Sundays Are No Longer a Day of Rest.


When I was a kid, Sundays could be boring.Sunday Should Be Fun Day.

You slept a littler later.

You went to Sunday school and church (tried your best not to sleep there).

You ate lunch.

Maybe watched a game on TV (of course, this was before there were a thousand games on television at all hours of the day and night…. so you had a choice of one).

Took a nap.

Sunday afternoon stretched in to Sunday evening and they both seemed to last forever.

Now, Sundays fly by.  Before I know what’s happened it’s Monday and the start of another work week.

Saturdays are no better.  They are spent getting everything done in advance of Sunday so when it arrives I can be completely busy on the last day of the weekend.

Or is it the first day of the week?  I don’t even know because they all run together.

The world has gotten busy.

Some might say too busy.

Being bored used to be a terrible feeling.

Now it might be kind of nice.

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Discovery Education Part Duex: Beyond the Textbook Continues.


Instead of making you watch a projector slideshow of my trip to Washington (old school reference), I thought I would just share my thoughts about my experience at Discovery Headquarters.Discovery Education.

First, I love a free trip.  I’m not sure which I love more – the free or the trip.  Combine them and I’m in heaven (if you are reading this and in charge of giving away free trips, please keep me in mind).

If you recall and I’m almost positive you don’t, I was invited by Discovery about this time last year to take part in a forum on digital textbooks (I’m told it’s the wave of the future).

The way this works is Discovery pays your expenses for two days and then they own you.  Sort of like a college athletic scholarship except there aren’t coaches from Discovery screaming at you.

Discovery flies or trains you in, provides a hotel room, feeds you, and then asks a lot of questions.

Their purpose is to learn the thoughts and ideas of people who may one day implement digital textbooks (or techbooks) in their school districts.

My purpose was to be helpful but most of all to learn something.

This is harder than it sounds.  Think about all the workshops, webinars, speeches, curriculum groups, etc. we’ve all sat through.  More times than not we all leave these experiences dumber and angrier than when we walked in.

Going to Discovery is just the opposite of this type of experience.  These people are so happy with their jobs  it’s almost creepy.

It is hard to be around them and not take something positive away from the experience

When the forum was over, I felt much smarter.  I’m sure I’m not, but the feeling is nice.

I would like to feel taller, but that’s a different blog.

Participating in an event like this at Discovery is fun for several reasons.  The biggest for me is I’m not in charge.  And it’s nice to be part of a group where you don’t hold any responsibility (other than being there on time and eating Georgetown Cupcakes).

It’s also nice to be asked questions instead of being the one asking.  Plus, anytime you find yourself in a situation where everyone else in the room is smarter, you should take advantage of it.

For two days, we were quizzed by the good folks of Discovery Education on a variety of topics.  The main one being what a digital math techbook should look like.

I’m often asked my thoughts about buying textbooks, but no one has ever asked me to help design a very preliminary version of one.

I guess I can check this task off my bucket list.

When Discovery comes out with their Math Techbook, I’m sure I won’t recognize it.  It will likely not look anything like the one our group came up with, but that’s okay.

We were there when they started.  And that’s pretty cool.

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Test Scores and Garage Doors.


Educators hate mandated testing.Garage Door Theory.

Hate.  Hate.  Hate it.

It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard (for those of you younger than 35… chalkboards were used to write on and deliver notes to students before your fancy whiteboards and SMARTBoards came along).

Yet, I think schools perform at a higher level because of testing (not a popular position, I know). 

That being said, I disagree with many of the decisions by the people (politicians) who have put testing in place.

The truth is people perform better when they are evaluated. 

I don’t like it.  You don’t like it.  Nobody likes it.

I’ve never met anyone who said "Yeah, it’s time for my evaluation.  Sweet!"

I can’t say testing has made students smarter, but I think it’s made teachers and administrators more accountable.

I also think it’s a mortal lock that everyone involved, from politicians to testing companies, has benefited more than kids from all this "testing business".

Don’t kid yourself, it’s big business.  Really big.

Those who demand more testing also seem to believe scores are a reflection of student intelligence.  Higher Scores = Better Teachers and Smarter Students.

I don’t buy this.

As educators, we face challenges that can’t be tested.

I think the number one challenge for education and educators in this country is poverty.

