FOR TEACHERS An Online Publication written by Robert Kirwan
Presented by The Learning Clinic Education Centre
Special Messages To
Motivate & Inspire Teachers & Administrators
by Robert Kirwan, O.C.T., B.A.(Math),
Professional Learning Coach & Director of
The Learning Clinic Education Centre
Purpose of Life Is To Matter; To Count; To Stand for something; To
Have It MakeSome DifferenceThat We Lived At All......Leo
REFLECTIONS ON LEARNING FOR TEACHERS is one of a series of online publications that
are being made available through The Learning Clinic Education
I think all teachers will agree that Leo Rosten's
quotation above says it all. This is our purpose in life. To
make a difference in the lives of others. I have taken on many
roles during my own life. A husband, a parent, a teacher, a
son, a brother, a friend - no matter what hat I wore, as I
look back over my life I like to think that I have made a
difference in the lives of the people I have touched.
And now, in my role as a Professional Learning Coach, I am
convinced that this is what living life to the fullest is all
about. It is one of the main reasons why I have created this
online publication, REFLECTIONS ON LEARNING FOR
Life is all about discovery; finding hidden talents and interests; experiencing
all there is about life so that you can make wise decisions as you grow
and develop into a mature, responsible individual? That should be the
purpose of education. It is about learning who you are and
being true to yourself so that you can fulfill your dreams and
enjoy a career in which you can find satisfaction and
happiness, not only in your work but in every aspect of your
I want to share with you a little story that will express
exactly how I feel
about THE LEARNING CLINIC EDUCATION CENTRE and my role as a
Professional Learning Coach. I know I am only one person, and
it will be hard to change the world, but I think you will soon
see why this is one of my favourite stories of all time and
why I return to this story often for inspiration.
It is called The Star Thrower, and is written by Loren Eiseley. Her story
has been told and retold so many times that I am sure it would be next to
impossible to find the original version, but the story goes something like
Once upon a time there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to
walk along the beach and enjoy the waves crashing upon the rocks. Early
one morning he was walking along the shore by himself. As he looked down
the deserted beach, he saw a human figure in the distance. As he got
closer to the stranger, he saw that it was a young teenage boy. The boy
was reaching down to the sand, picking up something and very gently
throwing it into the ocean. As the old man got closer, he yelled out,
"Good morning, young fellow. What are you doing?"
The teenager paused, looked up and replied, "Throwing starfish
back in the ocean."
"Why on earth are you doing that?" asked the old man.
The boy replied, "Because the sun is up and the tide is going out.
If I don’t throw them in they’ll die."
The old man looked at the teenager in disbelief and said, "But the
beach goes on for miles and miles and there are starfish all along it. You
can’t possibly make a difference."
The young boy listened politely, then bent down, picked up another
starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves and said,
"It made a difference for that one." And then the very wise
young boy continued on his way down the beach, bending down and throwing
starfish after starfish back into the ocean.
Whenever I feel like I am up against tremendous odds and that my
efforts are hopeless in the larger scheme of things, I think about The
Starfish Thrower. I would advise every teacher to
make a copy of this story and keep it somewhere handy so that every time
you wonder about whether it is worth the effort.
We have all been gifted with the ability to make a difference. It is
just like Leo Rosten stated in the title to this article: "The
purpose of life is to matter; to count; to stand for something; to have it
make some difference that we lived at all".
It is my personal belief that there is something very special in each
and every one of us. It is also my belief that it is our responsibility as
human beings to reach out to the people who come into our life and make a
difference by sharing those special gifts. And the wonderful thing is that
we can all accomplish this with very little effort.
You may not be able to change the world, and you may not be able to
make a difference to everyone, but you certainly can make a difference to
most of the students you meet.
The young boy in the story understood this very important meaning of
life. He represents all young persons who have the courage to experience
all there is to encounter along their journey of life. They are not afraid
to reach out and try new things.
