Enough Panic. Just Stop It.


America’s National Pastime isn’t baseball.Just Stop It.

Or even football (actually it is football, but for the purposes of this blog it’s not football).

America is obsessed.

Obsessed with fear.  Devastation.  Death.

We seem to have a need to be scared all the time.

We aren’t happy unless we are 97% sure the world is ending.

My theory is this slippery slope began with Y2K.

Then it was amplified during the Iraq War.

Since then, we find all kinds of reasons to be depressed and frightened. 

If banks are in trouble, the world is going to end.

If schools don’t change, the world is going to end.

If a Republican or Democrat is elected President, the world is going to end (depends how you vote).

If it’s going to snow or rain, it is likely to be the storm to end all storms.  And the world is going to end.

Winter isn’t winter unless we get 3 inches of snow and our entire society rushes to the grocery store to buy their  last meal.

The Weather Channel now names each and every storm just so we will be more scared.  A storm is scary.  Storm "Jim Bob" is scarier.

You DO NOT want "Jim Bob" snowing in your front yard!

It sprinkles and the wind blows and people act like the world is on fire and their only way to survive is to purchase one more loaf of bread.  Or gallon of milk.

We are a mess.

We "overworry".  We overmedicate because we overworry.  And we seem to find a strange amount of joy in both.

Stop it.

Grow up.

The world was here before we arrived and it will be here long after we leave it.

We just aren’t that important in the bigger scheme of things.

Actual life isn’t a soap opera or a reality television show.

Actual life is sort of boring.

That’s the way it’s been for thousands of years and that’s the way it should be.

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In Education, What’s Really Important.


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.Really?

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).

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Sundays Are No Longer a Day of Rest.


When I was a kid, Sundays could be boring.Sunday Should Be Fun Day.

You slept a littler later.

You went to Sunday school and church (tried your best not to sleep there).

You ate lunch.

Maybe watched a game on TV (of course, this was before there were a thousand games on television at all hours of the day and night…. so you had a choice of one).

Took a nap.

Sunday afternoon stretched in to Sunday evening and they both seemed to last forever.

Now, Sundays fly by.  Before I know what’s happened it’s Monday and the start of another work week.

Saturdays are no better.  They are spent getting everything done in advance of Sunday so when it arrives I can be completely busy on the last day of the weekend.

Or is it the first day of the week?  I don’t even know because they all run together.

The world has gotten busy.

Some might say too busy.

Being bored used to be a terrible feeling.

Now it might be kind of nice.

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Let Me Tell You a Little Story About the Grossest Hotel Room Ever.


Actually, it’s not a story about a seedy hotel, but that doesn’t matter.Much Cleaner.  I Mean Much Cleaner.

You are here for the gross part and I’m not about to disappoint.

Let me start at the beginning.

The Evil Spawn was wrapping up her summer season of softball, so we had one final trip. 

I say summer season, because next year starts in about 8 minutes because June 2013 is just around the corner and we’ve got to get these girls practicing (sarcasm alert!).

Since we had this one last tournament and we were tired of living in No Tell Motels, we had the ingenious idea to rent a house.

It would be fun.

It would be close to Lake Michigan.

The whole family together.

It would be like a vacation, except for the fact that 14 hours a day we would be sitting in lawn chairs at some faceless softball field in 197 degree heat.

Actually, it’s fun.  Except for the part where your underwear starts sweating.  I hate that.

One would think a person’s underwear would dry out in extreme heat, but it’s just the opposite.

But, I digress.  We rent this house and it seems like a great idea.

I probably wouldn’t have done this 10 years ago, but now with the interweb it’s just so simple.

Pictures online.  Reviews by other God fearing kind-hearted folks.

What could possibly go wrong?

Turns out a lot.

The pictures didn’t exactly reflect the level of disgusting that wrapped itself around the house like a thick winter coat on a chubby 4-year old.

Turns out people who rent their homes for money don’t use the word "filthy" or the phrase "should be condemened" when they are trying to make a buck.

I should have realized we had a problem when cockroaches met us at the front door.  And they were on their way out.

The look on my wife’s face as she was sentenced… I mean walked in to this rental property was disturbing.  She looked like a teenage girl in a horror movie when the phone rings and the call is coming from inside the house.

She was scared.  And rightfully so.

The highlights were as follows:  old food in the refrigerator, a mysterious hair attached to the TV remote, enough trash hidden under the raised cabinets to start your own dump, and a cat in the corner of the bedroom.

Actually, it wasn’t a cat.

It was a dust bunny in the shape of a 47 pound cat.  I swear it growled at me when I reached down to pet it.

I was afraid to turn on the lights.  Not because I didn’t want to see more dirt, but because I was frightened to touch the light switch.  There was a layer of something on it that reminded me of a petri dish.

I could go on and on, but it gives me the willies and I feel like I need to save part of this story for my therapist.

And as a favor to all of my loyal readers, I’m not even going to tell you my theory on the mystery hair.

My wife tried in vain to find a hotel room for us to stay in, but they were all booked.  Turns out Priceline and William Shatner couldn’t save me on this night.

So I went with Plan B.

I slept in my clothes.

I did survive the night, but then I had to use the restroom and shower.

Honestly, in my 44 years on this Earth, I don’t recall feeling dirtier after a shower than before.  And I grew up in an era where you showered after high school PE.

Something positive did come out of this experience (besides the partial refund).

I have a whole new respect for my wife’s fear of portapotties (she can’t be the only one who would rather explode than take one step into these plastic boxes of infection).

Actually, now that I think about it, I would have been better off sleeping in a portapotty.

