps to “adapt, improvise and overcome.”  In my career in the military, and later as a classroom teacher, I learned the meaning of Semper Flexibilis, which translates to “always flexible.”  It is true that sometimes the best things in life come out of change, even if the changes are unwanted. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.

As adults we reflect on the lessons we learned growing up.  We always remember and cherish the those who encouraged and supported us through difficult times.  Nobody wants to be left out, or made to feel like they do not fit in.   We all want to be seen, felt, and understood.  Those adults who give us emotional support are as important as those who give us academic validation.   Call it empathy, or seemingly being attuned to the needs of others.  We never forget that adult who cared for us as children. As an educator how would students describe you to others?  How do your neighbors describe you?  How does your family describe you? 

Joshua J. Marine wrote: “Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”  The ability to overcome obstacles is critical whether you are a student, classroom teacher, administrator or CEO of a company.  Learn to chase your dreams, develop your own uniqueness and ability.  Understand there will be disappointments along the way.  Your ability to bounce back is essential to your success in life.   We must also teach our children to be resilient.

##

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.

jc bowman karaoke

I took a few days off to reflect on life, reconnect with family and resurrect my creativity. The daily grind will get you, if you let it.   We all need rest.

While it was a hoax many people found inspiration in the “last words of Steve Jobs” meme currently being passed around online.  So despite the fact that it’s fake, I post it in its entirety below:

The last words of Steve Jobs

I have come to the pinnacle of success in business.
In the eyes of others, my life has been the symbol of success.
However, apart from work, I have little joy. Finally, my wealth is simply a fact to which I am accustomed.
At this time, lying on the hospital bed and remembering all my life, I realize that all the accolades and riches of which I was once so proud, have become insignificant with my imminent death.
In the dark, when I look at green lights, of the equipment for artificial respiration and feel the buzz of their mechanical sounds, I can feel the breath of my approaching death looming over me.
Only now do I understand that once you accumulate enough money for the rest of your life, you have to pursue objectives that are not related to wealth.
It should be something more important:
For example, stories of love, art, dreams of my childhood.
No, stop pursuing wealth, it can only make a person into a twisted being, just like me.

Some folks added:  Material things lost can be found. But there is one thing that can never be found when it is lost – Life.

Whichever stage in life we are at right now, with time, we will face the day when the curtain comes down.

Treasure Love for your family, love for your spouse, love for your friends. Treat yourself well. Cherish others.

The author of that essay isn’t known, it is still an emotionally-touching read, but the fact is that Steve Jobs never said these words. Not even close.  It is still a good message, but it was not the words of of Steve Jobs.

The fact is we all need rest.  We should all do what matters to us.   We should love more.  We should cherish those we love and care about.

In public education the single most important factor in determining the most successful student learning outcomes possible is the quality of our teachers.  Educators do not serve the public for the money.

One of the best to articulate the impact of teaching was Elliot Eisner who spoke these words:  “But the satisfactions of teaching extend beyond the academic. Indeed, the most lasting contributions come from rescuing a child from despair, restoring a sense of hope, soothing a discomfort. These are the occasions whose memories last longest because they are often the occasions that matter most. They are the occasions whose importance transcends academic interests. They address the human needs that all of us share.”

Get your rest educators.  Recharge your batteries.  You are making a difference.  What you do matters.  Marcus Aurelius wrote:  “What we do now echoes in eternity.”  He could have been talking about educators.

###

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, Director of Communications, at 1-800-471-4867 ext.102.

 

 

101026-M-8682Y-003“Courage, of all national qualities, is the most precarious; because it is exerted only at intervals, and by a few in every nation” wrote David Hume.  It takes courage to risk life and limb for our state and country. Norman Schwarzkopf said “It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.”

It is fitting then, that we set aside a day to remember those who have given their lives in service for our country. The least we can do as a nation is to honor these heroes. These brave few who became legends meeting their end on a battlefield, fighting our nation’s enemies.

According to the book Roster of Soldiers and Patriots of the American Revolution Buried in Tennessee, there are about 4,500 veterans of the American Revolution interred in Tennessee.  One is my 4th great-grandfather, Colonel James Taylor, who is buried at Centenary Baptist Church in Blount County, Tennessee. Fortunately, he was able to come home and raise a family.   A privilege that was denied to many.

The first casualty of the American Revolution was Crispus Attucks.  He was killed during the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770.  Attucks was believed to be the son of a slave and a Native American woman.  As hostilities intensified between the colonists and British soldiers, the British confronted a group of unruly colonists by opening fire and killing five men including Attucks, who was the first to die.  In his 1964 book Why We Can’t Wait, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. praised Attucks for his part in American history. It is worth noting that Attucks was displayed with the others at Faneuil Hall, where it lay in state.  The men were then entombed in a common sepulcher.  There was no segregation for Patriots.

Traditionally, Americans observed Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials of our fallen war heroes. In recent years, it has become more of a party celebrating the launch of summer, thus losing the original purpose and meaning.  I think we must remind ourselves to honor those courageous men and women who have served and then given their lives for the cause of freedom.  Freedom cannot guarantee a meaningful life, merely the possibility of having one. To keep that possibility, we need to embrace and strengthen freedom. It was Thomas Jefferson who reminded us: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

We need to take a minute to THANK those veterans who gave their lives so we Americans can enjoy our liberty.  Life is so precious.  No doubt those who made the ultimate sacrifice had their hopes and dreams as well for our country.  We should also ask our politicians to remember those veterans who made it back and ensure that they get the benefits they were promised, and the highest quality medical care available—including mental health.

Thomas Smith wrote one of the best tributes to those who died for our nation: ““This country has not seen and probably will never know the true level of sacrifice of our veterans. As a civilian I owe an unpayable debt to all our military. Going forward let’s not send our servicemen and women off to war or conflict zones unless it is overwhelmingly justifiable and on moral high ground. The men of WWII were the greatest generation, perhaps Korea the forgotten, Vietnam the trampled, Cold War unsung and Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan vets underestimated. Every generation has proved itself to be worthy to stand up to the precedent of the greatest generation. Going back to the Revolution American soldiers have been the best in the world. Let’s all take a remembrance for all veterans who served or are serving, peace time or wartime and gone or still with us. God Bless America and All Veterans.”  I remember their sacrifice.  George Patton added: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” That is why I honor Memorial Day.

##

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