A Free Trip to Miami. Thanks AASA.

I’m going to Miami, but I’m sure you already figured that out.

In mid-October I will be taking my first official business trip (I’m such a big boy).

Did I mention it’s to Miami?Miami... Here I Come!

For those of you that don’t teach geography… that’s in Florida. Where it’s warm.

Did I mention it’s a free trip?

The mere thought of rubbing elbows with Crockett and Tubbs (80’s reference) is almost more excitement than I can handle.

I’m not sure how many miles it is to Miami but I know it’s a long way from hall duty.

The American Association of School Administrators have invited me to be a small part of a focus group about the development of a school leadership simulation online program (I say a small part because in case they read this… I want to lessen expectations to the point that if I string together a halfway intelligent sentence, they will consider my participation a success).

I’m not sure what a “school leadership simulation program” is, but I would rather be confused in Miami than have everything under control on hallway duty.

Did I mention this trip is free?

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, what in the world is the AASA thinking?

It was one thing to publish my little blog in The School Administrator Magazine, but picking up my expenses is another thing (can anyone say $14 M & M’s from the hotel mini-bar?).

Let’s think about this. They are flying me to Miami to ask my opinion. They could have gotten the very same “Barely Thought Out Almost Boarding on a Complete Lack of Knowledge Opinion” from me if they had just asked.

I do have a cell phone.

Or they could have Skyped me.

Or possibly emailed.

But whatever. I’m willing to do my part. I’m willing to take one for the team.

So, I am stepping up to the plate and flying to Miami (by myself, which is a first… did I mention what a big boy I am?).

And did I happen to mention the trip is free?

Note from wife: I feel the need to point out that his first plane trip was just 4 years ago when we flew to NECC in San Diego. He has never flown alone and while he is claiming to be a “big boy”, I am feeling a little like a nervous mother. If you see a lost 40-something angry bald man in a suit roaming through the Atlanta airport, will you please contact me?

Here is a link to help with figuring the trip details from our little town in IL to Miami FL. I not only love and use this site regularly, but my company RecessTEC is demoing its use for all classrooms (don’t be afraid to visit us at www.RecessTEC.com as I have time on my hands since I don’t have to make dinner for PrincipalsPage when he is in Florida).

http://www.wolframalpha.com – Type Tuscola, Illinois to Miami, Florida.

How far is from your town to Miami?

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Snoopy Makes Camping Look Fun.  Of Course, This is a Cartoon.I just don’t get it.

My goal has always been to have a better quality of life, not one that’s worse.

So why do people camp?

To me it seems like detention for adults?

I’m confused why people (wife, mil, and evil spawn this weekend) head outdoors to sleep, eat, and use public showers.

These are the same people who get bit by the one mosquito that is within 60 miles of our house.

So what do they do? The head straight into the woods where there are bugs as big as cats.

Thanks, but no thanks.

I have certain rules in my life that I’m not willing to bend. One is not to use a campground shower because
I prefer to bathe without shoes.

It’s like campers are going out of their way to insult cavemen.

How happy would Carl the CaveGuy be if he was given the opportunity to spend a weekend watching football in a house with central air? I can almost hear him grunting with excitement.

Actually forget the AC. What about running water and flushing toilets?

Even Buddy the Dog knows that napping on his recliner in the garage is good, but sleeping indoors on a bed is great.

Think about that.

A dog with a brain the size of a golf ball has figured out that the concept of camping isn’t the best way to live.

I don’t understand why you would want to trade living in your own house for hanging out in a cramped camper in the middle of the woods.

Most campers are small. Really small. So small you would rather sit in a lawn chair next to the fire.

This isn’t good because it leads to you smelling like a cigarette.

Then if you get tired of smelling like tobacco you have no choice but to put on your shoes and take a shower (again, not good… not good at all).

I’m also not a big fan of my kitchen table and bed being the same piece of furniture.

