One of Those Days.


Sad But True.

Something went horribly wrong this morning.

I have it narrowed down to color blindness or stupidity.

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Hello, Easter. Goodbye, Heaven.


We are going to Las Vegas this weekend.  By “we” I don’t mean the Evil Spawn who lives in our guest room (we don’t want her to think this little arrangement is permanent).

This is Easter weekend (Happy Easter Everybody!)

A time to celebrate Jesus’s resurrection.  Also, it’s when we look for plastic eggs in the backyard and eat the ears off of hollow chocolate rabbits (I’m pretty sure this isn’t WJWD). I Hope This Trip Doesn't Turn Out Like the Movie... The Hangover.

Evidently, it’s also the time to take our first trip to Sin City (I don’t know which Mobster came up with the idea for Vegas… but on behalf of millions of visitors each year… I would like to say, Thank You).

While this sounds like fun, I have a feeling we may have angered our old friend Karma.

A weekend in Las Vegas during Easter may not be the best idea we’ve ever had.

There is wrong and then there is WAY WRONG.

This is undoubtedly the later.

But don’t blame us.  We need to make some money because we have bills to pay (or not… time will tell).

Our lives just wouldn’t be complete without seeing Penn & Teller (magicians and one of them doesn’t talk… HILARIOUS!).

Only in America can two educators take their hard earned money (thank you taxpayers) and fly across the country to enjoy an all you can eat $2.50 buffet (now that’s a good steak).

And you wonder why I love this country?

You may have noticed I didn’t mention anything about the Evil Spawn participating in this latest trip.

She’s banned.

This is a bit of a “sore subject” at our house.

Not so much for us, but for her.

She has no tolerance for anything that involves hotels and eating out without her being included.

When we told her (by “we”, I mean my wife) about the trip, her response (after a long pause) was “You two better be kidding me.”

We weren’t.

She gets a fun-filled weekend with the grandparents (who will also be hosting their favorite grandchild… Buddy the Dog).

This is a classic win-win-win.

We get Las Vegas.

The casinos get the Evil Spawn’s college fund.

And she gets to be the one member of the family who has a better than 4 to 1 shot of getting into Heaven.

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1 in 2 Americans Will Own a Smartphone by Christmas 2011. In Other News, Schools Wonder “What’s a Smartphone?”.


From Nielsen.com:It's a Graph.

“The iPhone, Blackberry, Droid and smartphones in general dominate the buzz in the mobile market, but only 21% of American wireless subscribers are using a smartphone as of the fourth quarter 2009 compared to 19% in Q3 2009 and 14% at the end of 2008.

We are just at the beginning of a new wireless era where smartphones will become the standard device consumers will use to connect to friends, the internet and the world at large.

The share of smartphones as a proportion of overall device sales has increased to 29% for phone purchasers in the last six months and 45% of respondents to a Nielsen survey indicated that their device will be a smartphone.

If we combine these intentional data points with falling prices and increasing capabilities of these devices along with an explosion of applications for devices, we are seeing the beginning of a groundswell.

This increase will be so rapid, that by the end of 2011, Nielsen expects more smartphones in the U.S. market than feature phones.”

 

Meanwhile, schools continued to be confused by this whole “smartphone” thing.

If you ask me, it’s just a fad.

Like email.

And the whole internet thingy.

As educators, we know smartphones are just another way for students to cheat.

All that information at their disposal.

It’s not right.

Why should we allow kids to bring their own “computer” to school, when it’s easier for us to pay thousands of dollars for desktops that will be obsolete in a couple of years?

If we rollover and allow students to use this type of advanced technology, what’s next?

Video?

We are going down a slippery slope when kids are allowed to know more than teachers.

They need to understand that we were taught a certain way 30 years ago and that should be good enough for them.

Worksheets never break down.  That’s all I’m saying.

We have to nip this in the bud (oh how I love Deputy Barney Fife).

Before you know it they will expect us to unblock YouTube and Twitter.

I don’t think so.   There’s no way young people should be on websites that frighten and confuse old people.

I say we put a stop to this now.

I say we get rid of the email machines and go back to paper memos.

As educators our battle cry should be “Bring Back the Typewriters and the Rotary Phones!”

And I mean manual typewriters, not those fancy electric ones.

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Missing: The Swine Flu.


What happened?Confused.

Why didn’t all of the schools close?

Why did the media stop covering the story of the century?

Where did the Swine Flu go?

I’m confused.

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Perception.


It seems the entire educational system is based on perception.

No one seems to know the truth, so we all rely on how we want to perceive the truth.

Show people test scores, financial documents, or statistics and they will try to rationalize or explain them away (excuses are like… well, never mind).

How You See Yourself and How Others See You Is Two Different Things.

Think about it.

Most parents believe they live in a good school district.

