Every school faces it.Change is Not Always Messed Up.

Many people don’t like it.

Some even fight it.


My favorite qoute:

“Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have – and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up."  (James Belasco and Ralph Stayer, Flight of the Buffalo, 1994)

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New Ways to Do Old Things.

As educators, I think we have to be open to change. 

Just because we’ve always done something one way… it doesn’t mean there’s not a better way.


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We Need to Stop Teaching Our Students How to Write.

Why does it take schools so long to change?

Why do I feel the need to write so many blogs about change?

The answer to the first question is we’ve been allowed to rest on our laurels.  Question number two, I’m either obsessive compulsive or just weird.  Could go either way.

Whatever it is, you have to admit it’s like pulling teeth to get a new idea implemented in education.

Educators growl like frightened cats when they hear the word Change (yes, this is an excuse to use a wacky animal picture in a blog).This Cat Just Heard the Word

Everyone seems to believe that we should teach our students in the same ways we were taught 20 or 30 years ago (I know, I’m dating myself).

Worse, we continue to teach the subject matter we were taught.  To compound the problem, we use the same techniques we learned during student teaching
(can anyone say chalkboard, overhead, and worksheets?).

I’m here to propose some changes.  Again.

Big changes.

So go ahead and growl, hiss, and spit.

Get over it, because as always, we are here for the kids.

Now take a moment to compose yourselves.  And stop crying.  It’s sad.  And pathetic (plus, you don’t want to drip tears on your keyboard).

When I’m done please feel free to tell me what you think. Just keep the cursing to a minimum.

Here we go.

One, we need to get rid of penmanship, keyboarding, memorizing state capitals, and cutback on spelling.

And that’s just a start.

Am I crazy?

Possibly, but more likely I’m just slightly paranoid with some anger issues (it’s all about the proper medication).  But that’s a whole different subject.

Penmanship is rarely used by most adults.  Unless they are signing their name, so spending hundreds of hours teaching children how to make the perfect “Q” in cursive could be a waste of time.

We don’t have time to teach students a skill they will one day use in writing thank you notes.  If they need to produce such a note they can print them (by hand or a computer… I really don’t care).

Keyboarding?  Haven’t we progressed past the point of controlling our students by making them sit straight up and down with both feet on the floor while they type?

I don’t know of any former students who have computer skills and weren’t hired for a job because they didn’t type fast enough or use the proper technique.

Last time I checked, most elementary students know their way around a keyboard.

Let’s just agree the “Home Row” isn’t life or death.  Enough with typing “asdf gh jkl; fall gall hall lass” a thousand times.

Stop with the memorizing state capitals.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again, it was fun in the 1950’s, it can be Googled in 2010.  If you find yourself desperately needing to know the capital of Delaware… look it up.  There’s no need to spend the entire 4th grade year forcing students to learn where Montpelier and Salem are located. 

Lastly, what’s with all the time on spelling?

Do we really need to know how to spell in this day and age?

Can’t we just come close when we are typing and then let the computer correct us?  During the typing of this blog, I misspelled 12 words.  Maybe it’s my keyboarding skills, maybe I’m just stupid.

Either way, it took me 1.3 seconds to fix them.

This is just a start.  I haven’t even gotten to the Periodic Table, poetry, and our obsession with dictionary skills.

Once, we get these things out of the curriculum, schools will have time to address skills needed in this century.

Like foreign language starting in elementary school.

Not as an elective, but mandatory (might I suggest Chinese?).

And computers, computers, computers.  We can’t keep pushing technology skills to the background because Grandma the 3rd grade teacher is afraid her students might break the printer or download a song.

Why is it that it’s embarrassing when we don’t know math, history, science when we stand in front of our students, but it’s okay to be clueless about technology (in the interest of full disclosure I stole this from someone on Twitter and I’m also on steroids so I can blog faster…).

As Ben Franklin said, “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished”.

And I don’t think any of us employed by a school should be done.

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Signs You Might Be a School Administrator.

You associate the Winter Music Program with at least 3 students becoming suddenly ill.  On stage.

When you think about report card day, your first thought is about how many times your phone will ring that evening.Signs.

You consider a 3-day weekend to be an extended mental health break.

You know of a countdown to summer vacation.  In January.

You tense up when someone says “Do you have a minute?”

You really tense up when someone says “I’m not one who normally complains, but…”

Your monthly calendar starts and stops on School Board Meeting night.

