In Education, What’s Really Important.


As a school administrator, one of the best parts of my job is seeing students mature into young adults.  Keep in mind it’s only one part.  Getting a paycheck is also quite pleasant.Really?

I see first graders grow up and become Prom King or Queen.  I blink my eyes and the fourth graders who play soccer or basketball during recess are now playing on high school teams.  Little kids who sing their hearts out in music class suddenly become the lead performers in the high school musical.

Time goes by so quickly (a sure sign of old age).  The experiences we have with our kids when they are young are valuable.  It is the basis of how successful they will become as adults.

This is why parents are always concerned about their child’s education.  They want everything to go just right (and in my case to make sure The Evil Spawn is self-efficient enough to live in her home after she graduates).

Parents want the best for their son or daughter and that’s how it should be.

They worry about getting them in the right school.  They worry about them having an advanced curriculum.  They are concerned about getting them placed with the proper teacher.

I think all of these concerns are valid, but in my opinion they are not the biggest issue in regards to a student having a positive school experience.

The number one thing a student needs to be successful is placement in the right class with the right mix of students.

In the correct situation with the right peer group, a student can make wonderful progress.

Academics can improve.  Behavior will be appropriate.  Attitude won’t be a problem (until they become teenagers… then it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves).

Without the right peers, all of this can go the wrong direction.

A good class can bring everyone along for the ride.  Every student will maximize their potential.  A bad class can drag everyone down to the bottom.

This doesn’t mean they all have to be “A” students.  It’s more about their personalities meshing.

Student placement in the right class far outweighs the right teacher or certain school building.

I don’t discourage parents from worrying about their child’s school, teacher, or curriculum.

They just shouldn’t forget to worry about the peer group that will surround their son or daughter for the next 13 years (if all goes well, of course).

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Teachers Have Power.


Testing.Shhhhhhhhh.  Testing.

It’s the never ending education topic.

I think we need testing, but probably not to the extent the government is shoving down our throats (and normally our government does a GREAT job!).

One day, it will be readjusted and we will test students just the right amount for their indivdual progress and goals.

Sadly, we aren’t there yet.

Everyone complains about the amount of stress testing puts on students and teachers.

Don’t even get me started on the billions of dollars being made by faceless companies who are part of the testing process.

It’s BIG business.  Really BIG.

Then there is the little secret no one ever acknowledges.  The intregal part of testing that is left unspoken.

Teachers are powerful.

Very powerful.

Without them, there’s no testing.

When teachers in individual schools or states decide they’ve had enough testing, we will see a change.

Can you imagine if teachers refused to test?

Up to this point, they have been very compliant.  Teachers usually are.

But one day, I think they may decide as a group they’ve had enough.

If that happens, things will change.  And change very quickly.

So it begins in Seattle.

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The Scariest Feeling You Can Experience in School.


Working in a school is more fun than a real job.Shock and Horror.

But there are times that can be unsettling.

1.) The sad day that is July 5, when you realize summer is almost over (downhill from there).

2.) The morning you wake up expecting a snow day and it’s 52 degrees and sunny.

3.) Anytime the government gets involved in education.

But all of these pale in comparison to the worst feeling an educator sitting at his or her desk can experience.

It happens every year.

I know this because people email me within seconds of this tragic event.

The tone of the email is always the same.  Shame mixed with fear wrapped in an apology.

5.) It’s when an employee using a school computer goes to one website and ends up on another.

The unexpected site rhymes with born, thorn, sworn, torn, and worn.

It’s always the same series of events.  They type in an innocent web address and they end up someplace entirely different.

Usually, the site is only on the computer for seconds, but it can seem like hours when they are frantically hitting the Escape or Delete button.  Some have even pulled the power cord.

This stress and shame is compounded if there are children within 100 feet.

I always get the sense they are sweating profusely when they send the email pleading their innocence.

First, I’m not the computer police.  I know it was accident.

And second, why do innocent people always feel so guilty?

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This Will Make Every Teacher Very Happy.


Last week I had a good day because I only worked half of it.Lotterys Are Fun.

At lunch time, I snuck out (and before you tell on me… I filled out the proper paperwork).

I have to sneak out.  If not 197 people stop me.

This is bad.

The good thing is each one of them only "needs a second".

