A Politician Wants Drivers Licences Revoked for Dropouts: How Did Educators Not Think of This?


No ALL Student Drivers are Bad....This link was sent to me by a loyal reader of the blog (I can neither confirm nor deny that they are housed in the correctional system with a great deal of free time on their hands).

United States Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Politician-Ill. political party doesn’t matter because I don’t think there is an ounce of difference between a Democrat and a Republican) proposed taking away the driver’s licenses of high school dropouts.

This upset the leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).

My only question is why?

As in, why has it taken so long for a politician to figure out this riddle? Students work harder and are more likely to stay in school when a carrot (i.e. driver’s license) is dangled in front of them.

Who knew?

Next, a politician will be telling us that students who play sports and participate in extracurricular activities will work harder in order to stay eligible. Shocker.

Or maybe they will let us know that they believe most young people study harder for their Driver’s License test than they do for an English exam. I am stunned.

And why are the two caucuses upset? Don’t they want their group’s children to stay in school?

If holding a drivers license over their heads keeps them from dropping out, isn’t that a good thing?

Won’t these students have a chance to earn more money over the course of their lifetimes, hold better jobs, and possibly attend colleges if they have high school diplomas?

What’s the downside here? Am I missing something?

Sure, you can always point out the exception to the rule.

A student might have to drop out to support himself. There might be a girl who has to leave high school to raise her baby.

But there is a reason they call situations like these… exceptions.

I am confused (yes, again).

Why don’t we pass education related laws to help the majority of kids?

When did having a driver’s license become a right and not a privilege?

Why can’t we have a law in place that takes into account that a student may drop out and lose his or her license but it can be reinstated once they receive a GED?

And most importantly, why did Rep. Emanuel come up with this solution to help curtail dropouts before those of us in education?

What?

This idea has been discussed, proposed, and rehashed in every teacher’s lounge in America since the beginning of time?

Who knew?

Oh yea. Educators did.

And something else we know.

States issue licenses, not the federal government (who knew teaching social studies would come in so handy?). While I appreciate Rep. Emanuel’s intentions, I am not sure it is his problem to solve.

But I could be wrong. I did study harder for my Driver’s License Exam than for the Constitution Test.

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The AASA: When Will They Ever Learn?


American Association of School Administrators.The people at the American Association of School Administrators have struck again.

They have included another PrincipalsPage.com Blog in the pages of their magazine.

If you receive the August edition of the AASA magazine, please go to page 33 and check out “Always Know the Answer before Asking the Question.”

I wrote this particular blog in a very dark, turbulent, stormy and unstable portion of my writing career.

It was a time that I like to call August of 2007 (actually it was neither dark, turbulent, stormy, or unstable… nor do I have a career in writing… but I do love the exaggeration).

But, I am not here to self-promote (well, maybe a little) or question the good judgment of the suits at AASA who choose the content of their magazine (well, maybe a little).

I am here to share what an interesting experience it is to get something published.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that the blog isn’t an American literary classic and the AASA Magazine isn’t as widely circulated as AARP the Magazine, Reader’s Digest, TV Guide, and Better Homes and Gardens (all I have learned from Googling “Top Magazine Circulation” is that old people really love their reading material).

It is still pretty cool to see something you typed on a laptop in 14 minutes get printed in a real legitimate publication.

The surprising thing is how long it takes for this process to play out.

The kind people at AASA (need to stay on their good side) notify you months in advance that they would like to publish your article (blog… whatever).

Then the lawyers and agents get involved to hash out the financial package. Which means the AASA offers nothing, and I take it (it was touch and go for a moment there… I thought they might make me pay them…whew!).

Then it goes through a thorough editing process where people with actual college degrees in English (and probably a Master’s) fix my incoherent thoughts.

They are quite good. By the time they finish the editing portion, I am amazed at the quality of my writing. Don’t get me wrong, my lovely wife does good editing work, but her degree is not in editing. It is in education with a minor in computer stuff and taking care of the sponge (daughter…whatever) and me.

I was also shocked the first time they emailed and edited version back to me and asked my thoughts. They evidently don’t realize that I am still not sure what an adverb is and while I have made progress, the whole to, too, and two thing is still quite confusing. Don’t even get me started about the proper use of semi-colons. My wife takes about 10 of them out of every blog post (while I don’t know how to use them, they are arguably the cutest of all the punctuation… and yes, I base my punctuation choices on looks).

I could have really benefited by sitting behind these editing people in college (who am I kidding… I needed them in junior high).

But, I am not here to talk about how my grade point average would have been significantly higher if I had cheated my way through school (PrincipalsPage.com in no way endorses cheating at any level of education).

I am here to thank them for giving me the opportunity (twice… I hope they don’t get fired over this).

It has been fun and maybe if they hold onto their jobs I will get another opportunity (who am I kidding… I am on borrowed time as it is).

