Principal Preparation Program.

Try and say Principal Preparation Program fast 3 times (I will wait while you complete this task…).

This blog is not just a tongue twister.  It goes way deeper than that.  It’s also a well-thought out review of a new Illinois Law called the School Leader Reform Act.

Actually, that’s a lie.Be Careful... You Don't Want to Crash on the First Day.

The blog is actually a thrown together half-baked commentary on what is wrong with the programs that supposedly prepare school administrators to lead their teachers and students.

The School Leader Reform Act is an attempt by the untrustworthy crooked politicians of Illinois to fix the way principals are selected and trained.

I’m okay with that.

The article from which I stole this blog says the two most important factors that influence student success are quality teaching and quality school leadership.

Fair enough.

I say let’s get rid of tenure and work on improving principals.


The crooked politicians won’t address tenure?

Okay, color me not surprised (after all, the next election is always just around the corner… and the next one… and so on… and on…).

Then let’s fix the principals (like they are all broken).

The new law wants to prepare principals to be instructional leaders.  Great idea.

It also wants colleges to make their school administration programs to be more challenging.  As opposed to revenue sources for their education departments.  Again, great idea.

Another aspect of the law is to allow an alternative pathway to principal endorsement through nonprofit entities.  Okay, this might just work.   As always, there is more than one way to skin a cat (although why you would want to I’ll never know).

Let’s start cranking out new and improved principals.

With that being said, I do have a couple of concerns with the law.

One is they want each principal candidate to participate in a month long residency program.  My complaint… a month isn’t long enough.

But neither is a year or five years.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, completely prepares you to be a school principal.

The closest thing might be Marine boot camp, but that’s about it.

Admittedly, a month is better than nothing… but not by much.

The other thing that bothers me is the law requires that no more than one-third of coursework in a preparation program can be taught by part-time adjunct faculty.

I think this is idiotic.

I know the politicians want full-time faculty members to be teaching the courses, but I think it should be just the opposite.

Most (if not all) courses should be taught by practicing principals and superintendents.

Or at the very least retirees who have worked in administration within the last 5 years.

I can make the argument that I can learn more from a well-versed administrator in an hour than I can from a professor in a classroom in a semester (no offense professors).

But at least the politicians seem to be heading in the right direction.

Which is nice.

And unusual for Illinois.

I wonder when they will pass a law call Political Leader Reform Act?

Now that’s legislation I could really support.

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That Kid.

Everyone knows That Kid.

The one who started causing havoc the minute he came into the world (odds are he slapped a nurse in the maternity ward).

His poor parents have convinced themselves there was some sort of mix up at the hospital, and they brought home the wrong child.

On several occasions they’ve even tried to give him away.

To no avail.

I shouldn’t say “him”, but let’s be honest.  99% of the time it’s a him.Dennis the Menance. (could be a girl… actually, no it couldn’t)

If you don’t know the student I’m talking about, you aren’t in education.

Or you’re a liar.

Every school district in the world has That Kid.

His parents couldn’t leave him with a babysitter because he always attacked them.  Or ran away (I mean the babysitter, not the kid).

He got kicked out of preschool.

On the first day.

He’s the one who caused untold emotional damage when he first stepped foot on school grounds.

Sadly, registration will never be the same.

After meeting him, the secretaries immediately called the kindergarten teacher and said… “Retire.  Retire now.  Before it’s too late.”

That Kid is the one who does exactly the opposite of what his teacher tells him (which makes me think you should just tell him to do the opposite of what you want).

He doesn’t follow directions, he can’t stand still or be quiet, and he touches everyone and everything.

He also cuts in line, gets in trouble in the bathroom, cafeteria, and on the playground. 

And can’t find his pencil.

Or pen, papers, book bag, coat, locker, or classroom.

He always needs a Kleenex or wants to go to the bathroom.

He consistently asks you a question about the exact thing you just explained.

He makes indescribable animal-like noises at the most inappropriate times.

Teachers cringe at the mere mention of him.

The pray years in advance they don’t see his name on their class list.

They are willing to promise the principal, superintendent, secretary, the custodian, and God they will do anything… anything at all if That Kid isn’t in their class.

And guess what happens.

That kid is always in their class.

And when he is in your class, everything you’ve heard about him isn’t true.

He’s much, much worse.

Now you pray harder then ever.  You pray he will be gone on Mondays.

And Fridays.

And field trip days.

And when you have a sub.

And every other day.

But he never misses school.

Unprepared, but he’s always there.

It’s like you’re being punished.

But you aren’t.

You see… every class has That Kid.

Just like every class has a Tall Kid, Smart Enough to Be a Doctor Kid, Athletic Kid, Mortal Lock to Be Prom Queen Kid, Thinks They’re Always Sick But They’re Not Kid, Only Child Kid, Cool But Doesn’t Know It Kid, Shy Girl Kid, and Funny Enough to One Day Be on Saturday Night Live Kid.

Classes are always different, yet they are always the same.

If That Kid happens to move out of your school district (he won’t, I’m just using this as an example), there is another That Kid waiting.

Impatiently, but he’s waiting.

You see, there has to be a That Kid in every class.

It’s the law.

If you don’t believe, ask any teacher if they have a That Kid.

Because they will all say yes.  Right after they stop twitching.

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The Dean.

Having a Mentor Who Has Jumped Before You is Important.Coming up with blog topics can be tricky. At least that is what I’m told.

