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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Graduates: Rules for Real Life.


It’s the season.  Graduation Season. I’ve been too busy to blog, so here’s some advice for the Decatur Herald and Review. (Decatur, Illinois)Good Luck Class of 2013!

Since it’s graduation season, this seems to be a good time to publish this list of rules for graduates as they move on in life.

The rules are often, incorrectly, attributed to Bill Gates or deceased novelist Kurt Vonnegut. The list, however, is the work of Charles J. Sykes, author of the book “Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can’t Read, Write, or Add.”

At any rate, it’s a good list to think about:

Rule 1: Life is not fair; get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will not make $60,000 a year right out of high school.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger-flipping. They called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rainforest from the parasites of your parents’ generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades, and they’ll give you as many chances as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off, and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is not real life. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

There are three additional rules that aren’t always printed:

Rule 12: Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic.

Rule 13: You are not immortal. If you are under the impression that living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse is romantic, you obviously haven’t seen one of your peers at room temperature lately.

Rule 14: Enjoy this while you can. Sure, parents are a pain, school’s a bother and life is depressing. But someday, you’ll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now.

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QR Code Birthday Cake.


The Evil Spawn just turned 12.Happy Birthday Ashton.

She’s a nerd and I use this term with respect.

She’s a great nerd (she prefers geek).

For her birthday, she wanted a QR code cake and a QR coded scavenger hunt that led her and her friends all over town.

They went to all of her old haunts.  From her first babysitter to the dentist’s office where she lost her first tooth. 

The clues led them to the grocery store where they had to figure out how much money we have spent on Buddy the Dog’s food in the last four years.

They even visited their 2nd grade teacher where they had to recall the order of the planets from their very first big school project and recite them to her in order (funny what they forget).

They had a blast even though they have evidently forgotten everything they learned in 2nd grade.

It’s good to have a school technology coordinator as a mom.

Go ahead, scan the cake with your reader.  It works.

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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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Test Scores and Garage Doors.


Educators hate mandated testing.Garage Door Theory.

Hate.  Hate.  Hate it.

It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard (for those of you younger than 35… chalkboards were used to write on and deliver notes to students before your fancy whiteboards and SMARTBoards came along).

Yet, I think schools perform at a higher level because of testing (not a popular position, I know). 

That being said, I disagree with many of the decisions by the people (politicians) who have put testing in place.

The truth is people perform better when they are evaluated. 

I don’t like it.  You don’t like it.  Nobody likes it.

I’ve never met anyone who said "Yeah, it’s time for my evaluation.  Sweet!"

I can’t say testing has made students smarter, but I think it’s made teachers and administrators more accountable.

I also think it’s a mortal lock that everyone involved, from politicians to testing companies, has benefited more than kids from all this "testing business".

Don’t kid yourself, it’s big business.  Really big.

Those who demand more testing also seem to believe scores are a reflection of student intelligence.  Higher Scores = Better Teachers and Smarter Students.

I don’t buy this.

As educators, we face challenges that can’t be tested.

I think the number one challenge for education and educators in this country is poverty.

My late father-in-law used to say he could drive through any community and tell you their test scores.  He called it his "Garage Door Theory".

More garage doors equaled higher test scores.

Communites with large houses with three car garages did better than communities with smaller houses and fewer garages.

Maybe his theory was a bit simplistic.  Or maybe he was more correct than most of us want to believe.

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Sandy Hook Elementary, Newtown, Connecticut.


I haven’t written a blog about what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday, December 14, 2012 for a couple of reasons.Sandy Hook Elementary.

First, my life at school has been busy.  Extremely busy.

I’m always swamped this time of year, but this tragedy made things even busier (I’m not complaining).

Parents, students, and staff were more shaken about this event than anything I’ve ever experienced.

During Columbine, I was a snot-nosed young teacher, so I’m sure I didn’t realize the impact it had on my administrators and school at the time.

Secondly and most importantly, an event like this doesn’t lend itself to snarky sarcastic blog writing (this is my go to move).

So, I’ve taken some time off from blogging.

And I’m glad I did.

I think the most important thing we can do at times like this is be reflective.

The best reaction is not to overreact.  This can be hard to do when everyone around you wants you to "Do something!"

In the face of tragedy, we all want to immediately implement rules or procedures to fix our own situation.

And often times, that’s the worst thing we can do.

Time will give us many of the answers we are searching for.

Lessons will be learned from what happened in Connecticut.

