Henry and Brittany

Why do people teach?  The major reason someone says they teach is the ability to make a real difference in the lives of children.  There are other reasons, including the fact that someone believes they are “called” to teach.  Almost all teachers are linked together by a passion for educating children.  The passion is innate and has to come from within.

Commissioner Candice McQueen reminded a group of educators in a presentation that we were set apart in our mission.  She pointed out the gifts that educators have are special talents and abilities.  Educators are born for the mission that is being given for us.  Dr. McQueen emphasized the profession is a special calling.

We are all on a search for significance. We desire to make a difference.   Educators are making a huge difference. That is why it is important that we honor them.  It is the English social critic, Os Guinness, who stated: “Calling is not only a matter of being and doing what we are, but also of becoming what we are not yet but are called by God to be.”  He then adds:  “Deep in our hearts, we all want to find and fulfill a purpose bigger than ourselves.”  Education of the next generation is one of the most important occupations we could ever do.  Belief that one is “called to teach” keeps women and men in education, even with all the unwanted public scrutiny.

Matthew Lynch writes about teaching as a calling: “A calling implies a deep-seated belief that teaching is the only profession that makes sense for you to pursue…”  Dylan Fenton, an English teacher and writer does not like the term “calling,” as it creates to him an “idea that good teachers are born, not made and, as a result, allow themselves to stagnate.”   I would argue that Lynch is more accurate than Fenton, as a passionate teacher never stops honing their craft.  John Hunter, an award-winning teacher and educational consultant wrote: “I used to think teaching was a job.  And then I thought it was a profession.  And now I’m of the opinion that it’s a calling.  It’s a very noble calling.”

Henry David Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  John Keating, in the movie Dead Poets Society challenged his students to not be resigned to that type of life.  Yes, John Keating was subsequently fired, and probably never taught another class the rest of his life.  However, he taught his students to find their own voice.   It was his calling.  If you have profession that brings you passion, gives you someone other than yourself to care for, and is something that makes you want to get up in the morning to accomplish, you will not live a life of quiet desperation.

Teaching is indeed an imposing, self-sacrificing, but also a magnanimous calling.  Going through the process to get certified, whether through traditional means or an alternative route is sometimes difficult.  The creativity aspect of the profession has slowly been eroded.  There is persistent negativity by some lawmakers and the media of public education.  Compared to other professions, educators can expect modest salary and sometimes extremely difficult working conditions.  However, if you are called to teach, you will never find a happier place than in a classroom or serving students.  Educators are set apart to make a difference.  There is no other profession, except perhaps the clergy, that can change lives like a public-school teacher.

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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.

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In our last post, we talked about the phenomenon of summer melt, where up to 1/3 of the students who graduate high school with plans to go to college never make it to a college campus.  We discussed what the student’s support team could do to help keep the student on track—but there’s also plenty the student can do to make sure their college plans don’t get derailed.

Open every piece of snail mail you get from the college, and read all of it.  You’re probably used to getting all kinds of mail from all kinds of colleges, but once you’ve decided on a college, anything and everything they send you needs to be read.  Just ask the student who opened the letter congratulating him for being admitted.  He didn’t read the next page, which told him he had a $42,000 scholarship.  Read it all.

Continue to check your email account.  Email may be almost as old school as snail mail, but it’s still how many colleges communicate with students—especially if they need something in a hurry.  The only way you find out what they need is to check email about three times a week in the summer.  And make sure to check your junk email folder; some colleges send emails to thousands of students, and your email account may think it’s spam.  It isn’t.

Look for the checklist.  Most colleges send you a checklist with everything you’ll need to do over the summer, and when you need to do it.  This checklist may come by snail mail, or as a link in an email, or maybe as a text.  Print it out, and put it on your refrigerator at home; that way, your parents can help you keep track of what to do as well.  If your college doesn’t give a checklist, there are others out there, such as this one from College Board.

Confused? Ask.  If there’s any point over the summer when you don’t know what you should be doing, call the college.  I know—students aren’t really crazy about talking to people on the phone, especially if they think the college will get the feeling that you don’t know what you’re doing.

