Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back to Some Education Related Nonsense

It's time to get back to a little education related nonsense. One of the factors in my decision to leave as a principal involved the incredible amount of paperwork I had to push around and fill out.

When I left the classroom to become an assistant principal, I had this dream that I would spend the vast majority of my day moving in and out of classrooms. I wanted to be a true Educational Leader in my building. I had plenty of knowledge and I'd had some of the best professional development and training one could ever get.

I'd also had several outstanding examples of leadership in the likes of Brother David Migliorino, principal of Notre Dame Regional High School, Mr. Dennis Parham, principal of Jackson Junior High and Mr. Cory Crosnoe, current principal of Jackson Junior High. All three had different styles and I envisioned myself as being able to take the very best of each of them, add it to my own style and making myself "Super Principal/Educational Leader".

The realty was, I spent that first year breaking up fights, dealing with emerging gangs, working with crazy parents and monitoring every sort of athletic and extra-curricular event. Precious little of my time was actually spent in the classrooms. With each fight I had to break up or each crazy parent I had to deal with came a pile of paperwork. Each incident had to be recorded on paper and in the computer. Parents wanted to come and talk about why their child was getting a detention or suspension or whatever. Each meeting required documentation. I soon learned that when I wasn't breaking up an argument or dealing with a student in crisis, I was filling out all the paperwork necessary to document it.

At the time, I was younger and more ambitious and kept hoping and thinking that once I got the discipline business settled, I would have more time for the classroom visits. I was hired, after all, because I had a ton of experience with the MAP test. I'd done everything from content/bias review, item analysis, item writing, reading selection, setting scoring guides, scoring the test. I'd worked on every imaginable piece of the MAP Communication Arts test. I had even spent three weeks that summer in Sacramento, California working with a few others from the state and CTB McGraw/Hill on developing future tests. I knew how that test worked inside and out and I knew how to defeat it!

All I needed was time. Time with the Communication Arts teachers and time in the classrooms. That time was never there.

I gave some inservices to the Comm Arts staff and I encouraged them to change their instruction. As in most schools, some tried it and liked the suggestions, others tried it and didn't like it and others simply hoped I would go away. That was to be expected, though. Change is hard and change in a school system is like rolling a 20 ton boulder up a moss-covered hill. It's hard work and you tend to slide back almost more than you progress forward.

As my first year turned into my second and third and fourth, I found that the discipline and other paperwork stayed the same and it became compounded by reports for the central office, reports for the board of education, reports for the state and reports for the staff. In my last year and a half or so, I felt like I sat in my office for 8-10 hours per day churning out paperwork.

One example of the ridiculous paperwork: We were a non-Title 1 school. As such, the sanctions of NCLB really didn't affect us. But, because we were an underperforming school, "we" (read "I") was responsible for writing a Non-Title 1 School Improvement Plan. It was required by the NCLB and the state. When I and another principal went to a meeting to find out how to write it, we were told that no one really knew how to write one because there was no form and really no guidelines. We knew we had to examine our scores, disaggregate our data and develop some plan to improve but we had no idea how to format it or what, exactly, "they" were looking for.

As it turns out, "they" were a nonentity. I worked hard to put together a plan that I thought would benefit my school and I held meetings with department chairs, parents, students and community members. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I had data analysis, explanations, suggestions for improvements, goals, strategies, action steps, measurable outcomes.... I had it all. Finally, I submitted my plan to the board office. It was reviewed, rubber-stamped and passed on up the chain. I felt good! I had a plan and I could defend it if needed.

At a meeting with some state department folks, someone asked about those Non-Title 1 School Improvement Plans and who was reading them at the state level and how would we know if they were acceptable or not. The state person stumbled around and finally admitted that, since they were not tied to federal dollars, no one was looking at them or monitoring them. Only the Title 1 plans were being reviewed and monitored.

It was at that moment that I realized I was merely a mouse on a treadmill. I was running as hard and as fast as I could and I was doing the best I could and I was going nowhere!

