LOOKING FOR LEADERSHIP

“Behavior is what a man does, not what he thinks, feels, or believes.”
Emily Dickinson

“And as an afterthought, this too must be told: Some people have taken pure bullshit and turned it into gold.”
― Neil Young

“Did the Titans win Dada?”

“They did.”

“Did Tannehill start?”

“Yes, he did.”

“Will Marcus ever start again.”

“I don’t think so.”

So goes the conversation between my son and me, as I drive him to school this morning. Sports Talk radio is a constant companion to us on the daily trek and as a result, the fate of QB Marcus Mariotta is a constant conversation focus. Though lately, I’m finding that I have to either mute the stations or even turn them off, due to the hostile bashing of the former Titans starting quarterback Marcus Mariotta. bashing that troubles my young son, Peter.

Over the last several years my nine-year-old son’s deep interest in all things sports has grown exponentially. It all started with wrestling and the WWE, but he soon discovered the NBA and since he plays baseball, MLB was quick to follow. Endless hours are spent watching videos on his Ipad and reading the back of cards memorizing stats. Steph Curry and Bryce Harper have served to further draw him into their respective sports.

The NFL love affair was slower to develop. You have to admit there’s not a lot of players on the Titan’s roster that would inspire a young boy. An older fan might appreciate the nuances of Logan Ryan’s game, or the emerging dominance of a Kevin Byard, but for a young fan, they just didn’t hold the necessary allure. He flirted briefly with becoming a Derek Henry fan, but Henry never reached the rarefied stratosphere of a Curry or Harper.

Five years ago Marcus Mariotta came to the Tennessee Titans fresh off of a Heisman win and a love affair with the city ensued. He was an exciting player who oozed grace and charisma. The prevailing belief was that Nashville now had a QB capable of leading the city to glory and we were all in.

Mariotta caught my son Peter’s eye over this past summer. Say what you will about Marcus’s play, he always carries himself like a star. When the Patriots came to town to conduct practices with the Titans. I took Peter out of school and we went and watched.

While in attendance at the workout, Peter was given an opportunity to go on the practice field and meet Marcus. Mariotta couldn’t have been kinder or more gracious, and within just a few minutes a young man was hooked for life.

Since the start of the season, we followed Mariotta’s exploits with keen interest. I had never been much of a Mariotta fan, but his kindness to my son, coupled with the passion for the game he’d instilled in him, had me silently cheering him on and rooting for success. Alas, Peter’s hopes for Marcus were much higher than the quarterback’s capabilities.

As Mariotta continually failed to live up to expectations, the talk on the radio became more hostile and Peter’s reactions became more defensive. He couldn’t understand why people would attack Mariotta so relentlessly and wouldn’t give him a chance to succeed.

Replacement quarterback Ryan Tannehill didn’t offer the same appeal as Marcus, and Peter just couldn’t grasp that people couldn’t realize that Tannehill wasn’t the answer. He continues to hold out hope that Mariotta will be given another opportunity and with it prove that Peter had placed his love and hope in the right place.

This morning I was thinking that my son isn’t too different from the rest of Nashville. Over the last several years the city’s residents had put their love and hope into both a mayor and a director of schools that they believed were special, and who proved otherwise. Megan Barry was the first woman Mayor and Dr. Shawn Joseph the first African American director of schools. Both arrived in their positions within just a couple of years from each other. Both were heralded as budding superstars. Both betrayed that public trust.

Like Mariotta they arrived with great fanfare and an outpouring of love. Anyone who brought forth any criticism towards them was met with derision. Like Mariotta, the signs that they lacked the requisite skills for success were always there, but the city continually collectively seemed to believe that if those weaknesses were overlooked, they would dissipate. Alas, Barry, Joseph, and Mariotta proved to be what they always were – charismatic figures sans the skillset required in order to succeed in their prescribed roles.

