Be Careful. Evaluations Happen at the Oddest Times.


As you know (or don’t), I’m experiencing a rather weird situation.

No.

Not the rash.  That’s still a whole different story (any opportunity to use the word salve in a blog I take it… and I just did).

The Evil Spawn is in my wife’s 4th grade class.

You may be thinking this must be weird for them, but who really cares.

The important thing is it’s weird for me.

Why?

Because it is.Someone is Watching You.

And it’s my blog, so we are going to focus on my issues (but not all of them because of time constraints).

Having my daughter in her mother’s class struck me as odd from the very beginning.

It’s like prom.

I’ve said it before, the only good thing that can happen (for me… and I’m guessing you’re not surprised) is nothing bad happens.

A successful prom night for me is probably a boring night for the kids.

And I’m okay with that.

I feel the same about this “4th grade experiment”.

The only good thing that can come out of it is nothing bad happens.

No awkward Parent-Teacher Conferences.  No uncomfortable holiday parties.  No field trips where I have to chaperone and share a bus seat with 6 smelly kids over the course of an 18 hour day (which means 17 hours on the bus…  40 minutes in a museum…. and 20 minutes sitting at a picnic table eating a hot sandwich that’s supposed to be cold… probably in the rain).

When the school year started I envisioned a lot of crying.

I wasn’t sure by whom, but I figured one of the four of us would have some sort of breakdown (Buddy the Dog can be very emotional).

Much to my surprise, things have gone smoothly (I have the strange feeling I just jinxed myself).

I shouldn’t be surprised because this goes along with my theory on things almost always turn out just the opposite of what you expect (good and bad… so if you’re anticipating something good happening in the next few days… beware).

They both seem to be enjoying their year together, which means I get to enjoy my time at home.

The only thing that has struck me as odd is the Evil Spawn seems to be doing a year-long observation (the apple doesn’t fall far from the administrative tree).

Each night she comes home and critiques her mother’s performance.

It’s like getting a Broadway review after EVERY show.

Mom was interesting.  Mom was okay.  Mom was funny.  Mom got annoyed.  Mom got tickled.  Mom seemed tired.  Mom danced (ugh).  Mom’s timing was just a little off when she delivered a punch line during the math lesson (again… apple… not far from the tree).

For me it’s been an opportunity to experience my wife teaching without being in the classroom.

For the evil one, it’s a once in a lifetime chance to spend an entire year with her mom watching what she does best (not dance).

But for my wife?

It’s a year-long evaluation at the dinner table.

Good thing she has tenure.

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Teacher Burnout. And Yet, They Still Keep Going to Work.


I give up.

I’m done discussing tenure (arguing… whatever…).

If you have a blog that revolves around education (and as luck would have it… I do) there’s one surefire way to get more readers (and angry emails).

Write about tenure (actually, there’s a second more powerful way… write about homeschooling, but I’m not going there… at least right now).

Tenure is blog gold.She Doesn't Look Burnt Out.

Writing about it is probably not worth the death threats, but luckily for me I have security (Buddy the Dog).

I’ve come to understand people who have tenure love it. 

I mean LOVE it.  Love, love, love it.

Absolutely love it.

Did I mention they love it (like Buddy loves to nap).

And what’s not to love.

You have a job.  You get to keep the job.

Forever.

And as most of you know, that’s a very long time (if you don’t believe me, Google it).

Tenure is a pretty good deal if you can get it.

Then there are the others.

People who don’t have tenure in their careers think it’s impractical and unfair.

They aren’t familiar with our world (hallways, spitballs, junior high goofiness, etc.)

The concept of educators having lifelong jobs is foreign to them.

They believe tenure should only be for Supreme Court Justices.

But that’s okay.  It wouldn’t be much of an argument if everyone agreed (and I do hate it when I want to argue and no one will join me).

No matter which side of the tenure argument you fall on, I know one thing for sure.  I’m not changing anybody’s mind.

So I’ve given up.

