Join me in the Education Section of The Huffington Post.
I have no idea, but I’m there.
Join me in the Education Section of The Huffington Post.
I have no idea, but I’m there.
Thanksgiving means several things.
Lots of birds die.
Gas prices rise because everyone is driving.
Summer is gone and it’s not coming back.
The local news predicts terrible weather so you will tune in to their station (I think they cross their fingers for the year’s first horrific storm).
Football is on and the Detroit Lions are still bad.
Football is on and stuffing is still bad. Don’t email me and say it’s great, because if it was, people would make it more than once a year.
Families get together and talk (although they should stay away from the following topics: politics, race, religion, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, Dancing With the Stars, American Idol’s new judges, TSA, and especially gas prices).
If your family has at least one educator (most have more… and some have a lot more) you shouldn’t speak of the things they aren’t thankful for: NCLB, testing, lack of funds, more paperwork, high-maintenance parents, not enough technology, underperforming schools, meetings, government’s unrealistic expectations, and school food.
What all of you should talk about is kids.
We should all be thankful for them.
The next generation (and every one after that) has the opportunity to be our best generation (if adults don’t mess them up).
If you haven’t noticed the kids today aren’t terrible malcontents; they are smart.
Way smarter than we were at the same age (and very likely smarter than we are now).
They have the ability to do more (probably with less) than we ever did.
They will change things, which will make us old people nervous, but it will be for the better.
The world is in good hands and whether you are in education or not, you should be thankful for them.
Happy Thanksgiving everybody!
If you are a turkey, thank a vegetarian.
When I was a teacher, I often found myself wondering what superintendents did for a living (of course, this happened only after I had completed my lesson plans).
I was pretty sure they worked in education, but the specifics of the job were lost on me. They looked busy, but I noticed they spent a lot of time out of the school district.
Where did they go?
Then I became a principal. I assumed this would allow me to understand the inner sanctum of a superintendent (this sentence just sounds weird and borderline obscene… mainly because it is).
But no. After a few years as principal, I still wasn’t 100% sure what superintendents did for a living.
But they seemed happy.
They seemed to enjoy their jobs.
So I became one (not the only reason, so easy on the angry emails). And I found out what they already knew.
The superintendent’s position is the odd duck of a school district (insert your joke here).
The job is as different from a teacher’s position, as a custodian’s or a coach’s.
The superintendent is in education, but just barely. The primary focus of the job is no primary focus at all.
It’s people. Students. Staff. Money (or lack thereof). Insurance. Architects. And meetings.
Lots and lots of meetings.
Meetings about stuff. Meetings about nothing. Meetings about meetings.
Most aren’t earth shattering. If the truth be told one meeting isn’t much different than the previous 174 (but my anger at wasting time causes me to digress).
Another item on the superintendent’s to-do list is attending conferences.
They are meetings on steroids.
I’ve found conferences always mean the same things.
People who want to shake your hand.
Rooms that are too hot. Or too cold. And dry. Like desert dry (why is that?).
There are overheads. PowerPoint slides. And handouts.
And more podiums than I can count. Is it a law that you have to stand behind a big wooden box with the hotel logo on it when you speak?
And for every podium there are 5 people with giant name tags.
Each conference has at least 100 people listed as presenters. Which means, by the law of averages, one will be great and one will be good.
That leaves 98 other presenters (check my math).
98 people who want to have a conference presentation on their resume. Why they want this, I will never know.
As far as resumes go, is speaking at a conference a deal breaker on getting a new job?
Does it boost your income?
Provide better health insurance?
Increase your retirement package?
Whatever benefits presenting provides, I have a simple request (I’ve made it before and I’ll make it again).
Is it too much to ask when I (or a school district) pay hundreds of dollars in conference fees that someone with a microphone makes me smile.
I’m not asking for Carrot Top quality entertainment here, just a giggle. Or a grin. Or a split-second of happiness.
Anything, but someone standing behind the sacred podium reading a PowerPoint in a monotone voice (I know this comes as a shock, but I can read).
Why do I have to be held captive just so they can improve their job prospects?
The best conference speakers aren’t the ones with a ground-breaking message.
The ones you remember are funny.
It might be a joke. Could be a video (YouTube has them for free you know). Maybe even a self-deprecating story.
There are parts of being a superintendent that continue to be a mystery, but after 8,000 meetings/conferences I think I’ve discovered the formula for a memorable presentation.
A simple message + at least one laugh.
Try it. Your audience will like it.
Welcome to 2010 (soon to be 2011).
We may finally be making progress when it comes to the torture devices called school desks.
The following videos were suggested by a reader (thanks Whitney).
I received no free desks or free cash for this blog (but keep in mind… I can be bribed).
In 100 years, historians will be discussing the power of Twitter (and whatever else comes along and crushes it in the next 18 minutes).
In particular, they will talk about the impact of Twitter on education reform.
