Cellphones are a Menace, but Students May Not be the Problem.

I've Had More Cellphones Than This in My Desk at School.Teachers and school administrators continue to expect that cell phones not be turned on during the school day.

I wholeheartedly agree.

This is a fight schools have been waging for close to 10 years and we must not give up now. If we quit, it will be viewed as weakness.

Cell phones can be a disruption to the learning process, an overall annoyance, and may even provoke larger problems when used as a camera or an MP3 player.

Administrators and teachers are well within their rights to demand that they not be on during school time.

We are trying to educate, not provide time for social interaction. What possible benefit could there be to using cell phones during school time?

They certainly couldn’t be used as organizers, internet connections, note taking devices, or calculators (has an IEP been written yet with a cell phone in it… if it hasn’t; it will and should be).

Cell phones are most likely a fad and will simply go away if we fight them long enough. We must hold our ground.

In elementary school, I remember one of my teachers telling us that people would soon get bored with calculators and at that point they would disappear (how is that working out for you Mrs. Crazy?)

To older people like me, cell phones are an evil example of progress. And we don’t need that. The future scares us and it should be avoided at all costs.

This whole technology thing is getting out of hand. We need to hold kids back as they try to move ahead of us with these new fangled ideas (after all students are nothing more than our replacements).

Much like cars, indoor plumbing, and the SMARTBoards; cell phones are just another way to ruin the way of life of which we have grown comfortable.

We need to hold our ground. No cell phones.

And as administrators we need to lead this fight. We must be an example to young people in living a “cell phone free” life. A life where we put common courtesy ahead of convenience.

Who is with me!?

I say as administrators we start by setting the ultimate example.

Simply put; turn your phone on vibrate when attending a meeting. You are annoying everyone around you.

You expect students to do it. Practice what you preach.

The school you work at will survive for an hour. None of us are as important as we think we are.

You want students to be attentive and polite; how about we try it first.

Just in case you are a little slow… this is what we like to call sarcasm… I am a huge proponent of the benefits of using a cell phone in the classroom as a “learning tool”. But for the love of Pete people…, turn off your cell phone when you are in a meeting or presentation! It’s called vibrate… try it. You just might like it.

Thank you for letting me vent. I feel much better.

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Thank You Bloggers Who Like PrincipalsPage.com.

The Lucky Number 13.I have only been blogging for 9 months. It seems more like 8 ½ months; how time flies when I am wasting it.

When I started writing (or slopping down) the blog, I only knew one thing – you typed your thoughts or opinions. Seemed simple enough. I’ve taught keyboarding and have both thoughts and opinions, so how hard could it really be?

As I look back over these last few months, it hasn’t been too difficult. Luckily for me, I have very low expectations about the quality of my blogging (and I am proud to say I think my work has the potential to reach mediocrity … keep your fingers crossed me!).

Blogging for me is just jotting (typing, slopping… whatever) what has been rattling around my head for the past few days.

The real challenge in writing a blog is that I had never read one. Not a single blog. Why do I get the feeling that 27 people just said to themselves, “That explains why the quality of his blog has yet to rise to mediocrity.”?

Let me remind you; no one likes a hater. And if you continue with this type of attitude, I am going to have you to ask you to leave.

The truth is – I still don’t read very many blogs.

Occasionally, I will glance at one if someone has been kind enough to link to PrincipalsPage.com or the PrincipalsPage.com Blog (thank you Google Alerts).

My problem isn’t that I am anti-blog; I just don’t have the time.

Well, that’s a lie. I do have the time, I just prefer to spend my free time big-game hunting, recreating Civil War battles, collecting antique porcelain dolls (the ones sold on Home Shopping Network and their eyes follow you as you move around the room), painting (mostly in the style of impressionism), volunteering to read to the deaf, and translating the classics into Latin.

Alright, you caught me. Those are also lies.

I spend all of my free time mowing my yard or snacking. I really should do something positive for society; but I have a love/hate relationship with Oreos that takes up a good portion of my time. And since time is so precious, I don’t read as many blogs as I should.

I am still appreciative of the people who take the time to blog about far more serious educational issues than me.

