Archive for: October 2015

The Value Of Serving Others

By Kathryn Rea Smith, PH.D.


The theme for this month’s edition of Knoxville Parent is “Educating the Whole Child.” Since most parents would like to raise children who are caring and helpful towards the needy, the focus of this article is teaching children to volunteer their time and talent and instilling in them a lifelong desire to help others. I will describe how a group of seventh grade boys is making a difference in our community and learning about the joys of serving others in the process.  Read more →

Reading Knoxville: Delta Fragments

Book by John Hodges, Reviewed by Michael K. Smith, Ph.D.



“Taken as a whole…these fragments are my best effort to lay bare the soul and emotions of a community coming to self-understanding, even as I take that journey along with them.” John Hodges grew up in the Mississippi Delta, in the town of Greenwood, Mississippi, in the 1940s and 1950s. Mississippi counties at that time had large proportions of African-Americans who suffered from high poverty levels and almost no political representation. “It is amazing, furthermore, that a place with such high illiteracy should also be the home of some of the greatest writers in the world.” The Mississippi Delta was home to writers like Richard Wright and William Faulkner and such blues artists as Robert Johnson and B. B. King. In Delta Fragments: The Recollections of a Sharecropper’s Son, Hodges shares his journey from the strife of civil rights struggles in the 1950s to his eventual position as a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Tennessee. Read more →

An Event You Can Count On

By Mike O’Hern, Center Director of Mathnasium of West Knoxville



used to travel quite a bit for business but always tried to be home for holidays, and Halloween was one that I never wanted to miss.  I loved walking my kids around the neighborhood to build a candy stash that was mountainous.  I will also have to admit to having levied what I called a “dad tax”. I got to loot the stash with impunity for having provided protective service on the T-or-T route. Read more →

Getting The Most Out Of Practice: Part V

By Jeff Comas



If readers have been playing close attention, you might have noticed that last time I said “Next time we’ll talk dynamics.” Well, it’s that time, but I decided to add the subject of timbre to this article. Read more →

Educate Don’t Discriminate: What The Pit Bull Can Teach Us

by Dr. Lisa Chassy, Director, Young-Williams Animal Center Spay/Neuter Solutions. Photo by Young-Williams Animal Center



“You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover” is a common phrase used to teach children not to prejudge or discriminate against a person because of their looks.  The lesson applies to many things, including dog breeds like pit bulls.  Because of the numerous misconceptions about pit bulls, people unfamiliar with the breed fall prey to stereotypes that are as unfair and untrue as racial stereotypes. Read more →

Conversing With John Hodges

By Michael K. Smith, Ph.D.



I met John Hodges for lunch on a pleasant fall afternoon at Sitar Indian restaurant. John retired from the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Tennessee—Knoxville in 2010 after teaching for 28 years. We have both shared our delight of Indian food in previous lunches. Today, I wanted to talk to him about the reception of his book, Delta Fragments: The Recollections of a Sharecropper’s Son. Read more →

Teaching Children To Listen Mindfully

By Tracey Matthews Wynter, Supervisor of the Knox County Schools Family and Community Engagement Department

“Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival–to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.”

– Stephen Covey

Whew!  That’s a lot to swallow, so let’s zoom our lens on the importance of teaching our children how to truly and sincerely listen.  It is extremely important to first learn how to listen so that we can then affirm, validate, and show appreciation of others.  We’re obviously not talking about traditional “listening”. Meaningful listening is more than “hearing”. It demonstrates care, compassion, and concern.

Listening is a skill not often deliberately “taught” to children, yet it’s an extremely valuable attribute that is essential in family, other personal, and school relationships. It will prove invaluable later in life in your child’s relationships at work and as adults in general.  Read below to find a few strategies that we, along with our children, might consider in practicing the skill of meaningful listening.

