As I Hurdle Towards the Sweet Relief of Death.


I just had my 45th birthday.  At least I think it was my 45th.I Need This Car.

At this point, I’ve lost track.  And really don’t care.

My theory is any birthday from this point forward beats the alternative.

If I really think about it (and I try not to), my life is probably half over.

It’s probably more than half over, but I’ve convinced myself with advances in medicine, an occasionnal walk around the neighborhood, and only eating17 cookies instead of 21, I should live until at least 90.

Not that I want to be that old, but again it probably beats the alternative of a dirt nap.

Since the clock is ticking I should really get on with accomplishing something (anything) before it’s too late.

I shouldn’t waste my last few remaining good years watching TV, tweeting, mowing my yard, or even going to work.

I should be making the world a better place.

My time should be spent on charity work.  Traveling.  Maybe building a school for the less fortunate.

Meanwhile, I’m shuffling paperwork and worrying about mandated testing.

This doesn’t seem right.

I’m on the clock.  I have things I need to do.

And first on the list:  Mid-life crisis.

So if you need me, I’ll be driving way too fast in my brand new red convertible I can’t afford sporting a mustache and wearing a tight shirt unbuttoned two buttons lower than appropriate.

Once I get this phase out of my system, I can help build a school.

Or at least mow my yard.

*Note from editor in chief…aka…tech-geek wife or whatever it is you call me on this "blog"…ummmm…it’s 46 and no…just no…on the mustache and unbuttoned shirt that is…I am totally good with the brand new red convertible.  Maybe I am having a mid-life crisis too…after all I turned 39 this year.

Comments: 3
Tags: , , , , ,

Tom Watson Didn’t Win the British Open. But He Did Teach the Rest of Us a Valuable Lesson.


This weekend Tom Watson just about won the British Open. At the age of 107.

He almost accomplished (did accomplish) what no other golfer has ever done. Win a major championship after the age of 46 (or in his case… finish 2nd …no other golfer has done that at his age either).

Actually he is 59, but he could be much older and it wouldn’t have made a difference.Tom Watson on Thursday at Turnberry in the British Open.

For years, golf analysts (those geniuses who whisper when someone is hitting… and they are in an enclosed tower 20 feet in the air… and the golfer is 300 yards away from them…) have said golfers can’t compete with younger players after their 45th birthday.

Hogwash.

I’m almost positive that the ball, the clubs, and the course have no idea the age of each golfer.

And if they did, age has almost nothing to do with playing well.

Now you can certainly make the argument that as you get older your strength decreases, you tire more easily, and your desire wanes.

But that has nothing to do with being able to play good golf. It has everything to do with the amount of effort a person puts into it.

When you don’t work hard at something you aren’t going to be as competitive as you were 20 years ago.

Older golfers simply don’t practice as much as younger golfers.

They don’t have to.

They already own a big house, several cars, a vacation home(s), have saved for retirement, and are at the age where they don’t want to travel as much.

I will admit that practice won’t completely close the gap between a 25 year old golfer and a 59 year one.

But it will lessen the distance.

Tom Watson didn’t win a major, but he did open the door.

He has shown others the way (along with Greg Norman last year) that it is possible to win in your 50’s if you prepare for it.

A golfer older than 50 will win one of golf’s 4 majors. And soon.

Age has little to do with being good. Desire has everything to do with it.

The same holds true in any profession.

I hear the age excuse all the time from people who work in education (K-12 and college).

They are too old to learn a new skill, or teach new material, or change grade levels, or take a new job, or even go back to college to get their Master’s Degree.

It’s simply not true.

They aren’t too old.

Just like they aren’t too old to exercise more, or run a 5k, or climb a mountain.

Age has nothing to do with it.

Now they may lack the desire or the interest.

But they shouldn’t blame age.

It’s just a number.

Comments: 6
Tags: , , , ,

Retirement is Wasted on Old People.


I spend hours thinking about some of the larger questions in the universe.

Heaven or Hell? Was President Obama cool when he was 12? Why do junior high boys feel the urge to shove each other in the hallway? Who is foolish enough to drink out of a school water fountain after 1st graders have put their mouths on it? And why do people complain about the quality of school food when the entire meal cost $2.50?

What do people expect for a couple of bucks? If the food isn’t moving, you should consider yourself lucky.

I am particularly interested in how the whole heaven thing works out for me. But that is a long term goal (hopefully long term).

My immediate focus is retirement.

Only 20 years to go! (barring some sort of incident where I am “encouraged” to leave school grounds and not come back… and mark my word, I will not be going quietly)

It’s not that I don’t like work, because I do. I just think I would like not working a little more.

If I am lucky enough to retire in the far away future, I have a feeling that I may end up being disappointed.

