Thursday, May 18, 2017


A warranty is a written guarantee issued to the purchaser of an article by the manufacturer, promising to repair or replace it if necessary within a specified period of time.  That last part is the tricky part.  You see, the last part really makes you wonder about the first part.  If the product is that good (and they tell you it is), then why do they specify the warranty period as relatively short?  The shorter the warranty period, the easier it is to understand the warranty itself.  The longer the  warranty period, the more sketchy are the details as to what is covered.  I would advise not just reading the fine print, but understanding the fine print before you sign a thing.  How about the concept of the “Extended” warranty.  Extended means that you are paying for that warranty longer. A Consumer Reports survey found that 55% of car buyers who purchased an extended warranty never used it for repairs even though the median coverage was $1200 and for those who did use it spent hundreds more for the coverage than they saved in repair costs.  The better the product, the less there is a need for a warranty.

There was a push in some parts of the country during the 1990’s for high schools to give warranties on their students based on their abilities to perform well in the real world in terms of functional literacy. The premise was that schools were required to guarantee that their students could read, write, and do arithmetic.  Once hired, if those same students were found to be performing below the guaranteed level, then the schools had to provide remedial instruction.    The warranties served two purpose;; (1) To give businesses confidence in the high school grads and (2)  Instill confidence in teachers that their efforts were worthwhile.  How about you – are you ready to GUARANTEE that all of your students are ready for the next level and will put that in a written warranty that if not, you will provide the necessary remediation?  A novel concept, isn’t it?  The better the product, the less there is a need for a warranty.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Picking Apples

Shuna Holmes, Assistant Director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, wrote a blog entitled, “Women are like Apples.”  Okay, I bit (no pun intended).  Here’s what she wrote –“Women are like apples on a tree.  The best ones are at the top of the tree.  The men don’t want to reach for the good ones because they are afraid of falling and getting hurt.”  Not in my case!  I climbed the tree and was blessed to get the best apple.  I found her comments pretty deep because you all know that I like that kind of  analogical and metaphorical writing because I do the same each week.  Even outside of Ms. Holmes’ meaning, there is something here about apple picking.  People go to apple orchards in the fall months to pick apples.  Did you ever see even one of those people climb the apple tree to get the best fruit?  After all, that’s where the best fruit is.  The vast majority of people are content to just pick from the lowest branches and are satisfied with so-so apples.  They stay away from the apples on the ground unless they want to smash them in a cider press for the liquid and leaving the remnants for the critters.  But the really good apples, those near the top – they’re just not worth the climb for most.

Students are much like this.  Many are just content to stay where it is comfortable and eat off the lower branches of understanding.  That’s where the easy stuff is in academic terms.  Those are the branches that hold knowledge and comprehension levels of understanding.  Not much effort needs to be exerted and what the heck, they can still eat.  Some will stand on their tip-toes and pick off the branches that hold application levels of understanding.  The fruit is a little tastier there, but nothing to write home about.  We won’t teach kids to be critical thinkers if we never get them up in the tree trying to pick from branches that hold apples of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation levels.  Maybe they can use a ladder, maybe they’ll have to climb. It doesn’t matter. We have to get them up in the tree.  That’s where the best apples are. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017


On July 7, 2016, a shooter ambushed and fired upon a group of police officers in Dallas, Texas.  Five of those officers were killed.  Nine others were injured.  The shooter was angry over police shootings of black men and was intent on killing white police officers.  Sad.  Ironically, the shootings came at the conclusion of a PEACEFUL organized protest against police killings of two black men.  Sad.  Emotions were running high on both sides of the issue.  For me, I have a brother who has been a police officer for 36 years and a nephew who is in his second year as a police officer. Police shootings hit home pretty quick.  Take the politics out of this tragedy and guess what – it is still a tragedyALL lives matter.  Many civilians and officers were interviewed after the shootings.  One officer, a spokesmen for the Dallas police force, said something that stuck with me.  He was imploring the public to show support in tangible ways.  Here’s what he said – “We don’t feel your support most days.  Let’s not make today most days.”  Amen.