But I would like to ask for one exception.

If you publicly announce you’re “Burnt Out” this statement should lead to an automatic recall of your tenure rights (to clarify “publicly” can be in person, on Facebook, or over the phone).

No exceptions.

My theory is once someone says this out loud there is no going back.

If  a person establishes they are “Burnt Out” they can’t come back (at least in the same career).

So if you are in your 1st year of teaching or 30th year and the “Burnt Out” bug hits you, you’re done.

No tenure.

No job.

No nothing (except your pension and maybe parting gifts, but that’s it).

Because teaching is kind of important and once the passion has left you, so should tenure (maybe I will win this discussion… argument… whatever… but I’m not going to hold my breath).

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The Future of Education?


I’ve been thinking about writing(?) this blog for several months (ugh…I just realized I’m a procrastinator).

What Does the Near Future Hold?

My thought was to blog about how schools will be different in 10 years.

After numerous attempts, I’ve given up (evidently I’m also a quitter).

I really have no idea how schools are going to change.

But I’m positive they will (but what do I know…).

So as a loyal reader with time to burn (I love summer), what’s your opinion?

How will schools be different in 2020?

Will they be better or worse?

What role will technology, unions, government, teachers, parents, tenure, business, politicians, administrators, NCLB, and everything else play in our schools?

Or am I wrong?

Is it possible schools will look exactly the same?

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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.

What?

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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No Tenure for You. Come Back One Year (or Not).


I’ve steered clear of the following blog topic for the last three years (how time flies when you are blogging).

No, not the discussion on whether or not Seinfeld is the best TV show of all-time ( it is… BJ and the Bear comes in a close second).

Tenure.

This seems to be the hottest of all education topics.

Hotter than testing, the perceived worthlessness of administrators (I said perceived… because all of us are worth our weight in… well, in something), or the lack of parental support.The Soup Nazi (Seinfeld).

Tenure trumps them all.

Just saying the word can provoke a heated discussion (and get you beaten up in a Teacher’s Lounge near you…).

You are either for it, or against it.

It’s hard to find someone who rides the fence on this issue (much like Dancing With the Stars… some love it and some find it as enjoyable as abdominal cramps).

To me that’s the problem.

Those of us with tenure (yes, I am a proud owner (or not) of what could be construed as a lifetime teaching job) absolutely love the idea.

And what’s not to love.

Tenured teachers have jobs (very important in this day and age).  If that wasn’t enough, they (evil administrators) can’t fire those tenured teachers.

And as an added bonus, our raises are based on the number of years we have taught and has nothing to do with productivity.

It’s a little piece of heaven.

I’m not saying this is right.  I’m not saying it’s wrong.

I’m just saying it’s our system.

Then there is the anti-tenure crowd.

This is a rather large and angry group which includes pretty much everyone else in the free world (and most people in Cuba).

Anyone who doesn’t have tenure (99.999999% of all humans) believes it is the dumbest idea since New Coke (which incidentally, I enjoyed).

These people think far too many teachers who attain tenure end up going through the motions while cashing an ever increasing paycheck.

I’m not saying they are right.

I’m not saying they are wrong.

I am saying tenure is woven into the fabric of our educational system.

Some states are considering passing No Tenure Laws (way to be a leader Florida… and I’m crossing my fingers you don’t send us another Bush for The White House…).

Tenure has never seemed very American to me.

I’ve always thought our country was built on the idea that if you work hard and pay your dues (figure of speech… not Union) it’s possible to make your fortune and climb the ladder of success.

If you think like I do (and for your sake, I pray you don’t), tenure may be holding good teachers back.

They aren’t granted the opportunity to be judged financially on the great work they do.

They are lumped in with all teachers, good and bad. 

Those who work 12 hour days and those who hardly work at all.

I think that’s a shame.

Tenure doesn’t help our best and brightest.

It doesn’t promote working harder, thinking outside the box (which is the dumbest phrase since… Where’s the Beef?), or going above and beyond.

