Tips and Tricks over the years…


Table of Contents

Tips and Tricks over the years…. 1

Change…. 1

One of those days…. 1

For the love of the game. 2

Time to heal… Time to work together…. 2

Is the Sun still there? 3

Service to the public…. 4

It is not my fault…. 5

Taking that first step. 5

Cats in the Cradle… Country Roads… Or a little of both. 6

Why do we do it? 7

Little Inconveniences 7

As you leave your classroom or office today, SMILE J. 8

A friend of mine told me this story and I am compelled to share it with you. 8

History…. 8

Walking the mile…. 9

A Smile…. 9

Do it right the first time. 10

The Right Reason. 11

Did you smell the roses? 11

Have you forgotten? 12

What is in it for me? 13

Did I make a difference today? 14

The final Edition…. 15



Change…  Some look at change as a good thing while others become paralyzed by it.  This past month we all have experienced change in our life.  Returning to work to face the realization that some of our friends really did retire as we welcomed new people into our Peoria family.  We flipped on our computer to see a NEW LOOK and we are still trying to figure out what happen to summer being June, July and August!


I would love to share a profound statement how to deal with change, unfortunately, I can’t.  I can share some redneck wisdom from my pappy.  “Change happens and you can’t change that.  The only way to deal with it is to grab hold and put your arms around it. (For those who don’t translate redneck that means accept and embrace change) Soon you won’t remember what all the fuss was about.”


Welcome back and have a great year!

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One of those days… We have all had them, days you wonder what people were thing or if they even took anytime to think at all.  Unbelievable is a word that often enters my mind on “Those” days and when I have one of “Those” days, I search for sayings or quotes on the web to make me smile or lend some reason as to why “Those” days exist.


Today, my day was good, although I did have a “Moment” that forced me to again say “Unbelievable” and so… I went searching.  Within a few minutes I came across this quote which put it all into perspective.


When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bustling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.


Dale Carnegie


Have a wonderful day. 

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For the love of the game

Many of you know that I have been blessed with two beautiful little girls.  The oldest has hurled me into a new phase of parenthood.  Recently, she took up the game of soccer.  After a few days of practice under their belt, the team was ready to play.  What a sight they were, all decked out in their yellow and black uniforms. (Yes, they resembled bees buzzing around.) 


Saturday’s game was entertaining; the kids ran up and down the field chasing that little ball, a few times they just watched the ball roll by while another player twirled around enjoying the sunshine and the cool, fall air.


What I found most “fascinating” about the day were the parents.  The quiet field of the elementary school was transformed into a tent, (or umbrella), city as parents moved in with their lounge chairs, 8 foot team banners and ice chests.  (Okay to be honest, I too had my lawn chair.) Walking up the field, I saw one Chevy truck so loaded down with paraphernalia I thought they were fixing to have a tailgate party in the parking lot.


As the whistle blew for the half-time pep talk, I was within ear shot of the opposing team’s meeting.  I was shocked when there was no PEP in the talk. Instead, I heard a parent tell the team the “Goal Jar” had no money in it and the team needed to score some goals if they wanted to have a party at the end of the season.  The only thing missing from this scene was the agent in a$2000.00 Armani suit!


Yet, when the play began again, both sides were back out playing “soccer” as best they could.  No matter how many times they failed to score or retrieve the ball, each player kept trying.  In the end, the score was 2/0.  It didn’t matter which team won, both had played like winners.


For what it is worth, as the game ended, my sides hurt from laughing, and my throat from cheering on the kids.  In my heart, I know the kids were there for the love of the game.


Have a great day and remember to keep the love in YOUR game!

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Time to heal… Time to work together…

It is the first Tuesday in November and time for another issue of Tips & Tricks.  It is also time for our country to begin the healing process.  For the past year, (It could be longer; I just can’t or choose not to remember!), we have been listening to those wanting to be president tell us how bad it is and will be if we continue with the same Commander-in-Chief.  We have also listened to the President tell us we need to keep him for another four years because that other man is not up to the job.


Personally, my memories of presidential races only go back to President Reagan, but I don’t recall a nastier or more negative campaign. (Oh sure, there is always mud slinging in every political race. Maybe one day this country will see candidates with enough character to remain above mud slinging!) In past months friends, family members and co-workers have squared off over the issues.  Was it worth it?  The answer to that lies within your heart.  


Tonight we should have a pretty good idea who our president will be for the next term.  With any luck, the losing candidate will make a concession speech, congratulate the victor and pledge his support.  With any luck, this will set the standard for all races across the country and quickly filter down.  With any luck, our newly elected officials will do what is best for the country rather that what is best for their party or their career.  With any luck, the next time I see a politician being interviewed, the text following their name on the screen will not read “Republican or Democrat”, instead it will read “For the People of the United States of America”


I thought long and hard about writing these words and even longer about sending them.  These words are not intended to be about politics; instead these words are intended to begin a process; a process of healing open wounds inflicted over the past year.  These words are intended to promote teamwork and a spirit of service for the good of all.  Finally, these words are intended to promote being a better person.  Let’s focus the next four years…  Scratch that… Let’s focus the future on doing what is best for everyone.