Twitter will define the first part of this century, much like automobiles ruled the early 1900’s (like I have any idea what I’m talking about).
The book/chip titles will almost write themselves.
Twitter Changed Schools. Twitter Gave a Voice to Education Reformers. Twitter was the Greatest Invention Since the Spork. Twitter Rocked!
Actually, the last one will be a musical about Twitter starring the great great great grandson of John Stamos.
Since many of you will be dead by then, let me sum up how history SHOULD look back on Twitter and education.
Twitter gave a voice to geeks.
That’s how history should remember this point in time.
Twitter + Geeks + Opinions = Change.
At least that’s how I hope it will end. I haven’t seen the change part just yet, but I’m hopeful.
If you are offended by my inference that geeks use Twitter, get over yourself. You’re reading a blog about education, an evil little girl, and a dog written by a school superintendent who barely passed Composition I in junior college.
If you’re not a geek, you could have fooled me.
My only complaint with Twitter and education reform is, I think we are talking (or tweeting) about the wrong issues.
There are all kinds of discussions(tweets) on technology, tenure, class size, evaluations, and school funding but not enough on the more important issues.
Like school desks.
In case you haven’t used one in the last 30 minutes, they’re still torture devices.
If you are over 40 years old, don’t even attempt to sit in one. Because while you may be able to sit down, you’ll never get up without the Jaws of Life.
If students could only organize themselves into a lobbying group, I truly believe the first issue they would tackle would be the inhuman sitting conditions they face every day.
Prison inmates have nicer furniture (I know this because they email me).
How can people complain about the lack of progress with teachers using technology, but they don’t address the fact kids are expected to learn on what is basically a wooden crate.
And then we yell at them when they won’t sit still.
Like it’s their fault their legs are asleep.
Have you ever seen a 9 year old play video games or watch TV?
Newsflash: they don’t sit straight up and down with both feet on the floor.
They sit, or lie, or hang off the couch in whatever position they find comfortable.
How can we expect them to learn when we confine them to a school desk?
Buddy the Dog has more freedom, and he lives in a crate (and a lovely recliner).
The next time you tweet about education reform keep this in mind. Adults design schools, classrooms, and school furniture. And they all look exactly like they did 50 years ago.
You want education reform?
Let students sit on the floor.
It’s more comfortable for them and it’s at least a small step in the right direction.
And minus the oh so evil one, I didn’t have to sit through a Pixar/Disney/cartoon/talking animal/princess movie.
For at least one night, it was good to be me.
On a side note, if you are newly married, or considering marriage, please understand the following. At some point in the future you will be giving birth (or watching… which I might add is no treat), so it’s important to go to the movies as much as possible before the baby arrives.
Sure, you will still go after you have children, but it’s not the same.
An entire decade (or more) of your movie life will vanish. Plus, it takes at least $400 dollars to go with children (taffy alone is $150).
As you might guess, I like my movies heavy on car chases, fake violence, and really bad language.
But sadly, last night’s movie had none of these.
We went to see a documentary.
I’m not going to lie to you, if I could find my man card I would turn it in.
A documentary? Yes, a documentary.
As educators we had no choice but to see Waiting for Superman.
It’s the movie that’s going to change education.
The movie is good, but it’s a documentary.
Which means no one is going to see it.
And that’s a shame.
The movie does a very good job at telling the story of how public education is in trouble. The lowlights are:
• Crappy grade schools make crappier middle schools which then feed into the crappiest high schools, which become drop-out factories.
• The United States has 14,000 local school boards which makes universal standards impossible.
• Bad schools lead to bad neighborhoods, as opposed to bad neighborhoods leading to bad schools.
• It’s more expensive to house a prisoner than it would be to send them to a private school.
• Teachers Unions feed the political campaign machine. They outspend the Teamsters and NRA (Democrats get 90% of their money).
• Every President for the last 40 years pledges to be the “Education President” and none of them are.
In summary, this means far too many kids have a less than zero chance of getting a good education from the day they walk into kindergarten.
But I think most people already know this.
At least the people who would go to a documentary on public education know this.
Throwing more money at education isn’t working. More testing isn’t working. Empty campaign promises aren’t working.
And unfortunately, I don’t think a movie about what most of us already suspect will change any of this.
But what do I know.
I remember thinking how cool it was when I took a 2 year old to her first movie (Shrek). And it was.
Now I ready to see 97 different explosion sequences.
Which as this movie explains is what probably needs to happen to public education.
From now on, I’m only watching Bruce Willis movies… strangely, I have a soft spot for bald guys.
Answer: Most of them (no, I’m not a psychic… but I did play one on TV).
If you don’t believe me (and thank you for calling me a liar), the next time it’s in your local paper count the number of students listed.
Then compare it to the number enrolled.
You will discover what many educators already know. The majority of students do VERY well.
At least with their grades.
We are raising a generation of students who believe success is the only option.
