Parents Hate Principals.

This isn’t completely true. Not all parents hate the principal at their child’s school.

I thought it was important to clarify because I don’t want to be responsible for scaring off teachers who are considering a career move to school administration.

We need good quality young people to go into the profession.Can't We All Just Get Along.

Actually, we (or I) need a good young person to take my job.

You know the word “Retirement” means “Sweet, I Can Go Golfing” in Latin (if you don’t believe me, look it up… on the other hand, just take my word for it).

This needs to happen soon, while I’m still young (I’m not kidding… get yourself in a Master’s program and get your degree… NOW!).

Theoretically, it’s possible for a parent to like a principal.

In fact, once in the late 1970’s there was a parent in one of the western states (can’t remember the name of it but it has snow… or mountains… or maybe cowboys live there… not exactly sure) that loved their school principal.

Alright, I’m exaggerating.

This is a little something I like to do to move the blog along. I learned this when I was an English major in college.

Actually, that’s just an out and out lie. I couldn’t have been an English major because I couldn’t spell it (and by it, I mean the word “English”… I have been able to spell “it” for as long as I can remember).

Also, there wasn’t a parent out west who liked his or her principal.

That’s also a lie.

No one likes principals.

They are despised by everyone. Including parents. In every state. Including the states where it snows and cowboys live.

Parents and principals have a very special relationship. (Science teachers, this is your one and only symbiotic reference).

And by special, I mean they are sworn enemies.

It has to work this way. It’s like Good vs. Evil. Kardashians vs. Good Taste. Jerry vs. Newman (Seinfeld reference… Yes!!!). Buddy the Dog vs. Rabbits (another lie… Buddy loves rabbits… it’s really quite pathetic).

Parents and principals need each other.

Without the other, neither exists.

Parents need someone at school in which to direct their thoughts (i.e. anger) on the educational system and its treatment of their child (this is commonly referred to as “You Will Be Hearing From My Lawyer!”).

Principals need parents. Without a mom or dad barging into the office yelling and threatening to sue, why would schools even need a principal?

Honestly, couldn’t a secretary just run things?

As long as there are children and schools, parents and principals will be tied together.

So don’t worry that they don’t like each other.

It’s supposed to be that way.

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Evaluations: Which Came First, The Principal or the Good Behavior?

I’m fascinated by the reaction that many people have to an evaluation. In my humble opinion, they don’t seem to like them.

Call me crazy (trust me, I have been called worse).

The reaction is very subtle, but if you look closely you can see the disgust. And the steam coming out of orphuses (I have always wanted to use that word in a blog).

It is like people have to go through a greiving process.

Which Comes First?

Which Comes First?

There is denial.

Then anger.

Followed by bargaining.


And finally, acceptance.

If you stop and think about it, no one has ever died from an evaluation (you just wish you would).

While this isn’t always the case, an evaluation does make most of us at least a little nervous.

It seems that most people are happy with their present job performance. They already have their own opinion on their abilities and they like it (they generally believe they are model employees… human nature I guess).

I have more respect for evaluations since I started being the one who does them.

If done correctly, I really believe you can help people become better at their jobs. And I assume this works in any type of business.

This can be done (in most cases) without subjecting employees to a torturous process that takes away the will to live (or makes them want to take away my ability to live).

And even more importantly, the evaluator doesn’t want them to lose the will to work hard for the good of the students.

If for some reason they aren’t better for going through the evaluation, I know I am.

Evaluations have been a great learning experience for me. Granted I could do without the paperwork, but overall they are quite interesting and educational (I almost always learn something about teaching and the subject area while I conduct an evaluation).

If I’d had the opportunity to watch 50 different teachers while I was still in the classroom, I am positive that I would have done a better job in my role as a teacher.

Every teacher teaches in a slightly different way, but most seem to get the job done.

It occurred to me that the really great teachers seem to do a few things alike.

One, they teach the entire class period. And the students know it. These teachers don’t have time to waste because there are too many concepts they need/want to cover.