Schools will become safer.  Politicians will eventually do the right thing (I hope).  Administrators and teachers will be better trained.

Students who are already safe will be even safer in the future.

These things will take time, but they will happen.

This of course, will never fix what happened, but we have to understand we can’t fix it.

We can only make things better from this point forward.

This can sound cold and uncaring, but it’s not.  It is why I didn’t write a blog the next day.

As a side note… Why does the news media put children and families who were directly involved in a tragedy on TV, but won’t show a drunk fan who runs on the field during a professional baseball or football game because they don’t want to "glorify" their actions?

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Twitter is the New Teachers’ Lounge.


A long, long time ago I was hired as a teacher.Twitter Is What You Make of It.

Now we aren’t here to question the good judgment of the gentleman who made this decision, but we probably should discuss it at some point.

For whatever reason, he chose me out of 3 candidates.

I may not have been the greatest teacher, but I was evidently better than the other two.

Or they may have turned the job down right before he offered it to me.

I will never know.

But lucky for me, I had a job.

When I was hired, he gave me some good advice.  After he put his cigarette out.

Yes, times have changed.  In today’s world you would never see a high school principal sitting at his desk hiring a new teacher while sucking on a cancer stick.

But two decades ago, I did.

And I remember his advice like it was yesterday.

He said "Mike, take this advice or don’t.  Doesn’t make me any difference.  But, if I was a brand new teacher, I would stay out of the teacher’s lounge."

Then he went back to smoking.  He really seemed to enjoy it.

I took his advice.  And vowed to never smoke at my desk because I didn’t want my fingers to be yellow.

He didn’t tell me why I should stay out of the lounge, but I remember thinking at the time he must know something I don’t because he had been in education forever.

And I mean forever.

His fingers were REALLY yellow.

These days, I’m starting to think Twitter has become the new Teacher’s Lounge.

Neither one is bad, but they are what you make of them.

Both can provide educators positive and upbeat experiences, but both can also suck the living life out of you.

In either place, I think it’s very easy to get caught up in complaining about schools, students, parents, and even politicians.

If I was giving advice in today’s world (and I am), I would say don’t go anywhere where the people around you make you feel bad about your profession.

This might mean the lounge.  This might also mean Twitter.

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The $425 Million Powerball is All Mine.


Don’t waste your money on buying a ticket.Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner.

I’m winning.

Actually, the woman who I’m relegated to by marriage is winning.  All of "our" money goes in "her" account.

But don’t feel badly for me.  I have total access to "our" money.

Just as long as I don’t spend any of it.  In her defense, she doesn’t spend any of it either.

This explains the bumper sticker on her car "She Who Dies With the Most Wins!".

We decided to buy a Powerball ticket last night.  By we, I mean she said "Stop here, so "we" can buy a Powerball ticket."  I think it’s cute she includes me.

After we purchased the winning ticket (we didn’t win), the woman I’m related to by marriage and chauffeur around so she can gamble "our" money away ($20 for losing tickets) asked what "we" would do with the money when we won (again… for clarification… we are giant losers… so far).

She wants 2 vacation houses.  One on a beach.  One in the woods.

I think a lake house would be the answer, but it’s not "my" money now is it (again, we lost).

The Evil Spawn wants iEverything.  And $1,000,000 in Fun Money.

Seems excessive, but then again I’ve never had $425 million (and never will… even if "we" win) so who am I to judge.

If she is going to be spoiled, might as well go big.

Me, I want nothing.  But a nap.

My concern is if (when) "we" win, how much am I going to have to spend on security?

I have zero interest in getting kidnapped by members of the Mexican Drug Cartel.  I’m not sure why I’m afraid of them, but it just seems like the logical thing to be frightened by.

Actually, "we" decided after the vacation homes and iJunk to take the rest of the money and spend the rest of our lives (length will depend on Cartel) giving it away.

Our foundation will be called "Buddy’s Gift" after Buddy the Dog – the Patriarch of Our Family.

So don’t bother buying a Powerball ticket this week because "we" are winning.

And "we" have big plans to give away the money.

Actually, go ahead and buy a ticket.

It will just make "our" winning amount that much larger.

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Seeking Solitude: Unplugging From An Increasingly Wired World.


Article by Martha Irvine, AP National Writer.We Need Quiet.

"Seeking Solitude".  Click HERE.

I’m more and more convinced that this is an absolute must for teachers, administrators, and students.

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Every Teacher Has Faced This Ultimate Struggle.


It’s the student who doesn’t get it, but should.

From Kid Snippets.

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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.