Also, if you are a school administrator or plan on becoming one, please support your state organizations and the AASA.

They do great work for principals and superintendents (especially those just starting out in their careers).

Even if their judgment in magazine content may be a little questionable.

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Today is an All Day Celebration of Our Love and Committment (Well, Maybe Not All Day).


What's the Traditional Gift for the 13th Anniversary??Today is our 13th wedding anniversary.

By all day celebration, I mean my wife is going to work on her technology workshops and I am going to mow the yard, exercise, and hopefully get a nap in.

When all of that excitement dies down, we are going out to dinner. With our mooching daughter.

If I play my cards right, we may stop by Home Depot.

The air is filled with romance.

And they said it wouldn’t last. Actually, her parents probably said worse, but this is a family blog.

Of course, marriage is day to day (or minute to minute), so time will tell.

My dilemma is what to get the woman who has everything. She is hard to shop for because she always says that she doesn’t want or need anything.

Other than peace and quiet for a day. Which means no arguing between my daughter and I as we play video games, sports, watch TV, bike ride, or generally just annoy each other.

I hope she doesn’t get her hopes up, because that is a difficult gift to find. After all, what is the fun of playing Wii if you can’t do a victory song and dance after crushing your only child in bowling?

There must be a traditional gift for the 13th year?

A lawyer? A psychologist? Possibly meds? Tickets to the gun show (thank goodness for the 48 hour waiting time to purchase)?

Maybe there is a store where I could buy her more patience. It seems to me that sooner or later she will use all of hers up.

Marriage is a lot like school. You have to show up every day, give your best effort, listen more than you talk, complete your work on time, and learn from your mistakes.

Happy Anniversary.

Note to readers from wife. It is bad enough I am stuck in this marriage and I have to edit this dribble, but doesn’t he even know the traditional 13th year wedding gift is lace? Google it for goodness sake! (The modern gift is textiles/furs which quite frankly just creeps me out.) Luckily for him, I am not a big fan of lace. Diamonds (which I will have to wait another 47 years to receive) or a new geeky tech toy would have been good, but I will settle for an afternoon of peace and quiet. Don’t get me wrong, the odds of them playing Wii and not arguing are slim to none, but keep your fingers crossed for me. Happy Anniversary to my best (and funniest) friend who also happens to be my husband.

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My Childhood Dream Came True. Almost.


It's a Baseball.When I was a kid my dream was to play professional baseball (yes it’s true, I didn’t grow up wanting to be a school administrator… I like to share these things before you hear them on the street).

I held on to this dream up until about a year ago.

Reality finally set in around my 40th birthday. I came to the conclusion that the phone wasn’t going to ring. I am not going to lie; it was painful, but I believe it allowed me to move forward with my life. I felt it was a real sign of maturity (but, the mourning process did take awhile).

Sure, when this realization set in… there was some cursing and a few tears, but eventually I got over it (if you call crying myself to sleep in a fetal position after rocking back and forth for 14 hours, getting over it).

It was true; I would never take the field for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Their loss (if you sense a hint of anger, you would be correct).

I had all of the tools to be successful in the majors.

Actually, I didn’t…have any tools.

The one thing that held me back? Talent.

Good genetics is a cruel, cruel mistress. I was only 7 inches too short, 60 pounds too light, and threw like a girl (my apologies to all girls, especially the ones that can throw).

Anyway, I have moved on. Put all of this ugliness behind me.

Then it happened.

The phone rang.

I got a call to take the field at Busch Stadium with the St. Louis Cardinals.

I just knew they would come to their senses. I almost felt badly for the poor language directed at them during my 40th birthday party (sorry Cardinals, sorry neighbor kids who overheard, sorry Pastor).

My first career choice was finally becoming a reality.

I would be at the game and I would be ready.

I arrived early and got loosened up. Mentally I was prepared to help the team win the game.

Music was playing throughout the stadium as I got ready to jog in from behind the outfield wall in right field.

I had spent my whole life getting ready for this moment. Nothing could stop me.

The gate opened. I could feel the butterflies churning in my stomach.

I ran two steps and then heard an 80 year old usher yell, “slow down buddy, you are going to run over one of the Girl Scouts.”

Yes, I was at the game with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop.

They had been invited to walk around the field before the game. And bring their parent(s).

I could have sworn during the phone call that the team said they needed me to pitch, not chaperone.

Once again, my dream was dead.

Yet another example of God having a sense of humor.

I am more and more sure of it each day.

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Patton Oswalt, Graduation Speeches, The 5 Enviroments, and My Email Inbox.


Funny.  A Little Rude, but Funny.I get a lot of good email from readers of the Blog, users of the PrincipalsPage.com website, people who want me to shill their product or service, and stalkers.

The ones that I particularly enjoy are the comments, ramblings, hallucinations, and threats from stalkers. You have got to admire their passion and commitment.

Recently, I received an email from Mr. Tom Hanson, Editor at OpenEducation.net (not a stalker… as far as I know).

