In Education, What’s Really Important.


As a school administrator, one of the best parts of my job is seeing students mature into young adults.  Keep in mind it’s only one part.  Getting a paycheck is also quite pleasant.Really?

I see first graders grow up and become Prom King or Queen.  I blink my eyes and the fourth graders who play soccer or basketball during recess are now playing on high school teams.  Little kids who sing their hearts out in music class suddenly become the lead performers in the high school musical.

Time goes by so quickly (a sure sign of old age).  The experiences we have with our kids when they are young are valuable.  It is the basis of how successful they will become as adults.

This is why parents are always concerned about their child’s education.  They want everything to go just right (and in my case to make sure The Evil Spawn is self-efficient enough to live in her home after she graduates).

Parents want the best for their son or daughter and that’s how it should be.

They worry about getting them in the right school.  They worry about them having an advanced curriculum.  They are concerned about getting them placed with the proper teacher.

I think all of these concerns are valid, but in my opinion they are not the biggest issue in regards to a student having a positive school experience.

The number one thing a student needs to be successful is placement in the right class with the right mix of students.

In the correct situation with the right peer group, a student can make wonderful progress.

Academics can improve.  Behavior will be appropriate.  Attitude won’t be a problem (until they become teenagers… then it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves).

Without the right peers, all of this can go the wrong direction.

A good class can bring everyone along for the ride.  Every student will maximize their potential.  A bad class can drag everyone down to the bottom.

This doesn’t mean they all have to be “A” students.  It’s more about their personalities meshing.

Student placement in the right class far outweighs the right teacher or certain school building.

I don’t discourage parents from worrying about their child’s school, teacher, or curriculum.

They just shouldn’t forget to worry about the peer group that will surround their son or daughter for the next 13 years (if all goes well, of course).

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My Daughter Hates School. I Did Not See That Coming.


The Evil Spawn has officially announced she doesn’t like going to school.She's Sleepy.

By officially, I mean she said it in the car when we were traveling back from yet another evening of supervising an athletic contest (as the child of a school administrator… she was born into the family business of sports supervision).

Her statement was short and to the point.  "Dad, I don’t want to go to school anymore."

This led to my rebuttal which was a long-winded rambling sometimes incoherent monologue about how hard I work and did she realize there are days when I don’t want to trudge into the office at 7:00 am and work until10:00 at night.

After about 27 minutes of hearing myself talk (she stopped listening pretty early on), I realized there must be more to her story.

She likes her friends.  Sports.  Reading.  Playing on her iPad.  Writing.  Corndog Thursday.  Math and science.  Assemblies.

And sleep.

Lots and lots of sleep.

School?  Not so much.

But she used to love it.

Turns out after only 5 years of education, she has decided she’s not a big fan of the daily grind of nearly 8 hours a day of sitting in a desk (of course… minus passing periods, homeroom, lunch, study hall, PE, library, computers, and music/art).

This worries me.

It’s weird because she loves to learn.

She likes the History Channel.  You Tube.  Discovering new things on the Interweb.  Going to the public library.

But sitting in class she finds a little boring.

It’s not her teachers.  She loves them (there are at least 3 on her Mt. Rushmore of Important People who have impacted her life… sadly, Buddy the Dog and I didn’t make it…).

In the teachers’ defense, they just can’t go fast enough.

Public schools are set up to teach to the middle.

And I think they should.  We’re in the business of producing taxpayers and good citizens who know how to stand in line and wait their turns.

We aren’t there to push the top 20%.  We count on colleges to do that.

I’m okay with this, but I do worry why a 10 year old who loved school has started to go the other way.

Maybe it’s just a phase.  Maybe she’s just starting to transition from tween to angry and bitter teenager (and if my mediocre parenting keeps up… one day, a angry bitter sarcastic adult).

Maybe she still loves school, but this is her way of fitting in with the other kids and slightly rebelling against the man (by the way… there’s a good chance I might be the man).

I may have no idea how the mind of a pre-teen girl works (actually, I’m pretty sure I don’t know how the mind of a pre-teen girl works).

But I do know, I miss the little person in my house who eats all my food who used to fly out of bed on school days because she didn’t want to miss a thing.