This is My Future.

My Future.

It seems that people retire at such a young age that many find themselves going back to work.

After all if you retire at 62 it’s possible that 1/3 of your life is left (if you are 62… this would be a good time to knock on wood). Your retirement years could last as long or longer than your work years.

The only downfall to retiring is being old.

Although old is a relative term. I used to think people in their 40’s were old. Now I see one of these old people in the mirror every morning and I find him youthful, vibrant, and breathtakingly handsome.

Not really.

I find him tired, grumpy, and slightly creepy (but I don’t want to bother you with my self esteem issues).

I can remember my dad’s 36th birthday party. For some reason one thing struck me that day.

This guy is a dead man walking. I didn’t think there was any way he would live to see his 37th birthday (yes, he is still alive over 30 years later).

Today when I see a 36 year old, I think they are childlike and shouldn’t be crossing busy streets by themselves.

So it turns out my thoughts about age depends on how old I am at the moment.

I am sure that when I turn 62, I will think I am young. Albeit, slightly tired, a little grumpy, and slightly creepy, but again that is a me problem.

While I look forward to my retirement in only two short decades, I do think the entire system is a mess.

I think the concept of when we retire needs to be discussed.

Presently, we attend 13 years of school and then go to college, the military, or work.

The first 65 years of our lives are taken up with these obligations.

Where is the time to have fun?

Where is the time to enjoy life?

Why is retirement dangled out in front of us like a carrot?

Why do we get the carrot when we are too old to chew it with our own teeth?

Retirement should come much earlier, like after you graduate college and earn a master’s degree. Or serve 8 years in the armed forces.

If you accomplish that, you should get the next 20 years off (retirement) and then go into the workforce at 45.

Then you would work until you die.

These days, many retirees go back to work only months after they retire. Why not get some time off when you are young enough to enjoy it?

Just think. If I retire when I am 62, my golf game will have deteriated to such a pathetic level that I won’t even enjoy playing.

Under this new system, I get to enjoy early retirement” while my golf game is still mediocre.

Let’s not kid ourselves.

Retirement is for old people. It should be for young people. And my golf game is barely mediocre.

I want to retire before I start setting the thermostat in my house to a balmy 84 degrees. Or before I am driving 27 mph on the highway (in the passing lane with both hands on the steering wheel looking straight ahead).

Of course, I am only offering this “new retirement idea” for a very limited time.

When I am 62, retirement won’t be for old people… it will be for me.

And by then I will be more focused on my heaven/hell issue than my retirement problem.

Plus, 62 isn’t really that old. It’s not like I will be 85.

But no matter how old I get, or where I end up spending eternity, I will never understand why people drink out of a public school water fountain.

Comments: 4
Tags:

Retirement Confuses Me.


I'm Confused.  And So is This Kid.It is that time of year when schools are dealing with prom, graduation, field trips, tension over just about everything, and retirements.

I have been in education for 13 years (going on 112) and have attended my fair share of retirement parties. Sadly, none have been in my honor (keep your fingers crossed for me; only 8,089 days left… and counting).

I have learned a lot at these events. Mainly, retirements can be complicated.

I believe administrators are in a no-win situation when it comes to retiring employees.

You want to be happy for the retiree, but you can’t be too happy. If you seem too excited about them retiring, you run the risk of offending them because they may not feel appreciated.

In their last few weeks of working for the school district, you don’t want them to get the sense of no longer feeling needed. They need to move on to the next phase of their lives feeling like their time at school has been appreciated and valued.

So, each spring I find myself in this difficult spot. Sorry to see these employees go, but happy for them as they get to move on and enjoy retirement.

If my feelings towards this situation get misconstrued, trouble could ensue.

It is a fine line an administrator has to walk. A minefield really. Just like walking through gym class during a dodge ball game (how many times can those kids accidently hit me?).

I think some retirees use anger as a defense mechanism. If they convince themselves that no one really cares about their 40+ years of contributions to the school, it makes it easier to leave the job they’ve held since 1967 (seriously).

Once they are officially retired, they seem to feel better about the whole situation.

I have found that most retirees enjoy their new profession (not working… if you sense jealousy, you are quite perceptive). I have also noticed no one comes back to school looking to return to work.

Each spring, I just need to remind myself that retiring is difficult and those retiring should be treated with the utmost respect.

Retirement is very confusing to me.

Young people dream of the day when they can; older people almost approach it with a sense of dread.

I have known employees who have literally spent years contemplating the decision to retire. They think about it day after day. It consumes their lives.

Wait a second, that’s me.

You know, the more I think about retirement the angrier I get. How dare some punk administrator push me to the curb in 2030 (I just realized he or she may not even be in preschool… man, will I be old).

