Reflections…………………………Back to School

The beginning of a new school year is filled with the energy, excitement and enthusiasm which is a delight to experience. The mystique of the new school year and opportunities for success produce a certain aura. With the fresh start comes responsibility which is not always realized in the excitement of the new beginning

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Creating the proper atmosphere rather than concentrating on structure, will be most important as you make a conscious effort to return to the routine of school. Special effort to praise and to provide positive reinforcement for a job well done can create a sense of pride in accomplishments which, as a child matures, takes a place in the psyche which equals or even surpasses that of a fun event.

The Parent: The child’s first and most important teacher.

When our society was grounded in Judeo-Christian principles, your child (student) was taught Biblical principles in school, and he/she could easily see those principles lived out in the community. This is no longer true and a ‘war’ for the mind of your child is raging. This is especially true in the area of mass media, social media and in general, throughout the market place. More so than ever the parent has a special responsibility to off-set this ‘war’ by following the mandate given to us in the scripture.

Condemning the evils of the internet and social media will not help. Suggesting that your child unplug is wrong and unrealistic. It becomes our responsibility as parents to provide our children with biblical and practical ideas on how to use technology and the changing morals in a Christ-honoring fashion . We should prayerfully strive to teach them to “take every thought captive”, including thoughts and practices related to the use of social media.

Early Morning and Travel Time:

A stress-free morning before school is essential. The time to begin the alleviation of stress is the night before the following school day. Be sure the clothes your child is going to wear are in readiness the night before. Likewise have all supplies and books in place of readiness for the day. A chaotic morning looking for clothes and books makes for a chaotic day. If you provide transportation for you child, arrive at school a minimum of five minutes before classes begin with the proper materials and equipment for the day. Make the ride to school pleasant, sharing thoughts of positiveness and well being. It is most important that you as the parent say good-bye to your child(ren) in a pleasant, warm and caring way. Be sure the climate is not harsh. Flowers cannot grow in a harsh environment.

School a place of work:

Each day the faculty and staff go to work at a place called school. They should be the models and examples for your child. The school should exemplify the characteristics of a place for learning. Likewise, each day your child goes to work at a place called school. Their dress, their behavior and their preparation should exemplify preparation for learning.

Evening Meal:

If there is one thing I could recommend for “bonding” of parents and children it would be the evening meal. Make it happen. Discuss the day, talk of books that are being read, what happened at school today. I really like what one family does by placing a large bowl in the middle of the table. The bowl is filled with ‘situations’ that occur in every day life. Each child, parents too, if you so desire, take a slip and reads the situation. Example: “you are at a party and your friends decide to leave to get some alcohol and ask you to go, what do you do.” Obviously, you make the situations age appropriate. The purpose is to create real life situations to intellectually rehearse before your child is placed in the situation. Parents, this is a golden opportunity to integrate biblical truth in your child’s every day life.

Family meeting: A good way to start the year is with a family meeting where the guidelines and behaviors for the new school year are discussed. Talk about the morning routine, evening quiet time for study, conduct at school and other places. This is a good time to voice a prayer for your children and the year ahead.

Bedtime:

The end of a day, story time, talk time, prayer time. Mom and Dad please take this time with your child to recount the blessings and to place issues aside by conflict analysis or giving it to God. Like the morning, time this is not a time not for chaos but a time of comfort and togetherness.

Remember, you are your child’s first and most important teacher. This journey of going to school will last 13 years. At the end of this time your child will depart and establish their own lives. You might ask what will they be like, what will they be doing……….remember they will be doing what you have taught them.

