Why a Bad Economy will be Good for Schools.


This Poor Guy Has Nothing... but a Bad Suit and Tie.I am guessing this isn’t going to be one of my most popular blog titles.

While many people may think I am crazy, I really think a bad economy can be a positive thing for schools.

How is this possible?

Innovation comes during difficult times. There is really no point in being innovative when things are going well.

In the months and maybe even the years ahead, school districts will need to be innovative to survive (I refuse to use the phrase “think outside the box” and anyone who does should be sent to an island to live out the rest of their sad lives).

As educators we have an unending thirst for money (much like a junior high boy at lunch… never happy with the portions).

We want the local community to give us more.

We want the state to give us more.

We want the federal government to gives us more.

More, more, more.

While I will be the first one in line to say schools could use more money, I wonder how much is enough?

It is not vastly different than elementary teachers who horde construction paper (don’t deny it… you know you do).

Is there a magic amount that would satisfy us? I wish there were, but I doubt it exists.

As educators we can be hard to satisfy (don’t deny this either). It’s like a 3rd grader with a 15 minute recess. They always say the time passes too quickly. I think they would say the same thing if recess lasted 4 hours.

If the government tripled the money they gave us, I have a feeling we would still want 5% more (and I am being gracious, it would be way more than 5%).

There is no doubt that money helps in education, but I don’t think it’s everything.

If you gave me the choice of having more money or being surrounded by people who were innovative, I would take the people.

The challenge…innovation isn’t easy. If it was, everybody would be coming up with new and unique ideas to help students.

In every aspect of life the most successful people are those who are good at Plan B.

And that is what schools are going to need in this economy.

A good Plan B. And possibly a Plan C and D (notice, I didn’t go with Plan F… because that is never a good idea in school).

I am willing to bet by the time the economy picks up, schools will have also improved.

And while less money doesn’t make schools happy, it may just make us better.

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There is Going to be a New Man in the House. Well, Almost a Man.


It’s official.

My daughter’s 8th birthday dream has come true. Her dream…a dog.pp-blog-web-ashton

Not clothes, or a new bike, or even a vacation to Disneyland in Orlando… or Disneyworld… I can’t remember which is which.

Of course, this is her dream, not ours.

Her mom and I have lived through the dog stage(s) in our lives and now enjoy the freedom that comes with not having a dog.

Our only child doesn’t seem to understand these freedoms.

Kids these days.

My dreams are simpler. Like more naps. Or more time to nap.

She seems to think that she has her whole life ahead of her and wants to experience different things (including smooching on a dog).

I am happy to help provide her with these things; I just need to know if I will be able to work in a nap before, or at least after these experiences.

My daughter is very patient, but she wants a dog. And she wants it now.

Me. I want her to have a dog, but when it’s warmer outside. And soccer and softball are over. And as soon as we have finished our vacation.

And when she has graduated college and lives in her own home.

After much discussion, she got her way. I am starting to see a pattern in our discussions, but that is another blog.

She says she deserves a dog, because she is an only child. I have offered to get her a brother and a sister, but she doesn’t want them touching her stuff.

Evidently, she prefers a dog laying, slobbering, and shedding on her stuff.

She also wants a dog that will watch TV with her, walk her to church, and lay on the driveway while she shoots baskets.

Oh, I about forgot. She really wants a dog that will lie beside her bed when she is sick.

She doesn’t want her mom or dad when she isn’t feeling well, she prefers a 4 legged beast with big ears and questionable hygiene habits.

After searching (and procrastinating) for several months, we have finally found our new family member.

And when I say family member, I really mean new King of the Household.

I think we have made a good choice. We debated on saving a dog from the pound, which we have done in the past, or buying from a registered breeder.

Turns out we got the best of both worlds.

We found a year and a half old beagle through a breeder. He needs a home because while he was a show dog, he outgrew that job, literally.

So to go along with my unemployed daughter, I now have an unemployed dog.

Little does he know that he has hit the doggy lottery.

He is leaving a kennel of 40 hard-working show dogs to move in with us. He will now spend his days watching Nickelodeon, eating treats, and getting his belly rubbed.

This is one lucky boy. He is about to live the life I used to have.

The only downside for him (there are lots of downsides for me) he has to visit the vet before he can move in with us.

For the “procedure”.