Do it anyway.  Once a college admits you, they will move heaven and earth to have you register, attend and graduate.  There is nothing—NOTHING—they haven’t been asked before, so don’t feel like you’re the only one.  In fact, colleges have Student Services offices because so many students have so many questions.  If you don’t know how to contact them, call the admissions office, and they’ll tell you how.

It’s easy to feel alone in this transition to college, but you have a home team of family, friends and counselors who are there to help, even in the summer.  There’s a ton of people at your college—your new home—who want to help you too, even though they haven’t met you.  All you have to do is ask.

Make this happen.

Patrick O’Connor is a 2017-18 School Counselor Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education.

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“To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical” is a quote usually attributed to Thomas Jefferson, which surfaced in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. James Madison and George Wythe also championed the statute. Wythe was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Madison later played a critical role in drafting the U.S. Constitution and our Bill of Rights. No doubt that concept was prevalent among our founders.

That position has been one of my guiding principles, as both a classroom teacher in public schools and now as the executive director of our association. Our members continually reiterate to us they do not want their dues money going to political candidates or parties, nor do they want us in the endorsement business. We respect that position. We work with legislators regardless of their political affiliation, and that has helped us build bridges in addressing key education issues.

This election cycle we have already seen an influx of unaccountable cash, known as dark money, which pours into our state. The Nashville Scene’s Steve Cavendish did an excellent article on the subject of dark money in politics. Frank Daniels III of the Tennessean also did a terrific analysis. Daniel’s conclusion: outside money hurts more than it helps. Daniels wrote: “Tennessee voters were not swayed by big spending outsiders.” It is worth noting the message the outsiders bring is almost always negative. The point raised by Cavendish was: “If you don’t think this is an erosion of democracy, you’re not thinking about it hard enough.” Cavendish referenced Walmart and Microsoft billionaires, as well as unions, as the main culprits. We agree.

Our commitment to our members is simple. We are completely funded by the dues of our members. Our members are educators from the state of Tennessee. No other teachers’ association in this state is as well-respected in the legislature as Professional Educators of Tennessee for what we stand for, and how we go about our business on your behalf.

When we take your message to policymakers, understand this: we fight for public schools, because we understand the historical and philosophical basis of why public education exists. If public education is to continue to be successful, it will take all the policymakers and stakeholders working together. And we want to be your voice in Tennessee.

We encourage you to register to vote. We encourage you to vote. We encourage you to campaign for the candidates that reflect your values or beliefs. What we will not do is tell you who to vote for in this or any other election. A strong public education system is a key to our democracy, a foundation to build our economy, and the means by which we can help all Tennessee children achieve their dreams.

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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. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited.

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.

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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. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. 

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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French writer André Gide penned one of the most notable quotes when he wrote: “It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.” Gide was a depraved man, according to the standards of that day, and even as well as our own standards today.  His quote was indicative of someone searching to be himself, without betraying his personal battle over his lack of ethics.  It is similar today to many political endorsements.

I am always astounded at candidates that some groups choose to endorse, or groups who endorse certain political candidates.  Some endorsements can be very damaging to political candidates.  This leads to the question, why would the political candidate seek such an endorsement or accept money from an organization in which they do not share values?  Perhaps that candidate is in a failing political campaign and needs the money for a fledgling campaign?  Perhaps they are finally embracing their true values.  Is it a betrayal of values to even seek such an endorsement if you do not agree with the goals and objectives of the organization?  Most people probably would think so.   A pro-life candidate, for example, would probably not seek an endorsement from a pro-abortion organization or vice-versa.  Such a candidate would be branded a hypocrite.

The personal character of a candidate still matters.  Values such as honesty, reliability, and sincerity matter in life, and they matter on the campaign trial, especially when we elect people.  We need to elect politicians who say what they mean and mean what they say.  Elected officials who sell out their own values create cynical and dismayed citizens, alienate voters, and undercut their own credibility.  It is akin to the fruit of the poisonous tree analogy in the legal world.

Not only are many candidates willing to sell out their own values to the highest bidder, they are also likely to sell out their constituents once elected.  The insider game of election funding has impacted the well-being of our government.  The public policies that gets enacted if we keep electing these types of candidates, will only worsen.   We have seen good legislation stymied for untold reasons and transparency is no longer an option.   A vigorous competition of ideas should be welcome as it is a symbol of an effective system of government. When we fail to elect men and women of character, we get politicians committed to upholding the status quo and their own political preservation.  If that is the case both the fruit and the tree are poison.

