Sunday, December 7, 2008

School or Balloon Factory?

In Seth Godin's Tribes, he talks about people who work in balloon factories as being timid and afraid of sharp objects and sudden changes in temperature. Balloon factories provide steady work in a not so scary environment. Except, as Godin states, when the unicorns show up. At first the workers try to scare the unicorn away but he often ignores them and wanders into the factory anyway. That's when everyone runs for cover.

Schools are for the most part much like balloon factories. As long as stability and status quo rule, schools are safe places to work. Occassionally, however, a principal or teacher leaders wanders into the school and upsets the applecart. These are leaders who, in Godin's words, are more productive than leaders who seek to get because they are there to give, and in doing so, upset the status quo.

What contributes to making schools more like balloon factories?

1. An American tradition of graded schools whose culture is embedded in our grandparents, parents, staff and students. We learned most of what we think school should be by sitting in a student desk for more than thirteen years.

2. A tradition of attracting college students into the teaching profession based primarily on their desire to "play school" as they learned growing up. Few aspiring students go off to college to learn how to upset the balloon factory.

3. The practice of promoting teachers into leadership positions based on years of experience in the classroom versus their leadership ability.

4. Constant external pressure to produce different results without providing the resources to change the way those results are produced. Politicians and the media want schools to leave no child behind despite the fact the child may begin his schooling already behind, but don't want to provide the financial or political support to change schools to year-round. Keep the balloon factory producing quality balloons despite poorer quality raw materials.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Election and America's Future

Two days before one of the most important elections in my lifetime and I really don't know who will come out on top. The mainstream press thinks it knows but in the end, only the voters who show up on Tuesday actually know.

It doesn't really matter who wins Tuesday, it only matters what the winner does beginning January 20. Here are some of our pressing concerns:

  • Will we continue to add to our unbelievable debt to bail out self-centered corporate executives or suffer through a period of depression that teaches a whole new generation the lessons learned in the 30's?
  • Will we continue to expand federal government and control over our lives or return to our constitutional roots of local government and individual freedom?
  • Will we continue to support Islamic radicals by purchasing foreign oil or slam the door shut on terrorism once and for all by drilling at home and developing alternative fuels?

These are just a few questions for the next president.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

My Bucket List

1. Complete a 100-mile ultra run.

2. Spend 30 consecutive days on a tropical beach.

3. Travel the length of Route 66 in a convertible.

4. Cycle across the United States.

5. Cruise the Mediterranean.

(To be continued)

Friday, May 23, 2008

And just like that...

They are gone. Most of them, anyway. Some will come around school from time to time and others will be passed along life's way. But most of them will now move on to new pursuits and adventures. Some will experience profound success, others terrible sadness and pain. The vast majority will live ordinary lives, marry, have children, work a job, build a home. It's the way the human race has always existed and will, for the most part, continue to exist.

I hope that even in some small way I have been able to help prepare them for what comes next. The unknown.

There departure leaves a hole in my life. Yes, a new senior class will come along to take their place. But will they? This was an extraordinary class. And just like that, they're gone.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

What to Say?

With just six days until another graduation, I'm sitting on my couch lost for words on what to say as a special class crosses the stage. I've been around this class since most of them were seventh graders. On Thursday, many will move on and we'll likely never see each other again. That's something a high school principal encounters every year and in the past I've never even considered it. But this is a special group of young men and women and life in the halls of Lee Middle and High School will never be the same.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Web 2.0 for Teachers

Here is a great blog site with specific Web 2.0 applications for the classroom.

http://kathyschrock.net/web20/

Sunday, May 11, 2008

New Running Partner

Yesterday, my wife of twenty-eight years joined me in the Fifth Third River Bank Run. She ran her first 5k race while I ran the traditional 25K. She has been running about three miles per weekday (she bikes on weekends) since I converted the extra bedroom into a workout room equipped with treadmill, stationary bike, and weight machine.

I have been running road (and now trail) races since 1985. In all those years, she never took an interest in running and was a smoker since her teen years (she finally quit about eight years ago). To see her running was pretty exciting. Her time was slow by runner standards but she enjoyed it and even hung around another ninety minutes until I finished. Now, she wants to know when the next race is.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

That Day is Coming

Six years ago, I walked into Lee Middle School and my life has never been the same. While I have crossed paths with many past and present staff members and students, the Class of 2008 has in many ways imprinted on my life in ways no other class or group of young people have. It wasn't easy. They were seventh graders and full of energy, ready to test me and their teachers without even thinking about it. There were times I wondered why I had left the realitively simple and safe confines of Wayland for this. But something always struck me about this group. They had enthusiasm for life and that carried over into learning. I watched them grow and develop into fine young adults. We've laughed together and we've cried together. Now, in a matter of a couple of weeks, it will be time to let them go. It will be hard not to shed a tear as they walk across my stage with their diplomas in hand, but I'm sure the pride I'll feel for each and every one of them will carry me through the day. They will always be a special group of Rebels - my Rebels.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

People I have little use for...

I'm not normally a negative person but these things have been building for 53 years and it's time to get them out. I definitely know I'm not perfect and would likely make someone else's list. However, that's no excuse for the things I'm about to write.

These are the people I have little use for:

1. Vehicle drivers who don't give way to pedestrians. This includes old people who look scared to death as they roar by me on their way to church on Sunday mornings.

2. Fat drivers who pull into a fast-food restaurant hell-bent for leather, as if they were on some sort of mission to save the world (but could care less about the person they nearly ran over).

3. People who always give you the excuse they can't run because of their knees. What a crock!

4. Drivers who insist on not stopping at the sold white line at intersections but prefer instead to block the crosswalk.

5. Anyone who runs through a red light.

6. Police officers who are sitting at intersections when someone does run a red light (or does a "rolling stop" before turning right on red), and do nothing about it. Instead, they convince taxpayers to pay for expensive video cameras at intersections that do nothing to solve the problem (you can't mail a ticket in Michigan).

7. Men who are always talking on the telephone (or cellphone) like women used to do.

8. Boys (and men) who don't have the decency or common sense to pull their pants up around their waste and secure them with a belt.

9. People who disrespect others by showing up to scheduled meetings late (or not at all).

10. Girls who physically fight with other girls.

11. Drivers planning to make a right turn but never looking right before they pull out (wake up, stupid!).

12. Telemarketers.

13. People who work for telemarketers.

14. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain (Lord help us!).

15. People, especially talk-show hosts, who spew venom about public schools but have never run for the school board, never participated in a boosters club, wouldn't have any clue how to teach a room full of kids all day long for nine months, don't have a clue about their neighborhood school's improvement plan, and usually don't even have a college degree themselves (that's you, Rush).

16. Teachers who want to be treated as salaried professionals but only withing the limits of their blue-collar union contract.

17. People who insist on playing their car stereos so loud they can be heard coming for two blocks.

18. People who join gangs because you are too stupid to realize you are just being used.

19. Parents who barely passed anything in school and now think they are experts on how to educate children.

20. And, don't forget those helicopter parents. Sure glad I grew up in the 60's and 70's!

21. Kids who can't do anything without calling mom or dad on their cell phones to find out how. There was no way I was ever going to waste a dime on a pay phone call to my mom or dad.

22. People who watch 24-hour television news so much they think everything has gotten worse just because they heard the same thing over and over and over and over and...

23. People who have handicap parking stickers but don't need them (you know who you are!).

24. People who ask me what my time was for a 50-mile trail run (good Lord, I'm just happy to finish it).

25. People who can't have a conversation with anyone without spewing profanity in every sentence.