Having just read these words again, it is time for me to make a phone call and start the healing process too.


Have a safe and wonderful day!

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Is the Sun still there?

Years ago I had a wonderful habit of stopping what I was doing to watch the sunset.  When ever it was possible, I would position myself to watch the sun drop from the sky, thus ending a busy day.  It was truly a soothing event.  As time went on, I drew my closest friends into this experience.  Imagine four 17 year old boys sitting in lawn chairs facing west and not speaking for 10 minutes.  Just typing these words has brought a smile to my face and a calming sensation my person.


Why am I writing about this today?


That is a fair question.  As our days are getting shorter, I have begun to notice the sunrise and recently found myself on the 91st avenue overpass as the sun was breaking over the mountains in the morning.  The colors that fill the sky were unimaginable and certainly beyond my ability to describe. 


The majestic sky brought a smile to my face as my mind traveled back to my youth.  Moments later, I was zapped back to reality as I slowed to a stop at Cactus and 91st Avenue.  It was at that moment I realize I had not stopped to watch a sunset in years.  Oh sure, I still make it an event once a year at Lake Powell, but the rest of the time goes by without my giving it a thought.  I rationalize this by saying “That’s life” or “I’m too busy” or worse, “That’s just part of being an adult”.  In truth, I am making up excuses for not taking the time do something that is good for my spirit.


As I close this today, I ask you to think back… What have you given up because you are “Too busy” or one of the other excuses we use?  Our time is precious and limited… Did you see the sunset last night?  Tonight, may be the night to start!


Have a safe and wonderful day!

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Service to the public…  December 25, 2004… 9:30 PM

The events of the day have passed, the kids are starting to mellow from their holiday candy high and Jenifer and I discuss the day’s events.  As the conversation slows, I begin to replay the day again in my head.  One thing that sticks out in my mind was the person I saw pulled over on the side of I-17 as we drove from my parent’s house to Jenifer’s.  I thought to myself… “What a drag getting a ticket on Christmas day”.  As I drove on, the thought changed, “Maybe that person should thank that police officer for being on the streets to help remind them we need to be safe on the streets, regardless of the day”.  My mind then moved to the two gentlemen who awaited the city bus earlier in the day.  Jenifer and I had commented on the buses running on Christmas day.  A few minutes later, our van passed a Phoenix Fire Department Building; fortunately the trucks were in the bay.


As I replay this in my mind tonight, I think back to past Christmas days I had spent in Illinois as a child.  I always hated the fact that we were never able to open gifts Christmas morning.  You see, my grandfather worked at the water plant.  Every year he worked Christmas day.  I didn’t completely understand this until years later when I mentioned those days to my mom.  Mom explained that my grandfather was proud to work the holiday.  He was proud that he was there making certain no ones’ holiday was disrupted.


Tonight as I think about the sacrifice my grandfather made for patrons in that little town in Illinois and the sacrifices made by public service professionals, my heart goes out to them.  I don’t feel remorse for the time they have lost with their families.  I think about the pride they must feel as they give their time to those in need.  Yes, even the person receiving the ticket today was in need of a simple reminder.


I have been a servant of the Peoria community for the past 12 years and I serve this community with pride.  However, I have never missed a holiday.  Personally, it is time to thank those who give up part of their life to help the others of our community.  Perhaps it is time for all of us to thank those who are there to help us when we are in need.


Have a wonderful day.


PS… A few people may notice I spell Jenifer’s name with one n.  This is not a typo on my part, although I am not above a spelling error from time-to-time.


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It is not my fault…  How many times have you heard that before?  So who is really responsible?  Does this question ever pass through your mind?  It does mine.  All I have to do is site down and watch television, listen to the radio or read the paper.  It seems no one is responsible for their own actions.


Tonight, as I sat in front of my computer watching the rerun of the 5 ‘o’clock news, I witnessed a fight on the screen.  Several people were kicking and beating another person in the street until the police made it to the trouble and the crowd caught up in the commotion ran away.  I sat wondering if any person involved in the violence had ever heard, read or even cared about Dr. King’s “Dream”.  Then, the newscast was interrupted with a caller.  This gentleman was part of the activist group who put on the rally in Margaret T. Hance Park. He said the problem arose because the gang enforcement team was sitting on their thumbs and allowing it to happen.  I just sat in my chair in amazement thinking to myself… Gee, I must be out of my mind. I always thought people were responsible for their own actions.  Silly Me…


Having spent the last 12 years in education, I am acutely aware of the efforts education puts forth in teaching young people responsibility. I am disappointed with society’s apathy towards responsibility.   The only way to break this problem is through education.  I am proud to tell people I work in a field where we teach responsibility and you should be proud of that too.  Maybe over the next ten years or so, we will see a character recovery and members of society will take credit or blame for things they are responsible for happening.


