Retirement Row

If you couldn’t tell, I am pretty passionate about my job and educating kids for today’s society.  I’ve made numerous controversial comments about how people should retire if they hate their teaching job because it affects kids.  Why is this such a thing for me?  A couple reasons.

Back when my grandfather was a police officer, he worked in the traffic bureau before he retired.  I asked him one day what he does, and he said he hangs out on “retirement row.” Clueless as to what that meant, I found out that the traffic bureau was the most coveted gig for those who awaited retirement – 9 to 5, five days a week, not on the road.  Sounded awful to me, but, for cops who didn’t work like everyone else, it was a dream.  I eventually got to see it once I became affiliated with UPD; retirement row was definitely retirement row.

About twelve years ago when I was teaching, I met a teacher who was absolutely miserable.  Words can’t even describe how miserable she was.  She wouldn’t talk to anyone; she just gave the number of years an days she had left.  She eventually got down to 30 days, and, holy cow, what a different person!  I could have told her the Apocalypse was here, and her smile wouldn’t have gone away.  She was the epitome of bliss.

Thankfully, I have not worked with anyone like that since then.  I have worked with educators who just keep going, not because they have to, not because they want to but because they don’t know what else to do.  Those folks end up almost paying to work. Think about that.  Paying to work!  It makes me ill.  You worked so hard your whole life, and now you’re paying to work?!  Awful.  It’s not fair to that person.  If you love your job, by all means, have at it.  But paying someone to work?!  Not cool.

One of our secretaries is retiring this week after a career of helping our learners and staff succeed.  She said it was time, and she’s excited to move on to the next chapter.  I could not be happier for her.  Her laugh and grin will be missed, but knowing that she’ll be playing with her grandchildren daily truly offsets the loss in my book.

What’s the point of this post?  In my opinion, in the education profession, you’ve worked so, so hard to ensure our students and staff succeed.  Kudos to you for making the best of it and moving on to your next chapter, whatever that is. Thanks for not being on “retirement row” or paying to work.  Six Saturday’s and a Sunday sound pretty damn good!

Enjoy the sunset. Onward!

Partnerships: the sky is the limit.

I took this beautiful sky picture in Tampa around 2012.

Hopefully in your educational career you have heard of a partnership with some type of group.  It can be as local as a store in town and as international at a for-profit business.  Regardless of whom it’s with, the goal of the partnership should be beneficial to the learners you serve.

Note:  This is not that “shared-partnership” nonsense.  If a board president ever contacts you with that concept, contact the board attorney immediately. 

While I have been fortunate enough to see many partnerships, I’m always a fan of seeing state organizations partnering in schools.  Recently, Liberty Science Center agreed to come to my current district to “push in” a series of science lessons, experiments, and curriculum.  Better yet, Camden County College might be picking up the tab.  Why is this great?  Two reasons.  Every district loves the word “free,” and it’s great for our students who never have the chance to go there. We are about 45 minutes from Philadelphia, so, not to knock any Philly museums, this is the go-to spot for most in our area.  Having additional exposure to other programming is really nice.

The second partnership is with Montclair State University and their gifted and talented program.  MSU is working hard to inject their courses, programming, and activities into all schools, not just local.  Again, students being exposed  from other external opportunities?  Fantastic!

Don’t think it can’t be done where you work?  Start exploring options.  Most places would be more than willing, and it won’t break the bank either.  Poke around and see what’s out there.  Your students will truly appreciate your efforts.

Art – it’s good for you.

I’m a bit biased when it comes to art.  I’m in love with it!  While I am not drawn to a certain style or an artist in particular, I am a fan of getting as many people to see art for what it is – an avenue of expression utilizing a gift others possess.

My breakthrough moment was when I was 12 years old and began to volunteer at the Les Malamut Art Gallery, a small gallery in the basement of the Union Public Library, where  I was exposed to local people creating art in a myriad of ways and sharing local talent.  I have been hooked ever since.  I was so amazed by some of the photography that I bought my first piece for $100.00 from an artist in 1993.  It hangs in my office today.

