When opportunity knocks…sometimes you have to answer the door

opportunity knocking

Every once in a while life presents you with an opportunity that will change the course of your life.  There has been a couple of significant times in my life when this has happened, in both instances I let the opportunity pass and carried on down the path I had envisioned for myself.  During the occasional reflective moment I wonder how different my life would be if I had actually taken advantage of the opportunities.  What if I took the coaching job in Regina?  What if I had joined my uncle in the pub business?  Both of these opportunities would have taken my life down significantly different paths.  Looking back though, I am very happy I chose to stay on the path I was travelling, I have had a great life and I have enjoyed my journey as an educator.

This past June opportunity knocked again…but this time I answered the door.  The position of Deputy Head of School at Coast Mountain Academy in Squamish was not something I had envisioned as I looked to the future.  I was pretty confident that I would continue on my path as a school administrator in the only school district I have ever known since I was in kindergarten myself.  But there was something different about this opportunity and the school.  There was a pull that I had not experienced before in my career, something was definitely drawing me into a new direction.  As June began I was wrapped up in Grad and Commencement events and everything that goes on at the end of the year in a high school. I wasn’t looking to disrupt my entire life and that of my family, but by the end of June it was clear I was about to embark on a new challenge.

The whole process took two weeks, started with dinner, then an interview and finally a contract signing.  It was all very surreal, I couldn’t believe that I had actually just accepted a job in Squamish.  Looking back now, it was a fantastic decision.  My life has been invigorated by the change, I feel a new sense of energy and purpose.  I have been given the opportunity to challenge myself daily in my work, be creative and innovative, all the while testing my leadership abilities.  I have felt very welcomed by the Squamish community and look forward to becoming a contributing member of the city.  I feel very fortunate to be given the opportunity to create, alongside the fabulous staff at CMA, a dynamic and engaging learning environment for all of our students.

Sometimes, it pays to answer the door when opportunity knocks…I am glad I did when Coast Mountain Academy came calling.

“Why School?” Here’s a reason…

The very nature of school and it’s purpose is changing. The traditions of the past are still very prevalent throughout the system, however the opportunities, technologies and thought processes of the future are knocking at the door, some might say the door has already been opened. Will Richardson has discussed this process of change very well in his book titled “Why School”, which is a must read for anyone that cares about education. While the future of the school experience undergoes the inevitable transformation in the 21st century, there is a fundamental purpose that remains unchanged over the years – creating community.

Over the Christmas holidays I was shocked to learn that the 4 year old son of one of our teachers was taken to the hospital with bad flu symptoms, and ended up being admitted to the hospital on New Year’s Eve for emergency surgery to remove a brain tumour. The surgery was successful and little Jaydon bounced back quickly. Now that the tumour had been removed and all of the painful headaches, earaches and nausea had subsided he was starting to act like his old self. Jaydon and his family then had to wait for word from the doctors about any follow up treatment that would be required. It turns out that cancer cells were present in the tumour and Jaydon would require a specialized type of radiation treatment to help ensure a long and healthy life. The difficult aspect of the treatment is that only three hospitals in North America are able to provide this treatment. So Jaydon and his family will now have to spend six weeks just outside of Los Angeles, where little Jaydon will undergo radiation treatment five days a week, for six weeks.

On February 1st, something very special happened at our school, Scott Creek Middle. We had planned a bottle drive to raise some funds for little Jaydon and his family to try and offset some of the costs of moving the family south for six weeks for Jaydon’s treatments. We were looking forward to a good response from students but what happened blew us away. By the time I got to the school about 7:45am the front entrance way of the school was already starting to fill up. As it got closer to the first bell at 8:35am we realized we had totally underestimated the response. It truly was overwhelming and emotional to see students, parents and staff walking up with bags and bags of cans and bottles in support of little Jaydon. Bottles even came in from other schools and former students. Our estimate is close to 20,000 pieces were dropped off at the school, not to mention the cash and cheques dropped off at the office. The energy in the school was palpable, created by a sense of purpose that was bigger than each of us. It was made extra special when little Jaydon showed up with his mom to check things out in person before going to visit his dad. Later in the day, after all the returns had been made, I had a chance to chat with little Jaydon’s dad and reflect on what had happened during the day. He was understandably speechless and humbled, and now wondering aloud why it happened that so much support was provided for him and his family.