In fact, I will kick off the change…  I have long hair because I am too lazy to go to the barber.  I am overweight because I enjoy food.  I am good looking because…  Well, that credit goes to my parents. J 


Now… After reading this you may find a spelling and/or grammar error.  This of course is not my fault.  Word didn’t pick it up J

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Taking that first step

As the door flung open, the brisk 40-degree air engulfed the cabin causing immediate Goosebumps over my exposed skin.  Through the open door, my eyes filled with a most spectacular view of the horizon.  It is amazing how different the world can look through an open doorway.  In a somewhat shouting tone, the man across from me asks, “Are you ready to go?”


I simply nodded my head as I began moving toward the door.  Feeling a little uneasy, I held firmly to the doorframe as I struggled to feel for the step just beyond the door’s threshold.  Still not entirely comfortable in my new environment, I reached for what I would call a makeshift rail for this strange yet short set of steps.  As I continued moving outside the cabin the cool air caused me to shiver and I held desperately to the rail. Looking back through the doorway at the man still inside, his encouraging smile was only somewhat comforting as he waved goodbye to me.


Inhaling what I thought may be my final breath, I released my grip from the make shift rail. Within a second, the safety of the cabin faded from my site.  “What have I done?” I thought to myself.  Suddenly I felt a tug against my shoulders and as quickly as my anxiety had peaked, it was gone.  The drone of the engine I heard from inside the cabin along with the 75 mile an hour wind had vanished.  As I listened, the silence was interrupted with the sound of my heartbeat, (Thump thump… Thump thump…) as my heart slowed to its normal rhythm and the Goosebumps subsided, my eyes were filled with a view of the Arizona desert like none I have ever seen. 


Over the next several minutes, I slowly floated towards the desert floor enjoying every second and I thought to myself… You did it; you confronted one of your greatest fears.


We all have fears and phobias that paralyze us or most certainly limit our abilities to achieve our goals and dreams. We have the option to allow those fears to control our lives, or we may choose to charge them head on, overcome or at the very least, learn how to work with them. 


As you read this, a fear may come to mind, beads of perspiration may have begun to form on your forehead; a sick feeling may have developed in your stomach.  Guilty???  Toss out the fear and take back your life.  I would never tell you it will be an easy task.  In fact, it will be down right difficult.  I will tell you, it will be exhilarating and enlightening and in the end, you will have a new level of respect for yourself.  Is today the day to begin taking that first step?


If you have not figured out what my fear was… I am afraid of heights.  To help overcome this fear, I jumped out of an airplane.  One year later, I did it a second time.  Do I still get nervous when I am off the ground?  Sure I do, but I don’t let the butterflies steal an opportunity to see the world from a different perspective. Enjoy your day! 

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Cats in the Cradle… Country Roads… Or a little of both

Traveling out highway 87 toward Payson you will find a quiet little turn off for forest service road 143.  This winding dirt road leads its travelers through some of the most rugged and picturesque scenery in the state.  It also drops into the Tonto Basis and Roosevelt Lake.  Can you say magnificent view?


While my tire tracks are not new to this road, I did have a fresh set of eyes with me on that bright Thursday morning.  Victoria (my oldest daughter) was riding shotgun with me as we headed out for our off pavement adventure. We had great fun as we slowly poked along that back road making certain to stop every few minutes to take in the scenery and chronicle our trip with a few images (digital of course).  Some of these images include an ant hill, interesting rocks, some devastation left by a wild fire and a real rarity on that road; we were able to snap off images of several streams with running water in them.


A few hours into our drive we managed to top out on the pass and began our decent into Tonto Basin.  Once again we stopped to take pictures of the scenery.  In between stops, I told Victoria about the many trips I had made into this area as a child.  In fact, I was not much old that she is the first time my father took me fishing at Roosevelt.


Three hours later, with our tummy’s full of grub from the Butcher Hook, a trip across Tonto Creak (running bumper deep to my old truck) and a birds eye view of near capacity dam, we turned toward home.  As we drove along, I looked at my tired little girl as she drifted in and out of sleep, I was happy we had made the trip.  While elated I was able to spend a day of quality time with my child, I also felt remorse, my pappy, who had planned to accompany us was not able to make the trip due to his health.


For years I had told dad about this back country road and we talked about taking that same drive.  For what ever reason, we never found the time to take that drive.  Hopefully, a future date will arrive when he is up to make the trip.  If that date comes… We will definitely find the time to put 3 Wheeler’s in a four-wheeler for a little off pavement adventure.


I share this story with today with no intention of making you sad.  Quite the contrary, I share this story today to encourage you to include time in your busy life to… Spend with family, take in a sunset, find an ant hill to watch or whatever you enjoy.  Life goes by fast…  Don’t get so busy you miss it!


Please have a safe and wonderful day…

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Why do we do it? 

Why do we get up each day and pour our hearts and souls into our work?   Ask ten people and you will find ten different answers.  However, I would be willing to wager a shiny new nickel, (Remember I am an educator), the common denominator is to make a difference, a POSITIVE difference in the lives of children.


