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. 

It is easy to argue that student discipline in public education is out of control.  And in many districts across the state, it clearly is a huge problem.  A recent headline in The Tennessee Star stated:  Metro Nashville Students So Out of Control Teachers Fear for Their Lives, SROs Fleeing from Alternative Schools, Educators, Officials Say.  The article was written after a shocking Teacher Town Hall, hosted by NewsChannel 5 in Nashville.

Lack of student discipline, inadequate administrative support, and lack of respect are frequently cited why teachers leave the teaching profession, almost as much as salary and working conditions.  The situation is clearly getting worse, despite all the feel-good policies enacted by some school boards.  Old fashioned discipline is gone, replaced with fads and trends.  In Tennessee, some legislators are pushing for legislation that is likely to make matters even worse.

The exodus of many veteran Tennessee teachers may have eliminated part of the solution and acerbated the problem, along with an influx of new administrators.  However, that is a simple explanation and a somewhat faulty logic. Worse, it lays the blame for continued societal problems at the feet of public education yet again.

It is true, public education has its issues, from design to execution, but every problem faced by society gets manifested in our schools. Educators work incredible hours, doing thankless tasks that other professionals do not have to do.  Many people have jobs with specific skills and also have a lack of acknowledgment and a shortage of appreciation.  But educators may just win the prize for wearing a multitude of hats. We need more community support.

Teaching is not an eight-hour-a-day, five-day-a-week job. There are many duties that educators tackle that do not require pedagogical skills or experience in the classroom but are necessary for the profession. Teachers need a strong immune system to protect them from exposure to every possible illness in a classroom. Not only that, teachers must comfort and guide those students with little to no support at home.  Teachers spend their evenings and weekends making lesson plans, grading papers, and other extracurricular activities. Teachers often spend their own money on classroom supplies, decorations, and food for their students.

It would be awesome if every educator had a positive and supportive working environment where they could thrive personally and professionally, and where they were free to exercise their expertise and explore the full limits of their talents. Alas, that is not the world we live in.  Every day across Tennessee, our educators work with children who have experienced physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect.

Policymakers and stakeholders at all levels should make it a priority to work together in order to reduce excessive educator workload, at the same time providing salary increases that will actually go into the teachers’ paychecks and not just to the district coffers. However, getting student discipline under control may be a bigger challenge.

News Channel 5 revealed a confidential report where a Nashville law firm warns the Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) that it would become “difficult, if not impossible, for the district to retain qualified and exemplary employees.”  If Nashville is an example, other districts around the state should enact totally different policies.  If MNPS is a model district for any other system, then other districts may soon find themselves in a similar predicament. Administrators, teachers, parents, and students deserve better leadership there.

Student discipline needs the attention of policymakers across the state.  Failure to act quickly and responsibly will only continue to erode support for public education and see quality educators flee the profession.  It is time to address student discipline in a more comprehensive fashion.

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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.

Candice-McQueen-at-appointment-press-conference

I had several news organizations call and/or email for a statement on the departure of Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen.  I hastily put together my thoughts, and wrote:

“Professional Educators of Tennessee appreciates the contributions of Commissioner Candice McQueen.  Commissioner McQueen is one of the most visible members of the Haslam Administration.   She took over the Department during a dark period in public education, and she made a significant difference within the Department, particularly in the infrastructure.  Those changes are not readily noticeable, as they include systems, processes and human capital.  There are some exceptional people within the Department of Education working to make public education a success in our state.  It is unfortunate that online testing continues to be a point of contention, but the state is moving in a positive direction.  The next Commissioner of Education and the 111th Tennessee General Assembly will need to make adjustments in student assessment as we move forward.   We will always be grateful to Commissioner McQueen for her unwavering support of increasing teacher salaries and commitment to student literacy.  These are incredible legacies to leave as she departs her critical role serving the citizens of Tennessee, and we wish Commissioner McQueen much success in her new role.   We look forward to working with Governor-elect Bill Lee and offering input on a successor.”

That’s what professionals do.  We issue statements and offer public comments about people and issues.  There is a right way and a wrong way to do that task.  In an era where we seemingly delight in lack of civility and negative tone of politics, we must take the high road.   We are polarized as a country, not because we are afraid to discuss issues of substance, but rather we cannot talk to each other in a respectful manner.  It’s easier for some to just be what my mom used to classify as “rude, crude and uncalled for.”  In the end, we merely see who can be the loudest in the room, and end up talking over each other.

What does that have to do with a statement on the Departure of a Haslam Cabinet official?  Simple, it brings out the ugly.  And I have seen some mean-spirited people critical of Commissioner McQueen, as she moves into the next phase of her career.  Most of those being critical are clueless.  To paraphrase Shakespeare, “In a battle of wits, they are unarmed.”

Tupac Shakur said, “Behind every sweet smile, there is a bitter sadness that no one can ever see and feel.” I spent time with Commissioner McQueen as more than a casual observer. Her heart and passion were always for the children and teachers in Tennessee.  She fought battles which nobody knew about and which, despite the lofty title in front of her name, she had little control.  While we didn’t always agree on every issue, it was always a discussion she was willing to have with me, as well as others. She made it a priority to discuss teacher issues with me regularly, and as needed as frequently as possible.  That alone will always endear her to the teachers who were included in those discussions.