So, I think it is important to stop (shut off the mower and put down the cookies) to recognize the blogs that are actually trying to contribute to the betterment of education.

They are all very good (the ones I have read) and they do have some things in common; they have all been kind enough to stop by my blog and leave a comment, or some have actually taken (or wasted) the time to mention PrincipalsPage.com in their blog.

All are unique and unlike me, they are actually trying to solve educational challenges and have ideas to make things better.

Please take a moment to visit the following list of blogs, but you are on your own; I have to go mow.

Keep in mind that I don’t know any of these people and have not been paid to list their blog (although I am open to bribes, no matter how small).

THE LUCKY 13 (or unlucky 13 if they prefer not to be associated with PrincipalsPage… they can be the judge).

The Essential Blog

Mr. Moses

Moving Forward




Human Voices Wake Us

Out of My League

Not So Distant Future

Bircher’s Banter

Parental Guidance


Successful Teaching

If you have any suggestions for blogs to visit or one worthy of being featured as Page 2’s Blog of the Week on PrincipalsPage.com, please send them to my assistant Carl Spackler at micsmith@principalspage.com.

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Travel Does Stink, but Alan November was Great.

Mr. Alan November.I survived my first business related travel experience. Barely. There were a couple of bumps in the road (get it… travel… bumps in the road… you don’t get this type of 5th grade humor just anywhere… well, maybe from a 5th grader), but for the most part the trip was okay.

And by okay, I mean just okay. As in I didn’t die or cry myself to sleep. Not that I slept well in a strange place.

I still don’t understand how people do this all of the time. The hotels, finding someplace to eat, the hotels, the messed up routine, and the hotels. Did I mention the hotels?

It is just not natural to sleep in someone else’s bed. Especially if 1,237 “someone’s” have slept in that same bed before you. And by sleep, I mean… well, never mind because if I say it you will never go back to a hotel (and I could open myself up to legal proceedings in Alabama…. so says the PrincipalsPage.com legal department).

So, I will keep these thoughts to myself, much like I try not to think about how many students and parents touch the door handle of the school office on a daily basis.

While I was at the conference, I decided to ask salespeople (did you know salespeople in Latin means; evil bloodsucking devil children? I’m serious… Google it) who were there how they liked traveling for their job.

They all had the same attitude when I asked them questions about business travel (I not only have a Blog; I am a miniature Ron Burgundy).

The nice salespeople (not really… see devil children) got a glazed look in their eyes, cocked their heads to the side, and mumbled something to the effect of, “Travel is okay and I never get tired of breakfast at McDonald’s, dinner at Applebee’s, cold showers, and sleeping in a disgusting hotel bed.”

The glazed look told me they would rather be home with their families.

I felt the same way after only a couple of days. I missed my wife, my unemployed daughter, my pillow, my bed, my shower, my computer, my refrigerator, my TV, and my routine. I even missed school (any chance that changes by about 8:27 on Monday morning?).

But the important thing is I survived.

One good thing that came out of the week was attending a conference presentation that was actually good. And not just good, but great.

I listened to Alan November for 2 hours. It seemed like 12 minutes and 14 seconds (I have a stopwatch in my head).

He talked about the future of education, technology, and how as administrators we need to change the way we think about teaching our students.

This includes classroom technology, the internet, teacher evaluations, testing, length of class periods, etc. He has a strong belief that educators should be using resources that allow them to interact with teachers and students from all over the world; not just down the hall.

As an administrator who has the opportunity to sit through 37 meetings a week; this was the best presentation that I have had the pleasure of hearing.

He had just the right amount of information, sprinkled with a little sarcasm and just a hint of anger.

Who am I kidding? He may be my biological father (I wonder if he has an alibi for New Year’s of 1967?).

Anyways, he was excellent. After sitting through 14 sessions, this was a welcome and much needed surprise.

Our school district won’t be able to implement everything he talked about at once, but we can work towards it slowly but surely.

I was so excited after listening to him, that I briefly considered flying to Boston to thank him. Then I remembered the hotel bed thing.

Maybe I will just call. Or Skype. Or maybe, he can just read this blog.

