Monday, May 26, 2008

Graduation Time 

I attended our school’s graduation on Saturday evening. I sat on stage and listened to the short speeches by the valedictorian and salutatorian and other speakers. Then I stood at the bottom of the stairs and shook hands or hugged each one after they received their diploma. Actually, part of my role was to catch them if they fell down the stairs. Thankfully, no one did, even though a couple of those girls in heels had some unsteady moments.

This is a ritual of early summer and it always makes me think. What can you say to someone who is graduating high school, beginning their adult life, moving out into the “real world”? What advice or words of wisdom can be given to the class of 2008? I can look through my own blog archives and see what I’ve written to previous classes. Has anything changed? Is the world any different? What do you say to an 18 year old after they receive that diploma?

Do you remember what it was like to be 18, when everything seemed possible?

Some of those kids whose hand I shook have everything planned out. They have their scholarships, know what they want to do with their life, and just needed this diploma in order to move on with it. They are mature and responsible young people who have thought it all through. Many of them will be enormously successful, even though we all know about those best laid plans and how they can go awry.

For some of the others it isn’t that way at all. Some of them are not very mature at all. Others just have no earthly idea what they want to do now that they are high school graduates. These are too often the young people we forget. You’ve got your diploma, now get out there, do something, and don’t commit crimes or be a burden on the rest of us. Next please. Most of them will eventually figure it out, but receiving your diploma doesn’t sprinkle magic adult dust in your hair.

Let me tell you about some of my kids……

One girl who walked down those stairs and hugged me works two jobs and supports her entire household, including her mother who has drug abuse issues. She supports several other healthy, non-working teenagers/adults while she also managed to achieve a GPA of higher than 3.0. She wants no sympathy because she is, “just doing what I have to do.” She missed her prom because she had to work, and even attending graduation stressed her out because she missed out one of her normal shifts at the nursing home. She has a scholarship to attend a local community college in the fall where she will study to be a physical therapist. Think she’ll make it?

A young man who walked down those stairs never missed a single day of school K-12. When we became aware of this streak a couple of months ago I stopped him in the hall and said, “Hmmm…you look a little pale. You might be sick. Why don’t you stay home tomorrow?” He looked shocked as I tried to suppress my laughter. Then he saw the twinkle in my eye and we both stood there laughing. He too has a scholarship for the fall and wants to be a radiology technician. Those college teachers had better be there and on time, because he will be.

Another girl has played basketball since she was small and has several athletic scholarship offers. She is turning them all down to go to nursing school with plans to be a pediatric nurse. She enjoys basketball but is simply ready to move on with her life.

One of the boys has a full ride to a private college where he plans to double major in music and philosophy with plans on being a church youth leader or a teacher. This young man oozes leadership, character, and charisma. He would be fantastic in either of those roles.

Still another girl plans to be a high school math teacher and indicated she would like to come back and teach at her alma mater. If she did she would join several others who have done the same thing. They know the community, the school, and the kids that walk through those doors. If I’m still there I would certainly look favorably toward employing her. Regardless, she will be an outstanding teacher.

Another young man, the oldest of six kids, will become the first in his family to attend college this fall. This kid will light the path for his siblings and for his own future children. One person can have such a ripple effect on so many others.

Then there are those who took a less traditional path. A young man who I suspended early in the year for drug issues came by my office on Friday. His mother had called me a couple of weeks after the incident, expressed displeasure with the alternative school he was attending, and asked if I had any other ideas. I rattled off several, including a local “boot camp” which has achieved success with many young people. He went there, loved it, lost 50 pounds, ditched the drugs, and stood at my door brimming with pride and self confidence. He will receive his G.E.D. next month and gave me an invitation to the ceremony. He also wanted a college/job recommendation letter which I was happy to provide. Part of the program he is in involves going back and thanking those who have helped you. He thanked me for not giving up on him or looking down at him, “even when I screwed up big time.” You are very welcome, even though it wasn’t me who went out there, ran two miles every morning, studied all day, and grew from a goofy, drug-abusing adolescent into a self confident man. You did that my friend and you should be very proud.