Call me crazy, but where I sleep and where I eat should be very distinct spaces.

I have no interest in moving the salt shaker so I have a place to put my pillow.

Don’t even get me started on the mini-fridge. That was cool in college, but now I prefer my refrigerators come with more than one ice tray.

Maybe they find camping calming.

Maybe they enjoy the peace and quiet.

Maybe they like the break from their regular routine.

Maybe I should keep my mouth shut because I get all of these when they go camping.

I’m not saying who benefits more when they camp, but at least one of us took a shower in bare feet this weekend.

And as a special bonus, I slept in my own bed… not on the kitchen table.

There is one good thing about camping: smores. If you are not familiar with the delicacy that is the smore here is a quote from the movie The Sandlot:

Ham Porter: Hey, you want a s’more?
Smalls: Some more of what?
Ham Porter: No, do you want a s’more?
Smalls: I haven’t had anything yet… so how can I have some more of nothing?
Ham Porter: You’re killing me, Smalls! These are s’mores stuff. Okay, pay attention. First you take the graham. You stick the chocolate on the graham. Then, you roast the mallow. When the mallow’s flaming, you stick it on the chocolate. Then you cover it with the other end. Then, you stuff.

If you haven’t seen The Sandlot… run… don’t walk to the video store. Or Netflix… whatever (I just about forgot it’s 2009).

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I Don’t Hate School, I Just Love Summer.

Everywhere I go (work, home, work, home, work, home… rinse, lather, repeat), people ask me if I’m ready for school to start.

Turns out there is such a thing as a stupid question.

No, I’m not ready.Who Doesn't Love Summer?

What I’m ready for is summer to last forever.

Forever. Which I understand is a very long time.

Who doesn’t love summer? Especially if you work at a school.

The warm weather, time to golf, vacations, wearing shorts to “work”, mowing (okay, bad example… at least after the first mow), and best of all… a monthly paycheck.

If you didn’t get this, let me say it (or type it) again.

They pay me… and I’m NOT working with the teachers or students.

Let’s all take a moment to comprehend this little nugget.

Pay, but no work (not “regular” work… still plenty to do).

Basically it’s stealing. Actually there is no basically about it.

It’s stealing.

Not with a gun, but with a Master’s Degree.

If you know teenagers who are undecided about what they want to do with their lives, I have a suggestion for them.

They want to be…

… ME.

My work consists of being around kids (better than adults), going to games (better than a real job), and working shorter hours in the summer (it’s like I stopped aging at 12).

I’m living the dream.

This doesn’t mean everything about my job is perfect. Trust me, it isn’t.

But I do get to wear shorts in the summer (did I mention students and teachers are not around), so that makes up for a lot of the troubles during the school year.

I think as educators we do a terrible job at expressing what great jobs we have.

It’s easy for us to fall into complaint mode and point out the negatives of our profession.

The worst thing is we do this in front of our students.

We complain and complain until we have convinced the very best and brightest students that working in education is not something they should pursue.

Instead of promoting careers in teaching, we discourage them.

I am here to break the cycle.

Education is the best job ever. And I mean ever.

So this year, I think everyone should follow this rule: if you can’t say anything nice about education, don’t say anything at all (I just made that up).

To review… people ask me if I’m ready for the regular routine of school after 2 ½ months of working alone.

Answer. No.

Reason. I love summer.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t love my job during the school year.

It just means I love getting paid while wearing shorts a little better.

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The National Mall is a National Disgrace.

natl_mallWe visited Washington D.C. for the first time this summer. It was exciting to visit all the places I had seen on television.

The White House, National Cathedral, WW II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, National Archives, the Watergate Complex… the list goes on and on (by the way… 4 days isn’t long enough to visit Washington… you need about 87 to see everything).

I have decided to leave Ford’s Theater out of the discussion because I’m still trying to get the whole Hard Rock Café fiasco out of my head.

These places are so common to me because I have seen them a thousand times on the news, in history books, and even in movies.

