• Which Rules Should Our Kids Follow?

    Posted by David Jeck on 10/20/2021

    These days, nothing truly surprises me...but today is different. I just read this story in the Fauquier Times and I can hardly believe what I read:

    https://www.fauquier.com/news/rep-good-encourages-rappahannock-students-to-shed-masks-at-school-and-rise-up-in-opposition/article_6cc075f0-31ac-11ec-bb61-bbdb837b8c80.html

    If I understand what has been reported, Congressman Good is encouraging students to ignore the mask mandate, as prescribed by the State Health Commissioner, because he does not believe masks prevent the spread of Covid. He indicates that there is "no evidence" that demonstrates their effectiveness. In other words, he is telling students to ignore the rules established in our schools because of the state mask mandate, which is enforced by our elected school boards, because he doesn't agree with the mandate. He is apparently assuming that the students he spoke with agree with him and, presumably, their parents, also.  Moreover, Congressman Good called Governor Northam a "liar" as he spoke to these students because the Governor has advocated for the use of masks and has vouched for their effectiveness.  

    Let's forget for a second that there are differences of opinion (a major understatement) regarding the effectiveness of masks wearing. I for one have been blinded by the science related to their effectiveness. I don't know who to believe, which study to subscribe to, or where the correct answers can be found. I've read scores of medical/scientific information about masks, and I am more confused than ever. If I were biased one way or the other, it would be much easier to take a position...but I am not biased, so it is difficult to land on one spot. There is a mountain of "evidence" on both sides of this issue, most of which contains at least some merit. The fact is, the people who publish refereed analysis with corresponding conclusions are a lot smarter than I am...which makes it even more difficult to decide. 

    Let's also forget for a moment that, according to Congressman Good, if you believe differently than he believes (believe a different science), and advocate for the use of masks as a result of those beliefs, you must be a liar. He is free to believe what he wants. He is also free to stump on behalf of those beliefs on the campaign trail, at rallies, on his website, etc. He can do as he likes. This is a free counrty, but this is not what concerns me.

    Congressman Good just told a bunch of kids that it is okay to break the rules if they don't agree with them. He is apparently saying that the "rule of law" at least as it pertains to local school boards (typically comprised of parents) can simply be ignored. Forget taking the time to appeal to the local LEA, the VDH, the state health commissioner, etc., and instead go to the kids, and tell them to break the rules they don't like. And while you're at it, feel free to call anyone who disagrees with you or them a liar. 

    None of this is helping, Congressman. Where does it end? Which rules should and should not be followed? Tardiness? Dress code? Weapons in schools? Truancy? Bullying? Disrespect of staff? Who gets to decide which rules should be followed? You? Personally, I'd rather rely on local school boards. You know, the elected officials who are charged with governing schools.

    My kids are out of school, but I can tell you with great conviction that if any elected official came to my child's school and encouraged my child to break the rules, any rule, because he or she didn't agree with them, I would be at their doorstep, face-to-face, requesting an explanation. This has not one thing to do with party affiliation. It is about respecting parents, school leaders, teachers, and the moral fabric that we should be weaving for our kids.

    Please refrain from encouraging students to ignore rules they don't like while branding public officials liars because you don't agree with them. We are supposed to be encouraging students to follow the rules so other don't potentially get hurt, sick, or quarantined, which results in a loss of precious instructional time, because someone encouraged them not to wear a mask.

    Please stop

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  • Who would want to be a teacher right now?

    Posted by David Jeck on 9/23/2021 1:00:00 AM

    Today, we find ourselves in a national teacher shortage that we have been able to avoid over the past few years. Old educators like me were warned about it many years ago, the lens being inevitable baby-boomer retirements. Moreover, the number of college students choosing to teach for a career continues to dwindle while the demand for teachers continues to grow. 

     

    The shortage is real and is now impacting us significantly. As of today, we are down over forty teachers, and there are very, very few candidates available to interview. Our Human Resources professionals attend over 40 recruitment fairs both in person and virtually, including our own hiring fair held every March. Still, the number of prospective candidates continues to decline each year.

     

    Unless we act decisively and creatively, the impact of the shortage will only get worse. The people who will suffer as a result of this shortage are, of course, our kids. The long-term effects could be catastrophic for our communities in general.  

