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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AASA: Best of the Blogs.


School Administrator Magazine.AASA School Administrator Magazine:  February 2012.

February 2012 edition.

Best of the Blogs by Superintendents.

Not sure how PrincipalsPage made it, but I’ll take it.

Click here.

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After Hiring Comes Firing.


There is no greater responsibility for a school administrator than hiring teachers.

Well, there is the HUGE responsibility of opening juice boxes, but I’m not counting this one (the average civillian just doesn’t understand the complexity of this issue).fired1

I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again, interviewing and choosing staff members who will be in your building for the next 35 years is a big responsibility.

The biggest.

Except for the ability to open a small cardboard box containing apple juice and jamming a 2 inch straw into it without losing an appendage (I’m telling you it’s harder than it looks).

Here is what I know about the hiring process.

The position comes open.  It’s advertised.  Then 849 people you barely know become your best friend.

They email.  They call.  They drop by.  They will corner you in the grocery store.

They wave an uncomfortably friendly wave as they drive by your house for the 40th time.

They hang out in the bushes just outside your bedroom window (I wish I was making this up).

And they all want the same thing.

They want you to hire their niece.

Or son.

Or neighbor.

Or the kid who sat 17 rows in front of them in church ten years ago (being a good sheep in the Christmas play does not guarantee you will be a good Chemistry teacher… I’m just sayin’).

Everyone wants to help someone they know get a job.

And there’s nothing wrong with this (personally, I really don’t mind… and this isn’t sarcasm… as far as you know).

Unless.

Unless, you hire this person and they turn out to be bad.

Really bad.

I mean bad like you have to duck when you  walk by their classroom bad (don’t laugh… we’ve all had to do it).

Hiring people makes you popular.

Until you have to fire them.

Then you become a terrible terrible person who fired a really nice kid.

A good kid from town.

From a good family.

Who just needed a chance.  Then a second chance.  And probably a 50th chance.

You will know this is true because when the firing takes place a concert-like crowd of people will show up at the school board meeting to express their disgust for you.

Which means it’s easy to hire a townie.  But it’s hard to fire one.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire locally.  It’s just means they should have had a larger role than Sheep #4 in the Christmas play.

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Dress Code for Sweaty School Administrators.


Come on.  We’ve talked about this.

Have we learned nothing over the course of 530 blog posts?sweat

Okay. 

One more time, then you’re on your own.

If you are a school administrator, it is considered a social faux pas to wear a blue dress shirt before the first Monday in September.

Why?

Because it’s Labor Day.

Actually, Labor Day has nothing to do with it.  Labor Day has to do with the deaths of factory workers (not a lot of laughs in this blog…).

My point is when school starts it’s hot.

Really hot.

Like surface of Venus hot (Google it).

It can be 42 degrees the day before school starts and I will guarantee you it will be 112 when the students show up.

In the shade.

It has to be, it’s the law (Google it).

Yet, every year some hotshot young principal shows up at school with his brand new blue dress shirt he just bought at Kohl’s (free plug… so feel free to send me some free stuff).

The shirts are fine.

The color is not.

You cannot stand up in front of several hundred students and preach to them about the consequences of their behavior over the course of the next 9 months and not sweat.

Trust me, I’ve tried.

Your back basically becomes a waterfall.

Which in turn makes your underwear droopy and your socks soggy.

Or so, I hear.

Now think what this does to your brand new precious Kohl’s blue dress shirt (seriously… two free plugs and I’ve got nothing).

So do what I do.

Wear white.

At least until Labor Day.

You’ll still sweat, but at least the rest of us won’t have to see it.

This blog has been brought to you by Right Guard.

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Hiring a Teacher to a 35 Year Contract Makes Me Nervous.


stains

As a school administrator I have lots of challenges.

Which tie to wear.

How to keep lunch off my tie.

Getting the stain off my tie after lunch.

It never ends.

Tomorrow is another day and I will need another tie (today’s has something on it). 

And if history tells us anything, it’s very likely I’ll be eating lunch.

