Saturday, April 6, 2019

Encounter with a stranger

As I walked outside this afternoon, I came up behind an elderly gentleman.  He used a walker for support, and took 1 step for every 4 of mine; a steady pace, but slow.  As I passed him I took my earbuds out and said hello.....which is when things got interesting.

We ended up walking together for about 15 minutes, stopping every now and then for a deep breath.  In passing Collège Jeanne-Sauvé, we found common ground in the fact that his daughter and my kids are alumnus; of course judging by the fact he has a 15 year old grandchild (1 of 3 I learned) there is an age between our kids gap for sure.  

He tried golfing for the first time last year and loved it.  He spoke fondly of his family cottage, is restoring a car in his spare time, served on his condo board, and he is very glad he's 'not pushing up daisies'. I'm not kidding, that's what he said.  And he clearly adores his wife, to whom he's been married a long time. 

Finally I had to say good bye and carry on my way, but I know his route and where he lives.  I suspect that, if I'm strategic and paying attention, I will see him again.  Which would be so cool.  It was one of those random encounters that I will be forever grateful for.  Had I left 10 minutes earlier or later, or taken a different route we wouldn't have met. 

My timing however, means I can look back on my day feeling I'm a bit richer for having had a delightful conversation with a interesting stranger. You may recall me sharing that a very smart woman once told me to 'be open to serendipitous findings'.  I've carried that with me and now have one more of those findings to be thankful for. 

“Meeting a stranger can be totally fleeting and meaningless, for example, unless you enter the individual’s world by finding out at least one thing that is meaningful to his or her life and exchange at lest one genuine feeling. Tuning in to others is a circular flow: you send yourself out toward people; you receive them as they respond to you.”
Deepak Chopra, 

Sunday, March 31, 2019

What I did during spring break 2019

I sincerely hope that the 2019 edition of 'spring break' was everything you needed and/or wanted it to be.  I did lots of walking, tried a couple of new wines, managed to connect with some friends, was at The Forks, did some shopping......and I read. You know when you get too far into a book before realizing you aren't really enjoying it, but are compelled to finish it in case it ends up being really good? Nope, not this one. Even as highly recommended as it was....nope.   

Now Sir Ken Robinson's book Creative Schools was another story (see what I did there) altogether.  
We're talking about it around the board table, and it is provoking some really good dialogue.

And then there was this........the report that led to English language school boards being abolished in Nova Scotia.  I've read it twice now; the first time to get a sense of the language and tone, the second to become familiar with the contents, and the third time will be with my sticky notes, pen, and highlighter ready.  

With the news that Dr. Glaze had been hired as the lead consultant for the review of public K-12 education in Manitoba, this was probably the most searched for and downloaded document in the public education arena in quite some time.

Here's my review: read it.  

The Cape Breton Spectator employs a genius named Mary Campbell, who wrote a brilliant review of the report; do yourself a favour and read that as well. She has provided a far more insightful and fact-based commentary than I ever could.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Let's not forget, it IS all about kids

As often happens after a migraine, clarity of thought and focused intent follows.  Sometimes I also need to move my body and breathe the fresh air, however this morning I'm definitely in thinking mode.

My last blog post was January 27th; almost two months ago.  Since then I've been alternately puzzled, annoyed, and exhausted by the almost constant stream of social media banter replacing what is needed and lacking these days, which is face-to-face conversation. The vile aspersions being cast, the criticism, and the condemnations are not only tiresome, it's counter-productive.  Part of the problem is that I'm old enough to remember pre-social media, when personal conversation was the sole way to exchange thoughts, opinions and ideas.

So what am I to do when Twitter and FaceBook, which are platforms that assist me in learning and connecting, become hotbeds of censure and attack? When what is good about both of them require me to see the bad in order to celebrate and engage with all of the stuff that teaches me, connects me, and fills me up?  I have to remind myself to focus on the good, because the crap will always be there.

In the last few weeks, it is our students, young people and youth who have unintentionally reminded me to keep that focus.  To hear the power and passion behind their voices is to know that the world is in good hands. They have the collective desire and ability to change attitudes and practices that are harmful and deceitful.  I've said it many times, and I'll keep on saying it.....they truly give me hope.

A valued colleague recently lamented that somehow we're talking less about kids these days, which led to an interesting conversation. When I listen to our youth,  not only are they are talking about what they themselves need,  they are making it about the needs of communities and families as well. So let's wake up and listen to them, and never forget that it is about kids. More importantly, let's encourage each other to make it about the future of our communities, our province and our country.

“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Needs, wants, and values, bold thinking, reality, and student and community voice.

This past week offered reminders of the realities of trusteeship and the realities of what students and families in LRSD need, want and value.

The reality of being part of a school board is that every year at this time we receive the funding of schools announcement from the provincial government.  The added layer this year was that it came exactly 24 hours after the long awaited announcement of the provincial review of K-12 education, where everything is on the table as Manitobans will be encouraged to participate and offer insights, opinions and viewpoints on, well, everything. 