He is correct about one thing; the world is getting smaller. And the people that understand this best are our students.

I wonder if they understand the hotel bed thing.

If you get a chance to hear Mr. November present, run don’t walk. You won’t be sorry. Unless you have to stay in a hotel.

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You Know Who Likes to Travel, People Who Don’t.

I'm Not a Big Fan of Airplanes... When They are Taking Off or Landing.Something odd is happening this week. Actually in education, something odd happens on a daily basis, but this is unusually odd. My wife and I are both traveling for work.

What is so odd about that? You see, neither one of us has ever traveled alone on business before (by business, I mean school stuff not actual grownup business… we could never get one of those jobs).

One would think at our advanced age this would have happened before.

Before we move on let’s take a moment so I can explain… by our advanced age, I mean I am incredibly old and decrepit and my wife is unbelievably youthful and vibrant.

She is often asked for a hall pass as she walks around her school during her prep time.

So this will be the first time we have been out of town on business. Odd enough in itself; but it happening for the first time to both of us on the same week? The planets must be aligned just right.

Things are so weird that the junior high kids were doing their homework in study hall and I overheard a teacher say, “I wish the school day was longer. Maybe I could voluntarily give up my prep time?”

I am sure there are people who enjoy traveling for work, but I am not one of them.

Although, admittedly I am not an expert on this whole business travel thing (you see I haven’t done this before… you really should pay more attention).

I like my routine. Get up. Go to School. Work. Come home. Exercise. Go to sleep. While this may strike you as boring, I thrive on it (by thrive, I mean that I am difficult to live with, extremely grumpy, and looking forward to retirement).

You can count on a routine. It never lets you down. There aren’t many things you can depend on in life, but a routine is one of them.

I am finding travel messes everything up.

You have to plan ahead, pack, get directions, sleep in a strange bed, and eat out. It just doesn’t sound appealing to me.

And being gone makes me nervous. My daughter has already called my half of the bed and my wife is giddy with the idea that she won’t have to cook.

I am not sure what to make of this, but I may be expendable.

I have a feeling that I should have just stayed in the office.

What will I do when 8:10 comes around and the bell doesn’t ring? Will I be able to buy chocolate milk for a quarter out in the real world? How will I know when 4th hour is over and it is time for lunch? Who is going to keep an eye on the parking lot after school? What happens to the 79 emails I get everyday if I am not there to answer them?

School administrators should stay in the office where they belong. The entire school district could fall apart.

Or worse, they could not even notice I am gone. I swear I saw people decorating the lounge with balloons and streamers as I left the building.

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Something Good Happened at School Today, but That’s Not News.

Good Things Should Be Recognized.  Especially at School.In the last few weeks, I have been following stories about different situations happening in schools. These have been all over the newspapers, websites, and television stations.

These stories have one thing in common. They contain nothing but bad news about education and educators. And I mean really bad news.

Bad news that makes you feel sick to your stomach. The same feeling you have moments before you get your class list for the new school year. The dread you feel as you make your way to the school mailbox.

The overall sense of despair that covers your whole body because you might find out that you have the worst kid in school in your class (again…he was held back… again).

And just to top things off, he had perfect attendance last year.

Why is it that those students have the ability to show up every day like clockwork?

Anyway, none of these stories that have been in the news shine a good light on education. They focus on the worst possible incidents. These things unfortunately do happen, but it is always a very small percentage of school employees and students who are involved.

The 99.999999% of quality people in education get lumped in with these few nuts. I know this is true because when I tell someone what I do; they invariably pull back in a combination of horror, sadness, and pity.

I refuse to even provide links to these stories because they don’t deserve any more publicity.

And you know who I blame? Not the newspapers, internet sites, or local television stations. They are in business to provide the news we will read and watch. Evidently this is what the public wants.

The media is more than happy to report on bad situations in schools and I think they should.

After all, these incidents are news. And when things happen in education it is always a bigger news story.

If an employee does something inappropriate, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law (or shot… in most cases I am okay with that).

When school districts or employees make these bad decisions they should have news stations reporting their stories. It’s not the media’s fault.

