I was given an assignment to complete by friend and colleague, Tia Henriksen, who in turn was challenged by really cool guy Dean Shareski. Read Tia and Dean’s posts here!
First, thanks for this homework Tia. I have absolutely nothing else to do tonight 🙂
Second, here are 11 random facts about me:
My parents are both Italian immigrants – and I am VERY proud of them!
I have 4 sisters and no brothers.
I went to art school out of high school.
I once owned a Triumph TR7 – yes…life is about making mistakes.
I met Canadian Prime Minister Jean Cretien and Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk on the same day.
I drove 14,500 kilometres across Canada and back with my family in 2007.
I love dogs.
I never planned to be a teacher. When I was a teacher, I never planned to be an administrator.
I camped overnight at the peak of Golden Ears Mountain last summer with my son, Sam.
When I was in grade 3, my school burned down with me and all my sisters in it.
Some might consider me a picky eater.
Next up, I am to answer the following questions from Tia:
What are your favourite and least favourite colours? My favourite is BLUE and my least favourite is TURQUOISE.
What was your favourite subject / least favourite subject in school? My favourite subject in school was MATH and my least favourite was READING (Sorry – I have to be honest 🙂
Where were you born? Vancouver.
What was your lowest grade in your post-secondary classes? In what class? I got a PASS in some computer programming course that made absolutely NO SENSE to me! I think I got the pass so the teacher could get rid of me!
What is the best characteristic you received from your mom? Compassion and patience.
What is your favourite childhood memory? Summers on our farm and playing soccer on the grass.
How old were you when you learned to swim? I was a young adult…but still not great in the water, though I LOVE to snorkel.
Is Disneyland really the Happiest Place on Earth? I don’t think so. Have you ever seen the faces of the exhausted people leaving Disneyland at closing???
“Never let the competition define you.
Instead, you have to define yourself based
on a point of view you care deeply about.”
Before becoming a Vice-Principal then Principal, I had the honour and pleasure to teach for 12 years. I loved my work in the classroom and was always guided but what I thought was best for students at the time. But, it’s true what they say about time and how it has a way of making you look at things from a different perspective.
We are in an exciting time in Surrey Schools because much of what we have held to be true for so long is now open for discussion and improvement. Of particular interest to me are the changes to B.C.’s Curriculum and the discussion around how we can better communicate student learning to parents.
I believe we need to question everything we currently do around how we inform parents about their child’s progress and how we invite parents to be partners in this process.
For a recent community forum at our school, I prepared a presentation and in it, I used images of my own report card from my Grade 7 year. Doing so awakened many emotions that had been dormant for so many years – emotions that I still work to deal with and overcome today.
I realize now that my teachers viewed me as a pleasant, average, boy. My parents considered me lazy and not as “smart” as my three older sisters, based completely on the letter grades I brought home. You see, those letter grades – those symbols meant to communicate my strengths as a learner – defined me. When you are defined in a certain way for long enough, you begin to define yourself in the same way. And so, because I was always compared to others based on grades and the notion that better grades meant you were smarter and worked harder, I began to doubt myself and my worth.
I struggled with this for years, and realize that still today, some of this same thinking creeps into my consciousness. When I am asked to present, or be part of a team, or lead an initiative, there are still times I doubt myself. I need to convince myself that I have many strengths and gifts and that I CAN accomplish anything if I work hard enough!
This defining runs deep, even in those that love you. I will never forget the day of my university convocation as I stood with my mom, waiting for a photo to be taken, when she quietly turned to me and with wonderment, looked at me and said, “I never thought it would be you.” That might sound cruel to say, but my mom honestly meant it and I don’t blame her. School defined me for her – that’s all she knew.
So having gone through this, you’d think that I would be more sensitive as a classroom teacher. Hopefully I was, but I now realize that each time I gave out a C-, C, C+, and even a B for some students, I was essentially defining them, whether I liked it or not. I cringe when I think how many students I had a hand in defining in this negative way.
Often, students who received these grades were the hardest working students in class, but found the work challenging. Some of these students were also immensely gifted in areas we didn’t measure with letter grades, or at all for that matter.
To all my students…I’m sorry.
For those students who said “thank you for the A” when you got your report card, I apologize if I sent the message that you’d made it, you were done, you had reached the top. My message should have been, “where can you go now?” or “how else could you do this?”
And for that student who at the beginning of one year shared that her goal was to win the academic award, I apologize for not spending more time helping you focus on the joys of learning, creativity, and sharing your wonderful ideas with others.
To all my students again…I’m sorry.
This understanding drives me in the work I do today. I work with students each day who have a myriad of hidden strengths and abilities. I am committed to uncovering these treasures and encouraging others I work and learn with to do the same.
I continue to work with my colleagues to explore new and innovative ways of inviting parents to this conversation about their child’s learning, to break down traditional barriers to authentic home-school communication, and to provide them a “window” into the classroom.
