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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Wrong Turn 

It is difficult to write about things such as this. Everyone knows I love my job, the interaction with kids, the ability to make a difference, to possibly change lives. But it isn’t always a happy ending. Sometimes, for whatever reason, kids choose to make other choices. This is one such story.

He wouldn’t have been classified as a good student, but neither was he a particularly troublesome one either. He wasn’t violent and I can’t remember him even getting into a fight. He enjoyed talking to adults and loved receiving attention. What he didn’t like was going to class. Many times he would show up in my office wanting to talk about something, often in an effort to just not be in class. He was failing all of his classes as a 7th grader and had already repeated the grade once. He was never disrespectful to me but occasionally could be that way to others. I joked with him, playing on his last name, humming “Hail to the Chief” when I saw him, something he seemed to find humorous after I explained it to him. He seemed to respond better to men than women, but got along with most of the adults in our school. His mother was a regular presence at the school, wanting her son to do well, but not able to exert full control over him.

I remember catching him in the hall a few months ago, asking him where he was supposed to be, listening to his lame excuses, putting my arm on his shoulder, and walking him to class. I told him that he was behind, needed to catch up on his schoolwork, that this was a ticket to a better life for him. He said to me, “that is for other people…the smart people. I’m not one of them.” Standing in front of the classroom door I repeated to him what one of his teachers had told me….that he was intelligent, how he had once gotten motivated and completed a large amount of work in a very short time. He didn’t reply, smiled, slapped me a high five and walked into class.

I knew he hung with a bad crowd, that he lived on the streets, saw things that thirteen year old boys should not see, doing things he had no business doing. Apparently it was worse than I thought. I was shocked to hear of what he’d done, to read this story. (link removed- the student is charged with shooting and killing a 26 year old man) He took a life, someone’s son, brother, or friend. I’ve heard rumors as to what happened, but who knows what to believe.

I am saddened for such a senseless loss of life, sorry for the victim and his family. I am also saddened for this young man who only recently turned fourteen years old.

What a damn waste.


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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Midweek Meanderings 

It is midweek and yes…it is still raining almost every day. Earlier this week I finished mowing the lawn less than thirty minutes before the latest rain shower hit.

This is starting to give me déjà vu feelings from my days living in Washington. I do miss it sometimes you know, but this rain can stop any ole time now.

Yes, the price is outrageous. Yes, it is a toy no one really NEEDS. Yes, the desire wickedly combines my inner geek with my flair for coolness. Yes, I have many things on which money would be better spent. Still, I want one of these.

We saw Evan Almighty at the matinee this afternoon. It was a cute and touching movie and Morgan Freeman plays a great God.

I was in class all last weekend and will be in class this weekend. My next class is on public relations and how school leaders should communicate with the public. It should be interesting!

Ellen received a surprise box of cranes. This project was conceived, shepherded, and completed by Kathy. I’m in awe of both women and proud to have played a small part in this worthy project.

So how is YOUR week going?


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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Knowing 

Aubree was devastated to learn of the murder/suicide involving professional wrestler Chris Benoit. He was one of her favorites, someone she cheered for, a face on a t-shirt she wanted to buy. She at first refused to believe it, then read through the story and tried to come up with some explanation. There had to be one. She had watched this wrestler on television many times. “He wasn’t like that. How could he do something like this?”, she sobbed. I told her that we often don’t know people as well as we think we do, that we don’t always understand the demons that lurk inside of man. We’ll never know what was going through this man’s head. How on earth does a man strangle his own wife and suffocate his seven year old son? What does he find inside himself that enables him to commit such a horrific act?

Everyone has their demons, even professional entertainers who make lots of money and constantly appear in the public eye. Early press reports are referencing possible steroid abuse, but it is impossible for me to imagine that any kind of drug could compel someone to murder their own family. We don’t know and we don’t understand, and this makes it all the more difficult. If I don’t understand, how can I possibly explain it to a twelve year old girl? Everyone has a dark side and everyone has their own struggles, temptations, and their own personal demons. History is full of examples of someone that no one believed would harm a fly turning into cold blooded killers.

We never really know people like we think we do, even those we consider close to us. We sure don’t know celebrities who put on a face for us to see. I'm sorry that my daughter is having to learn that in this difficult way.


