Challenges… They tell a story of who we are…

Challenges… Like them or not, our comfort zone rises to the occasion with them. Challenges are the one constant that cannot be avoided, and there is not a manual that even touches the surface of how to handle it all. What is important is learning how to handle those challenges. We either do that by trial and error or by learning from others. One key thought here is who are we learning from or should be learning from?

Every challenge we face is a pitfall or an opportunity. We either look like a genius or a goat (which does not mean “greatest of all time” in this context). Challenges make leaders make decisions. The one thing we cannot do is not make a decision when faced with a challenge.

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We are living in a time of society where “self-preservation” is up close and sometimes personal. Now, that does not go against the idea that we must do what is right by ourselves (we have to take care of ourselves), but… What are leaders doing to do right by others? Too often, we see leaders who are putting their own success before the success of others. The social and emotional effects within organizations are at a point that many leaders do not want to acknowledge. They see it, while at the same time hoping it is a mirage.

We are hit with challenges every day, and they come in all forms and fashions. How will you handle them? One aspect of this 3+ years of the COVID pandemic challenge I have seen thus far is that many leaders do not know how to lead. The flip side of that statement is very true also. Many leaders have shown what leadership should look like. As true as they are, the realization of both views can be seen by and in the organization’s people. It does not take long to see what “moods” people are in as it reflects the culture established by the leadership.

Great leaders have a gravitational pull. They are consistent and always keep their feet on the ground with gravity. You are either pulling others toward you or pushing them away regarding leadership. Challenges are a way of showing others how strong your pull is. No one likes leaders who float themselves around and allow others to do the same.

It will be interesting to see where leadership goes in the next few months. As much unknown that lies ahead, challenges will certainly be there. Let’s make sure our feet are where we want them when challenges are staring us in the face before we decide to stand firm on our leadership.

Go be a great educator and leader today… Our future needs it…

Remember… Think Leadership and Be For Others…

©2022 J Clay Norton

Want more Leadership Thoughts? Follow me on… Twitter @thebookchamber or follow the blog directly.

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“Rut roh” – Don’t get in a teaching rut…

One of the slogan statements of a recent popular TV show stated that “Winter is coming.” Nope, the dull of winter is here. That stretch after Christmas and before spring break. The long haul, per se. Some days are cold and dreary outside, even in Mississippi. Today’s high is suppose to be around 35 degrees with a real feel of 26. As we were out at parking lot duty this morning, the temperature was a brisk 27 degrees. We were taking it on the chin, literally. That cold hard slap of the wind in our face.

Talk about depressing? The happiness of Christmas feelings is gone for teachers and students. Throw COVID into the mix, and we have many schools that now look like skeletons. Contact tracing, make-up work, substitute shortage… As Billy Joel said, “I can’t take it anymore.”

But…

I believe this… teaching is as much about psychology today as it is about knowing how to teach your subject. You have been hired, so that is a given. Teachers like students, and students like teachers seem to get into a proverbial rut this time of year. The drag… spinning, wanting to go forward but unwilling to lock it into four-wheel drive.

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Back to the psychology… I’m pretty sure many teachers’ lessons are planned and ready to go. Let’s hope so anyway. But, what about you as a teacher, are you ready to go? How are your students seeing you? What are you bringing to your classes? I’m all for facilitating a lesson. I’m all for teaching, but I refuse to be in a rut. As the teacher, you have to be the “ray of light” not only for your students but for other teachers as well. Trust me, some teachers need it more than students.

Now, more than ever, your teacher’s creativity needs to be seen. Use your Jedi mind tricks. Now is the time to let your students see you smile; it is after Christmas, after all… Sing a little song, dance a little dance, help your students, give a little bit more encouragement, maybe even understand that life gets in the way. Go buy some contagious enthusiasm. Not sure how much it costs, but effective it will be.

It’s a choice, and we all make the decision every day. The bad and the good of it is everyone takes notice. What will they see? Be the “spring,” pun intended, that gets others out of the rut. Spring is coming.

Go be a great educator and leader today… Our future needs it…

Remember… Think Leadership and Be For Others…

©2022 J Clay Norton

Want more Leadership Thoughts? Follow me on… Twitter @thebookchamber or follow the blog directly.

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Mississippi Legislators have listened… Now what?

“I’m just a bill…” No, this time, you are not…

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HB530 has made it through committee to the House floor and passed 114-6, bipartisan at that. That is great news for Mississippi’s educators. But… what will happen next? The Senate Education proposal has not, as of today’s writing (Thursday, January 13), been introduced. It has until Monday, January 17, to do so. With that being said, if the Senate Education Bill for teacher raises makes it out of committee and passes on the floor of the Senate, what will happen when the House and Senate bills meet?