The old man in the story had become
skeptical from his experiences with others. He had adopted the philosophy
that if he cannot change the world, there is no use in even trying. He
would sit back and do nothing to save the starfish.
What he learned from
the young boy on the beach is that even if the odds are against you and it
seems as if there is little you can do, what little you can get done will
definitely make some difference. It doesn’t matter how long your journey
may be, you can still only get there one step at a time.
Don’t miss out on a golden opportunity to make it a real difference
that you have lived at all. Live your life to the fullest and be the best
you can be.
On Your Big Goals First And Stay Focused!"
recently read an interesting book one day written by Eileen
Shapiro and Howard Stevenson. The name of the book was “Make
Your Own Luck”.
The book was based on the fact that every action we
take during the course of our life is a ‘bet’. In other
words, the actions we take today and the decisions we make are
based on the expectation or hope, but not the certainty, of
achieving certain desired results in the future.
Human beings we bet all of the time. We cannot avoid
it. Everything we do in life is a bet. It is a bet that the
time and resources we invest now through our actions will
achieve some desired benefit as a result of those actions.
Even the act of driving our car is a bet that the choices we
make along the way will get us to our destination point.
Sometimes we lose that bet if our car breaks down or we get
involved in an accident. When we drive over the speed limit,
we are betting that there won’t be a police officer around
the corner. The list of daily bets is endless.
What amazed me most about this book was the way the
authors were able to explain how easy it is for us to gain
control of our life simply by becoming more focused on the
“big goals” instead of all of the smaller ones. We
can dramatically improve our odds of achieving our desired
results and therefore go from depending on dumb luck to
actually taking more control over our own destinies.
This message really hit home in one of the early
chapters when the authors were relating an experience they had
one day while conducting a job interview for the position of
manager of one of their companies. A man named Dean Kamen was
one of the candidates for the position and he was asked a
number of questions during the course of the interview. One of
the questions was, “Imagine you are stranded on a deserted
island. If you could choose one person to be stranded with
you, who would it be?”
The authors expected Mr. Kamen to give one of the
typical answers that people usually give to this question,
such as, “your spouse, a great philosopher, an athlete, a
famous religious figure, a sexy movie star, a story teller or
a close friend or family member.” What would your answer be?
Mr. Kamen surprised the authors with his answer. He
thought for a moment and then said, “The world’s best boat
Mr. Kamen realized that his ‘big goal” was to get
off the island. He could have selected a companion who would
make life much easier for himself while he was stranded on the
island waiting to be saved. Instead, he selected a companion
who would be able to help him get off the island and thus
control his own destiny.
Needless to say, Mr. Kamen got the job.
The message for all of us is that as long as we keep
our big goals in mind and take actions that will help us move
towards those big goals, we will increase the odds of
achieving our desired outcomes. Our chances of ‘winning’
most of the bets we make in this ‘game of life’ will be
much greater if we think more like Mr. Kamen. If we want to
‘get off the island’ on which we are ‘stranded’ , then
we should be thinking about finding a ‘boat builder’, not
someone who will merely make us comfortable in our misery.
If life truly is a series of “bets”, then I want to
increase my odds of winning every time I place a bet. By
focusing on what I need to achieve the “big goals” in my
life those odds will be improved and I will be in control of
my own destiny.
hope that in some small way, the stories that are part of
REFLECTIONS ON LEARNING FOR TEACHERS will help you become the
"ship builder" for your students. I also hope that some of the suggestions and advice you are
about to read will help you develop strategies that will help
you successfully achieve your goals as an educator.
online publication is meant to be read in small doses. Take a
look at the titles and go to the ones that jump off the screen
at you. Trust your intuition. Go with your heart and find your
passion. My job as your Professional Learning Coach is to help
you become the best boat builder possible so that you can help
your students get off their "islands" and on the way
to a brighter future.