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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Faith or Fantasy? 

There have been several books published recently dealing with religion. You can find a few of them here, here, and here. I have read excerpts from a couple of these books, interviews with the authors, and independent reviews. The fundamental premises that the books can be summed up as follows:

1) There is no God and a belief in God is fantasy.

2) Religion has done more harm than good.

3) Religion inhibits progress in science and retards society’s development.

I consider myself a person of faith, albeit a very flawed one. I believe in a just and merciful God. I also consider myself a logical and rational person who believes in human progress. So how would I consider the points raised above?

There is no God. As stated above, I believe in God as a matter of faith. I feel that I have been touched by God’s presence in my life. How would I prove this to any of the authors listed above? I can’t of course, any more than they can prove to me that God doesn’t exist. I could shout, “There is a God!” They could shout back, “No there isn’t!” We could do this all day, but how could we possibly convince each other? If I suddenly decided I didn’t believe in God there would be no way for someone to logically convince me that he exists. I don’t think that my personal beliefs make me a “yokel” (as one of the authors called believers) any more than a non-believers creed makes him sophisticated. I have met some brilliant people of deep faith and some ignorant atheists. I’ve also seen the reverse. You have your beliefs and I have mine. I really try not to disparage those who believe differently than I do. We human beings are complicated, the sum of many things. We would do well not to engage in senseless arguments over who is more moral and pious or who is more enlightened and cosmopolitan.

Religion has done more harm than good. Well, there is no denying that people acting in the name of religion or faith have done terrible things. From sectarian killings in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, and Chechnya to the murderous Inquisition, to witch trials, to forced conversion by empire-building conquistadors, to people flying airplanes into buildings, terrible things have been done in the name of religion. People often use their religion or that of those they dislike to justify the unjustifiable. However, there are counter-examples. No one could accuse Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, or Pol Pot of being particularly religious, and they are among the greatest mass murders of the past century. It also isn’t difficult to look around and see that many faiths have built hospitals, aided the poor, helped in disaster relief, brought food to the elderly, and many other things that have benefited society. Show me Jim Bakker and I’ll lay Pope John Paul II on the table. Give me Bin Laden and I’ll raise you a Gandhi and call with Martin Luther King Jr. The point is that many people have done terrible things throughout history. Some of them were motivated by religion and some were motivated by greed, sex, or a thirst for power. It doesn’t take a religious motivation to do evil deeds, and both the faithful and the faithless have contributed to mankind in positive and negative ways.

Religion inhibits progress in science and retards society’s development. There is obviously evidence to back up this point. From the church’s suppression of Galileo’s work, attacks on science during the Dark Ages, fights over the teaching of evolution, to modern battles over stem cell research and genetic engineering, there is a historical conflict between matters of faith and science. New frontiers, especially in the life sciences, promise more conflict in the years to come. My father was a scientist, a renowned geophysicist, and also a man of deep faith. He believed in science and the ability of human beings to advance knowledge and improve their lives. He also had a deep abiding faith in God. There is no law that says you can’t be both. I remember reading of a Harvard scientist who talked about being regarded suspiciously by his scientific colleagues because of his faith and by members of his church because of his job. There are no easy answers here. Scientists do need to understand that some things conflict with the moral and religious beliefs of their fellow citizens. People of faith need to understand that technology holds the promise of improving our lives. Don’t embrace ignorance from a moral high ground. Don’t think that science has all the answers to make us better people.

To the book authors I would say this…..you search for your answers and I’ll search for mine. Hopefully we can all find what brings us peace.


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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Midweek Meanderings 

It is midweek and we had quite a thunderstorm last night.

The thunder lasted for hours and the lightning was so bright it lit up the house in the wee morning hours.

I’m hoping the flowers and vegetables we planted can survive the continued deluge.

