Santa’s Cover Seems to be Safe on the 2nd Grade Playground.

As I head into the holiday season, I ask myself one question.

No, it isn’t “Will I survive?” And no it isn’t “When can I pull the trigger on the first of what is sure to be many snow days” (by the way the correct answers are Probably and Soon).

It is the age old question, “Will Santa Claus be stopping by our house on Christmas Eve?”Undercover Santa.

Sure, we will have a tree, decorations, presents, and even possibly holiday cheer (depending on how the rest of 1st semester goes at school).

But will Santa show up?

I really want to know, because if there is one thing I hate it is the unexpected drop-in.

If we are going to have a guest, there are several items that need to be addressed.

Do we need to make cookies?

Buy some milk?

Should we straighten up the house?

Will Dad freeze to death making… I mean looking for reindeer tracks in the yard at roughly 1:00 am?

The little kid who lives with us hasn’t said anything to the contrary. She hasn’t even hinted that he might not be coming this year.

Last year I was sure she would say something. I expected some sort of indication on the subject in the last 12 months.

I really expected it to come out of the blue when I was least expecting it. I tried to prepare myself, but I knew I would still be woefully underprepared when it happened.

Yet, nothing. No questions. No comments. No asking to Google Santa’s whereabouts.

Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

I’m shocked. If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am now (my first and surely not the last holiday reference to the great Clark Griswold).

Don’t 2nd graders talk? Gossip? Surely they swap stories on the playground.

Isn’t there at least one 7 year old with an angry junior high brother who wants to ruin the season for them?

Is there a chance our family could go another year? Maybe even forever?

Maybe it is more complicated than I realize.

Does she know, but doesn’t want to disappoint her parents?

Has she gotten the news on the street, but doesn’t want to believe it?

Is she waiting for me to say something?

So many questions and so few answers.

As you can tell, like always, I am confused.

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A Pretty Girl Asked Me Out for Corn Dogs.

One of the Best Dates I've Ever Had.As I sit here on the day after Thanksgiving, I have a couple of thoughts.

One is that I need a bigger chair.

The second is that last piece of pumpkin pie was a bad idea. I feel like a bloated rotting hog that has been lying out in the sun for too long.

Too graphic? Sorry. I get cranky when I am too fat to fit in the shower.

Honestly, I am one more scoop of mashed potatoes away from needing a hand rail to successfully bathe.


Because I am going to have to sit down in the shower while the water pours over my humungous carcass (take away the c-a-r-c….). Eventually I am going to have to stand up.

It would be inappropriate to call 911, so the hand rail is a must.

I really need a glass of water and a small salad. A really small salad. And do they make diet water?

Why do I overeat on Thanksgiving? I know it is going to happen, yet my self-control fails me.

I am pathetic. And uncomfortable.

It got so bad that loosening my pants didn’t solve the problem. I was thinking long and hard about just taking them completely off (yet another reason to always wear clean underwear kids).

If I never eat again it will be too soon.

This got me thinking about the last meal I enjoyed when I still weighed less than a Ford Focus (you are welcome for the gratuitous plug Ford… I am doing my part to save the auto industry).

On Wednesday, I didn’t have school but my wife and daughter did.

There are some advantages to working in a different district than the rest of the family.

One, my daughter doesn’t have to hear my name used as a curse word on the playground.

Another is she can invite me to eat lunch with her when I have a day off.

At this point in her life she considers this fun. And so do I.

You would think that eating another school cafeteria corn dog would be the last thing I want to do on a day off, but in this case it is an honor and a privilege.

And one that won’t last forever.

I don’t know how much longer I have, but I am trying to milk it for all its worth before I get banned to Daddy Dork Land.

It’s coming. It’s just a matter of time. I can feel it.

Sure my corny jokes play well to a 2nd grade audience, but in a few years she will have to disown me.

I can’t blame her. She can’t afford to risk her social status by letting me show up at her middle school for lunch.

By then my best hope is she doesn’t tell her friends that her father was killed in a horrific coal mining accident. Or worse, she tells them she is a test tube baby (again, I apologize about the graphic nature of this particular blog… I am not myself as gravy courses through my veins).

I can live with dropping her off two blocks from school each morning, but I don’t want her to have to fake my death. Or lie about her conception.