REFLECTIONS ON LEARNING
The Secret To
Being A Successful Teacher Can Be Found In A Tube of Toothpaste
once read an article which was written by a man named Jeff Keller. After I
finished the article, I realized that the title, "There’s A Lot
More Left In The Tube", is one of those motivational quotations that
you would like to hang up in every room to remind you that you should
never give up too soon. I would recommend that most classroom teachers
should consider putting this quotation up in a banner in a place of honour
where all of your students will be reminded of this very important
doubt we have all experienced frustration and despair at various times in
our lives when we felt we had done everything we possibly could to achieve
a particular goal. It may be something as simple as trying to grow flowers
in your garden, or as serious as how to cultivate a better relationship
with your child or spouse, or even something to do with your job as a
classroom teacher. Whatever the case, there comes a point when you simply
feel you can’t go on any further.
And yet, the secret to success, and
the motivation you are seeking, may very well be as close as your tube of
toothpaste. Let me try to explain.
time I come to the end of a tube of toothpaste, I am completely amazed
that just when I think the tube is absolutely empty, I can squeeze many
more brushings out of it. I’m sure you have all gone through the same
thing. I look at the seemingly empty tube in my hand, then I look at the
new tube in the box, and I have to decide whether to throw away the old
and open the new, or try to squeeze a few more out of the old. Without
fail, just when I think the tube is absolutely empty, I get to squeeze
another 12 or 15 more brushings out of it.
next time you find yourself in a situation where you feel you just can’t
go on any further, remember the "tube". It’s usually when
things haven’t been working out and you feel like quitting, that you
experience a major breakthrough. We can all recall times when success came
when we were on our last chance or when we were doing something for the
final time. It is when you dig deep down for that one last burst of energy
that you find your goal.
too many people quit too early - just before they could get around that
final corner to success. All they needed to do is squeeze one more drop
from the tube. Space does not permit me to write the hundreds of examples
of successful people who kept on going in the face of adversity and
disappointment. Even the writers of "Chicken Soup For The Soul"
were rejected by 33 publishers before they found one who would print their
book. What if they would have quit too soon? Many of the world’s leaders
are examples of people who reached their goal just after their greatest
of the most important lessons you can give your students is that if you
have a goal; if you truly believe in yourself; and if you have the
passion, enthusiasm and commitment to go for your dream; then keep
squeezing that "inner tube of toothpaste" one more time. And
don't forget this when you feel you have done everything possible with one
or more of your more challenging students. Just keep squeezing. It is only
when you run out of the "passion" that you will know that your
"tube is empty". Just make sure that you don’t quit too soon.
Success may be just around the corner.
want to share a story with you that makes me feel just a little bit of
pain every time I read it.
a father, a teacher, and a husband, I have often found myself in a
situation where I “failed to see the cake” and I know I missed out on
some pretty special moments.
matter what role you find yourself in, there will be times when you too
may “miss the cake” if you focus on the wrong things. As we move
forward into a new school year, let’s remember that we are all going to
experience times when it is easy to see the “mess”, but life will be
so much more enjoyable if we make sure we focus on the cake.
Cake, byJoseph Walker:
Cindy glanced nervously at the clock on the kitchen wall. Five
minutes before . Her parents were expected to arrive home any minute.
She carefully put the finishing touches on the chocolate cake she was
frosting. It was the first time in her 12 years that she had tried to make
a cake from scratch, and to be honest, it wasn’t exactly a culinary
triumph. The cake was lumpy and because she had run out of sugar, the
frosting was bitter.
And then there was the way the kitchen looked. Imagine a huge
blender filled with all of the fixings for chocolate cake - including the
requisite bowls, pans and utensils. Now imagine that the blender is turned
on - high speed - with the lid off. Do you get the idea?