This review is a good thing. It is an opportunity for us as a province to come together and chart a  new course for public education in Manitoba. One that will ensure our students have what they need to be successful on the way to graduation and whatever comes afterward.  As I said in an LRSD spotlight story, the deliberate mention of including student voice in the review,  and a stated priority on sustainable recommendations resonated with me.

The announcement of the review was Wednesday morning, and the funding announcement was on Thursday morning.  On Thursday evening, I had a chance to listen to senior divisional and school administration, parents, community agency representatives, and one of our community liaison workers review a year of planned actions, meetings, opportunities and activities designed to support students and families in one corner of LRSD; in a part of our school division where the needs are high, and where the desire of the community is to be to part of, and inform, positive and meaningful change.  I sat back and watched and listened as the true definition of 'community' unfolded before me. Four days later I'm still thinking about it, knowing I witnessed something unique and remarkable acquire wings and take flight.

On Friday, students in the first semester of Propel presented their projects.  Once a fledgling project based learning program, Propel has grown into an important initiative where creativity and curiosity flourishes, supported by flexibility, mentoring, and a true spirit of collaboration.  As I've done a few times now, I sat back and watched and listened to the students describe the value of failing, making mistakes and being frustrated.  In this program, they have found a unique community in which they belong, and where the meaningful change is in themselves; acquiring confidence and skills, and growing immeasurably. Propel not only has wings, it is soaring to new heights each year because of them.  

All of this happened because of community voice, bold thinking, and community support. Remember the 'needs, wants and values' of students and families I mentioned at the beginning? 

They need to be heard, to participate, and to affect meaningful change for themselves.
They want ownership, agency, validation and a voice.  
They value hard work, the support of peers, friends and their community, having choices, and learning.

We engage in reviews and budget planning, but it's the people at the heart of the decisions and discussions we need to think about when doing so.  It's about defining student success in a variety of ways, empowering families, and making investments.  It warrants audacious and forward thinking supported by data and evidence, expertise, and lots of conversation that welcomes new ideas, and the voices of entire communities.

It's about the future of our province, the families that live in it, and the students and young people who will inherit the results of the decisions we make today and tomorrow.

That's how I see it anyway.

Monday, December 31, 2018

What I offer as we welcome 2019

This blog started in September of 2010. It announced my intention to run for election to the Louis Riel School Board under the title Commitment. Confidence. Leadership. Trust.  That was 8 years, 3 months and 15 days ago as I type this.  It has become the record of a journey of growth, self-realization, insights too numerous to count, and a whole lot of fun.

My 'commitment' to the role, to my community, to our students, and to those I serve and represent has never wavered.  The 'confidence' has lagged a few times when I felt overwhelmed, much less frequently now but still a reminder to myself sometimes to stay focused, work hard, and take time to stop and smell the roses.  'Leadership' has evolved in steps and stages. Truly, if someone had told me 10 years ago that one day I would be Chair of our school board I would have laughed.   And the 'trust'? Well, the trust placed in me by those that elected me, and by my colleagues, will never be taken for granted.

New Years Eve is a logical time for reflection, taking stock, and thinking about what one wants to accomplish with a new set of 365 days before them.  I'm doing all that.  The reflection is also a reminder that we need people in our lives who believe in us, support us, challenge us, and keep us real and grounded.  I'm thinking about them as I type this too.  This past year has seen a conscious effort on my part to sever ties with some really negative influences, or to at least limit the time their dark cloud inhabits my space.  It's made for some tough conversations, but worthwhile and self preserving ones none the less.

At this point I could offer a list of moments and people from 2018 under the headings of favourite, most impactful, annoying, LOL, surprising, heartwarming etc. but instead I offer this:

Go for it. Grab it. Embrace it. Nurture it. Love it. Savour it. Delight in it. Don't let it go. Or, let it go completely.

Happy New Year.  However you define the words, may 2019 bring you peace, love, laughter, fulfillment and joy.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

School boards are protectors

It's a beautiful morning, and the bright sun is streaming through the window as I enjoy coffee. My calendar has 79 reminders of concerts, plays, productions and events taking place in LRSD schools in the month of December, and somehow we only have one more public board meeting this year (wasn't the election just last week??!!). 

This is a short post, reflective of a recent reminder that came my way from a valued colleague to the west. He reminded me that MPs, MLAs, city councillors, and trustees are elected to serve.  In fact, in our communities it is the same voters who elect all of us and who count on each of us to be their voice in different levels of government and governance. 

We are all leaders; locally elected community leaders.

Of course, we each have a different mandate. But that doesn't take away the fact that my neighbours, and you and your neighbours, each have Trustees, a Councillor, an MLA and an MP who you count on to be your voice, to represent your needs and values, and to ensure your community and the people who live in it are well and looked after.

My neighbours, and you and your neighbours, each have a school board, a city council, and provincial and federal governments making decisions for your community.  They all have different mandates; it is school boards who are the protectors of public education, and who alone are tasked with the success of our youngest citizens in the K-12 public education system.

Encounter with a stranger

As I walked outside this afternoon, I came up behind an elderly gentleman.  He used a walker for support, and took 1 step for every 4 of mi...