Yes, that procedure.

The vet is going to rip his manhood away from him.

As a guy, I feel badly for him. Not the best way for us to start our relationship, but I can’t have him spreading his manliness all over the neighborhood.

So in 2 weeks, the new man of the house will be here. Well, part of a man.

And I will be moving down the family pecking order. That’s the bad news.

The good news… MY manhood is still fully intact.

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People Want a Boss.


It is definitely that time of year. And not just for resumes and countdowns (spring break and end of the year).

Schools districts are in the process of hiring administrators for next year.

More people will be joining me in this challenging profession (notice I didn’t say “foolish” people… although you can assume it’s implied).

In a matter of months, they will be neck deep in troubles.

The problems they will face are tough, but manageable. Especially, if they have an idea about what they are getting into.

Being in charge of anything makes you tired. Being in charge of kids makes you really tired.

Being in charge of adults makes you borderline stupid.

But someone has to do it. mean_boss2

When you are in charge, you quickly learn the tricks of the trade or you get steamrolled. And unemployed.

Once hired, people will expect you to make decisions. No one likes wishy-washy. You will never hear a staff member say “I wish my (principal, assistant principals, dean, superintendent, etc.) was more wishy-washy.”

People want those in charge to be decisive. While people hate being told what to do, they hate not being told worse.

Now this doesn’t mean they will approve of your decisions. In fact, some people will take a great deal of pleasure in pointing out your mistakes (and trust me, you will make hundreds… if things go well and you aren’t in the profession very long).

That is okay, as mistakes and second guessing are part of the job.

If you are hired to lead, you need to do it or get out of the way.

When placed in command – take charge. -Norman Schwarzkopf

While staff members may criticize your bad decisions, they will be even more critical if you don’t make decisions (in the profession we call that “smelling blood”… and by we, I mean me).

Since this is a lose-lose proposition for you, make well-informed decisions and hope for the best (and by hope I mean pray and call your lawyer… not necessarily in that order).

Others may point out your faults, but deep down they don’t want to be in charge. If being in charge was easy, everyone would do it.

People will always offer advice on the easy situations, but when things get difficult you are on your own.

While opinions are a dime a dozen, solutions are much harder to find.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for help. Just make sure you involve people with knowledge of the situation. And those people want the situation to improve.

Please don’t force people to be on a committee. No one likes a committee. And if they do, that just shows the quality of their judgement so consequently you don’t want them on a committee.

It’s a vicious circle.

And if you force people to serve, they won’t be happy. Or productive. And then what have you accomplished.

You have angered people and you end up with a watered down idea.

To get something done a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are absent. – Robert Copeland

You will also learn that as a school administrator you are no longer a teacher.

I picked up on this when I noticed the sign on the Teacher’s Lounge didn’t say Teacher’s/Administrator’s Lounge.

You are no longer in the group; you are responsible for the group. The trick is remaining available and approachable to all employees, but not getting too close to some or all.

A good leader is part of the group, but not in the group.

Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them. -John Maxwell

I believe that people want to be led. They just don’t want to be bossed. Having a boss and being bossed are two different scenarios.

Employees have opinions and like to share their thoughts. Especially on decisions that affect them. And this is a good thing.

Most good leaders will tell you that some, if not all, of their best ideas came from other people.

Give an invested person a problem and it is highly likely they will come up with a solution.

If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results. – George S. Patton

Another challenge is leading people to change. Just a heads up… people don’t like change. At least at first.

People like change when it is over. But only after it has become the new norm.

Employees have put time and effort into the status qou. Things just didn’t accidently become like they are. Someone worked towards it.

So when you ask those same people to change, their first reaction is often “This will never work”

They usually don’t have a reason why it won’t work. Unless you count “Because” as a reason.

A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be. -Rosalynn Carter

Most people react to change better than they think they will. Too often, they don’t give themselves enough credit on their ability to adjust.

And the older we get, the more of a challenge it seems to be (I am well on my way to reaching my goal of being an angry old man who is stuck in his ways).

People underestimate their capacity for change. There is never a right time to do a difficult thing. A leader’s job is to help people have vision of their potential. -John Porter

You can lead people to change if you give them several things. Fair warning, time to adjust, direction, and support are all important.

But there is one thing that is more important.

Hope.

