I Don’t Live at School and I’m Sorry You Had to See Me Like This.


This happens about 7 times a year.Shock.

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"

Or.

"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.

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Sandy Hook Elementary, Newtown, Connecticut.


I haven’t written a blog about what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday, December 14, 2012 for a couple of reasons.Sandy Hook Elementary.

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?

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The Kid in Purple Pants.


I get a lot of requests to review and recommend books to the readers of this blog.The Kid in the Purple Pants by Pat J. Anderson.

Normally, I pass.

Mainly, because I would hate to endorse something I haven’t read or don’t believe in.

This is not the case with "The Kid in Purple Pants".

I’ve read it.

I laughed.  I cried.

I didn’t really cry because I’m a soulless school administrator, but it was quite good.

Good enough I purchased two copies with my own hard earned money.

As an added bonus, I used to teach with the author, Mr. Pat J. Anderson (soon to be Dr. Anderson… which is HILARIOUS to me), about a million years ago in a life far far away.

We’ve gone on to bigger and better things, but like many educators we both remember our first jobs in education quite fondly.

Oakland, Illinois in the mid 90′s.  It was a crazy time.

For the record, he didn’t ask me to write a blog about the book.

Which is why I did.

Check him and his book out on Facebook.

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Seeking Solitude: Unplugging From An Increasingly Wired World.


Article by Martha Irvine, AP National Writer.We Need Quiet.

"Seeking Solitude".  Click HERE.

I’m more and more convinced that this is an absolute must for teachers, administrators, and students.

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Searching for Sanity? Turn Off Your Technology.


It is my hope that through this blog someone at some point actually learns something.Take One Day Off. The World Will Survive.

I know it’s not likely, but hope is all I’ve got.

Many times, I know the advice I’m giving is directed squarely at me.

So lets hope today, someone learns something. 

This is my plan.

Technology is great.

It’s also suffocating.

When you are a new principal or superintendent, you are constantly told to communicate, be active in the community, be seen at school, and respond to questions and concerns as quickly as possible.

In this day and age, you can literally be "at" work 24 hours a day.

You can receive and send messages/information all day, every day.

You can check your email while eating, mowing, walking, and seconds before you fall asleep or within moments of waking up.

It’s great.

And it can literally suck the life out of you (I apologize for the language, but sometimes it’s nice to work blue).

That’s why I have this new plan.

No technology.

At least one day a week.  Or more likely, at least part of one day during the week.

I’m thinking Sundays may work best for me.

No emails.  No blogs.  No Facebook.  No Twitter.  No phone calls.

No school.

I’m going underground.  Off the radar.  Incognito.

Surely these same school buildings that have been standing for 100 years will survive one more day if I turn off my phone.

And if they don’t, there probably won’t be school on Monday anyway.

It’s easy to be needed. 

It’s much harder to realize everyone else will be just fine without you.

I’m officially copyrighting "No Technology Day for Administrators."  From now on, my speeches in front of literally thousands and thousands of people will include not only a push for administrators using technology, but also a push not to use technolgy.

At least one day a week.

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Bad Grade. Bad Dad. Bad Deal.


Here is the deal.Bad Grade.  Bad Dad.

Raising a teenager (preteen… criminal… whatever) is a lot of work.

Being employed in the same school building as the above mentioned teenager/nut job is fun.

And a complete total nightmare.

Here’s why.

Our school district has a new student managment system. This allows parents to track their children’s grades on a daily basis.

Or in my case, a fourteen times a day basis.

Our school district also employs the Tech Queen of our house as the official technology grunt (if you are a technology grunt you will know exactly what I mean… and you should stop reading this blog and get back to the list of 1,014 things you need to get done by tomorrow that should have been done three months ago).

This week all of this nearly collided in a confusing ordeal I like to call "I’m Going to Her Classroom and Punch Her in the Throat!".

Now, I know violence is never the answer.

But to review, she’s a teenager.  Or at least is headed down that awful path.

My troubles (and hers) started when the Tech Grunt was sitting at her desk surrounded by roughly 14 people with questions and 6 computers.

Basically, her area of the school looks exactly like the control room at NASA.

If they had more computers.

Turns out she was having trouble with the new student management program, so much to my surprise big changes were on the way.

Meanwhile, in the actual control center of the school district (my office… which isn’t really in control of anything, but I like to think we are) I was checking the Evil Spawn’s grades.

