Conference Speakers: I Can Read. Now Make Me Laugh.


When I was a teacher, I often found myself wondering what superintendents did for a living (of course, this happened only after I had completed my lesson plans).

I was pretty sure they worked in education, but the specifics of the job were lost on me.  They looked busy, but I noticed they spent a lot of time out of the school district.

How could they run a school and not be in school?He Seems Like He's Enjoying the Conference.

Where did they go?

What were they doing?

Then I became a principal.  I assumed this would allow me to understand the inner sanctum of a superintendent (this sentence just sounds weird and borderline obscene… mainly because it is).

But no.  After a few years as principal, I still wasn’t 100% sure what superintendents did for a living.

But they seemed happy.

They seemed to enjoy their jobs.

So I became one (not the only reason, so easy on the angry emails).  And I found out what they already knew.

The superintendent’s position is the odd duck of a school district (insert your joke here). 

The job is as different from a teacher’s position, as a custodian’s or a coach’s.

The superintendent is in education, but just barely.  The primary focus of the job is no primary focus at all.

It’s people.  Students. Staff.  Money (or lack thereof).  Insurance.  Architects.  And meetings.

Lots and lots of meetings.

Meetings about stuff.  Meetings about nothing.  Meetings about meetings.

Most aren’t earth shattering.  If the truth be told one meeting isn’t much different than the previous 174 (but my anger at wasting time causes me to digress).

Another item on the superintendent’s to-do list is attending conferences. 

They are meetings on steroids.

I’ve found conferences always mean the same things.

Uncomfortable chairs.

Bad carpet.

People who want to shake your hand.

Rooms that are too hot.  Or too cold.  And dry.  Like desert dry (why is that?).

There are overheads.  PowerPoint slides.   And handouts. 

And more podiums than I can count.  Is it a law that you have to stand behind a big wooden box with the hotel logo on it when you speak?

And for every podium there are 5 people with giant name tags.

Each conference has at least 100 people listed as presenters.  Which means, by the law of averages, one will be great and one will be good.

That leaves 98 other presenters (check my math).

98 people who want to have a conference presentation on their resume.  Why they want this, I will never know.

As far as resumes go, is speaking at a conference a deal breaker on getting a new job?

Does it boost your income?

Provide better health insurance?

Increase your retirement package?

Whatever benefits presenting provides, I have a simple request (I’ve made it before and I’ll make it again).

Is it too much to ask when I (or a school district) pay hundreds of dollars in conference fees that someone with a microphone makes me smile.

I’m not asking for Carrot Top quality entertainment here, just a giggle.  Or a grin.  Or a split-second of happiness.

Anything, but someone standing behind the sacred podium reading a PowerPoint in a monotone voice (I know this comes as a shock, but I can read).

Why do I have to be held captive just so they can improve their job prospects?

The best conference speakers aren’t the ones with a ground-breaking message.

The ones you remember are funny.

It might be a joke.  Could be a video (YouTube has them for free you know).  Maybe even a self-deprecating story.

There are parts of being a superintendent that continue to be a mystery, but after 8,000 meetings/conferences I think I’ve discovered the formula for a memorable presentation.

A simple message + at least one laugh.

Try it. Your audience will like it.

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You Don’t Own a TV? What’s All Your Furniture Pointed At?


Sadly, this isn’t my quote. I wish it was. It would be nice to be this witty.

It came from that man genius Joey Tribbiani on an episode of Friends (and Tweeted by Scott Elias, an assistant principal in Northern Colorado… good luck on that doctorate degree).

Actually, I guess Joey didn’t really come up with it. Or Scott. It was undoubtedly from a writer on the show.No TV?  That's Crazy.

Most likely the writer in question was really skinny and quiet in school. I bet he (or she) wore black a lot, read a ton of books, and watched hours of TV. I am guessing he always got C’s and D’s in English. Every parent teacher conference likely ended with the teacher telling his parents… “If he would just apply himself.”

Some teachers may have even pegged him as a colossal failure. And look at him now. Living in Hollywood, writing for a hit TV show (although now possibly unemployed), and getting quoted in a major educational blog (yes, I mean this one…).

Turns out he was probably just bored in high school.

I have been thinking about hiring someone like this to ghost write my blog. Let’s be honest, they could certainly do a better job. Plus, it would free up some time for me (I am so behind on my naps).

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked how one becomes funny. What kind of question is that?

How do I know? And if I did, I am not sure I would have told them.

Seems to me this information could be valuable (as I write this, I am doing my best Dr. Evil laugh… mwahahahaha… which reminds me, I need a cat).

If I knew how to be funny, I might teach a class on it. Maybe start a website. Possibly even write a book or a blog. A guy needs paid after all.

Obviously this person who asked the question is not a reader of the blog. If he was he would certainly be asking someone else.

I don’t know what makes funny.

This conversation did get me to thinking.

Why are some people funny and others are not? Or is everyone funny, but we only recognize it if they share our sense of humor type?

Or are some people just cursed with a non-funny gene? Is it possible to go through life and be 100% non-funny? Maybe I should ask Carrot Top?

Should we take these people and teach them funny? Or should we drop them on an island out in the middle of nowhere (as if most islands aren’t in the middle of nowhere?) so they don’t drag the rest of us down?

I say this because I prefer students in school who are funny. There is just something about them that makes them interesting.

They seem to get it (and I have no idea what “it” is, but I recognize it when I see it).

These students are the ones that don’t take themselves too seriously.

The ones that can make a joke and more importantly take a joke.

The ones that aren’t offended by every little comment.

These are the ones that I look forward to seeing in the hallway.

It seems to me that with funny comes a smile and a positive attitude. You can’t really be depressed and funny.

I am willing to bet that funny people even make more money over the course of their careers than people who aren’t funny (mental note: do an elaborate study on funny and money).

Maybe we should add a Funny Class to the list of things that we teach kids in school. After all, we teach them how to drive a car, act appropriately, play sports and countless other things.

One more class on the schedule shouldn’t be a problem.

Especially if the students make us laugh.

Down the line this could benefit all of us.

We would have a much more productive and a happier society (and possibly graduates who make more money… I will let you know when the study is complete… or maybe Scott could do it for his doctorate??).

Maybe, just maybe one of these newly-educated students in funny will graduate and take over this blog?

And I could nap. Seems like a win-win to me.

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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.