Both Barry and Joseph’s failures have been met by portions of the community in a similar fashion as my son’s reaction to the demotion Mariotta. Outside factors were blamed. Supporters to this day refuse to admit that either Joseph or Barry’s failures were directly related to their own actions or the lack thereof. My son will belive until he goes to the grave that if only Mariotta had been given more of a chance he would have proven his doubters wrong. It’s a belief he shares with many Barry and Joseph supporters.

Interestingly enough, when Barry, Joseph, and Mariotta had the city’s favor, an impenetrable shield was erected around all three. Nary an ounce of criticism was allowed to slip through, but when the support left, the shield was quickly dismantled and a pile-on ensued. The criticism each received, while not without merit, came fast and brutal. The crown of favorability quickly yanked from their heads.

The similarities don’t end there though. Each of the aforementioned individuals has been replaced by a successor that significantly lacks the charisma of their predecessor. It could be argued, that each replacement is the best choice out of a lot of bad choices. Few are wholly convinced that John Cooper as mayor, Dr. Adrienne Battle as the Director of Schools, or Steve Tannehill as the Titans starting QB, are significant upgrades for the city. There is a lot of hope that they can perform better, but the judgment is reserved and faults are being much more openly discussed. I think that in itself is positive.

It should be clear to observers that both the Titans and the city of Nashville suffer from the same malady – a lack of leadership. There is plenty of great players, for both teams, but who would you point to as a clear leader?

At large Council member, Bob Mendes is kind of like the Kevin Byard of Nashville. Well respected, a quiet leader, coming into his own but not quite there yet.

At large councilwoman, Zulfat Suara is akin to Derrick Henry. Immensely talented with seemingly endless possibilities, but will she get the opportunities?

Newly elected councilwoman, Erin Evans is the A.J. Brown of the city. Talented but inexperienced. Hopes are high.

Former councilman, Fabian Bedne is the city’s, Delany Walker. A highly accomplished veteran respected by most who despite being on the injured list retains the potential for greatness.

Juvenile Court Clerk, Lonnell Mathews Jr could be the Jeffery Simmons of the city. Young and exploding with talent. Proven to be highly capable in limited service and just waiting for the opportunity to show what they can do.

I’m sure there are more parallels, but the bottom line is that both the city and the Titans have talent aplenty, but both still need true leadership to develop. Maybe we are getting to a point we are willing to have an honest discussion about what that looks like. What does support of our leaders look like? Can we question and still support?

I’m cheering for Battle and Cooper, and yes, Tannehill. For success to come, we need all three to do well. We need all three to demonstrate the skills we know they have and show us a few we weren’t aware of. Hopefully, their tenure will be different than their predecessors. If that happens, it will be a new era for Nashville.

ANOTHER LISTENING TOUR WHERE NO ONE LISTENS

The TNDOE has once again embarked on a listening tour to purportedly gather information to influence changes with the state’s Achievement School District. What a novel idea, which might be useful if nobody had ever voiced any suggestions that went unheeded in the past. What kind of responses were evoked at the tours first stop in Memphis? More funding, listen to the public more, less invasive, more consistent. Essentially the same things that have been said for the last 5 years.

What did the new State Superintendent of Schools Penny Schwinn think of what she heard? Nothing, because she wasn’t in attendance at the first meeting, but per Chalkbeat she has said she will use community input from the meetings to determine how to change the district, which has struggled to turn its low-performing schools around. I would have loved for her to hear Bobby Wright – who runs the ASD’s Frazier Schools – in person. “What we don’t want is for the community to be duped again,” White said. “They need to have true input. Our schools don’t need more change. We need support and consistency.”

After the tour folds, I’m fairly certain it will be more of the same crap. It’s been clear for over 5 years that the ASD model is an inadequate model that only serves to put fear in school districts. Like a vulture sitting on a branch poised to swoop in and pick at the flesh if a body stumbles or shows weakness. If the TNDOE was serious about doing what’s best they would have heeded TNEd Report’s Andy Spears words long ago and Shut It Down.

Like Spears says, it didn’t have to be like this,

Imagine that instead of the sprawling state-run district with multiple charter operators functioning at varying degrees of efficacy, the state had collaborated with districts at persistently low-performing schools. Doing so would likely mean providing services beyond school for the students there. Focused intervention — meaning collaboration and support, not state takeover — could have changed the trajectory for kids in the schools targeted by the ASD.

