Bethany 2018
Bethany Bowman

As we talked with teachers across the state and continue to talk to them, one of the issues they mention is the need for high-quality professional development and learning opportunities. Therefore, in 2012 Professional Educators of Tennessee launched Leader U. It is strictly about gathering the best presenters in the state to address key topics that teachers have identified and skipping all the political shenanigans that other organizations try to pass off as professional development. It is real learning for real educators by their peers.

If you are a Tennessee educator or a supporter of Tennessee education, you need to attend a day of exceptional professional learning, Leader U at Trevecca University’s Boone Center in Nashville on Friday, June 1. The conference’s theme is Champions for Children where speakers will provide insight on providing a more engaging classroom and school to its students.

The conference will begin Friday morning with a keynote address from Champion for Children advocate, Dr. Ronald Woodard as he illuminates “Developing a Champion Mindset for Children.”Respected teacher-leaders and presenters from across the state will lead professional development classes on important topics that include Student EngagementOrganized ChaosProject-Based LearningTeam EvaluationBullying and much more. The 2018 Tennessee Teacher of The Year, Cicely Woodard, will do a 90-minute session on The Engaging Classroom while TSIN 2018 Excellence in STEM Teaching Award winner and Edmodo Educator, Sharon Clark, will complete a session on Bridging Gaps/Cultivating Curiosity.

In addition to the keynote, there will be other breakout sessions with a choice of 12 presenters from which teachers and administrators can choose the classes which best fit their needs. The event is TASL accredited for administrators and all educators will receive a certificate for 6 hours professional development credit. The cost to attend is $40 for members of Professional Educators of Tennessee and $60 for non-members. Breakfast and lunch are included.

But wait there is more! We have always understood how busy educators are, so in 2013 we also launched the Leader U On-Demand Professional Learning Portal where you can complete your credits when and where it is convenient for you and receive a certificate as soon as it is completed. Keep track of all the classes you have completed and print your records at any time. Classes include TASL accredited sessions from the annual conference along with webinars from throughout the year and even relevant content from other organizations nationwide. We do our best to provide a one stop-shop for your professional learning needs.

To register for Leader U 2018, visit www.leaderutn.com. Questions? Please email learning@leaderutn.com.

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Professional Educators of Tennessee is 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.

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If you are not a regular reader of the education blog Dad Gone Wild written by TC Weber, add it to your list.  He will make you laugh, he will make you mad, and he will make you cry…sometimes in the same article.  His latest column, So Here We Are, goes where few writers dare to go by pointing out: “Nashville has long been over due for a conversation on race and how it plays out in our public institutions.” Weber is right.

In the growing debate over Metro Schools Superintendent Shawn Joseph, Mr. Weber asks the million-dollar question:  How much of the criticism directed toward the Director of Schools is rooted in the color of his skin as opposed to his performance?  Answer that question than proceed to the debate.  If you are judging him because of the color of his skin, you need to exercise your constitutional right and remain silent.  If it is based on performance, then take Weber’s advice and “evaluate with the same rigor we demand of others.”

At times the Dad Gone Wild columns go on for too long, but some of it is so brilliant one wonders if the education students at Lipscomb, Trevecca, Belmont, or Vanderbilt shouldn’t be required to read his columns prior to graduating.  It is where reality and policy intersect, along with a healthy dose of investigative journalism.  A local newspaper should certainly pick up Dad Gone Wild or Mr. Weber should expand his reach beyond Music City and go statewide or national.

Weber states that he wants to “continually push the conversation forward and to expand my boundaries and knowledge base.”  He adds, “I personally don’t believe race is an issue that we can ignore or a conversation we can shy away from. Too many of our important decisions, especially in education, are rooted in race. Funding, programing, and attendance are just some of the areas where race influences our decisions.”  He is correct.  And we all have “skin” in that game.   Then he states: “my goal is to support policy that is best for kids, families, and teachers.”  That point is lost on far too many people, from the bureaucrat to the politician.

Weber emphasizes that “this conversation suffers, as Nashville is currently suffering, from a lack of leadership.”  He believes there “is currently a leadership vacuum in Nashville that starts at the mayoral level and descends downward.”  It would be hard to disagree with this statement, although I might suggest that the grassroots cannot be afraid to lead, and, if needed, push the so called “leaders” out of the way.

I have no problem with the Superintendent rapping along with a song, no matter how vulgar it may be or not be.  That’s his prerogative.  He will ultimately answer to the community if he crosses the professional line.  My opinion of Shawn Joseph will be based strictly on his performance, or lack thereof.  My question is: How do you think he is doing? 