The people involved have to be told (usually over and over) that everything is going to be fine. We can survive this and we (and students) will be better off for it.

Hope is free. Feel free to spread it around.

A leader is a dealer in hope. -Napoleon Bonaparte

If you want to be successful, this is the best advice I can share.

Don’t be afraid to look stupid (it’s going to happen, so don’t fight it).

Surround yourself with good people. Don’t feel threatened if you aren’t the smartest person in the room.

Take this as a blessing, not a threat.

The ultimate leader is one who is willing to develop people to the point that they surpass him or her in knowledge and ability. – Fred A. Manske, Jr.

Like with most things in life, leadership isn’t overly complicated.

Keep things simple.

In summary, my 4 Keys to LEAD.

Listen more than you talk.

Encourage more than you dictate.

Anticipate more than you react.

Don’t be the smartest person in the room.

Lastly, keep in mind that I have no idea what I am talking about. This advice, says my lawyer, should not be taken for anything more than it is… rambling incoherent thoughts of an administrator who is not getting enough sleep. I am just like everyone working in a classroom or a school… wondering if my spring break will ever get here.

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It’s the New PrincipalsPage.com Blog. Improved? I’ll Let You Decide.


ppc-newversionIf you are a frequent visitor of this blog, you have probably noticed that it has been redesigned (you are also a person who has way too much free time on your hands and may want to consider a hobby).

After a couple of months of working with cartoonists and web designers, the new and probably not improved blog is ready to go.

Sadly, a fancy new blog design doesn’t make my writing better or my thoughts any more coherent (and yes, that is actually me in the cartoon… well, actually it is a cartoon version of me… which means it’s more handsome).

The blog 1.0 version served me well for over two years, but I felt it was time to give it an updated and cleaner look.

Welcome to PrincipalsPage.com The Blog 2.0.

Since it involved technology, I learned a lot going through this process. Being a middle-aged school administrator isn’t as easy as it looks. Computer and website stuff can be confusing to those of us who aren’t 14 years old.

Hiring people to work on this project (I prefer project vs. very small unimportant job) proved to be a challenge. Not angering them proved to be even harder.

Artists. So sensitive when you tell them how to do their jobs.

It’s like they have never been bossed around by someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about before (I bet the cartoon version of me is way nicer than the real me).

I may still end up in couples counseling with my cartoonist.

But at least he was trustworthy.

When I started looking for a designer, I received estimates from $185 to $3500. Crazy. I had no idea what it should cost. Even worse, I had no clue who I could trust.

Luckily, I found an ex-Marine who went to art school (and ladies… you thought all the good ones were gone).

Paying for the redesign was probably not the brightest thing to do. Especially, when you consider how much revenue this blog and the www.PrincipalsPage.com website produce.

Counting a very successful last quarter, I have officially taken in zero dollars.

This does not make my cheap wife happy (and by cheap I mean frugal… and yes, that is her in the snazzy cartoon pants suit… and yes, she is too good for me in real life and cartoon life).

I have invested over two years in this website/blog and it has given me nothing. Not a dime. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Not even so much as a thank you.

My daughter has made more money on her birthday. And at Christmas. And Easter. And Groundhog’s Day. And generally, any time a grandparent is within 5 miles (and of course, that is her in the cartoon… and our soon to be new family pet… Buddy).

I shouldn’t complain because I did get a free shirt once. And who doesn’t love a free shirt (and if you want to send one, please click on the new contact tab for ways to get in touch with me).

The point of the blog/website was never to make money. It was to provide resources to school administrators.

I think it has accomplished that. At least once or twice.

So money isn’t everything.

Plus, if I get into a financial jam I can always sell that free shirt for at least $11. At least I have that going for me.

But back to the redesign. The blog has outgrown me.

In the beginning, I had no idea people would read it. Or comment on it. Or quote it.

If I had known this, I don’t think I would have been brave (or foolish) enough to write it.

It has now grown to the point where I feel like I’m its caretaker. And because of this, I felt obligated to update it and keep it current.

So here it is.

The brand new PrincipalsPage the Blog.

Thanks for visiting and please let me know what you like, or don’t like about the new design. You can be honest, just don’t be mean. Because if you’re mean, I probably won’t be allowed to play with you anymore.

A side note… sorry ladies… blog designer says he is taken and has been for 14 wonderful years and has two strapping young boys to show for it.