I just wish I knew for sure if it was her or if it’s us.

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A Bad Day at School is Still a Pretty Good Day.


goodthingsIt’s that time of year where school employees are getting tired.

And cranky.

School is no longer new and exciting.

It can become old and draining.

The holiday breaks are right around the corner, but they can also seem so far away.

Students and the day-to-day pressures have a tendency to wear us out.

It becomes easy to focus on the never-ending almost unattainable challenges of education (am I the only one who feels like this?).

So, I think it’s time we all took a minute and made a list of good things that happen at school.

Because I don’t know about you, but I can always use some good news.

My List

1. Kindergarteners in art class

2. Corn Dogs (Thursdays!)

3. Recess

4. The last bell on Friday

5. 3-day weekends (does this count?)

6. Snow days

7. Watching the best 1st year teacher you’ve ever seen

8. 2nd graders losing their teeth (always considered an accomplishment)

9. Seniors getting accepted to college

10. Volunteers

11. Alumni who are so excited to tell you about their experiences in your school

12. Students who want to show you their report cards

13. Grants (I love these)

14. The days before a holiday (exciting… even after all these years)

15. About a 1,000 others things that I sometimes take for granted

Please feel free to make your own list. It really will make you feel better.

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11 Things Kids Will Not Learn in School.


 

RULE 1
Life is NOT fair – get used to it.

RULE 2
The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

RULE 3 You May Have to Work for This Guy.
You will NOT make 40 thousand dollars a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice president with car phone, until you earn both.

RULE 4
If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. 

RULE 5
Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping:  they called it OPPORTUNITY.

RULE 6

If you mess up,it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

RULE 7
Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

RULE 8
Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

RULE 9
Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

RULE 10
Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

RULE 11
Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

The rules are taken from the book "Dumbing Down our Kids" by educator Charles Sykes. It is a list of eleven things you did not learn in school and directed at high school and college grads.

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School is Hard Work.


Don't Let Anyone Tell You Different... School is Hard Work. One week of school is officially in the books (get it… books… let it be known that somewhere I am the only one laughing…).

School has a long way to go, but there is good news.

The hardest part is over.

There is nothing I dislike more than the first couple days of school. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the school part I hate (although I do miss my old friend… summer).

It’s the “first couple of days” part.

The beginning of a new school year is a struggle (not unlike trying to convince a pack of 8 year old girls they shouldn’t be giggling at 2 am during a sleepover).

The start of school means everything is new again (which is good), but the bad part is everything is new again.

The challenge is to make what is new… routine. This involves the annual “Days and Days of Meetings”. These take place in the weeks and months before school even officially starts.

That’s why I’m happy when the first couple of days are over and done with.

Simply put, they are complicated, hectic, and tiring.

On top of that, these days are always half days. Students aren’t even in attendance full-time.

School without students. It’s really quite odd.

For the unitiated (new teachers) I am going to let you in on a little secret.

Half days last at least twice as long as full days.

Don’t ask me how or why, but they do (it’s one of education’s great mysteries… along with why teachers can’t microwave popcorn without burning it).

Common sense (and 3rd grade math) tells you a half is 50% of a full. Not at school.

Especially, not the day before a holiday (but don’t worry about that… the first school holiday is way in the future… like 3 weeks… hello, Labor Day!).

Give me a regular school day and a five day week. That makes me happy.

I need a routine.

I need the bell to ring so I know what time work starts. And what time to eat. And what time to go home (unless there is a crisis immediately after school is out… I hate that).

And do everything else.

Thankfully, my life is now headed down a more structured path.

School is back. I have a routine. And I’m very happy.

I’m also amazed.

One thing always jumps up and grabs my attention when school starts.

No, it’s not the excitement of the children returning to school (yes, this is a little thing I like to call sarcasm).

Or even the higher level of excitement that teachers have when they start a new year (yes, this would be more sarcasm… and there is no chance I will ever run out).

It’s not the heat (and how does the sun know when school starts???).

The thing that always amazes me is how tiring school can be.

Mentally and physically.

But mostly physically.

My legs are sore from walking around and my voice is fading from talking (probably too much).

