I actually simply refused to become an educator. It was more of an accidental detour on the way to another end point. Simply put, I was not going to do what everyone else was doing: become a teacher. No way. I wanted to become a psychologist. I had lived with others who struggled deeply with emotional pain. I had walked through the halls of a psychiatric ward to visit a close family member and it had left an unforgettable scar. I wanted to be able to relieve the kind of inner torment that traps people inside themselves. The requirement for entrance into a decent psychology program was three to five years of experience working with people. I went into education to gain that experience. It was simply a convenient, sensible and financial side-trip. And then the profession and the students grabbed me. I even remember the individual names of many of those thirty-seven students in that wonderful Social Studies 9 class at D.W. Poppy. You see, when you teach you do not just improve the life of just one individual at a time—you can impact a whole classroom of learners. And if you are in a position of leadership, you can have an impact on a whole school, shifting the culture, and making a difference to the lives of everyone in the building. I was fortunate to be on staff with Mary Wright, a vice-principal at the time, and now former (retired) long time principal of Walnut Grove Secondary School—I watched her impact on the teachers, how it rippled out to students and I knew I wanted to be an administrator. As a psychologist, my potential for impact was small. As a teacher I could see a wider circle of influence. As an administrator, the ripples could move out even wider. The end point had changed. It was no longer about individual therapy to relieve someone’s personal pain but the opportunity to create organizational health to maximize the learning of all—students and staff.
What is the legacy you would like to leave? This is the idea of being grounded in your work and having clarity of your personal vision. I have written about the rock on which I stand. You can read about it here. What does it mean, to leave a legacy? The notion behind legacy is the idea of leaving a gift. What is the gift of ourselves that we leave behind? The term legacy can be traced back to the 14th century. At that time it meant the idea of “a body of persons sent out on a mission.” Leaving a legacy is partly a mission we can do together. What is that mission? I really would like to transform education. It seems a bit grandiose of an idea but it has to start somewhere. There is context to everything. I have four boys (grade 1, 4, 9 and 11). I would like them to be challenged in their thinking, to have opportunities to own some of their learning and to engage in authentic activities that connect to the real world. If I can contribute by creating the space for teachers to experiment with their practice, schools to innovate with their structures, and truly deepen the learning experiences for students—I will be grateful. This is my mission. What is yours?
Note: Thank you to George Couros (@gcouros) for the wonderful impact he has had and continues to have on our district. His ongoing commitment to our learning is profound. Thank you for connecting and building relationships with all of us. You stretch our thinking and compel us to engage in new behaviors to push our learning, practice and influence forward.