The Honor Roll is way different from students doing well on mandated testing.
Or the ACT or SAT.
What is it about our society that we’ve come to believe every student must be successful?
I always thought you learned more from failure than from success. More from losing than winning (and I speak as someone who has lost a lot).
Why aren’t C’s okay?
When did average become disappointing?
Did the Honor Roll expand around the same time we started giving out participation trophies?
Does every kid have to be recognized as being good at everything?
Shouldn’t the majority of students in any class be average?
Shouldn’t half get C’s and above and the other half C’s and below?
Isn’t that okay?
I wonder if we are doing more harm than good when we promote false expectations in students (and parents… not that there are any parents with unrealistic expectations… I’m just throwing it out there).
When report cards go home, shouldn’t parents be more concerned about how much their child has learned rather than what grade they’ve received?
Wouldn’t C’s be great if the student was 100 times smarter at the end of school year?
As opposed to receiving all A’s and B’s and only being 10 times smarter?
Someone, somewhere, thinks I hate trees (for the record, trees and I have an unblemished record of over 40 years of living side by side in almost perfect harmony).
I believe “they” think I hate trees because it’s the only reason “they” keep dropping off phone books at my house.
I don’t even know who “they” are. I’ve never met them. I’ve never seen them.
My assumption is they are small wiry people and dress in all yellow (don’t ask me why, it’s my assumption).
But “they” continue to give me phone books that I don’t need, want, or like.
These books are like mice. Every time I get rid of one, three more turn up.
On the porch. In the mailbox. Shoved between my screen door and the other door that has a directional name (front, back, side, etc).
They are even randomly thrown into my yard (thankfully, wrapped in a double plastic bag because I would be crushed if one got wet and I was left with only 17 others shoved in the kitchen drawer… and you know what I mean because you have the same drawer).
Stop coming by my house and leaving me this little surprise.
It’s bad enough when I find Buddy the Dog’s gifts in the yard (and by find, I mean step in).
I don’t need a phone book. Or phone books.
Much like I don’t need encyclopedias.
Or a rolodex.
Or newspapers or magazines.
I have a little thing I like to call the interweb.
If I need a name, phone number, or pizza, I will Google it (sorry Bing).
The world has changed. It’s time we changed at the same speed.
Our reaction time as a society is slow.
Way slow (hip phrase for the kids).
Why do we insist on keeping things past their usefulness?
Why are we so hesitant to move forward?
Why do phone books make me angry?
And most importantly, why can’t dogs be taught to use a litter box? If Buddy was truly man’s best friend, he would have more respect for my yard.
Or at least bark when the phone book people sneak up to my house to force their outdated gifts on me.
I have gone through different stages in my life.
From long-hair to shaved (again, way cooler than bald). From student to superintendent (I haven’t been out of school since 1972). From poor to making money and still being poor (why do bills arrive in direct proportion to the amount of money you earn?).
Politically, I’ve gone from being a Democrat to Republican to Independent to Disenchanted to Just Confused and Hurt.
I’ve also been through stages regarding the amount of importance I place on athletics.
When I was a kid, there was nothing more important.
My world revolved around anything and everything that involved a bat, ball, club, basket, goal, or a game.
I knew every player (and their stats… and sadly, birthday) in every league. Including hockey and indoor soccer (Go St. Louis Steamers!!!).
Losing does that to you.
After giving up coaching (I think it was my decision), I became a school administrator (also, my decision… I think).
At this point in my life I began to see athletics were just one of the many things that drove me crazy and made my phone ring (landline… old school).
Sports became less fun and more of a hassle.
I began to see athletics as a bother. I was confused as to why parents didn’t care about testing as much as they did about sports.
Now I’m starting to come full circle.
Maybe I’m growing. With age comes wisdom (at least that’s what old people tell young people). Or more likely, I’m just a little less stupid (I’m so old, I remember when stupid was a bad word in school).
As I head into my golden years, I’m beginning to see there’s nothing more important than athletics. Especially to a small town.
It’s the one thing that ties people together.
Successful small-town sports are like the Olympics. People will support them even when they don’t personally know the participants.
Or understand the game.
I don’t have a clue about curling, but I’m the #1 fan every four years when the Winter Olympics is on 27 hours a day (USA! USA! USA!)
Community members behave in much the same way. They may not like football, but if their favorite bag boy at the grocery store is the quarterback… suddenly they have a rooting interest.
They like the feeling they get when their team is doing well.
I’m willing to bet I could go to any town in America and spot a person wearing their high school colors within 2 minutes.
This is because people love belonging to a group. This feeling is magnified when the group (team) is successful.
Schools and sports can provide this at a local level.
And at a much cheaper price than college or professional sports.
This is why, now and forever, people will always be more passionate about their kids (or neighbors) playing a game than they will about test scores.
It’s just more fun.
I’m not saying this is right. I’m just saying this is the way it is.
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.