Confirmation that I am crazy

G. Bartlett Giamatti was the youngest president of Yale University ever.  After serving in that capacity for eight years, he left to become the President of the National League of American Baseball and then the 7th Commissioner of Major League Baseball.  I remember a quote vividly from Mr. Giamatti after he accepted his first baseball job. Leaving one of the world’s most prestigious Universities for a sport is unfathomable.  He said something to the effect of “This move confirmed my mental instability to my closest friends and family”.

So why do I bring this up? Well, what I did this past weekend will confirm for most of you MY “mental instability”. Let me explain.

Last December I registered to run the Air Force half marathon (13.1 miles) with my buddy Matt Kaiser. I’ve run it before with Matt and since it is right here in Dayton, it requires no travel.  It provides me a target for all of my training in the fall.  It gives me something to look forward to.  So Saturday, September 21 has been on my radar all year.

About three months ago, my son Nate told me about a half marathon in Jackson Hole, Wyoming he was considering.  It is a small race in a beautiful part of the country (near the Teton Mountains).  He told me that the race was on Sunday, September 22.  I told him  the Air Force Half Marathon was the same weekend and I was already signed up.  I couldn’t do Jackson Hole with him.  He decided to do the race anyhow.  We left it at that.

But I started thinking for the next month or so.  Who knows how many chances I will ever have to race with one of my children?  Nate had a good chance to finish in the top 3 or so of this race. Hmmm.

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So about two months ago I told Rose what I was thinking.  She thought I was crazy, but said “go ahead”.  I decided to sign up for the Jackson Hole Half Marathon also.  That meant I would be doing 13.1 mile races on back to back days in locations over 1000 miles apart.  When I called Nate to tell him I would be joining him he thought I was crazy too.

But I did it.  My weekend went like this.  I left for the Air Force Half Marathon at about 6:30 a.m. Saturday with Matt.  After finishing the race, I came home to take an ice bath for my legs and then get a massage from Rose.  I was sore, but not really too bad.  I hopped a plane to Jackson Hole (via Chicago) at 5:00.  I arrived in Jackson Hole around 8:00 pm Mountain Time.  Nate and I spent the night in a hotel .  We got up the next morning at 6:oo a.m. to run that race.  The race Nate and I ran was fun (he finished 3rd overall in the race).  Then we spent a glorious day in the Teton Mountains hiking, taking pictures and enjoying the scenery.  We were lucky enough to see moose, bears, deer, and a huge heard of buffalo.  Nate and I had so much fun together exploring and talking.  We had to get up at 5:45 Monday morning for me to fly home.   Exhausted but happy, I am back in Dayton.  On top of that, I ran really well at both races.

So you all know I am crazy.  But if you really think about it, this was all about three things I love.  I love to run.  I love to run with friends.  And family is really important to me. The time Nate and I had together was so special that I know we have a lifetime of memories stored up.  So is it really THAT crazy?  You get to decide.

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Teacher Evaluation

All of us who have worked for any amount of time have gone through changes in evaluation processes on the job.

I can remember when NCR required us to have at least one “needs improvement” category per person.  We all squawked about the indignity.  Many people struggled to come with anything meaningful to improve upon.  Many were upset when they received a rating on any one element that said “needs improvement”.  Often as managers we were grasping at straws to come up with a “needs improvement” rating on anything for some people.

As I think about it now, I realize that the idea is a good one, but the execution was bad.  We all need to improve at something.  No matter how good we are at work, there is something that needs to be better.  No one is perfect.  The best are always trying to get better.

Teachers are going through a radical change in the evaluation process.  From my experience at two schools. the evaluation process has been virtually non-existent and simply a formality.  I’ll never forget my first teacher evaluation.  I was rated the best score you could get on something like 40 elements.  How could that be?  I KNEW I was not that great.  I just started.  I had zero training.  But I was never observed.  No one every sat in my room and watched me conduct a class.  So how else could they rate me except to say I was great? Since I have been at Mississinawa, I have been observed a couple of times.  Think about that.  I spend 180 days in a class room and am formally evaluated once and informally evaluated for a few minutes a couple of times.  Is that the way to judge my performance?

At our recent teacher meeting, our principal said something to the effect of “I know none of you will be getting a needs improvement (Rating)”.  Hmmm.  All of us are that great?  Then why doesn’t it show up in ACT scores?  Why don’t we ever have any merit scholars? Why don’t our students do too well at college? I think this thinking is indicative of our school.  We accept whatever we have in teachers.  We don’t want to rock the boat for fear of alienating someone or angering the union.  Perhaps it is the (logical) fear of rating someone as “needing improvement” on some factor that they have been doing the same way for 10 years and have been told every year in the past that they are “meeting or exceeding standards”.  Try to explain that one.  “Last year you were really good, but because we now evaluate people, I have to say you need improvement”.