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

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“People are more opinionated about parenting issues than political issues,” according to writer, Jennifer Martin.   Admittedly this is an unusual subject for me to address, but it has become a frequently asked question by our female educators.  Hopefully this clears up the issue for school boards, administrators, teachers and school staff.

Health professionals and public health officials promote breastfeeding to improve infant health. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends breast-feeding exclusively for about six months, “followed by continued breast-feeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breast-feeding for one year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.”

Tennessee has one of the lowest rates of breast-feeding in the nation, according to the government’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Fewer than 16 percent of Tennessee infants are being breast-fed exclusively at six months old, according to the most recent statistics. Surrounding states are much higher, and in some states – mainly in the Pacific Northwest – the rate is extremely high.

It is important to note that 82% of public school teachers are female in Tennessee. Women are the predominate sex in our profession. More importantly, most of these women are of child bearing age.  So this is an important topic for all stakeholders. Breastfeeding also provides long-term preventative effects for the mother, including an earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight and a reduced risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer and osteoporosis.

Here are the appropriate state laws.

  • Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-58-101 et seq. (2006, 2011) permits a mother to breastfeed in any location, public or private, that the mother is authorized to be, and prohibits local governments from criminalizing or restricting breastfeeding.
  • Specifies that the act of breastfeeding shall not be considered public indecency as defined by § 39-13-511; or nudity, obscene, or sexual conduct as defined in § 39-17-901.
  • Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-58-101 et seq. and § 39-13-511(d) were amended in 2011 by Tenn. Pub. Acts, Chap. 91 (SB 83) to remove a provision permitting mothers to breastfeed only infants 12 months or younger in any location. (2006 Tenn. Law, Chap. 617; HB 3582)
  • Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-1-305 (1999) requires employers to provide daily unpaid break time for a mother to express breast milk for her infant child.
  • Employers are also required to make a reasonable effort to provide a private location, other than a toilet stall, in close proximity to the workplace for this activity. (1999 Tenn. Law, Chap. 161; SB 1856).

President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on March 30, 2010. (See the combined full text of Public Laws 111-148 and 111-152 here.)  Among many provisions, Section 4207 of the law amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 (29 U.S. Code 207) to require an employer to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express milk. The employer is not required to compensate an employee receiving reasonable break time for any work time spent for such purpose.

The employer must also provide a place, other than a bathroom, for the employee to express breast milk.  If these requirements impose undue hardship, an employer that employs fewer than 50 employees is not subject to these requirements. The federal requirements shall not preempt a state law that provides greater protections to employees.

For more information:

In addition, many health insurance plans provide coverage for specified women’s preventive health services with no cost sharing (e.g., copayment, coinsurance, or deductible). Breastfeeding support, supplies and lactation counseling are one of these specified preventive services.

As a member, if you believe your school district is not following the law on this issue, feel free to contact our offices at 615-778-0803 extension 104 to speak to an attorney or simply email legal@proedtn.org.

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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. Follow him on social media via Twitter at @jcbowman.

Kids doing homework isolated on white backgroundReading Aloud to Children

By Leah Davies, M.Ed.

Listening comprehension is vitally important if students are to achieve reading comprehension. Children who come from homes with minimal language enrichment need to hear new words if they are to become proficient readers. Reading aloud to children, even if only for a short time each day, enhances their language skills, as well as their love of literature and learning.

In 1983 the Commission on Reading was created and funded by the U. S. Department of Education to study the best way to increase knowledge and reading in children. The commission evaluated ten thousand research studies over the course of two years and reported their results in Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among the findings: “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” The study supported reading aloud in classrooms throughout all grades.*

Experts agree that the way to motivate children to read on their own is by arousing their interest and curiosity. Reading exciting stories to children helps them associate reading with pleasure. When the teacher and children share suspense, emotions, and enjoy fascinating characters, their relationship is strengthened. In addition, when children listen to a teacher read, they learn grammatical form and story structure. Reading stories, poems, books and factual texts to children builds their vocabulary, attention span and knowledge base so that they can speak, read, and write more fluently.

Students need to be exposed to nonfiction, as well as fiction. Teachers may begin with simple nonfiction books to introduce science, math and social studies concepts and then move on to more difficult texts. Model reading for information and investigation by stopping and asking the children to review, define and/or comment on the material. For example, stop reading and say, “Let’s see, what did she say about insects that only live twenty-four hours?” Let the children respond and then say something like, “I wonder what insect she will tell us about next?” Sometimes teachers have the children make a picture dictionary to go along with a story, chart what happened, or create graphics to further understanding. Involving students reinforces inquisitiveness and cognitive skills. Listening to teachers read nonfiction material increases student’s ability to read and comprehend newspaper articles, directions, complicated writings, as well as to perform well on tests that require an extensive vocabulary.