 “…….and when they grow old they will be like their teacher”

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Reflections…………………..Jersey School

Dr. Gary Coker

 

 

Since seeing the burning of the Jersey School building, I have had ‘flashbacks” of yesteryear and of classmates and friends who attended school with me. They are very fond memories

In school we studied the basic classes of English, History, Arithmetic and Science. All teachers were addressed by their first name with a ‘Miz’ in front of it. ‘Miz’ Lessie, ‘Miz’ Ethlene, etc. Students came from rural areas and would be considered out-of-date by today’s standards. The majority of the students could remember ‘outhouses’ most from firsthand experience. We certainly can remember the days of telephone party-lines and 25 cent gasoline and milk and ice being delivered to our house. ‘Fall break’ was not a trip to the beach but rather a trip to the fields to help with harvest, especially cotton. If you were lucky enough and worked hard you could earn money to go to the county fair in Monroe.

There are a few things I would like to remind the current generation about the youth of Jersey and other similar schools . Unfortunately, we are often labeled old ‘fogies’ or country ‘bumpkins.’ We worked hard and worshiped one God. We won World War II, we fought in the Korean War and Viet Nam. We can quote the pledge of Allegiance and know where to put our hand while doing it. We didn’t fight for the “Socialist” States of America we fought for the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave.’

By the end of the second grade we knew the words to the “Star Spangled Banner,” ‘America,’ and ‘America the Beautiful’. We have lived what many of today’s youth have only read in history books and we feel no obligation to apologize for America. It is noteworthy, if it were not for young men and women like those in Jersey we would all be speaking German today.

It was the basic skills that we were taught that led America into the technological age. We were not bystanders, we were active, hardworking, patriots. A common thread that wove itself in the halls of the school, in the classroom and on the playground was; respect, hard work, and responsibility.

So, as I viewed the fire that consumed my old School in that rural town of Jersey, Ga., a tear rolls down my cheek as I am reminded of the teachers who taught me and the lessons learned in that building that have lasted a lifetime and enabled me to pursue higher educational goals.

Gary Coker Ph.D.

Class of 1956

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Liquid Gold

 

The end of the Month of May came as local farmers had their crops planted and summer approached. Pastures were lush with green grass and the spirit in this small community was very high.
As June and July approached the temperatures hovered around 90 almost every day. Concern began to control the daily conversations with “how are your crops doing?” “I sure wish it would rain!” and a strange phenomenon began to happen as local milk cows “went dry.” When rain is plentiful, it’s an afterthought. During a drought, it’s the only thought.
At the beginning of August local water wells were dry and residents were having to go in search of water. A local spot, fondly known as ‘flat rock’, was a gathering place where grave concern with the lack of drinking water was the topic of the day. It had now been three full months without rain.
Crops had withered away. Harvest time approached and there were no crops to be harvested. Pastures stood brown and cattle had lost weight.
Local churches began to have special ‘prayer’ services where the topic of helping each other during this unusual time and praying for rain was front and center.
As a young boy it was my first time to experience a prayer vigil. Upon arrival, usually on a Wednesday night, the pastor or deacon would share concerns about the community and how families could assist other families having difficulty. After the general discussions several groups gathered in circles and began praying. Most of the prayer was done collectively without one individual leading the prayer. These circles would last ten, twenty minutes or more. Gradually the individuals concluded their prayer time and left. The prayers had been resolute yet humble, confidant yet meek, expectant yet unassuming.
On one particular night, at the conclusion of the prayer session, as we departed the church, flashes of light appeared in the sky. Some of the attendees were elated while others indicated the flashing was ‘heat’ lighting and had no bearing on rain.
However, the following day young children danced in the downpour like it was the first rainfall they’d ever seen. Parents threw back their heads opened their mouths, and caught raindrops. When it had not rain in more than three months raindrops were like liquid gold falling from the sky. It rained like a torrential downpour and gradually turned into a well-proportioned sun shower on a hot and humid August afternoon. It began to rain calmly, peacefully. A rain that didn’t just soak the skin; it soaked the spirit with faith.
It will always be remembered as the day. The day puddle jumping became an act of praise. It had been difficult to believe the day before the day. The day after the day, it was impossible not to believe.

Editor’s note. The blog is taken from a time in the early 1950’s in a rural area of Georgia known as Jersey.