Mostly, I am dedicated to ensuring that students have a say in how they define themselves and that I help them to do so in the most holistic, honest, and positive way possible.
What will you do today to uncover the many hidden abilities your students possess?
“Simply existing is a miracle yet people trudge through life like it’s going to go on forever.” -Sir Ken Robinson
Ever since I climbed Golden Ears Mountain with a friend in the mid-1990s, I’ve wanted to do it again and spend the night at the peak. It’s amazing how quickly time passes and goals get put off, but this last week my son Sam and I set off to complete the overnight excursion. There were many obstacles: carrying heavy packs, hot temperatures, running low on water, 4600 feet in elevation…but we did it!
My phone battery died shortly after reaching the summit, but not before I was able to capture these wonderful images:
We were able to witness a stunning sunset and watch the lights of the Lower Mainland of B.C. come to life and glisten. The experience was all I expected and more!
The next day started with a glorious sunrise and a sense of optimism that our goal of completing the hike would soon be complete. The climb down from the peak was as treacherous as the climb up. Shortly after our descent started, my dream quickly became a nightmare. A large stone slab starting sliding down the slope of loose rock I was on. I put my hands out to brace myself and dug in, but I was powerless to stop it. Awful thoughts ran through my head… It all happened so quickly. Disoriented and frightened, I realized my glasses were gone, my right shoe was missing, I had a huge headache, and my hands were bleeding profusely. But…I could still feel! I was lucky.
It’s surprising how, in times like these, the simplest things can become the only things that matter. The only thing I wanted was my shoe – my shoe so that I could get off this mountain and be with my family. How could I possibly hike the 5 hours down over ice and jagged rock without my shoe? I fortunately had a pair of prescription sunglasses and I eventually found what I so desperately needed. Sam was so brave – I love you Sam! He encouraged me and helped me stop the bleeding. The previous day, I was the one urging him up the mountain when he wanted to quit, and now it was his turn to encourage me.
We made it to Maple Ridge Hospital by 12:30 p.m. where I was cleaned up, stitched up, and x-rayed.
As I arrived home at 5:30 p.m., I hugged my wife, cried, and was never more thankful to be alive.
Everything in life happens for a reason, but you don’t always get second chances. This experience reminds me of how lucky I am, how much I have in my family and friends, and how I much I love life!
Today is a great day to appreciate all you have. As the late Zach Sobiech reminds us in this inspirational video, You don’t need to find out you’re dying to start living!
Listening to some music on my computer this morning, I came across a song from Pink titled, “Family Portrait” – a song written from a child’s perspective about a family being torn apart by divorce. As I often do with songs that have meaningful lyrics, I searched for the video on YouTube. I was amazed to discover that the video has 15,000,000+ views and 11,000+ comments. As I read the touching comments left behind by many children, some of which are shared below, I thought of the many students we work with at school who just aren’t ready to learn because of all the sadness, fear, and uncertainty swirling in their minds. I also thought back to a talk I attended a few years back given by Dr. Gabor Maté. The most important thing he said of children that night was that as teachers and parents, we need to “Collect them before [we] direct them.” By collecting, Gabor Maté was talking about taking the time to make meaningful connections with our students and children, before ‘getting on with business’. How can we get on with learning in classrooms when children are dealing with real-life trauma such as parents divorcing, hunger, neglect, or abuse?
Yes, our work in schools is about promoting wonder, awe, discovery, and a love of learning. More importantly, I believe that our work in schools calls us to build positive and meaningful relationships with students within a safe, caring environment. Only then can we get children to a place where they are ready to move forward and get on with learning.
“It hurts too much to listen to this song when it’s like someone is telling your sad story. I’m sorry Pink you had to go through that. I’m sorry I’m going through it. Glad you made it out…hopefully I can too.”
“I just had my parents arguing. They have been fighting for over a month and I finally snapped and started crying telling them to stop and ran out the house crying…I have an 8 year old brother to watch out for and I’m only 13.”
“I have split holidays, I have 2 addresses, I have 2 step sisters, 2 half brothers, my mum and dad never got married but it was a huge mistake to leave each other. And this happened when I was 8 and now I am 14. Not the best feeling having your family torn apart.”
“Life is full of give and take. Give thanks and take nothing for granted.” –Unknown
Today I received the call that all parents fear – the call from school saying that your child has been hurt. Recently, my mind has been swamped with a myriad of thoughts and concerns about everything from school to family to world issues. I’m not the only one this happens to. But today as I rushed away from work to be with my son who had fallen, hit his head, and was being transported to hospital via ambulance, all those thoughts and concerns melted away. It is difficult to see your child in trouble or in pain, but there was no place I would have rather been. As I comforted him, I was reminded that in reality, there are few things in life that are truly important. Our biggest challenge in life it to maintain perspective and balance, appreciate what we have, and to filter the ‘noise’.