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A lifetime of learning has taught me this...

My final work days in our district are quickly passing, and by the end of June, my "going to school ever since I was five years old" will come to an abrupt end!

As every retiree no doubt comes to realize, one's work life passes all too quickly; I can remember my first years as a teacher, principal, and superintendent like they were yesterday.

Lesson learned? Make the most of your daily work every single day.

Likewise, my time as your superintendent has sped by since arriving in River Falls in 2008.

When I started in this district five years ago, I heard repeatedly what a great staff the district had, what great kids the young people were, and what a supportive community the residents were of education.

As I step into retirement, I can confidently concur that all three assessments of staff, students, and the community were right on the money. Our hometown, River Falls, is a great place, unique to many other places in the world.

Indeed, we have suffered tragedies that have brought the community together in the fullest support of families, students, and staff affected by the tragedy. We as a community have rallied around those in need of homes, food, money, and emotional and mental support.

We have gone way beyond what is usually expected, even as a close, caring community, in reaching out to neighbors in need.

I'm retiring this year, not because of the tragedies in our community and challenges in education, but because, after 41 years in education and at 62 years old, it's time to step aside and let younger administrators have their turn at leading our school district.

Still, with so many positive characteristics of this wonderful hometown, my wife and I plan to remain as members of the River Falls community, a community which we quickly have grown to love.

Someone asked me recently what I've learned over my lifetime.

While I don't really consider myself to be someone with any great wisdom, here are some of the personal and professional lessons that others have taught me along the way:

--Everything we do in education must be directed towards the best interests of students.

--Leadership is not about being served by others, but about serving others.

--Speak quietly and clearly, and listen to others, for everyone has a piece of the truth.

--Education should never be an end product, but rather always a new beginning. Learning never ends.

--Parents are the first and best teachers of their children.

--If you compare yourself to others, you might well grow vain or bitter, for there will always be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

--To receive those things you most want and desire, give to others the things they most want and desire.

--A person's greatest strength, carried to the extreme, can become that person's weakness.

--As human beings, it seems that we nearly always want what we don't have. If it's rainy, we want sunshine; if there's too much sunshine, we want rain. If life is hectic, we want some peace and quiet; if it's too quiet, we want more action.

--"Every monkey's mother thinks her baby's best."

--Listening is each person's 51% responsibility, or said more simply, do more listening than talking every single day.

--All human beings have equal value and deserve to be treated with dignity. No exceptions.

--Affirm others, recognizing their gifts and talents. Build on peoples' strengths rather than their weaknesses. Acknowledge not just what they do but also who they are.

--Excellence is worth the effort.

--Leaders are called to bring hope and voice to those they serve.

--Before judging others, try walking a mile in their moccasins.

--Change is inevitable; how we handle change makes all the difference.

--Parenting is the toughest job in the world, but also the most rewarding.

--For school superintendents, no matter what you do, it's never right or never enough for somebody. That includes snow day decisions. Unless the announcement on AlertNow is humorous.

--A good coach is the best role model for a good parent or teacher or superintendent.

--Only through working together, sharing both concerns and dreams, will big ideas and plans come to reality. Little is accomplished alone.

--The world belongs to those who show up. If you don't "show up," you lose your ability to impact the world in ways you believe it should go.

--Don't tell the world your problems; half the world doesn't care, the other half is glad.

--Live like a duck: above the water look calm and unruffled, but below the surface, paddle like hell!

--Education brings vitality and life to a community, and the best education occurs when there is a strong partnership among individuals, family, school, church, civic organizations, and the entire community.

--Learning of any sort occurs best in a nurturing and supportive environment.

--I can do all things through God who strengthens me.

--Seek the good news and humor in the world, or you will get lost in the gloom and doom of the daily news heard over and over. Stay positive. Strive to be happy and make others happy.

--When Irish eyes are smilin', they're usually up to somethin'!

Please remember that due to our very long winter and snow day closings, school make-up days have been set for Friday, June 7, and Monday, June 10. Sorry kids!

Watch in my upcoming and last column for the humorous stories submitted by River Falls school district staff members that actually happened during the 2012-13 school year! Art Linkletter had it right: "Kids DO say the darndest things!"