I Thought All Decisions Were Black and White.


In another life I’m positive I was a teacher (it’s been so long, but I’m pretty sure).

Back in the good old days, running a school or school district seemed so easy.

I could sit in a teacher’s meeting and come up with the correct answers in a split-second.

You didn’t even have to ask me.  (and trust me, no one did).

Actually, you didn’t even have to have a teacher’s meeting.  I could simply stand in the hallway and share my opinion.

I just knew how things should be done.

Things seemed so simple from my vantage point (in the back… sometimes paying attention).

I was positive I understood all the decisions school administrators should make (ALL… not some… ALL).

Give me a problem.  I had the answer.Everybody is An Expert.  Until They Have to Make the Decision.

Don’t give me a problem.  Still had the answer.

No hesitation.

No second-guessing.

No mistakes.

Back then, I was a genius (in my own mind… and only in my own mind).

Basically, I was batting a 1,000% on any and all tough decisions (I was keeping track… probably when I should have been listening).

It really wasn’t that hard.

In fact, it always confused me why principals and superintendents made things look so difficult.

Everything seemed clear to me.  Very black and white.

Then I became an administrator.

About 2 minutes in, I realized decisions were seldom black and white (it took 2 minutes because the first 90 seconds I was frozen from sheer panic).

In fact, after 8 years I have come to realize there aren’t any decisions that are black and white.

They’re all gray.

Every single one.

I think this is because each decision an administrator makes involves people.

Sure, you may be deciding on a sports schedule or a printer cartridge, but eventually the decision leads you to a person.

And that makes the simple complicated.

If only I knew then what I know now.

Comments: 13
Tags: , ,

Leadership Lessons from the Dancing Guy.


My new favorite video.

 

Thanks Rene.

Comments: 4
Tags: ,

What Really Motivates People.


You might be surprised.

 

Comments: 5
Tags:

Believing You Are Great Leaves Very Little Room for Improvement.


The idea for this blog came to me after reading a comment left on an entry called “Perception”.

It got me thinking why educators and schools are sometimes the last to know they may not be as perfect as they want to believe.I Need This Poster.

I’m not judging, I’m just saying. 

This is an easy trap.

It can happen to administrators, teachers, custodians, cooks, school boards, parents, athletes, students and entire school districts (is there anyone I didn’t insult???).

Most of us like to believe we are self-motivated (if this was true, I wouldn’t need an alarm clock… or a scale).

And most of us are motivated.

Up to a point.

Then not so much.

The point our self-motivation fails us is when things get really hard.

It’s difficult to do things that are uncomfortable (or new).

I think this is one of the reasons it’s taken so long for technology to be taught by classroom teachers.

It can be hard (ie: new).  And confusing.  Even worse, it opens up the possibility the teacher may not be the smartest person in the classroom.

Many of us also believe the organization in which we are members is far greater than it actually is.

If you are involved with a group of people who are consistently telling each other they are great, you start to believe it.

None of us want to think we need to continually improve, but we do.

We all need help to accomplish great things.  To do our best.  To do things we could have never imagined.

It’s impossible to push ourselves to our limits (if that was the case the Marines wouldn’t need Sergeants).

Most of us think we are working as hard as possible.

We believe we are improving on a daily basis and giving at least a 110% effort (except on Fridays and days before holidays… those don’t count).

The truth is we probably aren’t.

That’s where we need help.

Other people (or outsiders) can recognize areas in which we need to improve.

That’s why we need coaches, bosses, mentors, and professional development.

We may not want people telling us we aren’t as great as we think we are, but it’s definitely what we need.

Comments: 14
Tags: , , , ,

Super Bowl of Stupid.


I’m not sure who will win the Super Bowl, but I’m positive who wins when Schools take on the Media. 

It’s a no brainer.

The Media.I'm Pulling for the Saints.

Every single time.

Well, not every single time.

No, I was wrong.  They do win every single time.

Not because the Media is right, but because they have the last word.

If you want to survive (not thrive, mind you… just survive) in school administration, this is something you have to learn.

