Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Faith and Professionalism: The Molding of a Teacher ... Dr. Terry L. Simpson

The Molding of a Teacher
Dr. Terry L. Simpson

Dr. Simpson will retire at the close of the 2018 Spring Semester. He will have completed 28 years at Maryville College and 44 years as a teacher.

Monday, March 12, 2018

What Kind of World are we Leaving to our Children?

The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.
--Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I came across this quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer several years ago.  As a father, grandfather, teacher, and teacher educator, this quote haunts me more each time I read it.  I am concerned that we are leaving our children an ethical tsunami. 

I was awarded a Fulbright Lecturer Award to Estonia during the 2000 Fall Semester.  A year later, we brought a group of Estonian students with one of their professors to Maryville College to visit our public schools.  On the first morning, I met with the students before they were taken to the schools, and they seemed very nervous.  As I quizzed the students, one student finally asked, “Will we see any guns?”  How do people from other countries view us? drunken cowboys shooting everyone who makes them mad?

Thirty years ago I had never dreamed that our children would be facing the following issues:

  • Many of our children do not want to go to school because they are afraid that they may be shot and killed.
  • We have children as young as 12 years-old who are kidnapped from our communities and forced into the sexual slavery world. This human trafficking is happening in our country and communities and is not isolated to third world countries.
  • We live in a society where many advocate that we arm first-grade teachers to stop the slaughter of children in our schools.
  • I never thought I would live to see the day that we would need more than one armed guard to protect our children. This is not Iraq, Pakistan, or Afghanistan but the United States. Are we becoming the land of the enslaved to fear instead of the land of the free?
  • It is quite troubling how often in our local paper I read stories of children who have been sexually abused by family members.
  • We do not seemed to be appalled that many children who live in poor families do not have adequate healthcare.
Children have become a liability instead of a blessing.

I return to the quote, “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”  Savannah, Victoria, Daniel, and Isabella, I must confess that I have let you down.  I request that somehow you may find the grace to forgive me.  

Bless you my children,

Dr. Terry L. Simpson

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Monday, February 19, 2018


Dr. Terry L. Simpson
Director of Teacher Education
Maryville College
February 16, 2018
Bless You My Children Blog
Courage is a virtue that most people wish to have, not cowardice or foolhardiness, but genuine courage.  It is often used to describe the actions of one in a struggle against overwhelming odds.  Most of the people I know hope they can demonstrate courage at the appropriate time, but deep down inside they fear that their actions will turn out to be cowardice rather than courage.
As a college professor, I am like most professors in that I encourage my students to stand up for their beliefs in spite of the strength of those who oppose them.  I have often told my students that as their professor, I try not to be a hypocrite and ask them to take a stand on controversial issues, which I avoid.  I have found that professors often talk about displaying courage in the classroom, but outside the classroom we become weak, spineless cowards.
When it comes to responding to school shootings, I have been a hypocrite and coward.  I have asked for a moment of silence in my classes the day after school shootings.  I have asked my students to pray for the families of students who have been killed, which is often a copout that leads to doing  nothing meaningful.  I do not want to hear another politician asking me to pray for those impacted by one of these vicious actions.  It is time to act.
I contend that the overwhelming majority of politicians, law enforcement personnel and educators are well aware of the one action that would stop these mass shootings of our children.  We must ban automatic assault rifles.  No one outside the military needs these weapons.  However, one of the significant reasons for the Republic take-over of Congress in the 1994 elections was a response against the ban on assault weapons.  Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress are well aware of the reaction to this ban led by the NRA.  As a result, they are going to sit on their hands and do nothing.  We should not expect any meaningful action until the members of Congress believe that the NRA block has been broken.
As an educator, but more importantly, as a citizen who loves this country, I make one vow on this Friday morning. I will never vote for another politician who receives money from the NRA.  I am well aware that “most” of my extended family, high school and college classmates, and members of my church family will oppose this decision to the point of anger.  I cannot control what others think and believe.  I came to this decision from convictions deep within my soul.  I must do my duty, as God has given me the light, regardless of the consequences.  To do otherwise would make me a coward.

“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Monday, November 27, 2017

An American Education Tragedy: Death of the Affective Domain

A few years after I began teaching, I became serious about instructional design so that effective teaching and learning would take place in my classroom. Yes, you read the first sentence correctly. For the first one/three years of teaching, I was just trying to survive. I am sure; well somewhat sure, that I was exposed to Bloom's Taxonomy and instructional objectives in my initial professional development courses. However, trying to design lessons without a textbook for all of my students forced me into the survival mode of just finding “stuff” to keep my students busy.  My existence was like the test pilot in a new jet plane who radioed to the tower and said, “I’m going faster than I have ever gone before, but I don’t know where I’m going.”

