If You Could Only Bottle It.

xcitmentThe first day of school brings an excitement that is unlike any other during the course of the year. We are lucky in that for students, teachers, administrators, and parents that each school year brings a new beginning.

In most parts of our society there is only one first day. There is the first day of college; the first day of your marriage; and the first day on the job. There is no such thing as a new first day each year in most careers.

This is a rare opportunity that allows schools to “start over” each and every year.

I was thinking that wouldn’t it be great if you could bottle the feelings and atmosphere of the first day? If we could just spread the good feelings of the first day out over the course of the entire year?

Everyone is excited. There is an anticipation and hope for the new school year.

It begins with back to school shopping in August to find just the right outfit so you can show up to school looking your best. Of course on the first day, this is a tough decision because you have several new sets of clothes from which to pick.

There is also the ritual of: going to bed early the night before; double-checking your alarm; not sleeping well that night, because of the excitement and maybe even a little nervousness; waking up earlier than normal because you are afraid you may oversleep; the wonder about who will be in class with you.

There is a certain excitement in seeing friends that you haven’t seen in 2 1/2 months. The hope that this school year will be even better than the previous year is something everyone feels.

You mull over all the possibilities in your mind: will your schedule be right, will you be with your friends, will the football team win a lot of games, and of course will we have a lot of snow days?

And that is just describing the teachers.

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Summer is Over, Scut Farkus.

Sorry to be the one to tell you, but it is better you hear it from me than somebody on the playground (especially from that 1st grader who has already watched too much HBO and has the terrible mouth on him).

I am taking the liberty of announcing that summer is officially over. You may ask yourself, who died and left me the Official Decider of When Summer Is Over?

Okay, the title is self appointed, but at least I didn’t go third person on you. But since I now have been given the title, I am announcing that summer is finished.Scut Farkus from "The Christmas Story".

How can I be sure? Well, in my part of the country high school football is just beginning its season. Summer is over because our football seasons last 9 weeks. This doesn’t make sense yet, but it will (maybe, no promises though).

During week 1 of the football season in the Midwest, I always wear shorts and a t-shirt to the games. Sometime during weeks 2-4 I add a jacket or pullover as the game makes its way into the second half. Weeks 5 and 6 send me scrambling to find jeans I haven’t seen since April (I don’t wear pants in the summer, don’t think about this too long). …and then the inevitable happens…

…weeks 8 and 9 arrive. I know they are coming and yet there is nothing I can do about it. During those two weeks, I am always wearing the same thing: winter jacket, stocking cap, long underwear, and gloves. I am so overdressed that I look like Ralphie’s little brother, Randy, in A Christmas Story.

It always works this way. It never changes. I don’t understand the science behind it, but it just happens every year. I go from shorts to a stocking cap over the course of a very short football season.

It always amazes me that my life goes from students and teachers complaining about the heat during the first week of school, to me standing on the sidelines in a stocking cap, all in the course of the first nine weeks of school.

So there it is, summer is DOA. It’s gone. Come to grips with it. Sure, there will be plenty of nice warm days this fall, but they won’t be the same as a summer day in July.

The wind is getting a little cooler and the days a little shorter. Soon, I will have to turn the leg lamp on a little earlier in the evening.

I hardly got a chance to know summer and now it’s over. I had big plans for my summer again this year, and only some of them got accomplished. Not enough vacation days, or bike rides, or even enough rounds of golf.

On the bright side, the great thing about being in education is that there will be another summer next year.

And when I am in my coat, gloves, stocking cap and I can’t put my arms down, at least Scut Farkus isn’t after me (if you don’t have to Google this, you are my new best friend).

If someone doesn’t leave a comment within 48 hours that they got the obscure movie references, my wife says that I can no longer make them. Please help, my marriage may hang in the balance!

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I Won’t Be a Corporate Lackey.

In the last few days, I have received emails from companies who evidently want to be sponsors of PrincipalsPage.com (like it is a real website).