A few short weeks from now our students will walk, (some will run), out the door singing the joys of summer.  While most will fade into the sunset, a few will stop to shake hands, give a tearful hug or just stop and say “Thank you”.  The reason for spending your life in the pursuit of educating our children will be crystal clear, but you knew that already didn’t you…


We will also bid farewell to some good friends who have spent the better part of their lives making a difference. To those of you who will be retiring this year, I wish you all the best.  Enjoy your retirement, you have earned it.


Have a wonderful day!

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Little Inconveniences


Pondering the problems of the day as I drove home with my daughters last Thursday, my truck began making a strange noise followed by and eerie silence as the truck coasted to a stop.  Oddly enough, my first thought was not “stupid truck, time to buy a horse”!  But Loop 101 at 4:30 PM is no place to be broken down with a six year old and 4 month old.  I began making calls, to get my girls out of harms way.


Within 45 minutes, Ladd had picked up my girls, DPS pushed me out of the line of traffic and by the time the pick-up was on the tow truck Jenifer was out of class and on her way to get me.  As I rode home, I thought of a former boss.  No matter what happened at work each day, it was another “little inconvenience” (including the day the roof caved in). I put that statement to my situation; yes, work had been full of issues, yes, the motor was blown out of my truck but in the grand scheme of things, it did and will all work out.


I guess the moral to the story is, life will throw “little inconveniences” at you every day.  The secret is to keep those “little inconveniences” just that… Little!


Have a great day.

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As you leave your classroom or office today, SMILE J

It not only makes others feel good, it rubs off too!  If you are really wild… chuckle.  When they look at you funny, tell them… “Sometimes I just think funny things.”


Have a great day.

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A friend of mine told me this story and I am compelled to share it with you.

My father used to officiate high school basketball games.  As always, the Gymnasium was full of excited parents and sports fans.  Noting one exception… THE FAN!  This FAN felt that every call made by the official was incorrect and he “explained” to the official (Dad) what he thought of each and every call made.  After 3 quarters of play, the official had enough of this FAN.  Now most officials would have removed this FAN from the building.  Not my Dad…  Dad climbed up the bleacher and sat down next to the FAN.  The bewildered FAN asked, “What are you doing?”  Dad explained to the FAN that he obviously had a better perspective of the game from the bleachers and he intended to officiate the remaining quarter sitting next to him.  Which he did…


The moral of the story from my perspective…  We may not always agree with what is happening around us.  However, we need to consider those happenings from another person’s view.


Have a great day J

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History…  Several weeks back I listened to a wonderful program on NPR. (Yes, I am truly a geek) This particular story was on Living History.  A group of people were interviewing and archiving events of “normal everyday people”.


My thoughts quickly transitions to a conversation a 13 year old boy has with his Grandfather.  The Grandfather told the boy of his experience landing on Iwo Jima during WWII.  This was real history being passed along by the man who had lived it.  What a great opportunity for that young boy. 


As we quickly approach this holiday season, you may encounter a person with a “Living History” to share.  Take the time to ask that person about the events of their life.  In my experience, those two hours with my Grandfather were priceless.

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Walking the mile…

We are continually exposed to the judgment of others.  For the past several months, we have been inundated with the opinions of several prominent democrats making a bid for the nation’s highest office.  During their quest, they have enlightened us on how the other democrats are wrong and how they would do it better, including the president.  Additionally, GW and the USA gets help from others, too.  The world takes every opportunity to tell us how wrong our president is and how the US should have done it. 

Oh, but do not worry All this opinion giving is not held only to politics.  Just after the BIG GAME, the water cooler was flooded with Monday morning quarterbacks telling their colleagues how they would have run rather than thrown the ball.  Others are expert officials and explained how their perspective was better than that of the person standing on the field.


As I arrived home yesterday, I saw my aging 80-year-old neighbor across the street and we struck up a conversation, as we discussed the events of the world and the fact that everyone an opinion to give; I asked him if all these unsolicited opinions have increase during his life.  “Shawn” he said.  “An opinion is nothing more than another persons thought on how a problem should be solved.  When I was a younger man, I thought I had all the answers.  My father told me one day that I should never walk a mile in another persons shoes until I had walked a mile in my own.” 


Now perplexed and still tense from the day’s events, I decided a walk was not a bad idea and proceeded to walk a mile in my own shoes.  Upon my return, I saw Don.  “How was your walk?” he inquired. 


“Well,” I said, “I have a new blister, my calves are pounding, my back hurts and my shirt is soaked with perspiration.” 


“So, did you solve all your problems during your walk?” he asked.


“No… I did not,” I replied.


Don smiled for a minute.  As he walked away, he replied, “Then I guess you are not ready to walk in someone else’s shoes.”

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A Smile…

I had panned on writing a silly Dear Training Center this week but that all changed as Jenifer, Victoria and I stopped to fuel our van this morning, I was drawn to the young man at the pump next to my vehicle.  He was smiling, singing and genuinely happy.  My first thought was I needed some of his coffee!  The young man noticed me watching him.  “Good Morning… Wonderful day don’t you think?” he stated.  I looked for a moment and said, “I guess it is.”  The young man quickly responded, “Of course it is… The sun is rose today, birds are singing and we are alive, healthy and the best part…  There are people who love us!”  As he opened the door to his car, he looked at me with an ear-to-ear smile, stated, “Have a wonderful day” and drove off.  I smiled all the way to my keyboard and wanted to share his simple yet insightful outlook. With an ear-to-ear smile... Have a wonderful day!