At some point in my professional development as a teacher, I began to understand the significance of valid instructional objectives and the domains of learning. I will concede the point that the cognitive domain is the most important domain in the educational process. Objectives written in this domain specify what students will be able to do intellectually as a result of instruction. These instructional results range from the memorization of facts to the most complex processes of evaluation and assessment (Gunter).  We can measure these results with multiple-choice items on standardized tests. Numerous educators and politicians believe these tests enable us to rate the effectiveness of schools and teachers in most levels of the cognitive domain.

My concern is that in order to satisfy those who want a significant portion of teachers’ assessment based on the academic achievement of their students, we feel obligated to spend all of the instructional time in the cognitive domain. In the affective domain, we wrestle with attitudes, feelings, and values.  At the highest level of the affective domain, the students internalize the values being taught and behave consistently with their personal values set.  You are correct; a multiple choice standardized test cannot correctly assess whether the students have internalized a set of values.  This assessment takes place over a lifetime and therein lies the assessment problem.   

I recently began surveying textbooks on instructional strategies used in professional development courses. I have found that the affective domain receives very scant attention. In one textbook we have used at Maryville College, in the most recent edition the affective domain is never mentioned (Estes).

What type of impact do we want the schools to have on our children? Is there any time left for developing “the good person” in our educational system. We live in a country, notwithstanding the world, where we desperately need a critical mass of adults who are morally strong. If schools shirk the responsibility of developing moral individuals, who will teach and model moral values to our children?  The family structure is in such disarray we can no longer rely on the family to teach and more importantly model appropriate values.  Fewer and fewer of our children, especially our children who live in poverty, are active in a faith community.  As a result our children become easy prey for the demagogues that fill the internet.

Our country once championed the ideal of always being on the high moral ground. Have we as a society sacrificed this noble cause to a weak pragmatism that permits us to do whatever we want to do in order to get what we want? Have we given in to the ideal that those with the rawest power always win regardless of their virtue?

It has been the death of idealism over the last several decades that troubles me the most.  It has been the searching and striving for those noble ideals that have historically given us the high moral ground. If as a society we have rejected the notion of striving for these ideals, which include justice and fairness, we are doomed as a society never to be better than we are at this moment in time.

Deborah and I have four grandchildren, and we plan to spend a lot more time with them in the next few years. However, I would be less than honest with you if I did not admit that I am greatly concerned about the kind of world we are leaving them.  As teachers, we should demand a more balanced curriculum integrating the affective domain in our state mandated curriculum standards.

Bless you my children,

Dr. Terry L. Simpson

Estes, T. H. & Mintz, S. L. (2016).  Instruction: A Models Approach. 7th ed. Boston: Pearson.

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Terry and Deborah Ready for Retirement

Terry and Deborah Ready for Retirement

As I finish 28 years at Maryville College, I have been reflecting on the personal cost of being Director of Teacher Education, Chair of the Division of Education, classroom teacher, and supervisor of student teachers all at the same time. I have realized that my choices did take a toll. Deborah has been the one that has sacrificed the most. I recall many decisions that I have made, and I would like a redo on several of those decisions, but life does not work that way.

Deborah has three daughters; Anna, Meg, and Trisha. One lives here, another lives in Texas, and Trisha and her daughter, Victoria, live in Phoenix. Deborah is excited about living closer to her granddaughter, Victoria. My daughter, Jennifer, lives in Houston with her husband and my three grandchildren; Savannah, Daniel, and Isabella. We are eager to be closer to our grandchildren so we can be more involved in their activities and daily lives.
Deborah and I want to spend time investigating Western and Native American culture, especially art. Deborah is very knowledgeable in this field, but I do not know enough to even be classified as a novice. We are trying to find a way to purchase an RV in order to spend extended time at specific sites in the West. Both of us enjoy learning and plan to spend retirement being active.

As I often tell my students, when the train of opportunity comes by, get on board because it may not come by again. Deborah and I are ready to board that train.

Bless you my children,

Terry L. Simpson

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

...a bittersweet post

This is a difficult blog for us to post and will not be an easy read for many of you. I can assure you that those of us who have had the pleasure of working with Terry Simpson everyday are trying to soak up all of his wit and wisdom before he calls it a day. Please follow our Maryville College Teacher Licensure Facebook page to monitor the events being planned to celebrate the man, the myth, the legend, but most importantly, our friend...Dr. Terry L. Simpson.       BL, AO, and BW

Dr. Barbara Wells
Vice President and Dean of the College  
Maryville College 

Dr. Wells: 
I have always told my faculty in the Maryville College Teacher Licensure Program that when I am no longer an asset to the program, I do not want to stay in my position.  It seems that I have reached that point.  For this reason, I will retire at the end of the 2017-2018 academic year. 

If I may quote the Holy Scriptures that I read, “I have finished my course.”  At the close of the 2017-2018 academic year, I will have completed 44 years as a teacher.  This pilgrimage began in 1973 in Knox County Schools as a teacher at Cedar Bluff Middle School.  It was the realization of my dreams as a 7th grader.   