Secondly, they are in the same mood every day. Could be outgoing and happy. Could be quiet and reserved, but their students always know what to expect.

Students like surprises, like a new car on their birthday. They don’t like surprises, like drastic psychotic mood swings from adults (mental note… neither does my wife).

When kids walk into a great teacher’s classroom they know instantly what to expect. They are going to be constructively busy the entire period and the teacher’s personality won’t be a surprise.

There is one other thing that the really good teachers seem to do. They dismiss their students when the bell rings (or after the bell rings… after all they have a lot to accomplish in one class period).

Seems like a small thing, but I have definitely seen a pattern.

When an evaluation is complete, I seem to hear one comment more than any other… “The students sure were good while you (place evaluator’s name here) were in the classroom.”

My question for the day (or the blog)…

is that because an administrator was in the room…

or because the teacher was giving 110%, completely organized, and teaching a lesson that is interesting and engaging?

Which came first? The administrator or the good behavior?

Or the great lesson?

This blog is only one person’s opinion. My wife refers to that person as… clueless. As a teacher, she likes the evaluation process. Who is right? Do most people (in any job) like being evaluated, or consider it a necessary (forced upon them) evil?

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Maybe Punishing Parents Isn’t Such a Bad Idea After All.

I've Got an Idea!Every so often a student will get in trouble at school.

I know, I know… this comes as a shock to most of you. This is the dirty little secret of education. Students don’t always do exactly what they are told.

But wait, there’s more. You may want to sit down.

Students almost always know the difference between right and wrong. It’s true. I seldom run into a kid who doesn’t understand this concept.

Don’t get me wrong, they may not care but they know.

This knowledge of what is right certainly doesn’t stop them from testing the rules from time to time. Hopefully, this only happens occasionally (because the 1% who are chronic wear me out…)

And when these little bumps in the road happen, it’s okay. Kids are in school to learn. About math, science, social skills, being part of a team, appropriate behavior, and how much they can push the system before they get pushed back.

In my estimation, it is a good thing that students test the boundaries. This is how they learn. And they often pick up these valuable skills from others (sometimes they gain invaluable knowledge from the worst kid in your class… like don’t set the garbage can (or a freshman) on fire).

As educators, our job is to teach students these lessons along with a thousand more (it’s a big job, but it beats working for a living).

Our students need to learn these behaviors before we send them out in the real world.

Of course, while I believe in this, it would be nice if they didn’t test my limits late on Friday afternoon. Or Monday mornings. Or any day where I was up late the night before. Or especially during my lunch break.

Students will make mistakes and it is our job to correct them (consider it job security).

This part of the process never frustrates me.

I have found some of my most loyal students are the ones I have had to discipline in the past.

Once you get them through the process, they are better off for it. And they know it. They may not admit it, but they know it.

Now parents, they are a different story.

I particularly enjoy parents who want to take the blame for their child.

As in “It was my fault they were late. Punish me.” Or “They didn’t get their homework done because I had to go to (fill in the blank). You should give me the detention.”

My response is always the same. We aren’t here to teach parents a lesson.

Although once, just once, I think I would like to punish the parent.

Maybe a Saturday School, a suspension, or even an expulsion.

I truly believe this idea has some merit because just like with kids, you wouldn’t have to punish all the parents to make a point. Just a few.

Bad news travels fast.

And the rest of your parents would learn a valuable lesson.

A lesson they evidently didn’t learn when they went through school.

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The 50% Rule.

50% Rule (or Off)...  Both are Good Deals.If you are a first year principal, my guess is that you are tired.

Why do I think this? Because I’m not a first year principal and I’m tired.

It is part of the job. Like the copying machine always being out of paper, the kids being jumpy during a full moon, a student almost “accidently” hitting you with a ball as you walk through the gym, and having someone complain about something 42 times a day (on a slow day).

There is some good news.

For most administrators, the school year is already about half over. You will make it to the end of the year.

At least, keep telling yourself that.

It is really hard to tell at this point (although I am pulling for you).

During my first year, I had a theory (actually I have thousands of theories… most of which make very little sense, even to me).

My theory during my first year was thousands of principals came before me and they survived.

Surely, I had to be as good as at least one (maybe even two) of them. So I set a goal.

Be a principal for 2 years.

A lofty goal at that point (and to people that knew me… an almost unreachable one).

But I survived. As so might you (again, a little early to tell).

Near the conclusion of my second year, I sat in my office and took a moment to reflect (keep in mind it was a very short moment… as I had a game to get to…as you have probably found out… supervision never stops).

It occurred to me that my second year was easier than the first.

Not easy.

Easier. Let’s not get crazy here.

And just like that, I had myself a new theory.

Every year you are a principal, it gets 50% easier. And for once I have found a theory that has held up over time.

Each school year gets a little more manageable (if you survive this one… and that is really up to the administrative gods at this point).

At least you have something to look forward to. Next year will be easier. About 50% easier if my theory holds.

And that’s the good news.

The bad news is the job of principal starts out on a difficulty scale of about 37,000 %.

Which means you (and the rest of us) are in way over our heads for the next few years.

And by few, I mean until you reach retirement.

If you make it. Really hard to tell at this point.

But I think you will.

At least that’s my theory (let’s hope this one also works… :) ).

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School Buses and Principals. Let the Good Times Roll.

Shouldn't Busses Keep Both Wheels on the Ground?Someone out there has a sense of humor. You may ask yourself, how can I be so sure? Easy.

There are certain things in life that are a constant annoyance. Examples include but are not limited to: wacky weathermen and sportscasters, dial-up internet, scary cab drivers, fast food workers who mess up drive-thru orders, and people who wear blue tooth earpieces (how can these people be so busy that they don’t have the time to lift their cell phone up to their ear).

On top of these daily hassles, the spiritual being in charge (fill in your religious beliefs, or not- here) gave principals a special challenge.
In his (or her) wisdom, he (or she) has given us buses.

At first glance, buses are a wonderful idea. On the outside, they are just big happy yellow vehicles. Little kids grow up dreaming of the day when they can ride the bus to school.

When a preschooler watches videos (whoops….I just dated myself), there is always an exciting cartoon bus with wonderful smiling children looking out the windows. These buses are usually being driven by a very kind driver (and he usually has a mustache… I have no idea why).

These cheerful students aren’t throwing anything, getting out of their seat, putting the windows down too far, or using inappropriate language.

Buses were invented to provide safe and affordable transportation for school-aged children to get to and from school.

But as new school administrators learn in a hurry, there is always (and I mean always) two sides to every story. And buses are no exception.

When one delves a little deeper into the concept of buses, you begin to realize that whoever invented them either disliked principals immensely, or at the very least was having a really bad day. Or more likely, both.

When a teacher is looking for that first job as principal, they find out that the majority of interview questions deal with curriculum, evaluations, goals, staff morale, and discipline.

The discipline questions are a little misleading, because future principals usually assume they are about situations involving shoving, fighting, or disrespect towards staff members.

As candidates go through the interview process, buses are the furthest thing from a new principal’s mind.

If things go well in the interview, the district makes the candidate an offer to become their next principal. This is a very exciting career moment and the poor naïve candidate still has no idea of what awaits them.

They only have thoughts of more money, a big office, and most importantly, the idea of no longer having to babysit a junior high study hall.

The brand new baby-faced principal starts the new job excited and eager to have a positive impact on students and the school. But much to their surprise, the fun is just about to begin.

By fun, I mean buses. Actually, I don’t mean fun. The word I was searching for was… nightmare. That’s it. Nightmare.

If a principal is hired for $60,000, the financial breakdown is as follows: they are paid $59,981 for taking care of bus troubles and $19 for everything else.

Sounds like a good deal, but the truth is bus troubles are worth more than a measly $59,981. And $19 dollars certainly doesn’t cover everything else.

You may be thinking; how much trouble can buses really be?

It is obvious to me that if you are asking yourself that question; you are not an administrator, or you are a massive goofball who has taken an enormous blow to the head (possibly breaking up a fight on… I dunno… maybe a BUS!)

So there you have it. Buses were put on the earth not to transport children, but as a sick joke on school administrators.

Buses are a daily (actually twice a day…plus field trips and extracurricular activities) source of pain, heartache, suffering, and bloodshed.

And that’s just from the principal.

Starting your day with bus troubles is the worst possible thing that can happen to a principal.

Actually that isn’t completely true. Something worse could have happened the night before when the principal was supervising an athletic event.

But that’s another story (or blog).

If someone needs 842 Barney videos that include storylines about sweet children, buses, and kind (by kind, I mean creepy… I think it is the mustaches or it could be the talking dinosaur) bus drivers, please email me.

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What Makes a Good Principal and Other Questions That Confuses Me.

Why Do They Have a Lock on the Front Door?Lately, I have been thinking about what it takes to be a successful school administrator.

I have decided to focus on this difficult question, because so many other things continue to confuse me. Such as…

Why do all Steak n Shake restaurants have locks on their front doors?
Does Donald Trump’s barber brag about having him as a client?
Is there a reason they put holes in crackers?
Why do televisions start with channel 2?
Shouldn’t psychics win the lottery at least once a year?
Why isn’t the caps lock key on my keyboard in ALL CAPS?
Why do overalls have belt loops?
Why does the 0 on my cell phone come after 9 and not before the 1?
What do cows drink, so they can have strong bones?
Is sign language the same, no matter what language you speak?
Why do they call the small candy bars the “fun sizes”? Aren’t the bigger ones more fun?
And why do people say “The alarm just went off” when really it just came on?

As you can tell, it is exhausting being me. Sure, I think of these things, but when I see them in writing (I know… technically typing… please save your email), it occurs to me that I have a lot of free time and I may need some (more) intensive counseling.

But, back to the original question. Why are some people successful in school administration and others are not?

I haven’t been in the business of school administration that long, yet I have seen a lot of people come and go in a very short time.

We all get the same basic college degree in administration. We all come from the same background as a teacher or coach. We all read the same books and administration magazines, go to the same workshops, and attend the same conferences.

Most of us have had formal mentoring or at least someone we could count on to show us the tricks of the job and point out the landmines to avoid.

Is it possible that the college curriculum used in training administrators isn’t enough to prepare principals for the job?

On the other end of the spectrum, is it possible that no training at all is needed? Are some people just born with the skill (and lots of good luck) of being an administrator?

After a lot of deep thought (even I can only think about cows drinking milk for so long), I say yes, or at least maybe.

College classes and professors are great, but they can’t give us all the answers and prepare us for everything. Mainly because no one knows all of the questions or situations that a principal may face on the job.

The good news is being a principal means you’re never bored.

I think the most challenging part of the job is dealing and working with people, which is a terribly hard skill to learn out of a textbook.

No one can teach or mentor a person how to stop an argument, get a student to be 100% honest (87% maybe), organize your thoughts (and desk in some cases), keep junior high boys from doing something foolish (good luck), or get a gym full of students to be quiet by just giving them a look.

In fact, most things about being a principal are learned “on the job.” I can remember numerous times when college professors would say, “Don’t worry about that, you will learn it on the job.”

Maybe there is a better way for our school systems to train future and new administrators.

No books, or presentations, or research papers… just a simple test that could be given to teachers or coaches to see if they have the right makeup for the principal’s job.

Maybe I could make my next (actually, first) fortune in creating a test that would identify candidates with common sense, organization, computer skills, sense of humor, credibility, trustworthiness, visibility, leadership, credibility, ability to model good behavior, work ethic, a knack for choosing the right job, and most of all luck.

If I can just focus and not get distracted long enough to make up the test… oh, never mind…

… Why do teachers give A, B, C, D, and F grades? What happened to the E?

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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.