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Reflections………………………………………Prayer in School

 

Cross on the Campus of the University of the South

Historical documents indicate John Adams, American Statesman, Attorney, Founding Father and Second President of the United States conferred with George Washington, First President of the United States and inquired about having prayer in schools and how prayers should be conducted. George Washington’s reply was “this country was not founded by religionists but by Christians. Not on religion but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we are talking about prayer to the Bible’s God.” “Prayer in our schools will be a unifying  process.” From that time forward prayer has been an integral part of school. (John Adams-Wikipedia)
In 1962 the supreme court ruled (Engle v Vidtale) it unlawful for schools to promote praying in public schools. I like what one student had to say about this ruling. “As long as we have tests, we will have prayer in school.” Nevertheless, what our Founding Fathers considered as a means to promote citizenship and virtuous living was considered unlawful.

As we look at the changes that have occurred since prayer was outlawed, can we say the conditions on our school campuses are better or worse? Can we say the moral fiber of our youth is better or worse? Can we say our children are less self-absorbed or more self-absorbed? Are reading and achievement scores better or worse? In other words, are our schools better off or worse off than they were in 1962? Regardless of how you answer these questions, our schools have lost a powerful tool for promoting citizenship, virtue, servanthood, and reverence:  Prayer.

During the period since the Supreme Court made the decision to eliminate prayer, we have seen our culture move in a direction of incivility characterized by rude words and behavior. The lack of civil behavior is threatening the greater good. Unequivocally, prayer leads to lives characterized by thankfulness and produces better people as well as better students.

Hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t post on social media: “Do you want prayer put back into schools?” The answer to that statement is an overwhelming YES, provided it is done in the same manner as what John Adams and George Washington envisioned. But that time has come and gone……………A pluralistic society embracing multiple religions, where classroom teachers worship an array of gods and in some cases, godlessness, is not a place where the majority of parents want a prayer lead by a teacher.

A saying in sports as well as in leadership goes like this…… “the ball is in your court…….” Prayer as we once knew it will not return to our public schools. We are a people of faith. America is a land of hope. Hope is a quality of the soul. It is a consistent characteristic of this country that we have always sought to rise above or move beyond the conditions that are given to us. Parents, grandparents, we have lived in a country where prayer has been the centerpiece of our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  The ball is in our court. Therefore, instead of your child”s teacher leading with prayer, the home and the parents must keep this vital part of our lives front and center.  You have prayer as a centerpiece of your household. Before the children go to school…have a prayer. Before that ballgame……..have a prayer. Before a meal……. have a prayer. All the places where the school use to provide opportunities for prayer you now step into the void. Without it we perish and our life and thoughts dissolve into a meaningless, unrelated rush of events………. Let’s Pray.

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Reflections……………………………………………Values

June and I arrived in Berlin, Ohio with anticipation of returning to a simpler form of life.

The new dress code is as follows, red suspenders and hat

The area and adjacent counties are home to a very large Amish community.  The country side has many working farms and is also the home of numerous industrial corporations operated and staffed by Amish individuals.  The most prominent and visible change to this idyllic community is noticed in the local restaurants and businesses where Amish girls are employed. (Most of the boys are working in the factories or on the farm) The girls wear dresses and their etiquette and politeness is refreshing.  Everything is in the natural order without artificial enhancements. This is equally true of the community where wholesomeness and order permeates both the town and the local countryside……..Behavior is learned therefore it can be taught.

 

Switch with me to a local high school in Nashville, Tennessee where during the last period of the day students are placed into teams with a senior class member serving as the leader of the team.  Their task is to clean the building in preparation for the following day of classes.  The school employs no housekeeping personnel.  After an athletic event the students can be seen picking up debris and other items and placing it into large trash cans.  A visitor to the school would be immediately impressed with the cleanliness and order of the campus.  Students take pride.  Behavior is learned therefore it can be taught.