I had an appointment on Monday morning and had planned to drop off the kids at my mother’s house on the way. The bridge on the desired route to her house has apparently washed out and is under repair. “No problem!”, I thought, remembering that you could get there on the back roads as I often did when I was younger. The trouble is that I was much younger the last time I traveled those roads. Yep, I got lost. For over thirty minutes I wondered the rural roads, winding and twisting, seemingly never-ending. I knew where I wanted to go and still had my sense of direction, but every time I thought I’d found a way out the road would curve and take me in a different direction. On top of that it was absolutely pouring down rain. The kids were getting somewhat impatient and kept asking, “are you lost dad?” Of course not! I just don’t know precisely how to get where I’m going.

When I eventually found my way out I had overshot my mom’s house by a long way and was well on the way to my appointment and running behind. My blessed mother ended up hopping in her car, driving to my appointment, and picking the kids up there.

I’m knee deep in classwork, currently doing research on community/school partnerships. This is a growing trend in public education and there are some fascinating things going on out there. One of the schools in my district has a fully staffed medical clinic, with a doctor providing health care to students and their families. There are various other partnerships involving dental care, mental health, mentoring and tutoring, and a variety of other areas.

So how is YOUR week going?


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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day 

“Are you ready to come see your son?”, asked the duty nurse. Of course I was. I stepped into the room in the pediatrics ward, clad in hospital gown, and picked up the crying infant in my arms. It was the beginning of fatherhood. My life changed forever on that night.

I’d taken a less conventional approach to becoming a father. Both of my children were adopted as infants, one at birth and the other at only a few months old. I’d always enjoyed other people’s kids, sometimes preferring to play with them in the backyard instead of hanging out with the other adults in the living room. Now, in my early 30’s I was a dad. I was overjoyed, holding this baby in my arms, stifling back the tears. I had a son, and in a couple of years I would have a daughter also.

It couldn’t be that hard, could it? My own father had made it look so easy in many ways. He didn’t try to be a good dad. He just did what came naturally and it made him one. He didn’t issue a lot of orders, preferring to teach by asking good questions and supplying lots of food for thought. He was gentle and kind, but that was just his nature, the way he dealt with life and the people around him. He was brilliant, but never had the ego to suggest that he had all the answers. He took the time to laugh at our stories and jokes and to offer just the right words when things weren’t going so well. He was my role model and now I was a father too, just like him, and it was a lot more challenging than he had made it look.

Over fifteen years later I look at my two adorable adolescents and think to myself, “you didn’t do too bad, did you”? My kids are no more perfect than I am, but they are maturing into young adults before my very eyes. I wish I could claim all of the credit, but there have been others who have influenced their development, taught them valuable lessons, provided them with love, nurtured them, and been there for them during tough times. My ex-wives, grandparents, my brothers, their teachers, family and friends, and now the adorable Terri….they have been there for my children and helped make me a better father. I didn’t come into this knowing all the answers, and fifteen years later I still don’t know them all.

I haven’t always done the right things when it comes to my kids. I’ve taken some chances that didn’t work out for me, but more importantly didn’t work out for them. I’ve made decisions that I have come to regret. I’d like to think I’ve learned from those mistakes, became a better dad as time has gone by. Parenting is the ultimate learning process and we learn as much from our children as they do from us. I’m a better man from being a father to these two kids all these years.

It has been quite a journey, one that I wouldn’t have missed for all the riches in the world.

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there and to those moms who have to fill both roles in the lives of their children.


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Friday, June 15, 2007

Going, Going, Gone 



I drove by the Tulsa County Fairgrounds a few days ago, passing by Bell’s Amusement Park, a local tradition that has been there for my entire life.

I read the newspaper and knew that Bell’s was closing, but it was still a shock to the system to see “Zingo”, the huge white wooden roller coaster disassembled and laying in pieces on the ground. They are packing up the entire park and moving it to an undisclosed location.

Why move the park? The fairgrounds board and county county commissioners apparently had other ideas for this space. Michael Bates has an idea of why they did it, which it true seems even more preposterous. Anyone who grew up this area probably misspent some of their youth at this amusement park. No, it didn’t have all the rides that a fair brought. Yes, it was kind of cheesy in a charming sort of way. Yes, I know that business is business and that nothing lasts forever. Still, it seems as if the county didn’t take into account the joy that this park had for so many of us and how we hoped to share that with our own kids and grandchildren.