At the close of this academic year, I will have completed 28 years at Maryville College.  When I came to Maryville College, the Tennessee Department of Education was restructuring teacher education in the state.  Few people have the opportunity to play a critical role in the initial development of a new program.  I was given that opportunity.  I have given Maryville College a small amount of knowledge with a tremendous amount of passion as we developed a program that gained a local, regional, and national reputation.  We have realized every goal that I had for this program.  

As a 7th grader growing up in rural East Tennessee, I could never have dreamed in a million years the experiences teaching would give me.  I have taught at the middle school, high school, community college, and college/university levels.  I have taught in public, private, and religious education institutions.  I have lectured/taught in Haiti, Brazil, the Philippines, Estonia, and Saudi Arabia.  To be honest, on many occasions I was scared out of my mind. 

However, I must thank numerous individuals for my successful tenure at Maryville College.  First, Marcia Keith took a risk and hired someone the polar opposite of her to be her closest colleague.  She gave me lots of freedom to develop certain aspects of the new licensure program.   

Second, it is impossible to find adequate words to express my gratitude to Alesia Orren, Becky Lucas, and Bonnie West.  Each of these individuals brought different skills and expertise to our program.  We have had tremendous success and program recognition over the past 10 years, and Alesia, Becky, and Bonnie should receive the proper recognition for this success. 

Furthermore, adjunct instructors played a significant role in our program.  There were too many to list them all, but three adjuncts played a critical role.  The work and expertise of Steve Fugate, Evelyn Homan, and Joe Malloy were essential in the development of our program.   

Finally, the Maryville College Teacher Licensure Program would not exist without the students.  Some of the most outstanding young men and women that I have ever known have graduated from our licensure program.  They embraced our vision of teaching and did the hard work that resulted in the positive recognition that we have received.   

A friend once told me that I was the luckiest person on this earth because I have always enjoyed my work.  I do consider myself fortunate. I have given Maryville College 28 of the most productive years of my professional life.  I do not have any regrets. 


Terry L. Simpson, EdD 
Director of Teacher Education 
Professor of Secondary Education 
Director, Maryville College East Tennessee Math/Science Partnership 2008-2012 
Fulbright Awards -  Estonia 2000 and Saudi Arabia 2002       

Thursday, August 10, 2017

“Oh No! You have Todd in Your Homeroom!?”

It was during the inservice days before school began that several 7th grade teachers discovered Todd was in my 8th grade homeroom class.  This was the kid from hell, or so it seemed, if you listened to what they said about him.  From day one and for several weeks, I must admit that I always had my eye on Todd, just waiting for his bad behavior to explode in my classroom.  In spite of this negative attitude toward Todd on my part, I took a few positive steps on how I would approach Todd.  The positive outcomes of these steps were more luck from a novice teacher than any display of wisdom on my part. 

This was the early 1970s, and divorce was growing at an alarming rate.  Todd’s father had left the family, and he had very limited contact with Todd.  Consequently, Todd was an angry young man.  His family situation explained some of his negative behavior.  

As a male middle school teacher, I was the very first male teacher many of my students had experienced.  Due to the increasing number of students living in single parent homes (and that single parent was often female), I was often the only positive male role model in the lives of many of my students.  This was a heavy burden to place on a young teacher’s shoulders.   

Looking back on this experience, I believe the most important step I took was to connect with Todd outside the academic coursework in my class.  During the early 1970s, Cedar Bluff Middle School had 900/1000 students in grades 6-8.  Many of our buses ran three loads in the afternoons.  Instead of sending the second and third load riders to the gym, they were sent to different classrooms identified as bus rooms.  Todd was assigned to my classroom as his bus room.   

Since I was sponsor of the Chess Club at Cedar Bluff, there were several chessboards on the shelves in my room.  Todd informed me that he liked to play chess, so I asked him if he would like to play against me during the wait for his bus.  He immediately set up a chessboard to play against me.  This connection was all it took.  From that point on, Todd would set up the chessboard each afternoon to play against me while he waited for his bus number to be called.  Yes, there were numerous times I really did not want to play chess with Todd, but I seldom turned him down.  This relationship outside of academics made all the difference.   

Do you have Todd in your class this year?  Let me offer a few suggestions:  

  1. Ignore teacher gossip about how bad your student’s behavior was last year.  Give the student a new beginning. 
  2. Students change and often mature from one year to the next.  Give this maturity a chance to work.  
  3. Find out about the economic and social conditions of the student’s home life.  It may give you insight concerning the unacceptable behaviors of the student.  
  4. Get to know your student and make a connection outside the academic content of your course.  This often takes time, but the result can make a profound difference in the behavior of the student in your classroom. 

Bless you my children, 

Dr. Terry L. Simpson 
Director of Teacher Education
Maryville College