     

    When we search for solutions, the most obvious answer doesn’t seem so obvious anymore. Increasing pay is an important factor in attracting and retaining our teachers, but it is no panacea, as we see even the highest paying school divisions in our state deal with the same shortages. 

     

    I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a large group of superintendents tasked with generating potential solutions. Here are some of the proposed strategies:

    • College loan forgiveness
    • Tax breaks
    • Housing assistance
    • Signing and loyalty bonuses
    • Limit what we expect from teachers to teaching and teaching only

     

    Most of these strategies are expensive, potentially very expensive, but the instructional alternatives associated with not having enough teachers are sparse. Widespread virtual instructional models still have a long way to go. Even the most robust and user-friendly models still have limitations that must be addressed, not the least of which is that virtual learning is never going to replace the effectiveness of in-person, face-to-face instruction for most students.

     

     But, there is another solution, one that gets very little attention but has the potential to have a monumental impact...

     

    I was able to speak with the current State Secretary of Education earlier this summer. We talked about teacher shortages, and he was kind enough to ask me what I thought the cause was. I asked a somewhat rhetorical question: Who would want to be a teacher right now? Have you seen how teachers are being treated?  Teachers have had to endure revolting public comments at school board meetings, floggings via social media, and even being called “losers” by national leaders. This kind of treatment needs to end immediately.

     

    Teachers are indispensable to our society, but sadly, they are not treated as such. We have to not only defend our teachers, but praise them, and elevate them to a level commensurate with the value they add to our communities. I recognize that the vast majority of folks in our community agree, and they do respect, appreciate, and recognize the value they provide to our community.

    Teaching is hard work. Unless you have done it yourself, you may not be able to relate entirely. I am not, by the way, pitting teaching against any other profession. I wouldn’t attempt to draw those comparisons unless I had actually walked in those shoes. And yet, some will do just that even if they’ve not spent a single day teaching in a classroom.

     

    Let’s change the conversation and consider all strategies to attract more good people to this amazing profession. It is not too late to fix this problem.   

     

     

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  • The Boss

    Posted by David Jeck on 8/18/2021

    Another reason to love Bruce Springsteen

    Sharing that you are a Bruce Springsteen fan is like saying you like tacos. It seems like everyone loves “The Boss”…and here is one more reason to love him.

    I tuned into a podcast featuring Bruce recently. He was talking about what drives him, what motivates him, why he continues to tour, etc. If you’ve seen him perform, you understand the motivation behind the question. He is an amazing entertainer. He plays for hours. He has amazing energy and engages with his audience with sincerity and vulnerability. His answer to the question will remain etched in my mind forever. I am paraphrasing:

    “A lot of us grew up with two kinds of people in our lives. On one hand we had someone close to us tell us that we were no good. That we’ll never amount to anything. That we’re worthless. But there is another person who tells us that we can do no wrong. That we are a gift from God. That we are perfect. What happens to a lot of people is they spend the rest of their lives trying to prove one of the people wrong and one of the people right.”

    Wow. I’m wondering if that resonates with you like it does me. I can see the faces of those two people from my childhood/adolescents. They stir up some really awful and really beautiful memories simultaneously.   

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  • Teddy Stallard

    Posted by David Jeck on 7/12/2021

    Teddy Stallard, By Roy Exum 

    Each September, Miss Thompson greeted her new students with the words, “Boys & girls, I love you all the same. I have no favorites.” Of course, she wasn’t being completely truthful. Teachers do have favorites, & what is worse, they sometimes have students they just don’t like.

    Teddy Stallard was a boy Miss Thompson just didn’t like, & for good reason. He was a sullen boy who sat slouched in his seat with his head down. When she spoke to him he always answered in monosyllables of “yes” & “no.” His clothes were musty & his hair unkempt. He was an unattractive boy in just about every way. Whenever she marked Teddy’s papers she got a certain perverse delight out of putting Xs next to the wrong answers. And when she put the “F” at the top of his papers, she always did it with a flair. She should have known better. Teachers have records, & she had records on Teddy:

    First grade: Teddy shows promise with his work & attitude, but poor home situation.
    Second grade: Teddy is a good boy, but he is too serious for a second grader. His mother is terminally ill.