It’s a vicious cycle.

But you will be glad to know this isn’t my biggest challenge.

There’s one thing that makes me more nervous than eating spaghetti in the cafeteria wearing a white tie while sitting between two 5th graders with sharp elbows and attention problems.

It’s hiring people.

Any time you have an opening within your staff, it’s an opportunity for your school to get better.

This isn’t to say whoever is leaving the position is bad, but as an administrator, the goal is to find someone who is at least a little better.

Because if you think about it, none of us are looking to take a giant step backward (if you are… you might be in the wrong profession).

But this is where it gets tricky.

Interviewing isn’t a science, it’s an art.

Which is a nice way of saying, sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t (feel free to quote me on this).

This isn’t what makes me nervous.  I know I’m not going to hit a home run on every new hire (I think I just invented a baseball analogy).

The mediocre hires don’t worry me as much as the pretty good hires. 

This is because a brand new pretty good teacher may be employed by the district for the next 35 years (a mediocre one hopefully won’t).

35 years.

That’s three and a half decades.

That’s 8.75 Presidents.

Or think of it this way.  In 35 years, I will be 73 (if I’m lucky).

Even more disturbing, 35 years ago it was 1976.  I was in the 4th grade (for the first and only time… as far as you know).

This means a teacher who was hired during my 4th grade year is still teaching.

Meanwhile the world has changed ever so slightly (you’ve probably heard of the internet… since you are on it right now).

But have they?

I would say most have changed, but the ability to be progressive in your career is a hard thing to project in a 30 minute interview.

To sum up, a new teacher who is hired this year could be with the school district for a very long time (check my math… but I’m guessing until approximately 2046).

And that makes me nervous.

Not nervous enough to skip lunch, but nervous.

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A Reluctant Staff.


A few days ago I received an email requesting a blog about moving a reluctant staff forward.

From this point forward, the PrincipalsPage.com Blog is all requests; all the time.  I’m morphing into Ryan Seacrest (or Casey Kasem for you old-timers).

I like the idea of not having to come up with ideas (at least good ones… I’ve always got some mediocre ones in my back pocket, just in case).

I Learned to Type on a Machine Just Like This.

So here we go.

Changing the attitude of a reluctant group of teachers (who may have tenure… just a guess) is simple.

It may be the easiest part of being an administrator.

And by easy, I mean a monumental nearly impossible task that would take 16 men, 7 women, 4 brain surgeons, duct tape, and a miracle to accomplish (less women than men because they are smarter… and duct tape always comes in handy).

This is my way of saying you’ve got no shot.

None.

Zip.

It’s not going to happen.

If the staff doesn’t want to change, they win.

Thanks for playing.  Game over.

Any administrators in this situation should just punt (football reference for coaches in the audience).

Give up.

Get on with your life (as sad and tragic as it may be).

Possibly consider joining the circus.  Or taking up residence in a convent.

You can’t change the attitude of an entire staff.

They were there when you arrived, and they believe they will be there when you leave.

Pick a battle you can win.

Like the Middle East.  Or world hunger.  Or getting Guns N’ Roses back together (this would make me and by brethren from the 80’s very happy).

Just stay away from changing staff attitudes.  At least as a group.

Now individually, that’s another story.

If you feel like addressing this issue one by one, you have a chance.

It’s tricky, but possible.

All it takes is time and patience (and in this economy, thankfully both are free).

If you have a staff of 50, only half can be miserable and resistant to change (it’s in the Constitution… if you don’t believe me ask Ben Franklin).

This means you have to focus on the other half.  You will recognize them because they are usually the quiet half.

Encourage them.  Focus on them.  Give them technology, praise, and recognition (many careers have been made by compliments).

Make them the shining stars.

Over time this 50% will become 60%, then 70%.  And if you’re great, maybe 100%.

While an individual administrator doesn’t have the power to change an entire staff’s attitude, the other teachers do.

So get out there and promote your best and brightest.

