This happens about 7 times a year.
I go someplace.
Grocery store. Restaurant. Gas station. Movie theater. Post Office. Tattoo Parlor.
You get the picture.
I’m someplace other than school.
As an added bonus, I’m wearing something other than a suit and tie.
Here’s what happens.
I walk in. I see student. Student sees me.
Student looks at me funny. This is a telltale sign. Especially when they rotate their head to the side.
They look like a dog who hears a high-pitched whistle.
Student says one of two things.
"I thought you lived at school"
"You wear jeans?"
Actually, this is a lie.
Sometimes they say both.
It’s priceless when I see the shock and horror all over their face.
But sadly, of all the things they should be learning during their school years… the one thing that probably sticks with them the longest is their Superintendent looks weird and out of place in Levi’s.
The most overused word in education is "bullying".
People throw it around way too easily. You can make this accusation with absolutely no proof.
And sadly, the accusation comes with a pre-determined sentence of guilt.
Every accidental bump, look, or comment becomes "bullying".
We are losing the right to not like each other.
If I disagree with you, I’m a bully.
Before you light up my email inbox or the comment section, please read the rest of this blog.
When a parent says their child is being bullied, I always ask them to define bullying for me.
100 out of 100 times they can’t.
What they can do and say, is the situation their child is dealing with is "bullying".
And sometimes they are correct.
Other times they are not.
The definition of bullying is… the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively impose domination over others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual. One essential prerequisite, by the bully or others, of an imbalance of social or physical power. Behaviors used to assert such domination include verbal harassment or threat, physical assualt or coercion, and such acts may be directed repeatedly towards particulat targets.
Bullying is horrific and should never be tolerated.
But claiming "bullying" in every situation that doesn’t go our way is also wrong.
Not every fourth grader who doesn’t get to line up first or play on their friends’ team is being "bullied".
Just because someone takes your seat at the lunch table doesn’t make them a bully.
Rude, yes… but not a bully.
As usual, our society has swung too far in identifying "bullies".
For far too many years, this type of behavior was tolerated.
Then we decided it needed to stop (a little late by the way).
That’s great, but we’ve also went way overboard (as usual).
When someone cuts in front of me on the freeway or takes my parking spot, they might be a bully.
But more likely, they are just a jerk.
And that’s life. I wish it wasn’t, but it is.
America’s National Pastime isn’t baseball.
Or even football (actually it is football, but for the purposes of this blog it’s not football).
America is obsessed.
Obsessed with fear. Devastation. Death.
We seem to have a need to be scared all the time.
We aren’t happy unless we are 97% sure the world is ending.
My theory is this slippery slope began with Y2K.
Then it was amplified during the Iraq War.
Since then, we find all kinds of reasons to be depressed and frightened.
If banks are in trouble, the world is going to end.
If schools don’t change, the world is going to end.
If a Republican or Democrat is elected President, the world is going to end (depends how you vote).
If it’s going to snow or rain, it is likely to be the storm to end all storms. And the world is going to end.
Winter isn’t winter unless we get 3 inches of snow and our entire society rushes to the grocery store to buy their last meal.
The Weather Channel now names each and every storm just so we will be more scared. A storm is scary. Storm "Jim Bob" is scarier.
You DO NOT want "Jim Bob" snowing in your front yard!
It sprinkles and the wind blows and people act like the world is on fire and their only way to survive is to purchase one more loaf of bread. Or gallon of milk.
We are a mess.
We "overworry". We overmedicate because we overworry. And we seem to find a strange amount of joy in both.
The world was here before we arrived and it will be here long after we leave it.
We just aren’t that important in the bigger scheme of things.
Actual life isn’t a soap opera or a reality television show.
Actual life is sort of boring.
That’s the way it’s been for thousands of years and that’s the way it should be.
The Evil Spawn doesn’t have a phone.
She has two parents who work, eat, and sleep technology but she doesn’t have a phone.
One, she doesn’t have a job. So how would she pay for it?
Two, she is twelve going on thirteen going on forty, but up to this point her parents (mainly mom… and mom is always right) don’t think she is emotionally ready for a phone.