When this happened I had a couple of thoughts. One, what a pathetic marketing department they must have. Two, my wife must be yanking my chain again (using one of her fake email addresses).

I do have “friends or sponsors” on the front page of the website, but that is simply a free trade-off of links. I get a few visitors from their sites, and they get none from mine. It seems like a good deal to me.

I still have a hard time imagining that real, educated people use PrincipalsPage.com, but stranger things have happened (Taylor Hicks, New Coke, The Pat Sajak Show, Ashlee Simpson, ALF, I could go on and on).ALF is One of the Most Underrated Sitcoms Ever.

The fact that companies want to sponsor this website is somewhat insulting. They think that they can swoop in and take advantage of the success we have created. If I take their money, the next thing you know they will want to dictate the content of the website and even tell me what subjects to discuss in the blogs.

And for me giving up editorial control, I get a few bucks in my pocket. I can’t let some big corporation show up and stifle my creativity. I think it is about time someone takes a stand for all the little websites who exist simply to help others.

I would rather smell burnt popcorn or have 27 bus write-ups on a Monday morning, than have another boss.

PrincipalsPage.com will always be free. I will continue to use what little resources I have to build the website so that it can keep informing and educating administrators throughout the country.

Who am I kidding? I am grabbing the cash. Inform and educate yourselves.

When you get a chance please come back and visit the brand new Taco Bell PrincipalsPage.com, the Advil PrincipalsPage.com Blog, and the Costco PrincipalsPage.com Forum.

I intend to keep my sponsorships to a minimum because I don’t want to go overboard and cheapen up the website.

The next two sentences are brought to you by Pennzoil, not just oil- Pennzoil.

How great is America. Man I am glad I was born here.

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You Should Always Know the Answer, Before You Ask the Question.

I think when you become a school administrator it is inevitable that sooner or later (probably sooner) you will say something that you may regret. The best you can hope for is that it is not caught on tape. If it isn’t, you can always follow my 3 most important rules: deny, deny, deny. If that doesn’t work, fake a head injury.

I speak from experience. I have been involved in “incidents” twice, no let me think, not twice, but 417 times in the last five years. At this point you may be asking yourself two things, how does he remember all 417 times and why is he allowed around children?

When a principal says something intelligent it is quickly forgotten, but when you say something slightly ignorant (okay, completely ignorant) everyone remembers it.

Actually, you can be sure that the story will be told at your retirement party. And keep in mind everyone will be laughing at you, not with you.You Know Who Loves Donuts?  Cops and School Administrators.

A job in school administration lends itself to falling in love with your own voice. When you are in charge (at least you think you are, you may want to turn around and see if anyone is actually following you), there is the tendency to think you always need to say something.

When given this constant opportunity to speak, this can only lead to one thing. The opportunity to say something so dumb, so stupid, so competently inappropriate that you want to cut your tongue off with a dull letter opener right there and then.

I won’t share all 417 (as of 8/20/2007) moments with you, mainly because I don’t want to run out of material.

One “incident” that sticks in my mind is when I was invited to Daddy/Daughter/Donut Day in the first grade classroom.

What an honor I thought. A young lady needed a fill in because her dad couldn’t make it and they asked me. I thought what a great way to spend a few minutes on a Friday morning and get out of the office for a few moments, plus get a free donut (or seven).

It had all the makings of a win/win situation for both of us. I was patting myself on the back all the way down the hallway as I made my way to the first grade room.

When I arrived the teacher said the only thing I had to do was let this cute little blond, big eyed, young lady, read me a book. Then I could have all of the donuts that a principal could eat.

At this point in my mind, I was trying to figure out which shelf to put the Principal of the Year Award on, because seriously, what could go wrong?

It went like clockwork. Nice girl, good book (lots of pictures), the way too small chairs that are fun to sit in for short periods of time, parents commenting on how nice it was for me to help this young lady out, and finally the free donut(s).

I must admit at this point in the proceedings I was feeling awfully good about myself.

Nothing left to do, but stand up in front of the room and introduce my “daughter” for the day. We made our way up front. I could just sense that everyone in the room was thinking- what a good guy.

