Monday, September 27, 2010

Crisis in Education?

After the Oprah show of a week ago, the release of Waiting for Superman, NBC's Education Nation, it seems everyone is worried about the plight of public education in the United States.

To be honest it seems that many of the arguments are the same old rhetoric that we have heard for years. I certainly didn't come away with the magic bullet to fix what is wrong with our schools. Charters are no better than public schools, some are good some are bad. Teacher quality is the central argument behind how to make our schools better and teachers did get thrown under the bus in my opinion.

When someone attacks the profession that we have given our lives to, how do they think we will react? The point that seems to get overlooked is we care about every aspect of a child and not just their test scores. To evaluate anyone or anything on two days of standardized tests is ridiculous and many teachers pointed that out. To have people that have never been in the classroom on a daily basis, and profess to be experts in a field is equally ridiculous.

We do, however, need to listen to the things that are being said, both good and bad. We all want our schools to be better and we wish to have positive relations with our students. That is why we, as educators of the whole child, must get out from behind our desks and learn, via Twitter, staff development, attending conferences, and having conversations with our peers on best practices.

Who knows this may be a good thing for us, at least it is getting education in the forefront and by starting the conversations, perhaps the policy makers (politicians) will listen to us when we talk to them about education reform.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Random Thoughts

I would really like to comment on "Waiting for Superman" and Oprah but its Friday and I don't want to get in a bad mood this early in the morning. Plus its a Friday night and the Blu-Jays play at Miami, Mo. andd the Sooners hit the road for the first time as they take on Cincinnati.

Speaking of college sports a few things strike me as ironic about the NCAA. They are over the top about not treating athletes any different than the "regular" student. RIIIIGHT. Or better yet the Saturday Night Live segment of "Really". Lets see several athletes from mostly schools in the south are not eligible to play at this time because they allegedly went to a party hosted by sports agents. Okay maybe they did but then what is the punishment for the regular student to talk to prospective employer prior to his/her graduation. I wonder if Apple, Google, or Microsoft is told they can't hire someone because they talked to them their junior year of college.

Along those same lines universities can fly recruits across the country and put them up for 48 hours in a hotel and pay for their meals and lodging. However, if you give the recruit a t-shirt with your school name or logo on it that is a violation. Now I understand that completely. Maybe a little common sense should prevail in some of the rules.

Congress has the votes to pass a bill for compensation for 9/11 families and health cost for the first responders but don't want to take action until after the November elections. The Democrats are afraid of offending some of their "blue dog" members because the money will go to New York. The Republicans are mad because it is another spending bill. Shame on all of them and they wonder why the tea party movement has not gone away, could be because they act so stupidly.

Well thats it for another Friday, have a good weekend I know I certainly am.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

School Reform

The buzz on twitter yesterday was the Oprah show on education in America. What a heavy burden she has to carry, to know more about everything than everyone else in the world, must be a daunting task. I haven't watched it don't know if I will but we are in a reform movement with our schools.

Me being an old dog in this profession have seen many reforms come and go. We are a fad generated profession, however, what is happening now is not a fad its a fact and its not going away. Remember this people are not opposed to change, they are opposed to being changed. This must occur since we continue to talk about 21st century skills and we are decade into it and we are still talking. Glad to see in some places and with a growing number of educators change will occur.

My "smack in the face" moment with technology came when the high school I was principal of went 1:1. Suddenly there was a role reversal, the students were teaching the teachers and the teachers were learning from our students. It was a true learning environment for everyone, at that point, I knew change was upon us and fortunately I had a staff and student body that embraced the change.

I did learn that force feeding was the only way to get some staff members to jump on the band wagon. No longer was "we've never done it like that before" (a phrase I hate as well as thinking outside the box) going to be acceptable, and I learned that people would accept the technology when they had to. We used staff to bring other staff members along and we must realize not everyone will be on the same page.

Being a superintendent now of a rural district, in which many students don't have access at home, it is even more important that we expose them at school to the information and tools that are at their fingertips. It will take some force feeding and that is what we are doing as a leadership team, and we are to the point of refusing to allow the status quo. We have to sell our staff on this is best for kids because these are tools they will be using and we can't short sale them on their education. I know its been said its not about the computers, its about the learning, true, but we are still a people business and its about kids and their best interests.

