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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Parents: Just Say No.


I’m old, so I have the right to complain about all of society’s problems.NO!  Say It!

As an old person, I’m of course bothered by young people and their new-fangled ways and crazy ideas.

I like things, not the way they were, but the way I remember them (which is a lot better than they were).

Lots of things bug me, but I don’t have time (or the strength at my advanced age) to blog about all of them.

One, stop with the trophies.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  if your kid (or mine) is crappy at a particular activity, they don’t deserve a trophy.

This leads them to believe they are just as good as the other kids and it’s just not true.

It’s okay to be bad.  It encourages children (and adults) to search for activities in which they are better.

Finishing 2nd stinks, but it’s not the end of the world.

The Constitution says “We are All Created Equal.”  This is true.  You will notice it doesn’t say, “We are All Good at Soccer When We are Eight Years Old.”

Some kids just aren’t as good as their peers.  If you ask them, they know.

Giving them a trophy might make the adults feel better, but it doesn’t make the kid any faster.

Another thing (actually there are many more, but I’m getting sleepy) that bugs me is parents need to man (and woman) up and tell your kids “No.”

“No” isn’t a curse word.

It’s not insulting.

It won’t ruin their lives.

If it hurts your child’s feelings, who cares.  They will grow up and hate you for a lot more complicated reasons than telling them “No” when they wanted candy, or to watch TV for 47 straight hours, or begged you for money, or wanted to wear something inappropriate to school.

“No” is good.  We all need to hear it.

Discipline is what we do for children, not what we do to children.

Stop with the trophies.  Stop trying not to hurt you precious child’s feelings.

They will survive.

We did.

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Time Flies.


This is my first blog since May.Time Flies.

Where have I been?

Everywhere.

Michigan.  Indiana.  Ohio.  Home.  School.

Asleep.  Jogging.  Bike riding.

Softball games. 

Twitter.

Mostly, Twitter.

Way back in April, some crazed anti-education blog person (probably Eastern European… because they are always the villain) infected this blog with a dreaded virus.

By the time I got everything fixed, I wasn’t in the mood to blog (notice I didn’t say write… since nothing on these pages qualifies as "writing").

Blogging is funny.

If you do it all the time, you want to do it all the time.

If you don’t, you don’t.

Sure, I could have replaced all the hours I used to blog and done something productive like charity work, but instead I wasted them on Twitter. 

It seemed so quick and easy.

Maybe it’s my ADHD.  Or maybe I don’t have ADHD.  I can’t remember, and I’m out of medication.

Plus, I think I just saw a squirrel run by the window.

Anyway, a lot has changed since I last posted.

The Evil Spawn is now a full-fledged teenager.  Buddy the Dog is staring down middle age.

Actually, he’s asleep, but if he ever awakens, I’m sure he will be staring down middle age.

Another school year and summer break has come and gone.

I’m older and everything takes longer.  And I can barely see, but that’s another blog for another time in a size 24 font.

Maybe I will get ambitious this fall and blog about my adventures.  Or maybe I won’t.

Time will tell.

On my Blog 2.0, I am no longer linking anything. Takes too long.  And I have a squirrel to chase and an old dog to pet.

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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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College.


Sunshine is Nice.

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Only Idiots Run Marathons.


The title of this blog may be a lie.Run Forrest, Run.

I really have no idea because I’ve never ran a marathon.

26.2 miles seems like a long way.

I know when I’m in the city if a restaurant is over 5 blocks away, I take a cab.  Or I don’t go.

It has never ever occurred to me that I should run to the restaurant.  And it’s only 5 blocks (although city blocks seem rather long).

So the thought of running over 26 miles seems insane to me.

But the thought of running a half marathon seems like sheer genius.

Train hard.

Lift weights.

Waste my winter weekends traipsing around the ice and snow covered streets of small town America.

And then the big moment arrives.

Race day.

Time to run with 20,000 like-minded completely insane people.

People who wear trash bags as jackets.

People who use porta potties like oxygen (anyone who uses a porta potty has completely lost their marbles… or REALLY has to go).

People who get sick along side the road during the race.

People who collapse from the heat.

People who double-over with leg cramps and scream like they are giving birth.

Runners are an odd group.

And I’m not too embarrassed to say I’m one of them.

I just don’t know why.

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Sundays Are No Longer a Day of Rest.