He was kind enough to share a blog he had written about a graduation speech delivered by Patton Oswalt. The speech was delivered this year at the high school Oswalt attended; Broad Run High School in Ashburn, Virginia.

Mr. Oswalt is best known as a comedian and for his role as Spence on King of Queens.

I think all school administrators can appreciate the pressure felt when giving a speech, but also the fact that you can magnify that feeling by a 1000 times when you are responsible for someone else who is speaking.

Each time a microphone is handed to a student or guest speaker, I get the feeling that within seconds my career may come crashing to a close.

That’s why one of the highlights for me every year is the moment the graduation speech has concluded.

I would hazard a guess that the administrators at the Broad Run School District were more than a little nervous when Patton Oswalt took the stage.

In my estimation, the speech is excellent. Of course the PrincipalsPage.com lawyers want me to mention that I in no way endorse the use of marijuana, fathering children out-of-wedlock, or the killing of hobos.

The speech does two things that can be most difficult. One, it captured the attention of graduating Seniors and also the adults in the audience. As someone who has spoken in front of both of these groups, this can be a monumental challenge.

Secondly, it delivers a message that everyone in attendance and those who read its online will remember for a long time.

Below you will find a copy of the speech from Oswalt’s website. Also, please visit OpenEducation.net for Mr. Hanson’s blog and commentary on the speech.

I wonder if Patton Oswalt will visit this blog. If so, he will become our most famous visitor. No offense Alan November, but you have never starred in a sitcom with Kevin James, Jerry Stiller, and Lou Ferrigno.

AND NOW, THE ACTUAL SPEECH
7.9.2008

Here’s the actual speech I gave at my old high school on June 18th. Well, more or less. There were some extra, last-minute thoughts I threw in there. I think the core idea of what I was trying to say was unchanged.

What a great group of kids. What a bunch of smarty-pants, too. Brainy bunch. Very intimidating. Their valedictorian had a 4.35 GPA. That means she took extra classes in a PARALLEL DIMENSION, and then found a way to have the credits count in this one.

4.35? She introduced me, and brought me onstage. And then she shook hands with 2.71. And then I said this:

First off, I want to thank the teachers and faculty of Broad Run High School for first considering and then inviting me to speak here. It was flattering, I am touched and humbled, and you have made a grave mistake.

I’m being paid for this, right? Oh, wait, there’s some advice, right off the bat… always get paid. If you make enough money in this world you can smoke pot all day and have people killed.

I’m sorry, that was irresponsible.

You shouldn’t have people killed.

Boom! Marijuana endorsement eleven seconds into my speech! Too late to cancel me now!

It’s dumb-ass remarks like that which kept me out of the National Honor Society and also made me insanely wealthy. If I move to Brazil.

I graduated from Broad Run High School 21 years ago. That means, theoretically, I could be your father. And I’m speaking especially to the black and Asian students.

So now I’m going to try to give all of you some advice as if I contained fatherly wisdom, which I do not. I contain mostly caffeine, Cheet-o dust, fear and scotch.

I know most of you worked very hard to get here today but guess what? The Universe sent you a pasty goblin to welcome you into the world. Were The Greaseman and Arch Campbell not available?

So, 1987. That’s when I got my diploma. But I want to tell you something that happened the week before I graduated. It was life-changing, it was profound, and it was deeper than I realized at the time.

The week before graduation I strangled a hobo. Oh wait, that’s a different story. That was college. I’m speaking at my college later this month. I’ve got both speeches here. Let me sum up the college speech… always have a gallon of bleach in your trunk.

High school. A week before I graduated high school I had dinner, in Leesburg, with a local banker who was giving me a partial scholarship. I still don’t understand why. Maybe he had me confused with another student, someone who hadn’t written his AP English paper on comparisons between Jay Gatsby and Spider-Man. But, I was getting away with it, and I love money and food, so double win.

And I remember, I’m sitting at this dinner, with a bunch of other kids from the other local high schools. And I’m trying my pathetic best to look cool and mysterious, because I was 17 and so into the myth of myself. Remember, this dinner and this scholarship was happening to me.

And I figured this banker guy was a nice guy but hey, I’m the special one at the table. I had a view of the world, where I was eternally Bill Murray in Stripes. I’d be the one with the quips and insights at this dinner. This old man in a suit doesn’t have anything to teach me beyond signing that check. I’ve got a cool mullet and a skinny leather tie from Chess King. And check out my crazy suspenders with the piano keys on them. Have you ever seen Blackadder? Cuz I’ll recite it.

And then this banker… clean-shaven, grey suit and vest… you’d never look twice at him on the street… he told me about The Five Environments.

He leans forward, near the end of the dinner, and he says to me, “There are Five Environments you can live in on this planet. There’s The City. The Desert. The Mountains. The Plains. And The Beach.