As an added bonus it was our wedding anniversary.

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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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Time to Focus on the 4 Kinds of Smart.


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).There May Be More, But This Picture Indicates There Are Only Four Types of Smart.

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.

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Life in a Sentence.


The Evil Spawn did something wrong.It's Always Someone Else's Fault.

I point it out, nicely and politely (it’s my story… so I was very nice and very polite).

She says "It’s your fault."

I said "But you did it."

She responds "I know.  It’s just no fun blaming yourself."

And that my friends sums up society as we know it.

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Winter. Summer. Winter. Summer.


I only live where I do because people have told me if I move someplace nice, I’ll miss the four seasons.

They’re idiots.You've Been Warned.  Avoid Junior High Kids After PE and Recess.

I’m pretty sure they have forced this theory upon me because they can’t move. And if I did, they would be that much more miserable.

In my little piece of heaven, the snow just melted, and it’s now 97 degrees (a few days ago, I was out scooping snow… in shorts).

And now it’s humid.

Really humid.

The kind of humid where you sweat through your shirt when you reach out the front door to get your mail.

And this all happened over a weekend (I literally had the heat and the air conditioning on in my house at the same time).

At least it feels like it happened over a weekend (and not one of those super cool 3 day weekends we educators live for).

What happened to spring?  And fall?

I remember winter because it was literally yesterday.

And the 187 days before that.

I know about summer because I’m already sweating my “you know what” off (I apologize for blogging blue, but I’m upset).

So much for the four seasons.

Unless you count them as:

Season 1 – Beginning of School

Season 2 – Jumpy Students/Teachers Right Before Christmas

Season 3 – The Unrelenting Never-ending Darkness of Winter/Snow Days Which Means I Have to Get Up at 3:00 a.m. to Cancel School

Season 4 – Hot Smelly Junior High Kids During the Time That Used to be Called Spring.

I need a vacation and some nice 74 degree weather (conference in San Diego anyone?).

And those Junior High kids need a deodorant shower.

If you live someplace nicer than me, please understand I hate you.

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Whiffers. Smell Your Way to Higher Test Scores.


A few weeks ago, I received an email asking me (I think, because I can’t really remember at my advanced age) to blog about a product.3 Pack fro $4.95.  A Steal If They Work.

As I normally do, I read the email.

Then I immediately went to my go to move which is hit delete and get on with my sad and pathetic life.

Why?

I don’t know why, it’s just the way my life is.

Oh, you are probably thinking why do I delete all of my emails.  My bad.

Because most of the emails I get don’t have anything to peak my interest.  Like a free t-shirt.  Or a trip.  Or the time honored attention grabber… cash.

But something about this particular one caught my attention.

It talked about improving test scores.

And while I don’t know much, I do know we’re all obsessed with test scores (whether we like it or not… and most of us probably don’t).

The product in the email was Whiffers.

They are scented wrist bands students can wear while testing.

Evidently the bands make kids really smart.

And who amongst us doesn’t need more really smart kids?

Now in effort of full disclosure (and on the advice of the PrincipalsPage.com lawyers), I want to say I’m not a stockholder in the company, or on the payroll, or even at this point a believer.

What I am is curious.

Can we really effect the test scores of our students with a wrist band that smells like spearmint?  Or peppermint?  Or even lavender?

It sounds crazy.

But what if it’s just crazy enough to work?  Maybe it’s like a blog about nothing.

What if the “Whiffer Suits” are on to something?

Even if the bands help a little, it might be enough to improve test scores to a level where a school district is successful instead of failing.

Now you might be asking is this an official PrincipalsPage.com Blog endorsement?

No it’s not.

As I mentioned earlier there has been no official exchange of a free t-shirt.

And without that, there is no chance of an endorsement.

What has happened is they’ve made me think.  Mainly about the steps adults in education will take to improve test scores.

If these bands work, Whiffers will sell them by the millions.

Even if they don’t work, I think they will still sell.

Say what you want, but America is a great country.

And it’s based on business and entrepreneurs.

Somewhere along the way, someone figured out we needed to test our students.

And then someone else figured out there was big money to be made on testing our students.

Now, educational testing at the K-12 level is a huge billion dollar business (I’ve just made up a number… it’s probably more).

Whiffers is on the right track, one way or another.

Now if I could only figure out how I could get a small cut of this action.

Or at least a free t-shirt (yes, once again it’s all about me).

If you have a special secret to improve test scores, please send it my way.  But keep in mind, I’m going to steal the idea and give you absolutely NO credit.

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Change Jobs. Changes Everything.


Getting a new job has opened up a whole new world to me.

Where It Stops, Nobody Knows.

More importantly, it’s opened up a whole new world for a bunch of other people.

I never imagined the chain reaction that takes place when one person accepts a new position.

I leave.

Someone replaces me.

Then someone has to replace them.

Another person will take that job, which opens up yet another position.

And so on.  And so on.

And so on.

It’s amazing when you think about it (not that anyone does but me).

There are even chain reactions with the people who surround you.

When you start a new job there will be instances when you have to hire new people to fill open positions.

And this starts a whole different set of chain reactions.

It’s a giant game of musical jobs.

All because one person changed where they work.

And it didn’t start with me.  Someone had to leave my new position for it to become available.

And someone else left the position they just took.

Even before that, a third person must have gone somewhere for that job to be open.

And this may happen a hundred times before the effects trickle down to you.

I think.

Actually, now I’m just confused.

But I do know what one person does has a huge impact on lots of other people.

Even more than we’ll ever know.

Kind of like being a teacher or a school administrator.

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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.