When I logged on I immediately saw she had flunked a test.

Much to her surprise, the superintendent was about to storm into her classroom and read her the riot act as she sat quietly at her desk reading a book and dreaming of a day when the annoying superintendent would no longer be working in the same building in which she attends school.

I really do know my behavior isn’t approriate, but come on… an F on a test?

We can’t have this.

At least we can’t if she’s going to continue to live in my house and eat all of my food and enjoy the 5,000 TV stations I provide for her.

Plus, she can’t get into vet school and support her elderly parents if she can’t pass 6th Grade Literature.

As fate would have it, she didn’t really flunk this test (but there will be others… and mark my word I will be there to haunt her).

The Tech Grunt had gone in and manually added this "test" grade because she was working on the new system and needed a guninnea pig student with a bad grade.  Notice how I misunderstood the word "test".

So to review, the grade (test…fake…whatever) was added, I was angry (and clueless), the Evil Spawn was in danger of not living to enjoy pepperoni pizza at lunch (which isn’t bad by the way), and the Tech Grunt was disgusted by my anger directed towards what up to this point has been a very nice little girl.

I may need a new job.

Or counseling.

Or at least a heads up on what are real bad grades and fakes ones.

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Do Educators Have a Boss?


I’m confused.Is the Customer Always Right?

Who do we see as our boss?

The department head?

The principal?

The superintendent?

The school board?

The community?

Government?

Who?

Some may say students, but we don’t really answer to them.

If we did, we would give them what they want and not what we think they need.

So who is our actual boss?

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Two Full-Time Jobs is Two Too Many.


For the last month or so, I have been largely absent from this blog (sure I’ve posted the occassional video that interested me or made me laugh until I nearly wet myself).It's a Delicate Balance.

I’ve gotten a few emails asking why.

Well, at my age you get to laughing really hard and before you know it you’ve accidently….

Oh, you were wondering why I haven’t blogged more.

My bad.

There are a couple of possible reasons.

One is I always promised myself when I ran out of things to say and I started to struggle with what to write, I would stop immediately and blow the blog up.

That day is not yet here.  But I hope it’s soon because I do enjoy an explosion.

The real reason I haven’t been around is I’ve been a bunch of other places.

School.  Home.  Game.  School.  Home.  Game.  School.  Home.  Game.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention sleep.

In the world of school administration, late July and early August are busy.

Really busy.

This has been compounded by the world of Teenage Evil Spawn (I miss carefree Little Girl Evil Spawn… although I was not a huge fan of Baby Evil Spawn).

Her world is busy.  Really busy.

When she was born, I don’t recall the doctor telling us how incredibly time-consuming and expensive her existence would become after the age of 10.

Actually, the only thing I remember the doctor saying is "Don’t worry, she won’t break."

So far, so good but there have been a couple of close calls where she cracked.

What I have learned as a parent is children require a lot of attention

Games, clubs, events, church, parties, school, 4-H, friends, sleepovers, movies, camps…. the list could go on and on.

Basically, my role in all this is to be there.  Or get her where she needs to be.

I’m like Secret Service without the ability to talk into my wrist.

My parent job isn’t brain surgery, but it does cut into my "Me" time (and it is all about me…).

All of this doesn’t sound too taxing, but it does eat up time like nobody’s business (actually it’s my business and it used to be my time).

This coupled with my day job as a school superintendent, has forced me to put the blog on the back burner this summer.

But like most years, summer is winding down so I’m sure my schedule will slow down.

I’m not sure what this says about our society when I know my schedule will be easier once my full-time job picks up again and I’m working 60 hour weeks.

But I sure am looking forward to it!

Have a good school year.

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Why Do I Answer Questions? I Do It For the Kids.


From time to time, I get questions from college students. Fitchburg State. Home of the Falcons.

Sometimes these questions come from teachers obtaining their masters’ degrees.

Other times they are sent to me by scary hitchhikers who seem to have an uncanny sense of where I live.

The latest.

1. How do you view the Common Core Standards in relation to the ’4 Kinds of Smart?’

Educators are probably going to hate Common Core.  I say this because as educators we are bred to hate everything new.

I remember when I started my career, a veteran teacher cornered me for 45 minutes to tell me how the world would end if teachers were forced to use whiteboards instead of chalkboards.