Candice McQueen is a woman of faith.  That is an element that we need more of in public service.  She didn’t wield her faith as a sword, but you knew that she was a believer in Jesus Christ.  She had a preference for ideas over politics.  She chose principle over popularity.  She took ownership of a testing debacle, that she had inherited and didn’t even pick the people who oversaw it.  She could have easily laid blame elsewhere.  She chose not to do that.  She wisely fired a failed testing company.   She was not a seasoned politician.  If you recall legislative hearings, she sat there and took valid criticism of a flawed system.  However, that critique often crossed the line personally.

Candice McQueen symbolized the hope for a more decent and gentler public servant, willing to acknowledge faults in a system—and personally owning them.  Whereas Harry Truman said, “The buck stops here,” McQueen also took ownership while at the same time working to correct the issues.  (Much like building an airplane while at the same time trying to fly it.)  She did this while remaining optimistic and energetic.  From first-hand knowledge, I know she frequently started her work day before 6:00 AM and often finished it after 9:00 PM, even though she was a mother and wife.  Commissioner McQueen will be missed.

As far as the next Commissioner of Education goes, I imagine it will be much harder to fill her shoes than most people realize.  The next Commissioner must make sure she/he has direct access to the new Governor, with complete authority to make changes as needed.  The Governor, not the Commissioner of Education, must fight the legislative battles.  We need a true public servant we can also work with, who understands Tennessee and our educators.

The beautiful thing about legacies is that time is a fair-minded judge.  I suspect that Candice McQueen, like Lana Seivers who served years before her, will be seen as a Commissioner who helped build a modern Department of Education which meets the needs of districts, educators, parents and children.  Tennessee is moving forward in education, and we all should be proud of our accomplishments.

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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.

Christy Ballard is the long time General Counsel of Tennessee Department of Education.   Nobody in the state knows Education Law better than Christy Ballard.  And  she shares her vast knowledge.   She regularly assists in the implementation and enforcement of Tennessee’s education laws and regulations by providing legal technical assistance to local school board attorneys, other state agency staff, legislators, LEA officials, teachers and the general public by providing the TDOE’s position on school related laws and regulations.

life focus

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. —JC Bowman

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.

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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.

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.

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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. To schedule an interview please contact Audrey Shores, Director of Communications, at 1-800-471-4867 ext.102.

 

 

I write:  “Without outside assistance, communities across America simply cannot keep up with technology challenges, either from an economic standpoint or an access standpoint. That is why open-source and donated cloud technology has begun to find greater accepted use in classrooms across America.”

I was honored to write a chapter for the book Cartoons in the Classroom, with Ilya Spitalnik an internationally recognized thought leader, keynote speaker, entrepreneur  and technology adviser.  Ilya created PowToon to assist educators.   PowToon’s commitment to provide technology to educators, as well as their customized tutorials can help educators more effectively integrate cartoons into their teaching methods. You can download the book for free at https://s3.amazonaws.com/powtoon/books/Cartoons-in-the-Classroom-Book.pdf  

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Mother.  Perhaps no other word speaks to as many people in any language or touches our heart.  Yet, when we write about mothers, the words rarely do justice to the subject.  We are rarely able to show our gratefulness to the women in our lives, the women who gave us life, or to those who give life to our children.  Mother is a word that sparks deep self-reflection when you reflect about the amazing importance this woman has on your life, growth as a person, or significance to your children it is inconceivable.   The hand of a bride becomes the hand of a mother, and the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

Before the man even discovers that he is going to be a father, the woman knows.   A myriad of emotions runs through her brain, some of them at the same time.  She may be anxious, afraid, confused or unprepared. And on the roller coaster ride of emotions, she will also be excited, happy, and joyful as they are about to embark on this life-changing journey.  Having a baby is undeniably hard work.   The best gift for a mother-to-be is continual support and assurance from those around her is that she can navigate this stage of life.  She does not know it yet, but she was created for this role and she will be ready for the moment.

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.

You never have to earn a mother’s love, nor could you buy it.  It is freely given.  And her love will last until her dying breath. Her prayers for her children are never-ending.  She may stay in a challenging marriage for the security and well-being of her children or escape for their safety.   She may be abused, verbally, physically or both.  She will put the needs of her children above her own.  She gave us life, never asking for anything in return.

Author Donna Ball wrote in At Home on Ladybug Farm: “Motherhood is a choice you make every day to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is, … and to forgive yourself over and over again for doing everything wrong.” For those who have lost their mother, whether recent or long ago, the day is particularly bittersweet.  Rutgers Professor Deborah Carr reminds us the day is: “marked by fading memories, or musings about what ‘could have been…’ if our mothers were still alive today.”

Mother’s Day isn’t just an activity designed to sell holiday cards to reflect on a mother’s compassion and influence.  If language is everything, we could not, even if we tried, honor the women that shapes and inspires our lives.   No matter how much you thank the woman who does it all for her children, once a year is never enough.  However, we must reflect on a mother’s sacrifice of tears, toil and time.  We must also acknowledge the unique value, vision and virtue of women.  So, to all the mothers, wives, daughters, aunts, sisters, grandmothers, mothers-in-law, stepmothers, godmothers, friends, teachers, and all women that have everlasting love for children, we honor you this Mother’s 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.  You can follow him on his blog at www.jcbowman.com 

 

Thank you for the great work you do and the huge impact you make in young people’s lives in here in Tennessee!

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