But Cindy wasn’t thinking about the mess. She had created
something which was special to her - a masterpiece of flour and sugar
rising out of the kitchen clutter. She was anxious for her parents to
return home from their date so she could present her anniversary gift to
them. She turned off the kitchen lights and waited excitedly in the
darkness for them to arrive. When at last she saw the flash of the car
headlights, she positioned herself in the kitchen doorway. By the time she
heard the key sliding into the front door, she was on the verge of
exploding and couldn’t wait to share her excitement.
Her parents tried to slip in quietly, but Cindy would have none of
that. She flipped on the lights dramatically and trumpeted: “Ta-daaaaa!”
She gestured grandly toward the kitchen table, where a slightly
off-balance, two-layer chocolate cake awaited their inspection.
But her mother’s eyes never made it all the way to the table.
“Just look at this mess!” she moaned. “How many times have I
talked to you about cleaning up after yourself?”
“But Mom, I was only...”
“I should make you clean this up right now, but I’m too tired
to stay up with you to make sure you get it done right,” her mother said
angrily. “So you’ll get up early and do it first thing in the
“Honey,” Cindy’s father interjected gently, “take a look at
“I know! It’s a mess!” his wife said coldly. “The whole
kitchen is a disaster. I can’t stand to look at it.” She stormed up
the stairs and into her room, slamming the door shut behind her.
For a few moments, Cindy and her father stood silently, neither one
knowing what to say. At last she looked up at him, her eyes moist and red.
“She never saw the cake,” she said.
TO SEE THE CAKE YOUR STUDENTS ARE TRYING TO BAKE AND NOT THE MESS
While it is true that our children all need to learn to be
responsible and suffer the consequences of their actions, parents must
never lose sight of the fact that even though things like muddy shoes,
lost money, dented fenders, and messy kitchens are frustrating, they are
not worth the sacrifice of a person’s dignity and feelings. It is my
sincere hope that my own children have learned from watching my wife and
I, that when they become parents themselves, they must never lose sight of
the fact that there are things in this life that may seem important right
now - but at the end of the day they are not worth damaging a
relationship. After all, what’s a little mud, a broken object, lost
money or torn clothing compared to a child’s self-esteem. You can clean
up the mud, replace the broken object, live without the money and fix the
clothing, but any damage you do to a relationship or to someone’s
self-esteem will last forever.
The same can be said about teachers. Your students will make a
"mess" at times while they are trying to experiment with
projects and assignments in order to seek your approval. It is easy for us
to be critical of the work of children. Ask a child to write an essay and
we can find dozens of mistakes to point out. We can even demand that the
student do the work over again. But we must always take time and care to
"see the good points" or we will "miss the cake" and
our critical comments will "destroy" the teacher-pupil
relationship that is so very important for learning to take place.
THIS WHEN YOU ARE MARKING STUDENT WORK
next time you are about to mark a student's assignment, take a moment to
re-read this article again or at least recall the feeling of the young
girl in the story, Cindy, as she waited in anticipation for her parents to
come home. Many of your students are waiting in anticipation of you to
read their assignment. They have worked hard to do this assignment for you
and they may not have paid much attention to the "mess" they
were making. It is the "content" they want you to see. It is the
"cake" they want you to see.
are times in our life when perhaps it is all right to see the mess in the
there are times when we only need to see the cake.
The Day I Decided
To Stop Teaching Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
As I was
going through some of my files the other day I came across a
wrinkled page on which was written a story that had changed my
whole approach to teaching very early in my career. It brought
back a whole lot of memories about former students of mine who
I remember quite well to this day, not because of their
superior academic accomplishments, but rather for their
courage and perseverance once they realized that someone
actually “believed in them”.
I just have to share this story with you and ask that
you pass it on to any parents and teachers you happen to know.
It had a huge impact, not only on my personal philosophy of
teaching, but also on how I treated my own children.
As Mrs. Thompson stood in front of her 5th grade class
on the very first day of school, she told the children an
untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and
said that she loved them all the same. However, that was
impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his
seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.
Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and
noticed that he did not play well with the other children,
that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a
bath. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant.