Professional Educators of Tennessee does not endorse political candidates.  We work with everybody to strengthen public education.  Our members will choose, who they believe is the most qualified candidate at the ballot box.  They also know that we will never use dues dollars to fund the advancement of any politician, political party or agenda. While we may inform our members of candidates’ positions on educational issues, we do not tell our members how to vote or use our members’ dues dollars to pay for political campaigns. However, we do routinely monitor and inform our members of education-related legislative issues, and alert them of any legislation that has a direct impact.  We testify on legislation and work with agencies, elected officials and policymakers to develop and implement comprehensive strategies that address complex legislative, legal and regulatory problems impacting education statewide on behalf of our members. We do not spend tens of thousands of dollars to push for the advancement of non-educational causes.

Our political process must be welcoming to all citizens, resulting in representative, receptive and responsible government.  Politicians must be honest in who they are, and who they will be in public life.   We must ask those who are seeking political office if they really are who they say they are, or is it just a mask that can be stripped away?  Values still matter.

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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. 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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Why are teachers dismissed? Sometimes teachers are not a good fit at a particular school. Despite well-meaning efforts and good intentions, it just doesn’t work out. What is an administrator to do?

Many times, in fact, the teacher is simply just dismissed. I think this is a poor strategy and reflective of mediocre management, especially if an administrator’s first reaction is to simply get rid of a teacher. Keep in mind we are not talking about an incompetent teacher. As an organization, we understand teacher quality matters.

Often the problem is not about ability. Sometimes it is that a new teacher doesn’t fit in socially. And schools can be cliquish. It takes some time for a new teacher or a veteran teacher relocating to a school to make new friends or build a relationship with other faculty members.

Think about it like this:  if a teacher does not get quickly embedded into a school culture, he or she jeopardizes his or her entire career over social factors. That doesn’t seem fair.

There is little doubt that many teacher dismissals are arbitrary. Too much of public education is still subjective, rather than objective. Teacher assessment is a difficult task and generally is not done with exacting measures. That means we are letting good teachers walk out of our schools, never to return. This may be due to bad luck of an inappropriate school assignment, lack of support by other educators or unreasonable but influential parents/guardians. It could also be bad management by school administrators who fail to create a manner in which teacher improvement is attainable, or some other unknown factor.

Another scenario that is beginning to escalate is the loss of veteran educators. Some districts may be targeting veteran educators for dismissal or simply encouraging them to retire or move on. This leaves a greater number of less-experienced teachers in some schools. This could prove to be harmful to students, particularly in socio-economically disadvantaged and urban schools.

Of course, teacher burnout is often higher at socio-economically disadvantaged and urban schools/districts. And if we are truthful, we must acknowledge that problems that go along with poverty undeniably make some kids harder to educate and are not so easy to address—especially for beginning teachers. The problem is much greater than who the teachers in a school may be.

Research points out that people who suffer job loss may go through some predictable emotional stages that may include lowered self-esteem, despair, shame, anger and feelings of rejection. Teachers are no different. We need to examine ways to intercede and work to give our educators the benefit of time to improve. Yet we must recognize that the most important task of a teacher is the education of the student. A school district must start with support before it moves to accountability.

At Professional Educators of Tennessee, we regularly seek input of our members to design necessary professional learning opportunities to help the teacher in the classroom, as well as the administrator who wants to assist their staff. We have developed a collaborative relationship with many districts built on this premise and want to make sure all children have great teachers.

Education is not as simple as manufacturing widgets. It cannot be measured by charts, graphs or standardized tests, despite the fact that many believe it can. So, before you fire a teacher or damage a career or a person, we hope that an administrator has exhausted every means at their disposal to invest in that educator and help them reach their full potential. In our opinion, an administrator’s number one objective outside the education of children is to provide support to our teachers.

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

 

“Education is not as simple as manufacturing widgets. It cannot be measured strictly by charts, graphs or standardized tests, despite the fact that many believe it can.”  –JC Bowman 

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