Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Go To The Principal's Office

What was your principal like in high school? Middle school? Elementary school? Was this person approachable? Did you see him or her out in the building all the time? Or did he or she stay in the office?

Were you scared of "The Principal's Office"? 

Maybe the ultimate revenge would be to become a principal yourself someday. Here are some facts about the job:

To become a school principal, you would need several years' experience teaching, as well as a Masters degree or possibly a Doctorate (PhD.) This degree might be in education, business administration, education administration, or a similar field. Your coursework would include topics such as school law, accounting, community relations, ethics, curriculum development (planning what courses are offered at which levels), psychology, and statistics.

You would need to be strong in these categories:

  • Time management
  • Being outgoing and talkative
  • Good at problem-solving/finding creative solutions
  • Enjoy interacting with a wide variety of people
  • Communicate well
  • Good listening skills
  • Patience!
  • Good at making a thoughtful decision
  • Recognizing and using your staff's strengths
  • Decision making
  • Leadership
  • Budgeting
  • Understanding the issues of teaching
  • Community awareness
  • Cultural awareness

Being a principal means you would be in charge of all staff, including regular and Special Education teachers and aides, maintenance and groundskeepers, and kitchen staff. You would need to manage the budget for the building, overseeing money spent on supplies, books, and salaries. You would make decisions as to who to hire to work in the building. You would need to be sure your school meets goals set by your school district such as test scores. You would need to be sure your building was safe for all the people who use it, whether that meant structural safety, handling possible intruders, emergencies such as weather issues, and you would deal with repairs that need to be done. You would be responsible as the authority figure for running the before and after school programs in elementary school, and any after-school activities.


You would be the person to whom a teacher would look for guidance with students who have discipline problems, and how to deal with the parents of all students.

Principals usually are required to attend further educational courses throughout their careers, as are teachers; in fact, some principals will step in to teach when a regular teacher is out. They also attend many meetings with other principals, superintendents of schools, and community leaders. They may collaborate with schools out of their districts to share ideas and ways of doing things. Salary for a principal typically starts at about $80,000 a year.

If you're interested in teaching and enjoy working with a variety of different people, maybe you'll be a school principal one day.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I'm Worthless Until I've Had My Coffee

Are you one of those people who have quite a coffee habit?  Do you drink coffee several times a day? Do you stop at a local coffee shop drive-through for a fix on a regular basis?

You  might be interested to know:

  • Light-colored coffee beans have more caffeine than dark-colored ones.
  • Coffee was originally eaten, not brewed into a beverage.
  • Coffee beans start their lives as a cherry. These are said to taste like peach or watermelon. The berries are dried and stripped until only a green bean remains, then they are roasted; that's how they turn brown and dry.

  • Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. that grows coffee.
  • Brazil grows the most coffee. 
  • Coffee is grown in 65 countries; they are all close to the equator because the coffee trees only grow in tropical environments.
  • Coffee has been used for over 700 years as a drink.
  • Over 500 billion cups of coffee, it is estimated, are consumed every year. The U.S. drinks the most coffee, about 150 billion cups a year.

  • As to caffeine: Espresso is the coffee with the highest level of caffeine. Caffeine is not actually addicting, but it can cause headaches or irritation when a frequent coffee drinker stops. If you want to stop drinking as much coffee as you currently do, you should taper your use gradually to avoid those symptoms. 
  • Coffee was the first food to be freeze-dried. The method was invented by someone named George Washington, a Belgian man.
  • There are over 50 species of coffee bean, but only two kinds are harvested and sold on a large scale: Arabica and Robusta. About 75% of coffee we drink is the Arabica variety.
  • Coffee produces $60 to $90 billion every year in profits.
  • Seattle, Washington, has the most coffee shops.
  • Coffee, or the caffeine in it, will not make a drunk person sober.

  • If you spend $4 a day on coffee at a coffee shop and you buy it five days a week, you are spending $1040.00 each year on your morning fix.
  • Black coffee has only 8 calories in a cup
  • Cappucino has about 130 calories
  • Latte has about 180 calories
  • Mocha has about 330 calories
  • Peppermint chocolate coffee has about 560 calories*
*It has a lot to do with what you add to the coffee, like sugar, whipped cream, and flavorings.
Can you think of something better to do with over $1000 a year???


