Cameroon 2009

Cameroon 2009

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Sunshine Blog - Musings

Happy New Year, Bonne annee tout le monde!

When Lori (@LoriEmilson) nominated me to do this today, I read her own sunshine blog post, and can totally agree about how easy it would be to procrastinate in responding.  Of course, the solution is to just get to it, so here goes:

The protocol for a sunshine post:
  • Acknowledge the blogger who nominated you.
  • Share 11 facts about myself.
  • Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger created for me.
  • Nominate 11 bloggers to respond to your questions.
  • Post 11 questions for them.  

And now, 11 facts about myself (in no particular order):
  • I do enjoy golf.  It was fun when I was bad and getting started.  It was fun when I got to be reasonably good at it some years ago.  And it's fun now, when I get fewer chances to play and am definitely seeing scores going in the wrong direction.  A golf course is a wonderful playground.
  • I've been blessed with some opportunities to travel.  Six continents visited, and one to go (Antarctica).  Less of it in the past few years, with the principal's position sucking up so much time and energy, but it's all good, as they say.
  • I tweeted a couple of days ago that I'm the luckiest guy in the world.  It's true, you know.  That's a decision, a frame of mind, an "attitude of gratitude", and I'm so lucky to have learned that from the people nearest and dearest to me.
  • We have four budgies.  You wouldn't think anyone could so love a few little (relatively unresponsive) birds as my wife does, but how wonderful.
  • I have "adopted" family in a lot of places: an adopted little sister in Japan; an adopted big sister in Cameroon; an adopted daughter (in the picture above) in France, and so on.  Barb and I couldn't have our own kids, but I've adopted all of the kids in my classes and now the whole school every year, even if they don't know it.
  • I'd have bet big, big money I'd never have a Twitter account or a blog.  Glad I didn't bet that money!
  • I'd also have bet that I'd never switch to Apple technology.  I'm still not convinced that it's all that in terms of usability, but the retina display on my too expensive MacBook - gosh, I love that!
  • Like Lori E., I drink too much coffee.  Unlike Lori, I've no plans or desire to cut down on my "heavenly nectar of the gods".
  • At the age of 40, I decided to learn to speak French.  After two stints of French immersion (in Quebec and in France), courses at l'Alliance Francaise and grade 11 French with our own school's French teacher (during my prep time that year), and endless hours on my own, I'd never have believed anything could be so hard.  And totally worth it.
  • As an introvert, I'm so grateful for having found a profession that calls me out of myself and brings me into daily contact with wonderful people.  I treasure the quiet, re-energizing time that I have, but am very glad that it's not all of the time.
  • Life's priorities should be simple: faith, family, work/vocation and then everything else, and in that order.  I've never heard a convincing reason why it should be otherwise.  But oh dear, I've got some work to do in getting that right!

