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I drew back my fist and tried to defend my mother after my dad had struck her numerous times.  I don’t remember my exact age, but I was around 4 years of age.  It is etched forever in my mind and fuels my abhorrence of injustice and deep respect of women. Sometimes I close my eyes and it is as if I am there again.

In high school, it was endless cycle of verbal battles—and I could give much better than I would take. My dad, Francis Bowman, was a tough man. He was the 11th of 12 children of a moderately successful, yet well-respected father, who himself died way too early.  It was hard for me to love him, yet other people told me stories of his constant charity and gregarious nature.  He had a determined work ethic, often working two jobs, and he taught me to never expect to be handed anything in life.  Certainly nothing would be handed to me under his roof.  When I was 17 it escalated and he finally slapped me.  I wanted to hit back at him, but somehow, I knew better.  I yelled the words that I thought would hurt him the most: “I hate you.”  And at that moment in my life, I did.

Hate is a motivating emotion.  Fear, anger, and hatred are all painstakingly linked together.  Much like love, all of them can serve to influence our behavior. My father had served his country during the Korean War in the United States Navy.  So, after high school, I needed to show him that I was much tougher than him and I joined the United States Marines.  I didn’t even bother to tell him until just a few days before I left for boot camp.  It was the only time I ever recall seeing him cry.

It is an ancient ritual of fathers and their children.  The child yearning to grow into adulthood, and a father’s tough love.  Mothers can be demanding, but they have that nurturing and caring side that escapes most men. Fathers try to instill discipline in order to help their children succeed in a heartless, often uncaring, world.

When you become a father, you are reminded by memory and experience or from others and those lessons you pass along to your own children.  The ritual of fatherhood continues.  You will hear the words of hate spewed back at you, and it hurts.  The emotional pain hurts more than any physical pain.  At that moment you realize the hurt you caused your own father.  It is then you start the healing process.

The Christmas before he passed away, my dad asked me to come see him.  He handed me a wad of cash, and a newspaper with the price of hams circled.  He then handed me a list of names and some addresses.  He wanted me to deliver, in secret, hams to all those addresses, including many people I had never met.  I had discovered he had been doing this much of his life for the underprivileged.  I also learned from my Uncle that he had played Santa Claus at orphanages in South Korea while he was in the Navy.  He said he would never play that role again, and he didn’t, because one little girl had asked him for a father.  I started to understand him better.

My mother called me on that October day in 1991.  You need to come home, your father is dying.  I had heard that before.  More to please her than to satisfy him, I went home.  He was dying.  But it would be a magnificent death.  For once all was clear, pain seemingly gone.  For just a few days he was able to apologize for all the wrongs he had committed or felt he had committed.  Words were said that needed to be spoken, and a message was given that needed to be heard.  He held nothing back, sharing a lifetime full of words in a few hours.  His remorse was heartfelt and restorative.

Sitting there watching my father pass into his eternal reward, based on his Christian faith, I reflected on the broken man who raised me.  It was years later when I was truly able to forgive.  I don’t condone many of his actions, but I was able to move past them.  I learned that I am much like my father in many ways.  A strength, a toughness that is entrenched into my being that I inherited.  I remember among his last words: “Life really is simple, we just complicate it. If I had to do it over again I would focus more on those things that are important, like faith and family.”  I am my father’s son.

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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. Follow him on Twitter at @jcbowman or his Blog at www.jcbowman.com     

1teacher-education

Bill O’Reilly has gone on quite a killing spree. He has written books such as Killing the Rising Sun, Killing Reagan, Killing Patton, Killing Jesus, Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln. I think he should also write one called Killing Public Education.

Here is what is killing public education:

  1. A Culture of Disrespect is rampant in our schools. This can be created by a variety of reasons. Lack of respect for a profession, which is roughly 80% female. Too many people incorrectly believing that anybody can be a teacher. The very structure of our public education system, as well as the state of our society, often means educators are the major authority figure in many children’s lives. This necessitates that educators are on the frontlines of the culture wars. This result in an ugly fact: teachers provide the only correction or discipline some children ever receive. This leads to a negative perception of teachers and public education in general.
  2. The struggles that most educators face are daunting. Poverty is rampant in our nation and it is particularly obvious in our Southern states. One high school principal told me: “My school has very high poverty and mobility rates. We can’t continue to blame failure on teachers and principals. Families are failing and the evidence of that damage is clear. We love our students and are dedicated to them. Honestly, I don’t know what the answer is anymore. Eradicate poverty seems to be the obvious solution.” However, government has been trying to address this issue for well over 50 years. And it really hasn’t improved the situation. Family structures are being redefined and crumbling.
  3. We have become so driven by standards, testing and accountability that we have lost sight of what truly matters: children and those who educate our children. Testing has become big business; it is no longer merely a snapshot on a child’s progress. Data is the gold standard. We care more about what data tells us, than what a teacher tells us. And what do we know about the people creating the tests and interpreting the data? Data is not more important than children, or those that teach them. British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Perhaps we are not looking at the right statistics.