Anyway, she let me eat with her and I even got a special bonus.

Yes, I was a proud recipient of a very public kiss and hug (I can feel these slipping away…).

So while I have been on lots of hot dates (not really), I think I will always remember when a pretty girl asked me out for corn dogs on a special lunch date.

And I might add. Pineapple, corn, and my choice of white or chocolate milk.

I felt like a prince.

Soon, I will be the frog.

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As God as my Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly.

Thanksgiving has arrived.

This is my effort at writing the annual Thanksgiving themed blog (and of course by annual, I mean just this once).

The title of the blog comes from one of my favorite episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati (it was good to be raised by the television). If you haven’t seen it, you should. Note to Self:  Turkeys Can't Fly.

The short version of the story is the radio station gives away turkeys by throwing them out of a helicopter. Needless to say, they plummeted to their deaths.

As we head towards the holiday season, I continue to be perplexed on how time flies by so quickly (especially on weekends). I think the only way to get the world to slow down is have the principal place the worst kid in school in your class.

Then time stops.

If fact, time may actually go backwards depending on the student in question’s level of obnoxiousness.

And by student I mean future felon. Why is it teachers always think the worst kid in school is going to end up in prison? They can’t all end up doing hard time.

But that is a discussion for another blog. Back to the time issue.

My memory isn’t what it used to be, but the last thing I knew it was August 10th.

Summer was winding down and we were getting ready for the start of school. It’s easy to remember the date because each summer there is a certain sense of dread that overcomes me right around that time.

As usual, school began, then I glanced up and we were dismissing early on the day before Thanksgiving break.

Yet another school year is flying by. This always happens, but this year seems to be moving at an unusually fast pace.

Maybe it is my advancing age.

This little fun fact was pointed out to me the other day when a junior high student asked me if I would still be working at the school when he graduated from high school.

I said sure. As far as I know, I am not planning on leaving (unless of course you have heard something, and in that case please email me).

He responded by saying no, he meant would I retire before he graduated?

I am 41.

Or in junior high years… evidently 107.

Whatever. One day, if all goes well, he will need me to sign his diploma. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t.

But I don’t want to get bogged down with the challenges of trying to evade the Grim Reaper in the hallway.

It is the holiday season and I think it is important to stop and take a moment (and maybe a nap) to recognize the things I am thankful for.

Here is my list (feel free to add your own):

Summers off
No school on Saturdays (unless you are bad)
Early dismissal on the day before a holiday break
Food in the lounge
The fact that teachers can’t smoke in the lounge
Juniors and Seniors (mainly, because the students in question are no longer Freshman or Sophomores)
Copy machines
Graduation (see: Seniors)
NCLB (before this, what did we complain… I mean talk… about? The lounge must have been awfully quiet in those days)
Kindergarten students and their tiny little desks and chairs
Free t-shirts (coaches and ex-coaches never grow tired of getting the free t-shirts), Recess
Snow days (the occasional one, not too many)
Lunch (particularly corn dogs or chili)
A paycheck/job (in these times we all need to be appreciative)
And technology of any kind

There you have it. Everything that I am thankful for.

Oh yeah. And students, teachers, staff, and families.

And the fact that certain students give me at least a 50/50 chance of living until their graduation… which may happen in 5 years (I haven’t decided if I will let them or not).

Which are better odds than I would give a turkey to seeing Friday.

At least I have that going for me.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

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You Can’t Just Hand a Microphone to Anybody.

I spent my weekend at a convention. Actually, I shouldn’t use the word weekend because that implies restful time away from my job.

But all is not lost as Thanksgiving Break is right around the corner. And I might add that it comes at a perfect time.

It was a stroke of genius when our early settlers decided that schools needed to take time off in late November.Not the Microphone from School... but This One is Pretty Cool.

As a kid, I had no idea that the Pilgrims were so well-versed on the academic calendar. I thought they were simply people who looked good in hats, enjoyed big meals, and loved their football (and by football, I don’t mean the Detroit Lions).

While I am tired, I did learn a few things at the convention.

I learned that I miss my bed, refrigerator, and shower.

In the past I have talked about the horrors of hotels, so I won’t bore you with the details of sleeping in a bed that has previously been “occupied” by thousands of strangers (I am sure some were more strange than others, but I try not to focus on that little tidbit of information).