But if we really want to serve our students better, we must ALL improve.  That needs to be the thinking that goes into our evaluation process.  It’s not, “you are worse than last year”.  It isn’t even “I need to do this because the state tells me I have to”.  It needs to be “we want to get better at serving our students.  That starts with evaluating with some rigor and truly looking at how we can improve.  Needing improvement does not necessarily mean you are deficient.  It means we want to get better.”  Who can logically argue with that?

I doubt that is how it will be implemented.  Will it work? I don’t know.  But we need to implement something that is logical and successful.

A Powerful Confession

I watched the most compelling and chilling video the other day and it has left me thinking about it quite a bit.  Rarely does the power of the Internet and the ubiquity of the Internet provide such a stunning story.

The video is by Matthew Cordle.  In it he details what happened on June 22, 2013, when he allegedly drove the wrong way on Columbus interstate, crashed into Vincent Canzani, a 61-year-old veteran, killing Mr. Canzani. Here is the link to the three-minute video.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tX36k_Yx0ts

Obviously this event was weighing heavily on his mind and heart as it took him two and a half months to post his video.  But the video is extraordinary.  He is not asking for sympathy or forgiveness.  He needed to confess and send a message to others to not drink and drive.  The production of the video and the sadness of the tale combine to overwhelm me.  So many lives impacted by a stupid decision that is made numerous times daily.

I feel like the articles in the newspaper were put out there for me to take action.  So I am writing this blog post about it.  I think most importantly, I shared it in class with my seniors.  I felt compelled to share this tragic tale with them in the hopes that it would cause them to consider the implications of drinking.  I have no idea how much affect it had.  I told them all they mean a lot to me and that this message was for them.  I hope it helps them make better decisions.

It also dovetails with a discussion Rose and I had the other day about being great at saying you are sorry (you can guess who wasn’t so good at it).  This video is a great demonstration.  He takes accountability for his actions.  He does not make excuses.  A good lesson for us all.

Time Travel – With a Twist

I was listening on the radio and the two guys brought up a hypothetical question. “If you could travel back in time, what event or time would you go to?” That is an interesting question to ponder.

I thought about it.  But first I put a few restrictions on this question in order to make it more interesting. First, no changing history. It would be too easy to say I would go back in time to stop 9/11 or the school massacres at Virginia Tech or Columbine or Newtown.  Second, no changing your personal circumstance.  You can’t go back and change you job or where you live or the grade you got in a class.  What happened has occurred and cannot be changed.  You simply get to be an observer.

With those two restrictions in place, my mind went quickly to listening to Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address.  That is where I would want to be.  I would have loved to have been there in one of the most momentous times in our country’s history.  I would start my day riding in the train with Mr. Lincoln.  Was the speech already done or was he modifying it along the way?  Did he practice it or was he working on other things?  Did he recognize the importance of the event like we do now?  What were other people on the train thinking and saying?

Most intriguing to me would be to hear Mr. Lincoln speak.  We don’t know what his voice was like.  There are no recordings of his voice.  We have first hand descriptions of how Lincoln sounded, but those cannot match hearing the voice in person.   It would be awesome to hear Abe Lincoln’s voice.  As he stepped up to speak, what was the general feeling?  Could people really hear him?    What would I have heard?  What was the crowd’s reaction? We know that Edward Everett told Lincoln “I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes”.  But what was the general reaction?  How cool would it be to ask people what they heard and what they think about it?

After he finished, I really do not know what Mr. Lincoln did.  I would spend the rest of the day tailing behind him to see what happened next.  To me, this would bring one of the most interesting days in our nation’s history alive.

So where would you want to be?

The Shoemaker’s Children

There is an old saying about the shoemaker’s children never having shoes because the shoemaker is too busy making shoes for everyone else.  I feel that applies to our military and their families.

I recently read an article about the poor status of the schools on military bases.  According to the article in Newsweek ” Military officials . . .report that as many as three-quarters of base schools the Pentagon operates are either beyond repair or would require extensive renovation to meet minimum standards for safety. About half the schools the Department of Defense operates are at least 45 years old”.  So while most public schools were renovated with money from the tobacco settlement, the military base schools languish.  This has been going on for years.  The story talked about hazardous conditions, poor science equipment and out-of-date computers.  This on top of facilities that don’t “meet the minimum standards for safety”!

According to this same report, it would take about $3.7 billion dollars to fix theses schools.  Seems like a lot of money until you realize the Pentagon spends nearly $2 billion a week!  So, for the equivalent of two weeks of spending, our country could care for the children of our fighting forces.

Why don’t we?  I suspect because there are no advocates.  There are no defense contractors spending millions lobbying our Congress.  There are no large military procurement opportunities being presented.  And large issues like Egypt, Syria, etc. gather worldwide attention .This whole Syria situation is a hard one to have an absolute position.  What is going on is terrible.  It needs to stop.  But why us?  We could invest the money on our military families – the shoemaker’s children.  I believe we OWE it to ourselves to take care of our children first – in the most important way we can – before we spend money on Syria.

Let’s take care of the shoemaker’s children.