A Mentor is Better Than a Master’s Degree.


This is an Old Book Called a Dictionary.

This is an Old Book Called a Dictionary.

A principal gets fired about every 4.2 seconds.

Alright, that is just a guess. It could be quicker. But since I do absolutely no research for this blog, we will never know will we?

Dictionary.com defines mentor as a wise and trusted counselor or teacher. It also states that mentor is an influential senior sponsor or supporter. (Note from wife: I thought you just said you do no research for this blog? And why aren’t you using Google’s Define: Search tool? Have I taught you nothing?)

On a side note, if you still have “dictionaries” in your school, burn them. While I am normally not a big fan of burning books, I will make an exception in this case. The dictionary was a wonderful tool 20 years ago, but so was a rotary phone (if you don’t get the rotary phone reference, text a grandparent).

A good mentor can help and guide your career. Under the right circumstances they can even salvage your career if you say or do something incredibly stupid (and trust me… you will).

I have had my career salvaged at least 14 times. Could be more, but there are just some “incidents” that I don’t like to think about.

The best thing about mentors is they perform this task for no other reason than trying to help you avoid the mistakes they made.

My personal definition of mentor is a combination of encyclopedia, fortune teller, and lawyer. With of course, a little psychologist thrown in.

In education, a mentor is a must. I don’t think you can survive in school administration without one. Or twelve.

Personally, I have had about 6. But it is early in my career, so there is plenty of time to collect more (not that I will do anything completely ignorant between now and retirement…).

Actually, like most things in life, quality is better than quantity. One great mentor can help make you a success (or keep you from getting suspended without pay, fired, beaten up, or sued).

Finding a good mentor isn’t as hard as you might think. In fact they usually find you.

There is a certain look that overwhelmed administrators get that says… I need help and I need it now.

The worst part of being a school administrator is that you are on an island. If you haven’t noticed, there isn’t an Administrators’ Lounge at school.

It’s you. And well, that’s about it.

The good news… every principal/superintendent in America is also in the same predicament. They are on their own little islands (sometimes the seas are calm, sometimes they aren’t… like on a full moon day).

This shared experience (and suffering) makes the more experienced administrators want to help.

Colleges and Universities do their best to prepare teachers to become administrators, but it is an almost impossible task.

They focus on explaining the job in very broad terms (at least in my experience). It is harder for them to teach the day to day skills that you need for survival.

And trust me, I am not exaggerating when using the word… survival.

It’s like the Lord of the Flies out here in administrative land. So you better get all the help you can.

And while a Master’s Degree is nice. A good mentor is better.

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Dress Codes for Educators: A Tough Sell When Wearing a Puma Sweatsuit.


Puma was/is Cool.There is always talk about dress codes when you work in education.

Teachers are often concerned if a student can wear a particular shirt, a hat, baggy pants, etc. Most of these issues can be quickly addressed by a good handbook and fair enforcement by the staff.

I also think about dress codes. Except my thoughts often go towards what educators wear.

This issue first came to my attention when I was getting ready to complete my Master’s Degree in Educational Administration (yes, I have a degree… as far as you know).

My college advisor came to visit me at school.

He took time out of his busy day (????… this is a whole different blog discussion) to sit down with my Superintendent and me to discuss my future.

At the time, I thought it was a good sign that he felt like I had a future. In retrospect, I have come to realize he was just completing his part of the advising process so he could get paid.

As the meeting came to a close, the professor looked at me and said, “The best advice I can give you is to always, and I mean always, dress professionally.”

He felt that if you wanted respect, you had to look like you deserved it.

I thought this was great advice. And throughout the years, I have tried to abide by it.

If teachers or students are in attendance, I always wear at least a shirt and tie (and yes, pants).

Not every administrator does this, but it works for me.

The thing that has stuck with me about my college professor’s advice is that when he said this, he was wearing a white and lime green Puma sweat suit.

For those of you too young to remember, the Puma brand was cool way before Nike.

Back when tennis was the next great sport (we are talking the 70’s here… tennis was soccer before soccer), Puma athletic clothes were considered hip.

And not rapper hip, mainstream hip.

The problem with my college professor wearing this dapper outfit (he thought) was the year; it was in the late 90’s.

He looked like Jimmy Connors in his prime (actually, he didn’t look like Connors in his physical prime… just the outfit).

He wanted me to be appropriately dressed, but his best advice was given wearing a 20 year old sweat suit?

How was this a good idea? Why do people think rules are for everyone else?

I often think about that meeting when I hear or read about school dress codes.

If we want others (students) to present themselves in a certain way, shouldn’t we (teachers and administrators) lead by example?

Haven’t student dress codes become an issue just in the last 30 years? Isn’t that about the same time that teachers and administrators began to think that golf shirts, khakis, shorts, and tennis shoes are okay to wear to school?

And please, don’t get me started on wearing jeans on Friday. How did Fridays become less important than a Tuesday or a Thursday? Isn’t it still 20% of the educational week?

Unless, of course it is a shortened week but that is also another blog.

I could go on and on, but I have to go iron my dress clothes. Maybe I should rethink my thoughts on this topic.

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School Administrators Joke #1: How Coaches Become Principals.


This is a brand new feature on PrincipalsPage.com.

Jokes about us.

We can’t take ourselves too seriously…You Make a Horse Laugh and You've Done Something.

because we have to realize, they (and by they, I mean everyone… remember a little paranoia keeps you sharp and on your toes) are not laughing with us, but at us.

I came up with this feature just moments ago as I sprinted (I mean ran… I mean jogged… actually, to be honest it is more of a walk/shuffle) through my daily (sometimes daily, often it is more of a few times a week) exercise program.

A few days ago, someone (a.k.a. @tjshay via twitter) sent my wife this joke about principals. I had heard it before, but had forgotten it (because I am so busy, I can’t remember everything… or possibly I am just old and forgetful).

The joke.

“Qualifications to be a Principal. A Master’s Degree and two consecutive losing seasons.”

Makes me smile every time I think about it.

Probably because in so many cases it is true. Let it be noted…my last season of coaching resulted in the kids having a winning season (I say kids because it was all them… very little of me).

I like to think I have a great sense of timing. Get out right before things go bad. Don’t overstay your coaching welcome. Leave on a winning note. Let the next coach deal with the rebuilding.

So that is what I did. I saw the writing on the wall. I got out. The very next season the kids had a record of 24 and 5.

I have said it before, but it deserves repeating. I am an idiot.

As usual, the joke was on me.

True story: I met a gentleman from Texas who got “promoted” to high school principal after having 2 losing seasons in a row as head football coach. The “promotion” came with a $7,000 pay cut.

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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.