Graduation Can Be Hell.


It’s a special time of year.It Can Get a Little Warm.

School is out.  Students are off enjoying summer vacation.  The buildings are empty and quiet (not sure if this is the best use of taxpayers’ money, but I force myself to live with it).

Only one thing left.

Besides scooping off the top of my desk (can you say overdue).

Graduation.

I’m not going to lie, it’s a couple of stress-filled hours.

Is everything ready?  Will the students be on their best behavior? 

How long into the ceremony before the sound of an air horn rattles my insides?

It’s a lot of whistling/screaming/yelling by the crowd and me shaking my head in disgust (on the inside… never on the outside).

And if all of this wasn’t enough, there’s always the added pressure of checking the weather forecast every 14 seconds.  This process begins about 4 months in advance of graduation.

I’m not sure why I check because the forecast for graduation day is always the same.

Sunshine.  No breeze.  100% humidity.  Drought-like conditions.  And if that wasn’t enough, the temperature is always between 107 degrees and boiling.

It’s hell.

If hell was located inside a packed high school gymnasium.

I guess one could argue that makes me the devil, but let’s not go there.

Every year it’s the same thing.  I sweat through my shirt.  Then my suit.

This all happens while I’m getting dressed.

Once I arrive at graduation, I feel like I’m standing in a puddlle.

But sadly there’s no water leak, it’s just my shoes and socks acting as a dam for the river of water running down my back.

I don’t think internal organs can sweat, but I could swear my kidneys and liver are moister than usual.

I try to keep my tie dry, but I usually give up about 45 minutes into the big event when I begin using it as a towel.

This may seem gross, but it’s not as gross as me shaking every students hand with my giant drenched paw.

It’s like I dipped it in the locker room urinal.

It’s comforting to know my last interaction with students after 13 years of education is me creeping them out with my 15-year-old-boy-on-a-first-date-clammy-cold-sweaty hand.

Graduation is a wonderful event in students’ and families’ lives.

I just think it would be more special if it would snow

Just once.

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One Minute is a Long Time in School Administration.


One minute.One Minute Can Be Forever.

It doesn’t seem like that long.

It’s only 60 seconds.  What could possibly go wrong in such a short amount of time?

If you are a school administrator you know.

You understand that things change quickly.

Very quickly.

Things can be "bee-bopping" right along and then BOOM!!!  There it is (that should be a song).

In 60 seconds a good day can go to bad.  A bad day can go to worse.  And the worst day can… I hate to even say (if you are just starting your career… Godspeed… and keep your head on a swivel).

That’s why on the nicest quietest days, a principal, dean, or superintendent never lets their guard down.

They can’t afford to.

The next phone call or meeting could unleash holy terror (my second religious reference… weird).

Indescribable drama is always just around the corner.

Or on the next voicemail.  Or in the next email (or 72 emails… which is what I call an average day).

Or the worst kind.  The unexpected drop-in.

There is nothing that will ruin your day quicker than an agitated parent yelling "What are YOU going to DO about….?"

A minute.

It’s not much.

But it can be.

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My Daily Meltdown.


Just another day.

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Your Child is Not Going to Be a Professional Athlete.


Another summer.They Are Kids.

Another year of watching parents put unrealistic expectations on their child.

Here are the facts.

Most kids won’t play sports in high school.

Almost every kid won’t play sports in college.

There’s almost no chance you will know anyone who plays professional sports.

Your child has a better chance of being a brain surgeon than playing baseball for the Cardinals, basketball for the Lakers, or football for the Cowboys.

If you weren’t a great athlete, the odds of your child being one are slim to none.

There’s no amount of practice, coaching, or throwing money at the situation that will improve your sons or daughters enough if they aren’t born with special athetic abilities.

Also, screaming at the umpire or referee won’t help.  They really aren’t there to keep your child from being successful (note to self).

The truth is if you were an average athlete, your child will likely be an average athlete.

Parents who are 5 foot 8, seldom have children who are 6 foot 7.  If you were slow, guess what.

If you got cut from your junior high team, don’t plan on your son or daughter participating in the Olympics.

This doesn’t mean kids shouldn’t participate in sports.

It doesn’t mean they have to be great to play.