This can’t be true for all of us, can it?

Some of us must live in an average or even below average district.

Many parents seem to believe their child is easily one of the best athletes in school (if not the state… if the coach would just put them in the game).

This goes hand in hand with parents thinking every coach needs to be fired (there has to be some kid who is less than a great athlete… isn’t there?).

Most teachers feel like they do a wonderful job every day.

They can’t all be great 100% of the time, can they?

Most administrators think they are working harder than all the other principals and superintendents combined (surely one of us isn’t as great as we think we are…).

How is this possible?

Isn’t at least one of us the lazy one (don’t answer this if you have even a smidge of anger towards administrators… and if you’re honest, many of you do)?

Most school boards think they only hire the best and brightest.

Isn’t this a statistical impossibility?

Communities believe they can do a better job making school decisions at a local level than the state or federal government.

The federal government believes they can do a better job making decisions at the local level than the states.

States are just confused (and sadly broke).

Everyone believes their school is safe.  And clean.  And structured.  And financially conservative.  And providing a great learning environment for all of their students.

How can this be true?

Or do we just want it to be true?

People say Perception is Reality.  Isn’t Reality… Reality?

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School Board Meeting Car Wreck.


An unusual title for a blog.

School Administrators might be wondering why I didn’t name it “School Board Meeting Train Wreck”.

Fair question.

It’s because I like my job.

Don’t get me wrong, I prefer not to work, but I do enjoy being employed.

Something about having a constant stream of bills coming in the mail (or email… it is 2010 after all).

Plus, I’ve heard about challenging School Board Meetings but I’m not personally familiar with the concept (no charge for the sarcasm).

My latest meeting ended late (don’t they all).

Once it was over, I decided to drive home so I could go to bed and not sleep (it’s a tradition at this point).

As I was cruising down a two-lane highway listening to Lady GaGa on the radio (I don’t get her, but you have to admit her songs are catchy), I passed a car that appeared to be parked with the headlights on.

Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but this particular car was parked in a ditch.

Heading the wrong way.

I was a little taken aback as I drove another quarter mile down the highway.

It occurred to me that while I saw a car in a ditch, I hadn’t seen an actual driver.

I was now faced with a moral dilemma (like there aren’t enough of those at School Board Meetings).  Should I go back and check on the driverless car, or should I go home and not sleep?

Before you judge me, please realize that School Board Meetings can be tiring.

And I need my sleep (even when I can’t).

But you will be happy to know that I did the right thing.  I turned off Lady GaGa.

And I went back to see if I could help.

During the 30 seconds it took me to backtrack, I had a couple of thoughts.

One, I was hoping I didn’t find a mangled body in or around the car.  Two, I was desperately trying to remember how to do the Heimlich Maneuver.

I realize I should have been thinking about CPR, but it turns out that I used up all of my good brain cells during the School Board Meeting.

On a positive note, if I had returned to the scene of the accident and found someone choking… they would have been in excellent hands.

I pulled up beside the ditch and immediately recognized there was a problem.

The ditch was muddy.

This was a problem because I was wearing a white dress shirt and a lovely green tie (Happy St. Patrick’s Day everybody!).

If that wasn’t enough, I didn’t have a coat (stars were out… not a cloud in the sky..  it was freezing).

At first glance, it was easy to confirm my theory.  There was definitely a car in the ditch.

But I didn’t see a driver.

That was bad.

Because now I had to go into the muddy ditch and look in the car.

Mangled body parts here I come.

But then I heard a strange sound.  It’s hard to describe, but it sounded a lot like “Duuuuuuuuuuuude”.

It was dark, so I couldn’t quite figure out where the sound was coming from.

Then I saw him.

The driver.My Friend, Mr. Jeff Spicoli.

He was behind the car.

The good news is he didn’t seem to be hurt.

The bad news is he wasn’t wearing pants.

Actually, that’s not true.  He had pants on.

They were just around his ankles (I didn’t ask).

As he struggled mightily to work his belt, I did ask him if he was okay (didn’t catch his name, so we will call him Mr. Jeff Spicoli).

He assured me he was.  Then he kept saying he didn’t know what happened.

One minute he was driving home and the next minute he woke up and his car was in a ditch.

Well, there you go.

I asked him how he got there and he said “By road”.

Fair enough.

I asked him if he had a phone.  He said “Did you say spoon?”

Alright then.

I told him I would call 911 for help.  He thought that was cool because he needed to get his car out of the ditch.

Plus, he was hungry.

Understandable.

Wrecking a car does produce an appetite.

I called 911 and then Spicoli and I waited for what seemed like hours.

During this time, he thanked me for calling a tow truck. 

Whoops.

It seemed like Spicoli and I were having what I like to call “A Failure to Communicate”. 