It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually
take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen,
making bold X's and then putting a big "F" at the
top of his papers.
At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was
required to review each child's past records and she put
Teddy's off until last. However, when she reviewed his file,
she was in for a surprise. Teddy's first grade teacher wrote,
"Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his
work neatly and has good manners... he is a joy to be
His second grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an
excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is
troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at
home must be a struggle."
His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's death
has been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his father
doesn't show much interest and his home life will soon affect
him if some steps aren't taken."
Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is
withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school. He doesn't
have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in class."
By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was
ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students
brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons
and bright paper, except for Teddy's. His present was
clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper that he got from a
Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of
the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when
she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones
missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume.
But she stifled the children's laughter when she
exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and
dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist.
Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say,
"Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used
to." After the children left, she cried for at least an
ON THAT VERY
DAY, SHE QUIT TEACHING READING, WRITING AND
ARITHMETIC. INSTEAD SHE BEGAN TO TEACH CHILDREN.
Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As
she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more
she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the
year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the
class and, despite her lie that she would love all the
children the same, Teddy became one of her "teacher's
Many years later they met again. By this time Teddy had
gone on to medical school and had become a successful doctor.They hugged each other for a long while, and Dr.
Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson's ear, "Thank you
Mrs. Thompson for believing in me. Thank you so much for
making me feel important and showing me that I could make a
Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back.
She said, "Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one
who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn't know
how to teach until I met you."
During my own 28 years as a
classroom teacher I came across a lot of “Teddy Stoddards”.
My only hope is that they remember me as someone who believed
in them and showed them that they could make a difference.
Teachers Today Want To Survive In This Profession They Must Be
Willing To Adopt The "Daffodil Principle"
The other day I read a
story about a "Daffodil Garden" that gave me some tremendous
insight into how some people always seem to accomplish so much with the
time they have, while others are confused, stressed out and never seem to
have enough time to get anything done.
"DaffodilGarden" was located on the side of a mountain. It
was a magnificent scene. One of the most beautiful sights you could
imagine. It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and
poured it down over the mountain peak and slopes where it had run into
every crevice and over every rise. The mountainside was radiant, clothed
in massive drifts and waterfalls of daffodils. The flowers were planted in
majestic, swirling patterns, great ribbons and swaths of deep orange,
white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, saffron, and butter yellow. Each
different-colored variety (there were more than thirty-five varieties of
daffodils in the vast display) was planted as a group so that it swirled
and flowed like its own river with its own unique hue.
charming path wound throughout the garden. There were several resting
stations, paved with stone and furnished with Victorian wooden benches and
great tubs of coral and carmine tulips. Five acres of flowers! All planted
one bulb at a time, by one woman who lived in a little house on the side
of the hill.
lady had started planting one bulb at a time for a period of thirty five
years. She once had a vision of beauty and joy, imagining the mountain
covered in flowers. Instead of "wishing" she decided to begin
bringing her vision to life on that mountain.
the lady’s own words, when asked how she created such an immense garden,
she answered, "One at a time, by one woman, two hands, two feet, and
a very little brain."
this is what we call "The Daffodil Principle".
of your dream or vision, there is no other way to do it. You have to do it
one bulb at a time.
are no shortcuts. If you set out on a journey, it begins with the first
step. Then you take the second step, and the third, and so on. Before you
know it, you have traveled a long way from where you began and you just
keep on going.
sooner we all learn to accept the "Daffodil Principle" the
better. When you continuously move forward, one step at a time - and at
times it is with a baby-step - we use the accumulation of time to
accomplish so much. We can actually change the world in which we live.
Just think about all you can accomplish in time.
makes me think back to all those things I wanted to do but abandoned,
simply because it seemed as if it would take so much effort and time to
accomplish my ultimate goal. Think of all the books I could have read if I
had only read one chapter per day instead of trying to find several hours
at a time to read. Think of all the letters I could have written to family
and friends if I had only written one letter a week (I could have kept in
touch with 52 different friends each year). Think of how many people I
could have made feel wonderful, if I had taken the time to give one
sincere compliment per day to a stranger.