It’s ours. I blame us. Everyone involved in the running of schools on a daily basis needs to do a better job.

While we deserve a great deal of blame for letting these different types of situations happen in our schools, I think there is a larger issue at play.

Too often, the only publicity schools receive is the negative variety.

Schools have specialist to handle technology, coaching, scheduling, attendance, cleaning, cooking, and curriculum. Why don’t we have someone who specializes in publicizing what we do well?

Why are we not getting our positive messages across?

Why do we sit around and wait for newspapers and television stations to swarm us when something goes wrong? They always want to interview the principal or students when thing aren’t going well.

If the school refuses to talk, they find someone in the community who will (and for the record, usually not a person who had a good experience in school).

Why aren’t we more proactive in sharing all of the good things that happen in education on a daily basis?

Maybe I am naïve. Maybe no one cares about the good things.

Maybe there is a reason the local news always has a lead story involving a crime, or fire, or an accident.

I just think it is sad that they only thing some people know about schools and education is what they see on the news.

And it’s not good.

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Discipline Isn’t What You Do to a Student, but What You Do for Them.

The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Kids... Discipline.This week I had the opportunity to visit with a retired principal. The fact that he made it to retirement gives me hope. And makes me a little jealous.

He has survived an entire career of board meetings, parent concerns, athletic issues, graduations, field trips, bus trouble, thousands of Mondays, etc.

I had lots of questions for him about his career and how education has changed over the years. It seemed that most of our discussion centered on discipline. It is amazing how the methods for keeping students in line and respectful have changed over the last 30 years.

Turns out 20 years ago you could slam a student into a locker and their parents wouldn’t sue the school district; who knew? I wrote this little nugget of information down, so I wouldn’t forget.

“Lucky Retired Guy” told me as he gets older his memory tends to focus on all of the good things that happened during his career. He seldom spends time remembering incidents when he had to discipline a student, or even hand out a suspension.

He says the only time he thinks about these situations is when a former student brings them to his attention.

Students who graduated (maybe) years ago come up to him and are excited to share a story or experience about how he disciplined them. This may include when he did one or more of the following to them: paddled, detentions, kicked them out of class, kicked them out of school (before graduation rates), suspensions, expulsions, or corrected them in the hallway (by corrected, I mean yelled).

Retired Guy says he always try’s to act like he remembers these incidents, but most of the time he doesn’t have the faintest recollection of what they are talking about.

He has long forgotten what happened with a particular student.

No matter the situation, it made an impression on the student. But for him it was only a split second in a long career. And more likely, a very small part of what had been a very busy day (if you don’t believe me, try and recall everything you did 3 Thursdays ago).

The one thing that amazes him is the former students who walk up and want to talk. It isn’t the valedictorian or the student council president; it is the boy who got in trouble in shop class or the girl who was involved in a fight during lunch.

Just for the record; girls’ fights are a thousand times worse than boys’ fights (and they seem to hold a grudge for 2 weeks past forever).

The students he had to discipline consistently are the same ones who want to walk up and visit.

He thinks this is the biggest surprise of his retirement. How these students remember him; not as a mean old principal, but as someone who wasn’t afraid to correct them if it was needed.

So it may be true. Kids want discipline. Even when they act like they don’t.

They can thrive when there are boundaries set for them. The only catch is that the boundaries must be fair, consistent, and enforced.

Try and remember this the next time you have to discipline your kids or students in school. And make sure you remind them that one day they will thank you for the structure you are providing them.

Someday. Not today or tomorrow. Or in the next 5 years. But someday.

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Do You Need a Good Memory to Work at a School? I Hope Not.

I Hear Elephants Have Good Memories.My memory is getting worse by the day. Actually, by the minute but I don’t want to sound too pathetic.

Getting older is not everything that it is cracked up to be (although as I have mentioned earlier, it is bound to be better than the alternative).

When I was younger, I could remember everything. I was as sharp as a tack. Nothing escaped me.

Names, faces, baseball statistics, all the Presidents in order, state capitals, and dates (well, not so much dates); they were all filed in the old memory bank ready to be recalled at a moment’s notice.

