This is the 8th annual post for this time of year, and the most direct.
To begin, I am incredibly thankful for a wonderful summer. It was filled with a momentous birthday, an engagement, nuptials, new babies, and plenty of adventure. There is a great deal of caring in our world and I was fortunate to be connected to a lot of it this summer.
The Tuesday after Labour Day is often a time of new beginnings, and fresh starts. This will not be the case for many people in British Columbia tomorrow. There are important issues being discussed, debated, and questioned with regards to the education system in our province. Thus, my message in this year’s annual post is simple, and direct: ask questions, and critique responses.
Please ask those in power to detail their vision of public education. Ask them to also explain their intentions and decisions. Do not accept responses that are lacking in meaning and substance.
Please ask yourself what type of education system is important for an inspiring, responsible, respectful and caring community. Share your thoughts with others, and let’s find our common ground to move forward, together. Let this be our new beginning.
Thank you – merci.
On Friday June 26 1914, my grandmother, Margaret Thomson Barr (née McGowan) was born. In the hundred years that have gone by, she has brought alive core values that have inspired and led those around her. I am so incredibly fortunate to share her as a grandmother, and as she becomes a centenarian tomorrow, I am overjoyed to be celebrating her.
My grandmother lives in Kimberley B.C., her home for most of her 100 years, and I always look forward to each opportunity I have to visit, speak with her on the phone or see her via FaceTime. Our conversations usually focus on politics, hockey, family, and to affirm the Canadian nature of it all – the weather. We compare precipitation levels, we discuss the state of goaltending around the NHL – usually that of the Canucks – and she explains with vigour what provincial and federal politicians have been up to lately and how they should be held more accountable. Having been alive longer than the NHL has existed, and having lived out the terms of 15 different prime minsters it is well within her expertise to appraise positions on the ice and in the parliament. That being said the greatest joys in our conversations are when she relates stories of her incredible experiences and when we talk of our family, which owes so much to her values and her leadership.
Commitment, determination and work ethic are strong characteristics of my grandmother. There are numerous stories from her time as a nurse, beginning in the 1930s, that have her meeting challenges, and serving others. From overcoming a very valid fear of bears lurking on the trail while walking to the hospital, to fighting for rights at work, to nursing in Bermuda during the war – she has never been one to back away from a challenge. When she has a goal or task in mind, she is tireless in its completion.
As the second oldest among seven siblings, she grew up helping to take care of others. Caring for others, expression of kindness, being selfless, and prioritizing family are the values she has lived, passed on, and continues to focus on to this day. From my very first summer, to those in to my teenage years, I spent my formative Julys and Augusts on her Lake Windermere property and witnessed how she was incredibly welcoming to all visitors and so selfless in everything she did. As I grew older and took in more and more stories of everything she had done for her siblings, for her own children – my mother and aunt – and how she has continually watched over her four grandchildren, and now two great-grandchildren I am continually astounded with her kindness. She worries – for others and never for herself. She goes out of her way to think of others’ needs and experiences.
Out of my teens, into my twenties, and now beyond, I cherish everything I have learned, and continue to learn from the most amazing woman I have ever known. She laid the foundation for a strong and loving family that takes care of each other. She inspired me to experience a full life. Some of my happiest moments are sharing my experiences and photos from adventures with my grandmother. Her keenness, encouragement, and unwavering support of every risk I have taken and every challenge I have accepted – has given and still gives me strength on a daily basis. As someone who knows the effort needed to take on goals, and to overcome fears, it is incredibly powerful to have her unwavering support and love.
My grandmother turns 100, and I simply do not have the words to express how much I love her, and how much her love means to me, and how much I know it means to our entire family. I am such a better person because of her love.
Happy Birthday Grandma!
Peace, Hope, Joy, Love… Redemption.
Hopefully you find yourself surrounded by these values, and ready to pass them along this season, and in the year ahead.