Before I stepped foot in Washington, I had a picture in my mind of what things would look like.

Everything would be perfect.

With all the visitors that come to Washington, the monuments and memorials in our nation’s capital would be in the best possible shape.

I figured the government must pour millions of dollars into their upkeep.

I was wrong.

Everything wasn’t perfect. And it retrospect it couldn’t be.

The pictures I had seen over the years were taken to put everything in the best light (so to speak).

The buildings came the closest to being what I imagined. The National Cemetery in Arlington and the National Cathedral were even more impressive than I could have imagined.

Then there was the National Mall.

I was looking forward to seeing where they hold the Independence Day fireworks and all of the other great yearly events.

When we made our way to the mall, I couldn’t have been more disappointed.

To put it kindly, it’s a dump.

Trash, dirty bathrooms, stagnant water in the reflecting pool, and dead grass. If there is grass at all.

More like dead mud.

There was also a certain smell I couldn’t put my finger on. Not that I wanted to put my finger on it.

The Mall just wasn’t what I expected.

I guess I should’ve had lower expectations.

Especially since our legislators are in charge, and I figure they are hesitant to give money to the District of Columbia when they can ship it back to their home districts for very important projects (note to reader… this is sarcasm).

The mall hosts millions of visitors a year. You can’t have that many people walking around and expect it to look like a golf course.

I get that.

On the other hand I don’t think the National Mall should look like the grounds at the county fair.

Since it’s our nation’s front lawn, I think we should take care of it.

The least we can do is pay a high school kid $20 to mow it (or smooth out the mud).

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PrincipalsPage Goes to Washington D.C.

A few pictures from our trip to Washington D.C. in June, 2009. If you want to see more you will have to swing by the house and I will set up the projector for a slide show.

If you haven’t been to our nation’s capital, I highly recommend it.

Jefferson Memorial.

Jefferson Memorial.

The White House.

The White House.

Ford's Theater.

Ford's Theater.

Lincoln Memorial.

Lincoln Memorial.

The World War II Memorial.

The World War II Memorial.

Washington Monument.

Washington Monument.

The White House

The White House

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Supreme Court

Supreme Court

The Capital from the Steps of the Supreme Court.

The Capital from the Steps of the Supreme Court.

The Capital.

The Capital.

Rotunda at U.S. Capital.

Rotunda at U.S. Capital.

Lincoln's Desk Sat Here in the Capital.

The Exact Spot Abraham Lincoln's Desk Sat When He Was a U.S. Representative.

This Used to be the Center of Washington.  Located in the U.S. Capital.

This Used to be the Center of Washington. Located in the U.S. Capital.

National Cathedral.

National Cathedral.

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If You Think Your Kid is Gifted. Think Again.

This blog post came to me as I stood in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. (I felt a little bit like Nicolas Cage in the movie National Treasure).

It was an epiphany.

It was almost like someone was screaming it in my year.

“Write this blog, write this blog, write this blog… and stop calling them blogs…”

Oh wait. Someone was.The Rotunda at the National Archives.

No, it wasn’t Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin (the voices in my head have stopped… for the most part).

The idea came to me from my mother-in-law. She came up with this observation as my Evil Spawn (her Evil GrandSpawn) was getting reading to look at the great American Historical Documents.

Included were the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, and the Louisiana Purchase.

And I almost forgot. Elvis’s Letter to President Nixon (the one where Elvis wanted to lead the war on drugs… although we didn’t actually see this letter, I would have liked to…).

Actually we didn’t really “see” any of the documents clearly. Walking into the National Archives is live walking into a cave. It’s 42 degrees and dark. Really dark.

It’s like being locked in the trunk of a car (this is a whole different blog).

When we walked into the archives, I felt like a spelunker (Google it if you don’t know).

The good people at the government keep the National Archives like this to preserve “the original documents.” (Yeah, like the ones they let you see are the “originals”.)