Superintendent Math:  197 people x 1 second = 17 hours and 19 minutes.

So, I was very happy to get out of the building without being stopped.

I spent a beautiful fall day working with a dog like a dog in the yard.  I’m not sure what Buddy does when I’m at school, but I know what he does when I’m home.

He lays in the exact spot where I need to work.

It’s creepy.  Wherever I turn, there he is.

Sleeping.

And snoring.

Note to dog who lives in my house and eats my food:  It’s a big yard.  Go sleep in a flowerbed I’m not weeding.

While I was working, I had an endless stream of ingenious ideas.

Most of which I forgot within two minutes.

The one I remember is golden.

Everyone loves a day off.

Everyone looks forward to it.

How about each school employee gets one Lottery Day Off every five years.

Here is how it works.

Each Friday the school hires an extra sub.

Before first period, the entire staff gathers in the gym for a drawing.

After a drum roll and lots of anticipation, one employee is pulled from a fancy machine filled with ping pong balls.

When your name is pulled, you get to go home.

No questions asked.

Just a bonus day off.

Teachers, administrators, janitors, cooks, secretaries… everybody is eligible.

A day off is great.  An unexpected day off is better.

Everyone would look forward to Fridays, just because of the excitement of not having to stay.  Actually, everyone looks forward to Fridays already, but that’s not important.

I don’t see a downside to this idea. 

Other than the cost of a sub and the bitterness of those who don’t win. 

Now, I just need to find a fancy lottery machine with ping pong balls and a large group of people who want to go home.

One is going to be a lot easier to find than the other…I will let you decide which is which.

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Do Educators Have a Boss?


I’m confused.Is the Customer Always Right?

Who do we see as our boss?

The department head?

The principal?

The superintendent?

The school board?

The community?

Government?

Who?

Some may say students, but we don’t really answer to them.

If we did, we would give them what they want and not what we think they need.

So who is our actual boss?

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Technology in Schools Is a Fad. Trust Me.


Why are we still talking about this?  The constant conversation about the need for technology in schools. Schools Need Less Technology (Work With Me... I'm Making a Point).

Why are we still trying to convince teachers and administrators this is needed?

Some might even say it’s the wave of the future?  Crazy talk if you ask me.

Technology is the "next big thing".

Like automobiles.  Fire.  Batteries.  Movable type.  Bottled water.  Daily showers.

Trust me, these never caught on and neither will technology.

I think the naysayers are right.

Technology is a fad that will never last (like ballpoint pens, air conditioning, laser beams, and Subway… because who in their right mind would pay some  17-year old kid to make them a sandwich?).

There are educators out there who understand this.

They’ve seen this same type of thing happen time and again in education.   This too shall pass.

They are the ones leading the real charge.  They are the ones mumbling and looking at their watches during professional development.

They gather in the hallways (often during class time) and point out what’s wrong with this technology scenario.

Technology isn’t here for the long haul.

Sure, it’s caught our fancy for the moment, but it will disappear.  Trust them.

It’s time we stopped preaching to these people in our schools.  It’s time we followed them.

They are the visionaries.  They are the leaders.

They are the ones we should be following.

These forerunners will no longer hear me trying to bring them over to the side of technology.

From now on, I am all about paper and pencil.

It may not be what the kids want, but it’s what they need (and who knows better what the future needs than the past).

I owe so many people apologies.  I’m sending them all an email apology.

Now, if someone in their buildings would just help them check… because they are also the ones constantly telling me their email machine is broken.

And I for one, would hate for them to be left out.

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Post Semester Stress Disorder.


Try It.  You Might Like It.

The sound you hear are sighs of relief (or crying in some cases).

School employees are in full exhale mode.

The semester is winding down (or crashing… whatever…).

The holiday/winter/Christmas break is here.

Students, teachers, and parents are happy and relieved (although parents won’t be quite so happy after their kids are home for a couple of weeks… and by parents I mean me).

I’m fascinated how school employees go through an emotional ringer as they face the start or end of something.

The beginning of school brings added stress, but so does the end of a semester.

Do people who work in the regular world face these same issues?

Or are they exempt because they never get an end or a beginning?

They have the start of their career and retirement.  That’s the list.

We have beginnings and endings several times a year.

As school employees, we are lucky.

Weekends off.  Holidays.  Summer breaks.