But missing my refrigerator and shower are different. These are issues that need to be addressed.

I mean I really missed them.

It amazes me that people can eat out all the time. After a couple of days, I find myself just wanting an apple or a sandwich. Or 27 Oreos, but that discussion is for a different day.

Also, the showers in hotel rooms continue to be a riddle to me. Why do they always run out of hot water? Don’t hotels realize a large number of guests will be bathing between 6:00 and 8:00 a.m.?

It is like they are surprised. Like we snuck up on them. They must know we are all going to wake up at some point and wander into the bathroom.

But, these are minor inconveniences as I attended the convention to learn. Specifically, I was hopeful to pick up some new information about technology for my school.

It didn’t happen, but I feel like I did my part. I showed up. Which for a lot of convention attendees seems to be a challenge.

Educators always say they want to go to conventions and then once they arrive they work so hard at not attending workshops. Why is that?

Maybe they should hold these events in North Dakota instead of nicer places (let the emails from North Dakota commence…).

Actually, I wish the presenters had showed up.

Actually, that is a little harsh. They were there and they did their best.

It’s just that they presented the same information I have heard over and over for the last few years.

Our students are farther advanced in technology than adults. Educators should allow cell phones in schools because they are mini-computers. We should use Skype because it is free (we do and yes it is). Schools need to be proactive, not reactive to changes in technology.

I get it.

Enough already.

I need tips or strategies to implement technology and not the same old rehashed PowerPoint presentation with 187 slides (by the way… I can read, so you don’t have to pronounce every word on every single slide for me).

If I seem angry that is because I am (see: not sleeping in own bed and haven’t had a decent cookie in days not to mention the dodging of so many PowerPoint bullets).

I know we are falling behind with technology in schools, but now I am convinced we may be falling behind in presenters.

Just because someone is willing to talk into a microphone doesn’t mean we should allow them (see: President George Bush… let the emails from North Dakota Republicans commence…).

Not everyone talking into a microphone is an expert.

Point in case: a new principal handing the mic to a sophomore on the football team during a prep rally. Bad idea.

Really bad idea.

I would like to comment further on this, but once again a court order prevents me.

Same goes for presenters. We need to be more careful as to whom we allow to use the microphone.

Just because someone has a snappy title for the presentation, doesn’t mean their information is timely and high quality.

Could it be possible they are just there to pad their resumes? Which for the record, I am all for… just not on my time (note to self… update resume on someone else’s time).

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for their efforts because I am sure they spent a great deal of time putting their PowerPoint together (after all 187 slides just don’t just write themselves… especially if each one has 97 words in a really small font…did I mention the bullets?).

Plus, they had to spend several minutes downloading the “Did You Know” video off of YouTube.

Great video, but is there anyone involved in education who hasn’t seen it? And by seen it, I mean at least 10 times.

I think we have to be more particular to whom we listen regarding issues in education.

If we aren’t careful, soon everyone will have a platform. People will be just throwing out ideas with no rhyme or reason.

Trust me, this could get bad.

The government will start coming up with half thought ideas about testing, administrators will begin to think that their every thought is ingenious, and maybe… just maybe people will start up their own blogs just to shove their ideas down our throats.

These people will believe they are experts just because they have an audience.

I am not sure I like where this is heading.

But oh well, I have problems of my own.

I have a blog to finish, then I need to wrap up a PowerPoint.

Only 186 slides to go.

I am thinking about using lots of clip art, hundreds of bullets, and a bunch of transition sounds.

Wait a second.

It just occurred to me. I’m an expert.

I may need business cards and a manager.

And of course, I am going to need a microphone.

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Everyone Has a Price. When it Comes to Tenure, What’s Yours?

I was reading an article in the New York Times about Michelle Rhee, the Chancellor of Washington D.C. public schools who has a dramatic idea on how to improve education.

She wants teachers to give up tenure. And earn more money.

Actually it is a little more complicated than that. Here is the link.What's Your Price?

To quote Ms. Rhee, “Tenure is the holy grail of teacher unions, but has no educational value for kids; it only benefits adults”.

The Washington Teacher’s Union has been hesitant to take her up on the proposal.

This blog isn’t about whether tenure is good or bad, but the amount it would take for you to give it up.

So would you?

Give up tenure? For a price?