Monday, January 13, 2014

Digging Up Dirt 2.0: A Career in Landscape Architecture

I don't know about you, but I have a need to see some green this time of year.

Consider a career as a Landscape Architect. A landscape architect is someone who designs...

                                                City park, Chicago


Recreational facilities
Aerial view of a water park

                          Someone creative imagined this terracing next to a highway.

                        A landscape architect worked with others to plan this site.


                                         Here is a playground set in the north woods:
                            how did the landscape architect make it fit in with its surroundings?


                        The building process of a hippo exhibit at a zoo

                    This garden features a waterfall and a bridge that seems to float.

College campuses

 Campus of Santa Monica College, California: Someone planned this walkway lined with palm trees.

                                                        Winona State University

Golf courses

Residential developments

                  A planning sketch of a new neighborhood with plantings such as trees.

Commercial settings

This kind of architecture is about 'building' atmospheres so that they are attractive, environmentally friendly, and fit in with the areas around them.

People who are interested/talented in Art and Science, and who enjoy designing and developing the outdoor environment, can become excellent landscape architects. To become a Landscape Architect, you will need a degree from an accredited school and will need to pass a Landscape Architect Registration Exam.

Coursework for this degree will include:

Map reading and map drawing
Earth Science: Ecology, plant life, etc.
Social aspects of outdoor designing
Community Design
Site design and planning
Design Graphics
History of Landscape Architecture
Computer-Aided Design

                   Imagine being a landscape architect for Disney World...

In this career, you will collaborate with others to get the job done: foresters, city planners, civil engineers, building architects, and sometimes hydrologists (hydrologists study water--the sources of water, the ability to build close to it, whether the water quality might be affected by buildings close to it).

You will need to create your plan based on the specs, or specifications, of the person in charge of the entire project. You'll have to understand issues such as:

  • What is the water table of that area? In other words, is the ground going to be solid to build on?
  • How will it fit into the existing landscape? The future?
  • Will it be lit at night?
  • Do you want it to have pathways for walking?
  • What will the entrance to the area look like?
  • How will it work with car traffic?
  • What are the city's requirements? Most cities require a certain amount of landscaping for new as well as existing developments to maintain the attractiveness of the city. How will you include that?
  • Are there species of plants that must not be disturbed by your plan? 
  • What plants and trees are going to be sturdy and reliable, and last for many years with little maintenance?
  • How can you be certain you're not disturbing a historical site?
  • Where will fire hydrants be placed?
  • Can emergency vehicles access the area easily?
  • Does it involve accommodating persons with disabilities?
  • Do you have a plan that will evolve over several years as the area brings in more people?
  • If you are building a golf course, for example, how will you be sure the irrigation system works for the whole area? How will you ensure that maintaining the grounds will be as easy as possible?
  • If you are creating a zoo, how will you be sure it's the right environment for particular animals or plants? You'll need to figure out how people will walk through the exhibits freely, as well.
  • Will your design it have a man-made water feature such as a waterfall or pond?
  • Are you familiar with the climate in that area?
  • How will it be maintained in changing seasons?

                    Cherry Spoon Bridge at night: Lighting plays a part in landscape design as well.

Working with others will be a large part of this career: your vision and that of the building architect may not work together from the beginning.  Every person involved plays a role, and you need to be able to cooperate to achieve the finished setting.

                                    Rooftop landscaping

                  Mansion landscaping-it's hard to believe only one family lives in this place

If you'd like to check into becoming a landscape architect, here are some schools that offer degrees:

http://landarch-n.design.umn.edu/    University of Minnesota 
Other colleges offer degrees in Horticulture, Geography, Land Surveying, or Planning and Community Development; these relate to Landscaping Architecture as well.
Technical and/or 2 year degrees in landscaping and horticulture:
Anoka Technical College
To read more about becoming a Landscape Architect, see these websites:

Here is the site for American Society of Landscape Architects: http://asla.org/

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Rebel

How many times have you thought: I hate school. I wish I didn't have to be here today. I'm bored. Why does any of this matter? And, what's for lunch?

