If You Facebook or Twitter, Please Be Reminded Other People Can Also Read.


Since I began my long and illustrious career in education, I’ve noticed a couple of subtle changes.Be Careful Out There.

First, kids look a whole lot younger now than they did eighteen years ago.

Back in the day, seniors in high school seemed old to me.

Now, they look like they’re 12.

Secondly, everything else in education has completely changed and it all makes me a little nervous.

Testing.  Evaluations.  Common Core.  Lawsuits.  Government attacks.

It’s a lot.

I try to roll with all of it, but I must admit it can be stressful.

If all of this wasn’t enough, then there is the King of Changes.

Technology.

So many changes (I guess that’s why it’s called the King of Changes… or at least it’s called that now).

When I was in high school back in the 80′s (19… not 18), my school was one of the very first to offer One-to-One Computers.

We had one school.  And one computer.

But don’t worry, progress was coming.

A few short years later when I began teaching, we had a computer lab.  With 12 computers (that was what we called…  a lot).

And a printer.

How I loved that dot matrix printer.  The sounds it made.  The constant tearing off the pieces of paper with the holes in it.

The paper jams.  Good times.  Good times.

A student could print a 5 page English paper in less than 40 minutes (it was a special time).

I don’t mean to brag, but it was state of the art.

Back then, technology changed every couple of years.  I could keep up.

Now, it’s changing every couple of minutes.  I can’t keep up.

The thing I’ve noticed lately is students understand all of this new technology a lot better than I do. 

And at the same time, they don’t seem to understand it all.

Facebook is great (follow me!).  Twitter is cool (follow me!).

Social media’s greatest attribute is it makes the world smaller.

The worst thing is it makes the world smaller.

This is the part I don’t think students understand.

What they write on Facebook and Twitter is available to everyone.

And I mean everyone.

Back in the mid-80′s (a glorious time… thank you MC Hammer), students were free to share their thoughts, comments, and criticisms amongst their friends.

Now, their every thought is published worldwide for all to see.

It most cases this is okay.

They are at the age where opinions are formed quickly and expressed loudly.

I just worry that while they are old enough to share their thoughts, they are too young to realize the consequences.  They seem to be oblivious to the fact their words often times travel outside their peer group.

Long story short.

Dot matrix printers and MC Hammer were very cool (because we didn’t know any better).

Technology changes so quickly I can’t keep up.

This is all part of being old.

Another part of being old is I can read.

So if you are going to skip school or practice…

Don’t post it online.  :)

Use your time wisely children.  Google MC Hammer.

Comments: 4
Tags: , , , , , ,

AASA Connect.


More free publicity.dandomench

PrincipalsPage is one of five blogs currently being featured on AASA Connect, a new microsite from AASA designed to celebrate success in public schools
and serve as an interactive professional resource for superintendents (I stole this sentence from the email they sent me).

They intend to rotate a different set of member superintendent bloggers every four to six weeks through the site (this sentence… also stolen).

Beginning in January, be sure to watch for print excerpts from member blogs in their new “Best of the Blogs” section of The School Administrator (again… stolen).

AASA Connect also includes a list of links to superintendent blogs (stolen… but I could have written this one).

Beginning in January, be sure to watch for print excerpts from member blogs in the new “Best of the Blogs” section of The School Administrator (caught me… stolen).

Thank you AASA.  And thank you for writing this blog for me.

One of my claims to fame is I sat next to AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech on a flight from Miami to Atlanta.  He was very tolerant of me.

Maybe if he Googles himself, he will see this picture.

Comments: 3
Tags: , , , ,

School Administrators Need to Limit Access. Huh?


Embrace Technology or Get Left Behind.

At the District Administration Magazine conference this week in Phoenix (yes, I said Phoenix), there was a discussion on social media and its use in schools.

I’m never shocked when school administrators talk about limiting access for students (I’m not happy, but not shocked).

I was surprised when several superintendents talked about why they don’t personally use it.

Their reason?  They don’t want to give parents and community members any more access to school business than they already have.

Huh?

Color me dumbfounded.  And tan (yes, I said Phoenix).

I assumed everyone knew it was 2011 (although I know what happens when I assume).

Everything is accessible.

The world’s a big place and it’s getting smaller.

Parents are demanding schools be more open.  They want to know and see what their children (and teachers) are doing.  They want information, and they want it immediately.

If you don’t believe me, Google it.

Our lives are no longer just our lives.

People have access to us whether we like it or not.

I think we have two choices:  use and understand social media or stick our head in the sand and hope it goes away.

And I’m pretty sure it’s not going away.

If you don’t believe me, Google it.