Educators know what needs to be done to improve education. Unfortunately, their voices have too often been replaced by philanthropists, business leaders and outside organizations. Often these “outside influencers” are driven by poor understanding of the issues, self-serving interests or in some cases greed.

The argument often used to counter the power of educators is that public education needs to be run more like a business and be more efficient. These arguments often fail to consider the “inside influencers” of district policy, state policy, and federal rules, laws and controls which often end up essentially micro-managing our local schools.

If we do not want to kill public education, the teaching profession must be elevated in stature. Educators must be seen as community leaders both inside and outside of the classroom. Far too often the voices of classroom teachers are not included in the decisions that impact their livelihood or their students. Few occupations are given so little say in their chosen field.

Let’s not wait until the autopsy or until Bill O’Reilly writes another book to explain that educators must be given a more active role in determining the policies that concern their students and the teaching profession. It is imperative that that we accept and nurture the teacher-leaders we already have and look to them for the guidance we need to improve education.

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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.

Last night I watched legislators—on both sides of the political aisle, whether you agree with them or not, bust their butts; I witnessed Educators: teachers, administrators and Superintendents—across the state, individually and completely on their own initiative work for a common goal; I saw parents using all means at their disposal to work for the same objective; and, I observed a beleaguered Department of Education also work to get this done with all of us. It was beautiful. No adverse action may be taken against any student, teacher, school, or LEA based, in whole or in part, on student achievement data generated from the 2017-2018 TNReady assessments. Perfect? No. But we will take it. So when the union comes along and claims credit for this work. Remind them: The effort belongs to all of us. We simply serve to protect our kids, educators and schools. We are public education. And together we all accomplish more. —– JC Bowman.

Be Consistent! A frustrated teacher in Tennessee sends her thoughts on TNReady….

Respected teacher leaders and presenters from across the state of Tennessee lead professional development  at Professional Educators of Tennessee.  Register here:  http://www.proedtn.org/page/LeaderU2018 

JC's Twitter Post 5

 

textingteendriving

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines! 

With that little phrase, we are off to the races to get to our morning destination—work, school or other location.  I have been driving since I was 13 years old, and legally since I was 16.  I have never seen worse drivers in my lifetime, all across the state and nation.  Every time I get behind the wheel I say a silent prayer, “Dear Lord, please don’t let me be run-over by the idiots today and keep me and others safe out there.”

I remember when driving a vehicle was a privilege, first granted to me by my parents and then recognized by those who issued a license.  In fact, driving a car is not a right promised to every person, but rather a privilege granted to people who complete certain requirements. In the legal arena, even the US Supreme Court says that citizens do not have a fundamental “right to drive.” In Dixon v. Love, 431 U.S. 105, 112-16, 97 S.Ct. 1723, 52 L.Ed.2d 172 (1977), the Supreme Court held that a state could summarily suspend or revoke the license of a motorist who had been repeatedly convicted of traffic offenses with due process satisfied by a full administrative hearing available only after the suspension or revocation had taken place. The Court conspicuously did not afford the possession of a driver’s license the weight of a fundamental right.  (See also Mackey v. Montrym, 443 U.S. 1, 10, 99 S.Ct. 2612, 61 L.Ed.2d 321 (1979); Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. 535, 539, 542-43, 91 S.Ct. 1586, 29 L.Ed.2d 90 (1971).)

Tennessee does mandate that in order to get an Intermediate Driver’s License, a minor must have certified 50 hours of supervised behind-the-wheel experience, including 10 hours at night.  The Tennessee Department of Safety only requires students to complete a driver’s education course if they have been convicted of multiple moving violations while they are operating on their intermediate restricted license.  It is time to re-think that policy.  It is currently not a requirement in order for a minor child to obtain a permit or license to successfully complete a driver’s education course.  Nobody disputes that it is an important resource that can help students become responsible and safe drivers.  Should we restrict student access on our school campuses until they can prove to be responsible and safe drivers?   Should driver’s education course be required?  How can we prove or truly verify the supervised behind the behind-the-wheel or night experience?  

From a school safety perspective, school district policy should require a student pass a driver’s education course before being allowed to drive to/from school or park their vehicle on school grounds. This class could also be offered during the summer or through any of the legitimate driving schools across the state. The objective should not be to save parents a few dollars on auto insurance, it must be to improve driving, reduce accidents and injuries and ultimately save lives.  We all benefit by learning defensive driving techniques and other safe driving skills that will last a lifetime.

distracted

The  rules of the road are also shifting. We all face obstacles in an increasingly challenging driving environment, especially with more inexperienced drivers on the roads.  Texting in driving, is one of the most distracting items a driver can do.  Phone use – particularly calling and texting – while driving is one of the most common distractions. New technologies bring even greater challenges with distracted drivers.  New technology in vehicles is not always to our benefit, “infotainment” dashboards GPS maps and other hands-free technology may actually impede smart driving and safety.  Multitasking technology is about convenience, not safety.  Good driving habits require training and repetition.

A driver’s education course is a beneficial choice for drivers of any age and experience levels.  However, it should be required for all minors navigating our roads.  It is time to re-think our policies before the next generation starts their engines.  Lives most certainly will depend on it.

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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.