Instead, we’re left with a struggling district that no one wants to run and a state listening tour where the greatest concern expressed is that nothing significant will actually change.

But since it is, there is only one real choice, and I join with Spears in saying it simply: Shut it down.

BANNERS FROM THE RAFTERS

I don’t comment on Valor Academy much anymore. Theirs is a model that I don’t believe is scalable or fully equitable. However, many families are extremely happy with their experiences at Valor and I believe that should be respected. Their academic success rate is also undeniable. That said, this picture just struck me as weird.

I struggle with the concept of education as a competition sport. I believe learning comes at variable paces and shouldn’t serve to pit one individual, or community, against another. In that spirit, this picture harbors a little close to the competition model for me.

I envision walking into a teacher’s room and seeing 8 banners hanging from the rafters like it was the Boston Garden or something. Instead of being the recipient of service, students become vehicles to place more banners on the ceiling. I know it is about the validation of doing good work, but I still believe validation should come from knowing that you are changing lives and as a result making the world a better place.  Hence the service profession designation.

But maybe that is just me and if this is my only criticism…congratulations to Valor on the work you are doing.

QUICK HITS

For those of you wondering how DuPont-Hadley AP Jeff Davis is doing in his epic medical battle,

Jeff has been home a week and a half now, and thanks to friends and donations, our home is now wheelchair accessible. We have a ramp leading into the home, bars in the shower, toilet bars and a shower seat. We’ve had a couple of falls, but overall the transition has been okay.

We’ve had several appointments at Vanderbilt as we transition into the next phase of care.

Jeff starts daily radiation Mon. Nov. 4 and we’ll do therapy twice a week for the 6 weeks of radiation, then bump it up after…

If you can, check out Jeff’s GoFundMe page.

The latest MNPS Recruitment Fair will focus specifically on retirees – 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2 at 2400 Fairfax Ave. Retirees will have four pathways: full-time teaching, part-time teaching, school-assigned substitute or regular substitute assignments.

The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss recently conducted an interview with educational historian Jack Schneider in which dispells several myths. Schneider has some very salient points when it comes to the impact of the reform movement and its lack of meaningful impact,

One is the amount of slack there is, or rather isn’t, in the existing system. For a reform to have an impact, it’s going to need to change the behaviors of educators. Yet how is that going to happen when the typical educator is teaching for most of the day? When is the professional learning going to take place? In a quarterly professional development session? On their own, at night, after they’ve lesson-planned for the next day and finished grading papers? It’s completely unrealistic to expect teachers to change their practice when they’re in a full-out sprint for nine months. Summer is a possibility, but teachers are only paid for nine months of work, so if you want them to come to school you’re going to need to pay them. And there just simply hasn’t been much public appetite for raising taxes in order to support teacher professional learning.

A second reason has to do with capacity. Where is the leadership going to come from? Principals are already overtasked, doing essentially three jobs in one — the instructional job, the managerial job, and the political job. Teachers inhabit a flat profession, which doesn’t really cultivate leadership. So on day one, your title is teacher, and when you retire four decades later, your title is still a teacher. Consultants, even if they’re quite good at what they do, often have very little knowledge of local context. And all of this is assuming we’re dealing with a reform effort that would actually improve school performance, which frankly we can’t safely assume. Lots of reforms are crafted by people who have more influence than expertise.

In short, reform fails because we don’t have a system designed to foster improvement. Once more, this is a challenge we could potentially address. But we certainly aren’t going to improve the work of schools by tearing the system apart. That’s a treatment designed to kill the patient.

I urge you to read the whole interview.

POLL RESULTS

Time now to share the results from the weekend poll questions.