I’m not going to lie… I need a nap.

School is hard work.

How come I forget that over the summer?

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Church and School.


Church.

Church.

I know church and school aren’t supposed to go together (I think it has to do with the small print in the Constitution), but as I sit in church my mind usually wanders towards school.

That isn’t completely true. My mind always wanders, but not necessarily about school.

Does anyone sit in church and think about church?

But that is a topic for another day.

As I was waiting for my daughter to sing in church (that’s why I was there… and you thought I was lost), I begin to think that most people aren’t that excited to be in church (just one person’s opinion… the comment section is at the bottom of this blog).

And that’s what reminded me of school.

Yes, another brainstorm. Some students and parents aren’t all that enthralled with the public school experience.

This got me thinking about private schools (my mind seems to work, or not, in a very random way…).

My experience with private schools is primarily with Catholic schools. And one thing always impresses me about them.

The students and parents seemed to be thrilled with the education they are receiving.

Why is that?

Is it because they pay tuition? Because they got to choose? It can’t just be religious reasons, because students from all denominations attend these schools. Is there another reason?

Something has caused them to “buy” in to their schools.

They seem generally more excited about the education the students are receiving. I also notice that they speak very highly of their teachers and administrators (this is something with which I am not always familiar… the speaking well of administrators).

Don’t even get me started on how well they support their athletic programs (of course winning helps… and they seem to have mastered this).

They just seem to have more passion about their schools than students who are receiving a public education.

Do you think they believe in their school more because it was their choice?

Do families (such as mine) take public education for granted?

Is it better than most people believe?

Does it come too readily available? Does that make us quicker to criticize our local schools?

If everyone had to write a check out for several thousand dollars when they enrolled their children in public education, would we be more appreciative?

This topic ran through my head during the first 5 minutes of the church service.

Then I got distracted by an even bigger topic.

Lunch.

Why do some people call lunch… dinner… and some people call dinner… supper?

Why is that?

The next time I am in church, I hope to get to the bottom of this mystery.

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Fit to be Tied?


Nothing Says Summer is Over... Like Me Putting on a Tie.Now that school is out for the summer, I have had some time to take a step back and reflect.

In the last couple of weeks, I have been able to contemplate the many accomplishments of our school district over the course of the 2007-2008 year.

I feel really good about our test scores, hiring decisions, the financial choices we have made, and the overall direction of the district.

As an administrator it is my hope that each year we can continue to emphasize discipline, structure, advancements in technology, and maintaining good relationships with teachers and parents.

So all in all, I would consider this school year an unqualified success. This is not to say that we don’t have plenty of new challenges to face in 2008-2009, but I feel we are on the right track.

But there is one thing that continues to bother me about school and my job as an administrator.

Ties.

I have touched on this subject before, but in my mind it is an issue that bears discussing again (and maybe again, or at least until I get some satisfaction or some golf shirts).

Who is the mental midget who thought it was a good idea to wrap fabric around our necks? I am guessing it was someone who was not employed in a 100 year old, 3 story brick building in which the scorching heat of August is unbearable.

And if that isn’t bad enough, this person decided we should hold our ties in place by making a really tight knot right against our necks.

Did they not notice that one of the neck’s primary functions is to allow us to breathe?

And if it isn’t bad enough that ties continue to affect my ability to take in oxygen (which seems to add to the quality of my life), they also constantly get in the way while I am eating lunch.

I am a simple man. I don’t ask for a lot, but during my lunch hour I do like to breathe and eat. Preferably without getting pudding all over my expensive tie (I don’t mean to brag, but some of my ties cost upwards of $20 apiece).

The only thing I can figure is the tie was invented by a woman, most likely a woman scorned.

Who else would have the necessary amount of pent up anger to make males suffer like this?

Another clue is that I notice female administrators seldom wear ties (and yes, by seldom I do mean never).

I am here to demand equal rights on this whole wearing a tie issue.

Why should males continue to suffer? It is time society takes into account the important roles we play in fatherhood, running schools, coaching our children’s sports, mowing the yard, and other stuff (I really don’t have any other stuff…pretty much all we do is work, coach, and mow. As a male I am confident enough to admit that we are quite simple creatures).