There is a teacher shortage in the United States.  Why is this?  There are many reasons why young people do not choose to make teaching their profession.  Some of these reasons are personal; other reasons are quite public.  Teachers today have to be masters of their content, a computer whiz, a counselor, an advocate, a proxy-parent, a coach, an entertainer, a facilitator, an data interpreter, an assessment writer, a course developer, a psychologist, first-aid responder, parent communicator, promise keeper, have something called “withitness” and a thousand other things.  People know teachers because essentially everyone was a student at some time in their life and had at least one teacher.  Teachers need to be honoredTeachers need to be respectedTeachers need to be listened to.  Teachers have a chance every day to change lives – to make a difference.  Teachers should not have to echo what the police officer in Dallas said – “We don’t feel your support most days.  Let’s not make today most days”.  Thanks for what you do.  You have my support. I have said it before a thousand times, but here it is again – the most important resource we have in education are the human resources.   Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Friday, April 28, 2017


Did you ever dig a hole in the ground?  Not a little one where you planted petunias, but a hole that had some depth.  I recall digging, by hand, the foundation for a family room addition to my childhood home in 1983. That foundation was 48 inches deep and believe me, Dad had the tape measure in full use.  Mom and Dad decided to expand the house after the kids were gone – go figure.  Anyway, the work was pretty brutal under the hot August sun working with a single spade.  Although I was only 25 at the time, my muscles ached, my back was sore, and I was sweating like Mike Tyson at a Spelling Bee.  Periodically, my brothers and I would take a break to get some water.  We were faced with a dilemma.  There is no way that we could jump out of the hole that we made.  It was four feet deep and my vertical is slightly above the thickness of a credit card.  We found out pretty quick that it is not possible to jump out of a hole.  No way.  To get out of a hole, you have two choices:  (1)  crawl out of the hole or (2) have someone pull you out.  We used both.

Do you have any students who are in the hole?  Any students who have fallen behind?  Any students who have missing assignments?  Any students who are struggling?  Of course you do.  If not, take a deeper look at the data and reassess.  Okay, they’re in the hole. Now what? You – yes you, have three choices.  You could direct them to jump out of the hole by snapping to it, bucking up and making up for their transgressions.  Ain’t gonna work.  That leaves you with two choices.  You could make them crawl out of the hole because after all, they caused the problem, right?  Before you direct them to crawl out of the hole, make sure that they know how to crawl. If they can do the work, make them crawl by assigning working lunches until their crawling is complete and they are out of the hole.   If they are truly academically challenged with the material, you can ask them to crawl until the cows come home, but they won’t get out of the hole.  That leaves you with one final choice – you can pull them out of the hole.  Work with them so that they understand the material.  Make sure that they have it before you go “all punitive” on them. Find time in Resource Period or in Enrichment Period to intervene.  Kids will continue to work their way into holes and they will be in your classes.  It’s important to respond correctly. You don’t necessarily need to understand the hole, but rather who is in it.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Time to Show Up!

I enjoyed my tenure as Head Coach of a high school track and field team.  We enjoyed a great deal of success if success is measured by championships, school records,  and state medals.  We worked from a backward approach with the end in mind.  Practices were planned from the state finals and worked back to the start of the training season in late Fall.  The ultimate goal was always prevalent.  Along the way, there were short-term goals.  Adjustments in practices were made according to the progress that the kids made.  These were the “informal” assessments.  The “formative” assessments were all of the meets before the state meet, which was the “summative” assessment.  In all of this, there were many “pep talks”, both as a group or individually.  What you learn over time is that during that last week of the “Big Test” (State Finals), there really isn’t much you can do to get the kids in better shape or increase their level of fitness.  At that point in the season, it is really all between their ears.  That’s where your best pep talk comes into play.  It’s time to show up!