Just remember if it was an easy job, everyone would become a school administrator (and we don’t want that).

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Going to a Job Interview? Take This Advice With You.


I’m a little late on this blog.If You're Looking for a Job... Good Luck .

Most administrators (new and old) who are changing jobs have probably already done so by now.

My bad.

If you want, you can sue me (you wouldn’t be the first person to threaten legal action… this year… or today).

In the last couple of months, things have been hectic in the exciting world of education.  Of course, if you work in or near a school you already knew this.

Changing jobs can be a nerve-racking experience (so I’ve been told).

This might be especially true if you like your present position (and there are actual school administrators who like their jobs).

Eventually everyone moves on to bigger and better (unless you’ve been fired… then you may have to move on to smaller and worse).

The lifespan of a school administrator is roughly… not very long.

I don’t have actual statistics (too lazy to Google), so just for the sake of this blog let’s say it’s 3.64 years (I thought if I threw in a decimal it would seem like I actually knew what I’m talking about).

Once you hit this magic number it may be time to move on.

The challenge is where do you go?

What job should you take?

First, you need a school that is willing to hire you.  Personally, this makes me nervous because do I really want to work for a district that would hire me (think about it)?

I think this is where some administrators make a mistake.

Don’t just take a job to take a job.

Don’t get mesmerized by the money, benefits, or the offer of a brand new stapler (which I desperately need by the way).

There is something far simpler that is more important.

You want (and need) a job where you are surrounded by people who have a vested interest in your success.

This may seem kind of basic, but it’s important.

Without this type of support, you are almost certainly doomed to fail.

You may want the new job to go well, but if the people above, below, and around you don’t want it to be a success… it won’t be.

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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?

Sure.

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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Safer Career Choice: School Administrator or Blogger?


Someone sent me a link to a New York Times article about people dying because they blog too much.

I know exactly what you are thinking.

People who visit this Blog also read the New York Times. Don’t feel bad, it also caught me off guard.

Once I regained my composure, I read the article. Please take a moment and read it yourself. Life is All About Choices.

I’ll wait… take your time… don’t rush yourself…alright, c’mon already… 1st graders can line up and get quiet faster than this… okay, let’s move on.

The short version of the article is that morons blog too much; said morons can’t stop thinking about blogging; and then the morons may die (sometimes rather tragically).

Sad, but true.

I don’t normally spend time blogging about death, but in this case I am willing to make an exception.

Actually, I guess I may be taking my life into my own hands by writing this. If this blog unexpectedly trails off at some point, I didn’t survive…

Just kidding, I am still here.

As I read the New York Times Article, I found myself thinking who are these people?

Blogging isn’t brain surgery; or working a 12 hour shift in a hospital; or substitute teaching; it’s just blogging.

And blogging is a fancy word for typing.

All it takes to blog is a computer, a halfway coherent thought or opinion, and thumbs. Although I think thumbs are probably a luxury (you could hit the spacebar with your elbow if you got in a bind).

The more I think about it, you don’t need thumbs or a coherent thought. You really just need a computer.

Doesn’t the New York Times have editors? Shouldn’t someone in a corner office with leather furniture have read the story before it went into print? Surely, they pay people a lot of money to decide that articles like this one aren’t really a story.

Just because news happens 24 hours a day doesn’t mean you have to blog about it.

After much thought, I think I have a solution for bloggers who face health problems or certain death.

Stop typing. And go outside. Maybe even ask a girl (or boy… your preference) out. Just remember to tell your mom to leave the basement door unlocked, as you may be home a little later than normal.

To summarize… get a life.

Blogging shouldn’t be dangerous.

Being a school administrator is death defying. You haven’t faced fear or health risks until an elementary kid gets sick in the hallway and you get a whiff of the cherry smelling dusty stuff the janitor puts on top of the…well, you get the idea.

I’ve got to go… my left arm is feeling numb.

I do realize that this blog may be offensive to bloggers who don’t have thumbs and elementary students who throw up a lot… for that I apologize.

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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.