I remember my dad taking us to Bell’s when I was probably 6-7 years old. When you walked in the front gate you were walking right under “Zingo”, hearing the roller coaster rattle right over your head, hearing the screams as yet another carload of riders took the big plunge. We walked along the brick paved midway, stopping to get a corn dog, deciding which of the rides we would attempt. We weren’t yet old enough to ride the Zingo, and probably wouldn’t have attempted it even if we were.

We could however hop on the Phantasmagoria, little boxcars that took you through a dark, scary house, things jumping out from the side and making scary noises. If we were adventurous we’d hop on the Himalaya, rocketing around the shot loop with rock-n-roll pulsing through some very loud speakers. We might stop for a game of Skee Ball or waste some money on the deceptively difficult “ring toss”.

I kept going as a teenager. By then I was a Zingo addict, sometimes riding multiple times in the row if there was no line. On one particular occasion a carload of us were riding the coaster and there were was no line. We all stayed on and just kept riding, the long haired ride operator asking, “wanna go again?, as we pulled in. It was almost a challenge. Who was going to chicken out and get off first? It wasn’t gonna be me.

I took girls there on dates. Making out on the overhead cars as they traversed the park on a suspended cable? Yeah, that’s the ticket! Nothing like getting to first base from forty feet in the air. We’d play miniature golf, ride the roller coaster, eat corn dogs, and stroll around the park.

Even as I grew into adulthood I kept going back. I enjoyed the sights, the smells, the feel of being in the park.

Now it is gone.

The politicians may not miss it, but a lot of us will.


P.S. Thanks to all for the happy birthday wishes. I enjoyed the comments, e-cards, and emails taking note of my survival for yet another year! Terri baked me a German chocolate cake (my fave!) and Aubree took paper clips and made a "I Heart You" across my bulletin board. If I'm not the luckiest guy around, I don't know who is. When I reflect on everything in my life, I couldn't be more blessed, and that is the best birthday gift of all.

Please stop by and wish a very happy birthday to my friend Vickie. I can't think of anyone I'd rather share a birthday with! I think one of these days she and I need to have a helluva birthday bash and you're all invited. :)

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Midweek Meanderings 

It is midweek and I sometimes wonder if the rain will ever stop.

Of course, I’ll be complaining about the hot and dry weather in July and August. Oklahoma summers are not the most pleasant times.

I didn’t go to work today. Naturally, it rained most of the day. I might as well have gone in! But I did get a few things done around the house and the kids and I had fun running a few errands.

Ban microwave popcorn? What is the city of Seattle thinking?

I’ve lately become a fan of the show “Top Chef” on Bravo. I don’t exactly have a gourmet palate, but I enjoy watching the competition. I also think Padma is hot, but that has nothing to do with me liking the show. Not much anyway!

My birthday is only two days away. It should be a special weekend with birthday/Father’s Day.

My dad’s birthday was last week. He and I always had birthday/Father’s Day so close together. I miss it and miss him.

The N.B.A. championship series is proving to be anticlimactic. The San Antonio Spurs are just too much for Cleveland. The Spurs play basic fundamental basketball and they play it so very well.

I really could go the rest of my life without reading or hearing another word about Paris Hilton. I’m just sayin’…

So how is YOUR week going?

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Go Fish? 

I’m legally and contractually “off the clock” and on summer vacation, but I continue to get up in the morning and go to work. Why would I do something like that? I could be enjoying some lazy, hazy days of summer, but I load up the kids and drive to work. They surf the net and watch videos in the library while I putter around, working on a master schedule for a school I probably won’t be working at, answering email, and surveying the empty halls. There are a few people around and I spend time talking to them about summer plans, school plans for next year, and rehashing the events of this year. I still interview the occasional job candidate, but that is tailing off.

I know it may seem crazy, but I don’t feel like I’m ready for vacation yet. I still wake up early in the morning. I used to be able to sleep late. I don’t know why I really can’t do that anymore. Does getting older mean that you aren’t able to sleep in anymore? I used to count down the days and race home. I enjoyed my lazy days. Maybe I still will. But right now I’m still operating on school time. At any point I can give it up and stay home. The few odds and ends I’d like to do could probably be done from home just as well as my office 25 miles away. Its like I’m not quite ready to give it up yet. I haven’t turned in my keys, haven’t completely cleaned out my office, still have some papers strewn across my desk.