Unfortunately, it’s major purpose seems to be protecting older teachers from vindictive administrators and school boards.

This is important, but is it reason enough to keep tenure in 2010?

The title of this blog comes from The Soup Nazi.  My hero.  My mentor.  My compadre (at least he will be after I learn Spanish).

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Time For My Dog’s First Evaluation. I Hope He Isn’t Planning on Getting Tenure.


We have a new dog.

I thought about calling him the Always Hungry, Constantly Napping, Strange Smells Escaping from Several Body Parts, Chewing on My Shoes, High Maintenance/High Drama Animal but this didn’t seem catchy enough.

So we went with Buddy the Dog.

When we got him, I decided it would be a good idea if we ran a 5k together.

After all, dogs love to run. And I could use the exercise and stress relief (especially at the end of the school year). It would be a bonding experience between man and beast.

Like most of my ideas, I considered it sheer genius.

And like most of my ideas, it wasn’t.

We are now 7 weeks into my plan and it’s apparent that our training regimen isn’t going well.

Buddy is evidently more perceptive than me. He decided it wasn’t going well after about 3 minutes.

When we first met him there was no doubt he was a go getter.

His owners told us that he couldn’t get enough exercise. Evidently, they didn’t tell him.

The first few times we ran together, he was a machine. He ran and ran and ran.

I could barely keep up.

There was no stopping him. He could run 4 miles and barely break a sweat.

Then one day it was hot. And humid.

He got tired. And stopped. And layed down. And had a brainstorm.

As he lay under a shade tree on his back with all 4 legs in the air, I could tell his little golf ball-sized brain was really mulling the situation over.

In retrospect, that was the exact moment he decided the human wasn’t in charge.

He was.

And the 5K wasn’t going to happen. Not on his watch.

He hasn’t run since.

And trust me, I’ve tried.

I take off in a full sprint. He sits down and stares at me. And it isn’t just a stare. It’s a mocking glare.

After I regain my composure and my balance, I always try again. I take off. He doesn’t budge.

The glare he gives is easy to recognize because I get it from time to time at school. I must admit, it hurts even when coming from a different species.

This isn’t even the worst part.

In a matter of 6 short weeks, he has gone from a former show dog living in a kennel… to a pampered family pet that not only doesn’t run, but doesn’t even walk outside at night to use the bathroom.

He has to be carried.

I wish I were kidding.

Here are the pictures to prove it.

Sleepy and Lazy.
Buddy the Dog Thinks He Is a Baby.

It’s just a matter of time before we have to put him in the car and drive him down the block to the fire hydrant so he can take care of business.

His business.

On his terms.

Maybe his next evaluation will go well, but as of now he certainly has some areas on which he needs improvement.

Or could it be possible that I have some areas on which to improve? Maybe he and I should’ve had a pre-conference before we brought him home.

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Everyone Has a Price. When it Comes to Tenure, What’s Yours?


I was reading an article in the New York Times about Michelle Rhee, the Chancellor of Washington D.C. public schools who has a dramatic idea on how to improve education.

She wants teachers to give up tenure. And earn more money.

Actually it is a little more complicated than that. Here is the link.What's Your Price?

To quote Ms. Rhee, “Tenure is the holy grail of teacher unions, but has no educational value for kids; it only benefits adults”.

The Washington Teacher’s Union has been hesitant to take her up on the proposal.

This blog isn’t about whether tenure is good or bad, but the amount it would take for you to give it up.

So would you?

Give up tenure? For a price?

And what is your price?

Don’t kid yourself, everyone has one. Mine is $2,000. Not a penny less. Alright, who am I kidding? $45. But that is my final offer.

You add that onto my salary each year and I will take my chances.

This may sound foolish, but in these tough economic times I think most people might settle for less than you think.

I would be interested if given this opportunity, but is there anyone else? And what amount would it take for you to roll the dice and work without tenure?

This may not be for everyone, but is it for you?

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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.