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Do it right the first time

If you are going to do a job, do it right.  It doesn’t take any longer to do it right the first time.  Have you ever heard these statements or some iteration of them?  Growing up, my Pappy said these and several other versions almost weekly.  Of course, like most children, I didn’t see the value in these statements. 


Today as a father, I have similar conversations with my oldest daughter and I am certain in a few years those conversations will filter down to the little one as well.  Oddly enough, not doing it right the first time is not a concept exclusive to young people; adults suffer from this phenomenon also. Case in point Twelve years ago when we bought our house, we decided to take advantage of the fact we didn’t need to move in right away and do some minor remodeling. During this time, Jenifer and I would work each night taping off the floor with plastic, removing the acoustics from the ceiling, adding electrical outlets and running the wires for fans.  Together we did a good job.  Together we did it right the first time.  After several weeks of working each night and weekends we were in the home stretch and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Enter the SHORT CUT ZONE.  I got excited with the fact the job would soon be complete.


The big work weekend arrived, I called in favors from several friends and we began the final phase of work.  Saturday Bill, Rich, Rick, Pappy, and I textured the entire house.  (For those who have never done this, it is the process of adding a design or random pattern to the walls of your home.) Six hours later, covered with drywall mud, we called it a day.  Sunday morning we arrived back at the house ready to spray 25 gallons of paint on the walls.  I began setting up the sprayer so we could begin.  Rick looked at me as if I had lost my mind then stated we couldn’t paint until we sanded the walls.  (This process knocks down all the sharp edges left from the texturing process.) I looked at Rick and said, “No, we don’t have time to mess with that, let’s spray this thing so we can get done.  Stilling looking at me as if I had lost my mind, he grumbled something in audible and then said, “It is your house!”  Four hours later, we were sitting at the Native New Yorker with tray of 100 wings in front of us talking about how nice the house looked. Life was good.


Today, just as everyday for the past 12 years, I am visibly and sometimes (when I brush against the wall), painfully reminded of my lack of patience on that Sunday morning.   Doing the job right that day would have taken maybe an extra hour.  Rick could have started on one of the rooms and stayed a room ahead of the sprayer and me. Life would have still been good and the job would have been done right.


As it turns out, Pappy was right.  However, I would adjust his statement.  It doesn’t take any longer to do the job right the first time.  In fact, it takes more time to fix what you didn’t do right the first time.  The next time you find your patience clouded by expediency remember, step back, focus and do it right the first time!


Have a great day.

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The Right Reason

A week from this Friday we will enjoy a day off from our normal routine.  Several days prior, to this day we will be barraged with retailer’s advertisements urging us to make purchases under the pretext of saving money. Before we run out for our day of shop until we drop, we should remember the right reason for this day.


A week from this Friday some of us will wake up in the desert ready to ride through the terrain.  Others will cast out a line in search of an unsuspecting fish. 

Still others will wake up to enjoy a well-deserved day off. Before we do any of these, we should remember the right reason for this day.


A week from this Friday many sons and daughters will wake up on home and foreign soil.  While they deserve a day off, they will not enjoy one.  They are living the reason!


November 11, 1926, marks the first celebration of Armistice Day.  However, it did not become a national holiday for another 12 years.  June 1, 1954, Armistice Day became Veteran’s Day, a day to honor all U.S. veterans. In 1968, legislation changed the day to the fourth Monday in October.  (Perhaps this was in observance of a three-day weekend rather than the right reason for the day.)  However, it soon became apparent that November 11th was a date of historic value to many Americans and Congress returned Veteran’s Day to the original date in 1978.


A week from this Friday, we will still find our nation embroiled in combat situations throughout the world.  While we as a nation may not be unified in our opinion of this conflict, we should be unified in the reason we are able to enjoy a day off, and take the time to remember those men and women who took up the profession of arms to defend our nation as well as those unable to defend themselves.


A week from this Friday I will wake up and take the time to remember those who are currently serving in our Armed Forces, those who served in our Armed Forces and those who have fallen while serving in our Armed Forces.  These men and women are the reason we will enjoy a day off.  These men and women are the reason we enjoy the freedoms we have.  These men and women are the reason some will feel safe in agreeing or disagreeing with my words today.


A week from this Friday, remember to thank a Veteran!

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Did you smell the roses?

As a youngster, I would wish I had this or had that.  I would also continually tell my dad I wish I was 9, 10, 11, 12… you get the picture.  Dad would always look at me, give me that classic Harold (yes that is his name) smile and tell me “Bocephus boy, you are going to wish your young life away.  Son, you need to take time to smell the roses.”


