Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Connect. Collaborate. Risk. Innovate.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Are You Talking to ME?

          Trust. Relationships. Leadership. Values. Vision. 
I lost count as to how many times I heard these powerful words this past week. To be honest, it's all still a bit of a hazy blur, the result of long hours of learning and connecting with colleagues at the @bcpvpa "Short Course" at UBC. But despite the long hours, I left the beautiful new UBC Student Union Building on Friday afternoon feeling inspired and invigorated. And just a wee bit freaked out.

The short course is essentially structured around the BCPVPA Leadership Standards, which encompass Moral Stewardship, as well as Instructional, Relational and Organizational Leadership. Each day focussed on an aspect of these standards, ranging from discussions on educational innovation and leadership to the "nitty gritty" of the numerous, seemingly unending tasks associated with supporting a thriving school community. If I wasn't already overwhelmed by the sheer immensity of the responsibility of helping to shape the future of our youth, this past week most certainly helped to clarify that most rewarding, yet enormously demanding role. Thus the "freaked out" reference.

BCPVPA Leadership Standards
And I'm not alone. At several times throughout the course of the week, I would catch a colleagues' eye and I could see that they were thinking the exact same thing that I was:

"Are you talking to me?" 

At times, I wasn't so sure. Who was this "superhero" that BCPVPA president-elect Kevin Reimer was talking about? There were more than a few times where I was convinced that perhaps I was in the wrong room, that someone had made a terrible mistake. But as the week progressed, our facilitators and session leaders assured us that we did indeed have the necessary skills and abilities to take on the role of an Administrator. We don't have all of the answers, we don't even necessarily know the right questions to ask, but we have gotten to where we are today by relying on our greatest resources: our colleagues and our "kids".

So in the haze of reflection, I am left feeling somewhat overwhelmed, but also incredibly inspired, to continue on this journey. I will need your help along the way, because what I know in my heart more than ever is that I can't do this alone.
And yes, I'm talking to you. 
Lady Bugs are cool.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Defining Success

          By many people's definition, I was not a "successful" student. I struggled in elementary school with math and writing, and I was slow to begin reading. I have vivid memories of feeling enormous shame after getting back yet another math test that I had failed miserably. I can still see the vibrant red "F" at the top of the page. I was the kid with the multiplication table taped to the top corner of their desk. I also distinctly remember the stigma of being one of several students who were scooped out of class several times a week to be taken for "extra help". I say stigma, because again, I can remember the feeling of shame as I was led down the hallway by Mrs. MacMillian, the resource teacher, to a partitioned corner of the library which doubled as a "resource room". I can remember the colour of the carpet. I can remember the kindly face of my teacher. But mostly I can remember feeling embarrassed.
          In high school, my struggles continued. Although I was an avid reader by that time, often completing books in a single sitting, I still struggled in math and french. My years followed a predictable routine of failing a class or two, attending summer school, and once again failing those same classes the following year. By then, many of the feelings of shame had subsided. Despite my "failures", I was well liked by my teachers, generally considered a "good kid" and was finding some "success" in other classes. I excelled in English, loved to debate in law and won an award in band. However, I was a "good kid" making many "not so good" choices. In hindsight, my teachers must have known, but due to their considerable good will and understanding, my "extra-curricular" activities never landed me in the principal's office, nor did they prevent me from graduating. Barely. 
          In grade 12, having failed several courses over the years, I needed to pass all of my classes to receive enough credits to graduate. A challenging task for a student who was more likely to be found hanging out in the local coffee shop than attending classes. But somehow I made it through. And "back then" I even managed to get accepted into a local college. Much to my parents' enormous relief.
Grade 12 Garr. Don't judge- it was the 80s.
          In college, with the freedom to choose my courses, I was more engaged, enough to do fairly well in my classes. Well enough to transfer to University in my third year. But once again, as a result of a number of factors, I began to struggle in my classes. Another vivid memory- standing in my mother's kitchen trying to decipher the academic jargon in a letter that I had received from the University. I remember asking my mom in disbelief, "Does this mean they're kicking me out?" And indeed, that's exactly what it meant. 
          Perhaps a blessing in disguise. I began to work full time, and enrolled in a French class at the local college. I was encouraged by my professor to watch French soap operas and listen to CBC radio in French. I immersed myself in the language and the culture. And it worked. Once again I was back on track and re-admitted to University the following year to complete my Bachelor's degree. But even then, I wasn't one of those students who was particularly "passionate" about anything. I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do "when I grew up". I spent several years moving through various jobs before I decided to return to school to obtain my Bachelor's of Education. 
          Perhaps now, I might meet a more traditional definition of "success". I continued on with my schooling, completing a Masters degree, taught for 17 years in a vibrant and supportive school district, and have recently moved into a Vice Principal position. I have a rewarding job, a supportive family, a nice home... But I am eternally grateful that my teachers didn't apply that more traditional definition of success to the 15 year old me, the one who rarely attended, made poor choices, and failed classes. They clearly had a broader definition.
          I'm grateful for the bumpy road that brought me to where I am today. It provides me with invaluable insight into the lives of some of my students. It provides me with the understanding that behind each student, there is a context, a story. I've seen first hand the impact that a supportive adult can have in a student's life. And I've learned to look very hard for the "good kid" behind the "not so good" choices.