cans for JaydonWhat we came to realize was that this day was bigger than little Jaydon, it was about community. We hear so many stories depicting a society that is too busy to know it’s neighbours, or awful stories about bullying and violence. But on this day, we witnessed a school and a community rally around a little boy, regardless if they even knew him or his family. It was a special moment, that should remind us that there is a lot of good in our neighbourhoods, and that our schools are at the centre of the community. If the collective we, including students, teachers, administrators, parents, business leaders, politicians and the community as a whole can remember little Jaydon’s story, we should have no problem supporting schools through these transformational times. Community has always been at the core of what school is about, now we need the community to support students and educators as we maneuver through a world and educational landscape that is changing faster than ever.

We are sending good vibes to you little Jaydon.

The Ted Factor…

As I progress through the years of life, I find myself becoming more reflective. I like to think about the moments – the good ones, the bad ones; the ones that change the course of life, the ones that dig a deeper rut; the ones when risks were taken, the ones when risks were avoided; and of course the ones that are happy, and the ones that are sad. It is amazing how many of these moments are accumulated over the years that have significant impact on what we do, what we believe, where we live and ultimately who we are. But in the end after replaying my life on fast forward, I realize that all of those moments are only significant because of the people and the relationships that are attached to them, or the relationships that resulted from them.


That brings us to the ‘Ted Factor’ and the relationship I have had with him and the lessons I have learned.

Ted is one of the most inspiring people that I know, and I have been fortunate to develop a close relationship with him over the years. He is a devoted family man, a retired teacher with 33 years of wisdom, a coach of countless soccer, baseball and basketball teams, and an extremely generous volunteer. He is also the kindest and friendliest person you could ever meet, I know I can’t think of anyone else that I have met that is like him. Ted is one of those rare people that has lived his life smiling every day and saying hello to everyone that he comes across whether he has met them before or not. He has a knack for making people smile, he is a good man, one I feel privileged to know and learn from. He has been a mentor for so many people over the years.

I can’t remember a time when I have been out with Ted when I didn’t hear the words from some stranger “Did you teach, I think you taught me in 1972”. Then Ted comes back usually with some comment like, “yes I remember you, I taught your younger sister too.” I am usually blown away that either of them remember, let alone recognize each other, because some of the people that say hi are out with their teenaged grandchildren. As an educator myself, I wonder if the students I taught in my first few years will remember me in the year 2040?

One of Ted’s greatest traits is that he is blissfully ignorant when he wants to be, which allows him to be so positive and focused on the ‘moments’ he shares with all of the people in his life. He doesn’t worry, and he plays the cards he is dealt with a smile on his face. Recently, Ted has had some serious health issues. What has emerged from this difficult time is something that I don’t think Ted would ever have imagined. The number of people that have reached out to wish him well has been phenomenal. For the first time, I believe Ted is starting to realize the level of influence he has had on the lives of people he forged relationships with throughout the years. Old friends, new friends, former neighbours, his former students and his baseball players, members of local community groups, waiters and waitresses from his favourite restaurants, his mechanic, they have all been in touch to wish him well and comment on how he has influenced their lives. It has certainly energized Ted to get his health back so he can continue with his relationships and make many more new ones.

The single greatest life lesson I have learned from Ted is that when it comes right down to it, the relationships we have with people is what makes life worth living. The moments we have with family, friends, students, coworkers and acquaintances are made extra special and memorable if we spend time to care for the relationships. Ted has shown that a smile and hello can go a long way to having a lasting impact on people.

I am so fortunate that I can call Ted a friend, a mentor and a confidante. I love reflecting on the moments we have shared and the lessons I have learned over the years and I look forward to the ones we have yet to share.

However, what I am most thankful for in my relationship with Ted is that I get to call him Dad!

Love you Dad, thanks for being you.