Now, for a long time coming, teachers have a pep in their step. Many educators are actually following this session of the legislature. If that’s what we want to call it, teacher morale is higher than it has been in a long time… Why? It seems that legislatures have actually listened. We can see that in the two bill proposals and the overwhelming support of how the voting went in the House. We often hear what others are saying, but listening often does not occur. It seems the legislators have listened. Now, teachers across the state are somewhat breathing a sigh of relief in hopes of a salary increase.

Being an election year, I knew that teacher salary would be more discussed. Every session, it is brought up, but now… I would have never thought the House and Senate’s numbers made public would be what they are. One thing for sure, while the bidding war is on, let’s just make sure it is the teachers who win.

So, what happens now… will the Senate approve the House bill? Will the House look at what the Senate proposes? Will it even be taken up in the other House’s committee? Will the topic be tabled? This is the period of uncertainty. No one likes that in their lives. We want to know what is going on and what the results will be. I’m sure negotiations will be made and a compromise offered, but to what cost to the teachers? To add the finality of questions, what will the Governor do?

While we wait, I believe we cannot just sit and hope. We must continue to contact our legislators. We must remain proactive and let our voices be listened to. We must continue to advocate. Legislators have now acknowledged that a salary increase is way past due. Now is the time for them to make good on what they have made public.

I remain hopeful, and I hope other teachers also do. The teacher shortage, teacher retention, teacher “morale,” teachers staying idealists instead of disheartened can take a turn for the better. Now is the time. Too much has been said to backpedal and give reasons why not. Legislators should not use teacher salaries as a “tack on” to another bill to pass a political agenda.

It is time to set aside political differences. It is time for that bipartisan legislation we saw in the House vote and time for the Senate to uphold the value public educators bring every day to their schools. Everyone says they want to invest in the future. What better way to help our future than to ensure that our students have the best and most qualified teachers to educate them. Value does have a price tag.

Legislators, thank you. Now, make good on your promise. This is much more than a bill.

Go be a great educator and leader today… Our future needs it…

Remember… Think Leadership and Be For Others…

©2022 J Clay Norton

Want more Leadership Thoughts? Follow me on… Twitter @thebookchamber or follow the blog directly.

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A Teacher’s Value – Below the Average?

I’m a teacher… That’s what I do. I also realize that I have made education my profession. As the saying goes, which I think is very weak leadership, by the way (and please do not tell people this), many will say, “You signed up for this.” Yes, I did. I chose to be an educator. Why, you ask? There are different reasons here and there, but ultimately, I still believe that education is that one last stronghold society has to help straighten the path for our future.

Mississippi’s legislatures are back in session starting this week. As usual, there are many topics on the agenda… Doing away with the state income tax, Medicare/Medicaid, marijuana, CRT, Redistricting and a few other issues, and somewhere in that conversation – raising teacher pay at all or much more to the southeast average. What’s the average? Where are we?  Look at this comment…

According to the Southern Regional Education Board, the average teacher salary in the U.S. for 2018-19 was $62,304. For Mississippi, the average was $45,105, approximately $8,200 below the southeastern region average.¹

Currently, according to NEA Research of April 2021, it seems the Mississippi average is $46,843.² 

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First, let me say, I appreciate the effort that Senator Dennis Debar, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has taken in his willingness to go to all four congressional districts and hear from educators. What he has heard is possibly the old adage, “You spend your money on what you value.” Translated… Does the State of Mississippi value its teachers? For those who do not know, a quick web search of teacher salaries will show that Mississippi is the bottom part of the list!

Also, let me say that every teacher I know appreciates the $1,000 bump in pay we received last year from both houses in the legislature. That helps when wanting to attract new teachers and others into the profession. We all know we have a teacher shortage. While talking about that, I would add that since we seem to have a teacher retention problem, I would suggest we dare not forget those already teaching teachers and decided to stay. When we start losing our veteran teachers, there really will be a teacher shortage.

Well, let’s look at it like this… According to the Mississippi Department of Education Salary Schedule for the 21-22 school year, the starting salary for a teacher with zero years experience and a single A license, Bachelor’s degree is $37,000. Now, understand this does not include local district supplements (that’s a whole different conversation for another time). This salary of $37,000 remains the same for their first three years of teaching (remember there are taxes held out of this amount also). Upon entering year four of teaching, three years experience, they get a “step-pay” raise of a whopping $385. Year five brings the pay up to $37,880, a smooth “step-pay” of a $495 “raise.” It takes five years of experience for a single A license teacher to achieve a pay increase of $1,000. It takes nine years of experience to get to the $40,000 mark ($40,355, to be exact).