I really don’t think men have the “date memory” gene. At least I don’t. And why is it important for me to know the capital of Vermont?

My lack of memory on dates was pointed out to me recently by my wife (at least I think she is my wife, I can’t really remember but she looks awfully familiar) at dinner (or it might have been lunch… that also escapes me at the moment).

When we got married, we eloped. Easy… not because we had to… it was more of a we had no money for a wedding thing. The good news – we didn’t know how poor we were.

When you have no money, a little ignorance comes in handy.

My wife (or maybe it was someone else, I can’t remember that either) decided we should head east and get married in a small town in Connecticut.

So that’s what we did. We had a very nice, small wedding at a lovely bed and breakfast. I would give them a free plug, but I honestly can’t recall the place we stayed or the town where it was located.

A couple of years ago, I realized that our anniversary was sneaking up on me (and no I don’t know the exact date… although I think it was on a Wednesday, or maybe a Thursday?).

While my memory is shot, I am smart enough to double-check these things before I get myself in trouble.

I had the brainstorm to check a newspaper article that was written about us when we eloped and got married. I don’t mind saying, that I considered this to be a stroke of genius.

The article was written about the usual small town Midwestern kids who are really poor drive all the way to Connecticut to get married much to the delight (or horror… it was hard to tell at the time) of their parents. I am sure everyone has read this type of story a thousand times.

When we first returned from our wedding we had the article framed (after we saved up the $50, which took about two years). It hangs in our living room as a monument to our love (that sentence is for the wife).

All I had to do was check the date on the paper, and I would know our anniversary.

I must admit as a man, husband, father, and an educator; I was very proud of myself for thinking of this fool-proof plan.

And as you know, my fool-proof plans seldom go wrong.

After glancing at the paper, I had the date; July 27. Armed with this tidbit of information I went out and purchased a card and ordered some flowers to be delivered the morning of the 27th.

I was extremely proud of myself at this point. My wife would be proud to have married such a considerate man.

The day before, on July 26, my wife walked up to me and said, “Happy Anniversary.” I was stunned and a little insulted by her not being able to remember the first day of our wedded bliss.

Quickly, I pointed out that our anniversary was the next day. After all, I have a memory like a steel trap. And I checked the newspaper.

She replied something to the effect of, “It isn’t tomorrow you blithering idiot and my mom warned me about marrying you.”

Now I was insulted. Not about her mom’s warning (because her judgment is impeccable), but more the fact that my wife uses words I don’t understand; like blithering.

I assured her that our anniversary was definitely on the 27th; as I had thoughtfully checked the newspaper article a few days before.

Her reply; the newspaper was published the day after we got married.

As I look back on that day, I have realized two things.

One, as usual, her mom was right. And two, that was the day I realized my memory was failing me.

Or maybe it was another day. I forget. If I don’t write these things down on a Post-It Note, I’m lost.

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Safer Career Choice: School Administrator or Blogger?

Someone sent me a link to a New York Times article about people dying because they blog too much.

I know exactly what you are thinking.

People who visit this Blog also read the New York Times. Don’t feel bad, it also caught me off guard.

Once I regained my composure, I read the article. Please take a moment and read it yourself. Life is All About Choices.

I’ll wait… take your time… don’t rush yourself…alright, c’mon already… 1st graders can line up and get quiet faster than this… okay, let’s move on.

The short version of the article is that morons blog too much; said morons can’t stop thinking about blogging; and then the morons may die (sometimes rather tragically).

Sad, but true.

I don’t normally spend time blogging about death, but in this case I am willing to make an exception.

Actually, I guess I may be taking my life into my own hands by writing this. If this blog unexpectedly trails off at some point, I didn’t survive…

Just kidding, I am still here.

As I read the New York Times Article, I found myself thinking who are these people?

Blogging isn’t brain surgery; or working a 12 hour shift in a hospital; or substitute teaching; it’s just blogging.

And blogging is a fancy word for typing.

All it takes to blog is a computer, a halfway coherent thought or opinion, and thumbs. Although I think thumbs are probably a luxury (you could hit the spacebar with your elbow if you got in a bind).

The more I think about it, you don’t need thumbs or a coherent thought. You really just need a computer.

