It Seems Easier to Be a Great Person After Death Than Before.


I don’t usually write about anything other than education topics.

This is because I realize my limitations are great (in far too many areas to list here).

I’m pretty sure I barely have a concept about what is happening within education. I’m also positive I have no concept about anything else. 

But occasionnally something bugs me and I’m fascinated to know if it bothers anyone else.

Today it’s Whitney Houston’s death.

I remember when she was a big star.  Maybe the biggest.

I remember the albums (casettes), movies (VHS), and the National Anthem at the Super Bowl (sorry Buffalo).

She was rich and famous.  And evidently miserable.

Her life became complicated (but whose isn’t).

I’m not judging her, but I do have a question.

As I watch TV and cruise the interweb, it seems like the focus is on how great she was and what a terrific talent has been lost.

I’m sure this is true.

But I’m always amazed how no one ever dies with bad qualities.

We always remember the best in people, but what about everything else?  What about the kids?  And in the future, her grandkids?

What has her behavior done to them?

It was great she could sing, but she had a more important job.

You see this same type of situation happening far too often in schools.

An adult’s life (for a variety of reasons) has a traumatic effect on their children.  You can just see the kids being set up for a more complicated life than any of us can imagine. 

And while educators can help at school , we can’t always help them when they’re not in school.

I don’t think Whitney Houston was a bad person.  But I do think for all of her talent, her lasting impression on the world will be how her child raises her kids.

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Little Girls Grow Up So Quickly.


Where does the time go?

It seems like The Evil Spawn was born only yesterday.

Now she’s 10.

She’s outgrown her playroom wall, so it was time for a change.

But what I know and she doesn’t is all too soon, she will outgrow our house altogether.

 

 

 Happy Birthday.

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What Christmas Means to Me.


Christmas is a special time.He's Scary.

It’s an opportunity to slow down (actually speed up) and spend time with friends and family.

The holidays mean carols, lights, church, Santa Claus, and snow (and don’t forget holiday sales… items slashed 20%… until the day after Christmas when prices will be slashed 99%).

But to me, Christmas means something else.

The Grinch.

That guy scared the bejeebies out of me when I was a kid.

And I’m not to proud to admit he still does.

I never make it through a Christmas season without seeing that thing in my dreams (nightmares).

To this day I find this male humanoid creature with bright green fur, scrawny limbs, a round midsection, and a foul grimace CREEPY (the previous sentence brought to you by Wikipedia… expect for the word creepy… I added that).

It’s possible I am the only person who was scarred by this “cartoon”.

But I doubt it.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Except to you Mr. Grinch.  You are a mean one.

If he wasn’t scary enough, he was also mean to his dog Max… so Buddy the Dog also hates him.

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Waiting for Superman. Still Waiting.


 

The Evil Spawn was gone last night.  I’m not sure I understand why sleeping at a friend’s house is exciting to a 9 year old girl, but I know why it’s exciting to me. 

Free time!!!

The Tech Queen took me out for dinner and a movie last night (it’s a glimpse of our future… a future of sweet, sweet freedom).Good, But Not Great.

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.

Not.

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.

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.

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A Good School Administrator Can Smell Trouble.


One of the worst things about being a school administrator is you become jaded.

After a few years (or hours) on the job you begin to get a sense of the people you are dealing with.

Your senses are heighted to the point you can easily recognize an upset person/fan/parent/employee/total stranger from at least 457 yards away.

My 457 yard figure isn’t a guesstimate.  It’s from a scientific study (Google it… actually, don’t).

It’s like playing Where’s Waldo.  Give a seasoned administrator a gym full of people and they can instantly spot the one person who is about to walk up and say…

“I don’t mean to complain, BUT…”

Just once, I want someone to walk up and say “I always complain and I always will.  So sit back and enjoy the colossal reaming you are about to receive!”

What a breath of fresh air that would be (call me a dreamer).