Don’t make decisions so incredibly stupid that the producer of the 10 o’clock news (11 o’clock for our friends on the East Coast) can get monster ratings from making you the lead story.

People seem to love the “school messed up” angle.

You don’t want to be the principal or superintendent who is being interviewed (always sitting at your desk with the camera looking DOWN upon you… not a good look) when you can only say “No comment” or “this issue involves personnel, so the School District cannot address it at this time”.

When you say these things the public only hears…

GUILTY!!!

Just for the sake of argument, let’s say the school district and it’s employees did nothing wrong.

Then the public hears:

GUILTY!!!

It’s a no-win situation once you find yourself on television.

So here is my Tip for the Day.

Stop doing stupid things.  Use some common sense.  Ask yourself “If I have to go on the news tonight and explain this decision, how will it look?”

 

Exhibit A:  La. Student, Principal Clash Over Colts Jersey

KOCO: A Louisiana high school student says he was sent home for wearing an Indianapolis Colts jersey Friday — the day the principal encouraged students to wear New Orleans Saints black and gold as the teams get ready to face off in the Super Bowl.

"If they tell other students to support their team, why can’t I support mine?" Brandon Frost, 17, told The Associated Press. The senior at Maurepas High School moved three years ago from Indianapolis to the rural town 30 miles from Baton Rouge.

A Livingston Parish School Board member said Frost wasn’t sent home, but was told he couldn’t wear the blue jersey at school. Keith Martin, whose district includes Maurepas, said the school uniform had been relaxed only for black and gold.

He said he planned to ask school system attorneys whether that violated Frost’s right to free speech, as the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana contends.

State ACLU director Marjorie Esman sent a letter to Principal Steven Vampran, asking him to wipe Frost’s record of any discipline stemming from the incident.
Vampran declined to comment.

Martin said he had talked with both Vampran and Frost’s father, Larry Frost.

"I think we got things worked out," Martin said.

According to Martin, a friend of Brandon Frost’s had asked Vampran on Thursday whether Brandon could wear a Colts jersey, and had been told "no."

During a class on Thursday, Frost said, he talked about his plans to wear his jersey rather than Saints colors. He said the teacher warned him he’d get in trouble.

Larry Frost said he didn’t know about that when Brandon asked Thursday whether he could wear the jersey. He said he told his son to come home if he was hassled too much.

The Colts and Saints play Sunday in the Super Bowl, and emotions have run high in Louisiana as fans celebrate the first Super Bowl appearance for the beleaguered franchise.

Brandon Frost said Vampran called him out of his first class Friday and told him, "I don’t recall saying you could wear a Colts jersey on Black-and-Gold Day."

He said he told the principal that his father had given him permission to go home if it was a problem.

"He started to get angry with me," Frost said. "I thought I remember him saying, ‘If you like Indiana so much, why don’t you go back?’"

Vampran has acknowledged that he should not have said that, Martin said. He said no one sent Frost home — but no one kept him from leaving rather than changing shirts.

Larry Frost said he called the ACLU rather than the school because he was too angry.

"Louisiana would be proud of him anyway," Larry Frost said. "He wore Joseph Addai’s jersey."

The Colts running back is a graduate of Louisiana State University.

 

Maybe, just maybe this school did nothing wrong.

Too bad.  Too late.

They’ve already been on TV.  And on Twitter.  And in a Blog.

Everyone has already heard… GUILTY!!!.

Comments: 4
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

No Limit for Better.


I think I’ve just found the title for my next book (which for those of you scoring at home… will be my first book).

When I said “found”, I meant stolen. I ripped the title off from my good friend Mr. Harrison Ford.

By “good friend”, I mean I’ve never met the man.We Have to Do Better.

You may remember him from the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies. Or maybe the movie where he played the President of the United States and beat everyone up on Air Force One.

I don’t know about you, but I like my Presidents to be able to hold their own in hand-to-hand combat with bad guys.

Harry (that’s what I call him) tells the story about working for a Russian architect when he was a young actor/carpenter.