This could be bad.

Especially if he sobered up before the cops got there.

Plus, he was holding his car keys between his fingers in a way that made me think he could be considering stabbing me in the kidneys.

And I hate it when that happens.

It was close to midnight and I was standing on a deserted highway with Spicoli and he’s about to be arrested (and not by a tow truck driver).

On top of that, he’s got the munchies and probably nothing to lose by shanking me.

We waited.  And waited.

He asked it I should make another call.  I said “I’m not ordering pizza.”

Then after about 14 hours, the police showed up.

Spicoli said “Ah duuuuuuude”.

The policeman asked me if he was alright.  I said “Define alright?”

A few moments later, the officer sent me on my way.

I left as fast as I could knowing I had my latest blog.

I also had an understanding that I lived through another school board meeting.

And for once, that was the least dangerous and weird part of my night.

Now I just have to avoid bumping into my new friend on the streets for the next 50 years.  Just to be safe, I’m never going out to eat pizza.  Or surfing.

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Not Fat Enough to Float.


People continue to ask me about 2 things:  how’s Buddy the Dog and have I learned to swim?

My answers:  spoiled/sleepy and no.

The dog needs his own fan club and I still sink like a rock

If you are scoring at home, I’ve completed 4 swim lessons.The Hungrier I Am, the Better I Will Float.  In Theory.

That’s 4 straight weeks in a pool.  This smashes my old record by… well, by 4 weeks.

The good news is my coach/teacher no longer has the mortified look on her face like she did the first time we met.

I wasn’t exactly what she was expecting when I came out of the locker room.

She seems to have moved past the fact that I’m approximately 4 decades older than most of her students.

And I don’t wear a diaper.

At least not yet.

The look on her face has transitioned from disturbed to disappointed.

She’s done her best to teach me how to swim.

Sadly, her best hasn’t been good enough.

I went into this thinking swimming would be easy.

You jump in the pool, you float, you flop around, and you swim.

How hard could it be?

Turns out it’s kinda hard.

Maybe it’s easy for most people.

Sadly, I’m not most people.

She does her best to coach me up before I take off for the bottom of the pool.

She tells me exactly what my head, hands, arms, stomach, hips, legs, and feet should be doing.

She’s very specific on what I should be doing with every part of my body.

Then she says just relax and sends me off (turns out drowning isn’t that peaceful of an act). 

I get about 10 feet away and I think… “I’m tired… time to sink.”

And I do.

But just to the bottom of the pool.

I always stop there.

She thinks I need to practice between lessons.

I would, but I don’t actually own a pool.

Since all I can do in a pool is sink, it’s never really seemed like that great of an investment.

She said it would also help if I was bigger.

I said “Taller people float easier?”

She responded “No, fat people do.”

I think I’ve found my sport.  My calling if you will.

Evidently, I will be able to swim if I get fatter.

Seems odd.  One would think that fat people would sink more quickly.

But she’s the coach.  Whatever she says goes.

Time to go practice by taking a couple laps past the refrigerator.

If I want to be a great swimmer, I’m going to have to pay the price.

And the price seems to be ice cream.

This blog is in no way making fun of people who have weight problems.  It is completely making fun of my inability to do what every small child in America (or the world) can… which is swim.

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Read.


Sometimes I think we make education too complicated.

State tests.  Federal tests.  Special programs.  Increasing graduation requirements.  Spending insane amounts of money on Professional Development (the cost of name tags alone must be in the thousands of dollars).

We come up with new ideas.  We reinvent old ideas.

Evil Spawn Reads a Book While Buddy the Dog Naps.

We work in large groups.  In small groups.  One on one.

We change our curriculum and schedules.

We throw money at our problems, then complain it’s not enough (a little known secret… there will never be enough money).

Now we are looking at National Standards.

All of this (and so much more) in an effort to improve our schools.

We are constantly looking for the Holy Grail of Education (bad news… it’s going to take more than a cup to fix our problems).

I think we are making this way too complicated.

Or more likely, I’m making it way too simple (my blog, my rules).

But I have a thought (or several).

How about instead of looking for the magic bullet, we focus on the basics.

Let’s focus on a few important skills in lower elementary schools.

Reading, writing, and social skills/exercise.

That’s it.

That’s the list.

3 things.

Everyday.

Preschool through 3rd grade.

We have the kids read.  Then write.  

All while playing nice and getting along with others.

We teach them while they are still hungry to be taught.

After we do these three things consistently, we have them read some more.

Silently.  With partners.  Out loud.  To adults.  For high school kids.  And student teachers.  In front of groups.

Read, read, read.

Then read some more.

We narrow our focus and get all of our students ready for 4th grade.

When they are proficient and arrive at that level (regardless of age), students will be prepared.