You consider your day to be good or bad depending on how the lunch hour went.

The word “busses” makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

Getting home early means you are only 45 minutes late.

When eating out, you sit on the side of the table that allows you to see people coming towards you.

You associate “I need a sub” with “Ugh.”

When your phone rings, you automatically think it’s bad news.  See: “I need a sub.”

You know people who believe “change” is a 4-letter word.

While shopping, you avoid parents by ducking into another aisle.

Supervision of ballgames makes you wonder why you just didn’t become a police officer.

You can tell if a student is lying by simply looking at them.

You’ve broken up a fight.  Between adults.

You can no longer hear the bells ring between classes, but you can hear a student mumble your name from 200 yards away.

Retirement Dinners are considered a “Date Night” with your spouse.

At least one parent has used your name in a sentence as a curse word.

You find snow days enjoyable.  You find the day before a snow day (when students/staff are anticipating it) miserable.

You know your desk has a top.  You just can’t remember the last time you saw it.

Last but not least (additions are welcome), you have the ability to raise your voice to a level that instantly makes hundreds of children stop dead in their tracks.

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Schools Can’t Change.

Change is hard.

That’s why I’m not interested.

When you work in a school there is always a lot of talk about changing things (by talk, I mean it rhymes with witching).  As educators we are faced with the choice of jumping on board with the latest fad or sticking with the tried and true method that we’ve used for the last 20 years.

For me it’s a no brainer.

If it was good enough when I was in school, it’s good enough for the students in 2009.What I Would Look Like If I Taught in the 1950's.

When the word change is even casually mentioned, it can provoke a strong reaction.

In some cases anger.

Luckily, the bad feelings are never directed towards administrators (for the last time… sarcasm is the lifeblood of this blog).

After much thought, I have chosen my final answer on change (I do love Regis Philbin but rest assured not in the same way I love Kelly…actually in the EXACT same way I love Kelly). 

I’m against it.

Don’t even think about trying to talk me out of it.

I don’t like change.


Because I don’t like it.

You need a reason?  I gave you one.  I don’t like it.

In my estimation, progress is way overrated.

Schools were good enough for my grandparents (if they attended… and some did… at least until the 6th grade), so they should be good enough for today’s students.

Progress is for the next generation.  It’s for the person who takes my job (I know you’re out there…).

As for me, I’m going to stick with what works.

I’m way too busy to worry about the latest fads.  My career is on borrowed time.  I just don’t see the point in making a lot of unnecessary changes because I’ve only got 20 years left until retirement (like I’m going to make it…).

I’m going to focus on the present.

In the next week or so I need to do the following:

Run off copies on the ditto machine.

Take a quick smoke break in the Teacher’s Lounge.

Use some corporal punishment on a student in the hallway because he was talking in study hall.

Finish a report on a typewriter (I hope I don’t make a mistake; I am all out of correction tape).

Hand write some memos.

Use the phone tree to contact teachers.

Drive students in my car without seatbelts.

Take some pictures for the yearbook and send the film off to be developed (I should be getting them back in a couple of weeks).

Write grades in my red spiral grade book.

Show a movie on the 16mm projector.

Or possibly a slide show (don’t forget to turn to the next slide when it beeps).

Finally, I need to not exercise (all the studies say it’s bad for you).

I think I’ve made my point.

Schools don’t need to change.  Things are just fine the way they are.

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My Dog Buddy, May Hold the Key to Better Staff Development.

We have had our new dog for a little more than a week. Actually, truth be told, I am pretty sure I am now living in Buddy’s house (I am actually supposed to address him as Mr. Buddy… so I am glad he isn.t much of a blog reader).

His standard of living is quite remarkable for a year and a half old unemployed Beagle.

He has been a relatively gracious host so far. More impressive is how fast he has risen to the top of the family pecking order.

It took me years of stalking to win over my wife.

Buddy shows up and in 2 minutes she is smooching on him. I don’t want to get into the sordid details of my first kiss with her, but it didn’t come in 2 minutes.

I am not as jealous of him as I am impressed.

Say what you want, but the dog has skills.

He likes the ladies and the ladies like him.

It seems like he has been part of our family for much longer than a few days. Maybe that’s because I have to get up at 5:00 am to walk him.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. Soon I will be in the best shape of my life thanks to dragging this dog around town for approximately 18 miles a day.