Each year, I had to crank one of those out. And, each year, in spite of it being an exercise in futility, I did my best. To my knowledge, the only people who looked at them were my superiors at the central office. No one held me accountable for the plan and no one looked at it after the board approved it. I doubt that the board members looked at it.

This post is getting long, but I think you get a small glimpse of the amount of paperwork I found myself under. Each year, something new was added: Principal's Action Plan, Building Improvement Plan, District Improvement Plan, discipline reports by grade, gender, ethnicity, event, reports to the school board on various activities and special classes in the building, reports to the central office on emergency procedure drills, event reports if we had an emergency, police reports, witness statements, truancy reports, suspension letters, and MAP Test Plans, MAP Data Analysis reports by grade, subject tested, sub-group, etc.

The paperwork caused paralysis in the running of the school and, because of that, I became caught in a vicious cycle of trying to juggle the paperwork with the other demands of the job. More on that, later.

I intended for this to be a short post but it's turned out to be rather lengthy. If you stayed with me, I thank you. I'll be posting more about the trials and tribulations of trying to be an Educationl Leader. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Three of Three

"Amachi" is a Nigerian Ibo word that means "who knows but what God has brought us through this child".

See that picture, that's Scott, Ashley, Parker, Layton and that little cutie-patootie is Kate. That word, Amachi, applies to her.

If you saw this family out at the local park or strolling in the mall you would never know that they live a life that requires bravery every second of every day. They're not in the witness protection program and no one is searching for them.

They must be brave every single moment of every single day because that sweet cherub of a little girl has a congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. That's fancy medical talk for saying that the left side of her heart is underdeveloped to the point that it's life-threatening. You can find out more about HLHS by going here: http://hlhsinfo.homestead.com/.
Kate's story is a long one and it involves multiple surgeries just to get her to her third birthday. There have been ups and downs, heartbreaks and triumphs but through it all, Kate, her brothers and her parents have simply kept their faith and have inspired everyone who knows their story.

Ashley does an outstanding job of chronicling her daughter's journey in their CaringBridge site. If you have the chance to go through the site, you'll see instance after instance where the prognosis was bad but the faith was strong. At one point, as Scott and Ashley watched helplessly as their infant daughter was being saved by a medical team the only words that would come to Scott were "Faith, Not Fear". Neither he nor Ashley could find words to express the depth of their despair. The only thing they could do was repeat "Faith, Not Fear". The moment was so powerful for them that they had wristbands made that have the saying stamped on them. I have one and I gave one to my good friend Kimberly Adelson as she began to face her chemotherapy.

As the past few years have progressed, Kate has had two open-heart surgeries. These are necessary for her to continue living. It's also necessary that Kate stay as healthy as possible. Simple childhood illness can be fatal for her. Through it all, she and her brothers and her parents must be brave. They cling to hope and prayer and have learned to "let go and let God". That's something I'm not sure I would be able to do.

Kate's brothers are extremely protective of her and they worry about her. In their own way, they understand that Kate is at-risk and that she needs all these medical procedures in order to keep living. Recently, Ashley posted a picture on Facebook that moved me to tears. She walked into Kate's room in the early morning hours to check on her and found both brothers in bed with her. One on each side of her. Kate was cuddled up in the middle, sleeping peacefully.

Ashley and Scott firmly believe in the presence of God and angels. As I looked at that picture, I saw two living angels surrounding and protecting a little girl they love very, very much. Those angels draw their strength and courage from their parents, grandparents, family, friends and relatives. For me, they are a living example of the selflessness of love Christ commands us to foster. It's not easy for us as jaded adults to develop and give that love. I'm thankful that Parker and Layton were there to remind me of this command.

On September 1, Kate is scheduled to take on her next big hurdle. She will have the third of her open-heart surgeries. This one is a Fontan surgery. It's a really, really big deal. The reality is, without the surgery, Kate won't make it. The surgery is tricky and risky but Kate has been there and done that. She's come this far and kept so many people enraptured in her life that I'm confident she'll walk right through this one, too.