 

Now switch with me to the nightly news which is highlighting the city of Baltimore where 2.5 Billion dollars have been spent in the last several years in an attempt to rehabilitate a population that has become dependent upon society.  A local councilman addresses the issue by placing the blame on 400 years of racism.  When interviewed, a   pastor indicates more federal funds are needed.  To add fuel to the fire, all of the problems have existed for years.  However, the reporter left no question the present conditions were the result of the President of the United States. A behavior that is positively reinforced will repeat itself.

 

Two outstanding football quarterbacks were recently in the news.  One for kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem at the beginning of the football game.  The second for kneeling at the conclusion of a game to thank God for His blessings.  The first was awarded a one million dollar contract by the Nike Company.  The second did not receive any recognition.   A behavior that is positively reinforced will repeat itself.

 

Society, grandparents, parents…….and what will they be doing when they grow old.   They will be doing what we have taught them and what behaviors we have positively reinforced.  Above all remember………Values taught are free .

 

 

 

 

 

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Reflections………………………………birthdays

It was a sultry July morning when Dr. John Geradine was summoned to come to the Coker household. Not an easy journey from the community of Jersey down the Social Circle highway. Albeit the doctor’s car did not like the dirt roads it had to travel. Nevertheless, he made it just as Magdalene (Maggie) was in the final stages of delivering the largest baby, 12.5 pounds, the doctor had ever delivered or seen.

The oldest of the family, John (Junior), was immediately summoned to begin his pre-ordained journey to tell relatives and friends that ‘baby’ Coker (a name not yet decided upon) had arrived. Fast of foot, even barefooted, Junior delivered the message across pastures and through backyards with the final stop at  Alcovy mountain. Thus began the journey that continues with the latest birthday.

I began writing articles and blogs in my middle twenties  when my picture showed me with lots of hair. Ten years later I had less hair and my complexion began to take on a ‘rugged’ look. And now here I am, an old ‘guy’, with jowls, crows feet at the corners of my eyes, and a modest “wattle” adorning my throat. Several years back I decided it was okay to get old and grey, and that process is well underway. I am looking forward to writing in the future. Maybe something like: ‘reflections………from the nursing home’ or ‘reflections………one foot in the grave.’ Or if I have gone home to Jesus, how about Reflections……How it ends.

Birthdays create trips down memory lane and memories light up the corners of my mind. Starting with the spring of life when innocence was filled with playmates, family events, and learning can it be that all was so simple then, …or has time rewritten every line. Even with time there are special ‘closets’ tucked away in the recesses of our minds where doors stay closed. However, on special days like birthdays, you reach for the key and unlock the door and rushing out are those memories……smiles we gave one another for the way we were……

Reflecting back over the years with the many people and circumstances that have marked the pages of time…. scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind…..I ask myself……If I had the chance to do it all again…..would we….could we.

Meanwhile, time marches on. What everyone exclaims is so true: Life is really short. We don’t have time to waste—-however long you may live, today is the only today you will ever have. When today is over, it will be over, and it will not come again. Don’t waste a moment of it wishing you were younger than you are, or that you looked like you use to look, or had done something other than what you did in life. Take whatever you have to work with and make today as sweet as you can make it. Nobody can do it for you, and nobody will. It is yours alone.

                                                                                           Gary

…..memories may be beautiful and yet……what’s too painful to remember………we simply choose to forget…….

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Reflections……………………Mother’s Day

As I left the small rural town of my birth and formative years of elementary and secondary education I left a storehouse of memories. But one thought that stayed in my mind for years to come was, home was always where “Mama” was. My mind has lingered upon this concept and frequently I subconsciously say; “I want to go home.”

The writer Rudyard Kipling puts it this way.

If I were hanged on the highest hill, I know whose love would follow me still. Mother of mine. Mother of mine. If I were drowned in the deepest sea, I know whose tears would come down to me. Mother of mine, Mother of mine. If I were damned by body and soul, I know whose prayers would make me whole. Mother of mine, mother of mine.