Now, as a child, that has to be the silliest thing to hear and it was. However, as I have written in the past, pappy is full of red neck wisdom that became genius to me, as I grew older. At some point in my mid teens, I began to take time to smell the roses and managed to make the setting sun a spiritual event.  Today, I will still stop to enjoy the aroma of a rose.  While I don’t make a daily ritual of watching the sun drop from sight, (Something we should all do more of) I do notice the beauty of our Arizona sky as the day comes to a close.


So… What got me started on the question of Did you smell the roses?  For the past hour, I have been listening to some classic country music mixed in with a bit of Seager. (For those of you wondering what I consider classic… Roy, Buck, Johnny, Waylon, “The Possum”, Loretta, Patsy, Marty “Hello Darling” Vern, Charlie and if you need last names…. Sigh… )  Like many, music quickly moves me back to another time in my life.  This is never a bad thing; however, the jolt back into reality can be rough. Tonight that jolt was more like a slap.


Tonight the music caused me to start thinking and reminiscing, I recalled a conversation I had years ago with a fellow teacher at Peoria Elementary.  She was describing the changes she had seen in her ten years at the school. Being a rookie teacher ten years seemed like a lifetime.  Today that same ten years plus a couple more have come and gone a quick as a summer storm blows through the valley.  Today, I talk to rookie teachers and wonder where all that time went and I feel somewhat distressed when I realize they are only a few years older than the truck I drive.


I realize there are a few of you out there that remember when I was rookie and you are saying to yourself, hush up Wheeler, I remember you when…  Fair enough.  Nevertheless, I would venture to guess those who remember me or others on your campus at 23 are wondering about the same ten plus years too.


The bottom line hear is this,  did we get so caught up with life that we let is pass us by or did we take time to enjoy the little things,  birds chirping, kittens chasing a string, children laughing…   Did we take time to smell the roses?   For me… I took some time but not nearly enough.


For those of you who are still twenty something, take time to find your roses and then, smell them often.


Have a great day

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Have you forgotten?

Recently a song came on the radio that asked me a simple question.  “Had I forgotten?”  Several visions immediately filled my mind and an uneasy sensation shot through my body.  Some of these visions along with their memories of course were of 9-11 while others were of 1983, 1999, 2005, 1974, etc.  Each of these dates and so many others I keep, they are part of me, and they are with me by choice.

History is a powerful tool; growing up my mother would tell me history is important, if you know the history, you will know the future.  Yet the interesting thing about history, it appears to change based on perception and perception appears to change with the passing of time and the amount of rhetoric surrounding history.  We, have the option to read, watch, listen and debate pieces of history.  Some would argue that we do not have options.  Some would argue that we are spoon fed through the media, textbooks, and other sources while others would consider all media sources suspect.  These are our choices. 


Each day we wake up in a world where we may not like what is happening.  We have the right to disagree with the events and decisions throughout the world, our country, state, city, community, back yard etc…  In fact, some of us exercise the right to disagree.  How many of us agree? How many of us exercise that right?  How many people wake up where they do not like what is happening around them and they are not able to safely disagree?  Questions and statements similar to these often start a fire in our beliefs.  We may agree or disagree and we may become so passionate about the topic we express our opinions and concerns.


I love humor and growing up in the valley I have grown to enjoy the satire of Steve Benson.  However, over the years, Mr. Benson has started fires within me and I chose explain to Mr. Benson why I was so passionate about a particular topic.  Each email Mr. Benson thanked me for my comments and on a few occasions, he reminded me that we live in a society where we are entitled to have our own opinions.


History is important.  While some history is joyous, other history is painful. Should we remember only happy memories?  Should we only study events that will not cause pain or debate?  Should we remember at all?


In my home office sits a sealed box containing figures of Ira Hayes, Franklin Sousley, John Bradley, Harlon Block, Michael Strank, Rene Gagnon and the American Flag.  Outside my front door, a Flag flies 24x7x365 (with proper lighting of course).  Pinned on the dash mat of my truck you will find two emblems, which are important to me.  Why you ask?  I choose to remember, I choose to keep items, which will remind me I have not forgotten.


Remember the past.  Consider the other point of view.  Be part of the future.  Ask yourself periodically… Have you forgotten?


Please be safe and enjoy your day.

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What is in it for me?

This phrase has numerous iterations with the result being the same.  I suppose in all honesty I have embraced this thought a time or two; however, with each passing year I find this statement less and less palatable.


My taste for this statement began to sour years ago as a young teacher when the first student asked, “What’s in it for me?”  I foolishly responded   “Knowledge????”  For whatever reason I thought students would learn just because I wanted them to or worse, I told them they needed too.  What was I missing?  I am sure the list was long and differed depending on whom you asked.  What I, (with the assistance of my students), learned was missing was the relevance to the student.

I wanted them to learn to:


These topics were in my curriculum guide and they needed to learn it because it was in the book.  The kids wanted to know why.