Another method teachers can use when reading aloud is to pause and have their students pair off to discuss the material. When children participate this way, they practice their listening, thinking, and speaking skills. They also pay closer attention to what is read so that they will be able to talk about it. When the teacher stops, the students turn to their partner and relate what they heard, as well as listen to their partner’s thoughts. After a few minutes, the teacher begins to read again.

Ideas to Enhance Reading Picture Books Aloud to Children

1. Choose stories that you have read and that you enjoyed reading.

2. Read a variety of books.

3. Choose a colorful book that is large enough for the group of children to see.

4. Reread favorite books.

5. Read some stories that lend themselves to children repeating a phrase or filling in a word.

6. Practice reading aloud if necessary.

7. Pick an area in the room that is quiet and comfortable.

8. Sit higher than the students so that they can see the pictures and hear you.

9. Help the children settle down before you begin by leading them in a calming game or song.

10. Hold up the book and call attention to the author and illustrator.

11. Ask a question that will spark their interest.

12. Move the book back and forth so that the children can see the illustrations, or show the pictures after you read each page.

13. Read with expression and enthusiasm.

14. Let your facial expressions reflect the emotions of the characters.

15. Use character voices.

16. Pace your reading to fit the story, but read slow enough so the children can understand it.

17. Use puppets or other props.

18. Accept children’s comments or questions unless they interrupt the flow of the story.

19. If the children become distracted, stop and ask, “What do you think will happen next?” You could also do a “finger play” or have them stand and sing a song before continuing to read.

20. Allow time to review the story and/or have the children act it out.

Ideas to Enhance Reading Aloud to Older Children

1. Pre-read and select a book you think they will enjoy.

2. Read books above the average reading level in your class.

3. Select books that are appropriate for the emotional, social and intellectual level of the students.

4. Choose some books or stories that are related to the curriculum.

5. Read literature that represents a variety of writing styles.

6. Select stories with recurring conversation and some drama or suspense.

7. Aim for quality and variety, alternating books or stories that feature boy and girl characters, and those that represent various cultures.

8. Select unfamiliar stories.

9. Allow enough time to create interest in the story before you must stop reading.

10. Read the title and ask the students questions that will arouse their curiosity.

11. Name the author and illustrator and if possible tell something about each one.

12. Sit or stand so that your head is above the students and they can easily hear you.

13. Make sure your posture and facial expressions reflect interest in the story.

14. After reading a chapter, if the students appear disinterested, choose a different book.

15. Read slowly enough for the students to have time to picture the words and assign meaning to them.

16. Add props.

17. Before you begin to read another chapter in a book, ask the students, “What was happening when we finished reading last time?”

18. Have the students make predictions about outcomes.

19. Accept some questions during the reading and when finished, encourage the students to verbalize their reactions, thoughts and emotions.

20. Read intriguing books at the end of the day as a reward for hard-working students.

The classroom teacher is a powerful role model for the enjoyment of reading. When teachers demonstrate a love of reading, their students will more likely become avid reader themselves.

*Richard C. Anderson, Elfrieda H. Hiebert, Judith A. Scott, Ian A.G. Wilkinson, Becoming a Nation of Readers: The Report of the Commission on Reading, (Champaign-Urbana, IL: Center for the Study of Reading, 1985), p. 23 and 51.

Tennessee has long been home to many great educators.  In fact many people do not know this, but the movie Dead Poets Society is based on the lives of two teachers at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dead Poets Society makes extensive use of literature.  Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Lord Byron, Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, and even Vachel Lindsay gets a mention.

There are 5 ideas in the movie we can all learn from:

  1. No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.
  2. You must strive to find your own voice.  Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all.
  3. This is a battle, a war, and the causalities could be your hearts and souls.
  4. Sucking the marrow out of life doesn’t mean choking on the bone.
  5. Carpe diem. Seize the Day.  Make your lives extraordinary.

The teacher John Keating, played by the incredibly talented actor and comedian Robin Williams,  was the inspiration for his students. His pursuit of excellence in the classroom made his student’s lives extraordinary.  He taught them to break out of their shells, to pursue their dreams and seize the day.

Critics argue that the teacher really did not allow the opportunity for original thought. Kevin Dettmar for example says, “It’s a freedom that’s often preached but never realized.”  To which I would reply with another quote from Mr. Keating:  “When you read, don’t just consider what the author thinks, consider what you think.”

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee.  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.

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