My late father-in-law used to say he could drive through any community and tell you their test scores.  He called it his "Garage Door Theory".

More garage doors equaled higher test scores.

Communites with large houses with three car garages did better than communities with smaller houses and fewer garages.

Maybe his theory was a bit simplistic.  Or maybe he was more correct than most of us want to believe.

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Sandy Hook Elementary, Newtown, Connecticut.


I haven’t written a blog about what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday, December 14, 2012 for a couple of reasons.Sandy Hook Elementary.

First, my life at school has been busy.  Extremely busy.

I’m always swamped this time of year, but this tragedy made things even busier (I’m not complaining).

Parents, students, and staff were more shaken about this event than anything I’ve ever experienced.

During Columbine, I was a snot-nosed young teacher, so I’m sure I didn’t realize the impact it had on my administrators and school at the time.

Secondly and most importantly, an event like this doesn’t lend itself to snarky sarcastic blog writing (this is my go to move).

So, I’ve taken some time off from blogging.

And I’m glad I did.

I think the most important thing we can do at times like this is be reflective.

The best reaction is not to overreact.  This can be hard to do when everyone around you wants you to "Do something!"

In the face of tragedy, we all want to immediately implement rules or procedures to fix our own situation.

And often times, that’s the worst thing we can do.

Time will give us many of the answers we are searching for.

Lessons will be learned from what happened in Connecticut.

Schools will become safer.  Politicians will eventually do the right thing (I hope).  Administrators and teachers will be better trained.

Students who are already safe will be even safer in the future.

These things will take time, but they will happen.

This of course, will never fix what happened, but we have to understand we can’t fix it.

We can only make things better from this point forward.

This can sound cold and uncaring, but it’s not.  It is why I didn’t write a blog the next day.

As a side note… Why does the news media put children and families who were directly involved in a tragedy on TV, but won’t show a drunk fan who runs on the field during a professional baseball or football game because they don’t want to "glorify" their actions?

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What Happens When the Superintendent Doesn’t Call Off School.


I’ve been there.At Least They Aren't Throwing Snowballs at Him.

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Twitter is the New Teachers’ Lounge.


A long, long time ago I was hired as a teacher.Twitter Is What You Make of It.

Now we aren’t here to question the good judgment of the gentleman who made this decision, but we probably should discuss it at some point.

For whatever reason, he chose me out of 3 candidates.

I may not have been the greatest teacher, but I was evidently better than the other two.

Or they may have turned the job down right before he offered it to me.

I will never know.

But lucky for me, I had a job.

When I was hired, he gave me some good advice.  After he put his cigarette out.

Yes, times have changed.  In today’s world you would never see a high school principal sitting at his desk hiring a new teacher while sucking on a cancer stick.

But two decades ago, I did.

And I remember his advice like it was yesterday.

He said "Mike, take this advice or don’t.  Doesn’t make me any difference.  But, if I was a brand new teacher, I would stay out of the teacher’s lounge."

Then he went back to smoking.  He really seemed to enjoy it.

I took his advice.  And vowed to never smoke at my desk because I didn’t want my fingers to be yellow.

He didn’t tell me why I should stay out of the lounge, but I remember thinking at the time he must know something I don’t because he had been in education forever.

And I mean forever.

His fingers were REALLY yellow.

These days, I’m starting to think Twitter has become the new Teacher’s Lounge.

Neither one is bad, but they are what you make of them.

Both can provide educators positive and upbeat experiences, but both can also suck the living life out of you.

In either place, I think it’s very easy to get caught up in complaining about schools, students, parents, and even politicians.

If I was giving advice in today’s world (and I am), I would say don’t go anywhere where the people around you make you feel bad about your profession.

This might mean the lounge.  This might also mean Twitter.

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Seeking Solitude: Unplugging From An Increasingly Wired World.


Article by Martha Irvine, AP National Writer.We Need Quiet.

"Seeking Solitude".  Click HERE.

I’m more and more convinced that this is an absolute must for teachers, administrators, and students.

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Searching for Sanity? Turn Off Your Technology.


It is my hope that through this blog someone at some point actually learns something.Take One Day Off. The World Will Survive.

I know it’s not likely, but hope is all I’ve got.

Many times, I know the advice I’m giving is directed squarely at me.

So lets hope today, someone learns something. 

This is my plan.

