Searching for Sanity? Turn Off Your Technology.

It is my hope that through this blog someone at some point actually learns something.Take One Day Off. The World Will Survive.

I know it’s not likely, but hope is all I’ve got.

Many times, I know the advice I’m giving is directed squarely at me.

So lets hope today, someone learns something. 

This is my plan.

Technology is great.

It’s also suffocating.

When you are a new principal or superintendent, you are constantly told to communicate, be active in the community, be seen at school, and respond to questions and concerns as quickly as possible.

In this day and age, you can literally be "at" work 24 hours a day.

You can receive and send messages/information all day, every day.

You can check your email while eating, mowing, walking, and seconds before you fall asleep or within moments of waking up.

It’s great.

And it can literally suck the life out of you (I apologize for the language, but sometimes it’s nice to work blue).

That’s why I have this new plan.

No technology.

At least one day a week.  Or more likely, at least part of one day during the week.

I’m thinking Sundays may work best for me.

No emails.  No blogs.  No Facebook.  No Twitter.  No phone calls.

No school.

I’m going underground.  Off the radar.  Incognito.

Surely these same school buildings that have been standing for 100 years will survive one more day if I turn off my phone.

And if they don’t, there probably won’t be school on Monday anyway.

It’s easy to be needed. 

It’s much harder to realize everyone else will be just fine without you.

I’m officially copyrighting "No Technology Day for Administrators."  From now on, my speeches in front of literally thousands and thousands of people will include not only a push for administrators using technology, but also a push not to use technolgy.

At least one day a week.

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Nicest Email Ever.

This is the nicest email anyone has ever sent me.  And keep in mind, I get a lot of emails.Just Kidding.  It Might Not Be Worse.

"Teachers complaining about me to the superintendent. Had to find something to take my mind off to a better place. Thank you for the blogs!

Principal A."

First, since when do teachers complain about principals?

Second, never mind.

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One Minute is a Long Time in School Administration.

One minute.One Minute Can Be Forever.

It doesn’t seem like that long.

It’s only 60 seconds.  What could possibly go wrong in such a short amount of time?

If you are a school administrator you know.

You understand that things change quickly.

Very quickly.

Things can be "bee-bopping" right along and then BOOM!!!  There it is (that should be a song).

In 60 seconds a good day can go to bad.  A bad day can go to worse.  And the worst day can… I hate to even say (if you are just starting your career… Godspeed… and keep your head on a swivel).

That’s why on the nicest quietest days, a principal, dean, or superintendent never lets their guard down.

They can’t afford to.

The next phone call or meeting could unleash holy terror (my second religious reference… weird).

Indescribable drama is always just around the corner.

Or on the next voicemail.  Or in the next email (or 72 emails… which is what I call an average day).

Or the worst kind.  The unexpected drop-in.

There is nothing that will ruin your day quicker than an agitated parent yelling "What are YOU going to DO about….?"

A minute.

It’s not much.

But it can be.

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My Daily Meltdown.

Just another day.

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School Administration is For Old People.

This weekend I stumbled across a college class full of school administrator wannabees (I have no idea if this is spelled correctly… and I’m too lazy to Google it).Youth is Wasted on the Young.

I was struck by how young they were.

They were children.

In an advanced graduate course.

So cute.  So inquisitive.  So excited (or not) to be spending their Saturday talking about school budgets, finances, and referendums.

Not one of them looking at their watch to see if it was time for class to be over (probably because anyone under 35 doesn’t own a watch).

They were hanging on the professors every word.

And I would say a little foolish.

School administration is a tough game.  Not something children (again.. anyone under 35) should consider pursuing.

At least without careful consideration.

Don’t get me wrong, a young person can do it.  I did (okay, bad example).

But here’s the thing.  Being a school administrator is permanent.

Like death.  Or a neck tattoo.  Or marker (this one made me laugh).

Once you become a principal or superintendent there is no going back.