Just so you know, I’m typing this on my resort balcony.  Sure it sounds fun, but there is a slight glare on my computer screen as I enjoy the 94 degree sunshine.  And if that wasn’t enough, the ice cubes in my drink are melting ever so slightly.

It’s not easy being me.

Comments: 13
Tags: , , , ,

This Website Stinks.


Not this website.  It doesn’t stink (I hope).

It has a cartoon family and Buddy Cam

I’m talking about school websites.

Some of them stink.

Not all of them are bad.Update It Already!!!

Just the ones that aren’t good.  And there are plenty.

If you don’t believe me Google your local school and see for yourself (you will know in the first 1.5 seconds).

One of an administrator’s primary jobs is to keep the school grounds looking neat and tidy.

Make sure the grass is cut.  Get the trash picked up (all the great administrators pick up trash when walking around).  And remove snow in a timely manner.

The front yard of any school is the first thing people notice when they drive by or visit.

A neat looking school means kids are probably getting a good education.

People expect their school to look good.  They want to be proud of the facilities.  They want to be assured their tax dollars are not being wasted.

What has changed is school grounds are no longer the only gateway to a district.

There’s also the school website.

School websites fall into two categories.  Either award-winning or they haven’t been updated since 1982.

The interweb is here to stay people, it’s time to stop thinking about school websites as frivolous.

They aren’t something the Tech Person can update when they have time (and a good Tech Person never has time).

They aren’t something the 8th graders can work on in study hall.

The school website is a district’s biggest marketing tool.

When families are shopping for a new school, their first stop is the website.

Schools wouldn’t use tacky stationary or put on a half-hearted graduation ceremony.

They certainly wouldn’t let the grass go uncut for 18 months.

So why do they let students, parents, alumni, and total strangers access their sad and tired website?

We have to do better.

The parents of a 2nd grader has no concept of a world wide webless existence.  They expect a school website to be updated more than once a year.

They want to email their child’s teacher.  And they want to find the email address on the school website.

They also want pictures, the latest school news, announcements, schedules, and everything else associated with the school.

It’s time people.

It’s 2010.

Let’s get out there and make school websites better for kids.

I also think every teacher should have their own website, but that’s a rant for another day… and blog.

Comments: 24
Tags: , , ,

Teacher Burnout. And Yet, They Still Keep Going to Work.


I give up.

I’m done discussing tenure (arguing… whatever…).

If you have a blog that revolves around education (and as luck would have it… I do) there’s one surefire way to get more readers (and angry emails).

Write about tenure (actually, there’s a second more powerful way… write about homeschooling, but I’m not going there… at least right now).

Tenure is blog gold.She Doesn't Look Burnt Out.

Writing about it is probably not worth the death threats, but luckily for me I have security (Buddy the Dog).

I’ve come to understand people who have tenure love it. 

I mean LOVE it.  Love, love, love it.

Absolutely love it.

Did I mention they love it (like Buddy loves to nap).

And what’s not to love.

You have a job.  You get to keep the job.

Forever.

And as most of you know, that’s a very long time (if you don’t believe me, Google it).

Tenure is a pretty good deal if you can get it.

Then there are the others.

People who don’t have tenure in their careers think it’s impractical and unfair.

They aren’t familiar with our world (hallways, spitballs, junior high goofiness, etc.)

The concept of educators having lifelong jobs is foreign to them.

They believe tenure should only be for Supreme Court Justices.

But that’s okay.  It wouldn’t be much of an argument if everyone agreed (and I do hate it when I want to argue and no one will join me).

No matter which side of the tenure argument you fall on, I know one thing for sure.  I’m not changing anybody’s mind.

So I’ve given up.

But I would like to ask for one exception.

If you publicly announce you’re “Burnt Out” this statement should lead to an automatic recall of your tenure rights (to clarify “publicly” can be in person, on Facebook, or over the phone).

No exceptions.

My theory is once someone says this out loud there is no going back.

If  a person establishes they are “Burnt Out” they can’t come back (at least in the same career).

So if you are in your 1st year of teaching or 30th year and the “Burnt Out” bug hits you, you’re done.

No tenure.

No job.

No nothing (except your pension and maybe parting gifts, but that’s it).

Because teaching is kind of important and once the passion has left you, so should tenure (maybe I will win this discussion… argument… whatever… but I’m not going to hold my breath).

Comments: 24
Tags: , , , ,

Going to a Job Interview? Take This Advice With You.


I’m a little late on this blog.If You're Looking for a Job... Good Luck .

Most administrators (new and old) who are changing jobs have probably already done so by now.

My bad.

If you want, you can sue me (you wouldn’t be the first person to threaten legal action… this year… or today).

In the last couple of months, things have been hectic in the exciting world of education.  Of course, if you work in or near a school you already knew this.

