Why Do I Answer Questions? I Do It For the Kids.


From time to time, I get questions from college students. Fitchburg State. Home of the Falcons.

Sometimes these questions come from teachers obtaining their masters’ degrees.

Other times they are sent to me by scary hitchhikers who seem to have an uncanny sense of where I live.

The latest.

1. How do you view the Common Core Standards in relation to the ’4 Kinds of Smart?’

Educators are probably going to hate Common Core.  I say this because as educators we are bred to hate everything new.

I remember when I started my career, a veteran teacher cornered me for 45 minutes to tell me how the world would end if teachers were forced to use whiteboards instead of chalkboards.

Update on world ending:  It didn’t.

My hope is Common Core levels the playing field. 

Students, no matter where they were born, deserve the same quality of education.  The system will never be completely fair, but we have to try to get it as close as we can.

I have big hopes for Common Core, but remember… I’m also standing in a very short line of educators who like NCLB.

I do hope this country begins to realize we must offer different types of education to satisfy the needs of different types of learners.

2. Discovery Education Science Techbook, covered in your April blog, seemed to underwhelm you. However, Pearson publishing, with funding from the Gates Foundation, is launching online curriculum that perfectly aligns with the Common Core Standards. The lion’s share of Gates foundation money is being invested in technology-based instruction and assessment. The new Teacher Evaluation (value added) system that pairs teacher performance with student test scores is already underway in most states and is aptly aimed at dissolving tenure. Most states now operate a K-12 virtual school. What do you believe is the long-range, underlying plan for education?

They don’t have a plan.

But the more they throw darts at the wall, the more likely they are to stumble upon a plan.

Discovery’s Techbook wasn’t terrible.  It just didn’t meet my high hopes.

Getting rid of tenure is a good thing.  Getting rid of teachers’ unions may turn out to be a bad thing.

I think we are in the beginning stages of the death of the public school as we know it.  What the system will look like in 20 years, I have no idea. But, I’m hoping it pays superintendents well.

3. What do you think of Professional Learning Communities? Is this valuable collaboration, or a process-oriented waste of time?

A little from Column A… a little from Column B.

It can be a valuable collaboration and it can also be a process in which I update thousands of people on the sleeping habits of Buddy the Dog.

I have over 6,000 Twitter followers (@principalspage).  I can almost gaurantee you they’ve learned nothing from me.

4. Are you worried about America’s world-standing in Education? Do you think education in the USA is being dragged down? And if so, by what?

No.  We are fine.

America thrives on drama.  In the education world, that means we are obsessed with our ranking in the world.

If I’m wrong, pick a country you want your child to go to high school.

And then go.

I mean it.  Get out.

Get a box.  Get your stuff.  And beat it.

We are America.  We should stop apologizing for not being perfect in every single facet of life.  We do our best and sometimes that just has to be good enough.

We should be proud.

We have DISH and Direct TV, Five Guys, gas stations every 12 feet, pizza delivered right to our homes, and the NFL.

We owe no apologies.

Last time I checked, a lot more people were moving to America than away from America.

4. As a marathon runner and would-be professional baseball player, what are your thoughts on health and education?

I wish.  Half-marathon. 

I have the shirt to prove it.

We have to transition from teaching games in school to teaching good health habits.

I like to think occassionally the government does something productive.  An example is getting 99% of the people not to smoke in my lifetime.

Now, I think we need to focus on healthy lifestyles for kids.

This will have to be done by the entire country.  I think First Lady Obama is starting to push us in the right direction.

But we can do it.  We’ve tackled smoking, factory working conditions, seatbelts in cars, and not drinking during preganancy.  All in the last 50 years.

5. If you could be King of Education in America, what would you do?

The list:

Make it a federal crime for burning popcorn in the teacher’s lounge.

Go back in time and use all of the ARRA money to install air conditioning in schools that don’t have it.

Year round school.

Drop the idea of grade levels based on age.  They should be based on ability.

