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. 

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.

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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.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a speech to those assembled at the conclusion of the march from Selma to Montgomery.   He told the audience “truth crushed to earth will rise again.” Then he added, “no lie can live forever.”  King also reminded the crowd: “because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The driving force of Martin Luther King’s philosophy was the certain idea that Jesus is the truth. He believed that and he spoke of it in most of his public speeches.  King wasn’t a politician arousing a crowd with inferences to God, he was a minister evoking Christ to connect to issues facing the world.  Whether or not you agree with his worldview, he was who he was—a believer in Jesus Christ.

Like Dr. King, I don’t pretend to be anything I am not.  I have lived a full life and made mistakes.  I am comforted by my own faith in Christ.  I see the moral and earthly struggles faced by others and understand but by the Grace of God, there goes I.  It shows up in my work as executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee.  It shows up in my drive to make our organization the best association for educators in Tennessee. I have compassion for our members and the difficult job they do, and have the empathy that educators need.  But it is a two-way street.  So many teachers and administrators call and encourage me.  They appreciate our work for them and they share their success stories in education.  It cannot help but inspire me, as well as others.  Educators see miracles every single day.

Too many in our state and nation believe the lie that public education is failing.  Do we have failures?  Yes, there are things that go wrong every single day.  But looking at the big picture, the arc of the universe, as King may say, it is a beautiful success story.  Children are dropped off at a school, unable to read and write, growing up in some of the worst conditions possible.  They come from crime riddled neighborhoods, drug infested homes, often being raised by single parents and some, with no parents.  Many have no responsible adults in the picture.  Food and shelter are uncertain.  Yet teachers, some who may be unconnected themselves, make an impact that helps that child survive for a day, a week, a month and then a year.  Somehow, those children grow up.  Then the miracle they see is that the child becomes a productive citizen capable of thinking for themselves.  They didn’t become a statistic.  They didn’t die.

We all get angry.  Even God repeatedly describes himself in Scripture as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”  However, too often anger produces in us, “quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.” It also produces “enmity, strife . . . fits of anger [i.e. tantrums], rivalries, dissensions, [and] divisions.” We must balance that personally and professionally.  We must avoid the negative.  There is no perfect anger.  We should allow mercy to triumph over judgment for others, and we must remain committed to love.

When I deal with angry teachers I am reminded frequently of another lie, that anger solves problems.   We see that manifested when administrators are angry at teachers or vice-versa.  We see it on full display from teacher unions.  They really believe dissension and division resolves issues; it doesn’t. That is why we see hostility, anger, slander and gossip on frequent display from them.  I have been subjected to regular attacks personally, often based on little or no truth by paid union stalkers.  Because of my faith, I am able to persevere.  I get to witness the arc of the moral universe bending toward justice.  Truth will eventually prevail.   It is a beautiful reminder that no lie can live forever.

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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.

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.

There is no doubt that the “community organizing” methods and philosophy developed by Saul Alinsky have had a penetrating effect on our politics. However, has it made government more responsive or improved results for citizens?  That is highly doubtful.

What happens when Saul Alinsky and his tactics do not go far enough for you?

We are probably about to find out. There are seemingly no longer limits to acceptable behavior in society, no moral conscience for some people and Alinsky’s radical “methods” are now the new normal. Combined with the usual Orwellian double-speak from those trained in Alinsky tactics. They can attract the gullible.

Alinsky famously referenced his admiration for Lucifer in his book Rules for Radicals. I really do not care to speculate what the motivation was; it is in front of the book.  Alinsky adhered to a Marxist ideology.  People should read Rules for Radicals for themselves.  Some of the rules that are often cited, and are subsequently employed regularly are:

  • “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
  • “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”
  • “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”
  • “Pick the target, freeze it, person­alize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not instit­utions; people hurt faster than instit­utions.

The objective of most community organizers is to inject politics into every issue, every debate. It is dangerous to induce immoral and scrupulous tactics solely for political gain for the “militant minority.”  One overarching goal is never-ending conflict.  They simply move from issue to issue.

The reaction community organizers seek: is to identify activists, who can build a larger, more robust militant minority within organizations they control.  This warped strategy leaves the majority of people in organizations impacted by community organizers pushing this radical agenda underserved.   This approach is why so many labor unions are dying, as they only exist to serve the excessively bureaucratic union leadership.  This leadership often encompasses a socialist agenda at odds with a majority of the members.