And what is your price?

Don’t kid yourself, everyone has one. Mine is $2,000. Not a penny less. Alright, who am I kidding? $45. But that is my final offer.

You add that onto my salary each year and I will take my chances.

This may sound foolish, but in these tough economic times I think most people might settle for less than you think.

I would be interested if given this opportunity, but is there anyone else? And what amount would it take for you to roll the dice and work without tenure?

This may not be for everyone, but is it for you?

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Change. Maybe It’s Not Such a Bad Idea After All.

General Eric Shinseki.From our friend Angie.

Here is my favorite change quote of all time:

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

-Gen. Eric Shinseki

I have got to figure out a way to work this one into conversation.

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Sammy the Snake Slid Silently Down the Seashore.

My Friend... Sammy the Snake.As students work their way through school, they must take many important classes.

An argument can be made that any one of the following are the most enlightening: Math, English, Science, the Fine Arts, Physical Education, Drivers Ed., or a Vocational class.

The list is almost endless.

I am hesitant to leave out other classes because there are so many that are vital to a well-rounded education.

Kindergarten is one. If you are in my age bracket it may have been offered for only half a day. In my case, you attended in the AM or PM, depending on what side of the tracks you lived.

I got started by going to the early morning version. My first experience in growing up on the wrong side of the tracks.

Just to be fair, they switched us after Christmas break (back in the old days we could still call it Christmas break).

Personally, my choice for the most important class isn’t that difficult.

At least it’s easy today; 35 years after the fact. As with so many things in life, I had no idea at the time that it was important.

The class was Speech (thankfully, recess and lunch don’t qualify as classes because this would have made my decision much more difficult). And I am not talking about the kind of speech class where I demonstrated how to bake brownies (they were both a huge hit and delicious).

I can’t remember exactly when I started Speech class or how long they made me go (by they, I mean evil administrators).

My best recollection is that it began in 1st grade and I had to attend for roughly 27.4 years.

At least it seemed that long. Could have been longer, but it’s hard to tell (I have slept since then).

You see, I hated Speech class.

Actually, hate is too strong of word. Actually, it isn’t. I hated it.

Not because of the teacher, loved her.

Not because of the work. I liked the challenge of saying my S’s correctly (hence, Sammy the Snake Slid Silently down the Seashore… aah, I remember it like it was yesterday).

It was the circumstances that I hated. Mostly, because they pulled me out of class at least twice a week.

I dreaded leaving class, not because other students made fun of me (they probably did, I just have a “selective” memory and again, I am a big sleeper), but because I missed coloring.

Yes, my one clear memory of Speech is that I got yanked out of class and everyone else fired up their crayons.

Seems like a small thing, but nonetheless quite painful for me.

In a way, I feel like part of my youth was taken away (okay, maybe a little dramatic… but you only get to color for a very short period of your life).

My appreciation for Speech came years later. After I had conquered my S’s (sort of… it’s still a daily battle) and a slight stuttering problem (although oddly enough, I never stuttered while on the phone).

Now, all that is left are my memories of Speech. And an inability to color inside the lines.

Every so often, I think about my time spent in Speech class.

Usually the memories are good ones. I am appreciative of the skills I learned when I have to talk in front of a large group of people. And I am also thankful that I am now in a position to recommend students for speech services. This comes in handy when I run into a 1st grader whom I can’t understand.

But most of all, I think about those years of speech when I walk by a classroom and see students who are incredibly happy because they are…. coloring. And this makes me jealous.

But then I remember Sammy the Snake. And Mrs. Davis my Speech Teacher.

I guess the lesson here is that sometimes you just don’t realize the importance of a class or a teacher until later in life.

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Change. Sounds Like a Great Idea, for You.

Alright, So Not All Change Works Out.The word “change” has been front and center in the 2008 Presidential campaign. I am guesstimating that is was used about every 3 seconds.

Senator McCain and President-elect Obama both used the word on a daily basis. By the way, I am already growing weary of the “President-elect” phrase.

They said it and the news media repeated it. And repeated it. And repeated it again. And again (you get the point).

I heard the word change at least 48,307 times in the last month (I am a very good with numbers).

Oh, how I will miss those campaign commercials where I was told change is coming. I can hardly wait for this monumental change to take place.