Recently, my wife and I had a rather tense discussion on the relevance of teaching certain subjects and the difficulty to explain the value of learning them.  The concept that education is built upon for several years is one the student may not realize the full value of until later in life.  The teacher in us calls these concepts fundamentals, essentials, basics etc… Kids have a different name for them.  Our challenge is to make these concepts relevant.  Our challenge is to make the, “What’s in it for me”, so compelling, the student develops an unquenchable thirst for knowledge coupled with the ability to analyze and comprehend all the pieces of the puzzle enabling them to see the larger picture as it relates to not only them, but society as a whole.


Ouch… “What’s in it for me” does have a bit of a bite to it when thoughts move beyond “me” to society.  We not only need to look at relevance as it relates to “me”, but as it relates to the rest of the world as well. This is especially difficult in today’s society.  Our politicians are in constant finger pointing over who did what wrong.  Our sports teams have multimillion-dollar stars wanting all the credit when their team wins the big game.  How do we teach students to find relevance in, “What’s in it for me”, when so much of what they see is “All about me”?  With some effort, we can make the connection for our students.  Case in point…

Super Bowl Sunday 2002 the New England Patriots marched on to the field and did something no team had ever done.  They entered the field as a team.  No one player was singled out for the crowd to cheer.  Instead, individual glory was exchanged that day for a greater good.  Fifty-three teammates marched on to that field making a bold statement of solidarity.  “What about me” had left the building.


“What’s in it for me” is often an intrinsic reward.  Sure, we come to work and expect a paycheck but we chose this profession for a different reason.  Walk your campus and ask ten people why they chose education and you will find ten different reasons.  All of which are relevant to the individual. Each person you ask may even explain his or her rationale for choosing this profession over another.  Each of these people made a connection between relevance and “What’s in it for me”.


Throughout our personal and professional life, we will be asked to adapt to an ever-changing environment.  When these opportunities arise, we have two options.  We can cross our arms, and tersely ask, “What’s in it for me?” or we can study the impending change, find the relevance to our life as well as society and then, embrace the change.


Have a safe and wonderful day.

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Did I make a difference today?

As today draws to a close you will say goodbye to your students as they head for home practice, job etc…  You will work a while longer and ponder how much of this “Stuff” should I take home tonight and how much can wait another day.  Finally, as you pour your weary body into your car and exit the parking lot, you may ask yourself a single question.  Did I make a difference today?  This is a fair question to ask.  Unfortunately, the answer is not fair.


In our profession, we strive to help children gain knowledge and understanding.  We teach them concepts today which they will use tomorrow.  There are days when our students ask “Why do I need this?” or “Who cares?”  When asked these questions, you will reach deep into your soul looking for the answer that will inspire this student to believe and understand the rationale for learning the concept.  But did it make a difference?  You may never know.


I do know about one teacher who made a difference and later had an opportunity to see the fruits of his labor.  As the story goes, this lanky 14-year old kid used to shuffle from class-to-class only paying attention about 50% of the time and that was on a good day.  He had the typical (I’m 14 and cool) attitude; you know the one so conducive to learning. Two months into the school year, the teacher pulled this student aside for a short but meaningful conversation.  That conversation centered on making good verses bad decisions, choosing to buckle down and do what the teachers ask as well as trust the teachers’ have his best interest in mind when they assign work.  And finally being a person that people like to be around.  The stunned student wandered home and they never spoke of the conversation again. 


Fast forward 8 years.  A 22 year old young man walks into the teacher’s classroom.  “Remember me?” he asks the teacher.  “Of course I do, come on in” responds the teacher.  He then introduces the young man to the class telling them the young man once attended this same school and what a great student the young man had been. The young man in turn told the students they were in the presence of one of the finest men he had ever had the opportunity to know.  He went on to tell the students that if it was not for this teacher, he would not have made it through school.  The now blushing teacher asked the young man what he had been doing since high school.  The young man smiled and proudly told the teacher, he was attending Teacher College.  He went on to thank the teacher, reminding him of the conversation they had so many years before.  He told the teacher prior to that conversation, he felt he had been written off and no one in the school cared if he succeeded or not.   That one conversation changed his life and was a significant reason he had chosen to become an educator.


The best part of being an educator is making a difference.  It doesn’t matter if your students are 5 or 50, making a positive difference in their life is rewarding.  The worst part of being an educator is the fact that we may not see how much of a difference we make.


If you haven’t guessed, it should not be a surprise to know that lanky 14 year old kid’s name was Shawn.  Bill McIntire, of Ingleside Middle School, once again I would like to tell you Thank you!  You make a difference!

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The final Edition…

As I close out Tips and Tricks for this year, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about some history and the future.


Like many, I tend to write in my head before I sit down with pen and paper, or in this case, fingers and keyboard.  This story has gone through a number of versions and all of them have been very different, mostly due to this being a difficult topic for me to write.


Let us jump in the “Way Back Machine” to the holiday break of 1999.  Sitting at my computer tinkering as I often do, I was looking for a way to share information (short bits of how to information) with you.  Sure, I could send content through email.  However, I wanted the content to have a particular appearance.  In fact, I wanted it to look cool.  I created a slick looking document in Microsoft Word.  However, sending a Word document requires a person to double click the attachment to read.  Believe it or not, that is just too much work for some.  What I needed was a sure fire way to get content in your line of site when you opened the email.  There it was…  The email icon on the standard tool bar in Word.  Hmm, I thought to myself, I wonder what this does.  Moments later, Tips and Tricks was born.  January 4th, 2000 Issue 1 of Volume 1 was delivered to the district.  Curious what the first issue looked like?  Click here.


