Saturday, December 28, 2013

Thanks Cale - Chain Blogging into 2014

            Sometimes you just gotta go with the flow. Especially when it's harmless and a little enjoyable (especially reading about other people's quirky facts and interesting responses to even quirkier questions). Confused? Let me backtrack. My friend and colleague, Cale Birk, received a challenge that is making the rounds via Twitter. Not one to simply enjoy this himself, he had to "play it forward to another dozen educators. Well my friend, challenge accepted. I need to identify 11 "facts" about myself, respond to Cale's 11 questions, then pose 11 new questions to 11 others. For those about to receive this, blame Cale (or Patrick or Bill or…).

My 11 Random Facts
  1. I am the sixth of eight siblings.
  2. I was born in Montreal, Quebec and am a diehard Montreal Canadiens fan as a result.
  3. I am a marathoner and have completed 45 of the 26.2 mile (42.2 kilometre) races.
  4. I like wearing socks with attitude.
  5. I am thrilled to be Grandpa to Isabella, Leah, Liam, and Kaiden.
  6. I watch "It's a Wonderful Life" every year and still well up.
  7. I won the teen version of a popular TV game show in British Columbia.
  8. I once ran in a parking lot with Ozzy Osbourne.
  9. I played in the NBA (Nelson Basketball Association).
  10. I once had a cigarette kicked out of my mouth by the World Tae Kwon Do champion.
  11. I led members of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra through a song.
Cale's Questions
  1. Ketchup, salsa, or hot sauce? Salsa.
  2. What is one thing that you are a part of (or believe in) that is 'bigger than you'? Public education.
  3. What do you do that is great?  Not 'good', GREAT. I nap better than most folks. I have two speeds - flat out or flat out.
  4. If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why? Where I am now. The west coast of Canada satisfies all of my needs and I love coming home after travelling.
  5. If you were a breakfast cereal, which one would it be?  How come? Holy Crap (a local crafted breakfast cereal), because that's what I want people to say after we spend time together.
  6. What is the one thing (outside of your family) that you absolutely make time for--no matter what?  Running, never leave home without my shoes.
  7. If ________ could be eliminated from your life, you would be stress-free. Delayed flights. 
  8. What is a talent that you have that would surprise those that think they know you well? Deconstructing (okay, demolishing) houses.
  9. If you were to give yourself a cool pen name or pseudonym, what would it be? Frank Talk
  10. Your favorite movie is? It's A Wonderful Life
  11. "If schools closed tomorrow, I would go and be a ____________?" Sports announcer.
My questions
  1. What was your favourite TV show as a child?
  2. What cartoon character do you most identify with?
  3. What ability would you like to have that you don't currently possess?
  4. What did you pick as your last meal?
  5. What was the best present you ever received?
  6. If you could spend one hour talking with one person (living or dead) who would it be?
  7. What would you buy if money was not a concern?
  8. What's the best sport to watch live?
  9. What animal would you be and why?
  10. What age would you remain at and why?
  11. What is the best book you ever read?
The 11 victims of my chain blog
  1. Greg Wolcott
  2. Don Mrozik
  3. Tarah Tesmer
  4. Ken Williams
  5. Rosa Isiah
  6. Jill Gough
  7. Kelly Morton
  8. Harold Freiter
  9. Rene Gaudreau
  10. Carmela Ianni
  11. Gerry Varty
I hope you'll enjoy the homework assignment as much as I did.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under the sun.

This opening line from an oft-quoted section of Ecclesiastes is resonating with me at this time of the year. I’ve been away from a “regular” school district position for more than two school years and I’m slowly making the transition to the “year” as traditionally defined by the twelve calendar months. For most of my life I have defined the year as the bridging between two calendars – the school year. This “year” would have been 2013-14 as all of my educator colleagues can attest. My season as a public school employee has concluded and this new season of presenting and facilitating has brought so much satisfaction and I’m glad I’ve taken advantage of the opportunities.
As I look back on 2013, I am reminded that educators NEVER take a break! Every month has been full with opportunities to engage with colleagues and with working towards improving outcomes for their students. This has definitely been the season of presenting and facilitating the growth of colleagues with 165 days spent in the company of dedicated educators. My reflections on the year remind me that I have been fortunate to visit many new communities and experience many new things. While I’ll never revel in the joy of driving around Los Angeles, it was an eye opener to start a day there and end it on a lonely stretch of highway driving to Lloydminster. I also think I’m likely the only person to visit Yorkton and Stockton on consecutive days. From small towns in rural Alabama to even smaller towns in rural Manitoba, this year was full of learning opportunities. It was also full of positive connections made with educators striving to do more. I won’t be disingenuous and say that every interaction was positive and without challenge. I can say that every interaction was an honest one. I grew quite fond of saying “If we aren’t struggling, we aren’t trying hard enough.” I appreciated the responses that generally ensued.
With 2013 coming to a close, this “season of presenting/facilitating” will continue and expand in 2014 with the release of a number of books (more on that in my next post). I want to thank the hundreds of educators, students, parents, and community members that I’ve been fortunate to meet and wish you all the joys of this Christmas season. However you choose to celebrate, or take advantage of the break, please also take a moment to thank someone who has been significant to you. Thanks for reading, and we’ll connect again really soon.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I Am the Future

Being an educator is hard work. It is a profession driven by, and fueled by, passion. It demands the very best people, and the very best from those people. It requires change that reflects the changes all around us. It requires consistency borne out of doing the right thing for the right outcomes. Mostly, it requires listening and responding to the needs of students.

It seems obvious but is worth stating again.  We all have employment as educators because parents are sending us their kids - all of their kids, not just the easy to reach, easy to teach ones. I also know that our promise to the students has changed. I started teaching thirty years ago and it really was all about teaching. That was the most important idea. My daughter has just completed her teacher education program and our discussions now center on the really important idea - student learning. She knows it is not enough that she teaches an outstanding lesson. She is focused on making sure every student learns the lesson. The shift from student as spectator (teacher as the guru on the mountain top) in the learning process to student as participant (teacher as the Sherpa) in the learning process is evident in classrooms today.

It’s important that we keep as our primary focus that every day, in every class, in every school, our future appears before us. Those smiling faces (and even the blank ones or sullen ones) represent all of the future holders of every job and profession in each of our communities. The one thing we do not have control over is their birthdays. They will get a year older each year. Let’s recognize this and arm each one of them with the most skills, so they can make the best transition to the next phase. The final page from the book “I Am the Future”  accurately summarizes what we need to keep in mind as we help students to learn and grow:

A colleague, Derrick Cameron recently sent me this message in regards to the book:

We had “education week” in Saskatchewan a couple of weeks ago and the focus was on reading.  Some of the Central Office staff were asked to come to one of the schools and read to groups of students.  I read your book “I Am the Future” and I just wanted you to know that the students loved it and have sent me a number of cards where they have identified that they are indeed “the future”. 

It reminded me of this truism in education - Being an educator is hard work – it’s also heart work. Thanks for all you do to connect the head and heart.

“I Am the Future” by Tom and David Hierck with illustrations by Selina Mitchell
available for $10 by contacting