Now try to imagine being in fear for your life because you go to school.

Malala Yousafzai was born July 12, 1997, and lived in the Swat Valley of Pakistan with her parents and two younger brothers. Her father was an English teacher at a local school.

                             The country of Pakistan; Swat Valley is in yellow.

Malala did the unthinkable: She went to school. She spoke about hiding her books under her bed in case the Taliban came to search her home.

Why was it unthinkable?

Because Malala is a girl.

The Taliban tries to enforce a strict law against females going to school, among other restrictions such as no music and no television. They say that girls need only read their holy book, the Qu'ran, to learn anything and everything they need to know, and should look to the males in their family for any guidance at any time.

More on the Taliban:

and on their view of women: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taliban_treatment_of_women

When they learned that girls were defying the rules, the Taliban set about destroying school buildings by blowing them up. As the girls' schools disappeared, some boys' schools also closed in solidarity. To continue to keep the Taliban unaware that there was still schooling going on, girls would say they were going to a sewing class or a religious class when it was actually 'regular' school. Students brought sewing projects in a bag, with their books hidden underneath. They would hear lectures from instructors during class time, and if there were any Taliban nearby, local children playing outside would alert the students.

  Compare this to a classroom in which you have been taught. Were there more supplies? Desks? Posters?

"I don't mind if I have to sit on the floor as long as I can attend school. All I want is education. And I'm afraid of no one." -Malala Yousafzai.

Why would anyone try to ban females from receiving an education? Because it keeps them under the power of the Taliban. If you know how to take care of yourself, have skills to get a job to support yourself, and are aware of the world in general, you take the power for yourself.

In other words, knowledge is power.

In 2008, the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) was writing about events in Pakistan, but wanted a more personal view. They contacted Malala's father and asked if he knew a student who might write for them. He recommended one of his older female students, who began to write a blog about her life, but her family became fearful of retribution, so she dropped out of the project. Thus, 11 year old Malala became its writer. It did not identify her by her true name, in an effort to keep her safe. It's interesting to note that her name, Malala, means 'grief-stricken.' Her alias for the blog was Gul Makai, which means 'Cornflower.' Read some excerpts here: 


Malala also posted her thoughts on Facebook, exposing her to more danger.

On October 9, 2012, on the bus on her way home from school, the Taliban made the bus halt, got on, and shot Malala in the head, as well as two other children that were hit in the shoulders. The Taliban left her for dead.

                                       Candlelight vigil for Malala after the shooting

Malala had her initial surgery in Pakistan and then was flown to England for further treatment, where she recovered well. The Taliban has vowed that they still intend to kill her if they get the chance. She and her family have now settled in Birmingham, England.

"The terrorists showed what frightened them the most: A girl with a book."  -Ban Ki Moon, U.N. Secretary-General

After recovering from her injury, Malala continues to speak out against oppression and war in interviews as well as meeting with world leaders. She urges Western countries to send books, not guns, to Pakistan and other school-hungry countries.

To appreciate this young woman's maturity and grace, listen to her speech to the U.N. this past fall:
Imagine being so powerful---and so threatening to the Taliban---at the age of 16.

Think about how much you complain about school for a few minutes, and then think about the oppression that keeps 5 million children out of school in Pakistan. Imagine being disappointed when there's a semester break because you're not sure the school will reopen afterwards.

How much power do you already have? Would you be as brave as Malala in continuing to insist on the right to education for all? How can you make a difference? 

Starting now, keep Malala in mind as you go through your school day, and remember: there are people who would love the routine of going to classes every day with no fear and no restrictions. Value your education, and do your best.

Malala Yousafzai has been awarded the following national and international honors:
"I raise up my voice--not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard." -Malala Yousafzaia.  

Malala has written a book of her story titled "I Am Malala," which is available for sale at bookstores, or look for it in your local library.