The teacher’s lounge door locks behind you.

Think of it this way.

If you are 25 and become a school administrator, you are looking at close to 35 years in the same demanding, difficult, sometimes thankless middle-management profession.

I’m not saying it isn’t fun.  Or can’t be done.

I’m just saying it’s a long time.

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They Should Teach This in Superintendent School.

When you go to Superintendent School they teach you a lot of things.Just Say It!

Such as, superintendents get paid more than principals (I got an A on this quiz… nailed it!).

Usually, this lesson is enough to pique one’s interest.

They also teach you about public relations, finances, and school law.

That’s the good part.

The bad part is they don’t teach you everything.  Some things you just have to learn on the job.

This is not very reassuring…for the superintendent and school board.

Lots of Responsibility + Lack of Knowledge = Ruh Roh, Raggy!

In a perfect world, superintendents would be prepared when they started their new careers, but as you might’ve heard, the world isn’t always perfect (if this is news to you… I’m sorry you had to hear it here).

The superintendentcy is a big job, so I can’t really blame universities if some things fall through the cracks.

Not to complain but… there is one little tidbit I would like to see college professors share before diplomas are handed out.

Teach future educational leaders how to say "No".

Everyone can say "Yes", but only a select few can say "No".

I think this gets many people into trouble.  It’s almost like new superintendents need a safe word.

Personally, mine is "Serenity now!" (if you see me screaming this while huddled in a corner rocking back and forth in a fetal position… please back away slowly… and notify the authorities).

Saying no sounds simple, but it’s hard.

Really hard.

Especially for people who haven’t been taught.

I want it noted this is the only blog where you get  Superintendent talk mixed in with Seinfeld and Scooby-Doo references.  You’re welcome.

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Name Game.

What’s the odds?And You Are???

My high school basketball coaches:  Coach Shurtz and Coach Bottoms (get it… shirts and bottoms).

My wife’s first principal and superintendent:  Mr. Butts and Mr. Bottom (this one is self-explanatory).

Is there any doubt we were meant to be together?

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What Feelings? I’m a School Administrator.

This week I was asked an interesting (granted, it may just be interesting to me) question by a Superintendent from another school district.

Do I ever get my feelings hurt?

The answer is of course, yes.

Just not at work.

A school administrator who gets their feelings hurt at work is obviously…. new or about to find a job in a different profession.

After a certain amount of time on the job you move past the whole feelings thing. Crying Man.

My daily schedule goes something like this. Drive to school and turn off car. Go into office and turn off cell phone. Sit down and turn off feelings.

Sometime I mix it up, just to keep things fresh. Like turning my feelings off before the cell phone.

If this makes me sound like a cold hearted bastard, I would tend to agree (sorry for the harsh language… it’s been a long week).

I think on a certain level you have to become resistant to having your feelings hurt.

Are they hurt?


None of us are robots (or are we??). Of course we aren’t. If we were, we would be more organized and wouldn’t be running late all the time.

No one likes to get yelled at, cursed at, or told they are terrible. Or hear my #1 parental response… “I am going to sue you!”

But the job of running a school or district is very simple. It is about making decisions for the good of the group and not just for a particular individual.

This is the challenging part.

And often the cause of administrators’ unpopularity.

Of course when I say often, I mean always. Or at least sometimes. Okay, I mean always.

It is hard enough to raise one child. Or two. Or even three or four.

But as an administrator, you are helping raise hundreds.

The rules are different. They have to be.

My wife and I can’t always agree on how to raise our daughter. So, I can’t expect several hundred parents, step parents, and grandparents to agree with me on what’s best for their child.

When you make a rule for one child it can be less stringent. Like asking them to turn their cell phone off at dinner.

Easy enough.

And when it rings you simply ask them to turn it off or you take it away until dinner is over.

Now, if you have 750 kids, it gets a little more complicated.

You have to make rules that are much stricter. Like taking away the phone for a week when it rings during a Physics final.