You young educators give us a little time and compare what is happening now to the old days. When I was young, most girls kept a diary, now its called blogging. We passed notes, now they text. We had pinball now they are video games. The closer you can compare what used to go on, to what is happening now, the connection will occur. I had a board member tell me there was no cheating until there were cell phones, I can't speak for everyone but in 1969, in Howard, Kansas, I know a person that became a superintendent that did, at times resort to a cheat sheet.

We are fighting the good fight and no matter how much resistance we receive, keep fighting. This is the most exciting time I've experienced in education and my only regret I'm on the downside of my career.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Random Thoughts

I have grown to really look forward to writing on Friday because its not serious stuff and I feel that I can let loose a little and be myself. Maybe I should take that approach on the other days that I write.

Once again its football Friday. The Blu-Jays play Marais Des Cyne Valley, I don't know a thing about them but our kids, fans, and coaches sure could use a win. Wish them luck. The Sooners play Air Force and I expect a tough game even though it is in Norman. I really admire the service academies with the discipline and determination they play with, just not against the Sooners.

Much buzz in Kansas about the National Standards and I imagine the state school board will adopt them next month at their meeting. Which will mean we will replace our state assessments with some sort of national test, thanks for giving us another standardized test to administer, judge our kids by, determine in one or two days whether a teacher is effective, or a principal is an instructional leader. I'm not sure if anyone in the ivory towers has ever heard of the MAPP, ACT, or SAT, nationally normed tests that already exist. Gee thanks for all your help, and when you saddle us with these things, could you at least put someone from the education field on the committee.

Man we love to bash Wall Street executives and they deserve it. The media is on them about not passing the stimulus money on to the working man where it will actually do some good for the economy. Then why is it the when it comes to sports the general public sides with the owners? They are billionaires and the athletes are the working man, but they are the ones they get beat up in the press as being greedy. I wonder why the NFL owners won't open up their books to the players association, do you think its because they are losing money.

What an embarrassment Reggie Bush has been to USC, they removed his Heisman Trophy because of his sins against the school. Hello. Has anyone at SC heard of O.J. Simpson? Where did he go to school? Give you three guesses. His Heisman is still on display proudly with the others. Lets compare the two, no thats to ridiculous to even do. I know this if someone offers a kid a house for his parents, his family financial security he would turn it down flat, and he is the one that suffers not the ones actually supplying the money. Makes sense to me, more on the NCAA next week.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What Business is Our Business

Have you ever gone to a cafe or restaurant and ordered the special only to be told they are out of the special and you think "what business is your business"? To have plenty of food for the customer is it not? Or the one I love is the overbooking of airlines then tell the passengers we can't take everyone, once again "what business is your business"? You have x number of seats, book x number of butts to fill them, seems like a simple process to me.

In the education field our business is student learning and we must keep that focus in mind. Seems a simple concept but lets really look at a few obstacles in our way.

Higher education, are they preparing our future teachers in all the concepts, information, and tools available to our students now? It has been years since I have attended school but it must start in our teacher preparation, to use the 21st century skills with our students. We are audio-visual learners, why do I know this, because we graduated from college and I would bet that is still the learners they cater to. Since we only retain 33% of a lecture the next day that means 66% is wasted information, so lecture away for an entire class period.

Teachers who fail to recognize we are a decade into the 21st Century and we still try to prepare kids for the 1960's. These people have good hearts and care about kids, but are shorting them on all that is available to them. We don't need new ideas we just need to quit having old ones. No longer should the only teaching technique be standing in front of the class spouting knowledge. I also realize we are a trendy profession and I think some educators feel this will pass also but guess what technology is here to stay. Take advantage.

The students also have to be taught that things are changing and this will be a force feed for some, especially at the secondary level. They have been so accustomed to being spoon fed that having them take ownership in their learning or giving them choices and having them run with them will take time. Stay with it it is a battle worth fighting for their future. That is why the elementary level is the most critical, we must begin as early as possible to make sure the changes we all want to see in our field get accomplished.

Please keep in mind that people don't resist change, they resist being changed-but it has to happen so student learning at the highest level remains the business that we are in.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Random Thoughts

Just a few thoughts since it the end of the week:

Good luck to the Blu-Jays, Sooners, and whatever other team you pull for, the NFL started last night and at least it was a good game.