You can live in combinations of them. Maybe a city in the desert, or in the mountains by the ocean. Or you could choose just one. Out in the plains somewhere, perhaps.

“But you need to get out there and travel, and figure out where you thrive.

“Some places you’ll go to and you’ll feel yourself wither. Your brain will fog up, your body won’t respond to your thoughts and desires, and you’ll feel sad and angry.

“You need to find out which of the Five Environments are yours. If you belong by the ocean, then the mountains will ruin you. If you’re suited for the blue solitude of the plains, then the city will be a tight, roaring prison cell that’ll eat you alive.

He was right. I’ve traveled and tested his theory and he was absolutely right. There are Five Environments. If you find the right combination, or the perfect singularity, your life will click…into…place. You will click into place.

And I remember, so clearly, driving home from that dinner, how lucky I felt to have met someone who affirmed what I was already planning to do after high school. I was going to roam and blitz and blaze my way all over the planet.

Anywhere but here. Anywhere but Northern Virginia. NoVa. You know what a “nova” is? It’s when a white dwarf star gobbles up so much hydrogen from a neighboring star it causes a cataclysmic nuclear explosion. A cosmic event.

Well, I was a white dwarf and I was definitely doing my share of gobbling up material. But I didn’t feel like any events in my life were cosmic. The “nova” I lived in was a rural coma sprinkled with chunks of strip mall numbness. I had two stable, loving parents, a sane and wise little brother and I was living in Sugarland Run, whose motto is, “Ooooh! A bee! Shut the door!”

I wanted to explode. I devoured books and movies and music and anything that would kick open windows to other worlds real or imagined. Sugarland Run, and Sterling and Ashburn and Northern Virginia were, for me, a sprawling batter’s box before real experience began.

And I followed that banker’s advice. I had to get college out of the way but once I got my paper I lit out hard.

Oh this world. Ladies and gentlemen, this world rocks and it never lets up.

I’ve seen endless daylight and darkness in Alaska. I’ve swum in volcanic craters in Hawaii and saw the mystical green flash when the sun sinks behind the Pacific. I got ripped on absinthe in Prague and watched the sun rise over the synagogue where the Golem is supposedly locked in the attic. I stood under the creepy shadow of Christchurch Spitafields, in London’s East End, and sank a pint next door at The Ten Bells, where two of Jack the Ripper’s victims were last seen drinking. I’ve fed gulls at the harbor in Galway, Ireland. I’ve done impromptu Bloomsday tours of Dublin.

I cried my eyes out on the third floor of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, all those paintings that Vincent and his circle have to each other as gifts because they were all broke some cold Christmas long ago. I’ve eaten crocodile in the Laneways of Melbourne Australia and ortolans on the Left Bank of Paris, France.

I’ve been to Canada.

I’ve been to every state in this country. I’ve been to hidden, subterranean restaurants in New York with the guys from Anthrax and eaten at L.A. taquieras with “Weird” Al Yankovic. I held the guitar that Hendrix torched at Monterey Pop and watched Woodstock ’99 burn to the ground. I’ve lingered at the corner of Bush and Stockton in San Francisco where Miles Archer took a bullet in The Maltese Falcon, and brooded over the grave of H.P. Lovecraft in Providence, R.I. I’ve hung out with Donny Osmond and Jim Goad, Suge Knight and Aimee Mann, Bill Hicks and Don Rickles.

I’ve done stand-up comedy in laundromats, soup kitchens and frat houses, and onstage at Lollapalooza and Coachella. I’ve toured with bands, been to the Oscars and the Superbowl, and been killed in movies by vampires, forest fires and air-to-air missiles.

And I missed the banker’s lesson. 100%, I completely missed it.

In my defense, he didn’t even know he was teaching it.

Telling me about the 5 Environments and urging me to travel? That was advice. It wasn’t a lesson. Advice is everywhere in this world. Your friends, family, teachers and strangers are all happy to give it.

A lesson is yours and yours alone. Some of them take years to recognize and utilize.

My lesson was this… experience, and reward and glory are meaningless unless you’re open and present with the people you share them with in the moment.

Let me go back to that dinner, 21 years ago. There I was, shut off from this wise, amazing old man. Then he zaps me with one of the top 5 pieces of information I’ve ever received in this life, and all I was thankful for was how it benefited me.

I completely ignored the deeper lesson which is do not judge, and get outside yourself, and realize that everyone and everything has its own story, and something to teach you, and that they’re also trying… consciously or unconsciously… to learn and grow from you and everything else around them. And they’re trying with the same passion and hunger and confusion that I was feeling… no matter where they were in their lives, no matter how old or how young.

I’m not saying that you guys shouldn’t go out there and see and do everything there is to see and do. Go. As fast as you can. I don’t know how much longer this world has got, to be honest.