In 22 years, I will be ancient and angry (angrier).

That’s it. I am pulling my retirement letter (I just ripped it into 20 pieces). No one will push me out the door until I am good and ready.

I may stay forever. This guy isn’t going easily or without a fight.

There are battles to win, school board meetings to attend, eligibility to check, handbooks to write, cell phones to confiscate, dress codes to enforce, bus incidents to address, evaluations to complete, teachers to hire, hallways to supervise, games to attend…

well, on second thought… maybe I have been too hasty in tearing up that letter.

It is official. I am retiring in 22 years.

I hope people are happy; just not too happy.

Comments: 3
Tags: ,

Discipline Isn’t What You Do to a Student, but What You Do for Them.


The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Kids... Discipline.This week I had the opportunity to visit with a retired principal. The fact that he made it to retirement gives me hope. And makes me a little jealous.

He has survived an entire career of board meetings, parent concerns, athletic issues, graduations, field trips, bus trouble, thousands of Mondays, etc.

I had lots of questions for him about his career and how education has changed over the years. It seemed that most of our discussion centered on discipline. It is amazing how the methods for keeping students in line and respectful have changed over the last 30 years.

Turns out 20 years ago you could slam a student into a locker and their parents wouldn’t sue the school district; who knew? I wrote this little nugget of information down, so I wouldn’t forget.

“Lucky Retired Guy” told me as he gets older his memory tends to focus on all of the good things that happened during his career. He seldom spends time remembering incidents when he had to discipline a student, or even hand out a suspension.

He says the only time he thinks about these situations is when a former student brings them to his attention.

Students who graduated (maybe) years ago come up to him and are excited to share a story or experience about how he disciplined them. This may include when he did one or more of the following to them: paddled, detentions, kicked them out of class, kicked them out of school (before graduation rates), suspensions, expulsions, or corrected them in the hallway (by corrected, I mean yelled).

Retired Guy says he always try’s to act like he remembers these incidents, but most of the time he doesn’t have the faintest recollection of what they are talking about.

He has long forgotten what happened with a particular student.

No matter the situation, it made an impression on the student. But for him it was only a split second in a long career. And more likely, a very small part of what had been a very busy day (if you don’t believe me, try and recall everything you did 3 Thursdays ago).

The one thing that amazes him is the former students who walk up and want to talk. It isn’t the valedictorian or the student council president; it is the boy who got in trouble in shop class or the girl who was involved in a fight during lunch.

Just for the record; girls’ fights are a thousand times worse than boys’ fights (and they seem to hold a grudge for 2 weeks past forever).

The students he had to discipline consistently are the same ones who want to walk up and visit.

He thinks this is the biggest surprise of his retirement. How these students remember him; not as a mean old principal, but as someone who wasn’t afraid to correct them if it was needed.

So it may be true. Kids want discipline. Even when they act like they don’t.

They can thrive when there are boundaries set for them. The only catch is that the boundaries must be fair, consistent, and enforced.

Try and remember this the next time you have to discipline your kids or students in school. And make sure you remind them that one day they will thank you for the structure you are providing them.

Someday. Not today or tomorrow. Or in the next 5 years. But someday.

Comments: 11
Tags: ,

Retirement is not for the Squeemish. So I have a Plan.


It's the Key to Retirement.  Get it?I think about retirement a lot. Mostly on the bad days. Almost always on Sunday evenings when I am faced with the prospect of returning to school the next morning (or running away like a frightened little girl… up to this point I have always chosen to return to school… stay tuned for further updates).

At this point in my career, retirement seems like a wonderful idea. It is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (this is my first, and most likely my last, rainbow reference).

Sadly, I am a long way from my retirement years. I know this for a fact because the countdown to my retirement is on the front of PrincipalsPage.com (this is what I like to call a gratuitous plug).

When I first began my administrative career, a wise old superintendent told me that the idea of retirement was a grand one… when you are young and just beginning your career in education.

He believed that when a teacher or administrator inched closer to retirement, the idea loses some of its luster.

When faced with the actual prospect of retirement, people become uneasy with the idea of this huge change to their lives.

As I get older (and older and older…), I am starting to recognize this as being true.

The thought of giving up my job and never working again crosses my mind occasionally (by occasionally, I mean every 12 minutes), but I really am starting to recognize the wisdom of that old superintendent.

Each year I have the pleasure of seeing one or two staff members enter into retirement.

What I have found to be true with each of these employees is that they are extremely nervous as they enter into this next phase of their lives.

Some are excited. Some are scared. Most are both excited and scared. None of them know for sure if they will be any good at retirement.

They are leaving a school, a staff, and a routine that has been part of their lives for over 30 years. And they are faced with some difficult questions.