For the most part he has been the perfect pet. He barks about once every 2 days. He doesn’t like human food. He won’t jump on the furniture. And he walks over to the door that goes to the garage around 9:30 every night as a clear indication that he is ready for bed in his crate.

The aforementioned makes him a better housemate than my daughter. You have to force her to bed. Often times by using some sort of wrestling maneuver or headlock to drag her dead weight body towards the bedroom.

The kicking and screaming almost wakes the dog up. Notice I said almost. Buddy can literally be walking along and pass out. He is asleep before his head hits his brand new L.L. Bean bed with his name stitched on it (in his favorite color I am told).img_1404

She thinks 9:30 is way too early to go to bed. Actually, she thinks 2:00 am is too early. I have already suggested that she stay away from the early morning classes in college.

Of course, she doesn’t get up at 5 to walk her dog, so what does she care about going to bed early.

I have run into one small problem when I walk him. He won’t “turn in his homework.”

Not page #1 or page #2.

I walked him 4 miles once and he wouldn’t squat on a bet.

Originally, I thought the dog had some sort of gift.

Or 2 bladders.

Turns out neither is true.

After spending 3 days thinking about this riddle wrapped up in an enigma, I finally came to a conclusion.

He is a show dog. Actually former show dog.

They say he got kicked out of the ring because he got too big. If you ask me that is code for “dogroids”, but as always I’m not here to judge.

Although it would explain his mood swings and the ability to exercise for hours on end. Not to mention the fact that he has two shrunken… well, you get the point (if you don’t, email me).

This could be from his surgery, but who really knows in this day and age.

Training a dog can be a challenge. Untraining one is even harder.

It reminds me of teachers and staff members (the legal department wants it noted that I am in no way comparing teachers to dogs… or vice versa as I don’t want to insult either group).

We all have a tendency to get stuck in our ways. I include myself in this group.

Once we are trained, we stay trained.

That is why it is so important to get new employees started off on the right foot.

Part of this training should be teaching new staff members that flexibility is the key to success.

As a teacher, administrator, janitor, or secretary who works with students, we have to be willing to adjust throughout our careers.

Each new group of students (every 4 years or so) has different needs and ways of learning. We can’t expect them to respond to our methods that we may have first learned during student teaching 20 years ago.

We can’t always fight change. We have to seek it out and embrace it.

Sure it makes us nervous. And it makes our belly hurt (especially Buddy’s). And it makes it hard to get comfortable for a nap (Buddy and I).

If someone shows us a better way, our students deserve the opportunity to learn under a new progressive system that better fits their style of learning.

Sooner or later, we are all asked to try new methods. Instead of fighting it, maybe we should just “turn in our homework” the first time.

It might just help kids.

And it might save me 18 miles of walking a dog (I really wish Buddy… I mean Mr. Buddy could read this).

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Change. Maybe It’s Not Such a Bad Idea After All.

General Eric Shinseki.From our friend Angie.

Here is my favorite change quote of all time:

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

-Gen. Eric Shinseki

I have got to figure out a way to work this one into conversation.

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Change. Sounds Like a Great Idea, for You.

Alright, So Not All Change Works Out.The word “change” has been front and center in the 2008 Presidential campaign. I am guesstimating that is was used about every 3 seconds.

Senator McCain and President-elect Obama both used the word on a daily basis. By the way, I am already growing weary of the “President-elect” phrase.

They said it and the news media repeated it. And repeated it. And repeated it again. And again (you get the point).

I heard the word change at least 48,307 times in the last month (I am a very good with numbers).

Oh, how I will miss those campaign commercials where I was told change is coming. I can hardly wait for this monumental change to take place.

I am giddy with anticipation. This may be more exciting than a snow day.

Change is a good thing. Possibly a great thing.

Isn’t it?

I hear people talk about change on a daily basis. It seems to be a hot topic at school (along with what’s for lunch and how many days until the next long weekend).

As educators, we want change. After all, we are teaching the leaders of the future. It is in our DNA to focus on the future.

Each day, we look the status qou in the eye and demand that it changes.

In our minds, everyone should change. Students, parents, school boards, and the federal government.

Evidently, we not only like change, we love it. It is the cornerstone of the educational process.


Except when the big bony finger of change is pointed in our direction.

We don’t necessarily like that.

Things are going pretty well. Especially in my classroom. Or in my office.

In these cases, let’s just leave well enough alone.