In her cute little 7 year old voice she introduced me, and then it was my turn. I said her name. Everyone applauded. So far, so good.

Then it happened. I was finished, but I didn’t stop. I felt the need to speak some more. Evidently, I just had to hear more of my own voice. I wish I hadn’t, but I did.

As usual I thought I was being charming, but in mid-sentence I caught the teacher’s eye in the back of the room and she was frantically shaking her head. She did everything but scream, “Nooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!”

It was in that split-second that I knew something was horribly wrong. My brain said stop, my mouth didn’t listen. It just came out.

“So, why don’t you tell everyone where your daddy is today?”

She replied, “He’s in prison.”

After that, all I remember is a complete silence coming over the entire room and the feeling that I needed to throw up 6 1/2 donuts.

At that moment I would have given a year’s salary for a good head injury.

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My Wife Basically Called Me a Little Girl.

I Might Be a Little Girl... But I Don't Cry.In the last couple of days, it has come to my attention that actual real human beings may be reading my blog (or else my wife now has recently signed up for 7 new email addresses).

This goes against my theory that two people were reading this mush on a semi-regular basis. I knew of a convicted felon (I’m sorry, an innocent man unfairly ramrodded by our justice system) and a relative I assumed was just being kind as they quickly scanned the blog and halfheartedly forced out a somewhat uncomfortable giggle.

On a certain level, the fact that over 6 people now read this frightens me for a couple of reasons. One, I have no real writing skills. You can ask my English teachers. I say teachers because we had six of them between my 8th grade year and senior year.

The one thing all six could agree upon was the fact that most of my papers looked like they were written by a 7 year old with slightly below average intelligence, very poor penmanship and a complete inability to differentiate between to, too, and two (I still don’t know the difference – no seriously, I really don’t).

If you are a math teacher and trying to figure out why I had six teachers in five years, I will help you with this complex math problem. I had two my junior year (there was an “incident” with a smelly lady from Portugal with kickin’ breath who had to leave at the semester- I would like to tell you more, but the lawyers cut a deal and our class was sworn to secrecy for a period of 27 years).

My very first college essay, written in pencil, was returned to me covered in red marks. As I looked over it, I noticed that the professor (The Demon) had written constructive (mean) comments on nearly every paragraph. There was so much red on the paper, it looked like she had cut her hand and bled out.

At the very top of my paper she (The Demon) had written three large comments. One comment simply stated, “This is the worst paper I have ever graded!” The second comment led me to believe that I should drop out of college immediately. Lastly she wrote that she would have included more comments, but her pen ran out of ink (two of these are true and I made one of them up- you can guess). The only thing that I learned in that class is that she was an unhappy woman (The Demon) who lived with 14 cats (Pets of The Demon).

…but I digress. The second thing that frightens me is in regards to the educators of our nation’s children that actually have time to read this blog?

Shouldn’t you be working on curriculum, or trying to find the janitor, or tracking down witnesses to yet another recess incident that involved 11 years old girls who are evidently starting rumors about other students?

I mean, come on. The intention of this blog wasn’t for it to actually be read. It was simply meant as an outlet for a middle-aged, slightly angry man, who cracks himself up.

My wife basically called me a little girl and insinuated that I would buckle under the pressure of having to write blog entries for actual people to read.

She is the one with the pressure. She has to (too, or two) edit it.

Side note from wife…If I could have used red font while editing this entry, it would have looked like I “bled out”. He is not kidding about the to, too, or two. My mom told me to marry someone with better writing skills, but I didn’t listen.

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Names Have Been Changed to Protect Me.

The following story is entirely made up and is in no way about anyone I have ever met or anyone I will ever meet in the future. In fact, I didn’t even write this blog. It just showed up like a stray cat. That’s my story and I am sticking to it. If I am sued, it is my hope that the court case will drag out for years and by then, God willing, I will be dead before any money exchanges hands.