I did not take art classes or pursue an artistic career, but, if anyone ever wants to go to a gallery and show me an up-and-coming artist, I’m there.

 

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image credit: M. Knoll (WTSD)

A few weeks ago 6th-grade students in an art club in my current school district had the opportunity to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  As one of the most beautiful museums in the US, it features pop art, an authentic Japanese tea house, medieval armor and weapons, and priceless Van Gogh works.

 

Twenty years ago it was practical to see such works on slides or in an art book. Today online tours through websites or Periscope, virtual field trips through devices like  Google Cardboard, or even robots on wheels with iPads as “heads'”allow everyone to control a walk through the gallery.  The tools to provide all learners the ability to see art – whether it be 10 or 100,000 miles away – are here.

Expose your learners to art, regardless of the age or subject you teach.  Your students will thank you.

 

9 Nintendo games that make me a better Superintendent 

I am child of the 80’s which means two things.

  • I am a fan of professional wrestling.
  • I played my Nintendo every day.
    image credit: nesaddicts.com

Yes, I still play video games, just not as much, but on the days I play them, I do yearn for my 8-bit NES.  Looking back, there are some quotes and images from some of my favorite games that have made me a better teacher, administrator, and superintendent.  Here are nine of my favorites:

1) The Legend of Zelda was a staple in all households with a NES.  One of the first actions in the game was to get the sword.  No, I am not advocating for  weaponry in schools, but it is indeed dangerous to go alone in education.  If you do so today, you’re foolish.  We have a zillion tools that connect us.  Why not talk to others in your position?  Why not connect, grow, and put yourself in a better position?

2)The end of Predator for NES was a simple one; it’s the screen above.  This reminds me of my first year as a teacher, vice-principal, supervisor, and definitely superintendent.  Getting through your first year of anything is tough.  Celebrate the small things – like surviving!

3) I always had a good laugh when I saw this when playing The Adventures of Link. The character was named Error.  I always thought about this game when I made a mistake.  It’s very important to realize that it’s okay to make mistakes.  I have been “Error” many a time and I will be in the future, too.  It’s how I learn; it’s how we all learn.

  4) Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure was a goofy movie but was also an awful NES game.  This screenshot above was the end of the game, and the message is simple: be good people!  I preach this wherever I go.  You don’t need scads of degrees or massive experience to be a good person.  Being a good person allows you to go very far in life.

5) Double Dragon was a fun fighting game, but the story line was odd.  This slide says much, though.  Making yourself the focal point will get you very far in your own mind, but in the rest of the world…not so much.  While we grew up in that everyone-gets-a-trophy-and-certificate cycle, being all about yourself is simply embarrassing.  Real leaders and educators empower those around them and lift them up.  When you focus on learners, learning takes place.  Period.

6) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was everywhere and anywhere when I was growing up.  At the end of the TMNT NES game, Splinter (a rat if you can’t recall) morphed back into a human and said the above at the end of the game.  I often think about how everyone around me has “excelled” my skills.  Thanks to so many social media platforms, we are connected at the snap of a finger.  Even more important, jobs which were typically isolating, like superintendents, are now connected more than ever.  Those connections have excelled my skills!

7) Metroid was fantastic, but the message above tells much more.  For the longest time, I took everything so seriously.  Why?  Yes, education is a serious job, but we certainly can relax just as everyone else can.  There are times when you return to base immediately, but there are times where your family and “me time” come first.

8) Super Mario Brothers is one of the best games ever created.  What kept you going?  The message above.  I actually have this hanging in my office.  Why?   Because there is always something that can be done.  It keeps you going.  There’s always something to work on. The princess is always in another castle!

9) NES Pro Wrestling was a fantastic game–awful graphics, awful wrestling moves, awful everything, but, when you beat the game, you received the message above. So silly, but it always felt good.  It was a sense of accomplishment!  It’s a message that everyone wants to be.  It’s not always about winning; it’s about getting to the goal.  I set meaningful, achievable goals just about every day.  I don’t care about the winning.  I care about reaching the goal so that we all can succeed.