Since this is never going to happen, I want to focus on the downside of having the ability to recognize a complicated situation before it happens.

You (and by you, I mean me) get so used to having your guard up, you sometimes assume there’s trouble where there isn’t.Moist is Not Good.

And we all know what happens when you assume (if you don’t… Google it… really).

Not being able to properly diagnose a situation can make your life even more sad and tragic than it already is.

As I was researching this blog (not)  it made me think of the most horrific moment of my life.

No, not the day the Evil Spawn assumed control of the TV remote (although that’s definitely top 3).

The day in question was so terrible I encourage all of you to stop reading this blog immediately (yes, I know… there’s no way you can stop reading now, but you’ve been warned).

I found myself in the middle of a situation and I didn’t have the ability to pinpoint where my troubles were coming from.

This can be the death of a school administrator (not literally).

Lucky for me, fifteen years later I’m older and wiser.

Okay, just older.

Seriously, this is your last chance to bail out (save yourself, I’m begging you).

No?  So you are all in?  Alright, here we go.

Fifteen years ago, my child bride and I went to the movies.

From the moment we walked in I knew something was wrong.

What was it?

Did the movie stink?  Probably, but that wasn’t it.

Were there creepy teenagers making out in the balcony?  No.  There wasn’t a balcony.

Was the popcorn burnt and overpriced?  Negative.  It’ wasn’t burnt.

What was it?

There was a certain smell I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

A sort of stale moist haze lingered in the air.

It was almost pungent.

What was it?

I wasn’t sure, but I knew it was unpleasant.

Even back then I prided myself on the ability to diagnose a situation.

I can remember thinking I should be able to figure this out.

What is that smell?

I was a college graduate with nearly a year of teaching experience under my belt.  This shouldn’t have been a riddle wrapped in a mystery.

As the movie hit the halfway mark, I began to get frustrated.

What is that smell?  I couldn’t focus on anything but figuring out the strange odor.

Then it hit me.

My pants (or slacks for you older blog readers) were a little wet.

Actually, they were a lot wet.

Had I spilled my soda?  No, that wasn’t it.

What was it?

Had I had an “accident”.  No.  That will likely come in my later years.

Then I figured it out.

It was…

…still time to bail out people.

It was urine.

Yes, I said urine.

My own?

No.

Unfortunately, I had not wet myself.  I have never in my life wished I had less bowel control than in that very moment.

It was urine alright.

The person who “used” my seat during the previous movie had been kind enough to leave me a little present.

They had used the movie seat as a giant urine sponge.

And I sat in it.

For over an hour.

There’s a lesson to be learned here for every man, woman, and child who is considering become a principal or superintendent.

One, always and I mean always make sure your tetanus shot is up to date.

And two, never ever assume where your problems are coming from.  They may not be 457 yards away.

They just might be right underneath you.

Sometimes you are better off focusing inward instead of outward.

Or at least underward.

Let it be known, you will never go to the movies without thinking about me…and checking the seat for unexpected moisture.

PS…I tried to warn you!

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Off the Grid.


I’ve been a little lax in my blogging.  The reason… we’re on vacation.

The View From Every Window in Our Cabin.

Well, kind of.

I’m not sure if you can technically call it a vacation when you drive over 19,000 miles with the Evil Spawn and Buddy the Dog in the backseat snoring (if that isn’t bad enough, they both drool while they sleep… and neither one can figure out why the truck seat is wet).

I must admit this obnoxious snoring is better than hearing “Are we there yet?”

To get from our house to the North Shore in Minnesota took approximately 87 hours.

Or at least it seemed like 87 hours (it may have been longer because at one point I passed out).

The trip was so long that I could have sworn we were going in circles.

I kept thinking… I know I’ve seen this “Welcome to Wisconsin” sign at least a dozen times.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is I’ve been able to drop off “The Grid”.

For educators “The Grid” is a triangle.  It goes from your home to school to Wal-mart (feel free to substitute another large mega-billion shopping store of your choice).