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My Cartoon Guy Hates Me.


My Cartoon Guy.

My Cartoon Guy.

I have a problem. Actually, I am pretty sure I have lots of problems but I can only tackle 17 at any given time (it’s good to be an administrator).

My focus right now is that I have a cartoon guy.

You might be asking yourself what adult has a cartoon guy.

I do. And don’t kid yourself; you are jealous.

Or more likely you may think I am odd. Get in line. But as a school administrator I must tell you, when you are in line I expect you to be quiet and keep your hands to yourself (which is a challenge in the springtime… especially for boys).

I can prove that having a cartoon guy doesn’t make me odd. Let the record show that I was odd way before the cartoon guy came into my life.

My problem isn’t that I have a cartoon guy, but the fact that I may have inadvertently angered the cartoon guy.

While this sounds bad, I consider it progress.

When I was younger and angered/annoyed/bothered people, I usually didn’t even notice.

Now that I am older and wiser, I realize when I have angered/annoyed/bothered people, so I think that is a real sign of maturity.

Although, having a cartoon guy may be a big step backwards.

The bigger problem is this time I may have upset the wrong person.

In an effort to redesign this blog, I had a brainstorm to make myself a cartoon. Sounded innocent. And it sounded different.

My thought was a cartoon header would give the blog a certain “fun” quality.

People were asking me what I look like. Now they will know. Except, it will be the cartoon me, which is way cooler than the real me.

Plus, as a kid I always thought it would be cool to be a cartoon. I also thought it would be cool to have my own action figure (not to be confused with a doll), but that is a blog for me to discuss with my psychiatrist.

I figured if the blog had a cartoon on it and the latest blog (don’t email me and say it’s a post… I know that, I just don’t care) stunk, at least the cartoon version of me would be there to cheer up total strangers.

Or give them something to mock. Either way it’s win-win for everyone.

So I hired a cartoonist.

That’s not as easy as it sounds. Finding a good cartoonist turned out to be a challenge. Finding a good one I could afford turned out to be an even bigger challenge.

Eventually, I found “the one”. A cartoonist who does portraits. Portraits are like caricatures, but without the huge ears and noses.

He was perfect. I on the other hand need work.

Everything was going well, but like most relationships it got complicated.

I first noticed this after emailing him about 47 times. My sixth sense told me that something just wasn’t right. The tip off was his response to my last email which gave him detailed instructions on how he could do a better job.

Turns out cartoonists work alone.

And they aren’t afraid to write a 3 page (single spaced) response to my emails.

I thought I was being helpful. He thought I was annoying.

To make sure I hadn’t done anything wrong, I asked for my wife’s opinion. She is the type of person who can quickly access a situation and tell me I’m right.

There was no doubt in my mind that she would have my back (it’s almost like we have our own little gang).

After hearing my side of the story and reading the cartoonist’s email manifesto, she contemplated for nearly a full second. Then she announced I was wrong.

She said I was an annoying dork and she was stunned cartoon guy had tolerated me for as long as he did.

As a school administrator with a keen ability to know when I have lost a battle, I concluded this particular one wasn’t going well.

For me.

If there was any sort of divorce in this situation, I had just received verbal notification my wife was going to be awarded custody of the cartoon guy.

This was bad.

I couldn’t have a new blog design without a cartoon. And I certainly didn’t want cartoon guy drawing me if he was angry.

I needed him to make me more handsome, not hideous.

At this point I realized you don’t ever want to cross a cartoonist. Can you imagine the shear amount of graffiti he could produce? My name (and unflattering caricature) could be scribbled on bathroom walls across the country.

Even worse, he may have access to spray paint. That would not be good.

The lesson here is a simple one. I try to follow this in my professional life, but I obviously need some work on it in my blog life.

Hire good people. Give them some direction. And then get out of their way.

This blog was written with the permission of Mr. John Goodrich. A nice man and a great cartoonist. If you find yourself needing a cartoon guy, he is as good and patient as you will find. Please visit www.goodrichcartoonistry.com

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Interview Season.


interviewThe flood of unsolicited resumes is a telltale sign that interview season is upon us. And by us, I mean me.

Unless of course, you are unemployed. And if that it is the case, consider us in this together.

Filling a teaching position is sad, interesting, disappointing, and rewarding.