There was an interesting story on CNN many years ago about a twenty-five year old man in San Francisco who was dying of aids.  Because of that his father had completely disowned him. His mother was dead. So there was nobody. The man looked like he could not weigh over a hundred pounds and had the look of death on his face. The reporter asked him how he was able to stand all of the pain, not only of death, but the pain of family rejection. He gave an interesting answer. He said I stand it by closing my eyes and imagining that I will awaken in the arms of my mother. I know that she will never leave my side.

It is appropriate that we single out a day in the year to recognize mothers, but when we really think about it, there ought not to be a day that goes by that we do not rise up and call our mother blessed. The highest tribute that we can give to our mothers is not to praise her, not to give her a gift, not to pay a visit, and not even simply to come to church on her day. The greatest tribute that we can give to our mother is to be the kind of person that she, and our Heavenly Father, want us to be. Amen.

Editor’s note:  For more writings go to dgcoker.com Reflections………Mama May 3, 2016

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Reflections…………….Education 1993-2019

Special note: The following are excerpts taken from a speech given  to a group of educators preparing for the new school year in 1993. The content is as applicable in 2019 as it was in 1993.

Education in general has not been in good favor the past 25 years. This despite large amounts of money spent on public relations and marketing plans. As we look toward the future, what should be the characteristics of a Secondary School graduate?

First, we must look at what the year 2000 will bring.

  • A diversity of religion with each one growing faster than Christianity.

  • We will be able to flash the Encyclopedia Britannica across the ocean six times in a minute.

  • Families will become more disjointed.

How can we have an impact? Who will be our leaders? Who will be teaching our students? Who will sit in our legislature? Who will be our pastors? I will tell you who. It will be the students who sit in our classrooms today. So what will our leaders of the future need, and what should we as parents and educators need to be doing now?

SCHOOL IS THE HOME OF THE MIND! We have fallen victim to expecting too little and organizing around the lowest common denominator. Ask yourself, “what should a (fill in the blank) grader know?” At the current rate we will have to scramble to keep up with world standards. We are not competing against students in our local city or community. Our market place is Stockholm, Paris, Seoul, Tokyo, to name only a few. As much as the diversity of our society has taken up ‘watch’ on our educational process, it is imperative that you as educators keep upper most in your minds that discipline, respect, reasonable authority are paramount to the educational process. The movement that places self-esteem in front of these principles of the heart has become misplaced.

We have to do better! Students must have highly developed basic skills. Students who think globally, master international standards of knowledge and skills will be the leaders of the future.  We must establish proficient levels of minimum skills—not just getting by—that are achievable by most students provided they work hard and long enough. Curriculum must emphasize the use of language. Students who read well, master vocabulary and become learners will inherit the earth. In your classrooms, the order of the day should be developing serious essay writing, grammar and spelling. The three R’s will be reading, reasoning and research with a fourth element of writing.  In the home the four R’s will be rules and regulations without relationships will lead to  rebellion.

Let me encourage you to be sure to have your students read and write something of substance. By the time students reach their final years of Secondary School we want them to read 15 to 20 books annually. Yes 15 to 20 and they should be books that stretch the mind.

We must spotlight global studies, world history, geography and foreign language. Our students need to be informed about other countries. How will our children be able to compete with people we know nothing about? It is our goal that by the time the existing kindergarten students graduate, they will be fluent in a second language. Language unlocks doors of commerce and diplomacy.

It is important that as educators and parents we expect a high level of work competence and help students develop ethical work habits while at the same time manage time and resources.

Our schools need to create a climate for learning that is natural, where lessons are  supported and there is time for reflection, inquiry, and debate. Everything has to be fun is a myth.

Godly principles and virtues of work, citizenship, honor, responsibility, trustworthiness and civility will become our responsibility. If we have full employment, great economic growth, if we have cities of gold, but our children have not learned to walk in goodness, justice and mercy, then we have failed.