All of you have been given a harsh gift. It’s the same gift the graduating class of 1917, and 1938, and 1968 and now you guys get the chance to enter adulthood when the world teeters on the rim of the sphincter of oblivion. You’re jumping into the deep end. You have no choice but to be exceptional.

But please don’t mistake miles traveled, and money earned, and fame accumulated for who you are.

Because now I understand how the miraculous, horrifying and memorable lurk everywhere. But they’re hidden to the kind of person I was when I graduated high school. And now it’s because of my traveling and living and some pretty profound mistakes along the way… all laid open to me. They’re mine for the feasting. In the Sistine Chapel and in a Taco Bell. In Bach’s Goldberg Variations and in the half-heard brain dead chatter of a woman on her cell phone behind me on an airplane. In Baghdad, Berlin and Sterling, Virginia.

I think now about the amazing thunderstorms in the summer evenings. And how late at night, during a blizzard, you can stand outside and hear the collective, thumping murmur of a million snowflakes hitting the earth, like you’re inside a sleeping god’s thoughts.

I think of the zombie movies I shot back in the gnarled, grey woods and the sad, suburban punks I waited on at Waxie Maxie’s. I think of the disastrous redneck weddings I deejay’d for when I was working for Sounds Unlimited and the Lego spaceships my friends and I would build after seeing Star Wars.

I think about my dad, and how he consoled me when I’d first moved to L.A. and called him, saying I was going into therapy for depression, and how ashamed I was. And he laughed and said, “What the hell’s to be ashamed of?” And I said, “Man, you got your leg machine-gunned in Vietnam. You never went to therapy. Humphrey Bogart never went to therapy.” And my dad said, “Yeah, but Bogie smoked three cartons of cigarettes a day.” And how my mom came down to the kitchen when I was studying for my trig final, at 2 o’clock in the morning, and said, “Haven’t you already been accepted to college?” And I said, “Yeah, but this test is really going to be hard.” And she asked, “What’s the test for again?” And I said, “Calculus” and she closed my notebook and said, “You’ll never use this. Ever. Go to bed or watch a movie.” And how when I got my first ever acting gig, on Seinfeld, my brother sent me a postcard of Minnie Pearl, and he wrote on it, “Never forget, you and her are in the same profession.”

I didn’t realize how all of these places and people and events were just as crucial in shaping me as anything I roamed to the corners of the Earth to see. And they’ve shaped you, and will shape you, whether you realize it now or later. All of you are richer and wiser than you know.

So I will leave you with some final advice. You’ll decide later if this was a lesson. And if you realize there was no lesson in any of this, then that was a lesson.

But I’d like all of you to enter this world, and your exploration of the Five Environments, better armed than I was. And without a mullet. Which I see you’re all way ahead of me on.

First off: Reputation, Posterity and Cool are traps. They’ll drain the life from your life. Reputation, Posterity and Cool = Fear.

Let me put that another way. Bob Hope once said, “When I was twenty, I worried what everything thought of me. When I turned forty, I didn’t care what anyone thought of me. And then I made it to sixty, and I realized no one was ever thinking of me.” And then he pooed his pants, but that didn’t make what he said any less profound.

Secondly: The path is made by walking. And when you’re walking that path, you choose how things affect you. You always have that freedom, no matter how much your liberty it curtailed. You…get to choose…how things affect you.

And lastly, and I guarantee this. It’s the one thing I know because I’ve experienced it:

There Is No Them.

I’m going to get out of your way now. Get out there. Let’s see which one of you is up here in twenty years. If you’re lacking confidence, remember… I wouldn’t have picked me.

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4 Day School Week; Discuss.


I've Heard Worse Ideas.As if I didn’t have enough troubles rattling inside my head, I have been presented with a new one; the idea of a shortened school week.

Feel free to talk about this amongst yourselves.

If you have a solution, please post it immediately. As you are probably aware, I need all of the help that I can get.

The problem is as transportation costs continue to rise, should school districts consider going to a four day school week?

Or should I just sit quietly in my office and wait for gas to drop back down to a $1.50? All right, probably not an option.

But that is okay because my schedule is pretty full already as I sit around my office waiting to win the lottery.

By the way, I look forward to the day 25 years from now when I can tell my daughter (most likely still living at home) that I remember when gas was “only $4.00 a gallon”. Sad but true.

School districts are going to have to begin looking at alternatives to keep their finances under control. It is getting harder and harder to stay ahead of the rising costs in gas, electricity, heat, and air conditioning.

Is one possible solution having students attend school Monday through Thursday for 9 hours a day?

The larger question is can I handle students for 9 hours a day?

I must admit the sound of a 3 day weekend does sound good, but would there be actual benefits to our students?

What are the chances that a shorter week would help improve student attendance? Or better yet, improve teacher attendance? Certainly the transportation costs would go down if a district ran the busses one day less each week.

Are there other benefits to this type of schedule? Such as more time for teachers to work with students in the classroom? The opportunity for families to make doctor appointments on Fridays so that students won’t miss class time would be a benefit.