ONLY WAY TO SURVIVE IN TEACHING IS TO ADOPT THE DAFFODIL PRINCIPLE
Daffodil Principle should be required reading by all teachers at the
beginning of every year - or perhaps at the beginning of every day!
have a lot of long-range and unit plans for your students. You have
individual plans and daily plans and special education plans and
professional development plans...are you getting tired yet? And if you
spend time going over all of those times the tasks will seem enormous.
you simply begin, one task at a time; one week at a time; one day at a
time; the job will get done. And at the end of the year, you will look
back and see a beautiful "Daffodil Garden" in full bloom. The
journey begins today. Just start planting and you will be amazed at what
you can accomplish.
Your Focus Can Produce Remarkable Results
Have you ever come up against a problem that you just
Where it felt like you were simply banging your head
against a brick wall - over and over and over again - without making any
Sure you have.
And can you remember how you finally came up with a
solution? You most likely took a step back and approached the problem from
a different angle, with a new focus which enabled you to find a simple
solution which was there all along.
Consider the lesson of the moth which was
’s garage one day.
As Joe was preparing to travel to his office, he
opened the garage door and startled a large moth which immediately tried
to escape by flying to the circle-topped window of the door. It tried
frantically to exit through the invisible wall of closed glass.
Joe tried raising the garage door higher in hopes
of aiding it’s escape. That caused it to fly higher and become entangled
in a spider web.
Fearful that it would remain entangled in the
web, Joe took a long-handled broom to assist him in helping the moth
escape the tangled threads.
The moth then returned to furiously pumping his
wings and banging into the glass, which was, in his perspective, the
pathway of escape, but instead, the moth remained captive. By simply
turning his focus to one side, he would have easily exited his prison.
Rather, due to his intent on one direction, he remained confined, captive
and perhaps doomed.
PEOPLE ARE JUST LIKE THE MOTH
People are quite the same as the moth in this
story. Too often we come across individuals who are so sure of them self
that they refuse to change their focus. They would rather continue in one
direction without changing focus or giving consideration to other
alternatives. How often we have witnessed failure, when a simple change of
direction would have resulted in success.
It is very much like the old farmer who had
plowed around a large rock in one of his fields for years. He had broken
several plowshares and a cultivator on it and had grown rather morbid
about the old rock. After breaking another plowshare one day, and
remembering all the trouble the rock had caused him through the years, he
finally decided to do something about it. When he put the crowbar under
the rock, he was surprised to discover that it was only about six inches
thick and that he could break it up easily with a sledgehammer. As he was
carting the pieces away he had to smile, remembering all the trouble that
the rock had caused him over the years and how easy it would have been to
get rid of it sooner.
Next time you find yourself facing a “brick
wall”, before you spend too much time banging your head needlessly
against it, remember the moth banging into the glass. Remember the farmer
who finally decided to put a crowbar under the rock and discovered a
Try to change directions and refocus on the
problem. By approaching the problem from a different direction and
viewpoint, the solution may be easier than you thought.
Creating Opportunity Is Often Just
A Matter of Looking At Things Differently
One of the biggest challenges we have in society today is that there are
too many opportunities just sitting there waiting for people to come along
and snatch up.
The problem is that most of us just haven’t learned how to recognize
those opportunities, even when they are right in front of our nose.
of our main goals as teachers is to show our students how to recognize
these opportunities and how to take advantage of them when they come their
A person with imagination and ambition is one who comes across a pile of
scrap metal and sees a wonderful sculpture waiting to be uncovered. An
ambitious person drives through an older part of town and sees a plan for
a new housing development or a new recreation centre. An enterprising
person is one who sees opportunity in all areas of life and who is willing
to take a risk to seize the opportunity when it arises.
