April 25, 2015

So Much On My Mind

Rick's Rambling (ramble on, ramble on …)

Rick Discusses Tragedy, Baseball, and Curriculum in Today's Post  

It's been a busy month. I have written a few posts lately, but continue to edit them. I've written about one of my heroes and how I found out that the hero was actually a jerk. I've written some more about curriculum and I've posed some thoughts on baseball walk–up songs. I am in this mode, though, where instead of following Seth Godin's advice and "shipping," I'm working on editing and revising for my blog more than I ever have. I don't really know why. Today, I'm going to talk about three things — and I'm not going to edit those thoughts. I'm writing and shipping today. Tragedy, the long baseball season, and even a couple words about curriculum. Hang in there and enjoy these thoughts.

Another Day in This Tragedy

At Buckley, we are experiencing tragedy for the second time in four years. One of our students was killed in a car accident, just one week ago. Tragedy hits hard and affects so many people. As leaders, however, we still have to stay strong, help people cope, and "be there" for so many people. From the moment the phone call comes in, EVERYTHING changes. The events that follow contain many moving parts and everything happens quickly.

Baseball in the Winter

The weather has been lousy for the last week or so, especially for baseball. The Tigers came out of the gates playing incredible baseball and have struggled for a few days. It's a LONG baseball season filled with many ups and downs. The Tigers have lost four games in a row. Heck, they will probably have three or four periods this season when they lose four in a row. It's a long, 162–game season. This is a solid team who will win a lot of games. The bullpen still has some problems and the bench is empty, but this team will overcome and compete. It's going to be a fun season in the D.

Iggy makes a huge difference up the middle. It will be an upgrade having Jose Iglesias playing short stop for this Detroit Tigers team. 

Curriculum and the State Standards 

I won't beleaguer the subject, I promise. We have transitioned from the Michigan Curriculum Framework to the Content Expectations to the Common Core State Standards, er, um, ah ... The CCSS became so controversial that Michigan apparently is not going to use the CCSS. Except the State is going with new standards, the State Standards. This was never announced via memo, podcast, or anything. It was Tweeted out on the first day of the MSTEP (replacement for the MEAP and actually the Smarter Balanced Assessment) that Michigan teachers have been preparing the the MSTEP since 2010 by transitioning to the State Standards. That was the first reference to the State Standards that I heard.

Have a great Saturday!

March 21, 2015

There's Only One Place Like It …


Detroit. It’s one of my favorite places. I’ve like the city of Detroit since I was a youngster. Sure, it had a great deal to do with my love of the Detroit Tigers. In fact, when I used to go to Tigers games, it was the same as everyone else: drive in to Detroit, park, go to the game, and drive out as soon as possible.

Several years ago Lori and I discovered there was a hotel in the city where we could stay. We started staying at the Holiday Inn Express. Loud, rowdy, dismal. Not a great place to stay but it did the job. Then, we tried Priceline in Metro Detroit and ended up at the Renaissance Center. Then the Westin Book–Cadillac.

Now, every time we decide to visit Detroit, we stay downtown. At times, we have had to stay in Dearborn but usually we stay downtown. There is so much to do in the city, so many places to visit. We try to find new places to visit, but we always find ourselves going to certain places over and over. Slow’s is an incredible barbecue place in Corktown, which is where Tiger Stadium used to live. We also enjoy sampling beverages at the Atwater Block Brewery on Jos Campau in the shadows of the Renaissance Center. We enjoy a Chicago–style pizza at Pizza Papalis in Greektown. (We also enjoy Five Guys in Greektown, but that is not Detroit fare, but it’s good). Of course, secretly, I try to find a way to check out some of Elmore Leonard’s sites as well, but don’t tell anyone.

Sometimes we check out the ruins of Detroit like the Packard Plant or the Michigan Central Station or even the Grande Ballroom. I’ve visited the Vernors plant, the Faygo plant, and even the old Stroh’s building. One of the coolest things I visited with my good friend Chris Brown was the armory outside of the city that used to house Olympia Stadium, the home of the Red Wings. Never able to see a game there, I have to believe it was an experience. Mr. Brown and I also jumped off the People Mover and accidently became the first people ever to walk under one of the bridges near the Joe Louis Arena. Finding places like Nancy Whiskey make the Detroit experience all that much better.

Getting pictures by the Spirit of Detroit, Joe Louis’ fist, and in front of the Ren Cen are highlights that everyone needs to do when the visit Detroit. In January we stayed at the new Crowne Plaza, which just happens to be the former Ponchartrain. There are lists on the Internet about things you must do in Detroit, places you must eat, and where you can get the best beer.

March 17, 2015

Economy of the Downsize

The Market Driven Economy of the Downsize 

We live in a world that constantly downsizes.

"You aren't doing anything right if you haven't downsized, it seems."

"You have to try downsizing."

"Mikey downsized … he likes it."

We hear about it often. We often watch it on the TV news.