They couldn’t fool Nicolas Cage and they can’t fool me (Copies I say! … and yes, I do expect to be audited at any moment).

During my time as a school administrator (6 years… or 42 years in getting treated like a dog years…), I have learned many things.

One of those things is that the majority of parents who are proud owners of a smart student believe their child is gifted.

To parents… Straight A’s = Gifted.

No it doesn’t.

Have you seen the Honor Roll lately? Every kid in school is on it.

C’s used to mean average. Now they mean possible IEP (but this is a rant for another blog…).

Truly gifted isn’t being in the top 20% of the class. It’s more like 1/20th of the top 1% of the class.

I have met a ton of really smart, bright, successful students and I can count on one hand the number of students who have really been truly gifted.

In my opinion public schools need to spend more time and money on the top 20% of students (or “gifted students” as mom and dad call them).

Realistically, this probably isn’t going to happen.

But the good news is gifted education is everywhere.

And this is what my mother-in-law was pointing out. The best gifted education comes from parents.

Through travel, the library, extra work on the internet, camps, and other experiences that families can provide.

Gifted education in schools is needed, but if it’s not, it can still be provided by those proud parents.

And if you think those parents are a little delusional on their child’s abilities… you should meet Grandma.

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Travel Stinks. Now Quit Complaining.

When I was a kid, I never traveled.

If I couldn’t get there on my bike, I didn’t go.

I didn’t have the chance to ride a train, fly, or even take a cab.

Vacations were what other people took.

As I have gotten older, I’ve had more opportunities to get out and see the world.

Or at least some other states.

What I have learned is travel absolutely stinks. The lines. The security. The delays. Airport food.

A Baby That Doesn’t Want to Fly.

A Baby That Doesn’t Want to Fly.

But mostly the bathrooms (but that is a whole different blog that I’m not prepared to write and you’re definitely not ready to read).

When you get right down to it, travel is a hassle.

No matter what you do, it’s just hard to get from one place to another. It’s almost unnatural.

Everyone is in a hurry. Everyone seems to be put out by the experience.

Frustration runs rampant.

Lots of people trying to get someplace on time, and invariably they are running late.

Of course, it is usually their own fault they are behind schedule but in today’s society people really struggle with taking personal responsibility.

So if I’m late, it must be the baggage handlers fault, or the airlines, or at least the person standing in line in front of me.

Or behind me.

Or 27 feet away from me. Especially if they have a crying baby (and let’s all take a moment to say a special silent prayer for those mom’s who travel with babies… and if you travel with 2 or more you should have your choice of flying free… or being named a Saint).

Of course, this is just an example. I hope that I’m not one of those impatient travelers.

I consider myself lucky because I had never flown before September 11, 2001. This makes me lucky because I don’t know any better.

I never had the opportunity to run straight to the gate 7 seconds before takeoff. I have never even walked through an airport before we were under a “Code Light Blue/Orange/Mauve/Purple/Slightly Gray”.

I didn’t even know that I was responsible for turning someone in to security that left their baggage unattended.

I had no idea you were supposed to sit in the airport and complain loudly because the airport mechanics found something wrong with your plane and the flight had to be delayed 45 minutes.

I assumed that we all wanted our planes to be in 100% perfect mechanical condition before we boarded and had them hurl us through the air at 400 miles an hour at 37,000 feet above the rest of the world.

So my idea of travel (especially by plane) is that it’s annoying, but necessary.

I am amazed by the whole experience.

How is it possible that I can be looking at the Declaration of Independence in Washington, D.C. at 4:30 p.m., then drive to the airport, get on a giant metal tube, fly through the air, and be in my own bed fast asleep by midnight?

It’s not right. It is unnatural. It’s truly amazing when you think about it.

And yes, it is somewhat of a hassle.

But get over it.

Because when you get right down to it… it’s pretty cool.

And from my own experience, it certainly beats riding a bike.