It’s a law.  Every teacher and administrator must spend 90% of their time inside their grid (unless school is in session… then it’s 98.5%).

I think there might be some fine print in NCLB that requires us to stay inside this restricted area.

Rumor has it educators who venture outside the “Grid” too often are never heard from again.

It’s the opposite of tenure.

So it’s a fine line between leaving your grid and going insane (and not a little insane… I’m talking Jack Nicholson in The Shining insane).

Because I don’t see the need in chasing the Tech Queen with an ax, we like to go on vacation at least once a year (unfortunately these never take place during school).

This year we headed for the woods.

A cabin in northern Minnesota.

Frighteningly close to my sworn enemies… the Canadians.

People ask me what I have against the good people of Canada.

Nothing.

I just don’t trust them.

Sooner or later they are going to get sick of the cold and storm our borders with the intent of taking Florida just so they can sit on a beach.

Mark my word, it’s coming.

As I sit here and type this blog, I’m within miles of the US-Canadian border (rest easy, I will keep an eye on them and if I can’t chase them back… Buddy the Dog can… unless of course, he’s napping).

So for the next several days I’m officially off “The Grid”.

No ESPN.  No internet.  No email.  No phone calls. No meetings.

No contact with any other human beings (unless it’s on a golf course… and I do apologize for almost hitting you with my drive off #7).

I’m unreachable.

I’m a ghost.

I don’t exist.

At least that’s what I told everyone at school.

Do you think they will believe I pre-wrote this blog and uploaded it before I left?

I guess I’ll never know since I’m not getting their emails.

Or at least I’m not answering them.

It’s good to be off “The Grid”.

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“You’re Still Here? It’s Over, Go Home. Go.”


Ferris Would Never Return.  Never.

The school year is officially over.

Graduation has come and gone.

Seniors have waited their whole lives for this moment.

After 13 long years (long for them, longer for me), they are free.

Free at last!

Thank God, they are free at last! (and thank you, Rev. Martin Luther King).

They are no longer required to attend school.

They are no longer required to roll out of bed 7 minutes before 1st hour begins.

They are no longer required to see their teachers and administrators.

And yet, just when they have their first taste of sweet sweet freedom they get confused.

They forget all of the bad experiences that plagued them during their school years.

The homework.

The discipline.

The rules.

PE.

Dissecting frogs.

The angry over-medicated administrators.

All of the things they hate are quickly forgotten.

Then they do something crazy.

Something unspeakable.

Something so disgusting, I can hardly type out the morbid details.

They do the one thing the swore they would never do.

They show up at school (often quite early).

Just when they think they’re out, they drag themselves back in.

It’s weird, but it happens every year.

Like clockwork.

Their Senior year is over.  They’ve graduated.  They are finished.

And then they return.

It’s odd.

Thank you Ferris Bueller.   Not only for supplying the title of yet another blog, but for one of the 5 greatest movies of all-time.

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School is Right Around the Corner. I Can Feel It.


If You Dread the Start of School... Don't Go Around This Corner.It is happening.

And it can’t be stopped.

The first day of school is coming. I feel like the teenager in the middle of a horror movie who starts to hear strange noises from five different directions while walking through the woods all alone in the middle of the night (always a good idea… and by the way, if you are sitting behind me at the theater… the movie character who is about to take a blunt instrument upside the head can’t hear you when you yell “look out” at the movie screen).

My powers (if I had any) are useless against the beginning of the school year.

It is my kryptonite.

Each summer, starting on about July 4th, I begin to sense it hanging around.

I feel like I am being watched… and mocked… and more than normal.

It shows up like clockwork, but I don’t need a calendar to confirm that school is about to start.

There are unmistakable changes in the universe that give it away.

I can’t put my finger on a specific event because it is more of a series of things.

