Tag Archives: education

School for the Gifted

One of my favorite Far Side cartoons (an oldie, but goodie):


A Principal – Life in a Shark Tank

I haven’t written about my bucket list lately.

One series of goals that I set at 30 was to earn a teaching credential, a master’s degree and a doctorate.  So, at 33, I went back to school to begin work on my teaching credential.  I then reentered the workforce as a novice – again (this was my third career).

As a classroom teacher, one of my goals every day was to be the bright spot in each student’s day.  I thought if I could help 30 kids enjoy school, maybe they would enjoy learning.  The problem was that when I was busy earning my teaching credential, I thought I would be a fourth grade teacher.  Instead I spent my entire teaching career at middle schools.  So, my influence on 30 students extended to 180.

After several years of teaching, I began to think that maybe I could extend a positive influence to an entire school of students (or from 180 to 1,000).  So, I earned my administrative credential and M.A. and was promptly asked to begin working as a principal at an elementary school.  As I spent the summer preparing to take the helm of a school of about 500 students, I decided that I was going to learn each student’s name by October (I did) – it really wasn’t that hard.  We had a great time together and I believe we made great strides – in fact I just ran into one of those students and his parents this past week who still remembered me (he was a kindergartner my last year at the elementary school and is now in eighth grade) and they made some positive comments about my knowing all the kids at the school.

I had a wonderful time with elementary students, but eventually moved back to working with middle school students and again learned every student’s name (about 1,500 this time).

Middle school is a nice euphemism for shark tank.  Kids are going through so much as middle schoolers and we (adults) tend to marginalize the emotional, physical, social, intellectual, and moral changes they are experiencing (and ages 11-14 tend to be at their lowest point of self-esteem).  As a result, many (most) kids tend to pick on others in order to feel better about themselves (I’m generalizing due to time constraints).  I tried to make each day bearable for them and did whatever I could to make them feel that they had at least one advocate.  However, if they needed to be disciplined, they were (we expelled about 20 kids each year).

My favorite story to hate about middle school happened one year on the first day of school.  I watched a new sixth grader walk onto campus with his father.  The kid was wearing a sweater vest, tie, dress slacks, and dress shoes (he looked pretty sharp) and was holding hands with his father as he entered campus.  My first thought was “well, you don’t see that anymore, how nice.”  My second thought was, “he’s dead” (socially).  Sure enough, he only lasted two more days before checking out and going to a private school.

There were many great stories as well.  Like the students who earned a place in space camp in Huntsville, Alabama, or the students who created a welcome program to help assimilate new students into the school, or the students who went on to earn scholarships to universities or military institutions, or just the great kids who would come back to volunteer on their days off after moving on to high school. 

But the one student who couldn’t be himself – couldn’t just be a kid – still haunts me.

Anyway, I eventually moved on to become a principal of a high school (with some of my middle school kids) and now a university (educating teachers, counselors, and principals), always with the goal of making school more enjoyable for students, with the hope that they will enjoy learning.  Only now, instead of a goal to be the bright spot in the lives of 100 or 1,000 students, my goal is to create many bright spots who will enter classrooms and school all across Southern California, becoming a positive influence on (literally) millions.

Welcome to middle school!

Welcome to middle school!

Teachers Packing Heat – Guns in School

It’s Monday.  Kids are heading back to school.  And I watched this headline scroll across my screen, “Texas Students Pack Bookbags; Teachers Pack Heat,” I remembered hearing something about this a few weeks ago, yet for some reason I was still surprised.

The first student quote was interesting, “It was kind of awkward knowing that some teachers were carrying guns” (something I guess I didn’t expect to hear in the USA during my lifetime).  The student went on to say, “I don’t feel like they should be, ’cause we already have locked doors and cameras.  But I didn’t feel threatened by it.”

This isn’t particularly new (the decision by the Harrold, Texas school board was made last fall) it just hadn’t been publicized until now.

I’m a teacher and a parent.  While I certainly understand both sides of an argument regarding guns in school (could Columbine have been diverted by a teacher?, will an unstable teacher carry a weapon on campus, could a student access a teacher’s weapon, etc.), I don’t think this is the greatest idea.

What do you think?

My Formal Education

As mentioned previously, when I turned 30, I set 50 goals that I wanted to accomplish before I died.  I’ve actually completed all but two of my goals that have a termination point (several will be ongoing for life), so I am probably due to begin a new list… or die.  One of my goals was to further my formal education:

I grew up in a family of teachers.  Nearly everyone I am related to works in a school of some kind.  When I was ready to get a degree, I decided I didn’t want to be a teacher (go into the family business) until I wanted to be a teacher – knowing I would someday be a teacher, if that makes sense.  So, I pursued a general kind of degree – Literature and Speech – that would give me a strong enough base to succeed in just about anything but medicine or engineering (personal computers were still out of the reach of many at that time).  Upon graduation, I did a variety of things professionally, but knew I would someday be a teacher.  At 30, my wife threw a surprise party for me and I plunged into depression.  My generation never trusts anyone over 30 and I had just become untrustworthy.  When I set my goals, my list included earning a teaching credential and becoming a teacher – I also threw earning an M.A. and a doctorate on my list, but didn’t really think I was all that serious about it at the time.  It took a couple of years before I was in a position to go back to school, but I became a student again at age 33.  As it turned out, more than a decade removed from my B.A., I really liked going to school.  So, after earning and clearing my teaching credential, I continued my formal education by earning a Master’s degree in Education, with a concentration in Educational Administration, earning and clearing an administrative services credential, then earning an Educational Doctorate (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership.  It took 11 years and I had to give up many weekends while going to school, but it has been worth it.

I refer to this as my formal education because most of my real education has been outside of classrooms.  However, the most important thing I learned while pursuing a formal education was persistence.  Don’t get me wrong – I learned a lot while going to school, but learning to be persistent was primary.  I found that you don’t have to be all that intelligent to earn an M.A. or doctorate, but you must be persistent.  That’s not a bad lesson to learn.