Eve of Tuesday 2017

This is the 11th annual Labour Day post.

Years ago I took a course with a professor by the name of Jerry Clarkson. While there are a few stories I could share related to that course, one of the most prominent memories is how he pushed students to question the definitions and rationales they associated with schooling, education, and curriculum. It was during this time I first encountered an outlook on preparation attributed to Richard Feynman:

First figure out why you want the students to learn the subject and what you want them to know, and the method will result more or less by common sense.

At the time, and since, it seemed to mesh well with a values based approach to instruction that I had been introduced to in my teen-age years, and so the phrase has lingered in my reflections ever since.

As we begin a new September, there is little denying there is a great deal of uncertainty in a host of areas. This can seem troubling, and even overwhelming. Under pressure there can sometimes be a tendency to withdraw, and just focus on how to get by, how to tick the boxes, how to get to the finish line. After all, there is a lot of positive to say about well planned processes, and detailed procedures. However, it’s important to remember that reflections, discussions, and debates – yes, healthy constructive debates filled with listening – about the overarching purpose of our endeavours can make our choices about the details more straightforward. Spending quality time on the why can guide us when we are faced with questions and pressures from without and within regarding the how

As new sporting seasons start, as new semesters and terms get underway, as the summer gives way to autumn, as new adventures present themselves, as new curriculum and new jobs continue to take root, let us find value in taking the time to talk about the why and the what. It will lead to clear intentions, and thoughtful integrity. Then, through common sense of community, respect, and acceptance, the how should be clear.

Thank you – merci.
Take care,
À bientôt,
IR

ps – for the first time since 2008 I’ll begin September without Angus as a teaching partner. I don’t doubt it will be a challenge – but, challenges are connected to opportunities. While he will be missed as a teaching partner, I truly and deeply wish him all the best. This year’s song is for him:

Previous Labour Day Posts: (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)

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Eve of Tuesday 2016

This is the 10th annual Labour Day post.

At this time of year I typically think about, and write about the year that lies ahead. This Labour Day I find myself looking back more. The past twelve months have been the most amazing of my life. There was a great deal of travel, to see family, friends, and new places. I had the opportunity to take on a new role professionally and grow like never before. Last month I married my best friend, teammate, and partner. In the spring we welcomed a child.

As a part of this reflection, I find that I am calmer on this Eve of Tuesday than I can ever remember being. I am still incredibly excited for the year ahead. There will be many new people to meet and work with. There are a number of sport and health goals I want to pursue. There remains 99% of fatherhood for me to figure out. I am anticipating that there will be challenges and setbacks, along with positive surprises and successes. My imagination is running wild with all the possibilities ahead. Yet, I am serene.

I attribute this year’s perspective to a few things. Firstly, the new role of parenthood – as was foretold by everyone – changes one’s outlook. Secondly, the challenges of the previous year have allowed me to take new confidence in vulnerability and risk taking. Finally and most importantly, my heart is full. This is thanks to family, friends, my daughter and my wife. Throughout the entire year I never felt alone. The most outstanding support crew has steadied me. There are no small parts from each friend and family member. It is truly the collective, the community and the partnership that have allowed me to rest easier this evening.

This feeling of calm in the face of new adventures, and new possibilities is what I hope to be able to give back. As a colleague, as a teacher, as a learner, as a friend, as a partner, as a father, it is my hope to help others have full hearts through the challenges and joys ahead. Often this is found through simple, yet deliberate gestures, words, and deeds – acting with intent. On the eve of a fresh year I encourage us all to reflect on what makes our hearts full, and then go out to help others feel the same.

Thank you – merci.
Take care,
À bientôt,
IR

Previous Labour Day Posts: (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)

ps – as a bonus and tribute to other events of the past year, here’s a return to a former tradition of the Labour Day post, and a song to send us out on:

Eve of Tuesday 2015

This is the 9th annual Labour Day post.

New seasons are upon us on this Eve of Tuesday. Fall in the North, spring in the South, are almost here, and a new season of school starts up in many places around the world. More locally, hockey season cannot be far from many people’s minds – getting on the ice more is in my list of resolutions. Also forefront in the consciousness of Canada is election season.

While the other seasons turn with more regularity, the opportunity to influence the direction of our nation comes around more slowly. No matter how frustrated we may be with our own democracy’s level of efficiency and priorities at times, or how removed we may feel from the actual decision making processes – the importance of participating as an informed voter cannot be overstated. I am hoping particular election season allows me to continue building on three areas that I’ve been working on within myself lately, as an informed citizen, and a reflective professional: breadth of perspective, questioning, and Reconciliation.