Maybe its that with some uncertainty about next year I don’t want to let go of this year. That could be it. I don’t have a transition to make yet, a new office to put my diplomas, memorabilia, and old pictures into. I’m gainfully employed yet professionally homeless. It is a weird feeling, not knowing yet what the future holds. I’m not anxiety ridden or anything. I just feel like I’m floating about.

Maybe its that I just like my work. I like going to the office, sitting down in my chair, solving problems, and chatting with coworkers. The problem now is that there are a lot fewer problems to solve and a lot fewer coworkers to chat with.

Go on vacation and unwind? I feel like I am unwinding when I go into work. I’m just unwinding very slowly.

I need to get over it and go fishing. Patrick and I drove past a local lake, stocked with trout, looking very inviting. An ice chest full of cold drinks, a fishing pole, and me. That might keep me out of the office! The kids say they are in as long as they don’t have to mess with any live bait. What kind of kids have I raised anyway?

I used to enjoy fishing a lot. For whatever reason, I haven’t been in years.

It might be time.


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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Local Control 

Margaret asked in the previous post whether education policy was primarily made at the national, state, or local level. The short answer is that it is made at all three, but the pendulum has definitely swung to the national level. I’ve been an educator for twenty years, and the pace and breadth at which the national government has inserted itself into educational policy during that time is breathtaking.

I think a short history lesson is in order and I’ll try not to make it too boring! From the “Ye Olde Deluder Satan” Law passed by Massachusetts in colonial America to “No Child Left Behind”, government at various levels has had an interest in education. The Massachusetts law provided for schools that would teach children to read, thus enabling them to read the Bible and be better equipped to fend off Satan’s machinations. This was the first law regarding public education in the United States.

Education is an area assigned in the Constitution as a responsibility of the states. For most of our history states have chartered schools and left the management of those schools to local citizens. Local school boards chose their administrators and teachers and governed what was taught, how it was taught, and what was acceptable in their own schools. These local schools rarely had interference from the state government and never from the national government. States began to intervene more in the 20th century, establishing graduation requirements, licensing teachers, and providing aid to local schools.

One strand that has been consistent over the past 200 years in education has been equity, the gradual expansion of access to schools to all children. Many early schools were only open to white male children of landowners. The 19th century saw an expansion of educational opportunity to include most white children, including women, although the doors were closed to many of them at the college and university level. Black children were gradually given access to public education, albeit at segregated, often underfunded and inferior schools. When World War II was fought this was the status of public education----locally controlled schools, segregated by race and often by class, loosely controlled by state governments, with most important policies set by local boards.

Equity is the issue that first got the federal government involved in public education. The Supreme Court decision, “Brown vs Board of Education” in the 1950’’s, which ruled segregated schools to be unconstitutional, marked a dramatic intervention of the national government into education. President Eisenhower ordered National Guard soldiers to enforce the court’s ruling. When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik the feds got involved again, passing legislation to fund training in math and science. During the “War on Poverty” in the 1960’s Congress became concerned about the plight of poor children scattered in public schools across the nation and launched what we know as Title I….aid to local schools to provide extra funds to local schools to aid these children. In another move to increase equity, Congress passed IDEA, guaranteeing the right of children with disabilities to receive a free and appropriate public education. This expansion of equal rights left most American children with a right to receive a public education by the 1970’s.

All this attention to matters of equity did not impact how schools operated in areas of curriculum, instructional methods, quality of teaching, quality of programs, what teachers were hired, or any of the other matters that go to the heart of what schooling is. As long as schools met loose state requirements, they could teach what they wanted in any manner they wished to teach it. Principals and teachers were primarily accountable to school boards.

Remember the report, “A Nation At Risk” in the early 1980’s? In rather dramatic language this report castigated the quality of American schools, made unfavorable comparisons to education in other countries, and cast the poor quality of teaching and learning as a national disgrace, potentially dangerous to the survival of the nation. This report spurred a reform movement that swept across the nation in the 1980’s and 1990’s. State governments launched reforms and greatly increased regulation of schools. State education policy began to trump local policy in areas that the state had never been involved with before. Increased standards for teacher certification and high school graduation, accountability reviews, state approval of textbooks….all of these things made the states involved in ways they had never been before.