Sure, she would know the technology portion forwards and backwards, but we weren’t sure if she was ready with the emotional responsibility that comes with putting a computer in her pocket.
There are mean people everywhere, but owning a phone just gives them more access to our kid.
It’s a big world out there and we weren’t sure if she was ready to carry it around in her back pocket.
Lastly, our daughter goes from home to school. School to home. There are phones available everywhere she is located.
I’m not one of the parents who believe my child will always be safe and never in danger just because she has a phone.
Do phones help with safety? Maybe.
But mostly they are status symbols that occassionaly make the child’s and parent’s lives a little less hectic.
In 2014, cell phones (and all technology) is wonderful. I wouldn’t want to be without it.
But I also don’t want my daughter growing up in a world in which that’s all she knows.
One day she will have a phone. Probably a very nice phone.
And we will pay for it. She can pay us back once that job I spend every day dreaming about comes her way.
And when she gets this phone, it will come with rules.
My money. My rules.
I will start with these 18 from Janell Burley Hofmann. She’s a genius. And a good mom.
An open letter to her son Gregory on her blog:
"Merry Christmas! You are now the proud owner of an iPhone. Hot Damn! You are a good and responsible 13 year old boy and you deserve this gift. But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations. Please read through the following contract. I hope you understand it is my job to raise you into a well rounded, healthy young man that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it. Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership.
I love you madly and look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the days to come.
1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?
2. I will always know the password.
3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads "Mom" or "Dad". Not ever.
4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30 pm every school night and every weekend night at 9:00 pm. It will be shut off for the night and not turned on again at 7:30 am. If you would not make a call to someone’s land line, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text. Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected.
5. It does not go to school with you. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It’s a life skill. *Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration.
6. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes in thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, baby sit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared.
7. Do not use technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.
8. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.
9. Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself.
10. No porn. Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask a person – preferably me or your father.
11. Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.
12. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear – including a bad reputation.
13. Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. They will be stored in your memory for eternity.
14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO – fear of missing out.
15. Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.
16. Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.
17. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without Googling.
18. You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You and I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together. It is my hope that you can agree to these terms. Most of the lessons listed here do not apply to the iPhone, but to life. You are growing up in a fast and ever changing world. It is exciting and enticing. Keep it simple every chance you get. Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine. I hope you enjoy your awesome new iPhone. Merry Christmas!
I had the chance to present with my wife, Shannon at the 2014 Midwest Education Technology Conference.
This is what I learned (not shared… learned).
METC is without question, one of the best (if not the best) conferences in the country.
The good people who run it are the most helpful and organized I’ve had the pleasure of working with.
Sure, every hotel conference looks the same. Of course, except for the carpet.
And the lobbies. And the lights. Actually, they all look alike.
But METC is different.
It’s worth your time and money.
If you are in the Midwest, please consider adding their February date to your schedule.
The other thing I learned is my wife is good.
But I already knew that, so maybe this doesn’t count as learning something new.
I’m a parent.
I have a daughter who plays sports.
This has taught me many things.
Young ladies who play sports in 2014 are experiencing things that just weren’t there 10, 20, 50 years ago.
My kid and millions of others are so lucky to have these opportunities.
While Title IX isn’t perfect, I’m glad my daughter was born after it was put in place instead of before.
Crazed parents can now obsess over their daughter’s future college athletic career instead of just being obessed with their son’s alleged college athletic career.
I call this progress.
Also, it’s interesting to watch people coach their own children. In most cases this shouldn’t be allowed.
Of all the things our government sticks their nose into, you would think addressing parents living out their dreams through their children would be on top of the list.
Coaching your own children should be outlawed. And immediately.
The amount of money spent on youth sports could probably also be better spent.
Like on curing diseases. Uprgrading bridges, Or maybe on math tutors. Possibly getting third world countries internet.
But who am I to judge.
Even with all of these issues, I think the greatest thing I’ve learned about kids playing sports is without a doubt…
… It’s hard watching your child fail.
Success is SO much fun, but watching them fail is heartbreaking.
A fact of life.