I wish for you God’s richest blessings as you prepare society for the future by teaching the children of today.

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Reflections……………………………Inservice

In the process of housecleaning my professional materials that have accumulated over the past 40+ years I have mixed feelings as to whether to throw away much of the materials are try and archive them. In any case I get to travel down memory lane filled with emotions. These emotions rekindle past events. So is the case with this writing.

In the early 1980’s public and non-public school teachers were presented professional growth workshops on writing instructional objectives. These objectives were the foundation for daily classroom instruction and a teacher was to “teach to the objective” and stay on task. I had the opportunity to be a presenter in several of these workshops.

One workshop in particular was composed of teachers from Christian Schools. As the time progressed and rapport established between the teachers and myself I challenged the group to compose a workshop on teaching to an objective with Jesus as the moderator and the teachers were the disciples. The following is the result of that exercise.

..then Jesus took his disciples up the mountain, and gathering them about him, he taught them saying:

“Blessed are the poor…..

“Blessed are the hungry….

“Blessed are those who mourn…..

“Blessed are the oppressed…..

Then Simon Peter said. “do we have to write this down?”

And Andrew Said, “Are we suppose to know this?”

And James said, I don’t have papyrus with me.”

And Phillip said, “Will we have a test on this?”

And Bartholomew said, “Do we have to turn this in?’

And John said, “The other disciples didn’t have to learn this.”

And Matthew said, “Can I be excused?”

And Judas said, “What does this have to do with the real world.”

Then one of the Pharisees who was present asked to see Jesus’ lesson plan and inquired: “Is this lesson aligned with state standards? Does it address multiple intelligences? Where are your objectives in the cognitive domain?”

And Jesus wept.

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Ramblins………………..Kindergarten

 

I sat in awe and in total amusement as the House of Representatives tried to censor one of their own members who had recently made a disparaging remark concerning Jews. Three days of selecting the correct terms and writing, finally ended with a statement that did not address the issue nor the person who made the remark. Suffice it to say every kindergarten teacher in the nation has been confronted with some child who made a disparaging remark about a classmate. The teacher did not call for a conference with the other teachers. The teacher did not get all the children in a huddle or any other similar strategy. No! The teacher took the child aside who had made the remark and said, “We don’t talk like that”.  “We are nice to other people”. “We don’t want to hurt others.” Wow! What a novel idea. Maybe we should send a copy of the book, “All I needed to know I learned in Kindergarten” to members of Congress.

Contrary to the behavior of our elected officials, I shouted with joy when Gail Miller, the owner of the Utah Jazz professional basketball team, addressed the fans at a ballgame after a very unfortunate incident involving a fan who shouted profanity and called players vulgar names. Mrs. Miller very calmly stated to everyone that members in the audience were to conduct themselves with dignity and respect. Name calling and other acts of irresponsibility were not who the fans of the Utah Jazz were and in all cases they would show respect . Derogatory behavior toward guests and anyone else was not “who we are.”….She received a standing ovation. Amen!

WHO WE ARE !!! This would appear to be a simple question to answer. However, it appears we have lost our moorings . A nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles should readily recognize ‘who we are.’ However people of faith appear to have lost their moral compass.

I recently received an e-mail from someone who by all standards is a strong person of faith.  This person is a  weekly church attendee and frequently announces they are Christian. However, I listened as this individual berated several people including the President of the United States.  I hasten to add this was not uncommon from this individual nor from others.

I would encourage everyone to read Tim Keller’s book Fruits of the Spirit. The Holy Scriptures are filled with ways we need to stay connected to the true Vine (God). …….and how shall we know them…….by their love for one another……you will recognize them by their fruit……..they are ambassadors of love……. they are not arrogant….they have self control…………………http://Galatins 5:22

Freedom Of Speech Does Not Include The Lack Of Respect

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me

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