Jim Rohn, an inspirational writer states that, “We can all learn to be
enterprising by simply keeping our eyes open and our mind active. We have
to be skilled enough, confident enough, creative enough and disciplined
enough to jump on opportunities when they present themselves, regardless
of the economy.”
Rohn went on to say, “Enterprising people always see the future in the
present. They always find a way to take advantage of a situation and they
One of the points Rohn made with which I am in full agreement is that
enterprising people don’t wait for opportunities to come to them - they
go after opportunities and are brave enough to be creative and take
WE ENCOURAGE ENTERPRISING YOUNG STUDENTS OR DO WE DEMAND THAT THEY FIT IN
AND CONFORM WITH OUR BELIEFS?
As I look back on my career as an elementary school teacher, I wonder how
many enterprising young boys and girls I helped destroy in a“system” which is certainly not conducive to the development of
an enterprising spirit. In order to be enterprising, you must have the
courage to see things differently and go against the crowd. By taking a
different approach you often have to stand alone and you definitely have
to choose activity over inactivity.
I think back on all of the “discipline problems” I encountered among
students during my 28 years in the classroom and wonder how many of those
boys and girls were actually merely expressing their enterprising spirit.
As teachers we often do everything we can to make them “behave” and
“fit in with the rest of the class”.
As I watched my three sons all graduate from the School of Business and
Commerce at Laurentian University, I was often reminded that our
school system does a good job of preparing our youth to be good employees.
Everyone wants to know “Where you will be “working” next year? Have
you got a job yet?” No one asks, “What kind of business are you going
to begin? In which type of work are you going to be self-employed? Where
are you going to set up your office?”
a doubt, there is usually some security in finding a job where an employer pays
you for your work and you put in your time making the employer a success.
However, in order to be a “good employee” you are often forced to
repress your creativity and ambition by following instructions and doing
what you are told. As long as you remember who the boss is, everything
will be fine.
Being enterprising means having enough self-confidence and self-worth to
look for opportunities. You must be willing to set forth on risky voyages
in order to do things which will make a difference in your future and in
the future of people who come into your life.
have talented young people who come to us ambitious, enterprising and
fearless. It is up to their teachers to release the chains and allow these
people to seek out the opportunities and make things happen. We must
provide them with support and encouragement while at the same time
accepting that they may do things differently from what we would expect.
That doesn’t mean that they are doing anything wrong. It just means that
they see things in a different light.
My message for teachers today is very simple. Allow your students to be
different, to go against the crowd, and to see the sculpture in a pile of
scrap metal. The opportunities are everywhere - just have the courage and
confidence in your own abilities as a teacher to allow your students to
learn how to see them.
Disabilities Are Simply Words To Describe A Lack of Something - Our
Job Is To Add The Missing Elements
now and then Christians are challenged to justify their faith in God. Some
people just do not believe things they can’t understand.
is a little story that may help you the next time you find yourself in a
conversation with a person who is trying to put you on the spot. It is
also a reminder to all teachers that they should not be too sure of
themselves when venturing into certain areas. While there is no absolute
proof of this, it has been said that the student in the story was Albert
GOD CREATE EVIL?
day a university professor challenged his students with this
question..."Did God create everything that exists?"
student excitedly replied, "Yes, he did!"
created everything?", the professor asked.
sir," the student replied.
professor answered, "If God created everything, then God created
evil, since evil exists, and according to the principal that our works
define who we are, then God is evil."
student became quiet by such an answer. The professor, quite pleased with
himself sat down.
student raised his hand and said, "Can I ask you a question
course," replied the professor.
student stood up and asked, "Professor, does cold exist?"
kind of question is this? Of course it exists. Have you never been
cold", replied the professor. The students snickered at the young
fact sir, cold does not exist. According to the laws of physics, what we
consider cold is in reality the absence of heat. Every body or object is
susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what
makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-460 F) is
the total absence of heat; all matter becomes inert and incapable of
reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist. We have simply created
this word to describe how we feel if we have no heat."
