February 23, 2018

The Three C's of Education


Sometimes you have the opportunity to "think" about things. Then I get to write about them. And sometimes, you read about them on my blog. So, today, I have some thoughts to share about education.

Sometimes it's hard to believe that I've been in the educational field for 20–some years. I've learned a lot in the 23 years I've been a teacher, coach, AD, principal, and superintendent. I still learn every day. I learn from my teachers and my students, not to mention the books, webinars, and seminars I'm lucky enough to encounter. I'm so fortunate to get to go to school on a daily basis and watch people work with kids.

I've learned over the years how important the Three C's are. Connections, curriculum, and costs are the "main things" in a school district. Some of you are saying I left out the most important factor, but don't quit reading yet.

The connections that we make are paramount to student achievement success. It begins at the top with a highly functioning relationship between the Board and Superintendent. That is the key relationship in any school district because if things are not healthy at the proverbial "top," they will be disjointed throughout the system. The relationship between the superintendent and leadership team is also important, as is the relationship between the building administrator and the staff members. Most important, though, is the relationship between the teachers and the students.

That key connection is the single most important factor in student success. If the students believe they have a connection with the teacher — if they believe the teachers love and care for them — they will work hard. I have seen it time and time again in my career. Students, doesn't even matter the grade level, will work hard for someone they believe truly cares for them. The connections the adults make with the students create the culture in the school. When the kids feel the adults "give a care," they are more motivated.

Culture is a word that might be overused. When I see culture improve in a school or district, I know that academic achievement is not far behind. Culture is not even necessarily one of the Three C's. Culture leads to success in the second C. Curriculum is sometimes referred to as the backbone of education. A solid curriculum makes a huge difference in the performance of a school and district. The more teachers are on the same page as far as instruction and assessment, the better the students will learn and perform. In Michigan, we have seen three major changes in curriculum in the last 25 years, from the Michigan Curriculum Framework to the Grade Level Expectations to the State Standards. The State was once a leader in educational curriculum. I believe that consistency in curriculum is important.

Finally, costs matter. It's the area that we always try to avoid, but often, the financial standing of a district greatly influences the education that kids are able to receive. A leader has to carefully construct a budget to ensure the right components are in place ...

February 02, 2018

March Baseball in a Great City


According to the Detroit News, Opening Day tickets are still available. In most seasons, those Opening Day tickets are coveted. Maybe it is that the Tigers' management is suggesting the team is going to be terrible or maybe it is a result of a baseball game in cold, damp, Detroit in March.

Usually Spring Training is a time for excitement and the idea that any team has a chance to win the World Series, but the message coming out of Lakeland is that the big league club is going to suck for a few years. This isn't how you excite a fan base — and isn't necessarily the "transparency" we all seek.

The tickets usually aren't even available until the first Saturday in March, but to meet the demand, the team must have put them out early. The tickets are expensive, no matter where you sit, and with the General Manager lamenting that the team is going to suck, why would anyone want to GO TO A GAME IN DETROIT IN MARCH ANYWAY! Baseball has got to get away from this northern city late March/early April baseball. It just doesn't make sense. Instead of messing with the pace of the game and some of the other ideas that are out there, how about if MLB:

  • Shortens the season by playing double headers in June, July, and August. Even if you just played the double headers for two weekends in June and then all available in July and August, that would be 10 days you could potentially take off the season, e.g. start a week later and end a week earlier.
  • That's still not enough, because somehow the season has to be done by the middle of September, so the playoffs can begin and World Series can be finished by October 15. Sure, I would love to watch the Tigers play on my birthday, but that would be way to cold!
  • Find a way to lower the prices so more people can attend games. Baseball, basketball, hockey, and football pro games are priced out of sight these days. With the entertainment systems people can put in their houses now, it almost makes sense to stay home and watch the game in your living room and make your own hot dogs.
  • Don't have a General Manager telling everyone you're going to suck. It might not be true. In pro sports, you're supposed to act like you want to win …