They are faced with the idea of redefining themselves. For years they have been part of the school culture and this will no longer be true (at least on a day to day basis…lucky dogs).

As they head into another phase of their lives they are also faced with possible financial and health issues.

But mostly, for the first time in several decades they must deal with the unknown. No school starting in August. No school calendar to follow. No bell will ring when it is time for lunch.

I can envision this being a huge challenge. Let’s face it, retirement and the decisions that come with it add a tremendous amount of pressure to older employee’s lives.

But lucky for them, I have a solution to this problem.

I am proposing that we begin to live our professional lives backwards.

From the age of 22 to 35 should be the retirement years. The true Golden Years if you will.

The government picks up the tab and we will have the good health and energy to enjoy all of this free time.

Golf every day, when we can still hit the ball (and see it). Time to volunteer and help others. Most importantly, lots of free time to nap and eat supper at 4:30 in the afternoon.

On our 35th birthday, everyone would be required to start their careers. People would have the wisdom and experience to be better employees after enjoying 13 years of retirement.

As teachers, we would have a wealth of knowledge to share with students.

From that point on, everyone would be required to work for the rest of their lives. No difficult retirement decision in your late 50’s or 60’s. No awkward feelings about being unwanted and underappreciated as you head into the golden years.

Work until…. well you get the point.

This idea may be just crazy enough to work. I believe that young people would be willing to make this sacrifice.

That is the good news. The bad news is that I wish I had thought of this when I was 22.

Comments: 7
Tags: ,

Names Have Been Changed to Protect Me.


The following story is entirely made up and is in no way about anyone I have ever met or anyone I will ever meet in the future. In fact, I didn’t even write this blog. It just showed up like a stray cat. That’s my story and I am sticking to it. If I am sued, it is my hope that the court case will drag out for years and by then, God willing, I will be dead before any money exchanges hands.

This week was our first day of school. I am so thankful summer is over and we are back at work. Thankfully, no more days cluttered up with vacations, golf, and naps. It is time to get back to shaping the future. Duty calls and as soldiers in the Army of Education, we all must respond. (only the first 8 words of this paragraph can be considered anywhere close to truthful)

On my first full day, I received a very nice card from a teacher who retired last spring. She retired after nearly 107 years of teaching (really 40). I always enjoyed having her on staff. Actually, I guess I was on her staff since she started her teaching career in August 1967 and I was born two months later.

She was always very kind and tolerated me (another in a long line of snot-nosed administrators she had to work under).

Mrs. HERNAMEHASBEENCHANGEDBECAUSEICAN’TAFFORDTOBESUED wasn’t too happy four years ago when we went to a computer program for student grades. In fact, it was insinuated that she would not be participating in anything to do with computers, printers, or other machines of the Devil.E-mail Isn't That Scary.<

I am happy to say, that with the help of her fellow teachers, a student teacher, a janitor, three secretaries, two tech people, four cooks, a really bright first grader, a crossing guard, and a boatload of prayer that she conquered the evil computer program and was able to eventually enter all of her own grades.

Next, we decided to turn it up a notch and teach her to email. Wow. Enough said.

I must admit that she also eventually learned this difficult task. I was quite proud that she even attempted to email let alone become proficient at it. Although, there were several months in there where she only read email; never actually responding to a message. But I told her, there was no reason to get crazy right off the bat; it was important for us to pace ourselves. There would be plenty of years ahead to learn the skill of hitting the SEND button.

Well, time flew and before I knew it Mrs. HERNAMEHASBEENCHANGED… was ready to retire and take her technology knowledge with her. I assumed that she would probably never touch a computer again.

Over the summer I started to hear some disturbing stories involving her and a laptop. The stories turned out to be true; she had indeed purchased one. All of the work we had done, the harsh words that had been exchanged, and the tears that were shed evidently were worth it.

Once I received the card, I thought it would be funny to email her. I figured that in retirement, she would check her email religiously every 12 weeks or so and get back to me sometime around Thanksgiving.

Much to my surprise she emailed me back in roughly 3 minutes. I felt proud that while we had encouraged (okay, forced) her to use technology, that she was now using it in her everyday life.

Over the course of the next few hours, we emailed back and forth. I grew more and more impressed.

What happened next was both shocking and horrifying. If you are the least bit squeamish, now is a good time to look away from the screen.

Mrs. HERNAMEHASBEENCHANGEDBECAUSEICAN’TAFFORDTOBESUED emailed me saying that she noticed I didn’t instant message! She has been using messenger all summer.

She has gone from being afraid that a computer would bite her, to instant messaging. Amazing. And unbelievable. Even shocking. We had created a technology monster. It is true what they say, anything is possible.

Then a little bit of sadness overcame me as I realized my work here was done. They grow up so fast.

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.