I haven’t written a blog about what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday, December 14, 2012 for a couple of reasons.
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?
Last night, our country sat through the second of three Presidential Debates (it was like detention for America).
And that’s an insult to spoiled immature children everywhere.
If they talked that way in school, we would have big trouble.
And by we, I mean them.
Did they not learn anything in kindergarten?
Did they not learn to play fair?
Did they not learn to say I’m sorry when they hurt somebody’s feelings?
I wonder if they washed their hands before the debate?
Did they take a nap beforehand?
Do they not understand when you go out into the world, you need to stick together? It’s one for all, not one against one.
Did their teachers and parents not teach them how to talk nicely?
Did they not learn that in order to get respect, you have to show others respect?
Did they miss the day when they should have learned to listen to other peoples’ opinions without interrupting?
They probably weren’t embarassed by their behavior, but I was embarassed for them (this is how I always feel about junior high boys).
I may be the only one, but I’m not comfortable electing a President who doesn’t seem to have the basic skills and understanding I expect from a 5 year old.
I know two gentlemen who need a time out. And I bet they would color outside the lines if someone wasn’t watching them.
I think we may be at a turning point for public education, but what do I know (please don’t answer… or send me insulting/truthful emails).
In ten years, the world of education may be overtaken by home schooling, charter schools, and online learning (this interweb thing really seems to be catching on).
This makes me a little sad because I’m a big fan of public education (almost as big of fan as I am of chocolate).
But it’s all I know.
Maybe there is a better way.
Maybe our students can be better served by another type of system.
Maybe, just maybe, a system that relied less on government funding could better educate our children.
I don’t want to sound crazy, but schools might be better off if they didn’t have to answer to politicians (a crazy thought I know, but I’m just throwing it out there).
Here’s what I do know.
Public schools try to be everything to everybody.
We teach. We serve breakfast. We make sure kids know how to drive.
We offer exercise (if you count PE). We put a whole lot of students on the Honor Roll.
We teach kids how to type (why… I don’t know).
We provide sports and after school activities.
We provide things we can’t afford and spend money in ways that may not be fiscally responsible.
To summarize, we try and do so much that we probably set ourselves up for failure.
My latest theory is we need to downsize.
Focus in on what students actually need.
Focus on things our country could actually benefit from since our students will be the ones leading us in 20 years.
I see 4 types of smart in students.
Academic. Athletic. Vocational. The Arts.
Not 100% of all kids fall into one of these categories, but 99% of them do.
Common sense tells me we should identify what a student is good at and then help them be great.
Yet, we sort of identify what a kid is good at then we try to make them the same level of good in the other areas.
Mediocrity seems to be our goal.
Academic kids should be thrown in rigorous programs at a very young age.
Athletic kids should be given the opportunity to maximize their skills.
Vocational students should learn the skills they need to keep this country growing.
Students who thrive in the Arts should be allowed to do just that.
I think it’s simple.
And I think we make it complicated.
We don’t like to admit it, but it’s true.
In fact this may be the most unpopular position I’ve ever taken on this blog (although I catch a lot of grief when I call The Evil Spawn “Evil”.)
Educators are bred to dislike everything that is new.
This is understandable because so much new stuff is dumped on us and most of it is easily recognized as junk.
Kind of like the new fall TV season (do we really need a new Tim Allen show?).
NCLB wasn’t thought out (surprise, surprise… when the government is involved).
It wasn’t good for kids.
It was doomed to fail from the very beginning.
And even with all of this, it made us better.
Yes, you heard me right.
Schools, teachers, and administrators have improved significantly 10 years after NCLB was dropped like a big greasy bowl of school spaghetti in their laps .
We may dislike President Bush, mandated testing, and the Department of Education, but if we are honest with ourselves there is only one conclusion.
The world doesn’t need another bad Tim Allen sitcom (I haven’t seen it, so maybe it’s better than I envision… and his movies).
Sorry, there are two conclusions.