Just recently, Kate began talking to a new imaginery friend. His name is "Jeffie". A friend of Ashley's did a little research and discoverd that "Jeffie" actually means "God's peace". Kate's ready for her surgery and I'm sure "Jeffie" will be there with her the whole time.

If you haven't figured it out yet, Kate is not the only brave one, her mother, Ashley, and her father, Scott, are truly the heroes in this story. As they've watched their daughter struggle just to live, they've never lost their faith. They've never faltered in believing that there was a bigger plan in place and that this was all just part of that plan. Of course they've shed tears, been frustrated, scared and I'm sure, a bit angry. I would be willing to bet that they've even expressed some anger with God over this. That's natural. What's so extraordinary about them is that they've continued to be faithful and faith-filled. They've continued to lead by example in their CaringBridge updates and in their personal lives.

I barely know Scott and Ashley but I feel like I've known them all of my life. They are the parents that Elizabeth and I try to be. In some respects, they are the modern holy family. They live in the face of constant adversity and yet they continue to be faithful and to lead by example.

On September 1, I plan on spending a big part of my day praying for Kate. I'm also going to pray for Parker and Layton. Most likely, though, I'm going to spend some extra time praying for and thinking about Scott and Ashley. I'll be praying that God will continue to provide them with peace and strength and courage. Maybe "Jeffie" will leave Kate for a bit and join them in the surgical waiting room.

I hope you'll join me on that day. Mark it on your calendar. As you pray, you might try to work the word "Amachi" into your prayer. I'm going to.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Two of Three

That's Julie Tipton in the center of this wonderful picture. The beautiful young lady is her daughter, Annie Laurie, and the handsome young man is her son, Chad.

As I said in my preview post, Julie has endured a lot. She was the victim of an abusive relationship. I doubt that she likes me using the word "victim", though. You see, she's more of a survivor than victim and we all know that victims wither and withdraw but survivors fight and march on. That's Julie.

Like my friend, Kimberly Adelson, Julie and I met at work. She is a speech-language pathologist for the school district I used to work in. For the past few years, she had an office in my building and that handsome young man in the picture was a student there for a bit.

Let me tell you a bit about Chad. Chad was bright, precocious, well-mannered, big-hearted and deeply, deeply troubled. I won't go into much detail because the details of Chad's tormented and tortured adolescence aren't the point of the post. His mother's triumph over tragedy is the point and should be the focus.

After struggling with his "demons" for several years, Chad ended his life by hanging himself in May of this year. Julie found him, Julie helped revive him, Julie made the most difficult decision a mother should ever have to make and Julie survived it all with grace and beauty and a spiritual dignity that I've seldom seen before. Julie would tell you that it all happened through the grace of God. I would probably agree, but I would add that God gives you grace but you can choose to accept it or reject it. I'm not sure I could have accepted grace if I had been in her place.

When I first heard of Chad's suicide attempt and that he was in the ICU of a local hospital, I contacted Julie via text and let her know that my wife and I would pray for her. Later, before coming up to the hospital, I called her and asked if I could come see her. Her tone of voice on the phone, her calmness, her quiet grace as we talked was soothing to me as I struggled to find words to comfort her.

I arrived at the hospital and sat with family and friends for quite a while. I watched and listened and chatted. I saw love and grief and pain and laughter and sorrow. I saw God's magnificent grace and I saw Satan's darkest evil as well. I've never thought of myself as one who can sense the presence of "evil" but I knew in one very particular moment, that the very essence of evil was nearby. It was palpable. Many others who were present felt the same thing.

In the days of Chad's stay in ICU, Julie had to deal with that presence and she was left to make all of the decisions regarding his care. Ultimately, she made the decision to terminate life support and to donate Chad's organs.

I cannot imagine being in that situation. I'm not sure I could ever make that decision. I know that, as I spoke with Julie she had found incredible peace with her decisions. I will never forget some of the things she said to me.

"How can I not be at peace when I know Chad is no longer suffering?"

"So many people will benefit from his organs. I know he would want that."

"Chad is not here. I know he's in a better place."

"Chad's demons were bigger than him. They overwhelmed him. I know he's no longer tortured."