When I was a kid, Sundays could be boring.Sunday Should Be Fun Day.

You slept a littler later.

You went to Sunday school and church (tried your best not to sleep there).

You ate lunch.

Maybe watched a game on TV (of course, this was before there were a thousand games on television at all hours of the day and night…. so you had a choice of one).

Took a nap.

Sunday afternoon stretched in to Sunday evening and they both seemed to last forever.

Now, Sundays fly by.  Before I know what’s happened it’s Monday and the start of another work week.

Saturdays are no better.  They are spent getting everything done in advance of Sunday so when it arrives I can be completely busy on the last day of the weekend.

Or is it the first day of the week?  I don’t even know because they all run together.

The world has gotten busy.

Some might say too busy.

Being bored used to be a terrible feeling.

Now it might be kind of nice.

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Discovery Education Part Duex: Beyond the Textbook Continues.


Instead of making you watch a projector slideshow of my trip to Washington (old school reference), I thought I would just share my thoughts about my experience at Discovery Headquarters.Discovery Education.

First, I love a free trip.  I’m not sure which I love more – the free or the trip.  Combine them and I’m in heaven (if you are reading this and in charge of giving away free trips, please keep me in mind).

If you recall and I’m almost positive you don’t, I was invited by Discovery about this time last year to take part in a forum on digital textbooks (I’m told it’s the wave of the future).

The way this works is Discovery pays your expenses for two days and then they own you.  Sort of like a college athletic scholarship except there aren’t coaches from Discovery screaming at you.

Discovery flies or trains you in, provides a hotel room, feeds you, and then asks a lot of questions.

Their purpose is to learn the thoughts and ideas of people who may one day implement digital textbooks (or techbooks) in their school districts.

My purpose was to be helpful but most of all to learn something.

This is harder than it sounds.  Think about all the workshops, webinars, speeches, curriculum groups, etc. we’ve all sat through.  More times than not we all leave these experiences dumber and angrier than when we walked in.

Going to Discovery is just the opposite of this type of experience.  These people are so happy with their jobs  it’s almost creepy.

It is hard to be around them and not take something positive away from the experience

When the forum was over, I felt much smarter.  I’m sure I’m not, but the feeling is nice.

I would like to feel taller, but that’s a different blog.

Participating in an event like this at Discovery is fun for several reasons.  The biggest for me is I’m not in charge.  And it’s nice to be part of a group where you don’t hold any responsibility (other than being there on time and eating Georgetown Cupcakes).

It’s also nice to be asked questions instead of being the one asking.  Plus, anytime you find yourself in a situation where everyone else in the room is smarter, you should take advantage of it.

For two days, we were quizzed by the good folks of Discovery Education on a variety of topics.  The main one being what a digital math techbook should look like.

I’m often asked my thoughts about buying textbooks, but no one has ever asked me to help design a very preliminary version of one.

I guess I can check this task off my bucket list.

When Discovery comes out with their Math Techbook, I’m sure I won’t recognize it.  It will likely not look anything like the one our group came up with, but that’s okay.

We were there when they started.  And that’s pretty cool.

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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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Where Have I Been?


I can tell you this, I haven’t been blogging.Buddy the Dog.

Why?

I was hacked.  Not mad, hacked.

As in my blog was hacked (I think you probably get it by now).

Fixing something like this took me longer than I imagined.

So, since January 21, I haven’t written a thing.  Other than about a bazillion Twitter tweets.

And I launched my own website at www.michaelsmithsupt.com.

And lucky for me, school seems to keep me busy.

The break from blogging was good.  I must admit, not having to come up with the next topic has been kind of nice.

Although, I have felt a little guitly.  I never wanted to become the person who just stops blogging without an explanation.

So during my time off I’ve tried to stay productive.  I’ve updated the cartoon on the blog (actually, I have people for this). 

The Evil Spawn and Buddy the Dog continue to grow up right before my eyes.

Weirdly, my wife and I never age.  Not sure how that works, but I know if you pay your cartoon guy enough everything seems to fall into place.

So I’m back.  Hopefully, with interesting stories about my school year, family, and soon the highlights of my trip to Washington D.C. (Thank you Discovery Education).

I do appreciate all of the people who continued to check in and read the blog even without anything new.

I question your taste in blogs, but I do thank you.

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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.