Three day weekends would also give the older students time to work at a part-time job (and make money for gas… thus completing the
cycle). When will kids realize they wouldn’t have to work all of the time if they didn’t own a brand new car?

Or is a 4 day school week a bad thing?

While there has been some talk about more businesses going to a shorter week; most still keep what are considered the “normal” hours of a 5 or 6 day work week.

Would a shortened school week upset parents? Could they afford the extra daycare for younger children?

Is it possible that teachers would feel rushed by the shorter week? And how would they react to the shorter evenings to grade papers, make lesson plans, and prepare for the next day?

Students who miss a couple of days because of illness could be greatly affected as falling behind in their studies would happen rapidly.

Can you imagine the makeup work?

As you can see, I am torn and slightly confused. Like most things in life the 4 day school week has both advantages and disadvantages.

Lucky for me, education doesn’t make changes quickly, so I have time to form a well developed opinion.

My hope is that there is someone out there (possibly an educational genius) in internet land that can provide me wisdom and guidance.

Please put me on the right path in regards to the concept of the 4 day school week, because as of right now, I can only focus on the idea that “every weekend is a 3 day weekend”. That idea is way cool.

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Strangers Always Have an Opinion About Education.


Everyone Gets an Opinion.  And Has One.Vacations are nice. Coming home afterwards is better.

It is always an experience to get out and see different parts of the country. An even better experience is sleeping in my own bed.

Yesterday was a travel day. It seems that the first and last day of any vacation is totally consumed with getting to your destination or coming home (and worse… packing).

It may ruin a whole day, but it does give you time to think.

While coming home, I took a few moments to contemplate everything that happened in the last several days (2 hours to the airport + 3 1/2 hours in the airport + 2 hour flight + 2 1/2 hour drive home = way, way too much time to think).

It occurred to me that while traveling in the last couple of weeks, I met two people who had very strong feelings about public education (doesn’t everybody?). And specifically how important technology is or isn’t for today’s students.

I didn’t really put too much thought into it at the time, but they were on the opposite end of the spectrum with their opinions.

The first time this subject was brought up was when we were taking a taxi in San Antonio.

Rocky, the cab driver (not to be confused with the Mountains) asked me what I did for a living.

Why is it that cab drivers always ask what you do? Anyway, he asked and when I said that I worked in a public school he wanted to share his thoughts (doesn’t everybody?).

His father came to America when he was a boy (about 50 years ago, I am guessing).

With his job he was able to put both of his daughters through college. He said that was important to his wife and him, even if they had to work 70 hours a week to pay for it.

He felt the world was changing too quickly, so college was not an option.

I asked him what was changing and he said everything…because of computers. He believes that even to drive a cab in today’s world that you need some knowledge of technology.

Their family has always had a personal computer in the house. He said his daughters lived on it during college.

His one complaint about their high school years was they didn’t learn enough about computers.

Then there was Mark. I played golf with him in Colorado. His opinion was just the opposite.

He was also interested in my job. He also had some thoughts about schools (shocker… doesn’t everybody?).

As the owner of his own business, he felt his employees (primarily teenagers) knew a lot about computers but not enough about working.

His idea: we spend way too much time teaching computers in school. He thinks humans are way too impressed with our own inventions.

While he owns a computer, he says he doesn’t use it. He doesn’t think we should spend so much time on them until we get the kinks out (I am not sure how we do this if we don’t use them, but who am I to argue with a complete stranger).

His strongest feeling was that public education should be more focused on vocational programs. He hates to see programs getting cut in school like art, music, industrial arts, etc., just so we can focus on test scores and technology.

So that was my vacation. Listening to strangers tell me what is right and wrong about education (ironically it was kind of like being at work).

Actually, it was quite interesting. I learned a lot from both. Although I was surprised about who believed what.

The one, who has the blue collar job, believes technology is the wave of the future.

The white collar businessman thinks schools need to spend more time on vocational programs and teaching work ethic.

I am more confused than ever. Should schools focus more time on technology, or less?

Should we set more time aside in the schedule for computers, or use that time for vocational programs?

Maybe we need to do both, but how do we find the time?

I wish I had thought to ask them.

Who knew strangers were so smart?

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In Colorado, I Need a Motorcycle. Management Disagrees.


If I Had a Motorcycle... I Could Be Cool Like Fonzie.We are in the middle of the annual family vacation. By annual, I mean since we have more than a dime to our name (we are in year #5; previous years are referred to as YWNSD- “Years We Nearly Starved to Death?”)

The last 5 years are simply referred to as ACL (After College Loans).

This year’s vacation (not to be confused with our free trip to NECC) is in Colorado. It is my first time seeing a real mountain (the things we ski on in Wisconsin are forever going to be known as hills).

This trip is another example of how much you can learn when you’re not in school.

There are lessons to be learned here for the whole family.