There are some others who really aren’t quite ready for this yet. They lack the maturity or direction to know where to go next. For some, I fear a few classes in the “school of hard knocks” awaits them. I hope they can take this achievement and build on it, understanding that not everyone matures at the same rate.

This year I don’t think I will offer any profound words of wisdom to the graduates. That has been done by many others. I simply wish them the best as they move into the “adult world”. C’mon in guys…the water is fine.

Here’s to the class of 2008!


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Midweek Meandering - Thursday Edition 

It is the day after midweek and all is well.

We have four school days left. Ever tried to keep over 1000 teenagers calm when they know summer break is near?

The filming at school appears to be going well. I’ve generally been avoiding the cameras although the producers are very nice people.

Thomai asked in comments on the previous posts about using minors on TV. They have an eight page waiver form. Kid signs waiver…they shoot film. Kid then has to take waiver home to be signed by parent if they are under 18. When signed waiver is returned they can use the film. If not, they can’t use it.

Eight pages shrunk to one sentence...."We can put you on television and you can't sue us."

Some of our kids will do practically anything to get on camera. I’ve wondered if a couple of them got in trouble on purpose just so they could get chewed out by their principal on national television.

Patrick and Aubree leave for London on Saturday. They are both looking forward to the trip. This will be the first time they have flown alone. That does make me a little nervous, but the flight is nonstop and I think they’ll be ok.

Because I am tied up doing my school’s graduation on Saturday, Terri is driving the kids to Dallas and putting them on the plane. Patrick keeps bugging her with a single question…”Where are we stopping to eat along the way?”

Naturally, the only full weekend they are gone I will be in class.

My grandmother was moved to a nursing home where she appears to be doing a little better. The kids and I went to visit her tonight. She said, “you are my first grandchild and therefore always the most beautiful.” Granny is such a sweetie.

Today was the day that our seniors who will not be graduating and walking across the stage found out their fate. This can be tough even if it is in most cases their own fault.

Did I mention there were four days of school left for kids?

So how is YOUR week going?


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Lights, Camera, Action..... 

A cable network I had never heard of will be at my school next week to film a reality episode of what it is like in the principal’s office. My boss has been instructed to wear the same shirt all week, because they are filming five days and condensing it to look like one day. Other than that, I don’t know much about how it will work.

They obviously think there is some public interest about what goes on in “the office” at school. Well….let me tell you. Some days it would probably bore you to tears. Other days? Jerry Springer has nothing on what goes on behind those doors. We have kids who find every excuse in the book to hang out in the office because they find it so interesting.

So what will the cameras find? Lets look at just the past week or so.

I had two females arguing about a guy who had to be physically separated by me. “I’ve got your man!” said one. “I don’t want your ugly ass man”, replied the other. These were parents, not students. I stood physically between them to prevent an altercation.

Both hugged me as they came in and left.

A pregnant teenager and her boyfriend discussed the options of birth, living arrangements, abortion, and adoption.

A parent berated me because one of the teachers showed a segment of a movie that was rated “PG -13”, saying that it contained, “sex and alcoholism”. I need to go back and review “Independence Day”, because I can’t remember a sex scene in that movie.

I discussed a voter registration drive for our seniors with the League of Women Voters.

I met with one of our department heads over my plans to discipline a teacher who is not performing up to standard.

A parent told me that a young female teacher, “has forgotten where she came from” because her son was failing this teacher’s class. I resisted the temptation to ask if the student would be passing if she somehow remembered where she came from.

A student told me that he saw another student give a pill to someone. When I met with the student in question she pulled out a white bottle of pills, swearing she had never given them to anyone. In big bold letters on the bottle were the words “P.M.S.”. I wasn’t familiar with the brand.

A student was threatening to beat up another student because five dollars came up missing from his wallet. He had no proof at all that the other student had taken his money, but he said, “I owe someone that five dollars and I will get beat up this weekend if I can’t pay. I have to have that money.” I persuaded him to leave the other guy alone and that I would loan him the five bucks and he could pay me back.