"Everyone's doing it."

Every time I go to my favorite shopping center, it seems that fewer and fewer aisles are open. The lines at the self–checkout are growing constantly. Many, many people stand in line and then ATTEMPT to check themselves out.
It seems to be a struggle for most people. The lines at the self–checkouts grow and move slower. It's annoying, but then you look at the lines at the regular check–outs and they're getting longer and longer.

And when all the lines get longer and longer more and more people get more and more frustrated. Then, they start shopping elsewhere. Of course, the selections may not be as deep and the costs may even be more, the the cost/benefit of not waiting in line for 20–30 minutes has great potential.

What happens when everyone starts doing the same thing — and nobody can successfully shop? It's caused by the economy of the downsize. It's happening everywhere and across all types of work. it's not the greatest direction but we have to determine how to react … the right way.

March 13, 2015

My Favorite Short Stop of All Time, Alan Trammell


Courtney is in Lakeland, Florida, visiting her Grandparents and the Detroit Baseball Club of the American League. She's having a great time, attending games, and talking to baseball players. Yesterday, she even met Justin Verlander's girlfriend, Kate Upton. My Mom, Sally, is helping out with lots of photographs and daily visits with Mr. Leyland. She took the nice shot of Mr. Trammell which you will see below. 


She doesn't know how cool one of the signatures she scored yesterday is, though. Alan Trammell is a Detroit Tiger. He might become the next Al Kaline as far as Tiger lore. Tram may never get elected to the Hall of Fame. As a fan or follower of the game, you are either YES of NO on Tram getting elected. He's not one of those in–betweeners. Tram played the game right. He hustled. He hit well, ran well, and played great defense. He should have won the American League MVP in 1987, as he had an incredible year. 

From rookie to star

A kid who had arrived in the late–70s looking like he would never hit more than three or four home runs in a season was suddenly cast as a clean–up hitter. And he raked in 1987. George Bell of the Tigers' rival, Blue Jays, won the AL MVP. It was a rip off. But, there is no need to digress. If you were a fan of the Tigers in the '80s, you were an Alan Trammell fan. He was a guest speaker at the University of Michigan Baseball Camp I went to in 1987. It was so cool to hear from a legend. 

Of pizza boxes and baseball cards

Courtney was able to get Mr. Trammell to stop and sign a baseball yesterday. In my baseball collection, each ball or card or pizza box has a story behind it. I just like the ability to meet the players, tell them THANK YOU, and get them to sign something. A couple of years back I switched to Rawlings Official Major League Baseballs — it just seemed to be much cooler. Not to mention, working with baseballs is much easier than leafing through baseball cards, trying to find the right one for the player to sign. My first two signatures, gifts from my Grandpa Morgan, were on official baseballs: Mark Fidrych (in '77) and Kirk Gibson (in '80). I had asked for Pat Underwood's autograph and Grandpa has the kid from Waterford sign the back of the ball — it's quite a highlight and a great story! 


You can check out the success and fun of Court's trip by visiting her Twitter, @courtheitmeyer. Ben Verlander used her photo in his own Tweet yesterday, which is what happens when you take a great photo at a Spring Training baseball game. 

February 14, 2015



I've read an abundance of books, periodicals, articles, blog posts, and anything else that I could read over the past 25 or so years while I've been in education. As I started down the road of a degree in educational leadership about 20 years ago, I would say that 75% of what I've read has been about either LEADERSHIP or CHANGE. In fact, there has been some great stuff about CHANGE LEADERSHIP.

Theory of an Effective Theorist

Many theories abound about how to be an effective leader – a level five leader; many treatises highlight about how to go about change so it is effective, scientific, and will last; a great deal expound about change leadership and how important the leader is to the whole scheme. I may have spent too much time reading all of these ideas — some contradict each other, many focus on the focus on people.

One Simple Reality 

If I had a theory of my own, I would say that regardless of what you do in education, no matter what your role is, or even what title you wear, the number one focus in education has to be on the people — you have to focus on kids first (that's why we do what we do!) and then on your employees. I know that Tom Peters might disagree, but his focus is always on the corporate world. Really, I read a few blogs every day — Seth Godin's, Tom Peters, and a couple of others when they are updated — and many of them focus on the aforementioned topic of leadership.

Tribes & Connections

Godin writes a great amount about connections, tribes, and bringing people together. Peters writes much of PEOPLE FIRST. As an educational leader, I have always tried to create situations where my people can be successful. When they are successful, their students will also be successful. Then, overall, the school can be successful.

What If …

The other topic, CHANGE, has as many theories as leadership. Change, however, scares people, Change frightens everyone involved in the process of change. Change is the great unknown. The fear is always "What if this doesn't work?"

I would suggest, "What if it does?"