Doesn’t the New York Times have editors? Shouldn’t someone in a corner office with leather furniture have read the story before it went into print? Surely, they pay people a lot of money to decide that articles like this one aren’t really a story.

Just because news happens 24 hours a day doesn’t mean you have to blog about it.

After much thought, I think I have a solution for bloggers who face health problems or certain death.

Stop typing. And go outside. Maybe even ask a girl (or boy… your preference) out. Just remember to tell your mom to leave the basement door unlocked, as you may be home a little later than normal.

To summarize… get a life.

Blogging shouldn’t be dangerous.

Being a school administrator is death defying. You haven’t faced fear or health risks until an elementary kid gets sick in the hallway and you get a whiff of the cherry smelling dusty stuff the janitor puts on top of the…well, you get the idea.

I’ve got to go… my left arm is feeling numb.

I do realize that this blog may be offensive to bloggers who don’t have thumbs and elementary students who throw up a lot… for that I apologize.

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The Educational Community has a Lot of Experts. I’m Not One of Them, but I am Available for Hire.

This Guy is an Expert in Something.  Not Sure What... But Definitely an Expert.As I was contemplating the 100th PrincipalsPage.com Blog (this is it, please send your congratulatory packages and emails in the next week or so), several things crossed my mind.

One, I spend way too much time contemplating. But, lucky for me I continue to have lots of free time.

Two, 100 Blogs are 99 more than I thought I could write. Turns out having a Blog is much like going to college. You don’t have to be overly smart, you just have to turn the TV off every so often and show up (or at least be bright enough to schedule around The Price is Right).

This plan worked in college as I received my degrees, and it seems to be working with the Blog. My intention is to stick with this plan and ride it out until it fails me.

The really nice thing about my slopping (I mean writing) the Blog (not counting the large salary, benefit package, and company car) is that I am my own boss.

No deadlines. No expectations of actually doing something productive. No one evaluating my performance (other than some harshly worded emails, but I forgive you).

I may have mentioned this before, but the Blog was started simply to drive a little traffic to the website (www.PrincipalsPage.com). It was my hope that this resource would occasionally benefit an administrator or two who needed a little help writing a letter, or finding a form.

Since that was such a small goal, I think I can say it has been accomplished. Plus, since no one is evaluating me; everything I do; I get to think is great.

During my extensive contemplating (aka: working in the yard), something else occurred to me.

In the last 5 years, I have had the opportunity to attend a lot of meetings, panel discussions, and conferences.

In conclusion, I dislike them all immensely; the meetings, the speakers, the subjects, the bad breakfast food, and above all – the chairs.

The older I get, the more important it is that I have a comfortable chair.

The doorbell just rang and after writing that sentence I’m a bit afraid it might be Death at my front door.

The reason for my distaste of meetings and everything they entail is that I am genuinely surprised when the guest speaker is good. My expectation level has been beaten down to the point that I am ecstatic if they are just mediocre.

Anything less than them being horrendous is a victory in my mind.

All of the speakers are self-appointed experts in their fields. They get paid loads of money to stand up and talk for 2 hours and I am forced to sit there listening (in an uncomfortable chair).

The meeting could be about RtI, special education, insurance, technology, curriculum, Title I, or pest management; but the quality of speaker is usually the same (Except when the presenter is my wife speaking about the use of technology. Always a great presentation!)

That is why I am anointing myself an educational expert on… Nothing. Yes, that’s right, I am officially the first expert on Nothing.

I will come and speak to your school or organization for a large sum of money (plus mileage) about Nothing as it relates to education.

That way the people who have to sit through my presentation won’t be disappointed. The can expect Nothing and that is exactly what they will get. Plus, if they are early they may have a bagel.

I have to go as I think my phone just rang. (Hope it isn’t Death calling to tell me he’ll be back tomorrow since I didn’t answer the door earlier!)

This Blog was written under duress. My wife only agreed to proofread it, if I added one sentence. She won’t allow me to say which one.

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Why Did I Have to Get the Crazy Teacher?

The Teacher I Had... Twice... Was Much Meaner Looking.Is it possible to learn more from a bad teacher than a good one?