Even though these all bring a certain amount of stress, we need to remember we have a good life.

A really good life.

And as I repeatedly tell myself, working at school beats a real job.

Even with the stress.

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Teachertudes.


Another blog request has rolled into the email inbox.

Counting this one, I’m up to at least two (could be more, but I doubt it).

A loyal reader (and anyone who wades through more than one of these blogs has to be considered loyal) has asked how to keep great new teachers positive and free from the negative tainting of veteran teachers?

Let’s be honest.

Tainting is their word, not mine (don’t ask me why, but it just seems wrong).

And if I knew the answer to this dilemma (or riddle) I wouldn’t be posting it for free on a blog.

Can anyone say book deal?  This is America, so I might as well make a little money off other school administrators’ problems (have you ever noticed we all have the same 10 problems?).

But I don’t really want to write(?) a book for two reasons.

One, nobody has asked (surprise, surprise) and two, because it would be an insult to everyone who actually knows how to use an adverb.Attitude is a Choice.  Choose Wisely.

Since a book deal doesn’t seem imminent (and by imminent I mean ever), I’m going to throw my 2 cents in for free just this once (this is blog #450 so once comes relatively often).

See if you recognize this situation.

New teacher is hired.  New teacher is excited.  New teacher arrives at school early and stays late.  New teacher is upbeat and positive.

New teacher’s room is next door to a teacher who’s not quite as excited, arrives right on time and leaves the second they can, and can’t be considered either upbeat nor positive.

Plus new teacher makes the rookie mistake of eating lunch in the lounge (Noooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!).

What happens next?

New teacher gets less excited, is told he or she doesn’t have to arrive early and stay late, and gets less and less positive.

If it’s happened once, it’s happened 8.73456 billion times (guesstimate, but I’m close).

What should an administrator do?

Actually, I’m hoping someone will tell me (after all I’m not just here to babble… I’m also here to learn).

My suggestion, until someone smartens me up, is proximity and reward.

Separate your good staff from bad.  Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it’s worth a try.

If an upbeat teacher (not necessarily new) is drug down by a less than upbeat teacher (not necessarily old or veteran) there’s plenty of blame to go around.

And some of this blame should land directly on the administration’s desk.

A teaching staff has something in common with real estate:  location, location, location.

While you cant’ control attitudes, you can control where these attitudes go to thrive or die.

There’s no exact science here, it’s mostly trial and error (Welcome to Education).

Put great attitudes by bad attitudes.  Put great attitudes by great attitudes.  Mix them up.  Move them around.  Draw names out of a hat.  Try anything (kids are worth it).

Teachers (and administrators) are hired to work in a school district.  They aren’t hired to work in a particular building or specific room.

Nothing says one teacher gets to stay in the same classroom for 40 years (it’s not “theirs”… it’s the kids’).

Call the moving van (or custodian) and rearrange your attitudes.

Don’t let one part of your staff dictate the mood of a building.

Another thing worth trying is rewards.

Overwhelm your positive staff members.

Give them the nicest room, more technology, cool erasers, good parking, candy, or something as simple as a compliment.

Everyone wants to be recognized as being good at their jobs.  And nothing improves attitudes like free stuff.

This blog could have been titled Administratortudes, Principaltudes, or Pretty Much Any Peopletudes.

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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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Acceptable Behavior.


Once a teacher, always a teacher.

When you teach, you get more than a paycheck.

You get special powers.I'll Give You Something to Cry About.

The most sacred of all of these powers is the ability to correct a child with a “look”.

Any child.

Any time.

Any where.

Restaurants, movie theaters, ballgames, and church are just a few of the places where this gift comes in handy.

If I have to explain this concept (or the “look”), you have never been alone in a classroom of 25+ students (please feel free to replace the word “students” with something more descriptive).

Having the gift also means you have the innate ability to judge others on their parenting skills (I’m not proud of this and I’m not saying it is right… I’m just saying it happens).

The other day I heard a parent say to their child “Your behavior is not acceptable!”

I wanted to say (although you will be proud of me for biting my tongue…) “His behavior is completely acceptable or else he wouldn’t do it.”

And that is teaching and parenting in a sentence.

Most kids do exactly what is expected of them.

Nothing more.

Nothing less.

Discipline is the gift that keeps on giving.

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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.