    Third grade: Teddy is becoming withdrawn & detached. His mother died this year. His father shows no interest.

    Fourth grade: Teddy is a troubled child. He needs help.

    Christmas came. The children brought presents to Miss Thompson & piled them on her desk. They crowded around to watch her open them. All the presents were wrapped in brightly-colored paper, except for Teddy’s present. His was wrapped in brown paper & held together with Scotch tape. But to tell the truth, she was surprised that he even brought a present.

    When she tore open the paper, out fell a rhinestone bracelet with most of the stones missing & an almost-empty bottle of cheap perfume. The other children giggled at the shabby gifts, but Miss Thompson had enough sense to snap on the bracelet & take some perfume out of the almost-empty bottle & put it on her wrist. Holding her wrist up to the other children she said, “Isn’t it lovely?” The other children, taking their cue from the teacher, all agreed.

    At the end of the day when all the other children had left, Teddy came over to her desk & said softly, “Miss Thompson… All day today you smelled just like my mother used to smell. That’s her bracelet you’re wearing. It looks very nice on you… I’m really glad you like my presents.” After he left, she got down on her knees & buried her head in her hands & cried & cried & cried, & she asked God to forgive her.

    The next day when the children came to class, they had a new teacher. It was still Miss Thompson, but she was a new teacher. She cared in ways that the old teacher didn’t. She reached out in ways that the old teacher didn’t. She reached out to all the children, but especially to Teddy. She nurtured him & encouraged him & tutored him when he needed extra help. By the end of that school year Teddy had caught up with a lot of children. He was even ahead of some.

    Teddy moved away & Miss Thompson didn’t hear from him for a long time. Then, one day, seemingly out of nowhere, came a note:

    Dear Miss Thompson, I’m graduating from high school. I wanted you to be the first to know. Love, Teddy Stallard

    There was no address. But, 4 years later there was another short note, & it read:

    Dear Miss Thompson, I wanted you to be the first to know. I’m second in my class. The university has not been easy, but I really liked it. Love, Teddy Stallard

    And 4 years later there was still another note:

    Dear Miss Thompson, As of today I am Theodore J. Stallard, MD! How about that! I wanted you to be the first to know. I’m going to be married, the 27th of July to be exact. I want you to come & I want you to sit where my mother would have sat. You’re the only family I have now. Dad died last year. Love, Teddy Stallard

    And she went. And she sat where Teddy’s mother would have sat . . . because she deserved to be there. She was a teacher who had done something great for the Kingdom of God, & she deserved her reward.

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  • Came across this quote today

    Posted by David Jeck on 6/8/2021 1:05:00 AM

    “I have three things I'd like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don't give a s**t. What's worse is that you're more upset with the fact that I said s**t than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”


    ― Tony Campolo

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  • Quick story about my dad....

    Posted by David Jeck on 5/25/2021 1:05:00 AM

    When I refer to "my dad," I'm really talking about my stepfather, Dr. Leonard Jones. He is the man who raised me, supported me, supported my siblings, took care of my mom, etc. My biological father was not much of a father at all, but that's not the point of this blog post.

    Growing up with a house full of kids (I have six brothers and sisters and four step-brothers and sisters) with a physician father meant plenty of in-home medical care. Dr. Jones did not enjoy providing care at home, because home was home, not the office...but my mother often did not give him a choice.  

    Here is the thing I learned early on, and continued to recognize deep into adulthood: that guy was always right. When it came to treating ailments, he was always spot on...even with the weird stuff like: his remedy for removing a ring I had forced on to my finger, or how he relieved the excruciating pain my brother was experiencing after slamming a car door on his thumbnail (spoiler: it involved a paper clip and a cigarette lighter), or how he made sure that the little kids in our family did not develop a gap between their front teeth (this trait runs in my family). Lets just say it was a pretty gruesome procedure. And I'll never forget going to see him to have a cast removed. He entered the examination room but did not utter a word. He took out an electric saw used to remove casts. I thought for sure that he was going to cut off my arm. He didn't, of course, and simply removed the cast with the reverberating saw, then left the room without saying a word. That was my dad in a nutshell.  

    Dr. Jones had a really lousy bedside manner and was a man of very few words...but he knew his stuff. That whole medical school thing, residency experience, forty years of practicing medicine really paid off for "Doc Jones."  My siblings and I trusted him completely. He was the expert. We need to trust the experts. 