Changing jobs can be a nerve-racking experience (so I’ve been told).

This might be especially true if you like your present position (and there are actual school administrators who like their jobs).

Eventually everyone moves on to bigger and better (unless you’ve been fired… then you may have to move on to smaller and worse).

The lifespan of a school administrator is roughly… not very long.

I don’t have actual statistics (too lazy to Google), so just for the sake of this blog let’s say it’s 3.64 years (I thought if I threw in a decimal it would seem like I actually knew what I’m talking about).

Once you hit this magic number it may be time to move on.

The challenge is where do you go?

What job should you take?

First, you need a school that is willing to hire you.  Personally, this makes me nervous because do I really want to work for a district that would hire me (think about it)?

I think this is where some administrators make a mistake.

Don’t just take a job to take a job.

Don’t get mesmerized by the money, benefits, or the offer of a brand new stapler (which I desperately need by the way).

There is something far simpler that is more important.

You want (and need) a job where you are surrounded by people who have a vested interest in your success.

This may seem kind of basic, but it’s important.

Without this type of support, you are almost certainly doomed to fail.

You may want the new job to go well, but if the people above, below, and around you don’t want it to be a success… it won’t be.

Comments: 3
Tags: , ,

Google Teacher Academy for Administrators. Time to Review.


  

I survived my trip to San Antonio.

Sadly (for blogging purposes), nothing out of the ordinary happened.

I don’t mind saying, I felt a little jipped.

No drama.  No “incidents” on the plane.  No random stranger doing something stupid.PrincipalsPage Meets Google.  Good Times.

Just a Google Conference.

I say just, but it was so much more.

A 12 hour conference (sounds long, but it’s not really that long once you figure in snack time… and I do love my snack time).

The conference was many things.  Mainly it was an overload of information.  But in a good way.

Now that I’ve had a few days to comprehend my experience, here are my thoughts (in no particular order). 

 

  • Conference hotels gouge you.  Bad.  This should be a crime, but instead it’s considered good business.

 

 

  • It came to my attention (in the first 14 seconds) that employees of Google are way smarter than me.  Way smarter.  Way way smarter (and childlike… they looked 12 years old).

 

  • Presenters with a sense of humor interest me.  Your information can be life changing, but after sitting 9 hours straight… I need a laugh.

 

  • Google employees seem to really enjoy their jobs (they seem happier than educators… maybe because, in my mind, they are allowed to take their dogs to work).

 

  • No matter how much you know about Google Docs, Google Calendar, and everything else Google… you know nothing.  Actually you know less than nothing.

 

  • A 3 hour layover doesn’t sound like a long time, but it is.  Time spent in the Atlanta airport is like prison.  Every second lasts hours (and there’s no early release program).

 

  • Ben and Jerry’s serves a fabulous lunch.  I recommend adding a brownie to whatever entree you order.

 

  • Google’s applications are free.  Microsoft’s are not.  You do the math.

 

  • Outdoor heated pools are still cold when the temperature is in the 50’s.

 

  • Google Calendar has a thousand great features.  Unfortunately none of them get me places on time.

 

  • All schools are different.  All schools are the same.

 

  • No matter where you go, there are interesting people.

 

  • Eating Mexican food while wearing a suit almost never turns out well.  Or at least for your tie.

 

  • They sell a lot of jumbo extra large margaritas on The Riverwalk in San Antonio, yet you never see someone fall in (the river).  How is this possible?

 

 

  • Did I mention Google employees are smart?  I did?  Sorry for repeating myself, but I’m stupid (or at least way less smart than them).

 

  • You can’t decide the long-term direction of your school district after a one day conference.  Even if it’s Google.

 

  • One day soon, there will be a news story about a divorce caused by too much Twittering.  One of the spouses will have had enough.

 

  • Airplane seats in the emergency row are pure gold (so that’s what it feels like to stretch my legs…).  They are First Class (or Business Class) without the free booze.

 

  • Google Docs is free magic.  I would explain it to you, but I’m still trying to process it.

 

  • Every tech nerd in America owns/wants an Android phone (sorry Blackberry… you had a good run).

 

  • If you walk up to me and say “I’ve read every blog you’ve ever written”, you might want to consider getting a job.  Or possibly a date.

 

  • If you recognize me in an elevator, I might want to get a restraining order.

 

  • Microsoft should be worried.  If Google plays their cards right, Word and Excel may eventually disappear from schools.

 

  • How do people taller than 5’10” fit into an airplane bathroom?  Even more confusing, how do they use an airplane bathroom?

 

  • All airplane stewardesses (flight attendants.. whatever) look tired.

That’s my trip.

To summarize, it was an honor and a pleasure.

