Monday, October 22, 2012

What I Learned This Week (Volume 3)

            My reflections for the third in this series of blogs actually covers much more than last week due to finding myself in a very reflective mood as a result of what happened during the week. What I discovered is that it’s amazing what difference a year can make. That became the filter for my musings.
            I realized how fortunate I am to be able to have the kind of work I do and that I am thoroughly enjoying. A little more than year ago I was in a period of transition as I had left a great job as Assistant Superintendent for the Sunshine Coast to head to a great job as Executive Director with the BCPVPA. Two months later, I transitioned out of that job to devote my full time and energy to expanding my work as a consultant and author. The unequivocal support of my wife made the decision manageable as we were leaving the safety net of benefits and five years of pensionable service before hitting the maximum.
            Solution Tree has been a large part of my growth as an educator and a key part of my learning as a consultant. From the opportunity to work alongside luminaries like the DuFours, Mattos, Hulley, and Muhammad (and the conversations at events where they share so many of their insights) through the support of key folk like Stubby MacLean and Claudia Wheatley (who know when to encourage and when to develop further skills) to the chance to publish under the guidance of Gretchen Knapp and Robb Clouse, I have had lots of growth. This all came together as I debuted the two day workshop based on my book “Pyramid of Behavior Interventions: Seven Keys to a Positive Learning Environment” in Toronto. Educators came from NB, NH, NY, and ON and developed great products as we processed the key components through various activities. It was a nervous “night before the event” as I must have run through the slides and activities a dozen times in my hotel . To see the flow and connections for the participants made all the prep time worth it. I’m looking forward to my upcoming schedule of four more workshops in the United States.
            I had a lengthy road trip and went from Toronto to Raleigh, NC and then Woodridge, IL for some workshops as a result of another great educational organization that has brought me on board. The Leadership and Learning Center has grown from the work of Douglas Reeves and he has been another one of those larger than life educators who has given willingly of his time to aid a colleague honing his skills. Working alongside Larry Ainsworth has been a real treat and sharing his insightful work on rigorous curriculum design with educators has been a bonus for me. The sessions in both these communities were well received and I love when I receive a Tweet that reads “this was the best PD I’ve had in 30 years”. It encourages me to continue to develop the work I do to ensure folks have a positive learning opportunity. I appreciate Kristin Anderson extending herself and supporting me as I joined the Center. I’m not sure she ever displays anything other than total positivity and is one of the most encouraging people I have met. I am excited about the potential to do more work as I explore other areas of education that appeal to me and are strengths of the work of the Center.
            My trip concluded with a very positive day that grew out of Twitter connections I have with John Bevacqua and Rose Pillay. They were the key figures behind a day entitled “Teachers Learning Together” that had participants from six Catholic schools within the CISVA. The combination of activities, conversations, and questions made the day go quickly and I am eager to follow-up with the participants to see how they implement some of the plans. What was very clear was a level of passion for the work they are doing, the faith that is part of their daily lives, and a commitment to being difference-makers for the students they serve. John and I headed out to see some other Twitter pals who were in town presenting at the BCPVPA conference. It was wonderful to connect with people we rarely see and equally enjoyable to reconnect with many Principals and Vice-Principals from days gone by. I really enjoyed seeing many of my former colleagues from my days in Nelson.
            While all of the above was very affirming and indicative that the decision made a year ago was the right one, it all pales in comparison to the best thing that happened as my Friday was concluding. A bit of background is necessary to frame my emotions. Last year my family was reeling from the toughest news we have ever had to deal with. My oldest daughter was told that her pregnancy was no longer viable at the four-month mark. I can recall for you in minute detail where I was as I spoke with her, and my inability to contain the waves of emotion that rolled over me as I felt so incredibly helpless as a Dad, unable to take her pain away. For someone who prides himself on words and relationships, I was at a loss for the former and the latter seemed inconsequential in the moment. Fast forward to last Friday and my daughter in the delivery room as she fought through all of the emotions and pain that had tormented her to deliver a healthy 9 pound, 10 ounce baby boy. Liam was destined to be surrounded with love regardless but the journey of the last year made holding him and my daughter all the more special. 


            I know life is a roller coaster ride and this past year has been a less than subtle reminder of that. I also know that rides, taken with loved ones and close friends, can produce at least an equal amount of joy to offset the pain that sometimes comes. Thanks to all who have supported over this last year. You know who you are. 


  1. Congrats on your new grandchild!

    1. Thanks! I appreciate you taking the time to read the post and to comment.

  2. Congratulations, Grandpa! (Gramps, Grand-dad, Papa, Old guy, etc!)

    As you say, Life is what you make of it; I also think it's important to note that you get out of life what you put into it, and in my experience, Tom, you have given a great deal of yourself to a great many people. (As one of your many friends at Solution-Tree, I've been one of the fortunate recipients of your wisdom and friendship.)

    Little Liam is Karma, my friend, coming back around to a very deserving Grandfather, Mom, and family.

    Welcome to the world, little fella!

    1. Thanks Gerry. I'm touched by your comments and honoured to have your friendship and support. The learning journey continues.

  3. Hi Tom,

    Congrats! A whirlwind week couldn't have ended any better. I hope you enjoyed some well deserved dad/grandpa time.

  4. Thanks Darcy. Got the news just as we saying goodbye to you and the group so we stayed overnight and most of Saturday to spend time. Flew to Atlanta on Sunday and will be back in Vancouver late Friday for another visit. Great to connect with you.