Personally, I have learned (or relearned) about moraines, the continental divide, wetlands, tundras, trees, wild animals, waterfalls, and altitude sickness (not the fun part).

All of these experiences are more interesting in person than they were out of a textbook. I keep telling my daughter how lucky she is to see these things in person.

Her response, “can we go ride the go karts at Fun City again.” That loud sucking sound you hear is her removing money from my wallet.

The best thing she has going for her is opportunities. And the fact that pound for pound she can eat more French fries or chocolate chip pancakes than anyone in North America.

One day she may even recognize how many wonderful experiences she had during her childhood. When and if she does, I hope she forces her children (2nd generation evil spawn) to hike through the mountains and see things that they have no interest in (maybe she will invite their grandparents; better yet maybe she will pay for the trip).

While she has not been overly impressed with the Rocky Mountains, she can spot a McDonald’s 6 miles away in the fog… and the dark… while she is asleep.

She may be gifted. Or hungry. We can’t decide.

We are hoping for gifted, just because we are tired of paying for her food.

While she doesn’t yet recognize the benefits of the things she gets to experience, she and I do agree on one thing.

We need a motorcycle.

Visiting a national park in a car is great, but it would be even better on a motorcycle.

We ran this idea by our household manager, but she isn’t buying it.

Maybe we can catch her in a weak moment. Like when she is having computer troubles and she will say yes to anything, just so we go away.

This is also an important lesson to my out of work daughter. It is not always what you ask; but when you ask.

Plus, there is a larger lesson here that she might as well learn. Upper management can be difficult to work with and sometimes even stuck in their ways (of course the exception to this rule is educators… we can never be accused of being stuck in our ways).

And yes that includes me…but I DO love my John Denver 8-track. I can already envision riding through the Rocky Mountains listening to “Rocky Mountain High”.

I still wake up in the middle of the night angry that Mr. Denver was denied an Academy Award nomination for his performance in the 1977 movie “Oh, God!”

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Happy Blogiversary.


I Couldn't Even Get a Cake.Today is the day. A very special day. And not just because it is the birthday of Ringo Starr and Doc Severinsen (a hip reference for the kids…Google it).

July 7 is the one year anniversary of the PrincipalsPage.com Blog.

This is an emotional moment for all of us (and yes, I am counting general malaise, anger, and contempt as the primary emotions).

I can sense that many of you are feeling overwhelmed.

If you are shedding a tear or feel like you may collapse from the excitement, please keep in mind that you’re not alone.

I am here for you.

I would love to give you a hug if we were together (and if I didn’t mind people touching me, but that is a different story… my therapist says I am not ready to share just yet).

Each year as the sun peaks over the horizon on July 7, thousands of people across the educational world stop and take a moment to salute the PrincipalsPage.com Blog. Okay, maybe not thousands.

Actually as far as I know it’s just me and a creepy guy in Northern Michigan (evidently, there is not a lot to do in that part of the country except stock up on water, beef jerky, and handguns).

You call him crazy; I call him my friend.

Since emotions are running high, I will give everyone a moment to regain their composure.

The Blog started a year ago today. Time really does fly. It seems more like 347 days since it all began.

The Blog has become like another child to me. And not one who is unemployed, plays soccer, eats all of my food, and says she wants to live at home for the rest of her life (I am thinking about getting a lawyer to file a preemptive eviction).

Like our child, the Blog started off by accident. Even so, we have decided to keep it (but like my real kid, I am willing to listen to offers).

During the past year there have been many things that have surprised me about the Blog.

One is that people actually read it. And more surprising, some of them come back. I am still shocked each time someone stops by from the United States, Canada, or the Philippines (seriously, it is my 3rd biggest country for the highest number of visits).

It amazes me that people take time from their busy lives (also very likely sad and boring, but not you creepy guy from Michigan) to read the Blog and leave comments.

Secondly, I had gone through the first part of my life assuming that you need some sort of talent to write. Possibly an English degree or at least a general idea about how the English language works.

Lucky for me it turns out that you don’t need either one.

I did fail in one respect. At the beginning of the year, my intention was to post 135 blogs. I fell just short with 133, but I will strive to do better next year (will I ever run out of stupid thoughts or theories?).

It is also interesting to me that some of the blogs that I like the best get almost no reaction from readers. And on the flip side, some that I feel are moronic (or more moronic than usual) seem to strike a nerve with people.

Thirdly, when this all began I assumed it would be difficult to produce quality work week after week. This is actually true. That is why I have focused on writing in a style I like to call, mediocre to borderline pathetic.

Setting the bar low means I will never be disappointed. Writing a blog is much like life in general. All you really have to do is show up (consistently, you slackers). It really isn’t that complicated.

You don’t have to be the smartest, or best looking, or even have an intelligent thought about much of anything. Just show up.

Lastly, I realized that a well-written blog can be used as a tool to teach others valuable lessons that can help make them better people.