People who believe this must put some thought into their blogs. Luckily, I don’t have that problem (lucky for me… unlucky for readers who actually want to learn something or be amused).

My strategy for writing a blog is quite complicated.

I stumble through life and ideas pop into my head. And since I don’t blog for a specific audience (just me… again, bad for readers), it makes it that much easier.

One of the benefits of working in education is that it is never the same. Each day brings a new (although sometimes complicated and occasionally horrific) situation.

In my part of the educational world, things go relatively smoothly. That’s not to say that I don’t get frustrated from time to time. Because it is (and by time to time, I mean every 7 ½ minutes… on a slow day).

I’ve been able to survive (barely… and it should be noted that could change at any moment) in my administrative career primarily because I have had good mentors.

This could be the secret to being successful at any job.

There is nothing better than finding someone who can serve as a guide as you traverse the slippery slope of (fill in your career choice here).

In my case I have had several mentors.

The great thing is that I have never had to look for them. They always pop into my life when I need them the most.

Usually, I don’t even realize they are there or that I even needed them at the time. But as I look back it is easy to recognize their importance.

I may be the luckiest person you don’t know.

One of my first mentors was a high school administrator.

He had all the answers to questions that I wasn’t smart enough to ask.

When I first met him, he was getting close to retirement and I was at the end of my teaching career.

One of the things that I didn’t know was I was about to conclude my time in the classroom and head off into the complicated world of administration.

If I had known this, I would have paid more attention to the stories he told.

And told.

And told.

Besides being an administrator, he also was a public speaker. He spoke a lot. I guess those two things go hand in hand (administrator and speaking… we do seem to like the sound of our own

He spoke at his school, at church, at workshops, at conferences, at other schools, at colleges, on the phone, at the movies, at the grocery store, on the street to total strangers, and wherever 1
to a 1000 people gathered.

I heard him speak in public maybe 3 times. He was good. I think.

For the most part I zoned out.

Mainly because I had heard all of the stories before. For free.

He had mastered the art of getting paid to speak. What most people didn’t know is he would tell you the same stories for nothing.

All you had to do was not ask. Just be in the vicinity.

While I didn’t listen as closely as I should have, some of his advice soaked in. I am sure of this because I repeat it.

A lot.

One of the things he told me (and anyone else who would stand still for him) was his thoughts on people going back to college for more education.

It drove him crazy when people said they didn’t want to return to college because they were too old.

We have all heard someone say, “I don’t want to go back and get my Bachelor’s or Master’s because I will be 46 years old when I finish.”

His thought.

They will be 46 anyway. Might as well have that degree.

Simple, but good advice.

And I use it all the time. And 20 other things he told me when I wasn’t listening.

Like if you take a job as a principal, remember the kids are more like adults than you think, and the adults are more like kids than you think.

Over the last 6 years, I have found he couldn’t have been more right.

I often wonder how many other bits of good advice he shared and I didn’t hear? I have a feeling that I should have paid better attention.

Like all good mentors, he never forced his beliefs on me.

I sometimes wish he had.

As I look back, there is one thing that he didn’t tell me.

That I should listen closely because he might not be around forever.

**Note from wife… In addition to being a mentor to many individuals in the field of education, the man described in the above blog is my dad. Super Bowl Sunday three years ago was the last time that I had the opportunity to talk with my dad. The next morning he slipped into a coma after a yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 60 years young and I wish that he was still around to tell those stories and give us his unsolicited, but very wise advice.

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The Oil Change Guy Wants My Job.

This Guy Has His Eye on my Job.  And He Could Do It.I got the oil changed in my truck this morning.

Yes, as a real man I know my way around the dealership.

This is what a manly man does. He drives his vehicle across town and waits patiently in the lobby as someone fixes his truck. And just to prove that I can multi-task, I watched the Today Show as the project was being completed.

Who says all of the good ones are gone, ladies?

Something struck me as I waited. I overheard a couple of employees talking about their upcoming vacations.

At first I was a little confused as I wondered how long they were shutting down the car lot.

I felt badly because I assumed they had to close because of the economy.

Were they closing for a week? Two weeks? A month? Forever?

That wasn’t it at all.

They were simply talking about being off for the next day and a half. That’s their vacation.

And they were excited. Really excited.

They get off today, Christmas Eve, at noon. And they don’t have to return to work until 7:30 am on December 26.

A whole day and a half. Did I mention they are thrilled?

It reminded me that my dad used to be the same way. When you work 6 days a week all year long, a short vacation is valued and appreciated.

And here I am just beginning two entire weeks off, in the middle of the school year, with days that don’t even count against my regular vacation days.

Did I mention we just got back from Thanksgiving Break?

As an added bonus, we were off 3 days in a row for snow last week. Plus, on most days I am off work at 4 o’clock.

How excited would the guy who changes my oil be if he had my schedule?

And more importantly, I question my own appreciation of my schedule and career.

As an educator, I sometimes think we spend too much time wallowing in our own self pity about how hard we work, how little we get paid, and how parents don’t respect us.

Working in a school is far from perfect, but on the other hand I don’t come across a lot of people who are in a hurry to change careers.

I am 100% sure that I wouldn’t switch jobs with the guys at the dealership (mainly because I am incapable), but I am fairly certain they would like to have my job.

If they are this excited about a day and a half off, how excited would they be with my schedule?

So on this Christmas Eve please take a moment to be thankful that as educators, you have the ENTIRE day off (plus at least another week) to spend with your families.

On second thought I am counting the days until I can get back on my much needed regular schedule.

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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.