I say ties should be banned until something equally uncomfortable is discovered for women.

They should feel the pain that we are forced to go through up to 5 to 6 days a week (I am counting church…or the occasional Saturday school function).

It is time for all males to throw down the gauntlet (and their ties).

There is nothing more miserable than getting up and putting on a dress shirt and tie.

What? High heels are worse than ties. Are you sure?

Childbirth is more painful than a Windsor knot?

Really?

It’s that bad? This is the first I have heard of this. Why didn’t somewhere share this information with me earlier?

Okay, never mind. At least I can loosen my tie if it gets hot.

And as bad as ties are on a hot humid day, I don’t ever recall needing an epidural.

My guess is as you were reading this blog, you never expected to see it end with the word epidural. The amount of time reflecting on the state of my school year all the way to epidurals is pretty much an average 20 minute period in the day for me.

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Something Good Happened at School Today, but That’s Not News.


Good Things Should Be Recognized.  Especially at School.In the last few weeks, I have been following stories about different situations happening in schools. These have been all over the newspapers, websites, and television stations.

These stories have one thing in common. They contain nothing but bad news about education and educators. And I mean really bad news.

Bad news that makes you feel sick to your stomach. The same feeling you have moments before you get your class list for the new school year. The dread you feel as you make your way to the school mailbox.

The overall sense of despair that covers your whole body because you might find out that you have the worst kid in school in your class (again…he was held back… again).

And just to top things off, he had perfect attendance last year.

Why is it that those students have the ability to show up every day like clockwork?

Anyway, none of these stories that have been in the news shine a good light on education. They focus on the worst possible incidents. These things unfortunately do happen, but it is always a very small percentage of school employees and students who are involved.

The 99.999999% of quality people in education get lumped in with these few nuts. I know this is true because when I tell someone what I do; they invariably pull back in a combination of horror, sadness, and pity.

I refuse to even provide links to these stories because they don’t deserve any more publicity.

And you know who I blame? Not the newspapers, internet sites, or local television stations. They are in business to provide the news we will read and watch. Evidently this is what the public wants.

The media is more than happy to report on bad situations in schools and I think they should.

After all, these incidents are news. And when things happen in education it is always a bigger news story.

If an employee does something inappropriate, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law (or shot… in most cases I am okay with that).

When school districts or employees make these bad decisions they should have news stations reporting their stories. It’s not the media’s fault.

It’s ours. I blame us. Everyone involved in the running of schools on a daily basis needs to do a better job.

While we deserve a great deal of blame for letting these different types of situations happen in our schools, I think there is a larger issue at play.

Too often, the only publicity schools receive is the negative variety.

Schools have specialist to handle technology, coaching, scheduling, attendance, cleaning, cooking, and curriculum. Why don’t we have someone who specializes in publicizing what we do well?

Why are we not getting our positive messages across?

Why do we sit around and wait for newspapers and television stations to swarm us when something goes wrong? They always want to interview the principal or students when thing aren’t going well.

If the school refuses to talk, they find someone in the community who will (and for the record, usually not a person who had a good experience in school).

Why aren’t we more proactive in sharing all of the good things that happen in education on a daily basis?

Maybe I am naïve. Maybe no one cares about the good things.

Maybe there is a reason the local news always has a lead story involving a crime, or fire, or an accident.

I just think it is sad that they only thing some people know about schools and education is what they see on the news.

And it’s not good.

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School Makes Me Sleepy.


This Picture is Both Funny.... and Disturbing.It is that time of year. I am tired.

I first realized that I was tired when I wanted to eat dinner at 4:30 pm and then go directly to bed (I may well be morphing into my parents… another example of why I believe God has a sense of humor).

My second clue was when I woke up yesterday and felt like I would rather have a junior high study hall of 97 boys with ADHD and no homework while it is the last hour of the day after they all drank a five gallon bucket of soda and just recently broke up with their life long loves (of 4 days) then crawl out from under the covers.

If you have ever had a junior high study hall, or met a 12 year boy with a broken heart, you realize how serious of a funk that I am in.