This circumstance relates to everyone because who amongst us hasn’t worked for a Russian architect at one point or another?

That’s what I thought. We all have.

During a course of a building project he told the architect they needed to change a dimension by half an inch.

The architect responded by saying “No limit for better.”

This made me think of education.

Who am I kidding, everything makes me thing about education (summer vacation starts when???).

We should have the same attitude as the architect, but I think all too often we take the opposite approach.

In too many cases we aren’t interested in making even the smallest of changes.

In the last 30 years, far too many educators have taken the stance of improving conditions in schools as it relates to their jobs.

This is the opposite of what we should be doing. We should constantly be looking for improvements in practices that relate to students.

Whenever a new circumstance presents itself at school, our first reaction inside our heads is… “How will this affect me?”

And it should be “How will this help students?”

The question is how do we change the way we think?

And can we make the necessary changes before others do it for us?

Comments: 16
Tags: , , , ,

The 6 Levels of Stupid.


I am unable to confirm that any of the following involved me, friends of mine, people I know, or in some cases my sworn enemies (pending litigation and all).

Stupid comes in various forms.

The form it most often takes with me is called “Happens Way too Often”.

I’m not saying I’m stupid, I’m simply saying I’m a magnet for stupid (Yes! 4 I’ms in one… no that’s 5 in one sentence.  And my English teachers said I wouldn’t amount to anything.).

Since I have a certain expertise in stupid, I thought it might be wise to rank the various types of stupidity.

Here are The 6 Levels of Stupid:

Level 6 – Tech Stupid.

Hating your technology person (I don’t… why did I feel the need to mention this?  Because I want my computer to work tomorrow.) isn’t a good thing.

Blaming them when your computer/printer/email/SMARTBoard doesn’t work is not always correct.

Sending them a “Trouble Ticket” that contains a request, some anger, and an underlying threat to their well-being is a bad thing.

Especially when you’ve indicated they are the worst person in the world and deserve to die a painful and slow death just because your computer doesn’t work.

Only to find out when they show up to fix the computer… it is unplugged.

And you unplugged it the day before.  And forgot.You Have to Admit... Pop-Tarts Are Tasty.

Level 5 – Pop Tart Stupid.

Getting up early to make both a tasty and healthy breakfast.

Two Pop-Tarts = Breakfast of Champions.

Plus, this allows your new bride to sleep in as you are being a big boy and making your own breakfast.

Toss the tarts into the toaster and head off.

Head off where? 

The gas station to buy a newspaper of course.

This was the perfect plan.

Until the toaster jammed.

And started a fire.

But don’t be alarmed.  The entire apartment didn’t burn down.

Just the kitchen (can you say kiss the deposit goodbye).

Level 4 – Excuses Stupid.

This level is for those special people who continue to confuse an excuse with a reason.

I don’t have my homework because the dog ate it is an excuse (not Buddy… he only eats shoes).

I don’t have my homework because my mom and dad were taken to the hospital last night after they were involved in an accident is a reason.

While subtle, there is a difference.

Level 3 – I’m in a Meeting Stupid.

Conducting a School Board Meeting using your laptop as a communication device is a good thing.  Leaving Yahoo Instant Messenger on so your evil spawn daughter can share her thoughts on what happened that day in 3rd grade is a bad thing.

I’m thankful her language was appropriate that particular night (because trust me… it can get pretty salty).

Level 2 – Email Etiquette Stupid.

Emails.

They are a great way to ask a question.

Sometimes you forward an email that you received from another person.

You should read these first.

If you had read it (and you have no idea who you are… because you are stupid), you would have noticed it said some not so nice things about me… 3 forwards ago.

Ouch.

If I had feelings this would have hurt them.

Level 1 – I Didn’t Know As Much As I Thought I Did Stupid.

                 
I have written close to 300 blogs.  Yes, that’s right, I’ve wasted more time on moronic blog writing than just about any other school administrator in the world (feel free to call “my people” Guinness Book of World Records).

I’m very proud.

And embarrassed I haven’t spent this time making the world a better place.

