This happens about 7 times a year.
I go someplace.
Grocery store. Restaurant. Gas station. Movie theater. Post Office. Tattoo Parlor.
You get the picture.
I’m someplace other than school.
As an added bonus, I’m wearing something other than a suit and tie.
Here’s what happens.
I walk in. I see student. Student sees me.
Student looks at me funny. This is a telltale sign. Especially when they rotate their head to the side.
They look like a dog who hears a high-pitched whistle.
Student says one of two things.
"I thought you lived at school"
"You wear jeans?"
Actually, this is a lie.
Sometimes they say both.
It’s priceless when I see the shock and horror all over their face.
But sadly, of all the things they should be learning during their school years… the one thing that probably sticks with them the longest is their Superintendent looks weird and out of place in Levi’s.
The most overused word in education is "bullying".
People throw it around way too easily. You can make this accusation with absolutely no proof.
And sadly, the accusation comes with a pre-determined sentence of guilt.
Every accidental bump, look, or comment becomes "bullying".
We are losing the right to not like each other.
If I disagree with you, I’m a bully.
Before you light up my email inbox or the comment section, please read the rest of this blog.
When a parent says their child is being bullied, I always ask them to define bullying for me.
100 out of 100 times they can’t.
What they can do and say, is the situation their child is dealing with is "bullying".
And sometimes they are correct.
Other times they are not.
The definition of bullying is… the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively impose domination over others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual. One essential prerequisite, by the bully or others, of an imbalance of social or physical power. Behaviors used to assert such domination include verbal harassment or threat, physical assualt or coercion, and such acts may be directed repeatedly towards particulat targets.
Bullying is horrific and should never be tolerated.
But claiming "bullying" in every situation that doesn’t go our way is also wrong.
Not every fourth grader who doesn’t get to line up first or play on their friends’ team is being "bullied".
Just because someone takes your seat at the lunch table doesn’t make them a bully.
Rude, yes… but not a bully.
As usual, our society has swung too far in identifying "bullies".
For far too many years, this type of behavior was tolerated.
Then we decided it needed to stop (a little late by the way).
That’s great, but we’ve also went way overboard (as usual).
When someone cuts in front of me on the freeway or takes my parking spot, they might be a bully.
But more likely, they are just a jerk.
And that’s life. I wish it wasn’t, but it is.
As a school administrator, one of the best parts of my job is seeing students mature into young adults. Keep in mind it’s only one part. Getting a paycheck is also quite pleasant.
I see first graders grow up and become Prom King or Queen. I blink my eyes and the fourth graders who play soccer or basketball during recess are now playing on high school teams. Little kids who sing their hearts out in music class suddenly become the lead performers in the high school musical.
Time goes by so quickly (a sure sign of old age). The experiences we have with our kids when they are young are valuable. It is the basis of how successful they will become as adults.
This is why parents are always concerned about their child’s education. They want everything to go just right (and in my case to make sure The Evil Spawn is self-efficient enough to live in her home after she graduates).
Parents want the best for their son or daughter and that’s how it should be.
They worry about getting them in the right school. They worry about them having an advanced curriculum. They are concerned about getting them placed with the proper teacher.
I think all of these concerns are valid, but in my opinion they are not the biggest issue in regards to a student having a positive school experience.
The number one thing a student needs to be successful is placement in the right class with the right mix of students.
In the correct situation with the right peer group, a student can make wonderful progress.
Academics can improve. Behavior will be appropriate. Attitude won’t be a problem (until they become teenagers… then it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves).
Without the right peers, all of this can go the wrong direction.
A good class can bring everyone along for the ride. Every student will maximize their potential. A bad class can drag everyone down to the bottom.
This doesn’t mean they all have to be “A” students. It’s more about their personalities meshing.
Student placement in the right class far outweighs the right teacher or certain school building.
I don’t discourage parents from worrying about their child’s school, teacher, or curriculum.
They just shouldn’t forget to worry about the peer group that will surround their son or daughter for the next 13 years (if all goes well, of course).
I’m old, so I have the right to complain about all of society’s problems.
As an old person, I’m of course bothered by young people and their new-fangled ways and crazy ideas.
I like things, not the way they were, but the way I remember them (which is a lot better than they were).
Lots of things bug me, but I don’t have time (or the strength at my advanced age) to blog about all of them.
One, stop with the trophies. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if your kid (or mine) is crappy at a particular activity, they don’t deserve a trophy.
This leads them to believe they are just as good as the other kids and it’s just not true.
It’s okay to be bad. It encourages children (and adults) to search for activities in which they are better.
Finishing 2nd stinks, but it’s not the end of the world.
The Constitution says “We are All Created Equal.” This is true. You will notice it doesn’t say, “We are All Good at Soccer When We are Eight Years Old.”
Some kids just aren’t as good as their peers. If you ask them, they know.
Giving them a trophy might make the adults feel better, but it doesn’t make the kid any faster.
Another thing (actually there are many more, but I’m getting sleepy) that bugs me is parents need to man (and woman) up and tell your kids “No.”
“No” isn’t a curse word.
It’s not insulting.
It won’t ruin their lives.
If it hurts your child’s feelings, who cares. They will grow up and hate you for a lot more complicated reasons than telling them “No” when they wanted candy, or to watch TV for 47 straight hours, or begged you for money, or wanted to wear something inappropriate to school.
“No” is good. We all need to hear it.
Discipline is what we do for children, not what we do to children.
Stop with the trophies. Stop trying not to hurt you precious child’s feelings.
They will survive.
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)
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.
Educators hate mandated testing.
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.
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?
It’s the Holiday Season which means there are all kinds of events.
Parties, programs, church events, trips to the mall, and concerts to name just a few.
This also means one thing.
There will be loud wild obnoxious children running amok.
Why is this?
When did it become acceptable for parents to allow their kids complete and total freedom in public?
What happened to parents dropping "The Look" on their children from 40 yards away?
Where did the days of my youth go when kids were to be seen and not heard?
Who decided it was okay for school-aged children to run up and down aisles screaming and fighting?
What happened to common sense parental supervision?
Lastly, what happened to parents giving other adults permission to discipline their children if they saw or heard them get out of line?
Individual rights and freedoms are certainly important, but so is respect for the group.
Any chance there is a correlation between the volume level of children and society’s decision that it is inappropriate to ever spank them?
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.