It’s sad and disappointing because you hate for your school district to lose good staff members. Although if other schools want to hire your teachers, that is a sign that you made a wise choice once upon a time.

If no one wants your teachers, that is what we in the education world call… bad.

Interviewing is interesting. Sometimes too interesting. It occasionally borders on scary.

As in, “it is scary that this person may be allowed to work with young people” or animals, or anything with a pulse.

The best part of conducting interviews is its ability to be a fulfilling experience.

Finding just the right person. Searching through the mountain of resumes to come up with that perfect candidate. Hiring someone for their very first job.

That is exciting.

There are a lot of upsides to interviews, even when it is sad that a good teacher is leaving.

But, as always, with the good comes the bad.

And the downside is the interviews themselves.

Talking to 5 or 10 or sometimes 20 people is tiring. Not tiring like a coal miner, but exhausting none the less.

It is even worse when the interviewee is bad.

That is why I have gone to the trouble to compile a list of 5 things not to do on an interview. Actually, it wasn’t that much trouble because all of these things are true. As far as you know.

In an ode to Casey Kasem, I will countdown backwards. Odds are, if you are being interviewed this spring, you don’t get the Casey Kasem countdown reference, but as always… this blog is written for my own amusement.

#5 Don’t Have Your Mom Drive You to the Interview and Wait in the Office.

I have seen this twice. You can’t make this stuff up.

Having your mom drive you to an interview is not a sign of love, convenience, or even supportive. It is sad and creepy.

Don’t do it, even if you have to walk to the interview.

#4 Don’t Dress Like a Hitchhiker.

You are interviewing at a school, not a 7-Eleven. It isn’t my problem if you have to go straight from the interview to your part-time job at the convenience store.

This is an interview where you are hoping to land a job that will pay thousands of dollars. Don’t show up looking like you are on your way to a frat party.

That doesn’t mean you have to wear a $1,200 suit, but it does mean you need to look as nice as possible.

It also means you need to take a shower and get a haircut. Covering your 18 tattoos that seemed like a good idea your freshman year is also recommended.

School administrators are hiring teachers, not prison guards (although from time to time, this job description can become blurry).

#3 Cruise the Internet for Something Appropriate for Once.

Schools have websites. Visit them.

I am not saying you need to memorize state test scores for the last decade, but you should know the principal’s name.

And the school size, and whether or not they have a football team, and what classes are offered.

College students spend an average of 107 hours per week on the internet (I made this up… and my guess is probably a little low), surely you can take 5 minutes to Google the school district.

Research goes hand in hand with having an intelligent question, or questions, to ask at the end of the interview.

Where is the lounge? … is not an intelligent question.

#2 Don’t Tell the Whole Truth.

The people who interview you want to get to know you. But, they don’t need to know everything.

I am not saying lie, but please remember I am not a psychiatrist or pastor.

Examples:

Don’t tell them your sad story about just breaking up with your boyfriend, girlfriend, or significant other (we are not here to judge).

Don’t say you really need this job because your credit cards are maxed out.

Don’t share that you are tired because you aren’t used to being up this early. And it’s 1:00 pm.

Don’t announce that you got your degree in education because it was “easy”.

Don’t say that in five years you hope to be on tenure, so you can get to school late and leave early.

Don’t ask if there will be a break halfway through the interview, so you can go outside to smoke.

#1 Be Yourself.

When I am asked for advice on interviewing, I am struck by 2 thoughts.

The first is why are you asking me? I have made a career on being “accidently successful”. But that is for another blog.

And two, interviewing isn’t brain surgery. The secret is to just be yourself.

Answer the questions honestly (not too honestly), be straightforward, and don’t try to fool the people conducting the interview.

Don’t try to give them the answer you think they want to hear. After all, you just met them and you have no idea what they want to hear.

They are trying to find a good fit for their school and for you.

If you aren’t yourself and then they hire you… eventually (in the two hours of employment) they are going to see the real you.

And they won’t like it because they hired the fake you.

You want to work at a school that wants and appreciates you. The only way to find that perfect job is to be yourself during the interview process.

And in case you missed it earlier, leave mom at home.

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Enough with the Resumes.


resume-papers-smaller-versionOnce again, it’s that special time of the year. It’s a good news/bad news situation.

First , the bad news.