No matter which theories you subscribe to, you always have to remember that it's the people that make anything possible. Rule number one in education is that it's about the kids; rule number two has to expand on that idea and expressly state that it's about the people. Bottom line. I've been thinking about this issue a great deal lately. With the right people in place, the systems will take care of themselves. I've often said that with the right curriculum and practices in place, standardized tests will take care of themselves, as well. An educational system is a simple-complex process. And at the heart of that process are the people.

February 13, 2015

Observe versus evaluate versus analyze

Analyze THIS or THAT 

Seth Godin is the reason I decided to start a blog. After about two or three years of reading his work every day, I decided I could do this myself, so I started Rick's Writing Again. I don't post nearly as often as I would like, but I am writing more than I do when I go into my non–writing eras. Godin has written many thought–provoking ideas that resonate with me. One that I especially enjoy is called, "How to give feedback." It makes this reader think about the idea of giving my opinion of what I see against giving an analysis of what I've seen. 

What I want instead of your opinion is your analysis. It does me no good to hear you say, "I'd never pick that box up." You can add a great deal of value, though, if you say, "The last three products that succeeded were priced under $30. Is there a reason you want to price this at $31?" Or, "We analyzed this market last year, and we don't believe there's enough room for us to compete. Take a look at this spreadsheet." Or even, "That font seems hard to read. Is there a way to do a quick test to see if a different font works better for our audience?" (Godin, July 22, 2006)
We can all think back to our earliest years of "evaluating" personnel and what we have since learned. I have had the honor of evaluating many great people during the past 20 years. I've been able to establish a rapport at most times and be able to give honest feedback. I don't think, though, that in the early days I was much good at analyzing after an observation that led to an evaluation. I think in the discussion following observations, I always tried to get my people to analyze WHAT I SAW but I didn't ANALYZE WHAT I SAW for THEM. 

I spent a great amount of time probing during post–observation discussions, asking lots of questions to try to find out more about the lesson, unit, or year plan. Often, I encourage people to think "long" and not focus only on one snapshot, which is why I believe that walkthroughs are important, as well. 
If you're asked to comment on a first-draft proposal that will eventually wind its way to the chairman's office, this is not the time to point out that "alot" is two words, not one. Copyediting the document is best done just once, at the end, by a professional. While it may feel as if you're contributing something by making comments about currently trivial details, you're not. Instead, try to figure out what sort of feedback will have the most positive effect on the final outcome, and contribute it now. (ibid; bold text emphasized by Rick) 
I highlight the previous only to bring us around to the idea that we focus on the wrong — perhaps important, but wrong — ideas from what we observe. Often, that wrong "focal point" is because it's the low–hanging fruit, the easy thing to talk about. Leaders everywhere have to become more willing to discuss the OTHER STUFF — the things that can make a difference. Like what — like whatever it would take just a little more time to ANALYZE and DISCUSS which will lead to better performance and, ultimately, CHANGE. When there is no risk, there often is no reward.

February 11, 2015

And, upon second thought, YES THAT WILL WORK!


"Welcome Back"

Welcome back
Your dreams were your ticket out of here
Welcome back
To that same old place you laughed about
The names have all changed since you hung around

Kirk Gibson once visited the Tigers as a member of the Kansas City Royals. Don't ask him about his experience on in Missouri. 

If you've ever read my blog for a week, chances are you know that Kirk Gibson is one of my heroes. When I was a young, impressionable Tigers fan, Gibby was a young, impressionable Tiger. It was the late '70s and he was brash, cocky, and heralded as the "next Mickey Mantle" by his manager, Sparky Anderson.

In 1993, when he returned from an exodus that saw him spend time in Los Angeles, Kansas City, then Pittsburgh, Gibby enjoyed a two–and–a–half year renaissance in Detroit. He then went into the TV booth, then into the dugout, then he was fired. He did his best interpretation of Horace Greeley's quote and headed west once again, to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

I know at least a few people will understand the significance.  

Now, Gibby returns to the booth (as does Jack Morris, former Tiger stud pitcher from the '80s) more seasoned having spent several years as a manager. He even won Manager of the Year for the D'backs. Ironically, it was former Tiger manager Jim Leyland's good friend Tony LaRussa who jettisoned Gibby and Alan Trammell in the fall allowing both of them to return to the Tigers. (If you click on my headline above, it links to a story by Lynn Henning). I believe Gibby's experience in the dugout will certainly bring an added element to the telecasts.

When Chris Brown sent me the tweet asking What are your thoughts? I knew I had to figure out quickly what happened. At first I wasn't sure. At second glance, I thought Yeah that's the right thing to do.

Stories abound that Gibby was upset first at how Sparky Anderson was basically ushered out the door but even more upset with how he and Trammell were fired after the '05 season. And the renaissance of the organization began in 2006 — A REASON TO ROAR! had returned to Detroit. Apparently, according to Henning, some discussions have been ongoing between the Tigers, Fox Sports Detroit, and Gibby. (I'm sure Tram had an impact here, too).

Gibby, #23. 

So, without further delay, let's say Welcome Home to Kirk Gibson and Jack Morris.