Mandatory 2 years of service to our country after high school.  Might be military.  Could be working in a state park or soup kitchen.  Do something to make the world a better place.

Start girls in kindergarten at age 6, boys at age 7.

Grade promotion based on testing.  Test at grade 3, 6, 8, 10, and 12.  Stop with the "some people don’t test well".  They seem to do fine on their drivers license test.

Drop all state and federal testing until they figure out how to do it online and have it graded immediately.  We can travel to the moon and back, but we can’t figure out a way to grade a multiple choice ACT test?

Make it a federal crime, punishable by death, if you mess up my order at the drive through.

I have more, but I’m just getting angry typing this list.

Actually that’s a lie.  I’m just hungry.

The drive through comment made me realize I haven’t had dinner.

Go Falcons! (that’s where they questions came from… I hope you get an A Kris!)

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

NCLB Made Us Better.


 

It’s true.

We don’t like to admit it, but it’s true.

In fact this may be the most unpopular position I’ve ever taken on this blog (although I catch a lot of grief when I call The Evil Spawn “Evil”.)nclb

Educators are bred to dislike everything that is new.

This is understandable because so much new stuff is dumped on us and most of it is easily recognized as junk.

Kind of like the new fall TV season (do we really need a new Tim Allen show?).

NCLB wasn’t thought out (surprise, surprise… when the government is involved).

It wasn’t good for kids.

It was doomed to fail from the very beginning.

And even with all of this, it made us better.

Yes, you heard me right.

Schools, teachers, and administrators  have improved significantly 10 years after NCLB was dropped like a big greasy bowl of school spaghetti in their laps .

We may dislike President Bush, mandated testing, and the Department of Education, but if we are honest with ourselves there is only one conclusion.

The world doesn’t need another bad Tim Allen sitcom (I haven’t seen it, so maybe it’s better than I envision… and his movies).

Sorry, there are two conclusions.

The second is NCLB demanded we work harder, pay more attention to curriculum, and made us all more accountable on the local, state, and federal levels.

It was flawed legislation and yet we still improved.

This makes me wonder how much better public education could be if the government actually had a clue about educating kids.

Comments: 9
Tags: , , ,

Off the Grid.


I’ve been a little lax in my blogging.  The reason… we’re on vacation.

The View From Every Window in Our Cabin.

Well, kind of.

I’m not sure if you can technically call it a vacation when you drive over 19,000 miles with the Evil Spawn and Buddy the Dog in the backseat snoring (if that isn’t bad enough, they both drool while they sleep… and neither one can figure out why the truck seat is wet).

I must admit this obnoxious snoring is better than hearing “Are we there yet?”

To get from our house to the North Shore in Minnesota took approximately 87 hours.

Or at least it seemed like 87 hours (it may have been longer because at one point I passed out).

The trip was so long that I could have sworn we were going in circles.

I kept thinking… I know I’ve seen this “Welcome to Wisconsin” sign at least a dozen times.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is I’ve been able to drop off “The Grid”.

For educators “The Grid” is a triangle.  It goes from your home to school to Wal-mart (feel free to substitute another large mega-billion shopping store of your choice).

It’s a law.  Every teacher and administrator must spend 90% of their time inside their grid (unless school is in session… then it’s 98.5%).

I think there might be some fine print in NCLB that requires us to stay inside this restricted area.

Rumor has it educators who venture outside the “Grid” too often are never heard from again.

It’s the opposite of tenure.

So it’s a fine line between leaving your grid and going insane (and not a little insane… I’m talking Jack Nicholson in The Shining insane).

Because I don’t see the need in chasing the Tech Queen with an ax, we like to go on vacation at least once a year (unfortunately these never take place during school).

This year we headed for the woods.

A cabin in northern Minnesota.

Frighteningly close to my sworn enemies… the Canadians.

People ask me what I have against the good people of Canada.

Nothing.

I just don’t trust them.