It is February and just like every year, I am questioning my decision to go into education. It happens like clockwork about this time. Sometime between January 1st and Valentine’s Day, I begin to question my career choice.

I wonder if it is too late to change my major.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not the kids, or teachers, or anything about school… it is me.

We are in the middle of the school year and the end seems so far away. It is cold, wet, and windy outside and spring seems like it will never get here.

I think I would feel better if I could just see the sun for 4 minutes. I faintly remember the sun shining sometime around Halloween, but since then my only choices have been snow, rain, sleet, ice, wind, more wind, and lots of clouds.

It would be in my best interest to spend $600 dollars on a plane ticket, fly to Aruba, get out and walk around for 30 minutes in the sunshine and then fly right back. I would feel a lot better and that sunlight would get me through the hard times.

The beginning of school brings excitement and possibilities. The end of the school year is even more exciting and brings even larger possibilities. Those include in no particular order; no school, golf, vacation, and no school.

The middle of school just brings… grey. My yard, the sky, the streets, and my psyche.
But don’t worry about me. One of these days it will warm up to 60 degrees and everything will be right in the world and back to normal.

Until then I will trudge along and make the best of things.

I just need to focus on the good things happening at school.

Like it being too cold to go outside for recess and the smell of that stuff that janitors use to cover the smell of other bad stuff (why can’t scientist invent something that will make it smell like strawberries instead of smelling like feet?)

Soon spring will show up and that means junior high love will soon be in the air. And at the lockers, in classes, at lunch, on the bus, and everywhere else 12 year olds congregate.

Now that I think of it, maybe winter at school isn’t so bad.

P.S. This isn’t about me, it is about my wife. If you find any errors in grammar that is because she didn’t proof read it before she went to bed. Coincidently, that was around 4:30, right after dinner.

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That Sound You Hear is Mom Doing a Very Secret/Disturbing Dance.


Mom and Dad Are Happy!As the holidays come to a close it is time to take a look back at what we have just experienced.

This is a special time of the year because families get a chance to reconnect. Everyone slows down for a few days and spends time with their loved-ones.

While everyone gets excited about the holidays, nobody looks forward to this time of year more than moms.

All over the world, mothers get excited to have their kids home for some quality family time.

Children are out of school and on top of that… no homework! (this excitement goes for kids and moms)

But now the presents have been opened, the dinners have been eaten, and the time together has worn our mothers out.

It is now approaching every mother’s favorite time of the year. This only happens twice each year, so that makes it even more special.

School is about to be back in session. The holiday vacation is coming to a close. This is an exciting day for mom. Not quite as special as the end of summer vacation, but close (the end of summer vacation is like mom winning a $100 million dollar lottery; the end of holiday vacation is like winning $75 million).

Moms haven’t been this happy since their pregnancy was over.

Sure, all mothers love their children. They gave birth to us after all, but enough is enough.

They have cooked, cleaned, wrapped presents, done laundry, gone to the grocery store 119 times, picked up after us, and heard “I’m bored, there is nothing to do” one too many times.

On the outside, they express their love for their children. But inside, they are saying “Get Out and Don’t Let the Door Hit You In the ….” Moms can have quite the mouths on them.

Students have asked me about why the holiday break is a couple of weeks long. This is an easy one to answer and my answer is always the same.

That is the maximum amount of time moms can take their own evil spawn before they become physically violently ill at the mere sight of them. No one wants to see their mother have a meltdown, but if the holiday break was one day longer… well all I can say is, “It wouldn’t be pretty.”

Moms love their kids, but even they have their limits.

They act like they don’t want us to have to go back to school, but as soon as the front door closes behind us… they do a very secret moms’ dance (there could possibly be gyrating and pelvic thrusting so please don’t try and picture this… if you do go blind the PrincipalsPage.com legal staff says I am not liable).

I have often thought that moms with kids in school should buy presents for their child’s teacher after the break instead of before.

The quality of present would go way up. And I am talking 60 inch flat screen TV. Minimum. Maybe more, depending on how many siblings and arguments took place over the break.

Nothing like mom spending two weeks with her own kid(s) to put things in perspective.

You may be asking yourself… “What about Dads?”

Dads don’t care. We have garages to hide in.

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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.