How I Became a Teacher.

5 Reasons (That Aren’t Completely True).

5 Reasons (That Aren’t Completely True).

The answer to the title of this blog is quite simple.

How I got there is a little more complicated.

This spring, the 2009 crop of high school seniors will graduate (barring any last minute mistakes on their part… and I am watching). As educators we want these students to have a plan.

An exact detailed step by step plan of what they are going to do with their lives from this point forward.

From my experience most 18 year olds don’t think any farther ahead than approximately 4 minutes into the future (of course 4 minutes is an average, boys would be less… much much less… and as someone who has a daughter, this is a bit frightening).

Teachers (as do I) are always asking students what they are going to do with their lives once they graduate.

College, military, or get a job. 3 choices.

As educators, we seem to prefer they pick college. I assume that’s because college is the path we took (I am also aware of what happens when you assume).

We want them to choose from these 3 choices and stick with it. For the next 50 years.

I am not sure of the logic behind this because most of us had no idea what we wanted to do when we were 18 (17 in my case… which was way too young to be making any decisions not involving cheeseburgers, sports, or a Def Leppard concert).

I often wonder if we have unrealistic expectations for graduating seniors. After all, most will change their minds in the first 6 months after they leave high school.

Sometimes, I think they just give us the answer we want to hear regarding their future plans.

As I stumble through life I think about this as I meet people.

Did the guy at the gas station always have the dream to sell me PowerAde and donuts?

Is the lady at the dry cleaners living out her lifelong goal of ironing shirts for 9 hours a day?

How long has the UPS driver who delivers to my house wanted to drive a truck and wear an ugly brown uniform (although wearing shorts to work in the summer is a pretty nice benefit)?

I point out these examples not to take anything away from them. All of these people seem both happy and nice (goals that we should all have).

They are everyday people who do every day jobs. Obviously, by our way of thinking they must not have had a specific plan when they were seniors in high school.

And that’s okay.

They are good people who have jobs. More importantly they are good citizens who are making society better, not worse.

We all interact with people who probably aren’t pursuing their high school dream job.

In fact, I am one of them.

My plan wasn’t to be a school administrator who writes semi-coherent blogs.

Yes, I know you are shocked. Please take a moment a compose yourself.

My plan when I was a high school senior was… actually, I didn’t have a plan. But I told the people who asked that I did.

My goal, up to that point, was to play major league baseball. It turned out I wasn’t good enough. Who knew (other than the college and professional scouts)?

That is how I ended up going to college and getting a business degree. Why college and a business degree? I have no idea.

Like most teenagers I just picked something so adults would stop asking me.

Plus, it was the mid 80’s and Michael Douglas seemed really cool in the movie Wall Street.

The good news…I graduated. The bad news…after 4 years of college I was again getting asked what I wanted to do with my life.

I remember thinking that I just went through this whole “pick a career” thing a few years earlier. What a vicious circle.

So I took jobs that in which I didn’t really have any interest (when I could find them). Then I woke up when I was 26 and got really lucky.

I knew how to throw a curveball (evidently, just not a good one).

Actually, I had known how to throw a curveball since I was 12, but it took awhile for this skill to become useful.

My curveball wasn’t good enough to get me into the majors, but it did get me a job as an assistant junior high baseball coach.

One of my old coaches needed help and I knew how to throw a curveball.

After a few practices, it didn’t take me long to figure out that I liked kids, school, sports, coaches, and summers off.

If you count 26 years as not long.

So I went back to college with an actual plan. And when I told people what I wanted to do with my life I actually meant it.

And that’s how I became a teacher.

Which has led to everything else.

I wish I could have told my high school teachers this story when I was a senior. My life plan is going to be based on the skills I learned in Little League.

And that will eventually lead to me writing a blog about education.

From now on, I may just tell high school seniors that life has a funny way of just working out.

**Note from wife…I got pretty lucky too. You see he was graduating college with that business degree when I was in 8th grade. Obviously that would have been an awkward romantic relationship. When PrincipalsPage decided to return to college I was a sophomore who just so happened to be in the same history class. The rest really is history!

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The Oil Change Guy Wants My Job.

This Guy Has His Eye on my Job.  And He Could Do It.I got the oil changed in my truck this morning.