In thoughts, or in person, may you be with those you love and care about, and celebrate that which is important to you.
Krismasi Njema – Joyeux Noël – Merry Christmas – 즐거운 성탄
– Is tied to a memorable event from the past year.
– Is musically meaningful to someone, or a group of people I care about, and/or have interacted with lately.
-Has been a popular song in the preceding year.
-Could be allowing me to send a message – but not always what appears to be the obvious one.
-Is a Christmas song.
-Is by an artist I think you should hear more of.
-A hands down cool song.
You’ll notice some artists who had new albums get a bit more playtime, and you’ll also notice some ties to Iceland – for good reason. There are also the same Christmas tunes that keep showing up, but we’ve tried for a different selection of artists for Silent Night, and Hark!
What songs were important to you this past year?
Hope you are able to enjoy the preparation, and start of Christmas tomorrow, surrounded by plenty of music, and plenty of friends and family. Be sure to Get Christmasy.
1 – Hark! The Herald Angels Sing – Choir of King’s College
2 – Take a Walk – Passion Pit
3 – Inner Ninja – Classified, featuring David Myles
4 – Lightning Bolt – Jake Bugg
5 – Young Boys – Sin Fang
6 – Christmas in L.A. – The Killers, featuring Dawes
7 – I Need My Girl – The National
8 – Mountain Sound – Of Monsters and Men
9 – You Already Know – Arcade Fire
10 – Get Lucky – Daft Punk, featuring Pharrel Williams
11 – Let Go – RAC, featuring Kele & MNDR
12 – Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Musical Christmas
13 – Pompeii – Bastille
14 – Back in Black – AC/DC
15 – Pink Rabbits – The National
16 – Time to Run – Lord Huron
17 – New York Groove – Kiss & Ace Frehley
18 – Dirty Paws – Of Monsters and Men
19 – Changing of the Guards – Bob Dylan
20 – Silent Night – Michael Bublé
21 – Christmas Time is Here – Vince Guaraldi Trio
This is the 7th annual post for this time of year.
Admittedly, this space has been rather reticent in the past year. While there has not been much new writing there has been plenty of life going on, and plenty of stories being lived out, and shared. I have had many ideas for posts, and a few were even started in the past 12 months, but it seemed as if the next challenge, adventure, or a different potential post kept creeping up to prevent any writing from actually getting completed. I have not felt any discontent, as I continue to feel this space has a worthwhile existence. Thus, writing here has only taken a brief hiatus, and with the start of a new year – the day after Labour Day – I have hopes that the break is ending.
Those familiar with previous Labour Day posts (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) know that tomorrow typically marks the beginning of a new cycle in my life, as it does in many of yours. In reflecting on this past year, it seemed that story telling played a prominent role. This realization reminded me of Thomas King’s words: “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are”.
When I first read his phrase some years ago it struck a chord that continues to resonate to this day, and since that time I feel as though how I interpret, take in, share, and participate in stories has been evolving with much deeper meaning. Stories are multi-sided. Stories have conflict. Stories have hope. Stories have tragedy. Stories have redemption. Stories have love. We live stories. We are stories.
I am appreciative of the amazing storytellers I have in my family and as friends They are continually contributing to, and improving on, how I tell stories, and how I help others share, interpret and take-in stories. This is of no small importance, as stories fuel our inspirations, teach us lessons, build a sense of connection and belonging, and at the same time provide opportunities for creativity and individually. I am excited about how my growth with regards to stories will continue in the year to come.
As is typical, I will take this Labour Day post to encourage you to look around at those in your life, and be ready to offer them support as we take on new challenges, or expand on old ones in the year ahead. In other words, consider what type of character you will play in the stories being lived out right now. Even periphery characters can offer positive values, and support to a story. What type of character will you be in the stories being lived alongside and among your own personal story?
This year we will have the Counting Crows take us in to the Tuesday. In just over a week it will be the 20th anniversary of the stand-out album that featured this memorable song. The storytelling aspect of the tune was also mentioned in a previous post, I Was Down at the New Amsterdam.