My replies to the 11 questions that Lori posed.  Please forgive me if I've prattled on!:
  1. It's cliche I know, but Christmas would be my favourite holiday.  There's so much that's wonderful about those two weeks (for students and teachers) - family gatherings, time to relax, the music, the food, the improved moods (of most, anyway).  It's just a happy time.  Mostly, of course, it commemorates the Incarnation of God, and that becomes more and more mind-blowing to me as I get older.  I heard a beautiful rendition of the song, "Mary, did you know" on Christmas eve.  Imagine, giving birth to God Himself!  
  2. The professional book I'd recommend most right now, though there are so many good ones, is "Mindset" by Carol Dweck.  It's a relatively easy read, and could be shortened by not reading chapters not directly connected to education.  The ideas, and the research behind them re: growth and fixed mindset are simultaneously good common sense and really quite uncommon.  I've reflected a lot especially on the damage that undiluted "fixed mindset" praise can do to both children and adults.  Focusing on a growth mindset, and the tie-ins to a host of the other research such as that related to good descriptive feedback is so important to the work we do in schools.
  3. My first teaching job was as a grades 7 - 12 science teacher in Lundar School 31 years ago.  It wasn't easy, but it was nice to have company as one of six first year teachers in that smallish school.  We all made a lot of mistakes, and we always had others around who were scrambling alongside one another to get ready for the next day and just survive that first year grind.
  4. I won't say it's my favourite website, but I do like checking in on the comic strip Dilbert every day.  For a number of years we had a succession of weak leaders in the school, and I'd take consolation in laughing at the pointy-haired boss's all too familiar foibles.  It's even funnier now that I am the pointy-haired boss!
  5. Not a fan of New Year's resolutions, but I am constantly striving to simply lead a better, more giving life.  A few years ago we had a young gal from France living with us.  That's her in the sunset photo of the frazil ice at Steep Rock.  As an exercise, I asked her to describe members of her family and ours with a single English word.  I was pleased when she used "wiseness" (wisdom) for me, but admit that I'd have preferred how she described my mom - "love".  That's what I aspire to; the actions that make up giving love to others.
  6. Best teaching quality?  Jeepers, that might bespeak a lack of humility.  Nevertheless, I'd say that it's related to the concept of servant leadership.  I know that my job, especially now as principal, is to serve and support everyone else in the school, in big ways and small.  They are expressly not there to serve me or to follow me, except insofar as that following is earned.
  7. I had a great lesson from students about 7 years ago on the subject of faith.  I was the teacher advisor for our school's social justice group, and we were putting on a Sunday evening concert called "Imagine" in the spring.  As of that Thursday morning, we'd sold something like 24 tickets, and I was ready to call it off; pushed for that, in fact.  Kailey Knapp, a student who was the group's real leader, insisted that it would all work out, that tickets would sell at the last minute, and that I just had to accept that.  All 200 tickets sold in the end, and the evening was a great, inspiring success.  I like to say, "Kailey's faith kicked my faith's butt", and it did.  I try to be more faithful now, even when it seems irrational.
  8. Best trend in education?  I'd say it's the recognition that we need to put everything we're currently doing up for consideration.  There are, or at least should not be any sacred cows.
  9. It's not a past trend that's disappeared yet, but I'm glad that we're coming to recognize that grades are the furthest thing from a motivator for our kids to learn, in the deep ways that matter.  Our grading practices need a lot of reform, and I'm so proud of our school community for the changes we've made, teachers and students, in leading the way here in Manitoba.
  10. Movie or book?  Book, 19 times out of 20.  It's rare that any movie can do justice to a book that it's based on.  That doesn't make the movie a poor effort; they're simply fundamentally different and have different primary purposes.  I'd wager that people do a lot more thinking and reflecting after reading than from seeing a movie, but I'll grant that a good movie can be great entertainment.
  11. The (first) retirement dream is an easy one.  I want to, feel a need to go and live in Cameroon for a year or two.  I've been there three times, have adopted family there, and feel a part of those communities.  Now to convince my wife that this isn't crazy!

Now, 11 questions for those I'm nominating:
  1. If you could only leave your home province/state for one more trip, ever, where would you go?
  2. If you had to pick up and leave your home province/state and go live somewhere else, where would that be?
  3. When did you feel most proud of the work you do, and what made you feel that way?
  4. When you were in school, what was your favourite subject, and why did it resonate with you?
  5. What sport/activity do you think you're really pretty good at, and don't mind saying so?
  6. What sport/activity do you wish you were much better at?
  7. Favourite food to cook/bake/prepare (and if it's KD or something similar, be honest!).
  8. Sunrise or sunset, and why?
  9. Someone has come in and handed you $100 000 to invest in your school, or other place of work. How would you use it?
  10. If you could speak one additional language fluently, it would be...
  11. If you could play one, or one more musical instrument, it would be...

And those I'm nominating are:

Joanne Coote  @izzie65  
Krista Byers  @ms_kbyers
January Bain  @JanuaryBain
Shelly Wright  @wrightsroom
Phil Taylor  @ptaylorsjr
Erin Klein  @KleinErin
Angela Maiers  @AngelaMaiers
Miles MacFarlane  @milesmac
Derek Oldfield  @Mr_Oldfield
Joe Bower  @joe_bower
Jim Hoddinott  @HoddinottJames

To those I've nominated, please forgive me for doing so.  There really is no compulsion to respond, of course.

This was interesting, taking a little peak inside my own head, with a little help from my 9 year old nephew.   :)

Thanks Lori, and Dana Corr (@dcorr1).  

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