Sooner or later they are going to get sick of the cold and storm our borders with the intent of taking Florida just so they can sit on a beach.

Mark my word, it’s coming.

As I sit here and type this blog, I’m within miles of the US-Canadian border (rest easy, I will keep an eye on them and if I can’t chase them back… Buddy the Dog can… unless of course, he’s napping).

So for the next several days I’m officially off “The Grid”.

No ESPN.  No internet.  No email.  No phone calls. No meetings.

No contact with any other human beings (unless it’s on a golf course… and I do apologize for almost hitting you with my drive off #7).

I’m unreachable.

I’m a ghost.

I don’t exist.

At least that’s what I told everyone at school.

Do you think they will believe I pre-wrote this blog and uploaded it before I left?

I guess I’ll never know since I’m not getting their emails.

Or at least I’m not answering them.

It’s good to be off “The Grid”.

Comments: 7
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Future of Education?


I’ve been thinking about writing(?) this blog for several months (ugh…I just realized I’m a procrastinator).

What Does the Near Future Hold?

My thought was to blog about how schools will be different in 10 years.

After numerous attempts, I’ve given up (evidently I’m also a quitter).

I really have no idea how schools are going to change.

But I’m positive they will (but what do I know…).

So as a loyal reader with time to burn (I love summer), what’s your opinion?

How will schools be different in 2020?

Will they be better or worse?

What role will technology, unions, government, teachers, parents, tenure, business, politicians, administrators, NCLB, and everything else play in our schools?

Or am I wrong?

Is it possible schools will look exactly the same?

Comments: 13
Tags: ,

As God as my Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly.


Thanksgiving has arrived.

This is my effort at writing the annual Thanksgiving themed blog (and of course by annual, I mean just this once).

The title of the blog comes from one of my favorite episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati (it was good to be raised by the television). If you haven’t seen it, you should. Note to Self:  Turkeys Can't Fly.

The short version of the story is the radio station gives away turkeys by throwing them out of a helicopter. Needless to say, they plummeted to their deaths.

As we head towards the holiday season, I continue to be perplexed on how time flies by so quickly (especially on weekends). I think the only way to get the world to slow down is have the principal place the worst kid in school in your class.

Then time stops.

If fact, time may actually go backwards depending on the student in question’s level of obnoxiousness.

And by student I mean future felon. Why is it teachers always think the worst kid in school is going to end up in prison? They can’t all end up doing hard time.

But that is a discussion for another blog. Back to the time issue.

My memory isn’t what it used to be, but the last thing I knew it was August 10th.

Summer was winding down and we were getting ready for the start of school. It’s easy to remember the date because each summer there is a certain sense of dread that overcomes me right around that time.

As usual, school began, then I glanced up and we were dismissing early on the day before Thanksgiving break.

Yet another school year is flying by. This always happens, but this year seems to be moving at an unusually fast pace.

Maybe it is my advancing age.

This little fun fact was pointed out to me the other day when a junior high student asked me if I would still be working at the school when he graduated from high school.

I said sure. As far as I know, I am not planning on leaving (unless of course you have heard something, and in that case please email me).

He responded by saying no, he meant would I retire before he graduated?

I am 41.

Or in junior high years… evidently 107.

Whatever. One day, if all goes well, he will need me to sign his diploma. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t.

But I don’t want to get bogged down with the challenges of trying to evade the Grim Reaper in the hallway.

It is the holiday season and I think it is important to stop and take a moment (and maybe a nap) to recognize the things I am thankful for.

Here is my list (feel free to add your own):

Summers off
No school on Saturdays (unless you are bad)
Holidays
Early dismissal on the day before a holiday break
Food in the lounge
The fact that teachers can’t smoke in the lounge
Juniors and Seniors (mainly, because the students in question are no longer Freshman or Sophomores)
Copy machines
Graduation (see: Seniors)
NCLB (before this, what did we complain… I mean talk… about? The lounge must have been awfully quiet in those days)
Kindergarten students and their tiny little desks and chairs
Free t-shirts (coaches and ex-coaches never grow tired of getting the free t-shirts), Recess
Snow days (the occasional one, not too many)
Lunch (particularly corn dogs or chili)
A paycheck/job (in these times we all need to be appreciative)
And technology of any kind

There you have it. Everything that I am thankful for.