I’m thrilled to be one of only 2 (?) superintendents in the country to be a Google Certified Teacher.

I now feel like I know so much.  And I feel like I have so much to learn.

Thanks Mr. and Mrs. Google.

Thanks Buddy the Dog.  Without your video, I’m just a creepy guy talking to himself.

Comments: 4
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Electronic Resume.


Are resumes dead? 

If your answer is NO, you can stop reading (thanks for stopping by and please tip your waitress).  If you said YES, am I under any obligation to notify the next of kin?

You can probably guess I think paper resumes have outlived their usefulness.

You can also probably guess that I’m not comfortable delivering the unfortunate news of death (but that’s a whole different blog).resume

Email (along with texting for you crazy kids) is replacing snail mail.  Land lines are being put out of commission by cell phones (how I miss the rotary phone and the party line).  Newspapers are getting crushed by the internet.  And the Kindle seems to be every librarian’s worst nightmare.

Since technology seems to be changing every facet of our lives, why should resumes be any different?

Maybe it’s time to lighten my mailman’s load.

Maybe it’s time to stop killing so many trees.

Maybe it’s time to stop wasting money on stamps.

Maybe it’s time to shift the focus from fancy resume paper and cool fonts to what a candidate has really accomplished.

Maybe the new resume should be electronic.

Maybe it should be a personal website, wiki, blog, a series of podcasts, or even a summary of a candidate’s online presence.

Maybe this could be a mandatory class in every college education program.  Just think, we could produce graduates who understand technology and how it can be used in schools to benefit students (a novel concept I know, but call me a dreamer).

I haven’t worked out the details (don’t worry, they are just details), but resumes should be more than a phone number, an address (snail mail… it’s dead people, move on), an odd sounding objective statement, embellished job history, and three references.

While the classic resume drives me crazy, nothing angers me more than the three references at the bottom of the page (yes, I said one page… don’t even think I can wade through 5 pages of your resume… I’m just not that into you).

Who’s idea was the whole reference thing?

When did this become the standard end-of-the resume space filler?

When did we convince ourselves that it was so important to ask potential employees to name three people who think they are great?

I get it, your pastor loves you.

Your pastor loves everyone.  That’s why they are in the pastor business.

Your pastor might even like me (okay, that’s just crazy talk but you get my point).

Do we actually believe people who are desperate to find a job will list references who think they are lazy, incompetent, and don’t deserve to make a living wage?

I know resumes are simply a way to narrow down a group of candidates into a manageable number of interviews, but how great would it be if you could just get online and learn a candidate’s personal history.

To me, knowing someone’s technology ability is far more important then if they were on their high school swim team or a member of swing choir.

I can Google a person’s name and find drunken inappropriate pictures of them, but I can’t access their technology skills online.

It just doesn’t seem fair.

Or very 2010.

As an added bonus, electronic resumes mean less paper cuts.  And I don’t care who you are, that’s always a good thing.

Comments: 10
Tags: , , ,

Google Me This.


Thanks Buddy. Buddy the Dog is man’s best friend.

Or at least Mom’s Best Friend.

On my behalf, Buddy was kind enough to put together a 1 minute video for the people at Google (which is all the more impressive when you consider he doesn’t have thumbs).

Because of his good work, I’ve been selected as 1 of 50 school administrators in the United States to attend The Google Teacher Academy for Administrators (I’m no marketing major, but shouldn’t it be “The Google Administrator’s Academy”).  This is a free professional development experience designed to help K-12 educational leaders get the most from innovative technologies.

At least that’s what I’ve heard.

Basically, I’m going to get Googlized (I hope they’re gentle).

This is a win-win.  I like Google and Buddy likes it when I’m not home.

There is only one downside.  The conference is in San Antonio.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the chance to return to the home of the Alamo.  And the mall next door to it (when visiting a national monument you may be overcome with hunger pangs and need a Mrs. Field’s Chocolate Chip Cookie ).

But come on Google, you couldn’t splurge for a city with a beach?

In the time it takes me to write (?) this blog, Google has made about 47 bazillion dollars.  At least.

When I think of that kind of money, I think waves.  And not Google Wave.

I shouldn’t complain because I’m guessing Google had several applications for this conference (although only 1 by a talking dog), so I’m honored they invited me.

I’m also willing to bet that out of the 50 administrators less than 10 are superintendents.

Out of those 10, probably 2 have rambling incoherent blogs.

And only 1 of them has a semi-famous talking, YouTube video-making, wife-stealing dog.

How many people are thinking… I could have done a better video than that stupid dog.  Well too bad, Buddy thought of it first.  And to review, he doesn’t have thumbs.

Comments: 19
Tags: , , , , ,

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.

Comments: 58
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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.