The question for all of us, is how far is too far? In the world of Alinsky, “organizing” is simply the revolution.  Who leads the revolution?  The community organizers who control the radicals/militant minority will be the leaders.  And for many, Alinsky is just a stepping stone for the next wave of issues that will emerge.  And the organizer knows that there can be no action until those “issues are polarized.”  There is no solution possible, when conflict never ends.

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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.

I have never been an advocate of strikes, particularly in the public sector. Beginning last year, and in recent days, several media outlets have contacted our organization about “teacher strikes” in Tennessee. Members of our organization have always believed that educators have the right to teach without being forced to join any particular organization, and that strikes or work stoppages are detrimental to children, parents, the community and the profession. 

Strikes are rooted in the erroneous, Machiavellian belief that the end justifies the means and is also emphasized in the works by Saul Alinsky. 

Most educators understand the important role that our public schools play in society.  In many cases, public schools offer the critical support necessary to maintain student health, nutrition and safety, including students with severe intellectual disabilities and serious health conditions. This includes many children living in poverty, and those who are homeless. Professional activists and agitators that urge educators in our state to strike do not care about these children, and truth be told, have little concern for the professionals in our classrooms. 

A strike is a throwback to an archaic factory model of governance. More importantly, public servants usually have a higher expectation associated with their trusted role. 

Governing magazine’s Heather Kerrigan points out: “Teachers, firefighters and police are the public workers who people feel a lot of empathy for because of the challenges of their job.” She adds: “I think that public opinion and tolerance level for public-employee strikes is probably fairly low.”    

So, as you read or hear buzzwords like “collective action,” “sickout” or “strike,” remember that it is critical we avoid alienating the public. The old expression rings true:  don’t bite the hand that feeds you. 

However, we can and must inform citizens through a more positive means about significant issues impacting our public schools and the children we serve. Educators do need to be more vocal about spending priorities at the federal, state and local levels.  It is why educator associations like ours are vital and why we have been engaged in the debate. 

Tennessee has made tremendous investments in public education in the last decade.   Not including new investments projected by Gov. Bill Lee’s budget, Tennessee added $1.5 billion in new dollars to public education from 2011 to 2019 under former Gov. Bill Haslam. There is still much more work to do. 

We must continue to invest in our educators and teacher assistants, and critical school staff, making sure those dollars reach their pockets. We must work to reduce testing and give districts other options to measure student achievement. We still need to work to create a simpler and more fair evaluation system. We must address student discipline issues that are spiraling out of control. 

We survey our members on a regular basis and these are issues of importance across the state. 

However, it really does not matter our opinion about strikes. Teacher strikes have been unlawful in our state since 1978. 

Public education in Tennessee wins when we all work together through civil discourse to address our considerable issues. Education is the great equalizer for all children in the state. Passionate and effective teachers, principals and superintendents must lead with creative solutions to problems and not with outworn strategies from the industrial age.

In the 21st century, we must be policy driven, mindful of economic concerns, providing realistic answers to difficult challenges. Adversarial tactics spurred on by outside groups with dubious agendas simply will not benefit Tennessee educators or children.       

JC Bowman is the executive director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a nonpartisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville.

I have never been an advocate of strikes, particularly in the public sector.  Beginning last year, and in recent days, several media outlets have contacted our organization about “teacher strikes” in Tennessee.  Members of our organization have always believed that educators have the right to teach without being forced to join any particular organization, and that strikes or work stoppages are detrimental to children, parents, the community and the profession. 

Strikes are rooted in the erroneous Machiavellian belief that the end justifies the means, it is also emphasized in the works by Saul Alinsky.  Most educators understand the important role that our public schools play in society.  In many cases, public schools offer the critical support necessary to maintain student health, nutrition, and safety, including students with severe intellectual disabilities and serious health conditions.  This includes many children living in poverty, and those who are homeless. Professional activists and agitators that urge educators in our state to strike do not care about these children, and truth be told, have little concern for the professionals in our classrooms. 

The former mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, an ex-union organizer wrote in a Washington Post editorial that a teacher strike hurts families and kids.  He said: “under today’s circumstances, a strike isn’t what we need to improve our schools.”  He is correct.  A strike is a throwback to an archaic factory model of governance.   More importantly, public servants usually have a higher expectation associated with their trusted role.  Governing magazine’s Heather Kerrigan points out: “Teachers, firefighters, and police are the public workers who people feel a lot of empathy for because of the challenges of their job.”  She adds: “I think that public opinion and tolerance level for public-employee strikes is probably fairly low.”   

So, as you read or hear buzzwords like “collective action,” “sickout” or “strike,” remember that it is critical we avoid alienating the public.  The old expression rings true: “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”  However, we can and must inform citizens through a more positive means about significant issues impacting our public schools and the children we serve.  Educators do need to be more vocal about spending priorities at the federal, state and local levels.  It is why educator associations like ours are vital, and why we have been engaged in the debate. 