This week was our first day of school. I am so thankful summer is over and we are back at work. Thankfully, no more days cluttered up with vacations, golf, and naps. It is time to get back to shaping the future. Duty calls and as soldiers in the Army of Education, we all must respond. (only the first 8 words of this paragraph can be considered anywhere close to truthful)

On my first full day, I received a very nice card from a teacher who retired last spring. She retired after nearly 107 years of teaching (really 40). I always enjoyed having her on staff. Actually, I guess I was on her staff since she started her teaching career in August 1967 and I was born two months later.

She was always very kind and tolerated me (another in a long line of snot-nosed administrators she had to work under).

Mrs. HERNAMEHASBEENCHANGEDBECAUSEICAN’TAFFORDTOBESUED wasn’t too happy four years ago when we went to a computer program for student grades. In fact, it was insinuated that she would not be participating in anything to do with computers, printers, or other machines of the Devil.E-mail Isn't That Scary.<

I am happy to say, that with the help of her fellow teachers, a student teacher, a janitor, three secretaries, two tech people, four cooks, a really bright first grader, a crossing guard, and a boatload of prayer that she conquered the evil computer program and was able to eventually enter all of her own grades.

Next, we decided to turn it up a notch and teach her to email. Wow. Enough said.

I must admit that she also eventually learned this difficult task. I was quite proud that she even attempted to email let alone become proficient at it. Although, there were several months in there where she only read email; never actually responding to a message. But I told her, there was no reason to get crazy right off the bat; it was important for us to pace ourselves. There would be plenty of years ahead to learn the skill of hitting the SEND button.

Well, time flew and before I knew it Mrs. HERNAMEHASBEENCHANGED… was ready to retire and take her technology knowledge with her. I assumed that she would probably never touch a computer again.

Over the summer I started to hear some disturbing stories involving her and a laptop. The stories turned out to be true; she had indeed purchased one. All of the work we had done, the harsh words that had been exchanged, and the tears that were shed evidently were worth it.

Once I received the card, I thought it would be funny to email her. I figured that in retirement, she would check her email religiously every 12 weeks or so and get back to me sometime around Thanksgiving.

Much to my surprise she emailed me back in roughly 3 minutes. I felt proud that while we had encouraged (okay, forced) her to use technology, that she was now using it in her everyday life.

Over the course of the next few hours, we emailed back and forth. I grew more and more impressed.

What happened next was both shocking and horrifying. If you are the least bit squeamish, now is a good time to look away from the screen.

Mrs. HERNAMEHASBEENCHANGEDBECAUSEICAN’TAFFORDTOBESUED emailed me saying that she noticed I didn’t instant message! She has been using messenger all summer.

She has gone from being afraid that a computer would bite her, to instant messaging. Amazing. And unbelievable. Even shocking. We had created a technology monster. It is true what they say, anything is possible.

Then a little bit of sadness overcame me as I realized my work here was done. They grow up so fast.

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A 5 Gallon Bucket of Mayonaise Always Makes Me Happy.

I was reading a newspaper article online which stated that 94% of Americans reported they are happy with their lives.

This goes completely against what the media tells us on a daily basis. I don’t watch the news much anymore (post 9/11, because that is when they invented the annoying scroll bar at the bottom of the screen that gives us way too much information) because I am convinced that the media believes that the only way for them to get us to watch their news programs is to scare and depress us (mostly older people).

Plus, I don’t want to wait for the 6:00 newscast. I like to think that I am very busy. A high percentage of people used to watch their local news for two primary reasons: the weather and sports scores. Now, we don’t have to wait to see either."I Hate Ryan Seacrest!"

There are a lot of choices out there for information and more and more people are going to the internet for everything, including the weather and sports scores (plus there is no annoying scroll bar).

Because of these factors, news ratings only go up in the United States when something bad happens, therefore it seems the news broadcasts stories about terrible things in order to raise ratings.

I think that over the last twenty years the media has told us we aren’t happy, and America is bad, and the rest of the world hates us. Some of this is probably true, but I have three good reasons why we are happy (at least 94% of us).