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President Lincoln was Shot Where?

Traveling is always interesting. Sometimes too interesting.

When I’m on the road and go out to eat, I’m not looking for drama.

I want to dine in peace.

And not get in the middle of an international incident.

I am pretty sure the guy at the Subway in Chinatown was cursing the customer before us… but I will never know (I think he said “I am going to strangle your fish with a bar of soap if you get Sprite instead of water!!!”… but it was hard to tell… angry Chinese man spoke very quickly).

Chinese Subway.

Chinese Subway.

While I’m not sure what he said exactly, there was definitely a tone.

And almost an attack. Not sure who was going to attack whom, but it was about to happen.

I don’t care what nationality you are, if someone in your restaurant orders a water then fills the cup up with soda… you’re going to be angry.

Turns out, very angry.

Screaming and pointing angry.

Willing to do bad things with Lava soap angry.

Saying 14 consecutive Chinese curse words in a row angry.

But, lesson learned. Stay on the good side of the Chinese Subway owner.

And if you order water, get water (also, don’t eat items in the grocery store… the grapes aren’t free…).

My day in Washington D.C. started off innocently enough. The evil spawn and I were wandering the streets looking for a McDonald’s.

Since we aren’t completely stupid, we started heading in the opposite direction of people we saw holding McDonald’s sacks.

The good news is our plan worked. The bad news is it took us 40 minutes.

After we ate (if you consider “eating” at McDonald’s eating…), we again headed out into the city.

I think we were headed south, but just like with the Chinese cursing I may never know.

Before I knew it we were standing directly in front of Ford’s Theater.

As anyone who passed (or didn’t) junior high social studies, we all know President Lincoln was shot in Ford’s Theater.

It was a very surreal moment because while I have studied and taught this fact, I never expected to be standing directly in front of where Lincoln was killed (especially when I was basically lost and in a food coma from way too many hash browns).

As I glanced across the street, I could also see the Peterson House where they took the President after the shooting.

If I remember my history, I think he died there the next morning (I also remember something about a Cabinet Meeting being held there, but I digress… and possibly bore…).

As I stood next to the theater, I was torn.

Being excited to see where someone died seemed a little morbid.

But it is history, so I wanted to document our experience.

What better way than to take a picture of my daughter. As I focused the camera, I noticed something.

And once again (don’t forget my time at the Alamo!), I became disappointed in seeing history up close.

For you see, Ford’s Theater… where our 16th President was assassinated… is next door to…

… the Hard Rock Café.

You Can See the Hard Rock Flag Next to the American Flag.

You Can See the Hard Rock Flag Flying Proudly Next to the American Flag.

That’s wrong.

Just wrong.

That fact that you can see where Abraham Lincoln was shot… and then walk 20 feet and see a pair of Mick Jagger’s pants is just not right (picture will be added when I get home… or when my wife finds the camera cord…).

It gets better… or odder… across the street from the Hard Rock… the FBI Building. Somewhere, J. Edgar Hoover isn’t happy. Happier than the Chinese Subway owner, but not happy.

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The Shorter the Work Week, the Longer it Feels.

The Perfect Long Weekend.Like most people, I look forward to any sort of vacation. While the summer one continues to be my favorite (followed closely by any other), I must admit that I do have a special place in my heart for that day off that falls on a Monday.

I don’t care what holiday the government has to move to make this possible (and people say our elected officials are incapable of accomplishing anything).

These 3 day weekends are a gift, and well- received if you work in schools.

As educators, we need to forget about our low pay, mediocre health insurance, and lack of respect from society (not that those of us in education like to complain). Give me that extra 24 hours off.

I start to look forward to the time off a couple weeks in advance of any 3 day weekend.

The anticipation builds until the Thursday before (Friday is spent day-dreaming about Saturday-Monday… and of course my work).

The closer the weekend gets, the more I get excited and start planning what I am going to do for those 72 hours of not working.