The second is NCLB demanded we work harder, pay more attention to curriculum, and made us all more accountable on the local, state, and federal levels.
It was flawed legislation and yet we still improved.
This makes me wonder how much better public education could be if the government actually had a clue about educating kids.
As I push mowed my lawn this weekend, it occurred to me that politicians are setting terrible examples for our children.
Since it takes me forever to mow, I started thinking about all the politicians who have failed us.
And not just with their policy judgment.
I’m talking failing us by having no moral compass.
When I was a kid, the list was two.
Richard Nixon and Gary Hart.
That was it. Or at least that was all we knew about.
Now, every day brings another moronic situation where a politician has done something so immature it would cause a 7th grade boy to shake his head in disgust.
President Bill Clinton.
Governor Mark Sanford.
Senator John Ensign.
Senator John Edwards.
Representative Anthony Weiner (that’s his name… really…).
Governor Eliot Spitzer (also a real name…).
They all have one thing in common. Besides being male (which may explain the immaturity and bad judgment), they all lied about what they did.
Isn’t this the 3rd rule you learn in kindergarten?
After “share with your neighbor” and “raise your hand before talking”?
It usually works like this.
Politician does stupid. Lies about stupid. Continues to lie about stupid.
Holds a press conference in regards to stupid.
Tries to talk wife into attending said press conference.
Half-heartedly apologizes for getting caught. Begs for forgiveness. Promises not to do stupid again.
Or at least promises not to get caught doing stupid again.
Gives the look of shame (see picture above).
And repeat with next idiot politician (they don’t seem to learn how to avoid stupid from each other).
My question is what will elected officials be doing in 20 years?
Now it’s girls and Twitter.
By then it could be robbing liquor stores and stealing cookies from Girl Scouts.
These people need to be stopped, but there are just so many of them.
I’m starting to feel overwhelmed.
They are everywhere.
It’s the same feeling I get when one 2nd grader asks me to open their juice box and before I know it I’m surrounded by 127 juice boxes (these kids are like cicadas).
I just need a moment to get my thoughts together.
And also remember how to shove that little straw into the tiny juice box hole (this is NOT a euphemism on politician behavior… although it could be).
You can’t open a newspaper (do people still do this?), cruise the world wide web, or turn on the TV without hearing about a group who’s upset with educators (remember the good old days when only parents got mad… usually about too much homework or book bags that were too heavy).
Public education has become the face of everything that is wrong with America.
And why not. We don’t have anyone else to blame.
Not overspending government. Not undisciplined politicians. Not dysfunctional families.
Our country is failing because of the school down the street.
You’ve seen it.
Busses pull up every morning. Students go to class. Teachers give homework. Administrators have expectations. School Boards do their best on a limited budget.
It’s a zoo.
It’s a wonder any of us allow our children inside these walls (this would be sarcasm… oh, you knew that already, didn’t you?).
People want public education to be the villain.
The good news is everything goes in a cycle. Given enough time this attitude towards schools and educators will pass.
The question is, can public schools survive until we get our collective wits in order?
My guess is probably not.
Schools may not look vastly different in 10 years, but they will be.
The buildings will be the same. Busses will transport students. Athletic events will be played. Teachers will give grades. A principal will still roam the hallways and yell “Hurry up!!!” into the restrooms (very likely, junior high boys).
But mark my word, things are changing.
How can I be so sure?
Because politicians have decided to fix education (and why not… they’ve done such a great job at addressing all of our other problems…).
This means education will never be the same.
While this doesn’t surprise me, something else does.
Teachers seem stunned by the entire process. It’s like they had no idea the general public (where politicians get their strength) had grown dismayed by public education.
This feeling has been growing and growing, but those of us closest to the situation seem to be the most surprised.
It’s like we felt education would stay the same for the next 500 years.
And this is the part of the story that shocks me.
As educators, I feel like we should be forward thinkers, but in this case we’re not.
There’s never enough money for education.
If you don’t believe me, look at your tax bill (on second thought… don’t).