"I can literally feel the presence of people's prayers. I know that tons of people are praying and I can feel it. That gives me my peace."

Julie believed, and so do I, that Chad had finally found a peace that he could never have known here.

I know Julie shed tears of grief and I know that she had moments of anger and doubt and fear and a sense of abandonment, but I also know that her faith system and her belief in a higher power were so strong that she made it through one of the most tragic events a parent could ever endure. Not only did she make it through but she became a beacon of hope and an example of grace in action.

While many at the hospital were grieving and crying and mourning, Julie was healing broken hearts and weary souls. She was encouraging each of us to keep our faith and to believe in a greater plan and a greater vision than we'd ever imagined. Jesus commanded his followers to live so that others will know who you follow. Julie lived so that others knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, who she followed and who she had faith in.

At Chad's memorial, I watched as Julie individually hugged and greeted hundreds and hundreds of friends, family members, schoolmates, acquaintances, neighbors and strangers. She ministered to each person with a hug and a word of hope. It seemed to me that she was the shepherd of this great flock and that she was tending to each of her sheep as they came forward.

I will never forget those days. I will always cherish the few moments I spent with her at the hospital, at the memorial and in the days and weeks afterward.

Recently, Julie and I met for lunch. At our lunch, I was glad to catch up with her and to hear of her continued journey. As we sat and ate and talked, I marvelled at how positive and focused she remained and how she continually referred to the peace she had and the importance of the grace of God. When it was time to go, I broke down a bit as I told her what an important role she'd played in my life recently. Like so many others, from her example, I learned that we can find peace in times of distress, that following the command to live so that others will know who you follow is not just something to take lightly, and that grace is a gift from heaven that we can accept or reject. Julie accepted grace and was and is blessed abundantly.

There is so much more to this story than I could ever write. If you want to follow Julie's story and learn more about Chad, please visit her blog http://www.julietipton.blogspot.com.

Please do me the small favor of saying a prayer for her. She draws so much strength from the prayers of others. Remember, she can feel it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

One of Three

Kimberly Adelson is, first and foremost, my friend. We met six years ago when I became the assistant principal of the junior high school she works in. As we worked together, she as a teacher of learning disabled students and I as an administrator, we found a common bond in our care and concern for those kids and for the inane meeting and paperwork requirements of an IEP (Individualized Education Plan).

I quickly discovered that Kimberly was quick-witted, kind-hearted and full of life. When she laughs her face lights up and her whole body shakes. Her eyes squint a bit and she just seems to glow. Kimberly and I spent many, many hours laughing and joking with each other. We also spent quite a bit of time shedding tears together.

I soon discovered that Kimberly, true to her self-description, was one of those people who, if she became ill, had every obscure complication possible. There was some discussion among us about her being a modern medical mystery. We always had a good laugh when, even in insane pain from some funky illness or complication from a routine procedure, she would tell me of her latest medical complication. For whatever reason, it always provided us with a laugh.

In my final semester as principal, many of Kimberly's co-workers became very concerned. We knew things were not right with her but no one had come up with the latest obscure diagnosis. She suffered from debilitating stomach pains and constantly ran a fever. She was hospitalized with some of her episodes but no one could explain what was wrong. During Christmas break, she had a surgery to remove some pre-cancerous spots. The surgery was going to be "routine" and shouldn't be a big deal. She should have returned to work on January 3.

I'll skip over the details to keep this brief, but it was quickly apparent that she was dealing with more than complications from her surgery. After much back and forth between a several specialists, it was determined that she had cancer. Not just any cancer, but, you guessed it, some crazy, funky form of cancer that had already progressed to a Stage 4 level. The news was devastating for her, her family and her friends.

In the weeks and months that followed, friends and family came together for Kimberly. We were her support system. We changed our Facebook profile pics to a green ribbon that had been designed in her honor, we donated to and participated in fundraisers, and we prayed, and prayed, and prayed.

Kimberly started a CaringBridge site to chronicle her journey. In almost every single post, she presented a positive and upbeat attitude. She continually amazed us with her positive attitude and her determination to beat her cancer. She even came up with her own mantra so she could focus on that instead of the cancer and treatments.