Rules for the group are broader. And harsher. And consequently more unpopular.

This is why parents and administrators don’t always see eye to eye.

And why feelings get hurt.

If you have them.

And lucky for me, I don’t.

At least at school.

*Note from the editor in chief (a.k.a wife) – I do not condone the type of language used in this blog post. If the kids at his school only knew how PrincipalsPage REALLY spoke….at home.

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The Meanest Kid in School is Almost Always a Girl.

This is a Mean Looking Girl.A big part of being a school administrator is working with students. Unfortunately, it isn’t always the biggest part (see: staff and parents and assorted other dramas… mostly involving bathrooms), but it plays a large role.

The majority of time that you get to spend with students involves working with them on discipline problems.

I say working with them because it isn’t just about handing out discipline. I think this is a common misnomer of new principals.

Often times you aren’t just handing out punishment, but guiding students through the process of how they can make better decisions (and when they have mastered this skill they will stop interrupting the principal’s lunch hour… it’s a win-win).

For me, teaching these skills is easily the most rewarding part of my job.

The other day I was reminded of a situation where I had the “opportunity” to help a young lady in a discipline matter.

If you have spent any time reading this blog (and shame on you if you have), you may have noticed that I don’t write about students or teachers with whom I presently work (see: Legal Department).

You may also have noticed that I have to be reminded of many of my stories (see: I am aging at a rapid rate).

That is the conundrum of getting older. On one hand you have lots of experiences that make for good stories, but on the other you can’t remember many of them (unless reminded or you have a flashback).

This particular situation came rushing back to me when the young lady in question asked me about it.

The conversation started with “Do you remember that time when you suspended me…?” As you can imagine, after a few years in administration you get this question a lot.

And as usual, I had to respond by saying “I kind of remember…” (translation…I have no idea what you are talking about… and it is quite possible that I have no idea who you are).

What is a big ordeal to a student is a small blip in a busy career of an administrator.

Former students can recite situations word for word while I am lucky to remember even bits and pieces of it.

The shortened version of the story: This girl was going to beat up another girl. And she felt confident enough to scream this fact down a hallway for all to hear.

Simple enough.

Except with girls it is never simple.

When this young lady arrived in my office she was angry. On an Angry Scale of 1-10, I would say she was about a 47.

My job was to figure out why she was angry. Easy enough. Even a rookie principal could simply ask her “Why so angry?”

Being more of a veteran principal, I also wanted to add “Why are you crying, shaking, talking so fast, and is there any chance you may beat me to death with my stapler?”

But if you have spent any time around teenage girls, you know there is really no reason to antagonize.

I stuck to the basics of trying to find out about the anger.

It turns out she was upset with the other young lady for flirting with her former boyfriend.

You see, the happy couple broke up 8 months before she made her appearance in my office. She hated him. With a passion. Not even a love/hate thing. She really hated him and had shared that with me on numerous occasions.

Knowing this, my next question was why, if she had broken up with the young man and hated him, was she upset with the other girl.

The answer was obvious. How I overlooked it, I will never know.

Evidently, the young lady about to get pummeled flirted with the former boyfriend two years ago at the county fair.

There you have it. She was going to beat up another girl in the hallway, all because she flirted with a boy (two summers ago) whom she now hates and refuses to be in the same room.

It’s the classic story of girl dates boy, another girl flirts with boy at county fair, first girl break up with boy, and then comes back to annihilate second girl in high school bathroom two years later.

I have seen it a thousand times.

The moral of this story is if you want a successful career as a school administrator, don’t worry about disciplining boys. That is pretty straightforward. One throws a punch. They wrestle. Fight is over. Boys shake hands. Friends for life.

Girls aren’t that simple. You might even say complicated.

Fear the girls. They are scary. And mean. And they come with long memories.

One last piece of advice. Never leave your stapler on top of your desk. Always keep it in a drawer.

It’s for your own safety.