It just means parents need to be realistic.

The truth is, when your child is 40 no one cares if they hit the ball, scored a basket, or even played when they were 7.

Sit in your lawn chair and enjoy it.

That’s it.  That’s all there is.

There’s no college scholarship or huge contract coming your way.

Just ice cream after the game.  And that’s good enough.

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Fresh Beagle.


As I get older, I’ve come to realize what’s important in life.

It’s not a big house.  Or owning several cars (including a Classic 2000 Ford Taurus).

Or big screen TV’s, iPads, or fancy computers (but they are nice… and the screen clairity on the new iPad is unbelievable).ET Phone Home.

It’s the little things.

Seeing your child stay out of jail (making bond is a gift).

Surviving another day at work (barely).

Enjoying weather that’s not too hot or cold (which is getting harder to find at my advanced age).

Waking up and most, if not all, of the important body parts are working.

I guess it’s a sign of maturity when you can recognize what’s truly important and you don’t focus on the small and petty.

Having a day where you literally have nothing to do (I haven’t experienced this one, but I’m looking forward to it).

And there’s nothing more important than Buddy the Dog’s bath.

Simple, but important.  At least to me.

It happens every two weeks and it is a highlight.

I look forward to it days in advance (him… not quite as much).

I’m not sure this little bit of happiness would have given me the same level of contentness 20 years ago (not sure if contentness is a word or not).

But a clean dog makes me very happy (this is not a metaphor).

It doesn’t make him quite as happy, but maybe he will see the bigger picture as he gets older.

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My Graduation Speech.


It’s that time of year where schools and universities pay a lot of money for bad graduation speeches.Life Stinks.

I want in on this.  I don’t think you have to be an alumni or a politician to bore people silly.

Plus, I could use the cash.  So, here we go.

Dear Students:

Congratulations on making it this far.  You thought high school and college was the best time of your life.

You were right.

Now the work begins.  If you can find it.

Adults in your life don’t tell you the whole truth, especially when you are graduating from high school or college.  They are just happy you are not in jail.

Plus, they love you.  They have to.  It’s the law.

They also don’t want to tell you the truth because they don’t want to watch you cry like a junior high boy

So I’m going to.

I’m not here to completely crush your hopes and dreams, but it’s probably going to happen so you might as well sit back and take it.

1).  Life stinks.

It’s hard and complicated.  Nothing about life even remotely resembles what you see on commercials or in vacation brochures.

Life isn’t a sitcom.  It’s a drama.  Or tragedy.  Depends on how lucky you get.

Your parents and grandparents have traveled a difficult path to get you here, so now it’s your turn.

Hold on, it’s going to be a bumpy road.

2).  Happiness.

Today you are happy.  There will be hugs.  And gifts.  And cake.

Tomorrow you will wake up unemployed and deeply in debt.

Happiness will have left the building.

This situation will improve for some of you.  Others will continue to wake up unemployed and deeper in debt for years to come.

I paid off my last student loan at the age of 35.  I got lucky.  That’s early.

Take my advice and expect the worse.  That way, if life doesn’t consistently kick you in the face you will be pleased.

Just for the record, anticipate a lot of face-kicking.

3).  Don’t Screw Things Up.

Just do what you are supposed to do.  Mow your yard.  Pay your bills (if you can find a job).  Be polite. Volunteer once in a while.  Don’t cheat on your taxes too much.

You will find yourself in the top 10% if you just pick up your trash and hold doors open for old ladies.

Don’t leave here thinking you are going to make the world a better place in the next 20 minutes. 

We don’t need more saviors.  We need solid citizens who don’t make things worse.

This sounds easy, but as you stumble through life look around and you’ll notice a lot of people who aren’t helping.

If you don’t believe me go to the mall and watch people walk by for 15 minutes and you will understand exactly what I’m saying.

4).  Get Married or Shack Up. 

I don’t care which one you do and I’m not here to judge.  I don’t care about your personal life because I have problems of my own (she’s 11 going on 37).

But when you do hitch your wagon to someone else try and pick someone you like.

Don’t do it for money.  Or looks.  Or so his or her dad will give you that job that you desperately need.

Marry (or not) a person who will make you smile 70 years from now.

Life is short, but bad relationships are forever.