My desk is covered with resumes.

What’s the good news? They aren’t mine (and as always, if you have heard something that would indicate I need to update my resume, please let me know ASAP).

The school year is coming to a close (settle down, summer is still a couple months away… and keep in mind, there are a lot of class parties, parent phone calls, and field trips between now and then).

It is exciting to know that most of us will survive another year.

Spring brings out the best in all of us. It also brings warmer weather (if you are on my side of the equator), flowers, wind, and the start of soccer (you don’t even want me to get started on this).

It also brings resumes. Lots of them.

So many, that I think my mailman may end up taking disability because of a bad back.

When I receive the first 100 resumes, I know interview season is right around the corner.

This economy hasn’t helped. My desk is covered with transcripts and letters of recommendation.

It is so bad, that I don’t even have room for the crumbs from my lunches and dinners (yes, administrators eat at their desks… if you are new to the profession please consider this a “job perk”… it will keep you from getting angry and burning out any sooner than necessary).

These resumes are like visits from family. Unasked for and too long (I kid… because I care).

It is a mystery to me why unemployed teachers think schools keep teaching openings a secret.

It’s like they don’t believe we will advertise the position.

Do they think cold calling works? They remind me of window and siding salesman. If I need them, I will let them know.

They can’t honestly believe school administrators just sit at our desks and ponder… I really wish an elementary teacher would mail me a 45 page portfolio so I could hire him/her to teach the 3rd graders.
The classroom seems so empty.

Then it happens.

The mail is delivered and wahoo… finally, a teacher to hire.

How would I have ever found this wonderful educator without my trusted friend, the mail guy (side note: I am jealous of him because he gets to wear shorts all summer long).

As a reminder, for those of you who are new to this blog…everything you have read up to this point is what we call “sarcasm”.

As will most likely be the rest of this blog and every other.

Of course sarcasm is a form of ironic speech or writing which is bitter or cutting, being intended to taunt its target (thank you Wikipedia).

I recently read a study online (so you know its true) that only 30% of humans get sarcasm (I have no idea if this is the right number… and I am way too lazy to Google it).

But this does explain why 70% of the population gives me a dirty look when I speak.

My point is…resumes are overrated.

The fancy paper. The matching envelopes. The lying.

And I haven’t even mentioned the references. Who in their right mind would put someone down as a reference, who didn’t think they were the greatest person ever?

You have to admit, no one ever looks better than they do on their resume. It is sort of like your wedding picture. The day that is taken, you have peaked (personally, I can’t believe that I was ever that skinny… my wife on the other hand gets thinner and more beautiful every day… for my own safety and well-being… this is not sarcasm).

Enough with the resumes. It is 2009.

Don’t unemployed people have internet? Can’t they just email me their information?

Do we have to keep killing trees? Most of which seem to be a lovely shade of yellow or gray. And I might add, come with beautiful watermarks.

Long sarcastic story short. Stop sending me your resumes. I am not a collector.

I am asking everyone to join me in this cause!

Unemployed teachers need to stop mailing and start emailing.

On some level, I think colleges keep pushing resumes so they can sell more transcripts (but, I have no proof… and I don’t want to get sued… again…).

Actually, you don’t even have to email your information.

All I need is your full name and college(s) you attended/dropped out of/ or were asked to leave.

If I have that, I can simply Google you. Then I will check out your MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and Plurk pages.

That should tell me if you’re fit to be with 3rd graders.

And as an added bonus, it may save a tree.

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“You’re a Child!”


Cute Baby.

Cute Baby.

When you work in a school you have access to all kinds of information.

Mostly you learn that you wish you didn’t learn so much.

Playing a small role in raising hundreds of students is a challenge. But it doesn’t hold a candle to raising your own child.

That is a challenge of almost indescribable proportions.

Being a school administrator makes you think twice about reproducing. Isn’t it about time the government steps in and helps decide who gets to have children and how many?

Oh yeah, the government has its hands full messing everything else up. Never mind.

As an educator it makes you mull over how many evil spawns you should bring into the world (and please don’t think my concerns were with my wife… it was my half of the baby that worried me…)

As an added bonus, when you have kids it is terribly difficult to choose a name that hasn’t been ruined by kids you had in school.

There are several guidelines to this process.