But the feds were coming too. Local schools found themselves under national requirements if they wished to continue to receive federal money. Then came “No Child Left Behind”, an intervention in education at the national level that has drastically altered the landscape of what happens in schools. States align their policies to meet NCLB’s mandates if they wish to receive those federal funds.

So here we are, a nation with a history of state and local control of schools with the federal government now increasing their presence in every area from teacher certification to curriculum to testing of student achievement. Is it only a matter of time before there is a national curriculum, the same things being taught in every 4th grade class no matter where in the country you move? A national teaching certification process? National standards for high school graduation?

It has changed our politics. Presidential, gubernatorial, and mayoral candidates sound sometimes like they are running for school superintendent. The last two presidents we had achieved fame as governors for education reforms in their own states, and you better believe aspiring candidates have taken note of that fact. Mayors are talking about mentoring programs and school partnerships, and in some cities have actually taken over operation of the schools. No longer is it left to school boards, superintendents, principals, and teachers to determine what happens in schools. Everyone wants a bite of the educational pie.

Where do you strike the balance between a national effort to improve efficiency and student achievement and the ability of local citizens to direct the public education of their children? You’ll be hearing more and more of this debate in the years to come.


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Friday, June 08, 2007

Night Class 

I had class tonight and returned home late to a reunion with my kids. The noise level is higher and the living room more cluttered, but I am happy to see them. I did miss the little rascals!

All of this left me unable to do a weekend roundup. Considering I have class two other weekends this month, I think the roundup will not return until July. I however will continue posting regularly!

My class involves public policy in education. Tomorrow's class guests include the chairman of the state house education committee and the mayor of Tulsa coming to discuss educational policy making. It should be interesting and I'm sure I'll write about it in the coming days.

Have a wonderful weekend my friends!

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Midweek Meanderings 

It is midweek and it seems all so weird.

The house is eerily quiet with the kids not around. No chattering voices, no multiple TVs going at the same time, no arguments, no wrestling shows or Dragonball Z. The peace is nice but I do miss the little rascals!

It is that way at work too with no kids around. I go to work and the hallways are silent. No students to correct, no classes to stop by, no crises that require my immediate attention. I kinda miss that too!

Whats a guy to do with all this peace and quiet? If I wanted to take up meditation this would be a good week to do it.

I had a chat with an old friend about a potential job situation. I don’t know if anything will come of this conversation, but it was nice to catch up and find out what happened to a lot of people I had lost track of.

Is it really possible to come full circle?

This conversation involved a nice drive this beautiful, sunny afternoon. On the way home I stopped by one of my favorite places and picked up some fresh tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, and strawberries. Yum!

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Vickie’s mother-in-law, Momma B. If you haven’t done so already, please stop by and express your condolences.

If you are a fan of the Harry Potter books and movies you should join Melessa’s discussion over here. I have seen all of the movies but have read none of the books.

So how is YOUR week going?


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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Can't Buy Me Love 

As a sports fan in general and a basketball fan in particular, I have been reading the saga of Billy Donovan with interest. Mr. Donovan, head coach at the University of Florida accepted a job with the Orlando Magic of the NBA at a salary of $5.5 million per year for five years. His contract with the university would’ve paid him $3 million per year over the same time period. Then Mr. Donovan had a change of heart, wants to switch gears and go back to his old team. If you do the math he is leaving $12.5 million on the table by going back to college coaching. Apparently, after dumping the university he had a change of heart and wants to go back to the old flame.

Being a humble public school employee I can’t even wrap my mind around the idea of $25.5 million dollars, an amount that would fund a public school education for thousands of students for a year or pay the salary of hundreds of teachers. This would probably be my equivalent of giving up $20,000 a year. I can understand Billy’s emotions. There is not a single job in my professional career that I have left that I didn’t feel sadness and regret at leaving. Not one. In that I feel very lucky. Never have I had to grouse about my job or dread going to work.

It sounds like Billy’s head and heart came into conflict and I can relate a little with that, albeit on a different stratosphere of the financial spectrum. He is giving up a huge pile of money even though he won’t exactly be a pauper at only $3 million per year. What is the lifestyle difference between $3 million and $5.5 million anyway?