Oh yeah. And students, teachers, staff, and families.

And the fact that certain students give me at least a 50/50 chance of living until their graduation… which may happen in 5 years (I haven’t decided if I will let them or not).

Which are better odds than I would give a turkey to seeing Friday.

At least I have that going for me.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Comments: 2
Tags: , , , , ,

NCLB. Don’t Tell Me the Problem, I Need the Solution.


I want to go on record as saying (or typing) that No Child Left Behind may not be the evil monster it is portrayed to be.

Do I like all aspects of the law? No.

Do I think it is a daily aggravation hanging over educator’s heads? Yes.

Does it carry any real weight? I don’t think anyone knows as of yet.NCLB Isn't All Bad.

Do I completely understand all of the details of the law? Probably not (but I am no more confused by it then I am; marriage, car engines, health insurance, how microwaves work, or why humans find reality shows on VH1 interesting).

What I do understand is that every profession needs rules and guidelines to encourage employees to do their best.

Without expectations it becomes easy to do an adequate job, but not a great one. When it comes to students, I think we can all agree that no one wants to settle for adequate, when great is always possible.

Everyone in education (and outside of education) understandably works harder when they are pushed to achieve more than they think possible.

It is human nature for people to rise or fall to the level of expectations. Some people are self motivated enough not to need the occasional push, but most of us are not.

When I was a kid, it didn’t take me long to figure out that I did a better job mowing the yard when I knew my dad would check on my work when I finished. I am not sure how much effort I would have put into the yard work if I knew there weren’t going to be consequences when I was done.

America is a results-based country. Athletic contests are based on who scores the most points (one reason we hate soccer… not enough points). Salespeople get paid bonuses for production. Politicians are elected by the most votes (sorry Mr. Gore, I know it still hurts). And as educators we give out grades every day.

Meeting goals and being evaluated is our way of life. Those who produce, get rewarded, and those who don’t, get passed by.

In a sentence, NCLB basically says schools have to improve themselves, or the government will come in and do it for them (technically, if it was that easy wouldn’t the government just improve them from the start?).

I understand that educators don’t want to be mandated standards that they feel are unreachable. This also makes sense to me, but yet I have never heard a counter proposal on how schools and teachers should be judged (Technically, if fixing NCLB/schools was that easy wouldn’t educators come up with adjustments to fix them, or have a plan to entirely overhaul the present system?).

Lots of people are good at pointing out problems, but it is so much harder to come up with a solution.

I try to understand the high expectations NCLB is placing on us. As a citizen, I certainly want and expect the highest (even unreachable) standards for other professions such as; airplane mechanics, construction workers, surgeons, firefighters, and fast food cooks.

You may be asking yourself, “Why did he mention fast food cooks?” Use your head people.

Administrators are Enemy #1 for high school kids as you pick up your food at the drive thru window (mental note; do not purchase fast food within 18 miles of your office desk … it is not worth the risk).

We need the highest standards possible for these angry 17 year olds working at Taco Bell (and constant video surveillance if possible).

But back to the expectations of NCLB.

Every occupation needs laws and regulations to govern them. In education we may feel overwhelmed by the federal law hanging over our heads, but I am sure Doug Heffernan had rules at IPS that he didn’t agree with (Google alert).

My point is NCLB is not the greatest law I have ever seen, but education does need rules and guidelines to follow so that all teachers and administrators work to their fullest potential, so students can reach theirs.

The only question I have left is with the War in Iraq, a possible recession, a mortgage crisis, immigration issues, terrorism, and gas prices skyrocketing… who takes over for President Bush if he doesn’t meet or exceed?

Comments: 5
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.