Much to my surprise that evening of tinkering set a number of wheels in motion.  For starters, Hank Stable (Retired Administrator for IMT) asked me to do a presentation at the Mesa Technology Conference on this electronic newsletter format using Word (My first presentation at a professional conference, talk about being nervous… YIKES).   I also had a number of teachers and staff members inquire how to create a similar newsletters for their environment.  Thus, the class eNewsletters was born.   Hmm, I wonder just how many eNewsletters are being created in PUSD today.


Returning to the “Way Back Machine” I would like to explain how this concept of an eNewsletter came about.   I had subscribed to various listservs that sent slick tips and how to information using the MS Office products.  Each time I received one of these tips; I would read it and share it with everyone I came in contact.  That of course is while it remained in my brain (Usually about 20 minutes J).  On more than one occasion, a person would call or email and ask me about a particular tip again (I guess they suffered from the same memory trouble I do).  Sadly, I often did not remember the tip either and it had long been deleted from my email. Not being able to share this information again bothered me.  I needed a way to share this information with others as well as archive it for remediation. 


In the words of Paul Harvey… And now you know the rest of the story.


Moving forward with Tips and Tricks

Each year I would make subtle changes to the newsletter either in format or content. For instance, (Note:  Each link below will load the first issue of that volume.)


As you can see, Tips and Tricks has had a few facelifts and content changes over the years.  No content change made more of a difference to me as the inclusion of the stories.  While I don’t recall the reason for creating the first story, or for that matter what is was, that one event changed my life forever (WARNING – This may get a bit evangelistic for a while).  Yes, sending an email to over 3,000 people can make you nervous especially when your spelling and grammar skills are not the caliber of the English teachers (or in my case everyone in PUSD) who receive the email. Yes, a few recipients utilized the teachable moment to correct my mistakes, for which I am grateful.  The “Cyber Red Pen” taught me to proof read a little better, as well as ask for another set of eyes to review before hitting send, however, it didn’t change my life.  What did change my life was feedback.  Feedback from a number of you who took time out of your busy day to write me a few words stating your enjoyment of the story or sharing with me one of your own.  In fact, several people have actually asked where I had taught writing (Okay, English teachers get off the ground, it was not that funny J ).


At this point, you may be wondering why this made such a difference in my life.  Frankly, it is simple.  I do not, or should I say did not, like to write.  For years, (No offence to the Dental profession) I would rather had my teeth cleaned than write anything creative. However, those encouraging words made a difference.  I began writing more stories; I began paying attention to the things around me…. Thinking to myself, would this make a good story for Tips and Tricks?


Twice a month I would hit send.  Then (Like a dog waiting for the mail carrier) I would wait by my inbox to see what reaction my story created.  The chime of Outlook, a quick double click and there it was… FEEDBACK J.  Often comments would say “I loved it,” or “thank you for making me think” or “I loved it but you should have warned me it would make me cry.”  This past week (not the first of its kind) I received a note stating; “I don’t read the tips but never miss reading the story”. Those comments told me that the story made a difference.  What I never told you was your comments made a difference also! 


So… Why did I take the time to share this with you today?  Because you made a difference in my life and you did something some of the finest English teachers around couldn’t do. You inspired me to sit down and write for enjoyment simply by commenting on my work.  For this… I Thank You!


The Future of Tips and Ticks

While Tips and Tricks has had minor formatting changes over the years, the crux of the newsletter has remained the same.  Unfortunately, tracking down new content has become increasingly difficult.  Without this content, Tips and Trick would have no purpose.  For this reason, I am sad to say this will be the final issue of Tips & Tricks.  However, I will continue to share new tools and instructions from time-to-time. 


Note: Past issues of Tips and Tricks are available on the Tips and Tricks Archive page located on the Service & Training Portal site.  To view the archive page click here.


For those who enjoy the stories please continue.

For many readers of Tips and Tricks, the stories have become rather special.  In fact, this year I have shared a number of stories that readers like you have shared with me.  While Tips and Tricks will cease, I feel compelled to continue writing and sharing the wonderful stories that are sent to me.   It is this reason I have created “Inspire Me” a discussion board where PUSD staff can share stories. This discussion board has been setup so you may post a story of your own.  Or if you wish to remain anonymous as many readers have requested, please send me your story and I will be happy to post it for you, thus keeping your anonymity protected.


In the true sprit of Tips and Tricks, I could not possibly close this newsletter out without sharing one last tip.  This tip of course will be directed at creating an “Alert” to the above mentioned discussion board.  Additionally the skills are transferable throughout the Portal.


And Finally

I just would like to thank all of you for joining me today and all the other days that have passed since January 4, 2000.  I have truly enjoyed bringing you this newsletter over the years.






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