During the course of working on these blogs it has occurred to me that writing them is easy (lack of quality isn’t terribly hard), but posting them can be difficult.

I write them in Microsoft Word and then copy and paste them into my WordPress blog.

Then I had to add pictures and hyperlink old blogs into the new one.

This takes a great deal of time.

I’ve often thought someone should invent a program to make this process easier.

I literally scheduled hours just to curse at my computer when things didn’t go smoothly (evidently my daughter gets her language issues honestly).

Then it happened (no, not more cursing… that’s impossible).

Someone Twittered I should be using Microsoft Live Writer.  Evidently, it  is a tool to help post your blogs.

What???

This has been available since… well, since 300 blogs ago!!!!

Is there a reason people have been keeping this secret from me?

Or am I just stupid?


Note from bride, however, no longer new.  Luckily we owned 1 kitchen pot.  And I mean only 1.  It was filled with water in the kitchen sink from the previous night’s meal.  I was able to use that pot to extinguish the burning cabinet quickly enough to prevent “much” damage. Therefore, we did receive our deposit back and believe me, we needed it.  Do you know how much a first year teacher made in 1995?

Comments: 6
Tags: , , , ,

School Administrators Don’t Fail to Plan, They Fail to Plan B.


School has been is session for 3 weeks. Which means a couple of things.

One, I can no longer recall this past summer. And two, I can’t envision next summer ever arriving.

Other than that, this school year has been great.

We’ve survived registration, Institute Day, Open House, the start of the football season, and the first full moon.

Since these big events are behind us, it’s time to settle into the everyday routine.

Routine is always good, but tiring.See, We're Not the Only Ones.

This became clear to me on Thursday evening. That’s when I decided to get up early Friday to exercise.

I didn’t plan to jog before work for the normal reason (exercise so I don’t have a heart attack in the hallway because it might be perceived as weakness…), but for a new reason.

I needed a nap after school on Friday.

School has been in session for over 15 days and I’m exhausted.

One might think I would be better off sleeping in and then exercise after school concludes on Friday afternoon.

Nope.

A quality nap is the type of long-term goal that gets me through the day. But it does need to be preplanned.

I schedule my naps so I can not only enjoy the experience, but I can enjoy the anticipation of the experience.

It kind of makes sense when you think about it (if you think about it and you are me…).

The ability to plan is a key to surviving as an administrator (notice I didn’t say succeed… just survive).

So on Friday morning, I got up bright and early at the precrack of dawn to jog. It was dark but the moon provided enough light to safely run.

I grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed out into the early morning.

It was cool and I had the streets to myself. Perfect weather.

I don’t mind saying that I was cruising along. 3 miles from the house and it seemed like I could go forever.

Then it hit me.

I’m not comfortable describing exactly what hit me, but please know it wasn’t good.

I quickly recognized that while I had put a plan in place to exercise, I didn’t have the all-important Plan B.

If you are a runner, you know that in this case Plan B stands for bathroom.

This was a problem.

So I considered my options and quickly realized I didn’t have time to put together a committee.

I was on my own. A school administrator’s worst nightmare (after all, there is safety in numbers).

I’m no math teacher but when I run 3 miles away from the house, it is roughly 3 miles back to the house.

There is an educational lesson here.

Administrators need the ability to only plan, but the skill to quickly come up with Plans B, C, and D when their first plan fails.

And it almost always does.

This happens with scheduling, curriculum, athletics, AYP, and just about everything else that is part of running a school.

In my case Plan A (exercise) was a big success. Plan B was a little trickier, but I made it home.

Barely.

Plan C was the nap. After all of my work, what could possibly go wrong with me getting a little shut eye after school on Friday.

I rushed home, changed out of my school armor (shirt and tie), turned the TV channel to golf, and snuggled in with my best buddy (Buddy the Dog… and yes we were spooning… don’t judge us… because you don’t understand our love…).

I immediately went to that place where I’m almost asleep but still awake.

Then I heard it.

It was the end of Plan C, the nap.

My evil spawn throwing open the door, tossing her book bag aside, and yelling… “You two are pathetic… who sleeps on Friday right after school?”