Technology is great.

It’s also suffocating.

When you are a new principal or superintendent, you are constantly told to communicate, be active in the community, be seen at school, and respond to questions and concerns as quickly as possible.

In this day and age, you can literally be "at" work 24 hours a day.

You can receive and send messages/information all day, every day.

You can check your email while eating, mowing, walking, and seconds before you fall asleep or within moments of waking up.

It’s great.

And it can literally suck the life out of you (I apologize for the language, but sometimes it’s nice to work blue).

That’s why I have this new plan.

No technology.

At least one day a week.  Or more likely, at least part of one day during the week.

I’m thinking Sundays may work best for me.

No emails.  No blogs.  No Facebook.  No Twitter.  No phone calls.

No school.

I’m going underground.  Off the radar.  Incognito.

Surely these same school buildings that have been standing for 100 years will survive one more day if I turn off my phone.

And if they don’t, there probably won’t be school on Monday anyway.

It’s easy to be needed. 

It’s much harder to realize everyone else will be just fine without you.

I’m officially copyrighting "No Technology Day for Administrators."  From now on, my speeches in front of literally thousands and thousands of people will include not only a push for administrators using technology, but also a push not to use technolgy.

At least one day a week.

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The Scariest Feeling You Can Experience in School.


Working in a school is more fun than a real job.Shock and Horror.

But there are times that can be unsettling.

1.) The sad day that is July 5, when you realize summer is almost over (downhill from there).

2.) The morning you wake up expecting a snow day and it’s 52 degrees and sunny.

3.) Anytime the government gets involved in education.

But all of these pale in comparison to the worst feeling an educator sitting at his or her desk can experience.

It happens every year.

I know this because people email me within seconds of this tragic event.

The tone of the email is always the same.  Shame mixed with fear wrapped in an apology.

5.) It’s when an employee using a school computer goes to one website and ends up on another.

The unexpected site rhymes with born, thorn, sworn, torn, and worn.

It’s always the same series of events.  They type in an innocent web address and they end up someplace entirely different.

Usually, the site is only on the computer for seconds, but it can seem like hours when they are frantically hitting the Escape or Delete button.  Some have even pulled the power cord.

This stress and shame is compounded if there are children within 100 feet.

I always get the sense they are sweating profusely when they send the email pleading their innocence.

First, I’m not the computer police.  I know it was accident.

And second, why do innocent people always feel so guilty?

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This Will Make Every Teacher Very Happy.


Last week I had a good day because I only worked half of it.Lotterys Are Fun.

At lunch time, I snuck out (and before you tell on me… I filled out the proper paperwork).

I have to sneak out.  If not 197 people stop me.

This is bad.

The good thing is each one of them only "needs a second".

Superintendent Math:  197 people x 1 second = 17 hours and 19 minutes.

So, I was very happy to get out of the building without being stopped.

I spent a beautiful fall day working with a dog like a dog in the yard.  I’m not sure what Buddy does when I’m at school, but I know what he does when I’m home.

He lays in the exact spot where I need to work.

It’s creepy.  Wherever I turn, there he is.

Sleeping.

And snoring.

Note to dog who lives in my house and eats my food:  It’s a big yard.  Go sleep in a flowerbed I’m not weeding.

While I was working, I had an endless stream of ingenious ideas.

Most of which I forgot within two minutes.

The one I remember is golden.

Everyone loves a day off.

Everyone looks forward to it.

How about each school employee gets one Lottery Day Off every five years.

Here is how it works.

Each Friday the school hires an extra sub.

Before first period, the entire staff gathers in the gym for a drawing.

After a drum roll and lots of anticipation, one employee is pulled from a fancy machine filled with ping pong balls.

When your name is pulled, you get to go home.

No questions asked.

Just a bonus day off.

Teachers, administrators, janitors, cooks, secretaries… everybody is eligible.

A day off is great.  An unexpected day off is better.

Everyone would look forward to Fridays, just because of the excitement of not having to stay.  Actually, everyone looks forward to Fridays already, but that’s not important.

I don’t see a downside to this idea. 

Other than the cost of a sub and the bitterness of those who don’t win. 

Now, I just need to find a fancy lottery machine with ping pong balls and a large group of people who want to go home.

One is going to be a lot easier to find than the other…I will let you decide which is which.

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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.