She lost her hair. All of it. I've worked with a lot of women and most are very concerned about their hair. Kimberly was meticulous and OCD about her hair. Losing it had to be almost as hard as the chemo she was enduring. Even as she recorded it for us on her website she did so with her usual grace and humor. Person after person posted comments about her incredible attitude. The inspiration she provided to others and the general positive outlook and determination on her site kept all of us focused on the goal and pulled strangers from across the U.S. together in a collective online community with a common cause. We wanted Kimberly to kick her cancer's butt!

Earlier this summer, while on a vacation with family on Hilton Head, she received a call from her oncologist. The cancer was in remission! She was winning! We rejoiced and celebrated and gave thanks and praise for prayers offered.

Recently, Kimberly went back for a check and it seems that the cancer may be trying to raise its ugly head again. Kimberly shed her tears, said a few choice words and then, instead of giving up or accepting defeat, she determined to continue the fight and to continue to force the cancer into remission. She returned to work in mid-August. She's determined to work every day she can and to fight this cancer with every ounce of her being.

I know we all have friends or family members who have fought cancer or who have fought other serious illnesses. Maybe Kimberly is one of the bravest people I know because I am close to her. I think, however, there's more to it than that. Her fighting spirit, her dogged determination, her tenacity and her incredible sense of humor have stayed in place. I don't know that I could have done that. Kimberly is more than my friend. She's my trainer. Her battle helps keep me grounded and reminds me that sometimes, you can defy the odds and do it with a great attidude and a sense of humor.

Here's the link to Kimberly's CaringBridge site if you want to read more about her journey or just post a note of encouragement for her. She reads them all and she cherishes them whether she knows you or not. http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/kimberlyadelson

Now, go say a prayer for her if you don't mind.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Three Bravest People I Know

Everyone goes through tough times, trying times and just down-right hard times. I've often thought that it's how we handle those events that defines who we are as a person. For whatever reason, I've been thinking about three people I know who are showing greater character and strength and bravery than I would have believed possible in a non-superhero-type-person.
I've dubbed these three people "The Three Bravest People I Know". Over the next week or so, I'm going to try to profile each one of them and tell you why they deserve to be labeled as "brave" and I'll try to let you know what I've learned about myself as a result of their bravery.
So, who are these three non-superhero-types who deserve the dubious title of "The Three Bravest People I Know"...

Kimberly Adelson, a junior high school special education teacher, cancer survivor and current cancer patient.

Ashley & Kate Lipke, a tiny, beautiful, three year old little girl with a congenital heart defect that has required several high-risk surgeries and her beautiful, protective, tower of strength mother who battles with her every step of the way.

Julie Tipton, a beautiful lady who has survived an abusive relationship and, most recently, the horrific suicide of her 17 year old son, Chad.

These three people have touched my heart and my soul deeply. They are in my thoughts often and, in many instances, I draw strength from them. My hope in profiling them is that you, too, will find strength and bravery in adversity. As you read about each of them and learn of their journeys, think about what makes them brave and draw strength from it. Finally, as you finish this post and as you read each profile, take a moment to say a prayer for each of them. I know they'll appreciate it and I know that is where most of them find their courage and strength and bravery.

The Bliss, The Solitude!

Today is a GLORIOUS day! See those two. Look at them. Sweet, angelic, happy, adorable children. Look at the smiles, look at the joy, look at the happiness. Take a long look and remember it.

These are the same two children who moaned and groaned in unison as their Mother presented the infamous "Chore Chart".

