Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Half Full

Last week, I read a very impassioned post from Bill Ferriter (@plugusin) called "Being Positive isn't easy for this teacher".  I like Bill's posts, follow him on Twitter, and have one of his books on my night table.  His work is outstanding.  In his post, I heard a great deal of frustration:

"My point is a simple one: People working beyond the classroom like to believe that if teachers would just buck up—work a little harder, think a little longer, give a bit more—our schools would be sunshine and daffodils."

I sympathize with Bill. And as much as Bill refers to those "people working beyond the classroom", his sentiments are not totally confined to the classroom.  As a Principal, I too feel Bill's frustrations.  There is never enough money.  Never enough time.  Never enough resources.  Initiatives that seem impossible to implement.  Directives that are confusing.  Unhappy stakeholders.  Accountability metrics that fail to tell the whole story.  Conflicting opinions on collective agreements.  The list goes on and on.  And that's just on a Monday.  Bill is right, it can be hard to be positive.

Yet despite all these things that I could choose to really get me down, I just can't let them.  Every day, I get to work with incredible people.  Our teachers are awesome--skilled, dedicated and caring people who are just fun to be around.  Our support staff makes all of us and our school look great each day, from a happy hello on the phone to or parents, to a sparkling hallway and glowing trophy case, to an encouraging word to a student who is struggling.  Our parents are incredibly supportive, and when they might have an issue, they come in wanting to solve the problem together.

Patrick Crawford's Summits For Success - Get him to your school!
And then there is our unbelievable student body.  In the last two weeks, our students have made me so proud.  One of our basketball players was named BC High School Basketball Player of the Year , and another was named to the Canadian National Cadette Team.  Our Drama Department just performed the musical "Kiss Me, Kate!" with our band (with 7 Provincial Honour Band members and 3 National Honour Band Members--most for public schools in BC) playing the entire score, and it was unbelievable.  UNbelievable.  (Kudos to my wife for her amazing choreography of 17 dance numbers in it as well!).  I met with our students who have been named to the District Honours List and listened with humbled awe to their scholarship winnings and career aspirations.  One of our alumni, Patrick Crawford, came back to speak to 500 of our students about his awe-inspiring mountain climbs to Denali and Pumori, and his brushes with HACE, HAPE, and death--at the age of 19 (And by the way, if you have Grade 11s, his presentation (see ad in this post) is a MUST for your school--unbelievably great).  And a First Nations student who we really could have lost, who was so disenfranchised with school in Grade 8, who rarely attended, who finally made a sincere connection with two of our teachers, came to my office to present to me his application for School District #73 First Nations Graduation Valedictorian in his Grade 12 year. (I will blog about him later).

And that was just in the last two weeks.

So call me Polyanna.  Paint my glasses the color of roses.  Toss my pie in the sky.  But I CHOOSE to be in education.  I choose the job that I have, with all of the issues around money, resources, time, bureaucracy.  I knew it going in, I know it now, and I believe that those issues will never go away.  But I STILL choose to be in education, and I look forward to coming to work every day.  And the day that I feel that it is too much, that I can't deal with all of those issues, I need to do something else.  I need to walk away. 

So while I hear what Bill is saying, oddly, I do find it pretty easy to be positive. And while all of us have our issues, I hope that you will be able to find those rays of sunshine in your education situation that keep you looking at your glass as half full.


  1. Great post, Cale. You are right, working with kids is the best job in the world. It is fun to come to work and it is awesome to watch kids grow and learn! There are a ton of positive things going on in our schools and we need to acknowledge and celebrate them...as you have done in your post.
    Hatcherelli (Derek)

  2. Once again, I love one of your posts. I also choose to stay positive even thought I know that I would probably have a lot more fun with being negative. My job isn't easy but in the grand scheme of things, the take away that I have every single day is astounding. My students choose to come to school happy and eager so I choose to be positive with them as well.

  3. I couldn't agree with you more Cale. Working in education is the most demanding yet the most rewarding profession. It is very easy to fall into the glass half empty view of education but fighting the darkness gets you nowhere. We need to turn on the light, take a step back at look at what we as educators actually get to do. We prepare children for life and help them reach their potential as human beings. Royan Lee has a great take on teaching as well that can be read here: http://spicylearning.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/teaching-is-a-gift/

  4. Thanks for your comments. I hope that it came clear that I was not trying to denigrate Bill's heartfelt comments, quite the contrary. There are things that happen on an hourly basis that make me want to chew nails, but there are so many more things that make me so proud that I feel lucky to go to work each day. I liked Pernille's comment...sometimes it is "fun" to dive into the mud and get negative, but when I do, I always make sure that it is for a finite period and then move on.

    Thanks again for taking the time to comment!

  5. Cale, I love your post. It is easy to get caught up in all the negativity and not see all the great things that are going on all around us. I too choose to be in the field and while I admit it is not without its challenges, it is those challenges that make it so rewarding. Stepping back, getting perspective and appreciating what we have is so important - thanks for reminding us.

  6. Agreed. When it’s left to the media to arbitrarily decide which issues deserve attention, it can often encourage conflict between competing “issues” that ultimately serves the status quo. A better approach, of course, would be solidarity between all parties, but that’s easier said than done!

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