January 21, 2018

Elmore Leonard's Criminal Sense


"There was a photograph of Frank in an ad that ran in the Detroit Free Press and showed all the friendly salesmen at Red Bowers Chevrolet." — Swag
I've been reading the work of Elmore Leonard for several years now. Not long enough that I was able to go see him speak when he was part of the National Writer Series in Traverse City in 2011. I started reading Leonard's work not long after that appearance and I had wished that I had attended. I first heard of Leonard in the late '80s when I read his name as a comparison to the writer Tom Kakonis as I was reading his debut novel, Michigan Roll
Leonard wrote about Detroit, especially during his '70s heyday. His crime novels in the 1970s were incredible. The way he developed character and delivered dialogue is awesome. As a reader, I often found myself routing for the underdog dirtbags, who were often the secret stars of his work. Leonard had a way. 
Leonard started as a writer of Westerns; however, as the sixties turned to the seventies, he began writing about another type of cowboy, the criminal. He dabbled in crime novels in the late sixties, but turned completely as the seventies got going. Even though he was publishing about a novel a year, Leonard didn't take off until the eighties, around the time Get Shorty took off as a movie. Leonard was anything but an overnight sensation. 
As I continue to read and learn about Leonard, I have a great appreciation for this Michigan writer. If I'd only had the opportunity to see him speak in 2011, just before becoming a fan. That would have been a spectacular night! 

January 18, 2018



There's somthing 'bout this Sunday
It's the most peculiar gray
Strollin' down the avenue that's known as A1A
Feelin tired, then I got inspired
I knew it wouldn't last long
So all alone I walked back home
Sat on the beach and there I made up this song

— J. Buffett — 

Who can't agree with Mr. Buffett's lyrics? It's about inspiration … at all the wrong times. Buffett had been living in Key West for a couple years at the time, and when he wrote the song "Tryin' to Reason With Hurricane Season," he told us when he wrote the tune. When I set out to write a blog post this afternoon, my focus was on writing about my progression from Franklin Covey Planners to electronic PDAs, to Moleskine calendars, and on to the Bullet Journal. Then, suddenly, I decided I needed a quote of some kind to post at the top of my page. So I thought to myself, "Hurricane Season" has some great lines that will set the pace. Then, the lyrics I chose are about inspiration, not necessarily planning. Inspiration and planning go together, but they're not mutually exclusive ... 

I've spent many years trying to get organized in just the right way. I've tried every coding system there could possibly be. I was a Franklin Covey addict for many years, then morphed into the PDA style and eventually onto the computer. I now use a homemade planner that I design myself along with Google Calendar. It seems to work pretty well. When I discovered the work of Mike Rhode and the Bullet Journal folks, I found the pieces I had been missing. So, I learn often, try different things in the Bullet Journal, and aim to get organized. 

I wonder who my audience is these days? 

January 17, 2018

The Struggle Is (Somewhat) Real

Writer Struggles to Write … But It's Not Writer's Block

When you've done something for 10 years, you would think you would be good at it. That's a lot of practice, after all. They say that practice makes perfect ...

I have been writing on this blog for more than 10 years. I have had my peaks and valleys as far as content. I have always tried to write about baseball, entertainment, and education. I suppose I could call baseball entertainment, but baseball is so important to me that I consider it separate from entertainment. Education has been my life for many years, so I often have thoughts about it that I like to share. Then I look at my output from last year and am disappointed. I notice that when I have natural breaks, I seem to write more … but I'm not writing on my blog enough.