These are the same two heathen who asked the following questions during the past week:

1. Can we go to McDonald's for lunch? (48 times in 7 days, I swear!)

2. Can we have doughnuts (donuts?) for breakfast? (72 times in 7 days, honest!)

3. Can we go to the pool? (33 times in 7 days!)

4. Can we go to the water park? (21 times in 7 days!)

5. Can we go to Toys R Us and get something? (100 times, minimally, in 7 days!)

6. Can we go buy a new video game? (15 times, in 7 days!)

7. What are we going to do today? (52 times, in 7 days!)

8. When can we go eat sushi? (The Girl Child, at least 18 times, in 7 days!)

9. Can we go to the park and play in the creek? (At least 8 times, in 7 days!)

10. When will Mom be home? (At least 14 times in two days!)

11. Do you want to play "Cooking Mamma" with me on the Wii? (At least 4 times, in one day!)

12. Can we go to the zoo? (At least 3 times, in the last 7 days!)

This is just a small sampling of what I've endured in the past 7 days. You see, I work from home a LOT and the Spouse works at a local elementary school as the Pre-K Speech Language Pathologist (aka-The Speech Teacher). So, when her school started before my kids' parochial school, I was the stay-at-home Dad. Only, I wasn't really a stay-at-home Dad. I was a work-from-home/stay-at-home Dad. My company has this funny, and I think unrealistic, expectation that I'll actually put in my allotted time while working at home. I'm sure they'd understand if I simply emailed and told them that I'd be taking the next seven days to run my children to get donuts, eat sushi, go to McDonald's, to the zoo, park, waterpark, pool, the toy store, the video game store, etc.

If I explained once, I explained 1,000 times..."Daddy is working. I have to work to pay for all the donuts, McDonald's, sushi, zoo trips, video games, waterpark and pool admissions, and assorted crapola you want to order off Amazon." Each time, my voice raised a little more and became a little more stressed. I swear I never yelled but inside I was dying! I've decided that this was my idea of Hell. I believe in Hell because I've been there, for 7 days!

Yesterday, those smiling faced little heathens went back to school! For a half day. 11:30a.m. elevenfreakingthirtya.m. and they would be mine again...

As I walked them in, I met the priest and principal standing side-by-side at the door to the school and said, "When I leave here I'm going into the church to give thanks that I didn't kill the children over the past two days." I may have giggled maniacally as I walked on into the school. The Spouse moved a few feet to the left of me at about that time. I think the priest crossed himself.

As I left the building, I stopped and offered to bring the principal a pre-lunch cocktail when I picked the heathen back up at 11:30a.m. She declined but I could tell she really wanted to accept it. She's a nice lady and has to keep up appearances but I was a principal once and I know the secrets. Few are the principals who don't self-medicate or have prescription medication. I had both. Don't judge if you haven't been there.

I spent a glorious morning at the local Starbucks, using free wi-fi, looking at adults come and go and working. I think I accomplished more from 8:00a.m. to 11:00a.m. yesterday than I have in the past 7 days combined.

Today, the Heathen are in school for a full day! I'm home. It's quiet. I have Free Bird playing on my iPad, I'm working from the breakfast table looking out at the deck and backyard, with two cats curled up side-by-side on the table. Solitude. Bliss.

So, to celebrate, I'm going to go get some donuts, have McDonald's for lunch, eat sushi for a mid-day snack, frolick in the park and creek, visit the pool, go to the video store and buy myself a game, play "Cooking Mamma" on the Wii, hit Toys R Us, and probably run up to the zoo.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My God, This Blog Is Boring!

Okay, so I went back and read over my previous posts. I had an epiphany. THEY ARE BORING! It's true. Some topics are just boring by nature. Others don't have to be and won't.

Take this post, for instance, I promise not to make it too boring.

The Lovely Spouse, the glue that binds this family together, she who begats children, she who feeds me so well, she who can organize a closet in short order and come out looking like a supermodel, came home from "work" today with two clipboards. Each clipboard had a chart she'd made attached by the little clippy thing at the top. Each chart was labeled, "Noah's Chores" and "Gigi's Chores". Sounds pretty simple, right?

Not so fast...the heathen masses, both of them, took one look at the clipboards and charts, groaned collectively, in spite of not being twins or joined at the hip, shoulder or head, and began to complain loudly. The Girl Child, all of her 9 year old attitudinal self, stood up and declared, "Let me just go ahead and ground myself so we can get this over with!" She then took her plate of biscuits and gravy (because we love having breakfast for dinner, that's why!) and tromped off to her room. Of course, the Queen of Grace left a trail of gravy on the hardwood and a small dog licking the floor behind her. It was quite a show actually and I don't think this description does it justice.

