I had an awesome day yesterday with many amazing Missoula educators. I always respect and admire educators for their willingness to enter classrooms with large groups of young people. I have many reasons upon which I base the belief–that educators deserve respect and admiration–not the least of which is my lived experience of having occasionally stepped into a classroom with young people. One of my memories is of hearing panic in my own voice, while asking the regular classroom teacher, “You’re not leaving me alone in here, are you?”
Sadly, now is a time in American society when teachers seem not to receive the respect and admiration I think they deserve. For multiple reasons (many of which strike me as misleading and political), it seems like there has been distrust sown between teachers and parents. Yesterday, I spent the day with over 400 teachers, counselors, psychologists, administrators, custodians, and other school personnel who attended sessions I offered. I was honored to be there. Being with them not only strengthened my trust in them, but also renewed my hope in the world.
Here are the powerpoints for my workshop on “Working Effectively with Parents”:
I have a political platform. I’m not running for public office, but I still share my platform when it seems appropriate and the time is right.
Tomorrow will be an appropriate and right time for me to share my platform.
The nice thing about having your own personal political platform is that it never involves committee meetings. I don’t have to vote or risk rejection of my excellent ideas. I am solely responsible for my personal political platform.
A while back, I got into trouble for expressing my political views in a newspaper Op-Ed piece. The Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education contacted the University of Montana Legal Counsel asking her to issue me a stern warning. Apparently, I was supposed to have a line along with my Op-Ed byline saying something like, “The views expressed herein are solely the views of John Sommers-Flanagan, and not representative of the University of Montana.”
Clearly, I was in the wrong and admitted so. Not having the UM disclaimer statement was an oversight for which I was, as usual, solely responsible.
But I was still annoyed, and so I wrote the UM Legal Counsel and asked her if I should include similar comments the next week when keynoting the Montana statewide “Prevent Child Abuse” conference. I explained that I was going to “come out” against child abuse. Would OCHE be okay with that? I was also going to recommend one (among many) evidence-based solution for child abuse that involves increased government provision of financial and material support to low income families. I went on to note that I’m pro-mental health and against violence. Should I disclaim the University of Montana in all my books, articles, speeches, and conversations? I told her she could share my questions with OCHE. Fortunately, her judgment is better than mine and she just emailed me back with a calming, soothing, and understanding tone.
All this is a lead-up to tomorrow.
Tomorrow is the First Annual Missoula Summit on Education. Luckily, Dr. Erica Zins, the 2017 Montana School Counselor of the Year and current MCPS Student Services Coordinator, asked if I would be willing to provide a presentation for the Summit. I eagerly said yes, yes, yes, choose me! Now I have the good fortune of getting to do three separate talks tomorrow.
My talks are titled, “Weaving Evidence-Based Happiness into the Lives of Students and Educators” at 9am and repeated at 12:15pm and then “Engaging and Working Effectively with Parents” at 2:15pm. They’re all in the Sentinel H.S. auditorium. I’ve got about 210, 175, and 100 MCPS staff signed up for my talks. . . which is humbling because many MCPS staff have already heard most of my stories and jokes.
I never told Erica that my true motive for being so eager to talk at the Summit was related to my personal political platform. Tomorrow, I will have three chances to begin workshops with my short stump speech. I’m stoked about this. Just in case you’ll be missing tomorrow’s event, here’s a written version of the highly anticipated stump speech.
Nothing is more important for American prosperity and success than teachers and other public-school employees. Everything runs through education. Think about it. Economic vitality? We need people with knowledge, skills, and business acumen. Healthcare? Who wants uneducated healthcare personnel? As far as I’m concerned, the smarter and more well-educated my doctor is, the better. How about the environment? Only through education can we learn to be great stewards of the earth. And relationships? We need awareness, knowledge, and skills to create better marriages and families, be better parents, and have healthier, empathic, and equitable relationships with all people—including the full range of diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, and identities.
To summarize, my platform is EDUCATION. EDUCATION in general, and PUBLIC EDUCATION in particular . . . along with all the school personnel that make education happen. They need and deserve support, appreciation, and pay raises.
And . . . to make the OCHE people happy, I will also be emphasizing: Although I am a proud University of Montana faculty member and huge supporter of, and believer in, the University of Montana, I am solely responsible for the views on education expressed in this blog, as well as the views I will express tomorrow at the Summit.
For anyone interested, here’s a draft version of the Weaving Happiness . . . ppts: