I’ve been there.
I’ve been there.
It is my hope that through this blog someone at some point actually learns something.
I know it’s not likely, but hope is all I’ve got.
Many times, I know the advice I’m giving is directed squarely at me.
So lets hope today, someone learns something.
This is my plan.
Technology is great.
It’s also suffocating.
When you are a new principal or superintendent, you are constantly told to communicate, be active in the community, be seen at school, and respond to questions and concerns as quickly as possible.
In this day and age, you can literally be "at" work 24 hours a day.
You can receive and send messages/information all day, every day.
You can check your email while eating, mowing, walking, and seconds before you fall asleep or within moments of waking up.
And it can literally suck the life out of you (I apologize for the language, but sometimes it’s nice to work blue).
That’s why I have this new plan.
At least one day a week. Or more likely, at least part of one day during the week.
I’m thinking Sundays may work best for me.
No emails. No blogs. No Facebook. No Twitter. No phone calls.
I’m going underground. Off the radar. Incognito.
Surely these same school buildings that have been standing for 100 years will survive one more day if I turn off my phone.
And if they don’t, there probably won’t be school on Monday anyway.
It’s easy to be needed.
It’s much harder to realize everyone else will be just fine without you.
I’m officially copyrighting "No Technology Day for Administrators." From now on, my speeches in front of literally thousands and thousands of people will include not only a push for administrators using technology, but also a push not to use technolgy.
At least one day a week.
This is the nicest email anyone has ever sent me. And keep in mind, I get a lot of emails.
"Teachers complaining about me to the superintendent. Had to find something to take my mind off to a better place. Thank you for the blogs!
First, since when do teachers complain about principals?
Second, never mind.
It doesn’t seem like that long.
It’s only 60 seconds. What could possibly go wrong in such a short amount of time?
If you are a school administrator you know.
You understand that things change quickly.
Things can be "bee-bopping" right along and then BOOM!!! There it is (that should be a song).
In 60 seconds a good day can go to bad. A bad day can go to worse. And the worst day can… I hate to even say (if you are just starting your career… Godspeed… and keep your head on a swivel).
That’s why on the nicest quietest days, a principal, dean, or superintendent never lets their guard down.
They can’t afford to.
The next phone call or meeting could unleash holy terror (my second religious reference… weird).
Indescribable drama is always just around the corner.
Or on the next voicemail. Or in the next email (or 72 emails… which is what I call an average day).
Or the worst kind. The unexpected drop-in.
There is nothing that will ruin your day quicker than an agitated parent yelling "What are YOU going to DO about….?"
It’s not much.
But it can be.
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.
The superintendent’s life can be a busy one.
But I know it’s the same for principals, teachers, secretaries, custodians, parents, students, and Buddy the Dog.
Well, not Buddy. He’s not that busy. Unless you count 17 hour naps as busy (I’m so sick of holding a mirror under his snout to see if he’s still breathing).
Everyone is busy, so I’m not complaining.
But lately, I have been unusually busy.
School. The Evil Spawn’s athletic career (I use athletic… and career… loosely).
This week I added to my troubles by throwing in a one-day trip to Discovery Education in Washington, D.C.
One-day and trip should never be used in the same sentence (and I just did it twice… idiot!!).
I really didn’t have time, but I knew I needed to make the time. After all, it’s Washington D.C. (you can never turn down a free trip to your nation’s capital… unless you are a communist… and if you are… I’m not judging).
The trip was good. Not great.
Blog sarcasm karma reached up and slapped me in the face. Again.
When will I ever learn?
Note to self: Don’t write a blog about what type of person you don’t want to sit next to on a flight because karma will mock you by sitting someone worse next to you the very next day.
I get on the plane. Take my window seat (which is an opportunity to be the first one to notice an engine is on fire).
And then it happens. Nope, not a lady with a baby (that’s a different blog),
A young strong woman (freakishly strong) sits down and announces "I’m the worst flyer you’ve ever met. I apologize in advance for screaming and I’ll probably grab you at some point".
Well, thanks for the warning. And for cranking up my stress level because people with brand new vasectomies always hope to be grabbed by perfect strangers on a plane.
Here’s a sentence you almost never hear people say… "I wish I had MORE swelling!"
The worst part? She screamed so loud on take off there was no way anyone was going to hear me crying like a little girl when she grabbed my man parts like a grocery bag.
Let’s just say, it was a long flight.
But it got worse.
The airline "misplaced" my luggage. Which I’m told (by them) is better than "losing" it.
I should have known there was going to be trouble. It’s never a good sign when you get off the plane on the middle of the tarmac.
The good news is they "found" my luggage.
Since I arrived at the hotel late, I got to eat dinner by myself in their ridiculously high-priced restaurant.
Who pays $14 for a hamburger?
After dinner, I retired to my hotel room to get a good night’s rest before going over to Discovery Corporate Headquarters.
I was excited.
You see, the $14 hamburger turned on me.
It’s 1:00 am. I’m in Washington by myself. And I’m face down in the bathroom eating tile.
I thought I was dying. At one point I was hoping I was dying.
I just knew I was leaving this world like Elvis.
How sad. A small school superintendent found alone in a hotel in a compromising position.
People were bound to talk.
I didn’t care.
Just stop the cramping.
Luckily, I eventually fell asleep. In bed, as far as you know.
I got up and felt like a million bucks. Food poisoning evidently doesn’t last long on the East Coast.
Maybe it’s the time change.
I made my way to Discovey and had a wonderful time.
But that’s another blog.
I’ll get to the Techbook Discovery people. I promise.
When you go to Superintendent School they teach you a lot of things.
Usually, this lesson is enough to pique one’s interest.
They also teach you about public relations, finances, and school law.
That’s the good part.
The bad part is they don’t teach you everything. Some things you just have to learn on the job.
This is not very reassuring…for the superintendent and school board.
Lots of Responsibility + Lack of Knowledge = Ruh Roh, Raggy!
In a perfect world, superintendents would be prepared when they started their new careers, but as you might’ve heard, the world isn’t always perfect (if this is news to you… I’m sorry you had to hear it here).
The superintendentcy is a big job, so I can’t really blame universities if some things fall through the cracks.
Not to complain but… there is one little tidbit I would like to see college professors share before diplomas are handed out.
Teach future educational leaders how to say "No".
Everyone can say "Yes", but only a select few can say "No".
I think this gets many people into trouble. It’s almost like new superintendents need a safe word.
Personally, mine is "Serenity now!" (if you see me screaming this while huddled in a corner rocking back and forth in a fetal position… please back away slowly… and notify the authorities).
Saying no sounds simple, but it’s hard.
Especially for people who haven’t been taught.
I want it noted this is the only blog where you get Superintendent talk mixed in with Seinfeld and Scooby-Doo references. You’re welcome.
As I get ready to change jobs something has occurred to me.
No, it’s not the daily opportunity to shove the Evil Spawn into a locker (although this does sound enticing… and may just happen at some point).
It’s the fact, I will be living in the same town where I work.
This is unprecedented.
Not for normal school administrators.
I’ve always lived in a different town from where my school has been located.
This may seem odd to some, but it’s worked for me.
It was nice to drive away each night and leave my troubles behind. At least until my cell phone rang.
Funny how trouble knows my number.
Now, I no longer have that advantage of anonymity.
But I do have the opportunity to go to school with the Spawn (the odds of her ever getting asked out on a date have just dropped dramatically).
Like so many things in life, there’s some good and some bad.
On the upside, I will be living within one mile of my schools.
On the downside, I will be living within one mile of my schools.
I’m not going to lie, I’m a little concerned.
Proximity may not be my best friend.
This makes me wonder how I will ever get away.
Disappearing is a possibility.
And I’m not above faking my own death. Although it will be much harder once the authorities read this blog (like anyone reads this blog…).
Maybe it’s just me (but I’m guessing it’s not), but when we go on vacation I’m always struck by how easy it would be to just disappear.
Find a small town. Find a job. Live under the radar.
Stay out of bar fights (easier said than done).
I bet this happens more than we know.
But how does one do this in daily life?
How do you work as a superintendent and be a parent without being consumed by school every second of every day?
Is it possible?
Or am I setting myself up for another extended period of insanity?
Should I get my fake ID’s in order (I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve had to do this)?
Should I ask to be put on the substitute teacher list in Jordan, Montana (see I just picked this off the map… I’m telling you it’s not that hard to disappear)?
Is this my only chance of peace and quiet?
Subbing in a town you’ve never heard of.
Or can you live and work and continuously bother the Evil Spawn in one town?
I guess time will tell. And by then the spawn will be 30 years old and still single.
In the meantime, I’m not the only one who needs to hide. I measured her locker this morning and I’m pretty sure the Evil Spawn will fit.
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. (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 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.
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.