I ask this question because I had a teacher of whom I wasn’t very fond (translation- couldn’t stand). And for some strange reason I think about her a lot.

A little weird? Maybe. A lot weird? Possibly.

Okay, it’s completely weird. I would like an explanation for this, so I can move on with my life.

This all started in a small town in 1973. I was young and naïve. I was about to have my first experience dealing with the man (aka- the school district). And I lost. Badly.

Actually, it was more than a loss. It was my Waterloo (suddenly my junior high social studies background comes in handy). The best way to describe it was an all out crushing of both mind and spirit.

You see, I cruised through kindergarten (half day… old school style) and first grade. No problems. No worries.

I loved going to school (by loved, I mean tolerated… recess was fun and lunch was always at least interesting). I was ready to move on to second grade. After all, a young man entering his prime pre-pubescent years needs a challenge.

My whole life was ahead of me.

In my permanent file were report cards full of S+’s (S pluses…). Things were going smoothly and I had expectations of a bright future.

My parents took a relatively happy, normal 7 year old boy to school registration. They left with a beaten and broken shell of what used to be a happy boy who had been filled with hopes and dreams.

What happened that morning haunts me to this very day.

Shortly after arriving at registration on that beautiful summer morning in 1973, I evidently angered a school employee. To this day, I don’t know what I could have possibly done, but it must have been bad.

The district decided to stick it to me. They gave me the crazy teacher. The “man” was keeping me down.

We had all heard the stories. After all, bad news travels fast on the 1st/Kindergarten playground.

The older kids warned us with their tales of horror about the crazy teacher.

When I say the teacher was crazy, I mean certifiably nuts. Unless of course, she is reading this; then I mean crazy as in beautiful, charming, helpful, kind, and dedicated (you see, I am very busy and all of my time is already filled with the soccer/homeschooling stalkers).

She wasn’t just a little crazy. Rumor had it that the Marines wouldn’t let her join because she was too mean.

I was 7. But I was about to grow up quickly.

A few days into school I quickly recognized this woman shouldn’t be allowed around children, puppies, or house plants. Any living thing was in danger if it got within 6 blocks of her bubble of crazy.

We always heard that when her dog ran away people used to protect it instead of return it. Unfortunately, she was crazy enough to know this and would eventually find it and drag it back home. That poor dog probably thought he was in the mob; just when he thought he was out, she pulled him back in.

If you think that is bad, word on the playground was that while most people talked to their houseplants, she screamed at hers.

I am pretty sure the principal was afraid of her. I never saw them together, which leads me to believe he was avoiding her at all costs.

The strangest thing about her? I don’t know what she did to make me think she was so crazy.

I still can’t point to one thing that led me to believe she was crazy. It was just a sense I had. And a creepy look in her eyes. And she had a twitch. A scary one.

The woman had the ability to sit at her desk and grade papers, while staring straight ahead with one eye so she could make sure the class didn’t do anything fun.

She could sense we were about to do something bad, minutes before we even thought about the idea. It was freaky.

This was the longest 9 months of my life. I felt like I was locked up in prison for a crime I didn’t commit.

This was a tough life lesson, but little did I know that things would eventually take a turn for the worse.

My 3rd grade year began and things went smoothly. For a day. On one of the first recesses of the year, I said something to my buddy about being glad we were done with Mrs. Crazy.

A dull, lifeless look came over him. Then he said it. These words still ring in my head 35 years later.

“She’s teaching 5th grade now.” After taking this information in and fighting off a very nauseas, cold, sweaty feeling I said, “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.”

I had two good years (3rd and 4th grade) filled with dread about having her again.

And I did. 5th grade was a nightmare that can best be described as 2nd grade: Part II.

I couldn’t stand her the first time nor the second time and yet I think about her and the expectations she had in place for her students all of the time.

Why is it that it takes 35 years to realize that some of the meanest teachers you had were also some of the best?

Consequently I don’t feel badly for the parents who come in to my office to complain about their child having the meanest teacher in the school.

I mean, really, their kid doesn’t have Mrs. Crazy like I did…TWICE!

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