Why are 94% of us happy? Reason # 1, warehouse stores. I am about to go to Sam’s and buy 6 gallons of nacho cheese for like $4.00 (don’t ask why, it would just frighten you). Because of this and the fact that I could buy a five gallon bucket of mayonnaise if I wanted, I am extremely happy.

Reason #2, no one cares about professional soccer. I have talked about this before, but it bears repeating. Other countries play soccer because they don’t have choices. We have choices and our country usually makes good ones (not counting the Pauly Shore movies, the Macarena, and Brian Dunkleman).

Simply put, we don’t play sports where the clock counts up; we are a country that counts down. If you don’t believe me when was the last time on New Year’s Eve at ten seconds before midnight you went 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10… Happy New Year. We count down soccer guy and we are happy about it.

And finally reason #3, Bill Clinton. Love him or hate him, only in America can you come from Arkansas, be part of an alcoholic, dysfunctional, poor family, go to public schools, and then get elected the leader of the largest, most powerful, free country in the world. That makes me happy because if a goofball like him is successful, it gives the rest of us hope.

Three indisputable reasons why Americans are happy, no matter what we are told. We are and will continue to be a country of predominately happy people. Just as long as we watch football, buy condiments in large quantities, and have the opportunity to elect JoeBob President.

Just don’t watch the news because they will tell you differently.

Now, go Google Brian Dunkleman, it will make you happy.

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Phillips Head Screwdrivers can be Quite Useful.

You Can Never Find a Screwdriver When You Need One.I have been in education for several years now. I believe that administrators age like dogs (and are occasionally treated as such) and Presidents, which means that for every one year as a Principal it really equals seven years in the real world.

Because of this little fun fact that I just made up, I have more experience in years than my resume actually shows (note to self, update my resume because this blog thing is going nowhere fast).

In all of these many dog years working in schools, I have never understood why people hate this one particular event. They bad mouth it, they dread it, they avoid it at all cost, and they complain about it before it even happens.

It should be something that we consider useful and look forward to reaping benefits from, but most people just consider it an intrusion on their everyday routine. After it concludes we should all be smarter and better at our profession, but yet we treat it like our creepy Uncle Larry (see, I told you I would work you into a blog, Uncle Larry).

This is something so heinous and despicable, that grown men would rather shove a Phillips screwdriver in their eye than have to suffer through one more of these (sorry for the graphic image, but I am trying to expand my audience, much like when they include one bad word in a movie so that it gets rated PG-13, not G).

If the three (and possibly even a new reader in the much desired 18-34 demographic) of you haven’t figured it out yet, it is a meeting.

I must admit that while most of my professional life revolves around meetings, I dread them like everyone else.

Some of my meetings are required and I faithfully go, some are not-required and I go if I can’t squirm out of them, and in some, I am actually the person in charge (which makes me question the sanity of the people who hired me).

I think I dread the meetings of which I am in charge the most. Even I wonder how long they will last, will I say anything intelligent or useful, and will they get over sooner than planned so I can rush right home and dread my next meeting?

But, it is time to be an adult and maintain a professional attitude about meetings. From now on I am taking a vow to get as much as possible out of all my meetings, regardless of how long they last, if the speaker takes 20 minutes more than planned, or if I would rather be back at school.

From this point forward, meetings will be an event that I consider relevant and worthy of my time. I am going to respect them for what they are and appreciate the knowledge that they give me.

Oh no, I just realized that I am late for a meeting. I hope it doesn’t last too long.

You can never find a screwdriver when you need one.

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20 Things Principals Hope They Don’t Hear On The First Day Of School.

"The Sheriff’s Here."1. “A first grader just threw up in the hallway.”

2. “The Spanish, Math, and Chemistry teachers won’t be in; they just found new jobs.”

3. “It is going to be 99 degrees today with a heat index of 152.”

4. “Evidently when the first grader threw up, it set off a chain reaction.”

5. “Three busses broke down eight miles from school, and it is going to be 99 degrees today with a heat index of 152.”