If you have given a detention to a student, that name is out. If you have ever yelled down the hallway at a student, the name is out. If have stuck your name in a bathroom and screamed a name, you can’t use it.

Also, if a name you are particularly fond of has been involved in a fight, arrest, or expulsion… you cannot use it for your child.

Since the first 6 years of my teaching career involved junior high lunch duty, about 84% of names were already on the NO List (this list should not be confused with my wife’s list… the Hell No list).

Plus, as a teacher/coach you get very good at knowing what nickname your child will be burdened with if you make an unwise choice.

You have to stay away from any name than rhymes with anything that is funny to a 7th grade boy. And sadly, everything is funny to a 7th grade boy.

Mulva and Delores just weren’t options for our baby girl (Seinfeld reference… if you don’t get this you need to watch more TV).

My wife and I are now proud owners of a 7 year old. Sounds fun, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

She is a good girl, but when we picked her up at the hospital we quickly figured out that she came with baggage (and I am not just talking about her endless supply of clothes, stuffed animals, and blankets).

She thinks she is 37.

She also thinks her parents are walking banks, housekeepers, cooks, and chauffeurs.

This can be very demanding as we try to raise her and hold down full-time jobs.

As her father, I feel extra pressure.

Since she is an only child (and loves it), I am not only her dad, but coach, brother, and when she is a teenager… her bodyguard.

These are roles that I try to perform successfully, but I am not going to lie… it’s a big job for a middle-aged man who would kill for a nap.

I have learned something during my 7 years as a parent. I have truly come to appreciate how challenging it is to raise a child.

Or 3. Or 5. Or a liter. (I am not even going to mention the horrific scientific experiment know as the Octomom)

I honestly don’t know how people do it.

The discipline. The homework. The jam packed schedules. The endless eye rolling, sighing, slamming of stuff, and the stomping off.

Raising a child (or worse, children) is stressful and time consuming. Some days I am happy to be able to get back to work (at least we have a discipline handbook at school).

Don’t get me wrong, most people would consider my daughter low maintenance. But that is because they don’t live with her.

Even the best kids need some redirection and discipline from time to time.

If you visited our house in the last couple of months you would hear “You’re a CHILD!” screamed loudly… a lot.

It happens at least 3 times a day. More when behavior is an issue.

And the worst part?

It’s what my daughter yells at me.

She is evidently counting the days until I grow up.

I hate to tell her, but once you take on the responsibility of having a father… he is yours forever.

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Stick to Your Guns. Unless Your Wrong.


As I get older, I can tell that I am getting more forgetful. It’s come to the point where I have to make lists to remind myself to check previous lists.

Don’t even get me started about Post-it Notes. My budget for those colored pre-cut scraps of paper has tripled in the last 2 years.

By the way, who was the genius who decided consumers would pay for these scraps of paper?

We like to brag on ourselves for sending people to the moon, but the Post-it Note marketing department are the real heroes.

While my memory continues to fade on a day-to-day level, it seems to get more focused on remembering situations from my past.

I’m not sure why that is. Maybe I just “think” I remember my past. Maybe my mind is playing tricks on me as I age. Maybe I am blinded by the bright light of death as I head towards it.

In my present job I have the honor of making decisions.

Or the burden.

I can’t decide which.

Sure it sounds fun. And sometime it is. Other times, not so much.

When I find myself in a difficult spot, I always remember a lesson my elementary principal taught me.

This conversation took place over 30 years ago, but somehow it seems like just yesterday.

But it didn’t.

If it had taken place yesterday, odds are I would have forgotten it. Unless I had written it down on a list or Post-it Note.

My life was forever affected because our 6th grade teacher had a doctor’s appointment.

She had to leave school 30 minutes early, so the principal subbed for her.

I remember this fact very clearly. Because when the principal walked into our classroom he was complaining about teachers being absent and how they should schedule appointments for after school.

The one thing that always struck me about him was his height. He was a tall man. Really tall.

To a 6th grader he seemed 10 feet tall. But everything seems bigger to a kid (if you don’t believe me go back to your elementary school and I guarantee that you will feel like a giant).

In fact he was about 6 feet tall, with a deep voice, and a commanding presence.

As he came in to our class, he started asking questions.

I don’t remember what he asked specifically, but I do recall what happened when it was my turn to answer.