My vacation is over, kids have stopped going to the pool, it feels more like fall than summer at 5:00 a.m. each morning, my wife is spending more and more time talking about needing good bulletin board ideas, Wal-mart is selling notebook paper for 12 cents for a 1000 sheets (how do they do it?), I have survived (barely) my doctor/dentist/optometrist appointments, and my neck has begun to swell up because it realizes I have to start wearing a dress shirt and tie once again.

On top of all that, teachers have begun to hang around the office at school. More people come out of the woodwork as the first day of school gets closer. They are like moths around a light bulb.

Summer is over.

Not on the calendar, but it’s over.

All of those things on my leisurely to do list have now become priorities.

I don’t mean to complain, because so many people don’t get summers off like those of us in education. But it is still sad to see another one come and go so quickly.

People used to tell me how fast time flies as you get older. I thought they were mistaken (or deranged). Or just old and angry (I think I just described myself in 20 years… or more likely… now).

They couldn’t have been more right.

At least there will be another summer next year. If all goes well.

All I have to do is avoid the big white guy in the woods wearing a hockey mask. This may be easier than the approaching troubles an average school administrator faces in the next 10 months.

Why do I feel like I should take off running… but not through the woods. That never works out.

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What Kind of Father Strikes Out Their Own Kid? That Would Be Me.


Even the Umpire Doesn't Like Me.We played our first game last night (of course I mean my daughter’s first game).

It pains me to announce that my career coaching girls’ softball has fallen to 0-1.

The important thing is that everyone had fun. And by everyone, I mean the girls on the team.

Parents and coaches were a little uptight. Everyone seemed nervous (and at times borderline miserable, and by miserable I mean certifiably nuts), so I don’t think the experience was quite as upbeat for the adults.

The girls did a great job hustling and tried their best. Unfortunately, one of the many life lessons that can be learned in sports is that your best doesn’t always translate into a win.

But that is okay. Victories can’t be judged entirely by a score; they should be judged on the effort put into the score (quick, someone call the bumper sticker people because I just had an epiphany).

Since this was our team’s first real game, it was also the first time these young ladies have experienced an official loss.

Sure, they have always had an idea which team “won” in soccer or t-ball, but as an upstanding God-fearing rule-abiding adult/coach, it has always been my job to tell the team that we weren’t keeping score so there was no winner or loser (we didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings).

To which the kids would invariably respond, we won 5 to 2.

Turns out kids don’t need a scoreboard to make them more or less competitive (adults are the only ones who think if we don’t tell them who won, they will have no idea… right).

Last night’s game provided a challenge for the whole family.

I had to coach and pitch to our team.

The Queen of Technology was in charge of coaching 1st base and keeping the scorebook (a huge obstacle because she was forced to use pencil and paper; no laptop or SmartBoard… it wasn’t pretty, she almost had a breakdown).

Oh yeah, there was one more person from our family who was involved in the game, our daughter (I have noticed that she always has time to play, but never time to clean her room).

Right before the game, I asked her if she was nervous. She responded, “Why?”

Wait until she is a parent and has to watch the games. Then she will truly understand nerves.

In our league the girls get 6 pitches to hit. If they don’t hit one of the six, it is a strike out (yes, we have gone from not keeping score to striking Miley Cyrus wannabes out right and left).

For the last week, I have been having a reoccurring dream in which my daughter is up to bat and I strike her out every time.

In the dream and in real life, it is not that she can’t hit (a switch hitter by the way; I am very proud), it is that her father can’t throw her a strike.

And with my lack of pitching skills, she fails miserably. Over and over, I strike her out, 87 times in a row. I hate that dream.

Plus, I don’t want to anger her. She could bide her time until her 18th birthday and then take over my finances while throwing me in a nursing home (trust me, she has a mean streak).

Watching your child participate in sports is both nerve-racking and exciting. You want them to be successful, but that isn’t always going to happen.

