The Governor’s new education plan has an element in it for testing if those who want to be teachers are worthy, capable, or qualified. One of the goals is to attract the best and brightest. It specifically says, “Have teacher candidates demonstrate evidence of perseverance and leadership as part of their entry into teacher-education programs.” The best and brightest can and will be attracted to the education business. The biggest attraction comes from those who demonstrate what an honorable and rewarding career education can be. Some things you won’t be found by giving a test, but we can strive to identify, promote, teach, and obtain what I call the “attitude of the heart”. Most assuredly the demonstration of character is a necessity for positive role-models. Just as personal appearance is sets an example, personal conduct is equally or more important. I have not only made professional mistakes, but have observed some very gross infractions of proper educator behavior. To earn student trust, which is an essential element in individual and class management, we must demonstrate that we are worthy, acting with dignity, respect, and honor. When I told my students that I would not ask them to do anything that I was unwilling to do myself, they knew that I was pledging to not be a hypocrite. They loved hearing it because I set rules I would follow with them. Not long ago, I visited with a man who was at the state football playoffs. He had a great seat behind one of the teams going for the trophy. He said he could not believe how the coach was using the “F” bomb while berating of some players about the mistakes they were making. If I were that coach’s administrator, he would be fired before he could try and figure out how to spell what he said. There is no place for any cursing, slur, or insinuation in the school – none. I am weary of the coaches who think it sounds tough to sprinkle profanities for emphasis. We don’t need teachers who curse and say “Excuse my French.” FYI, that is not French. Those teachers turn around and send their students to the office for equal offenses and they are hypocrites. A similar problem are the principals who tolerate foul-talking students and ask us to “just understand” them. No more than a teacher can cuss-out a student; a student should not be able to cuss-out a teacher. It is inappropriate for both! Standards of conduct and standards of appearance go hand in hand. They are partners in over-all school atmosphere and conduct. Many years ago, when I was in the truck business, I still thought that real men had to cuss, smoke, drink, and drive fast. I must have been impressed by the wrong role-model. Regardless, I made a sales call to a contractor’s office and while waiting I read the walls. A sign on his wall said this: “The Use of Profanity is a Small Mind Trying to Express Itself”. That framed saying had a profound effect on my thinking from that day forward. It took me awhile to clean up the vocabulary, but I started questioning the size of my mind every time I used any vulgarities. My hope is for all of you reading this column to start a mission to clean up our society and there are numerous ways to do so. We are all role-models to each other. Those of you who have children at home are actually home-schoolers and the paramount role-model. Acting nasty and using vulgarities needs to be left to Hollywood and their way of thinking. Let’s get Iowa’s children on board with a mentally sanitized society. Let’s all take the challenge to see if we can express ourselves with a bridle on our tongue and eloquence that transcends crudeness of language including put-downs and sexual insinuations. All of these things may be fun, funny, and easy to do, but doing what is right is much more important. Let’s do what we ought, not what we want.
-PEI Director Jim Hawkins