I gave him what I believed to be the correct answer. And more importantly, I answered quickly. He was not known to have a great deal of patience.

He was known to have a large wooden paddle that hung on the wall behind his desk.

A tall man with a paddle. I sensed there wasn’t a need to bother him any longer than absolutely necessary.

As soon as I answered, he said “Are you sure?”

And that’s when it happened.

Even though I thought my answer was correct, I made the mistake of changing it. That is what I call… a bad idea.

Now he had me right where he wanted.

I gave him a second answer. My luck was going from bad to worse. And his patience was going from little to none.

He stood up and walked over to my desk. I had a feeling that this wasn’t going to end well. For me.

It was at that point he taught me a lesson. Which is a lot better than a paddling.

He said “Stick to your guns.”

Being a slow-witted slightly frightened 6th grade boy who was on the verge of wetting his pants, I had no idea what this meant.

He must have sensed this from my glazed-over slightly frightened look on my face. Or maybe it was how I had tightly crossed my legs so I didn’t make a mess on the floor.

For some reason, he seemed more patient than usual.

He took his time and explained this to me.

Always go with your first answer, right or wrong. Don’t question yourself, even when others do.

Stick to your guns.

Then it made sense. I was relieved (but not on myself… that would have been awkward for me and the janitor).

Then he prefaced his lesson.

Always stick to your guns. Always go with your gut. Your first answer is usually right.

But be open to changing your mind as you gain more information.

So when I find myself in a difficult situation, I always remember the day my elementary principal taught me a lesson about decision making.

Stick to your guns, but don’t be afraid to change your mind.

This has served me relatively well over the years. I am thankful for both his thoughts and patience on that particular day.

Most of all, I am thankful the janitor didn’t have to get involved.

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A Mentor is Better Than a Master’s Degree.


This is an Old Book Called a Dictionary.

This is an Old Book Called a Dictionary.

A principal gets fired about every 4.2 seconds.

Alright, that is just a guess. It could be quicker. But since I do absolutely no research for this blog, we will never know will we?

Dictionary.com defines mentor as a wise and trusted counselor or teacher. It also states that mentor is an influential senior sponsor or supporter. (Note from wife: I thought you just said you do no research for this blog? And why aren’t you using Google’s Define: Search tool? Have I taught you nothing?)

On a side note, if you still have “dictionaries” in your school, burn them. While I am normally not a big fan of burning books, I will make an exception in this case. The dictionary was a wonderful tool 20 years ago, but so was a rotary phone (if you don’t get the rotary phone reference, text a grandparent).

A good mentor can help and guide your career. Under the right circumstances they can even salvage your career if you say or do something incredibly stupid (and trust me… you will).

I have had my career salvaged at least 14 times. Could be more, but there are just some “incidents” that I don’t like to think about.

The best thing about mentors is they perform this task for no other reason than trying to help you avoid the mistakes they made.

My personal definition of mentor is a combination of encyclopedia, fortune teller, and lawyer. With of course, a little psychologist thrown in.

In education, a mentor is a must. I don’t think you can survive in school administration without one. Or twelve.

Personally, I have had about 6. But it is early in my career, so there is plenty of time to collect more (not that I will do anything completely ignorant between now and retirement…).

Actually, like most things in life, quality is better than quantity. One great mentor can help make you a success (or keep you from getting suspended without pay, fired, beaten up, or sued).

Finding a good mentor isn’t as hard as you might think. In fact they usually find you.

There is a certain look that overwhelmed administrators get that says… I need help and I need it now.

The worst part of being a school administrator is that you are on an island. If you haven’t noticed, there isn’t an Administrators’ Lounge at school.

It’s you. And well, that’s about it.

The good news… every principal/superintendent in America is also in the same predicament. They are on their own little islands (sometimes the seas are calm, sometimes they aren’t… like on a full moon day).

This shared experience (and suffering) makes the more experienced administrators want to help.

Colleges and Universities do their best to prepare teachers to become administrators, but it is an almost impossible task.

They focus on explaining the job in very broad terms (at least in my experience). It is harder for them to teach the day to day skills that you need for survival.

And trust me, I am not exaggerating when using the word… survival.

It’s like the Lord of the Flies out here in administrative land. So you better get all the help you can.

And while a Master’s Degree is nice. A good mentor is better.

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Disclaimer

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.