But let’s not get crazy, this blog doesn’t do that.

The point of the PrincipalsPage.com Blog is to… actually, as I have mentioned before there is no point. And that is the way I like it (my first KC and the Sunshine Band reference).

I don’t read many education-related blogs, but when I do something always jumps out at me.

These blogs seem to come in two types. One is the policy related educational articles (that are recycled on 20 other blogs). And the second is far worse. This type of blog is just a forum to share everything that is wrong with schools and education.

I get it. A junior high teacher just ran off with a 12 year old boy to Mexico. Enough already.

My hope is that the PrincipalsPage.com Blog is the exact opposite of those.

Good things do happen at school. And sometimes they are humorous. Not everything in education has to be about lack of funds or test scores.

These funny occurrences may occur during the school day, in the parking lot, during a SNOW DAY, on a vacation, or maybe even in the dark recesses of an angry middle aged man’s mind when his medication isn’t taken in the proper doses (I told the therapist I was capable of opening up eventually).

I hope you have enjoyed the Blog during this first year. Please come back to visit it again and again.

Or not, it is up to you. I will be here either way.

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NECC is Over; Just as My Two Worlds Came Crashing Together.


Two Worlds Colliding... an Asteroid... Whatever...If you are not an avid reader of this blog (like there are any), this entry may make more sense if you first read TRAVEL DOES STINK, BUT ALAN NOVEMBER WAS GREAT and FAMOUS PEOPLE READ THIS BLOG. OR MORE LIKELY; HE LOST A BET.

Please keep in mind that I said it may make more sense. I wouldn’t get your hopes up that any of them make complete sense.

The National Education Computing Conference, which I sort of attended, has now concluded. Our time in San Antonio, Texas has come to an end.

And I almost made it out of town before something bad happened. Almost is the operative word here.

It was a good trip other than one terribly awkward incident.

We enjoyed the city, Sea World, the zoo, the movies, the Riverwalk, and our 27 trips to and by The Alamo/Mall. Oh, I nearly forgot. The conference was great (so I have been told).

It was an enjoyable few days. The chance to visit a new city and not be at work is always appreciated.

Things were going smoothly until my two worlds clashed.

Note to self (and everyone): always, and I mean always, keep your worlds separate. This means work from home life; spouse’s family from yours; old prison friends from your kids; and especially your wife from the man who claims not to be your father.

Sadly, I was unable to do this.

You see, my wife decided it would be a good idea to walk right up to Mr. Alan November and introduce herself to the man who claims not to be my father.

She did this right before a presentation by Mr. November (as you can see, I still refuse to call him “Dad”). In the past, I have highly recommended that she (and everyone) attend one of his sessions on technology.

But, I had no idea she would make it personal.

She walked right up to him and said (and I am paraphrasing), “I am your daughter-in-law. Are you rich?” (Note from wife…I did not say that!).

Note from me: it was implied.

When she told me this story, I was mortified.

Not with her asking him if he is rich because that is a given (good speakers don’t come cheap).

It was more the fact that she made contact with a man who refuses to accept the responsibility that comes with being a parent.

Sure, he “claims” he was in junior high when I was conceived and that he has never met my mother. In addition to this web of lies, he says he was several states away in 1967 (like his 7th grade report card won’t tell a different story… your permanent record always contains a detailed list of unexcused absences).

Of course, he continues to deny any responsibility, but I am still waiting on the tests to come back from the lab.

I see this all of the time at school, especially with young men. They struggle when their fathers won’t step up and take responsibility. With proper guidance, some will put their shattered lives back together.

But worst case, they end up like me. Spending their free time writing slightly angry and incoherent blogs.

It’s sad.

The good news out of this most tragic situation is that my wife and mother-in-law thoroughly enjoyed his presentation. They said it was the best one at the entire conference.

They should know because they went to roughly 167 different ones over the course of 3 days (they are overachievers).

You would think they would be everything Mr. November would want out of a second family, but I guess not.

He was kind enough to take a picture with my wife and record a message for me on her camera.

Unfortunately, I can’t show their faces or share what he said in the message because of the possibility that this may become evidence in a future court case (the legal department at PrincipalsPage.com is top notch… especially for what I pay them).

But until then, I am going to take the high road and thank Mr. November for the excellent presentation (so I heard… I was at Sea World trying to get my daughter’s life on the right track).

I would also like to thank him for taking the time to visit with his daughter-in-law (or alleged daughter-in-law… depends which side of the courtroom you are sitting).

Although it is a shame he hasn’t met his granddaughter (next time you visit a theme park where fish are doing tricks, Mr. November, just think that it could be her training them… or more likely she was the cab driver who got you there).

I also appreciate the fact that he hasn’t filed the paperwork for that restraining order (as of yet).

Maybe one day, he and I can meet and put this ugliness behind us.

Let’s just hope it is at a technology conference and not in front of a judge.

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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.