     

     

     

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  • Finding Your Talent

    Posted by David Jeck on 4/26/2021

    Some find it very early in life, and some find it closer to the end. For some it's obvious, for others it's found only after spending years engaged in something, some occupation or career path that is completely unrewarding, although monumentally time consuming.

    Some never find it, which is the greatest tragedy of all.

    Some know exactly what it is but have it wrung out of them by a culture that prefers punishing errors, and expects allegiance to a familiar path with conventional (and typically low) expectations.   

    ...but we all have them. We all have at least one exceptional talent. Helping kids find and enhance theirs is one of our most critically important challenges. I fear that the traditional educational model, one which is based on the factory system developed during the American Industrial Revolution, has made the task more dificult. Add high-stakes standardized, multiple choice testing to the mix, and we end up with an instructional system and/or model that actually works against kids finding and sculpting their talent(s). 

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  • Some Good Advice

    Posted by David Jeck on 3/26/2021 7:00:00 AM

    Shared with my staff today (weekly newsletter):

     

    I have a great memory when it comes to advice given to me, especially from people for whom I have great respect. Here are a few notable examples:

    Dr. Bill Thomas, my first Virginia superintendent, in reference to the last few week of school: “Try to keep the circus under the tent”

    Dr. David Melton, my second Virginia superintendent: “Don’t pick fights with people who buy their ink by the barrel.”

    My mother: “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

    Dr. AL Butler, great friend, colleague, and mentor (regarding the high school principalship): “If someone every approaches you after a ball game with a bag of money from ticket sales or concessions, don’t touch it.”

    Dr. Major Warner: “If you consistently invest in people, it is okay to make a withdrawal every once in a while.”

    Wendy Moss: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about."

    I am typically reluctant to give advice unless asked for it, but I want to give some to you: After school today, forget about Fauquier County Public Schools for a few days. Stop worrying. Flip the switch in your mind that controls thoughts/worries/frustrations regarding your job. You have earned the right to disconnect and unwind. Take comfort in the FACT that you have, over the last several months, survived and thrived during the most difficult time in the history of public education…and that is no exaggeration. You are all heroes and, in spite of the fact that some people will never understand what you have endured, you have earned great respect from all corners of our community. Truly, we are all in awe of you and are forever indebted to you.

     

    Dave    

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  • How could I do such a thing?

    Posted by David Jeck on 3/11/2021 7:00:00 AM

    I learned recently that I cancelled all things Dr. Seuss and, specifically, Green Eggs and Ham. For a moment I was quite upset with myself, especially considering that GEAH was one of the first books I remember reading. I was ultimately corrected: I had not cancelled GEAH the book, I had cancelled GEAH the food. At that point, I was twice as upset with myself. How could I do such a thing?

    I am joking of course but, in all seriousness, I did stop for a moment and wonder to myself if, maybe, I had made these decisions and then forgotten that I had. The people who were emailing me and sending Tweets were so certain that I had…maybe they were right?

    Social media, for me anyway, is the ultimate good/bad scenario. It can be a tremendous tool for the sharing of information, spreading positivity, recognizing accomplishments, etc. But, of course, it can also be used as a tool to tear down, share false information, bully, rage, etc. It feels like the train left the station a long time ago in terms of the misuse of social media. We’ve all seen some really awful things occur as a result of irresponsible use…but we’ve also seen social media used for plenty of good.

    Pretty solid rule of thumb when using social media: don’t write or share anything that you wouldn’t say or share in person, face-to-face. A second good guidepost: verify, verify,  verify. The amount of misinformation flowing from SM is staggering and disturbing…and often impossible to reign in.”

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  • Instant Smile

    Posted by David Jeck on 2/20/2021 1:00:00 AM

    My wife and I are avid Wheel of Fortune watchers. We were watching recently and wondered aloud if anyone has ever won the million dollar prize. It turns out that three contestant have! Michelle Lowenstein won in 2008, Autumn Erhard won in 2013, and Sarah Manchester won in 2014.

    Stop for a moment. Watch the first winner. Its 100% joy! It will put a smile on your face. 

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqhIpof8uGg

    Let's all spread a little joy around!

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