There is nothing worse than eating breakfast with someone you want to stab in the eye with a fork (or so I’m told).

5).  Don’t Reproduce and Mate Smartly.

This is an important one.

If you are unemployed, in debt, immature, hung over, angry at your parents, wear sweat pants more than once a week, or dumb – please don’t think you have to bring children into this world.

They are lot of work.  And expensive.

Once you have them, the government won’t let you give them away (learned this one the hard way).

Life is a marathon not a sprint.  You don’t have to have children in your 20′s.  Or at all.

Just because people ask you "When are you having kids?" doesn’t mean you have to do it.  Most of the time they are just asking because they have children and want you to feel the pain and suffering they go through on a daily basis.

If you must reproduce, realize it is very likely you will be just as bad a parent as your mom and dad.

Think about this before you go to the bar and start hitting on another unemployed broke person.

Don’t create another human just so you can mess them up like your parents did you.  That’s not fair.

To you.  The child.  Or the rest of us.

7.  Your Parents.

They aren’t crying today because you are all grown up.  They are crying tears of joy.

They are tired of paying for you.  They want their house back.  And their lives.  They are tired of you tearing up their stuff. 

They no longer find a 2:00 am phone call from you amusing.  There is no such thing as a "minor" traffic accident when you are driving their car.

Look at them.  They used to be young and vibrate, then you showed up.  Now they are old and tired.

Tired of you.  Tired of your laundry.  Tired of your bills. 

Sure, they will say you are welcome to move back home until you get on your feet, but what they really want is you out of their hair and at least 2 hours away.

They only have a few good years left.  Don’t ruin it for them by mooching off them for the next decade.

Allowances are for kids.  Not 25 year olds.

You will know life is winning if you are sleeping in the same bed you occupied when you were nine.

Also, adults don’t have posters on their bedroom walls.

8).  Take Care of Your Health.

We are all day-to-day.

Life is short and soon you will be dead.  This is one of those things people won’t tell you.

But I guarantee you, not one person in this room will make it out of life alive.

Enjoy the few days or years you have left. 

Old people will constantly tell you life goes fast.  They’re right.

They didn’t get to be old by being stupid.

Certain days will drag on and on, but the weeks, months, and years fly by.  Faster than you can ever imagine.

The moments are precious.  In fact, as I stand here I’m asking myself why I wasted the last several minutes talking to you.

Slow down when you get a chance.  Don’t be in a hurry.  Take a nap at every opportunity, because this journey called life, while quick, is exhausting.

8).  Credit Cards.

Cut them up.  Pay cash.  Understand the difference between a want and a need.

Don’t try and keep up with the Jones’ down the street because it’s highly likely they are up to their….. in debt.

You don’t need a boat, horse, pool, motorcycle, 12 bathrooms, or a vacation home to be happy.

New cars are for suckers.  Never invest in a sure thing.  Stay out of Las Vegas.

Understand the stock market always drops.

Always save for a rainy day, because all of us are about 30 seconds away from a monsoon.

True happiness is not tensing up when the phone rings because you think it might be a bill collector.

True happiness is having at least $1 more at the end of the month than you need.

9).  Diplomas.

They mean nothing.

It’s a piece of paper.  A piece of paper you could have printed up for yourself 4 years ago (it’s called Photoshop people).

Life is about who you know and being in the right place at the right time.

Some of you will obtain doctorates and fail miserably.

Others of you will know people who dropped out of high school and have become quite successful.

Life isn’t fair. 

The sooner you figure this out, the better off you’ll be. 

Don’t be afraid to work.  No job is beneath you.

You don’t get a fancy office and a big title just because you cheated your way through school.

You get those things after you work hard, not before.

10).  Expectations.

Set them low.  Really low.

Hope for the best, but expect the absolute worst.

The odds of you being great aren’t good.

That takes luck.  And a job.  And more luck.

Set your sights on being mediocre.

Mediocre is fine.  Mediocre can make you very happy.

The world is full of mediocre people.  There is only one Bill Gates.  There’s lots of you.

In conclusion, I would like to share the secret to life. 

A wise old man once told me to "Show up and shut up."  I suggest you do the same.

Good luck.  You are going to need it.

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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.