  • I can blame the demise of the Detroit Tigers. I can say that with the destruction of the organization, I determined that the team isn't worth writing about. In fact, with no free agent signings and very few trades in the off season, things have become boring for baseball. The cold stove has been a strange, new development for baseball. Some are saying it's collusion again (30 years later). 
  • I could say that I haven't been going to much entertainment in the past few months, but that's only partially true. I went to Rick Springfield in December, after all. And I could have written about that event because it had a couple of points worth exploring: 1) one ticket to the show probably cost what all four of us who went together would have paid total at Castle Farms in 1982. I don't really know if he played Castle Farms in Charlevoix, Michigan, or not. But he might have. 2) He brought out a Make–a–Wish Foundation person to sing "Jessie's Girl" with him. That could have taken up some blog space. Beyond Rick Springfield, I saw Kid Rock in Detroit on multiple nights in September, but much of the fall was spent preparing, then being a part of our daughter Courtney's wedding to Tyler Stegman. Now, that was great entertainment and a mountain of fun! It was also tiring and didn't leave time to write. 
  • Of course, I should be writing about education all the time. In fact, I do write for education every week, because, as the superintendent at Vanderbilt Area Schools, I write a weekly column for a local newspaper. That deadline every Monday afternoon seems to sneak up on me. I have borrowed from this very blog at times to put together my weekly column. I live education and certainly should be writing about it more often. I have been involved in a new systemic reform process for a couple of years now called The Blueprint. It's developed by the Mi Excel team at the State level. It has been incredible how it has helped us transform this little school from a struggling system to one that is on its feet and improving daily. 
I am going to make an effort to write more often. I'm sure that if anyone was following RWA, they probably have left as I haven't posted since December 5, 2017. It's halfway through January 2018 and finally here is some writing. It's not like I don't write because I journal regularly, I take notes frequently, and have been learning about Sketchnoting recently. I always have a pen in my hand or pocket and use Baron Fig notebooks to capture information. 

December 05, 2017

It's Always Writing Season

Sometimes We Don't Know Why We Start

I started this blog way back in 2006. I started the blog for a couple reasons. One reason was that I thought it would be a good way to share my thoughts and predictions about baseball. In the fall of 2005, when the Tigers unceremoniously released Alan Trammell and the rest of the 1984 crew who were running the organization, I had suggested that Jim Leyland would be a good choice. If I had blogged something like that, then I would have looked like an informed baseball fan. But, I didn't have a blog and never put it in published format. The other reason was that I have always liked to write, including professionally for different newspapers and magazines over time, so I thought maybe I might just possibly have something to say.

The second post in April 2006 discussed the death of Steve Howe. 

Generally, my viewpoints cover education, baseball, and rock 'n' roll music. I suppose those are the things I am most passionate about; though, since I started RWA several years ago, I find that watching baseball on TV has some advantages and watching Youtube videos of concert clips isn't all that bad. Don't get me wrong, I still love to "be there," but FOMO doesn't have a hold on me like a little over a decade ago.

I find that I am able to keep the blog updated when I have more time to write. I keep telling myself that I should set aside time and keep the blog updated, but I never seem to do that. I know I am sporadic, at best. I know that I used to have something to say and put it out there in a timely fashion. Now, I write things and sit on them for a while. I have one blog that I started about heroes that I will probably release one of these days; however, we keep finding that our heroes are really zeroes.

But that's a story for another day.

November 26, 2017

A Good Life All The Way

Some of it's magic and some of it's tragic …

I'm going through a Jimmy Buffett phase these days, capped off by the book Jimmy Buffett: A Good Life All the Way by Ryan White. I had read about his "Key West days" in the past, but never realized the almost Hemingway–esque friendships that existed. There were writers like Thomas McGuane and Jim Harrison and musicians like Jerry Jeff Walker — and eventually Jimmy Buffett. He arrived into this cultural movement way before Key West was overtaken by tourists and commercialism. My interest in Buffett began in the '70s when my parents would listen to JB vinyl albums like Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Latitudes and Son of a Son of a Sailor. It sounds like it must have been an interesting time in Key West in the early '70s as these writers and musicians were starting out their careers … and no one had any idea the fame that would result.