What do you do when you have a job you love that does not reward you financially as well as a prospective new job, but is one you truly love? You have a responsibility to your kids and family to be financially prudent and maximize your income to the greatest extent possible, but there is something to be said for following your heart….both in love and in your career. So far in my career I’ve been able to fall in love with every job I’ve had (of couse, Joan thinks I fall in love with every woman too!). So I know that I can be happy in more than one place. Right now I’m floating around in the educational ether without assignment, ready to fall in love with yet another job. At this point I don’t have to answer the question….

At what price happiness?


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Sunday, June 03, 2007

College Days 

As part of our “kid free weekend” Terri and I took a drive to Stillwater, home of my college alma mater, Oklahoma State University. Over twenty years ago I finished my degree there and headed out into the “real world” to make my way. It is only a little over an hour from here and I’ve made regular trips there over the years. It is something I really enjoy.

We ate at Eskimo Joes, home of perhaps the world’s greatest cheese fries (with heaps of smoked bacon bits sprinkled over the top). As I ate my blackened chicken breast I looked around, remembering the days when this was just a little hole-in-the-wall bar. One of my professors used to schedule “class” there every Friday, discussing the finer points of teaching over pitchers of ice cold beer. The little bar has grown sideways and up, turning into a large, two-story restaurant with multiple full bars scattered throughout. There is a clothing store next door, selling clothes with the distinctive logo. I remember when they sold those t-shirts from cardboard boxes behind the bar.

I amused myself by remembering my dormitory room number and the exact addresses of the two apartment complexes I lived in while attending school there. I remembered all the street names, a knowledge gained from three years of delivering pizza while putting myself through school. It brought back memories of late night pizza deliveries, driving around town, only being able to tune in a couple of AM radio stations and listening to Larry King before he ever became famous on CNN. I dreamed of what it would be like once I graduated, of teaching school instead of delivering pizzas on cold winter nights.

I drove past the baseball field and laughed, remembering the time I was listening to a baseball game on the radio, the broadcaster announcing a home run being hit, and the ball landing on the bumper of my car and rolling away. I got out and searched but could not find that ball and I had pizza deliveries to make.

I thought about sitting in those classroom buildings, sometimes soaking up information and at other times staring at the clock trying to will the hands to move just a little faster.

I remembered watching the girls sunbathe on the deck in back of their dormitory from the prime perch of my second floor room.

I thought about seeing various politicians, actors, and musicians come through and attending their performances.

I remembered people running down the halls of the dormitory, screaming that someone had killed John Lennon. I looked across the lawn where a candlelight vigil was held that night.

As we strolled across campus something hit my arm with a “whack”. I looked down to find a Frisbee and looked to my side to see a sheepish looking young man apologizing. I tossed him the Frisbee and remembered tossing Frisbees at that very spot.

I drove past my old apartment complex and thought of the old couple who lived there as resident managers, but spent their evenings getting drunk and fighting with each other. Once I took the wife to the hospital with a cut on her arm, only to find other apartment residents in the same emergency room with the husband…a gash on his head. They started arguing again in the emergency room and it took all of us to keep them apart so the doctors could stitch them up.

I remembered the $1.00 movies in the student union….cheap entertainment for students who didn’t have much money.

I laughed, thinking about looking at Theta Pond one morning to find the huge cow from Sirloin Stockade lying right in the middle of the pond. How did they manage to get that cow down and drag it the 3-4 blocks and dump it in the pond?

I remembered walking back with a friend after a night of carousing on the “strip”. He ducked into the wooded area to pee and found himself in serious trouble after peeing on the shoe of a campus police officer who was standing there in the dark. Apparently, peeing in those woods was not an uncommon occurrence.

Those were good years, a time when I was slowly becoming a “real adult” I learned a lot…some of it even in the classroom.

Go Pokes!


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Friday, June 01, 2007

TGIF 

Having just returned from an excellent meal at a Lebanese steakhouse and planning to regen after a very long week, I will not be writing a weekend roundup tonight.

Take care all you good people and I'll be back later this weekend with some more thoughts!

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