So… how do teachers really get raises? No, it’s not the “step-pay.” Most teachers who want to get a raise end up paying for their own raises. What? Pay for your own raise; that sounds stupid. Yes, they go back to school to obtain an advanced degree. After teaching four to five years, thinking out loud, I would say that most teachers decide to go back and get their Master’s in education, an AA degree. So… let’s do some figuring… 

After year five of teaching, you decide to go back to school to get that Master’s degree. Let’s say it takes you two years to complete, so that puts us at year seven of teaching now with six years of experience. Also, let’s say the average cost of a Master’s degree is between $10,000 – $12,000, and odds are that money has to be borrowed. Year seven with an A license pays $39,365; with an AA license, the pay increases to $42,580. So… it costs a teacher approximately $10,000 to get a $3,215 raise. Now, I can hear some people say, “Well, now they are on the AA scale.” Yes, you are correct, but… it takes 22 years of “step-pay” of teaching to cover that $10,000 spent to get that Master’s degree of education. 

Most educators stop there. Why? Well, it could be that some choose not to continue due to the cost of more schooling for a Specialist of Education degree (Ed.S.), another $10,000 – $15,000, by the way, and then a doctorate after that. Those who pursue these advanced degrees make unbelievable sacrifices of time and money, not only for themselves but also for their families. Now, I will say advanced degrees in education can open other doors… to administration (which pays more) and possibly teaching classes at the college level (which ends up being a second job, per se). With that all being said, the only way I see a teacher making more money is… obtain advanced degrees, take on more responsibilities (supplements), or stay in teaching longer to take advantage of the lucrative “step-pay” increases every year. Also, a teacher can become a National Board Certified Teacher. This is an excellent deal for it pays an additional $6,000 for teachers for five years with the opportunity to recertify, and the state will reimburse the initial fees upon receipt of passing scores.

My good friend, Nason Lollar, made these statements last week in his blog  What Is The Vision For Teacher Pay In Mississippi?

The word can’t is one of the most misused words in our language. It is often used when the word won’t is more accurate. 

As in… We can’t raise teacher pay high enough. Everyone there that night had heard that idea before.

We didn’t get any more details on that sentiment. But I had to conclude, based on other answers the Chairman gave, that the political will to give teachers a real raise just isn’t there. I hope I’m wrong, because that is a damning statement on the priorities of our state government. In the past three years this group has changed the rules to start up a state lottery, and actually suspended their rules (requiring supermajority plus one approval in BOTH HOUSES) to remove the Confederate battle emblem from our flag! These were two of the most controversial issues of my lifetime.

I agree with the can’t = won’t, basically meaning “choose not to.” As with anything in our lives, we do what we want to and spend money on what we want to, especially if there is value or benefits to personal well-being. However, “value” seems to be loosely defined by many in the legislature when the topic of increasing teachers’ salaries is mentioned. More importantly, for me, the question has to be… why not, and then there are either no answers or the mumbling starts. And, it appears that we can even change the rules… It seems we will spend money on almost anything education-wise except for teachers. We will spend money on programs, initiatives, testing, testing for testing, etc. Let’s just throw this out there, the Mississippi Statewide Assessment System is funded in the amount of $11 million³ – for testing (and that brings up another conversation for a later date). 

I have often heard that you cannot pay teachers enough. Ok, I get that. It can also be said for many other occupations. I enjoy being an educator, and I will continue to be one. They say you cannot put a price tag on the future… I say we can (or chose not to), but at what cost and to whom will it be? Our future needs the best educators, and there are probably many who would be great teachers but decided not to be one or decided to leave the profession for many different reasons. I hope that money was not one of the reasons why… but then…

If you are interested in other thoughts that go along with this topic of valuing education, just click the link…

Education’s Biggest Problem

The Intrinsic Value of Teaching…

These are the times that try educator’s souls…

Teaching, an Appreciation?

The Call of Teaching

Teacher A̶p̶p̶r̶e̶c̶i̶a̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ Value

Go be a great educator and leader today… Our future needs it…

Remember… Think Leadership and Be For Others…

©2022 J Clay Norton

Want more Leadership Thoughts? Follow me on… Twitter @thebookchamber or follow the blog directly.

Want to share this leadership thought with others? Click on one of the social media sharing buttons below and help spread the good…

¹ https://apnews.com/article/business-education-mississippi-teacher-pay-93eeac91ccd762f04debb5839e1adb42

² https://tpcref.org/wp-content/uploads/NEA_2021-Rankings_and_Estimates_Report.pdf

³ https://www.mdek12.org/sites/default/files/mde-k12_fy_22_budget_request_lbo.pdf

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