6. “Your secretary needs maternity leave, starting tomorrow.”

7. “The Sheriff is here and he needs to speak to you.”

8. “The air conditioner repairman will be right here; in two weeks.”

9. “The teacher didn’t show up for class, so we just left.”

10. “Has anyone seen Roscoe, the albino rat that we keep in the science lab?”

11. “It is just me, or do I smell something burning?”

12. “The copy paper is still on backorder?”

13. “Why are you here? Didn’t they tell you, the school board didn’t renew your contract?”

14. “Something just happened in the gym, they need you in the locker room.”

15. “I just saw the janitor wrestling Roscoe on one of the lunch tables.”

16. “The toilets won’t flush and I just sent the first graders to the restroom.”

17. “The new teacher just burnt popcorn in the lounge.”

18. “Your fly is open.”

19. “The game starts in five minutes; does anyone know why the football lights won’t turn on?”

20. “It is 99 degrees today with a heat index of 152 and the air conditioning is not working. Are we getting out early?”

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If Exercise is So Good for You, Why Does My Back Hurt?

Even Homer Simpson is Running.I am punishing myself by running in a 5K. You might ask yourself why, well I am asking the same question.

School is about to start so it has been a long week, it is hot, the humidity is around 427% (just like recess in Florida), and it is early in the morning. A smarter person would still be in bed.

Of course if I was smarter; I would have gone to law school.

Like most kids, my youth revolved around sports, but I always hated anything to do with running. I wasn’t very good at track, mostly because I could easily convince myself if I didn’t stop running when I felt tired my kidneys would shut down, my eyes would bleed, and my brain would explode and seep out of my ears.

I started running a year and a half ago in the hope that it would prevent or at least postpone a mental breakdown and/or a massive heart attack.

Being a principal comes with a certain amount of job stress. I thought running might put off my untimely death by at least a few months; maybe even years (call me a dreamer).

It has also become my goal not to have a stroke at school. It is not that dying scares me; I just don’t want to give the students and teachers the satisfaction of seeing me keel over in the hallway.

I say that I run, but it is really more of a jog.

In the 5K today, I will get passed (not really passed because I will never be ahead of them) by old men who talk about their “mileage” and “workouts” and 104 pound girls who look like they need to stop running immediately and go eat a sandwich.

Running isn’t fun.

If you are thinking about starting an exercise program involving running, my advice is don’t. Running is a lot like drugs. Once you start it is hard to stop and it can’t be good for you.

People ask me if I enjoy my daily run.

What a stupid question. Of course I don’t, it hurts.

My knees are slowly wearing out and my back hurts. If I had sponsors for the 5K it would be Advil, Ben Gay, and Depends (if you run long distance you may find this funny and a little sad).

One thing that concerns me is you hear about people who run 82 miles a day, eat healthy, have low cholesterol, and then wake up dead at the age of 32 (a young age if you are as old as me… an old age if you’re in your high school).

It has never really been a goal of mine to be a really good-looking corpse.

At my funeral, I want people to say- “He looks terrible” because I am so old and shriveled up, not “Man, he looks great, I heard he ran every day.”

If I don’t survive the 5K, this could be my last blog. So, to the people who read this (yes, people actually read this blog… at least a few), I say thanks and go find something better to do with your time… just don’t take up running…


…well, I finished the 5K. I have gained the strength to type after nearly having a mini-throw up, drinking 16 gallons of water, and taking a 6 hour nap.

I saw lots of young ladies who really need to eat at least once a week and several old people who seem to enjoy running.

Around mile 2, in the heat, when I couldn’t pass what looked like 72 year-old man and I believe a pregnant woman, I vowed that if I finished I would never run again.

Unfortunately, I think running and exercise is like being in the mob… once you are in, you are in for life.

Sadly, I will wake up tomorrow (if all goes well) and I am sure my first thought will be… when can I get my run in.

My second thought… just when I thought I was out it drags me back in.

At least I will look good at my funeral.

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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.