The Boy Child, all 11almost12 of him, sighed his best depressed and emo sigh, looked up at us both with suicidal tendencies dancing in his eyes and said, "What is this about?" Flat affect, no real emotion except seething depression.

The Spouse, Queen of My Existence, etc., etc., called the heathen Girl Child back, sat them both at the table and began to explain her very efficient and organized chart. Eyes glazed on both of them. Then, slowly and in sync, the eyes rolled back in their heads. Mouths gaped open, flies came in and out, drool ran down their chins and mouth breathing ensued.

The Boy Child was the first to stammer out, "I don't understand what you're talking about." The chart was dutifully placed in front of him and explained in detail, again. "So, I only have to exercise one time this month?" he gurgled. The Spouse breathed in slowly, exhaled, then began explaining the chart a third time. She used another piece of paper to cover up sections of the chart that dealt with future weeks and future assigned chores. She focused on just the exercise portion. (Sidenote: Exercise is considered a chore in this house because we ALL hate it so much! All except the Girl Child. We're not sure where she really came from but we're investigating the possiblity of a mix-up at the hospital.)

The Boy Child looked at her and the paper, seeming to comprehend. Then he said, "I still don't get this. So, I have to exercise for one week a month or something?" The Spouse turned from the Boy without hitting him or anything!

She turned to the Girl Child and said, "Let's look at yours for a minute." She explained that the Girl Child had to read three times per week for 30 minutes at a time and that all she had to do was put a check mark on the day she completed her reading session. This child's eyes glazed over at the word "reading" and she went to whatever magical place she lives in most days. Finally, she looked up at The Spouse and said, "Huh? I don't get it."

The Spouse responded with "What is it you don't understand?! You have to read for 30 minutes three times per week! You put an X or a check mark on the day of the week you do it. You should have three days with Xs or check marks on it!"

The Girl Child looked some more and then said, "I still don't get it." She then walked away from the table leaving the Spouse holding both charts and mumbling to herself. I heard things like "I worked really hard on these...Why can't they understand them...How can they not understand a chart..." and there was something mumbled about "...their father's blood". That would be me. I am more than a sperm donor; I'm a father, you know.

After the charts were put away and the kids wandered back to where they'd left their electronic appendages, she told them that she would redo the charts and that failure to complete their assigned tasks would result in a loss of "technology time". Again, the twin-like moaning and groaning.

Being the good Father/Husband/Sperm Donor, I chimed in with a question: "What do they get for doing it correctly?" Let me tell you...that was not the right question to ask at the time! The eyes turned red, the nostrils flared and her head twisted around unnaturally. I think she realized that she needed my earning potential more than she wanted me dead so she regained control and announced that four weeks of perfect charting and choring would result in a $20 reward for each of them.

It was at this point that I was not convinced that I was in the same room with the woman I married. $20 for each?! This woman does not part with money easily and I don't get $20 to eat out on a month! If you have ever lost faith in the Holy Ghost or the Spirit of the Lord, let this be an example of living proof of its existence! The Dove came down and lighted on her shoulder, whispered in her ear and set her free. For the moment.

At the mention of $20, both heathen looked up and, again in twin-like synchronicity, said, "Huh?! What was that about $20?!" She had them! She beat the little pecker-heads at their own game! I'm not sure, but I'm pretty convinced that they were acting confused so as to discourage her and get this whole "chore chart" thing to go away. Knowing her frustration level after having worked with pre-k disabled children all day, they were trying to play her like a well used violin. Yet, THE MASTER would not be defeated! She used their own greed and avarice against them and snagged them in her net of chores!