Often we fill our social media feeds, our news feeds, and our daily conversations with writers, speakers, videos, friends, and colleagues that share similar perspectives to the ones we already hold. Seeking out opinions and information that one does not agree with can be challenging. Yet, attempting to understand other perspectives and the role they have in our communities and country is important to our future. This season I’ll continue trying to broaden the media, opinions, and beliefs I encounter.

Linked with breadth of perspective is the importance of asking questions. While it may be easier to direct difficult questions to people one disagrees with, it is just as important to make challenging inquiries of those that are like-minded. In turn, this can broaden perspectives, strengthen ideas, and help make communities stronger. Growth cannot occur without difficult questions.

Finally, as a new school year starts, and with an election only weeks away, Reconciliation is also at the front of my mind. While it does not appear as often as the economy, jobs, or foreign affairs in election coverage, I feel Reconciliation is a crucial topic, and have been trying to be more aware of it in my professional work. Hopefully I can continue to build on this in the months to come. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission held its closing events in Ottawa this year, May 31-June 3. Many years of hearings and testimony around Canada’s residential school system resulted in 94 recommendations. For more information on the Commission’s work you may want to visit the TRC website, or read, listen and watch media reports on the Closing Event (I recommend this one, both article and sound files, from As It Happens).

Tomorrow, Tuesday, is almost upon us, but October 19 will be forty days away – plenty of time to broaden perspectives, ask questions, and consider Reconciliation. Wherever you find yourself on Tuesday, or in the weeks and months ahead I hope you are able to try new things, and build on areas you also feel are important. All the best in the seasons ahead – be sure to vote!

Thank you – merci.
Take care,
À bientôt,
IR

Previous Labour Day Posts: (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)

Eve of Tuesday 2014

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.
Take care,
à bientôt,
IR

Previous Labour Day Posts: (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)

Eve of Tuesday 2013

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.

Take care,
Peace and love – à bientôt,
IR 🙂

EBB Project Reflection – 2012

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.

Posts made from Kenya during the summer of 2012:
Adventures in Collaboration
Observation of Engagement

Eve of Tuesday 2012

This is the 6th annual post for this time of year. Previous entries may provide some background understanding and more complete explanation of some points mentioned below. They can be found here: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011.

This Labour Day weekend has been filled with family, friends, traditions and celebrations. All of these are connected closely with a common theme of previous Eve of Tuesday posts: support.

In addition to support, those closest to us also offer perspective. Sometimes the perspective can be agreement and affirmation. Other times, those who care about us can offer differing perspectives. An obvious example is the differing perspectives on this time of year. It has been suggested here multiple times that the Tuesday after Labour Day marks the beginning of a “new year”. There can be many other perspectives on when the “new year” occurs most naturally. Learning and growth can happen through changing one’s perspective. This does not mean that decisions, values, attitudes and practices need to change when entertaining every different viewpoint. Often, prior knowledge and beliefs can be strengthened by coming to understand different views.

As Labour Day drifts away, and we begin a time of year that is filled with new beginnings for so many of us, it may be time to reflect upon the importance of perspectives – those that are common to our own, and those that are different.

At this point, I am afraid I will repeat much of the same expressions that have been written in Labour Day posts of the past. However, it seems that these sentiments only get stronger each year, so please forgive the reinforcement. It has been an amazing year, filled with adventures for all of us. The past year has finished with a summer that was busy, and full of stories from friends that still beg to be told.

As usual, it is a time of year where there are thoughts of appreciation. I am extremely grateful to those I shared adventures with during the past year, and those who supported me. I am all too fortunate to have many people in my life who broaden my perspective and make me a better person. In turn, the summer has finished with reconnecting and celebrating. Thanks to J, D & family for continuing with a long standing fun tradition. Thanks to L, R & their family for continually being so welcoming. Thanks to E & T for continuing with a new tradition.  Congratulations to A & T, and a special thanks to them for hosting a wonderful evening filled with caring people!

Finally, as this season of renewal gets underway I wish us all the best. As always, there are new challenges, adventures, and perspectives that await. A particular note and word of encouragement go to Kenyan colleagues who are presently amidst a challenge.

The years are passing a little quicker now – I’m sure of it. No matter what the challenge or adventure ahead, let’s face each of them with youthful energy, and caring support of others. In so doing, let us hope and expect caring support in return…. and as the autumn advances, take the time for some smiles, and maybe a little dancing.

Below, Death Cab for Cutie take us out this year. Have a great Tuesday – no matter what your perspective!

Take care,
Peace and love – à bientôt,
IR 🙂

ps – thanks to R. for the edits.