It seems to me one reason school districts struggle financially is we continually add programs (by we, I mean schools, parents, students, teachers, states, and politicians).
But no one ever wants to cut programs.
As adults, we seem to have a tendency to hold on to the things schools provided us when we were students.
How does this help today’s kids?
Or today’s taxpayers?
When did schools become big government?
If it’s so important that public schools retain local control, why do we all do the same things?
Shouldn’t each school look completely different based upon the needs of their community?
Try and say Principal Preparation Program fast 3 times (I will wait while you complete this task…).
This blog is not just a tongue twister. It goes way deeper than that. It’s also a well-thought out review of a new Illinois Law called the School Leader Reform Act.
The blog is actually a thrown together half-baked commentary on what is wrong with the programs that supposedly prepare school administrators to lead their teachers and students.
The School Leader Reform Act is an attempt by the untrustworthy crooked politicians of Illinois to fix the way principals are selected and trained.
I’m okay with that.
The article from which I stole this blog says the two most important factors that influence student success are quality teaching and quality school leadership.
I say let’s get rid of tenure and work on improving principals.
The crooked politicians won’t address tenure?
Okay, color me not surprised (after all, the next election is always just around the corner… and the next one… and so on… and on…).
Then let’s fix the principals (like they are all broken).
The new law wants to prepare principals to be instructional leaders. Great idea.
It also wants colleges to make their school administration programs to be more challenging. As opposed to revenue sources for their education departments. Again, great idea.
Another aspect of the law is to allow an alternative pathway to principal endorsement through nonprofit entities. Okay, this might just work. As always, there is more than one way to skin a cat (although why you would want to I’ll never know).
Let’s start cranking out new and improved principals.
With that being said, I do have a couple of concerns with the law.
One is they want each principal candidate to participate in a month long residency program. My complaint… a month isn’t long enough.
But neither is a year or five years.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, completely prepares you to be a school principal.
The closest thing might be Marine boot camp, but that’s about it.
Admittedly, a month is better than nothing… but not by much.
The other thing that bothers me is the law requires that no more than one-third of coursework in a preparation program can be taught by part-time adjunct faculty.
I think this is idiotic.
I know the politicians want full-time faculty members to be teaching the courses, but I think it should be just the opposite.
Most (if not all) courses should be taught by practicing principals and superintendents.
Or at the very least retirees who have worked in administration within the last 5 years.
I can make the argument that I can learn more from a well-versed administrator in an hour than I can from a professor in a classroom in a semester (no offense professors).
But at least the politicians seem to be heading in the right direction.
Which is nice.
And unusual for Illinois.
I wonder when they will pass a law call Political Leader Reform Act?
Now that’s legislation I could really support.
We live in a society of zero personal responsibility.
This has become the fabric of our society.
You even see this attitude in schools.
Elementary schools blame parents for not having their children ready for an education.
They can’t read. They can’t write. They eat crayons by the dozens. They attack each other with pencils.
They should all be heavily medicated.
Middle schools blame the Elementary schools for not getting those same kids prepared for 5th – 8th grade.
They aren’t good at math. Or science. Or writing.
They can’t sit still. They can’t read. They have no social skills. Their hygiene is horrendous (this part may well be true).
They don’t care about anything (except sports and dating).
High schools blame everyone.
They have to fix everything the elementary, middle school, and parents messed up.
Colleges are just disgusted.
They get students who aren’t prepared for the rigors of higher education, so they have to re-teach the skills students should have learned during their K-12 years.
It never stops.
School districts blame state governments for not sending them enough money (by enough I mean… more, and more, and more).
States blame the Federal Government.
Congress blames the President.
The President blames Congress.
Democrats blame Republicans.
George W. Bush gets blamed for everything.
It goes on and on.
The only thing that doesn’t change is the fact that no one ever stands up and says…
“My fault. Blame me. I could have done better.”
To err is human. To blame someone else is politics – Hubert H. Humphrey.
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.