The best thing a parent can do for their child.
But harder than you can ever imagine if you haven’t experienced it.
I wash the towels and sheets.
I stay out of the kitchen and play Twitter until dinner is ready.
I am so doing my part.
And this is the thanks I get.
I can live with ~ get a real job, pick your underwear up out of the yard, or take Buddy the Dog for a walk so he’s less fat.
But, blog more?
Who does she think she is?
I don’t think so.
But just in case she is my boss.
Here’s a blog.
Everyone wants their kid to do well.
I get it.
This is probably an instinct that goes all the way back to cavemen. I can just imagine how proud the cave parents must have been when little cavekid, jr. came back from a hunt where he had captured the biggest rabbit.
Parents live for their children’s successes.
Now, instead of rabbits, it’s games. The more the better.
Travel this. Club that. All Stars. Select teams.
The farther away a team is the better it must be. Bonus points if your child plays out-of-state.
Double-bonus points if they play with older kids.
I think this is great, but we have forgotten half of the process.
Parents should also live for their child’s failures.
This may sound terrible, but it’s true.
Our children have to learn not to touch a hot stove. Sometimes they learn this lesson best immediately after they touch a hot stove.
There are lessons to be learned in striking out, making an error, fumbling, hitting a ball out-of-bounds, and losing.
Failing has gotten a bad rap.
Our society wants to take it completely out of the equation. We seem to have a need to protect our kids from the awful feeling of finishing second.
We might do this because we no longer have to protect our children from wild animals or any of the other unspeakable dangers cave people experienced.
We seem to believe if our kids always succeed, they will always succeed.
The truth is, if we want our children to be successful, they have to know how to fail and how to respond to failure.
Everyone is going to get knocked down sooner or later. My fear is too many of today’s kids won’t know how to get up.
I continually see parents who are willing to do anything to make sure their child doesn’t fail.
They will spend any amount of money. Put them on any team. Drive them any distance.
Yell at any adult who doesn’t put their child on a pedestal and give them a trophy.
Make untold sacrifices just so their son or daughter can experience success.
And the truth is the best way for them to experience this elusive feeling of success is not more, it’s less.
Let them fail. They will live.
Now, they won’t thank us for this. In fact, as parents we may have to be the bad guy.
At least for awhile.
But one day, they will be happy their parents let them fail.
Just not today.
I just had my 45th birthday. At least I think it was my 45th.
At this point, I’ve lost track. And really don’t care.
My theory is any birthday from this point forward beats the alternative.
If I really think about it (and I try not to), my life is probably half over.
It’s probably more than half over, but I’ve convinced myself with advances in medicine, an occasionnal walk around the neighborhood, and only eating17 cookies instead of 21, I should live until at least 90.
Not that I want to be that old, but again it probably beats the alternative of a dirt nap.
Since the clock is ticking I should really get on with accomplishing something (anything) before it’s too late.
I shouldn’t waste my last few remaining good years watching TV, tweeting, mowing my yard, or even going to work.
I should be making the world a better place.
My time should be spent on charity work. Traveling. Maybe building a school for the less fortunate.
Meanwhile, I’m shuffling paperwork and worrying about mandated testing.
This doesn’t seem right.
I’m on the clock. I have things I need to do.
And first on the list: Mid-life crisis.
So if you need me, I’ll be driving way too fast in my brand new red convertible I can’t afford sporting a mustache and wearing a tight shirt unbuttoned two buttons lower than appropriate.
Once I get this phase out of my system, I can help build a school.
Or at least mow my yard.
*Note from editor in chief…aka…tech-geek wife or whatever it is you call me on this "blog"…ummmm…it’s 46 and no…just no…on the mustache and unbuttoned shirt that is…I am totally good with the brand new red convertible. Maybe I am having a mid-life crisis too…after all I turned 39 this year.
While this site operates with the knowledge and awareness of the Tuscola CUSD #301 School Board, Tuscola, Illinois, the content and opinions posted here may or may not represent their views personally or collectively, nor does it attempt to represent the official viewpoint of Tuscola CUSD #301 administrators or employees.