I am giddy with anticipation. This may be more exciting than a snow day.

Change is a good thing. Possibly a great thing.

Isn’t it?

I hear people talk about change on a daily basis. It seems to be a hot topic at school (along with what’s for lunch and how many days until the next long weekend).

As educators, we want change. After all, we are teaching the leaders of the future. It is in our DNA to focus on the future.

Each day, we look the status qou in the eye and demand that it changes.

In our minds, everyone should change. Students, parents, school boards, and the federal government.

Evidently, we not only like change, we love it. It is the cornerstone of the educational process.


Except when the big bony finger of change is pointed in our direction.

We don’t necessarily like that.

Things are going pretty well. Especially in my classroom. Or in my office.

In these cases, let’s just leave well enough alone.

Change is a beautiful thing, as long as it happens down the hall.

As you can see, I am torn.

In an effort to change this attitude (get it?), I have decided to share some of my favorite quotes on change.

I would also like you to know why they don’t apply to me.

Change is inevitable. Progress is optional. – Anonymous

My retirement is also inevitable. If we could hold off on this change stuff for about 18 years, I would really appreciate it.

When you’re finished changing, you’re finished. – Benjamin Franklin

If I make wholesale changes this school year, what will I do for the last 17 years of my career?

We must become the change we wish to see in the world. – Mahatma Gandhi

I hate to argue with Gandhi, so let’s leave this one alone.

Do, or do not. There is no try. – Yoda

If Yoda can’t guarantee that the change will be immediately successful, I am not interested.

I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better. – George C. Lichtenberg

If I don’t buy into Yoda’s theory, I am certainly not going to listen to some German scientist (by the way, who is this guy?).

You can judge your age by the amount of pain you feel when you come in contact with a new idea. – Pearl S. Buck

Thank you for making my point Mrs. Buck. I am too old to change (see my impending retirement).

Actually, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I am mocking the fact that change is painful to many of us.

As an administrator, I believe one of the major parts of my job is convincing people that change is a good thing.

Sometimes what is best for our students makes us just a little uncomfortable.

This leads me to my last two quotes about change. These may be the most important quotes that you read in the next 30 seconds.

I am thinking about having these carved into my desk (but it is a metal desk so that would just be weird… and noisy).

If you want to make enemies, try to change something. – Woodrow Wilson

And even more importantly…

Change is inevitable, except from vending machines. – Unknown

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Which Grade Should You Teach? I Can Help.

Hmmm.... Which Grade Should I Teach?As I travel this great country of ours (back and forth to work), the question I am asked most often is… “How do I know which grade level I should teach?”

Future educators seem to be confused by the differences in kids at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels.

This is understandable because each grade comes with its own set of strange and fascinating creatures. And when I insinuate students are strange and fascinating, I mean they are strange and fascinating.

The answer to the “Which grade should I teach?” question is, of course, quite simple.

If you are confused, check the nearest restroom (pick the right one, and if you don’t, please keep my name out of it).

You read correctly. The secret of choosing the teaching position is to walk into any school and head straight to the bathroom.

That is where you will find the answer to your career questions.

Other stuff is also kept in there, so ignore that if possible. If you can’t, call a janitor.

When you arrive, wash your hands then ask yourself “What kind of restroom troubles do I want for the next 30 years?”

If you want a restroom in your classroom, teach kindergarten or 1st grade.

If you want to yell at goofy boys for doing goofy things in the restroom, teach 2nd thru 5th grade.

If you like general weirdness, in the vicinity of a restroom, focus on teaching junior high or middle school students.

If you are interested in discovering why there is smoke coming out of the restroom, focus on high school.

So there you have it. Answers to career questions can be found in a stall near you.

Now that I have cleared up this mystery, I can focus on the other question that I am asked almost every day.

“Where’s the restroom?”

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I Hope You Voted.

Most readers (which now number in the almost a lot) of the Blog seem to work in or around education.

As educators (or in the vicinity of education), I think we have a responsibility to vote. I could make the case that we have the right not to vote, but this election was too important to sit on the sidelines and watch.

History was being made and we had the opportunity to be a small part of it.Vote.  It's a Privilege.

If you are a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent… I hope you voted.

Now, time will tell if we made the right choice.

And if we didn’t, we will have the chance to vote again in 2012.

This is a great country.

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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.