Much like the training plan described above, you and  your students have done the same.  Now, we attack the final round of ISTEP.  Hopefully, you worked from a backward approach by first identifying what the essential learning was to be and then setting long-range goals.  “Practice sessions” were held throughout the year with the end goals in site.  Along the way, there were daily goals.  These goals were connected to the long-term goals.  Adjustments in the instructional plan were made dependent upon the progress of the students.  There were informal assessments multiple times and formative assessments to measure if kids were “on track”.  There were some pep talks to your students, both as a team and individually.  Parents were brought on to the team.  We have made videos, we have served them breakfast, we have done daily announcements, we have worn the t-shirt, we have created carrots.  At this point, it is all between their ears…literally.  This is where your best pep talk comes into play.  It’s time to show up!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Movies and Bladders

What is the longest movie that you have ever sat through without taking a break of any kind?  No trip to the concession stand, no potty breaks, no skipping out and rounding up.  The Godfather Part II ran for 3 hours and 20 minutes.  Ironically, the same length of time that Taylor Swift has stayed in a relationship.  The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King lasted 3 hours and 21 minutes.  Ben Hur was 3 hours and 32 minutes including a 9 minute chariot race.  The Ten Commandments ran for 3 hours and 40 minutes – almost as long as Moses was actually in the desert.  Gone with the Wind lasted for 3 hours and 41 minutes.  I was gone before the breeze started.  Hamlet ran for 3 hours and 42 minutes.  Cleopatra was 3 hours and 48 minutes -  four academy awards and a bottle of 5 Minute Energy DrinkAlfred Hitchcock was a genius in the film industry.  He directed such memorable films as Psycho, The Birds, The Rear Window, North by Northwest, Vertigo and many others.  Hitchcock’s movies typically ran under two hours because of his rule of thumb about films:  “The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.”

What the heck does a full bladder have to do with teaching?  Not much…or does it.  The point that I wish to make is that the attention span of a “tweener” is sometimes slightly longer than a gnat.  I once read that all speeches should be 18 minutes or less because the human mind begins to wander after that duration no matter who is speaking.  You will never capture all of the attention necessary from your students if they come in, park their buns, and remain sitting there for 40 minutes listening to you pontificate (Remember Charlie Brown’s teacher).  It is important to have several activities planned each day with quick and smooth transitions.  Have something for them every day as soon as they walk in the door.  Mix it up.  Get them out of their seats.  Get out of your own seat.  Get them out of the classroom.  When you are competing against fast action video games, you can’t be the Science teacher from Ferris Bueller.  Short bursts of high-yield teaching will pay big dividends.  The length of a classroom activity should be directly related to the endurance of the attention of a 11-13 year old…perhaps their bladder endurance as well.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Butler Way

I am a proud graduate of Butler University.  Great school.  Great education.  Great relationships.  I never heard of Butler University until one week before the state Track & Field championships in 1976 when I received a note from Butler’s legendary coach, Stan Lyons, who wrote that he wanted to visit with me after the meet.  Two weeks later, he offered me a scholarship and I said yes.  I still remember the look of pride on my Dad’s face.  Four years, lots of studying, championships, the Lambda Chi house, great friendships , student teaching, outstanding commencement ceremony.  It was hard to say good-bye to Coach Lyons on that last day.  What a great man – God rest his soul.  Butler gained much notoriety in 2010 and 2011 with back to back trips to the NCAA Men’s’ Basketball Championship game with a “David vs. Goliath” story.  Over the years, Butler has developed a culture incorporating five pillars and recruiting players that have outstanding character.  Those five pillars are core values and really are biblical principles.  “The Butler Way” is Humility - go about your business in a humble way without self-exaltation, Passion – do not be lukewarm; pursue excellence, Unity – do not divide the team as the team is first, Servanthood – make those around you better, Thankfulness – learn from every circumstance, and Accountability - no excuses, no explanations.  I am proud to be associated with this school – Go Bulldogs!

There is a lot to learn from these core values and perhaps much to aspire to.  As teachers, we demonstrate humility when we really don’t care who gets the credit for outstanding results.  As teachers, we work at things with a passion as we pursue excellence in our students; however that is defined.  As teachers, we must have the demonstrative attitude that we are serving others and not the other way around.  As teachers, we must show thankfulness no matter what comes our way and understand that failures make us stronger IF we do something about it.  Finally, we have to be accountable for what happens, good or bad without excuse.  More than teaching, what a great way to live your life.  Live this way and people will notice.  They will see something different about you.  Hopefully, they’ll want to follow your example.  Guess what we’ll have then – a better school and a better society.  Who wouldn’t want that?  I am proud to be associated with this school – Go Bulldogs!