Then it happens. I always know these weekends will turn out exactly the same way.

It is inevitable.

They are too short. Way too short.

Somehow I leave work on Friday afternoon, glance at my watch, and realize it is 2:30 p.m. on Monday.

72 hours of free time always goes by faster than a normal 48 hour weekend.

But that isn’t the bad part.

The following 4 day week is easily the worst part.

You would think that a work week that starts on a Tuesday would fly by.


It drags.

Badly (if that isn’t a word, it should be)

For some reason, known only to scientists and possibly aliens, a 4 day work week (when you normally work 5 days) seems at least 894% longer (and if you don’t believe me, Google it).

Why is that?

Why does the God of Work punish me so? He teases me each time we have a 3 day weekend and I always fall for it.

Everything (which means nothing) I know about time tells me 4 days is shorter than 5.

Once again, I have actually sat down and done the math.

Yet, a shorter work week is actually longer.

It almost makes me want to get out of education and take a job in the real world (a world that I have only heard about… a world with no prep periods and I have been told that some people even work year round… just the thought makes me queasy).

The key here is almost.

I will stay in education and continue to look forward to those precious 3 day weekends.

Even if the following 4 day week will punish me by feeling longer. Much longer.

Just to test my theory, I would like to propose a 4 day weekend, just to see how a 3 day work week feels.

I am willing to make this sacrifice for the good of everyone who has to suffer through a short work week.

You can never accuse me of not being a team player.

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School Days, Vacation Days, and Sick Days.

Sad but True.I had planned to take a vacation day this week. Partly because I need a vacation. But mostly, because I have days that must be used or I am going to lose them.

I wish my contract had built-in days that had to be taken for vacation. No exceptions. No unexpected meetings. No crisis to interrupt them.

If this were the case, it would give me something to look forward to and force me to take some time off.

Kind of like Thanksgiving… of course without the turkey or the pilgrims. Although, I wouldn’t mind eating turkey on my mandatory day off. And if it would help, I could take a couple of pilgrims golfing. After all, how good could they be? I am thinking the big hats would get in the way of their swing.

But, I am getting off the subject at hand.

My master plan was coming together… the vacation day was scheduled, perfect weather forecasted, and a list of outdoor chores a mile long.

It was going to be a great day full of sunshine, quiet, and accomplishments. And by accomplishments, I mean mowing and weed eating (or as I like to call it… my dream retirement).

What could possibly go wrong?

Once again, the unexpected reared its ugly head.

The flu. So technically, its ugly head wasn’t reared… but bent over the toilet.

The night before my vacation day was to take place, my daughter was overtaken by disease.

She had a fever, chills, headaches and all of the gross sickness things that involve numerous trips to the bathroom… if she was lucky enough to make it (feel bad for her if you like, but I was left to deal with the overspray).

Since I already had a day off planned, it made sense for me to stay home with her and let mom go to work.

It wasn’t the perfect day I had planned, but when you are a parent this is the price you pay if you want at least a 50/50 chance that your only child will take care of you when old age kicks in (I am trying to stay on her good side because I really don’t want to live in a nursing home… they are hot and smell like old people).

You would think sick days are the complete opposite of school days, but I found that they have a lot of similarities.

At various times both have headaches, crying, trips to the restroom (at school running boys out of them and during a sick day trying to get my daughter into one), long hours, moms calling to check in, and quiet times followed by total mayhem.

So on my vacation day which didn’t turn out to be much of a vacation, I learned staying at home is just like school.

Except for one thing.

When my daughter got sick, I instinctively called out for a janitor.

I waited patiently, then called out again.

No janitor.

No Nurse.

No one.

Just me. And my very sad daughter. And what looked like dinner from 2 nights ago.

So, I cleaned up the hallway myself.

I hate sick days. Sometimes it is easier just to be at school.

Maybe next time, the janitor could stay home with her.

I know… I know… she is definitely going to put me in a nursing home.

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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.