Yes, as a real man I know my way around the dealership.

This is what a manly man does. He drives his vehicle across town and waits patiently in the lobby as someone fixes his truck. And just to prove that I can multi-task, I watched the Today Show as the project was being completed.

Who says all of the good ones are gone, ladies?

Something struck me as I waited. I overheard a couple of employees talking about their upcoming vacations.

At first I was a little confused as I wondered how long they were shutting down the car lot.

I felt badly because I assumed they had to close because of the economy.

Were they closing for a week? Two weeks? A month? Forever?

That wasn’t it at all.

They were simply talking about being off for the next day and a half. That’s their vacation.

And they were excited. Really excited.

They get off today, Christmas Eve, at noon. And they don’t have to return to work until 7:30 am on December 26.

A whole day and a half. Did I mention they are thrilled?

It reminded me that my dad used to be the same way. When you work 6 days a week all year long, a short vacation is valued and appreciated.

And here I am just beginning two entire weeks off, in the middle of the school year, with days that don’t even count against my regular vacation days.

Did I mention we just got back from Thanksgiving Break?

As an added bonus, we were off 3 days in a row for snow last week. Plus, on most days I am off work at 4 o’clock.

How excited would the guy who changes my oil be if he had my schedule?

And more importantly, I question my own appreciation of my schedule and career.

As an educator, I sometimes think we spend too much time wallowing in our own self pity about how hard we work, how little we get paid, and how parents don’t respect us.

Working in a school is far from perfect, but on the other hand I don’t come across a lot of people who are in a hurry to change careers.

I am 100% sure that I wouldn’t switch jobs with the guys at the dealership (mainly because I am incapable), but I am fairly certain they would like to have my job.

If they are this excited about a day and a half off, how excited would they be with my schedule?

So on this Christmas Eve please take a moment to be thankful that as educators, you have the ENTIRE day off (plus at least another week) to spend with your families.

On second thought I am counting the days until I can get back on my much needed regular schedule.

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My Childhood Dream Came True. Almost.

It's a Baseball.When I was a kid my dream was to play professional baseball (yes it’s true, I didn’t grow up wanting to be a school administrator… I like to share these things before you hear them on the street).

I held on to this dream up until about a year ago.

Reality finally set in around my 40th birthday. I came to the conclusion that the phone wasn’t going to ring. I am not going to lie; it was painful, but I believe it allowed me to move forward with my life. I felt it was a real sign of maturity (but, the mourning process did take awhile).

Sure, when this realization set in… there was some cursing and a few tears, but eventually I got over it (if you call crying myself to sleep in a fetal position after rocking back and forth for 14 hours, getting over it).

It was true; I would never take the field for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Their loss (if you sense a hint of anger, you would be correct).

I had all of the tools to be successful in the majors.

Actually, I didn’t…have any tools.

The one thing that held me back? Talent.

Good genetics is a cruel, cruel mistress. I was only 7 inches too short, 60 pounds too light, and threw like a girl (my apologies to all girls, especially the ones that can throw).

Anyway, I have moved on. Put all of this ugliness behind me.

Then it happened.

The phone rang.

I got a call to take the field at Busch Stadium with the St. Louis Cardinals.

I just knew they would come to their senses. I almost felt badly for the poor language directed at them during my 40th birthday party (sorry Cardinals, sorry neighbor kids who overheard, sorry Pastor).

My first career choice was finally becoming a reality.

I would be at the game and I would be ready.

I arrived early and got loosened up. Mentally I was prepared to help the team win the game.

Music was playing throughout the stadium as I got ready to jog in from behind the outfield wall in right field.

I had spent my whole life getting ready for this moment. Nothing could stop me.

The gate opened. I could feel the butterflies churning in my stomach.

I ran two steps and then heard an 80 year old usher yell, “slow down buddy, you are going to run over one of the Girl Scouts.”

Yes, I was at the game with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop.

They had been invited to walk around the field before the game. And bring their parent(s).

I could have sworn during the phone call that the team said they needed me to pitch, not chaperone.

Once again, my dream was dead.

Yet another example of God having a sense of humor.

I am more and more sure of it each day.

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Mr. Recess, I Wish I had Treated You Better.

I think life takes a turn for the complicated once our recess days start to wind down.

