Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why do You do What You do?

March always seems to be the month of reflection.  I'm not sure if it's because of the long stretch between holidays, the emergence from the winter darkness, or thinking about how to make the last part of the school year the best. This March has been no different as recent events provided an opportunity to reflect on my career as an educator.

Disappointment comes in many forms and occasionally distracts you from what really motivates you and what your mission is.  Integrity, honesty, and an emphasis on creating strong, positive relationships are my core values.  The work I've done with folks in various roles in education across Canada and the United States has led me to believe that holds true for most.  I've also come to realize that not having control over other people's agendas doesn't mean you can't fulfill yours. My wife asked me the question of this post and it reminded me to get back on course with my purpose.  I got into education to make a difference in the lives of students and to inspire and motivate others to want to do the same. I recognize that completion of this agenda may take my entire career bit I'm enjoying the challenge. I asked a group of workshop participants this question: "What would you try to do if you knew you would not fail?" The response to that question might fill your career agenda.

This fit well with the bucket list I read on Shannon Smith's blog ( which had one item - why not create a learning community where each and every student, staff member, and parent discovers their passion and shares it with confidence? Pretty powerful stuff and very much aligned with the values I stated above.

So, why do you do what you do? My recent milestone birthday provided a glimpse into the progress I might be making on my agenda.  Some former students took the time to send reflections of their time with me. One particularly poignant one read (in part):

"Best of all, you instilled in us the ability to believe in ourselves and
to believe in each other - even when things looked most desperate."

Thanks Don, for the reminder that every day provides a new opportunity to exert a positive influence. Whenever I start to think about my career being about me and personal accomplishments, I'll remember it's about you and the thousands of other students I've been blessed to work with.


  1. Tom, your wife asks a good question, one I think about a lot as it relates to my first year "retired" from my lifelong profession. People often ask why I continue to read up on what is happening in education worldwide and why I keep up to date with what is going on in our school district. Life long learning, I guess. But more than that is an interest in seeing positive change in "School 2.0" and wanting to have some part of that.

    Additionally, I have two grandchildren, one of whom is in kindergarten this year and beginning what I hope will be a long experience with a form of education that more reflects on the needs and interests of the child - discovering, as you believe, their passion.

    I have had an opportunity to work professionally with you and observe how you try to meet your goals. I respect what you do, even if there are some difficult times and decisions to make in order to keep on the task at hand and meet those goals.

    Keep on keeping on and exerting that influence.

  2. Hey Tom,
    Very good question, and one I've been asking myself (or at least a variation on it) for the last little while. As I round the bend in the final leg of my career, I feel an urgency to elevate my purpose and to work towards this. It's so easy to become mired in the muck of the business of education, and it's easy to lose sight of the things that I've always claimed were the most important to me as a person and as an educator.

    This last year I started doing things differently. The stuff will always be there, and we always seem to get it done ... but it can't be what consumes us, or what drives our decisions and our actions. I've found it very healthy to connect with others who feel this way. Our energy impels us into unknown territory, and we're having a lot of fun in the process.

    These are troubled times in education, with a new budget looming in a climate of restraint, and all the uncertainty that brings. I keep telling myself to set my sights above all that: to have faith that we can deal with the challenges this will bring, but to keep my eye on the goal of robust education processes for our Net-Gen kids.

    Still looking forward to a burger with you at Molly's Reach ... once the out of province travel ban is lifted.

    All the best, Tom!