Change is a beautiful thing, as long as it happens down the hall.

As you can see, I am torn.

In an effort to change this attitude (get it?), I have decided to share some of my favorite quotes on change.

I would also like you to know why they don’t apply to me.

Change is inevitable. Progress is optional. – Anonymous

My retirement is also inevitable. If we could hold off on this change stuff for about 18 years, I would really appreciate it.

When you’re finished changing, you’re finished. – Benjamin Franklin

If I make wholesale changes this school year, what will I do for the last 17 years of my career?

We must become the change we wish to see in the world. – Mahatma Gandhi

I hate to argue with Gandhi, so let’s leave this one alone.

Do, or do not. There is no try. – Yoda

If Yoda can’t guarantee that the change will be immediately successful, I am not interested.

I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better. – George C. Lichtenberg

If I don’t buy into Yoda’s theory, I am certainly not going to listen to some German scientist (by the way, who is this guy?).

You can judge your age by the amount of pain you feel when you come in contact with a new idea. – Pearl S. Buck

Thank you for making my point Mrs. Buck. I am too old to change (see my impending retirement).

Actually, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I am mocking the fact that change is painful to many of us.

As an administrator, I believe one of the major parts of my job is convincing people that change is a good thing.

Sometimes what is best for our students makes us just a little uncomfortable.

This leads me to my last two quotes about change. These may be the most important quotes that you read in the next 30 seconds.

I am thinking about having these carved into my desk (but it is a metal desk so that would just be weird… and noisy).

If you want to make enemies, try to change something. – Woodrow Wilson

And even more importantly…

Change is inevitable, except from vending machines. – Unknown

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What ACT Score Do You Need to Get Into OCU?

Are ACT Scores Overrated?Why is change so difficult? It can come so slowly and can be so painful for some people. Unfortunately, I think this is magnified times 10 in an educational setting.

Are people afraid of the process of change or the result? Why do they always assume change will be for the worse and not for the better?

I am assuming most schools don’t have a mission statement that reads “This too shall pass”.

Schools are supposedly made up of forward looking people whose main goal (in theory) is to help prepare students for the future. Shouldn’t we be just the type of people who want to embrace change and be willing to accept whatever comes our way?

It seems to me that higher education (junior colleges and colleges) produces educators who are more liberal in regards to change and those of us in K-12 education are much more conservative (ie: scared).

Public education should value people who aren’t afraid to look for better ways to teach and educate children. School Boards should put a premium on administrators and teachers who can think of ways and can see better opportunities to run schools and get students the education that they need (ie: think outside the box- ie: I hate that phrase).

I won’t argue that there are not instances when teachers and administrators are open to change. It happens, but I think that it is the exception more than the rule (people win the lottery and buy Bob Dylan CD’s, but I have never met one).

More often, people treat change like a tax audit, a full-body exam (I will just leave it at that), or a trip to have their driver’s license renewed.

People fear change like they fear; public speaking, death, a New Kids on the Block reunion, dark places, heights, two-headed cats, clowns, or being buried alive with Michael Jackson.

When presented with change we are too quick to say; what’s in it for me, or it won’t work, or why even try because the change will never last.

I think the business world is far more open to changes. Their world rewards changes and addresses stationary attitudes far more quickly than the educational world.

They have a system that judges them quickly. It is fairly simple and easy to understand. It is called, have you made money lately?

Educational people don’t like to be judged. We don’t like test scores, evaluations, or NCLB (all work of the Devil). We want to believe that there is no way to evaluate us fairly because administrators or school boards could be out to get us (work of the Devils).

But if we are not getting better, aren’t we getting worse? Shouldn’t we welcome suggestions on how we can improve? Shouldn’t we want the newest and latest technology?

I think everyone should work on day to day contract. Human nature tells me that we would all work harder, look at changes with an open mind, and tackle new challenges.

I don’t want my doctor, or plumber, or members of the military, or even the guy who changes the oil in my truck to be on a five-year or lifetime contract. I want to judge them on what they have done lately. Especially the oil change guy (don’t tell me how you changed oil when you first graduated from Oil Change University or you are too close to retirement to learn and use the new oil change equipment).

Plus, if you work hard and your present employer decides they don’t want you- I bet there is a school system or business out there somewhere that could use a person willing to accept constructive criticism and maybe even change.

Students change. Society changes. Technology changes. Shouldn’t we.

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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.