Interviewing Makes Me Smarter.


In my profession, I get the opportunity to interview a lot of people.

This could mean a couple of things.

One, people hate me with such a passion that after a very short period of being around me on a daily basis, they quit.

Or two (and my much prefered theory), while I’m not a genius (this is constantly reinforced by the people who live in my house) I’ve been able to hire good/great people who sometimes have opportunities to take other/better jobs.

Either way, I get to interview lots and lots of people.Truth Be Told... I Wasn't That SMART to Begin With.

On a slow year, I would say I have 5 openings in various positions.

That means I interview about 25-40 different candidates every 12 months.

In a more hectic time, this number could easily triple.

And that’s a lot of interviews.

This brings me to a new theory.

Interviewing isn’t a science.

It’s an art (no, this isn’t my theory… someone already had this brainstorm…).

When interviewing you find yourself looking for certain things:  a good work ethic, passion, leadership, an ability to get along with others, organization, forward-thinking, etc.

These are what we call no-brainers (welcome to behind the curtain of school administration).

When you think about it, no one is looking for:  a bad work ethic,  little or no passion, an inability to lead, someone who can’t get along with others, disorganization, and backward-thinking.

My theory (which isn’t completely crazy… despite the thoughts of these same people who eat my food and are entertained by the 1,000 TV stations I provide them) is there’s one attribute you have to look for
in all interview candidates.

They must be smarter than you.Yes, this theory finds its genius in its simplicity (as do all good theories).

Don’t just hire smart people, hire smarter people.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  The key to success:  be the dumbest person in the room.

Even more interesting (to me) than what happens at the conclusion of an interview is what happens during an interview.

The smart ones make me smarter (not that difficult of an accomplishment, but an accomplishment nonetheless).

And this is the part of the interview process I really enjoy.

It’s an opportunity to talk to people who have knowledge and experiences I don’t.

Even though I can’t hire every person I interview, it always works out for me.

Because while they may not get the job, I always get smarter.

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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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Being a School Administrator Means You May be Too Tired to Nap.


That's One Tired Principal.It is the perfect storm of tired.

Everything is falling into place at just the wrong time.

I am behind on my to-do list at work. The semester ends in two days. I also have a school board meeting to attend and a basketball game to supervise.

And school was called off today because of icy roads.

This means I have been up since 4:00 a.m. That is the middle of the night in case you are wondering.

Meanwhile, my wife and daughter just rolled out of bed. It is 9:00. That is in the middle of the day in case you are wondering.

Did I mention my wife got a call from her school which was also cancelled? Since I was up, I took the message.

I went into the bedroom to let her know since she has to call the next teacher on the list. She instructed me to go get the phone tree, bring it back with the phone, and make sure I don’t turn on the light.

Which made me ask, how will I see to read her the phone number in the dark? Being a quick thinker she had a solution.

Go into the kitchen, turn on the light and then tell me the number.

I am pretty sure this is a form of spousal abuse. To check, I have added “Call lawyer about sleepy and mean wife” to my list of things I need to get done by Friday.

Odds are I will never get that far down the list.

All of this makes me tired.

But yet I don’t need a nap.

I need something, but not a nap.

Maybe some exercise. No, I already did that (see: up since 4:00 a.m.).

Maybe some time off would help. No, I have today off and that is just adding to my tiredstressness (yes, I know it isn’t a word… save your emails).

I guess there is just never enough hours in the day or weeks in the semester.

In the next few days, I will have to be caught up whether I like it or not.

This part of the school year is going to end, with or without my permission.

Worst case, I get rested over winter vacation and I am a little behind starting 2nd semester.

Actually, worst case is I finally get a nap in and my wife calls her lawyer while I am asleep.

I hope she is nice enough not to turn on the light.

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The 5 Year Career Plan of a School Administrator.


Life Used to be so Simple.For the last couple of months, I have been obsessing about the direction of my career. As I get older, I tend to focus on one subject and completely overanalyze it (example from last summer…soccer).

This personality trait may not be becoming, but it works for me.

I am not sure what brought the career thoughts on; possibly my advancement into middle age, or maybe the fact that I work on a 1 year contract so there is always a little trepidation about being rehired.

At least with a single year contract, I won’t be fired, just not rehired… at least I have that going for me.

Actually, in retrospect I don’t think it is either one of these thoughts that is affecting me. The likeliest answer? It’s winter and I have way too much free time. When it warms up and I have yard work to do, all these thoughts about career and long-term goals will go away.

Who has time to obsess on a career when there are bushes to trim and grass to mow?

But until then, I am focused on coming up with a plan.

As I barrel towards my AARP card, I find myself trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. I probably should have put some effort into this long ago, but I have been busy (or lazy).

My present career in education wasn’t the plan. To be honest, I have never had a plan. Not in high school, or college, or my dysfunctional 20’s, or ever.

The only true career goal that I ever had involved playing major league baseball. That was my dream since the first day of Pee Wee League. I was one focused 6 year old.

Things went very well for me during those years. My greatest accomplishment through 8 total years of Pee Wee League and Little League is being part of an undefeated team. We never lost. Ever.

8 years and 8 undefeated seasons. Impressive? Sure. But it was a big shock when we finally lost. I wish someone had told me it was going to happen. Talk about punch in the gut.

I guess I assumed my team would always win. Nope. Just like in life, things have a tendency to even out over the long haul. Case in point, there were some lean years in high school on the baseball team.

So, that was my chosen career path until I was about 17. I would have made it too, if it wasn’t for the fact that I wasn’t anywhere close to good enough.

Where was HGH when I needed it? The last sentence was directed at you, Mr. Roger Clemens.

Back to my career goals. I’ve got nothing. All of this time thinking about it and I still have no idea.

The question is, could it be possible for me to go through life and jump from one job opportunity to another without ever having a plan?

I think goals are in order because I don’t work in the most stable of occupations. School administrators lose jobs, like my daughter loses everything in her black hole of a room (I still can’t find her bed).

As I have thought about my 5 year goals, my assumption is by 2013 I will be piecing together what’s left of a once promising career in school administration.

You ask, what could possibly go so wrong that my career will be in shambles? Hard to tell. I have it narrowed down to 171 possible “incidents”. My hope is that whatever this incident may be, it is huge. So huge, that I will make the front of the local paper.

At the very least, I want to be remembered.

If this “incident” does happen (actually I mean “when it happens”), I am going to need a backup plan.

And I really have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. And even sadder, I am grown up.

So far the only thing that I would truly love to do is be a lottery winner.

Not only a lottery winner, but a winner that wastes every cent in a short time as my life spirals out of control. Then I will get my own documentary on E! or VH1.

So I guess I do have a career plan.

I just need to stay away from those 171 possible “incidents” at school until I buy that winning ticket.

If feels good to finally have a long-term goal. I should have done this years ago.

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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.