STEP 1: Change Our Purpose for Listening… “Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand.  Most people listen with the intent to reply.”  -Stephen Covey

Sometimes I find myself enthusiastically waiting for the other person to finish what they are saying so that I can respond with my bit of wisdom and advice.  What about you? We sometimes even decide prematurely in our minds what the other person means before they even finish sharing their thoughts! Stephen Covey says we often listen autobiographically, which involves us selectively focusing on what is being said and then interpreting it only from our own personal experiences, biases, and other personal frames of reference.1 Instead, we should clear our minds in order to listen to hear and understand to get a better picture of what they are thinking and feeling.  We might even repeat to the person what was heard to confirm understanding as well as reassure the person they’ve been heard. 

STEP 2: Stop, Look and Listen! “When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person ‘psychological air’. And after that vital need is met, you can then focus on influencing or problem solving.”    -Stephen Covey

The next tier of meaningful listening is known as “emphatic” listening. This involves not only hearing, reflecting, and intellectually understanding the words (about 10 percent of our communication) that are said, but also paying attention to sounds or the inflection in words/voice (30 percent) and observing body language (60 percent).   So, in essence, it means using both sides of our brains and listening emotionally with our ears, eyes, and most importantly our heart.

STEP 3: Practice When Our Children Argue or Strongly Disagree…”You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view–until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” –To Kill A Mockingbird

Play this version of Win, Lose, or Draw! which involves role switching when your children argue.  For just a few minutes, ask your children to stop, switch bodies, and speak from their opponent’s point of view as clearly and fairly as possible.3  The first person who makes a new point to support their opponent’s position wins! If the other person can communicate their understanding the other person’s position before the judge bangs his/her gavel, it’s a tie. In the end when they come up with a fair solution, there will not be any losers.

Variation: Conduct a mini court.  Casually let each person state their case and then offer them a more mature perspective considering both of their positions. Then, let them try to decide the verdict.  If they cannot compromise and come up with a fair and reasonable solution, YOU be the judge! Clearly explain why you made your final decision in order to turn this argument into a great learning opportunity.  Most importantly, communicate how you listened with ears, eyes, heart, and how that influenced your final verdict.

Fun Twist: Deduct court costs from their allowance if you had to serve as the judge.

Children who are purposefully taught to meaningfully listen, consider another person’s point of view, and how someone else sees or thinks about something are more likely to grow up to be considerate and caring adults. Taking the time to teach and demonstrate these skills is critical to their current and future success.

Please share your success stories, related tips, and/or topic suggestions for future articles by contacting Mrs. Tracey Matthews Wynter, Knox County Schools Family and Community Engagement Department Supervisor, 865-594-9525, For more information and resources available to Knox County Schools’ students and families, please visit us online at



Knoxville Mentoring Programs

Mentoring programs provide children opportunities to listen, as well as to be meaningfully listened to. Please visit the Knox County Schools Family Resource Center website at and select “Local Mentoring Programs” to see the variety of mentoring resources and opportunities available to families in Knox County.

 For additional local resources, contact Mrs. Tamekia Jackson, Knox County Schools Family Resource Center Director, at, 865-594-1192.

Happy fall, y’all!

Tracey Matthews currently serves as Knox County Schools’ District-wide Family and Community Engagement Supervisor. In this position, Tracey has been entrusted with the responsibility to facilitate the district’s course toward building stronger and lasting partnerships between families, schools, and the community. For more information, please visit the Family and Community Engagement at

Dear Knox County Schools’ Families

By Dr. Jim McIntyre, Superintendent of Knox County Schools

We are fortunate to have teachers in our organization who work enthusiastically to make learning engaging and exciting for our students in the Knox County Schools. 

We recently concluded Thank A Teacher Week (Sept. 28 – Oct. 2, 2015), a time set aside in the Knox County Schools to thank our valued teachers for what they do every day and the enormous difference they make in the lives of children.  We are seeing the fruits of our labor in terms of increased student learning and success!  Just recently, ACT results were released and the composite score for Knox County Schools students improved from 20.4 in 2014 to 20.7 in 2015.  Additionally, our school system was recently recognized by the State of Tennessee as an Exemplary School District, the first large urban school district to ever earn this honor.  We could not enjoy this success without our teachers and their collective talents, passions, and persistence toward excellence. Read more →