Know this...Never, Never, Never Underestimate the Power of The Spouse. This is one wicked lady and I adore and worship her.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get her to give me a chore chart so I can earn $20 a month.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Here's an article from the St. Louis Post that's sure to raise some discussion. What do you think about public schools adopting a theme like this one: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/article_c8feb096-d071-5f22-94c3-78cc351cc92d.html

And here's another one that's much more local: http://www.semissourian.com/story/1755055.html?response=no. These are the times I'm grateful I never tried to get into a board office. I had no desire to be a Superintendent and I still don't. Your comments on this one are welcome, too.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tenure...The Worst Idea in the History of Education

Okay, so that title is a bit blunt. Some of you will be angry about it and others will applaud. Since this is my blog, I can be blunt and not have to care about whether I've offended anyone. Just saying...

Why do I feel that tenure is the worst idea in the history of education? The answer is multi-fold but I'll do my best to address all the reasons here.


1. Mediocrity -- One main reason I detest the idea of tenure among teachers is because the very nature of it provides a breeding ground for mediocrity. In my experience, non-tenured teachers are the most maleable teachers. Tenured teachers, not so much. New teachers come straight from the college setting ready to mold young minds. They are ready and willing to come in and be directed and corrected. For the most part, they openly and willingly accept constructive criticism and are the first to try a new teaching technique or strategy. They naturally self-evaluate and will blame themselves or their teaching ability for a failed lesson rather than blame the students. You seldom hear "These kids are just slow" or "They don't pay attention" or "I think they gave me the bottom of the barrel in this class". Instead you'll hear them saying "That lesson did not work" or "I have to completely change this" or "I need some help teaching this concept to my students".

Many, but not all, tenured teachers become complacent and fail to self-assess. In some cases, they become lazy and fall victim to the negativity of their even older colleagues. Tenured teachers tend to be the most reluctant to change and they develop a sense of entitlement. Every change, from changing rooms to changing textbooks is fought tooth and nail. Tenured teachers who stop growing and stop self-assessing become the old crones who sit in the "Teacher's Lounge" or "Workroom" and gripe about everything that's wrong with the school, the kids, the parents, the central office administration...everyone but themselves. It always amazed me to hear them gripe and complain about everything and everyone but themselves. It was never their fault that 80% of their students didn't master a concept. It was never their fault that the students were unruly or disruptive. It was never their fault that the lesson failed.

In most businesses (like it or not, public education is a business), there is no such thing as tenure. People are hired and fired based on their qualifications and merit. Are they valuable? Do they contribute? Are they constantly improving and working on ways to help their counter-parts improve? Are they focused on what's important? How's the attitude? What are their long-term goals? Mediocre workers seldom progress up the chain and they are often left doing menial tasks or they are eventually let go. The business of public education is far too important to allow mediocrity to exist in even one classroom. If tenure breeds mediocrity, then tenure must go.

Stay tuned...I'll give additional reasons for the abolishment of tenure in later posts.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A List of Reasons I Left My Job in December

Following is a list of 10 reasons I left my job in December of 2010. There are many, many more and I'll elaborate on those later, as well. Some will be elaborated on in more detail in following posts.
1. Time away from my family.
2. Missing my own childrens' events.
3. Crazy parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, etc.
4. Crazy teachers.
5. Lack of support.
6. Budget, budget, budget or should I say...no budget, no budget, no budget.
7. Tenure.
8. Standardized Testing.
9. No Child Left Behind's ridiculous expectations.
10. Politics and bureaucracy.

I'll spend some time on each of these topics in the very near future. Stay tuned and check back frequently for an update.

Greetings and Salutations from The Recovering Principal

In December of 2010, I left my position as the principal of a junior high school to pursue a career as a sales consultant. My reasons for leaving mid-year are many and varied and I'll delve into those in future posts.
A few friends have suggested that I should blog about my experiences as a principal and my thoughts and ideas about the state of education in general. After much thought and deliberation, I've started this site in the hopes that a few friends and fellow educators will read it, comment on my posts and share their thoughts and ideas as well.
I encourage you to tell me when you agree or disagree with me on any and all posts. Above all things, I'm still a student. In time, you'll see that I'm not afraid to say I was wrong about some idea or post. I only ask that all discourse be civil and constructive.
With those few formalities out of the way, let's begin learning together...