In about the 5th grade, recess starts to become less about playing, running, chasing other kids in circles, throwing balls at each other, and sweating (like a grossly overweight highway construction worker in the Florida sun, during the month of July, at high noon, on a 97 degree day, with 427% humidity) and more about clothes, dating, dances, and paying attention to personal hygiene (for some).

At this point, we don’t know it but our minds and bodies are about to go haywire and our friend for the last 6 years, Mr. Recess is about to leave us forever. Sure, we will still go outside after lunch in junior high and high school, but it isn’t the same.

During our later grade-school years, our bodies get taken over by gremlins who evidently work for the NPA (National Puberty Association). I am not sure what these gremlins look like, but they sure can make a junior high boy do and say things that make grown men look away and reduce women to tears.

At this time, many adults are convinced that all 12 year-olds are going to prison, if they don’t change their ways.

Fortunately, if all goes well and you have parents who scream loud enough and send you to your room for long enough, you may just survive and have a productive life, after all.

Hopefully, your parents care enough to yell- “If there is any justice in the world, you will have kids that act just like you.” Even if things go well, and the gremlins leave and move on to another pre-pubescent target, we are never the same.

At this point, we are so messed up that when we do get a break from our minimum wage job at McDonald’s, recess has left us and will never return.

My theory is: recess is wasted on the young. During our prime recess years, we don’t appreciate what we have.

Instead of enjoying every sweaty moment and each game of kickball, every kid in America complains to the teacher during recess that it is way too hot, too cold, too short, too long, too boring, that I have no one to play with, the other kids are bothering me, he or she is staring at me, and the classic- it wasn’t me, he started it.

If we could only go back and have recess as an adult. How great would it be to have the bell ring at work promptly at 10:30 and 2:30? We could all line up and go outside for 30 minutes and throw balls at each others’ heads.

During recess, there was no talk of relationships, taxes, bosses, politices, gas prices, the war in Iraq, or anything remotely complicated.

We just didn’t appreciate Mr. Recess until he was gone, and by then, it was too late.

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I Could Have Been a Typewriter Repairman.

Technology is changing fast. I often wonder how schools and teachers are going to keep up not only with the technology changes, but the students who seem to know more and more about computers at a much younger age.

When I graduated from high school, there was exactly one computer in the entire school district. A Commodore 128 if I remember correctly. I do recall that it was roughly the same size as my first car. But even though my friends and I weren’t sure what a computer could do for us, we knew it was cool.

It was located in the business classroom, right next to the typing room where I spent a semester learning to type on electric typewriters (half the time- the other half you spent on a manual typewriter which required the upper body strength of an Olympic weightlifter to return the carriage). Learning to Type on These, Wasn’t Easy.

I hope carriage is the proper term, our teacher made us memorize all of the parts of a typewriter. I wondered at the time if she assumed all 20 of us were going into the very high demand field of typewriter repair? I think I may have missed my career calling by about 40 years.

Back then (like the mid 80’s were the 12th century) technology consisted of a film projector and some sort of copying machine thing in the lounge that would make your hands blue from the ink (that is if you could stay in the lounge long enough that the cigarette smoke didn’t make you pass out). But I digress.

Technology continues to advance at an unbelievable rate and we as individuals and schools do our best to keep up. I am an example of this. I have made it all the way from staring at a Commodore computer in 1985 to writing a blog that is read by at least 2 people (at least 1 of which I am not related to).

Schools face the challenge of not only purchasing and replacing technology on a yearly basis, but training staff to use it, and educating teachers to teach it.

At what point will we, as educators, not be able to keep up? When will the time come that students arrive for their kindergarten year and they already know more about computers and technology than we can teach them when they get to high school.

The average 5 year old today has a computer, IPOD, video games, big screen TV, high speed internet, a DVD player in the mini-van, and will have a cell phone before they are 10 (with ring tones, a camera, text-messaging, and the ability to download TV shows and movies- and all of these things confuse and frighten a large majority of adults over the age of 55). And on top of that in a few years all of these devices may be combined into one personal media/phone/GPS/planner/camera/screwdriver.

Can schools and teachers advance as fast as the students who attend them? I think I will go fire up the ATARI and get a game of PONG in before bed.

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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.