Why do we always look for complicated answers to problems, when most of the time The KISS Theory will work, for those of you that don't know it Keep It Simple Stupid, very popular in the coaching profession. A few examples:
With all the political commercials on now why is that to find out what candidate A stands for I have to watch candidate B's commercials. Just tell us what YOU stand for then we will decide.

All the diets that are also being advertised-something I don't subscribe to, if I were an inch shorter I'd be perfectly round-but how about this: 1. Cut calories 2. Increase workload (exercise) or 3. Do both. Bet you'll be amazed at the results.

School reform is quite the hot topic amongst the things I read and it should be, but my goodness everyone has a different take on what needs to happen. How about we try this: 1. Washington mind your own business, or at least if you're going to saddle us with more legislation get some input from educators. 2. You know what needs to be done at your school more than anyone else. 3. Formulate a plan to improve. 4. Implement the plan for improvement.
Would that work?

Speaking of Washington since you gave us NCLB how about no Congressman left behind? Since you all think its so good to fire entire teaching staffs and administrations if they don't meet your standards, how about if one congressman is found to be unethical, doesn't pay his/her taxes, or passes any law that affects us but not you, we fire the whole lot of you which I hope happens in November.

Guess thats about it, remember this-What works-Works What Doesn't Work-Doesn't Work you can work your tail off at something and if it doesn't work it still won't work. Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Now We Really Get Started

Well Labor Day has passed and hope everyone had a wonderful long weekend. The school year now really kicks off but I hate the expression "the grind of the school year starts". I think of it as anything but a grind. As I have said on many occasions I don't know what its like to work for a living since this so much fun.

I also know that I go on and on about educational technology and how we need to integrate it in our schools. Learning about what is now available to our students and teaching staff has really invigorated me and has excited me about learning, more so than anytime in my career. I also think it has given us all a chance to examine what we are doing in the education, and given us ways to improve our instructional practices (I now prefer that phrase to teaching).

So here we go for another year, and it will be anything but a grind, I hope you come along for the ride of your lives.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Random thoughts and few will be about education today so I hope you enjoy.

Congress bringing anyone up on lying charges is a joke, let alone a baseball player. Two problems with this, why would they care about steroid usage in baseball, oh I forgot thats the most pressing problem in America, and if a congressman's mouth is moving he/she is lying. Try to run our country, have you checked the approval ratings lately?

I have great admiration for strength and conditioning coaches, however, when I watch commercials I can't figure out why everyone doesn't use the Shake Weight? Why spend hours working on barbells, dumbells, or machines when you can look like that guy in 6 minutes. Our school will never purchase any more weight equipment, thanks Shake Weight for saving our district money.

The Pleasanton Blu-Jays open their season tonight against the Dexter Cardinals, I know the battle of the birds. We didn't have a great year last year, but are entering this season with high expectations and optimism. I'll be taking my mom to the game since Dexter is on the way, looking forward to that. Can't wait for kickoff, and by the way will be tweeting updates on the game.

College football opened last night and I channel hopped until my fingers got tired, no better time of year. My beloved Sooners open Saturday against Utah State, the biggest concerns are the offensive line and defensive tackles, if those two hold up then I think OU will have a good year. Next week they have Florida State really looking forward to that game. Remember to OU creed: We are trying to build a university our football team can be proud of! I for one am glad they have their priorities straight. Remember the four seasons in Oklahoma-football season, recruiting season, off season, and spring football, gosh I love this time of year.

The NFL enough said-I hope they strike next year so we can play college football on Sunday instead of trying to cram it all in one day. I do watch it because it is football and what else is on on Sunday afternoon.

Have a great Labor Day weekend.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Slide and Shuffle

Today started our school year and wouldn't you know it hasn't rained in six weeks (which is good for mowing) and we have a monsoon, the kids looked like drowned rats coming in, but parents and kids were in good moods.

Our elementary principal is having quite a battle with an illness and was physically unable to be here. Our high school principal's son is having hip surgery so he is not here either. There is an old saying in coaching "don't worry about the mice when the elephants are stampeding". Its not a big deal, all of our teachers are experienced and we'll get through the day in good shape. I will miss the principals until tomorrow but now I'll get to be in the buildings more.

Sometimes we have to slide and shuffle but we get it taken care because thats what educators do, I am so proud of my profession.