Update on world ending:  It didn’t.

My hope is Common Core levels the playing field. 

Students, no matter where they were born, deserve the same quality of education.  The system will never be completely fair, but we have to try to get it as close as we can.

I have big hopes for Common Core, but remember… I’m also standing in a very short line of educators who like NCLB.

I do hope this country begins to realize we must offer different types of education to satisfy the needs of different types of learners.

2. Discovery Education Science Techbook, covered in your April blog, seemed to underwhelm you. However, Pearson publishing, with funding from the Gates Foundation, is launching online curriculum that perfectly aligns with the Common Core Standards. The lion’s share of Gates foundation money is being invested in technology-based instruction and assessment. The new Teacher Evaluation (value added) system that pairs teacher performance with student test scores is already underway in most states and is aptly aimed at dissolving tenure. Most states now operate a K-12 virtual school. What do you believe is the long-range, underlying plan for education?

They don’t have a plan.

But the more they throw darts at the wall, the more likely they are to stumble upon a plan.

Discovery’s Techbook wasn’t terrible.  It just didn’t meet my high hopes.

Getting rid of tenure is a good thing.  Getting rid of teachers’ unions may turn out to be a bad thing.

I think we are in the beginning stages of the death of the public school as we know it.  What the system will look like in 20 years, I have no idea. But, I’m hoping it pays superintendents well.

3. What do you think of Professional Learning Communities? Is this valuable collaboration, or a process-oriented waste of time?

A little from Column A… a little from Column B.

It can be a valuable collaboration and it can also be a process in which I update thousands of people on the sleeping habits of Buddy the Dog.

I have over 6,000 Twitter followers (@principalspage).  I can almost gaurantee you they’ve learned nothing from me.

4. Are you worried about America’s world-standing in Education? Do you think education in the USA is being dragged down? And if so, by what?

No.  We are fine.

America thrives on drama.  In the education world, that means we are obsessed with our ranking in the world.

If I’m wrong, pick a country you want your child to go to high school.

And then go.

I mean it.  Get out.

Get a box.  Get your stuff.  And beat it.

We are America.  We should stop apologizing for not being perfect in every single facet of life.  We do our best and sometimes that just has to be good enough.

We should be proud.

We have DISH and Direct TV, Five Guys, gas stations every 12 feet, pizza delivered right to our homes, and the NFL.

We owe no apologies.

Last time I checked, a lot more people were moving to America than away from America.

4. As a marathon runner and would-be professional baseball player, what are your thoughts on health and education?

I wish.  Half-marathon. 

I have the shirt to prove it.

We have to transition from teaching games in school to teaching good health habits.

I like to think occassionally the government does something productive.  An example is getting 99% of the people not to smoke in my lifetime.

Now, I think we need to focus on healthy lifestyles for kids.

This will have to be done by the entire country.  I think First Lady Obama is starting to push us in the right direction.

But we can do it.  We’ve tackled smoking, factory working conditions, seatbelts in cars, and not drinking during preganancy.  All in the last 50 years.

5. If you could be King of Education in America, what would you do?

The list:

Make it a federal crime for burning popcorn in the teacher’s lounge.

Go back in time and use all of the ARRA money to install air conditioning in schools that don’t have it.

Year round school.

Drop the idea of grade levels based on age.  They should be based on ability.

Mandatory 2 years of service to our country after high school.  Might be military.  Could be working in a state park or soup kitchen.  Do something to make the world a better place.

Start girls in kindergarten at age 6, boys at age 7.

Grade promotion based on testing.  Test at grade 3, 6, 8, 10, and 12.  Stop with the "some people don’t test well".  They seem to do fine on their drivers license test.

Drop all state and federal testing until they figure out how to do it online and have it graded immediately.  We can travel to the moon and back, but we can’t figure out a way to grade a multiple choice ACT test?

Make it a federal crime, punishable by death, if you mess up my order at the drive through.

I have more, but I’m just getting angry typing this list.

Actually that’s a lie.  I’m just hungry.

The drive through comment made me realize I haven’t had dinner.

Go Falcons! (that’s where they questions came from… I hope you get an A Kris!)

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Student Outsmarting Me. Just Another Day.


School Administrator magazine.Life is Always 50/50.

The June 2012 edition.

Look for me.  And a student on the back page.

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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.