Tennessee has made tremendous investments in public education in the last decade.   Not including new investments projected by Governor Bill Lee in his new budget, Tennessee added $1.5 billion in new dollars to public education from 2011 to 2019 under Governor Bill Haslam.  There is still much more work to do.  We must continue to invest in our educators and teacher assistants, and critical school staff, making sure those dollars reach their pockets.  We must work to reduce testing and give districts other options to measure student achievement.  We still need to work to create a simpler and more fair evaluation system.  We must address student discipline issues that are spiraling out of control.  We survey our members on a regular basis and these are issues of importance across the state according to educators in Tennessee. 

However, it really does not matter our opinion about strikes:  Teacher Strikes have been illegal in our state according to Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) since 1978.  In TCA 49-5-606., Unlawful Acts include that it is illegal for educators to engage in a strike.  In addition, it is illegal to urge, coerce or encourage others to engage in unlawful acts as defined in this part.  The next section of the law 49-5-60., Strikes – Remedies offers more clarity:When local boards of education have determined which employees have engaged in or participated in a strike, the employees may be subject to dismissal and, further, shall forfeit their claim to tenure status, if they have attained tenure, and shall revert to probationary status for the next five-year period. Any professional employee who engaged in, or participated in, a strike and who is not a tenured teacher may also be subject to dismissal.

Public education in Tennessee wins when we all work together through civil discourse to address our considerable issues.  Education is the great equalizer for all children in the state.  Passionate and effective teachers, principals, and superintendents must lead with creative solutions to problems, and not with outworn strategies from the industrial age. In the 21st-century, we must be policy driven, mindful of economic concerns, providing realistic answers to difficult challenges.  Adversarial tactics spurred on by outside groups, with dubious agendas, simply will not benefit Tennessee educators or children.       

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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.

The old television show M*A*S*H had an opening song called “Suicide is Painless.” Many people do not know the origin of the title song, but is based on a scene in the movie upon which the show was based. A character, Capt. Walter Waldowsk, was given a placebo rather than an actual drug, as he planned to take his life. In the movie, the medication did not cause harm.

Unfortunately, too many people in our world are indeed inflicting harm and end up taking their own lives. The pain they cause goes well beyond the pain inflicted upon themselves. Suicide is not painless. Death leaves survivors.

Mental health issues are real, and have been ignored for far too long in our society. The stigma attached to mental health encourages people to hide genuine problems, which only manifest later, creating further troubles for themselves, their loved ones and possibly society – if left untreated. David Dobbs wrote about how culture profoundly shapes our ideas about mental illness focusing on the amazing story of Nev Jones, who says we should call this stigma what it is, discrimination.

“Men are notoriously reluctant to ask for any kind of help, and that is especially true when it comes to mental health,” according to writer David Levine. And the research bears out his hypothesis. Most of those in mental health and social work tend to focus their work on children, women and older adults. Men simply get left out, either by choice or the lack of experts in this arena.

Gender plays a role in many diseases, including depression. “Male and female brains have differences,” according to Dr. Jerrold Rosenbaum. “Some psychiatric disorders are more prevalent in men, like autism and schizophrenia, while depression and anxiety are more common in women.” However, many men suffer from untreated depression. The Mayo Clinic says, “Male depression often goes undiagnosed and can have devastating consequences when it goes untreated.”

In the United States, suicide is the 10th-leading causes of death. That means someone dies by suicide every 12.3 minutes. Recently, I had a very close friend take his own life. He defeated leukemia twice, but could not defeat the physical ailments that accompanied it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 22 percent of the annual suicides in the United States are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. In fact, we lose an average of 20 veterans by suicide every day. This includes active-duty military. Ninety percent of those who die due to suicide also have a diagnosable mental health disorder at the time of their death. Our military fought for our freedom, and risked their lives to keep us free. Some come home, some don’t come home, and some don’t really ever come home.

Psychology Today recently pointed out people with mental health difficulties remain among the most stigmatized groups. Suicide prevention has to be a priority for everybody. We must destroy the societal imposed shame placed on those who seek help. We must fight for increased guidance counselors in our schools. We have to encourage men to seek help when they need it. If you need help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by calling 800-273-8255.

Steven Hinshaw writes in his memoir, “Stigma breeds shame. Stigma breeds silence.” His solution is to talk about it. I wish more people would address this subject. I wish my friend would have picked up his phone and called me. People need to know that they are not alone.

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