What are the odds I’ll see my five bucks?

I discussed life after teaching with a teacher who will be retiring after this year. What will it be like to not follow a school calendar, too see kids each day?

A kid persuaded me to buy a candy bar to benefit the basketball team.

I gave the candy bar away to the next student who walked in the door.

I gently admonished a teacher who started giving finals earlier than what was scheduled.

I called a parent who is a chef at one of the finest restaurants in town. He said, “do you mind if I talk to you while I make some hollandaise sauce?” Not at all”, I said, “I could come on down there and let you feed me while we talk some more.” He laughed and said, “that isn’t a bad idea.”

A student tried to convince me that saying “fuck you” to a security guard wasn’t all that bad. He said, “I say “fuck” all the time. I don’t mean anything by it.” Hmmm. “Would you say it to me?” “Of course not….never to you Mr. S.” “So you know its bad if you won’t say it to me?” “When you put it that way…I guess so.”

There is always something going on in “the office”. Sometimes it is full of drama and at other times it would bore you to tears. Which will the cameras find? The perils, challenges, and rewards of modern day public education...would an audience actually find that interesting?

Coming soon to a cable channel near you…….


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mama Mia! 

A few thoughts about moms:

Mom was right most of the time.

The times she wasn’t right did matter very much.

You can’t really fool your mother.

You may think you can, but it isn’t true. She knows.

Being a mom doesn’t end at 18.

It doesn’t really ever end.

Mom often goes under-appreciated. We give her a day to honor her but it isn’t enough

Still, its better than nothing. Mother’s Day is a special day.

Not every mom is perfect.

That’s ok….the kids aren’t perfect either.

There are a lot of moms out there that are doing it all alone.

They give up a lot but most of them never complain. Most of them never intended for it to be this way, but they adjust and do the best they can.

There are many women out there who mother children that are not their biological kids. I should know…I live with one.

They deserve our respect and blessing because they are doing this out of choice.

This is not to say that every mom is doing a great job. Most of the ones I see love their kids but lack the skill to parent them. Someone should’ve showed them and taught them.

A smaller number just don’t give a crap about their kids. This is sad. Often another female (grandmother, aunt, friend, etc.) step in and try to fill the void.

I know an 85 year old woman in very poor health who is raising a teenager. She is his great-grandmother. His mother and grandmother are nowhere to be found. God bless her. Where would he be without her?

Mom often goes unappreciated until you grow up. Then you understand what she was saying all along.

Hey there you moms and everyone out there who performs the role of mother….

Thank you for all that you do to nurture, guide, and protect us.

Happy Mother’s Day!


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Midweek Meanderings 

It is midweek and it feels like we might wash away. Thunderstorms have been lighting up the sky and the rain has been pouring down here.

We went to visit my grandmother in the hospital tonight. She was not doing well earlier in the day, but rallied by the time we arrived. She and Aubree have always had a special bond and she was thrilled when Aubree came into the room. I pray she finds the strength to be with us for as long as she can. “Granny” is my last surviving grandparent and I was her first grandchild. She holds the distinction of being the first female law enforcement officer in this county, many years ago.

It is hard to look at her so frail now and think back to the grandmother of my childhood. I spent many happy days at her home.

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Kayla a beautiful young girl and niece of Susan. The blogworld has been amazed at her strength and courage for quite some time. Please stop by and leave a comment for her family.

There are fifteen student days left at school….not that I’m counting or anything!

Patrick is at Special Olympics in Stillwater tonight. Hopefully the rain will clear up enough for he and his teammates to be able to compete in their events.

I do miss him, even though going out to eat tonight without Patrick is an entirely different experience than going with him. It is weird not to have someone saying…”Dad, are you ready to go YET?”

Walker has his take on doing favors and the trouble it can get you into. Check it out!

I’m supposed to get my IRS stimulus money this week. I am definitely feeling the need to be stimulated.

So how is YOUR week going?


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