Peace and love – à bientôt,
The following piece was originally written for the Education Beyond Borders Website in the autumn of 2012. With some minor edits I have finally posted it here.
During the past summer I travelled to Kenya for the second time. For approximately a month I was fortunate enough to work with Kenyan and Canadian colleagues on three Education Beyond Borders (EBB) projects. Each project provided me with opportunities to share, to learn, and to grow with other professionals. One of the most powerful experiences was returning to Gilgil, where I had spent three weeks the previous summer.
Over the course of the past year I kept in contact with some of my colleagues from the Gilgil and Naivasha districts. As spring drew near we collaborated professionally on the planning of this summer’s Navaisha-Gilgil Student-Centred Methodology workshops. There was nervousness and excitement in this process. It was to be the first year that Kenyan teachers would take on the roles of project leaders, and primary planners for nearly all facets of the preparation and delivery of the workshops. In fact, there would be no direct Canadian presence for the teacher workshops in late August. Noble Kelly was the only other Canadian teacher going to Naivasha-Gilgil this year, and we were set to be focused on observation and feedback.
This was to be an important step for the Naviasha and Gilgil districts, as well as EBB. The EBB model aims to support districts and teachers in such a way that they are able to take ownership of sustainable professional development over the course of four or five years. As the longest running project in Kenya, Naivasha-Gilgil had provided lessons for other projects in East Africa. Now that it was in its fifth year, it was time to discover just what the next steps to local sustainability would look like in a project that was approaching the end of the model’s cycle.
With the anticipation and curiosity of how this transition would unfold, Noble and I travelled towards Gilgil in early August. As we approached Utumishi Academy, where we would be working with trainers and facilitators, I recalled 2011. That year I witnessed the reunion of Kenyan and Canadian teachers who had worked together previously. I wondered if I would experience the same sense of palatable joy, and feeling of homecoming that I had witnessed in others previously.
The wonders soon became answers, and as old friends poured in to the room it felt as if we had spent merely a few weeks apart, rather than a year. The warmth of reconnecting with my Kenyan friends and colleagues, who inspire me with their dedication to students, learning, and teaching, is difficult to fully convey. The intense experience of EBB projects forges friendships that last over thousands of kilometres and years. This intensity also fuels an ambition for collaborative and student focused education. The next two weeks were filled with passionate discussion, debate, and preparation. Long hours and little electricity were but small obstacles as the core team of experienced trainers planned how to welcome new facilitators, and create new workshops. Admittedly there was some uneasiness as the reality of a new future, with less concrete ties to EBB, took shape. However, by collaborating and sharing successes of the past year, it became apparent that this new future would be no less meaningful, inspiring or effective than the previous four years. In fact, the strength and commitment of the teacher leaders in Naivasha-Gilgil was on full display, and it was clear to me that future professional development in the area can be focused specifically to meet local needs.
The teachers in Naviasha and Gilgil truly embody the EBB philosophy. No one person owns the process, there is no one way to always do things. New participants, facilitators, and trainers are welcome to share new ideas, and to develop new resources. Feedback is consistently pursued, and positively given, with support and care. There are many hands to lift heavy work. This process may not always be comfortable, or easy, but it is always fulfilling, full of learning, and focused on improving the future learning of students.
This year, close to one hundred new teacher participants in Naivsha-Gilgil attended professional development workshops at the end of August. Noble and I had returned to Canada by that point, but we were able to connect briefly to this gathering over Skype. A sense of accomplishment, collaboration, fulfilment, and unbridled joy among our friends and colleagues came across loud and clear. Professional development and collaboration is entering a new era in Naivasha-Gilgil. I am honoured and humbled to have worked with amazing colleagues and fantastic friends. I look forward to sharing and learning in new ways as an exciting new time for EBB and teachers in Naivasha-Gilgil begins.