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Take My Advice; If a Coach Throws a Basketball at Your Head, Duck.

Duck!!!I was reminded this week of an incident that happened to me when I was attempting to play high school basketball (attempting is the key word to focus on here).

This story usually pops into my head when adults say, “Kids sure have changed since we were in school.”

I have my answer to that, but first you have to sit through my sad little story.

During my high school basketball career (brief mind you, based on playing time), I was every coach’s dream. A complete player. In my mind, I had all the tools to be great.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t dribble, pass, shoot and I was slow, couldn’t jump, and certainly didn’t rebound. I tried rebounding once. Didn’t like it, so I chose to focus on other aspects of the game at which I was equally as bad.

In my defense, I was always on time for practice and games. I don’t mean to brag, but I was even early on several occasions.

Although as I look back, the coach was probably hoping that I would be late or better yet, not show up at all.

One day in practice, I was playing point guard (playing is probably too strong of a word). Coach told me to run a play and I did my best.

Turns out Coach wasn’t looking for “my best”, he was actually hoping that I could run the play correctly.

He stood underneath the basket holding a ball on his hip. I believe he was wearing those really short gray coaching shorts with the big elastic waistband. Cool at the time, but disturbing today.

As I recall the sequence of events went something like this; Coach calls the play, I run the play incorrectly, Coach yells “Dammit”, I turn my back to him, he wings the basketball at my head trying to knock some sense and hopefully some talent into me.

That is a lot of information in one paragraph, so let’s break down the details.

For years I thought my first name was “Dammit”. I say this because when Coach yelled, that word always preceded my last name.

I never even thought about it at the time, and I certainly never ran home and told my parents. Wouldn’t want Coach any madder than he usually was at me (my advice to kids…you never poke the angry bear with a stick).

Well on that particular day, I decided to take a stand. In retrospect, not the best idea I ever had. I probably wasn’t thinking straight; no doubt from the blow to the head from a basketball zooming at me at 112 miles per hour.

But in the infinite wisdom of a teenager, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Surely, Coach would stop me and apologize. Nope.

Evidently, he also picked that particular day to take a stand. And his stand was “don’t let the door hit you in the behind on the way out of the gym.”

I found myself out in the parking lot in my practice clothes. No choice but to walk home and get some sympathy from the parents.

Another in an unfortunate series of bad ideas.

As I made my way to the house, my dad was mowing the yard. My gut feeling was my day was just about to get worse.

And for the first time on that day, I was right.

He stopped the mower (I later learned that dads don’t like to stop the mower… I wish I had known that little nugget of information before I left practice).

To make a long story short, he wanted to know why I was home. I attempted to tell my sad story about Coach, the blow to the head, and then I was going to ask if my legal name on the birth certificate was “Dammit.”

Turns out he not only didn’t he like stopping the mower, but he didn’t care for the story either. In fact, he didn’t even let me finish.

He cut me off about halfway through and said, “I don’t care what happened, go back to practice and apologize to Coach and see if he will take you back.”

Not exactly the response I was looking for.

There is nothing sadder then a teenage boy schlepping home from quitting practice, except that same boy crawling back to practice 15 minutes later.

I went back. Coach shook his head in disgust (which really didn’t bother me because I had seen that look about 1,216 times before).

I don’t remember exactly what he said but it was something like, “Dammit, you can’t even quit right. Get back in here.”

That was it. I don’t think it was ever spoken about again; at home or with Coach.

No lawyers, no meeting with the Principal, no phone call to the Superintendent, and no special School Board Meeting.

What Coach did wasn’t right, but I was no worse for the wear. I grew up in a world where teachers and coaches were to be respected and sometimes a little feared.

I learned a lot that day that continues to apply to my life.

Run the play right, don’t turn your back; excuses are just that… excuses, dad’s don’t like to be interrupted when mowing, and most of all if someone throws a ball at your head… duck.

So I don’t think kids have changed. Parents have.

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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.