I have spent a good deal of my life playing and coaching and I must admit I don’t ever remember being so nervous before a game (although at my age, I can’t remember what I had for breakfast).

When it was her turn to bat all I could think of was… don’t cause her to fail.

I know in athletics and in life, she will fail often. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. There are many lessons to learn from not succeeding.

This I know (sadly from lots of experience).

I also know that I don’t want to set her up for failure. This means I was feeling the pressure.

She walked up to bat in all of her pinkness. She got in the batter’s box and turned and looked at me, then smiled (just like Moonlight Graham in the best movie ever… Field of Dreams). It was a great big, this is fun smile.

Me, I wasn’t smiling.

I got myself together and threw her a pitch. She swung and got her first hit.

She was thrilled (almost as much as mom) and I couldn’t have been more proud. And relieved. Really relieved.

Raising a child is tough.

Trying to throw a strike when you know a trip to the nursing home is on the line makes it that much harder.

She finished the game 2-3 with one strikeout, but had a great time. At least that is what she says to my face. Just to be safe, I am in the process of moving what little money I have to an offshore account.

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It’s Going to be a Long Week at School and I Blame You, Time Change.


And I Thought Changing the Clocks in my House was Bad.As you begin to read this entry, please don’t get your hopes up. I am working with little to no sleep. It is hard for me to focus when well-rested, so this may be an adventure.

That’s right; I am typing through the pain for you, the reader.

I can almost hear everyone sighing in support as I struggle to do my best. I am hunting and pecking my way through yet another blog about… I am not sure what it is about just yet… I am only on paragraph #3… I am as interested as anyone to see how it turns out.

Sadly, even if I do my best it is going to be somewhat mediocre and more than likely a little sophomoric.

The people who take, or waste, a few minutes a couple of times each week to read this nonsense are a loyal bunch. The best I can tell they aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer, but loyalty counts for something.

I appreciate their support; especially in such a difficult time.

I could write several more paragraphs kissing up to my readers, but I am about to doze off (and I am already losing interest in my own thoughts).

Before I head off for a nap, I need to thank you again for your loyalty and encouragement.

Actually, the more I think about it you are probably rolling your eyes to mock me. If I knew where you lived… so help me… I would come over and… bore you in person (but, I do need that nap).

The reason that I seem to be struggling more than usual is that we just set our clocks ahead one hour.

This makes me sleepy. And a little grumpier than usual.

Is there any reason that we have to do this all on one night? Couldn’t we slowly set our clocks ahead, like 1 minute a day for 60 days?

Or maybe 15 minutes a week for a month. Why a whole hour all at once? Especially during the sacred time of the weekend.

Is this some sort of cruel joke by the government (or the Time Police as I like to refer to them)?

I only get to sleep in once a week. It seems to me that it is just mean to rip this little bit of happiness away from me.

They couldn’t take an hour away during a work day? Or in the middle of soccer practice? Or better yet, while I am sitting in a meeting.

It gets ripped from my grasp as I sleep.

My week is getting off to a bad start. And it is going to get worse.

You see, for the next two weeks we will all be subjected to that guy who feels the need to constantly remind us of the time change.

Such as, “you know it is 4 o’clock, but really it is 3.” Or, “the meeting starts at 9, but that is really 8.” Or even worse, “lunch at 11 means you’re really eating at 10”.

That guy drives everyone nuts (not as bad as the weatherman, but close).

I am tired, so I am going to take my 2 o’clock nap (it is actually 1 o’clock).

You see, I am that guy. Didn’t see that coming did you?

If my weekend is ruined, I am going to torture everyone around me for the next two weeks (by torture, I mean more than usual).

Enjoy the extra hour of cloudiness (time change in April is great, in March it just extends the depression).

I am grumpy. Wish me luck on my nap.

The twist at the end of the blog was inspired by the movie, The Usual Suspects. It is easily 1 of the top 5 man movies of all time. If you haven’t enjoyed this classic, you are living a life without meaning.

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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.