Apparently, not me.

Lessons to be learned: One, exercise is a good thing. Two, fiber bars are tasty and filling before an early morning run, but they are also fast acting.

Lastly and most importantly, you can never anticipate everything that might happen to derail your plans. Especially if your opponent is an 8 year old evil spawn.

Comments: 4
Tags: , , , , , , ,

President Obama: I Need to Ask You to Watch Your Language.


Let the record show, the sun came up on the morning of September 9, 2009.

Once I heard the President was going to speak directly to kids, I wasn’t sure this would happen.

After listening to educators obsess about this speech for over two weeks, I was convinced this was the end of the world as we know it.President Obama... Using Bad Words When Kindergarten Students are Listening.

I hadn’t been this frightened about the future of humanity since 2001. That was the year the NFL had the brainstorm to pair Aerosmith and Britney Spears as their Super Bowl halftime show.

The horror.

Britney Spears on the same stage as a band with talent.

I survived that… barely. Although I must admit, my ears did bleed ever so slightly.

It took me 8 long years to get over that, and then this happens. I’m not sure how much more I can take.

The idea was borderline insane.

Barack Obama talking to our kids.

Who does he think he is?

The President of the United States?

Oh, he is? Never mind.

So begrudgingly, schools (some) allowed the President to address their students.

Just the thought of him encouraging kids to work hard, take responsibility for their education, and listen to their parents and teachers was almost more than I could handle.

He even told them to wash their hands.

In my estimation the speech was almost perfect.

Encouraging but not political. He spoke to younger students as well as to high school seniors.

He was positive while being demanding.

It was far better than I could have imagined.

Except for one thing.

Mr. President, you can’t say “stupid” when talking to kindergarten students.

While I didn’t graduate from Harvard Law School, I do know that is a curse word to almost every 5 year old. So Mr. President, if you dare take on the ever so controversial act of addressing school children in the future, please clean up your language.

Comments: 4
Tags: , , , ,

When Did They Start Hiring Kids as Police Officers?


This is an Actual Picture of the Police Officer Who Pulled Me Over (not really).I got stopped for speeding this morning.

Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.

There’s no reason I should have been going that fast. It was just a bad idea. Nothing good could have come out of it.

Best case scenario, I get to school earlier. That isn’t what I call a “good scenario”.

It’s not that I don’t like to arrive at school early because I do. The peace. The quiet. The no interruptions.

You can’t beat it.

In the two hours before school, I can accomplish what it takes me 87 regular school days to do.

6-8 am… it’s like study hall for administrators.

But today was not the day to get to school early.

Reason #1 – it’s Friday. Reason # 2 – it’s a Full-Moon. Reason #3 – it’s a Friday with a Full-Moon.

I’m not a scientist, statistician, or witchdoctor but odds are today was going to be a long day.

Even the best case scenario wasn’t a good one.

Now the worst case scenario. I get stopped by a child-like police officer.

And that’s exactly what happened. I should have known because it’s not just Friday.

It’s Full-Moon Friday.

If you don’t understand the significance of this event, you’re not an educator. Or your just a damn fool (sorry for the language… but I’m considering blogging a little
bluer to expand my audience to over 3 dozen people).

To make matters worse the police officer was 12 years old. I’m relatively sure this time last year he was playing dodge ball in PE, shoving his buddies while waiting in
line at the water fountain, and being awkward around girls at the 7th grade dance.

Now he is a policeman.

When did they start hiring officers who are younger than me?

As a kid, I distinctly remember ALL police officers being old. Now they look like teenagers.

How did this happen?

When did this happen?

Authority figures are supposed to be at least 40 years old, grey or balding, and grumpy.

They are supposed to be old.

They are supposed to look like me.

Wait a second…

The moral of this story is I’m old. And don’t drive 53 in a 30 mph zone. And be nice to squirrely junior high boys because they will grow up and become police officers… and eventually they will pull you over for speeding… but they just might let you off with a warning if you’ve been nice to them…

Comments: 7
Tags: , , ,

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.