The first question asked if you would ever refer to your boss as the company’s “baby mamma”. You were pretty emphatic here, with 63% of you indicating it was highly inappropriate. 4 of you thought it might be funny. Here are the write-ins,

Never 4
No 3
No. Just no. It’s disrespectful and inappropriate. 1
No words 1
Never!!! But that’s Memphis for you. 1
Absolutely not. Inappropriate. Tacky and classless 1
Definitely not! 1
Same lady that gave away money to new teachers, screwing vets? She’s a joke. 1
Never-most disrespectful action/term. No class! 1
That’s metro for you 1
Gross. It’s a race to the bottom 1
You are SO racists—it leaks out of EVERYTHING you write. 1
Inappropriate 1
Nope. Not professional. 1
Absolutely NOT! It was an inappropriate statement. 1
It was quite evident that Battle was embarrassed. 1
Is this same person who randomly passed out 5k? 1
Unthinkable! 1
No, but I don’t get to play by a different set of rules

Question 2 asked your opinion of the recently announced central office moves. The majority of you thought they were needed moves but that you were reserving judgment based on who filled those positions. Your answers also indicated that moves weren’t happening fast enough. Here are the write-ins for this question,

Majors bullies everywhere. Move him out the door. 1
I have no idea what’s going on at the Central Offi 1
So many wasted dollars. Should go to schools. Sham 1
Just the beginning of what needs to happen, Not happening fast enough, and LONG 1
What moves? 1
Wrong people advancing 1
Too many people in central office, we need more people actually working in schoo 1
Major cuts at bransford. SEL dept is a joke. More people in schools. Not suits!! 1
CHAOS soon to erupt, HR problems systemic. Law breaking regularly 😭 1
Just give me my check.

The last question was in regard to this week’s release of former MNPS Superintendent Shawn Joseph’s new book. I asked how many of you planned to read it and 62% of you responded that you’d already lived it so saw no need to read it. One of you answered that you planned to gift it to friends and family. Thank you, Dr. Joseph for your continued readership.

Here are the write-ins,

No 5
Hell no 2
Hell to the no! 1
I can’t afford to due to almost non existent MNPS raises 1
Um NO!!! It should be gifted like his near 1/2 Mil buyout 👀 1
Not a chance. 1
Ha ha ha!!! No! 1
I’ll borrow it through Limitless Libraries 1
Not just no, but… 1
Egomaniac. He’s delusional at best. A running joke in Nashville. 1
No-biggest waste of money I could spend 1
Still capitalizing on MNPS and dragging them through the mud.. Shameful 1
To line the cat’s litter box 1
Yes will buy 1
I’m not reading fiction right now 1
NO! 1
Good for him not taking Nashville tax dollars 1
Hell. NO!! 1
Only as a present to people I don’t care for. 1
It is a book of fecal matter garbage 1
A waste of my money, NO!!!!!!!!!!! 1
Not a chance -even if it was the last book on eart 1
Hell to the NO!! 1
He’s more like Trump than people want to admit. De 1
I’d rather just flush that $$$ down the toilet.

That’s a wrap. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page, where we try to accentuate the positive.

If you’ve got something you’d like me to highlight and share, send it on to Norinrad10@yahoo.com. Any wisdom or criticism you’d like to share is also welcome.

A huge shout out to all of you who’ve lent your financial support. I am eternally grateful for your generosity. It allows me to keep doing what I do.

You can still head over to Patreon and help a brother out. Or you can hit up my Venmo account which is Thomas-Weber-10. I don’t need much – even $5 would help – but if you think what I do has value, a little help is always greatly appreciated.

 

 

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One thought

  1. Not sure why you are wasting our time with football players. Who cares?

    As for your Valor congrats, remember that Meigs Magnet won the state-wide high school German competition soon after it was opened. Rah rah rah. There is _nothing_ as powerful as segregation (choice/long drive across town/income/race) to create clusters of high-scoring kids. Nothing. There never has been. There never will be.

    And, so for Valor’s claims, as with those of football players, who cares? They inform our lives with a giant zero.

    But, sure, congrats on screening out poor kids trapped in multigenerational poverty. Good job Valor, Good job Meigs, Great job Williamson County. Woo hoo. And go Titans. Whatever.

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