Ready for math, science, social studies, foreign language, health, speech, technology, vocational programs, etc.

All because they have a foundation.

Because they can read.

And if they can’t, they don’t move on.

Not until we get them the reading skills they have to have.

Reading is good.  Reading while using Buddy the Dog as a pillow is better.

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Google Teacher Academy for Administrators. Time to Review.


  

I survived my trip to San Antonio.

Sadly (for blogging purposes), nothing out of the ordinary happened.

I don’t mind saying, I felt a little jipped.

No drama.  No “incidents” on the plane.  No random stranger doing something stupid.PrincipalsPage Meets Google.  Good Times.

Just a Google Conference.

I say just, but it was so much more.

A 12 hour conference (sounds long, but it’s not really that long once you figure in snack time… and I do love my snack time).

The conference was many things.  Mainly it was an overload of information.  But in a good way.

Now that I’ve had a few days to comprehend my experience, here are my thoughts (in no particular order). 

 

  • Conference hotels gouge you.  Bad.  This should be a crime, but instead it’s considered good business.

 

 

  • It came to my attention (in the first 14 seconds) that employees of Google are way smarter than me.  Way smarter.  Way way smarter (and childlike… they looked 12 years old).

 

  • Presenters with a sense of humor interest me.  Your information can be life changing, but after sitting 9 hours straight… I need a laugh.

 

  • Google employees seem to really enjoy their jobs (they seem happier than educators… maybe because, in my mind, they are allowed to take their dogs to work).

 

  • No matter how much you know about Google Docs, Google Calendar, and everything else Google… you know nothing.  Actually you know less than nothing.

 

  • A 3 hour layover doesn’t sound like a long time, but it is.  Time spent in the Atlanta airport is like prison.  Every second lasts hours (and there’s no early release program).

 

  • Ben and Jerry’s serves a fabulous lunch.  I recommend adding a brownie to whatever entree you order.

 

  • Google’s applications are free.  Microsoft’s are not.  You do the math.

 

  • Outdoor heated pools are still cold when the temperature is in the 50’s.

 

  • Google Calendar has a thousand great features.  Unfortunately none of them get me places on time.

 

  • All schools are different.  All schools are the same.

 

  • No matter where you go, there are interesting people.

 

  • Eating Mexican food while wearing a suit almost never turns out well.  Or at least for your tie.

 

  • They sell a lot of jumbo extra large margaritas on The Riverwalk in San Antonio, yet you never see someone fall in (the river).  How is this possible?

 

 

  • Did I mention Google employees are smart?  I did?  Sorry for repeating myself, but I’m stupid (or at least way less smart than them).

 

  • You can’t decide the long-term direction of your school district after a one day conference.  Even if it’s Google.

 

  • One day soon, there will be a news story about a divorce caused by too much Twittering.  One of the spouses will have had enough.

 

  • Airplane seats in the emergency row are pure gold (so that’s what it feels like to stretch my legs…).  They are First Class (or Business Class) without the free booze.

 

  • Google Docs is free magic.  I would explain it to you, but I’m still trying to process it.

 

  • Every tech nerd in America owns/wants an Android phone (sorry Blackberry… you had a good run).

 

  • If you walk up to me and say “I’ve read every blog you’ve ever written”, you might want to consider getting a job.  Or possibly a date.

 

  • If you recognize me in an elevator, I might want to get a restraining order.

 

  • Microsoft should be worried.  If Google plays their cards right, Word and Excel may eventually disappear from schools.

 

  • How do people taller than 5’10” fit into an airplane bathroom?  Even more confusing, how do they use an airplane bathroom?

 

  • All airplane stewardesses (flight attendants.. whatever) look tired.

That’s my trip.

To summarize, it was an honor and a pleasure.

I’m thrilled to be one of only 2 (?) superintendents in the country to be a Google Certified Teacher.

I now feel like I know so much.  And I feel like I have so much to learn.

Thanks Mr. and Mrs. Google.

Thanks Buddy the Dog.  Without your video, I’m just a creepy guy talking to himself.

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Am I Weird?


Easy.  Read the blog before you answer.

This may be my shortest entry of all-time (# 351 if you are scoring at home).  It’s really a question disguised as a blog (so much for disguise).I'm Guessing This Guy Doesn't Mind Eating Alone.

Do you think it’s weird to eat out when you are alone?

I’m not talking about fast food.  I’m talking about sitting down, ordering, and eating in a restaurant.

Would you do it?

Have you done it?

Or do you just find this uncomfortably creepy. Maybe your preference would be to simply starve to death?

Or are you like me and eating alone with all of your friends (aka…my creepy uncomfortable feelings) is normal?

I do this even when I get the sense the hostess and waitress find me sad and pathetic.

I mean more sad and pathetic than usual.

Discuss.

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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.