Graduates: Rules for Real Life.

It’s the season.  Graduation Season. I’ve been too busy to blog, so here’s some advice for the Decatur Herald and Review. (Decatur, Illinois)Good Luck Class of 2013!

Since it’s graduation season, this seems to be a good time to publish this list of rules for graduates as they move on in life.

The rules are often, incorrectly, attributed to Bill Gates or deceased novelist Kurt Vonnegut. The list, however, is the work of Charles J. Sykes, author of the book “Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write, or Add.”

At any rate, it’s a good list to think about:

Rule 1: Life is not fair; get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will not make $60,000 a year right out of high school.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger-flipping. They called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rainforest from the parasites of your parents’ generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades, and they’ll give you as many chances as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off, and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is not real life. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

There are three additional rules that aren’t always printed:

Rule 12: Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic.

Rule 13: You are not immortal. If you are under the impression that living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse is romantic, you obviously haven’t seen one of your peers at room temperature lately.

Rule 14: Enjoy this while you can. Sure, parents are a pain, school’s a bother and life is depressing. But someday, you’ll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now.

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Kelsey Elise Graduates from Grand Valley State University.

More proof that the next generation is smart.

Really smart.

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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).


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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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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Do You Know Who I Am?


I haven’t a clue.

It never fails.  I will be out and about, minding my own business, and some snot-nosed 27 year old will walk up say…

“Do you remember me?”


Remember you?


I haven’t a clue.

If I had you in class thirteen years ago, things have changed.

I’ve had 87,412 students since then.

You are older.

Your hair is different.

You’ve had kids.  Lost weight.  Gained weight.  Gotten shorter.  Grew a foot.

Done 4 years of hard time.  Tattooed up.

Had kids of your own.

Possibly even pierced things that shouldn’t be pierced.

I’ve gotten older.  Less wise.  Tired.  And even more confused.

Usually it’s a combination of several of these things and they all add up to “I think I know you, but I’m not really sure why”.

I usually get the sense we’ve crossed paths, but have no concept of when or where.

So, if you walk up to me please know I’m going to have a stupid, uncomfortable, lost, and confused look on my face.


Until, you do us both a favor and say who you are.

This is a basic rule of introducing yourself.  Introduce yourself.

Because when a student is in school, they have one superintendent.  One principal.  And one teacher for each class.

We have dozens of students.  Or hundreds.  And even thousands.

Multiply that by 10, 20, or 30 years and it’s a lot of kids.

Most of which won’t look the same after they graduate.

Which means I won’t always know who you are.

When students leave, they are forever frozen in time.  At least in my mind.

So while, I may not remember you, I will probably remember the 1994 version of you.

Of course, none of this is true if you were really challenging in school.  If there was a suspension, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll remember your face.  And your beady little eyes.

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Reading is Harder Than It Looks.

Graduation has come and gone.What's Your Name Again?

Another school year in the yearbooks.

It’s always an exciting time for students (and really hot for everyone else).

For me, it is more stressful than exciting. 

My stress comes from the fact that I have to read.


Yes, read.

Normally, I am pretty confident with my ability to read.  After all, I’ve been practicing since my kindergarten days in the early 1970’s.

That was a special time.

I had my whole life ahead of me.  Not like today, when I have half my life ahead of me (if all goes well).

I also had a bowl haircut and knee patches on my jeans.

It was a look (don’t judge me).

Each year at graduation, I have the responsibility of reading the names of the graduates as they walk up on stage to receive their diplomas.

I’m not going to lie to you, it’s not easy.

Don’t get me wrong, the difficult part isn’t being overwhelmed by waves of emotion as I send another group of Seniors out into the world.

It’s the reading.

And there will be a new group of Seniors next year (sorry, old Seniors).

Pronouncing names is not as easy as it looks.

Sure, I’ve known most of the students for years.  What I haven’t known are their middle names.

There’s something about reading off their first, middle, and last names that makes it complicated.

I always practice reading the list at least a week in advance so I will feel prepared.

And I never do.

Two minutes before the ceremony begins, I completely forget every student’s name.

In fact, as I look down from the stage I could swear I’ve never seen these kids before.

Who are they?  Why are they here?  What’s with the funny hats?

The look like total strangers.

Panic sets in.

Sweating begins.

And this leads to my worst nightmare, which is me mispronouncing the name of a graduate in front of their entire family.

The pressure.

Who wants me babbling like an idiot on a graduation video they will watch over and over again (or more likely never).

Graduation is the Senior’s opportunity to celebrate his or her accomplishments.

For me it’s a chance to do something stupid in public.

For them it’s a special night.

For me another day in a superintendent’s life.

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Graduation Math.

You see… math is important.

The amount of noise made by family members during the ceremony algebra-cartoonis inverse to the amount of success the graduate may experience later in life.

The higher the temperature inside the gymnasium/auditorium increases the length of the graduation ceremony.

The number of programs printed equals the number of programs being used as fans during graduation.

The larger number of graduation party invitations sent out increases the odds of the graduate receiving luggage as gifts.

10% of all graduates wish they could remain in high school.  That number only increases with time.

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High School Seniors Are Clueless.

The End.

Actually there is more to this blog than just the title, but there doesn’t have to be. 

If you’ve been around the strange animal (“The Senior”), the title is pretty self-explanatory.Good Luck.  You'll Need It.

Seniors don’t have a clue.

About anything.

This is painfully obvious to just about everyone (especially their parents).

Everyone recognizes this fact, but the Seniors.

They think they have it all figured out.

Actually, they know they have it all figured out (if you don’t believe me, just ask them)

The only thing holding them back are those annoying adults.  Those people who surround them with only one purpose…to tell them what to do and how to act.

Who are “those people”? Teachers, administrators, coaches, mom, dad, and every other old person they’ve encountered since they first stepped foot in kindergarten

All of those people with their annoying advice, experience, and perspective.

Constantly trying to warn them about the challenges life has in store for them.  Trying to alert them that the world is about to smack them upside the head (and Seniors… consider yourself lucky if you only get hit in the head…). Trying to tell them life gets more complicated after high school, not less (sad, but true).

Seniors don’t want to hear it.

They don’t want anymore advice.

They don’t want to hear any more stories about how life used to be “in the good old days”. 

Enough with the guidance.

They want out.

Out of high school.  Out of their houses.  Out of the towns they grew up in (no matter how big that town may be… it’s still too small and there’s nothing to do).

They want sweet sweet freedom.

And they want it 6 months ago.

They want to make their own decisions and be in charge of their own destinies.

As we established earlier, they have all the answers.

What they haven’t figured out (yet) is they don’t know any of the questions.

I feel relatively confident speaking about this phenomenon because I was once a Senior.  Man was I stupid (and by stupid, I mean more stupid than now).

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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.