student continued, "Professor, does darkness exist?"
professor responded, "Of course it does."
student replied, "Once again you are wrong sir. Darkness does not
exist either. Darkness is in reality the absence of light. Light we can
study, but not darkness. In fact, we can use Newton’s prism to break white light into many
colours and study various wave lengths of each colour. You cannot measure
darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and
illuminate it. To determine how dark a place is you measure the amount of
light present. Isn’t this correct? Darkness is a term used by man to
describe what happens when there is no light present."
the young man asked the professor, "Sir, does evil exist?"
uncertain, the professor responded, "Of course as I have already
said. We see it everyday. It is in the daily example of man’s inhumanity
to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the
world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil."
this the student replied, "Evil does not exist sir, or at least it
does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. Evil is
just like darkness and cold. It is a word that man has created to describe
the absence of God," and with that the student sat back down.
STRATEGY FOR TEACHERS?
This story can be applied in many different areas, but what jumped out
at me was the analogy of the darkness.
Some students have a great deal of difficulty understanding certain
concepts that are taken in school. To simplify it to the absurd level, if
a student has problems in math, we give them "extra" math to do.
That is like telling a person to close his eyes and he won't notice how
dark it is.
Instead, our challenge as teachers is to find some way of
"lighting" the child's path so that he "begins" to
understand a bit of math or even just one concept. Once we convince him
that "math" is not impossible, it will be possible to move
forward and he will progress rapidly.
So instead of "labelling" and "identifying"
children, we should look at their learning difficulties not as things that
exist, but rather as a "lack of something". It is our job to
find out what that something is and add it to the child.
You Will Always Get What You Expect From Your Students,
So Show Them That You Expect Them To Be Successful In Everything
It doesn’t matter whether you are at work or at play; young or
old; rich or poor; man or woman - in this world you will find yourself
always being judged and evaluated according to your performance. And yet,
one’s personal level of performance is often a direct result of other
people’s expectations. If someone expects you to fail at something, you
often live down to that expectation. If they expect you to succeed, you do
everything you can to live up to that expectation. Let me demonstrate what
I mean by sharing a little story with you.
There was once a young lady who went to work for a company
immediately after graduating from college. She seemed extremely talented
but unbelievably timid. She was assigned to a small local marketing
department where she assisted in the production of basic advertising
material. Her supervisor associated her shyness with a lack of technical
and conceptual skills. As a result, she was never included in
brainstorming or planning sessions. The supervisor thought she was best
suited to simple graphics layout and paste-up.
Frustrated that her talents were squandered on simple tasks, she
applied to the corporate marketing department. The vice-president reviewed
her resume and transferred her without even so much as an interview. His
concept of the young lady was extremely positive and he immediately
assigned her to a series of important, key projects. She performed
A few months later, the original supervisor was in the
vice-president's office admiring the new corporate ad campaign. The
project consisted of television and radio commercials, full-page ads for
national publications and complete press kits. The supervisor asked,
"What kind of a Madison Avenue rain-maker worked this kind of
magic?" The VP replied, "This was all completed by that young
lady you sent me. That was the best move I ever made!"
HIGH STANDARDS FOR YOUR STUDENTS AND THEY WILL SURPRISE YOU
You see, the young lady was held back by the expectations of her
former supervisor, who felt she was incapable of anything beyond the most
trivial of assignments. Her new supervisor, however, saw a completely
different person. He felt, from her resume, that she had enormous
potential and gave her ample opportunity to demonstrate that creativity.
As a result of this confidence and expectation, she performed at a very
As a classroom teacher I saw this all the time. There were many
students who came into my class with low marks and a reputation for having
poor work habits. I ignored previous reports and set high standards for my
pupils. Many of them protested that they “couldn’t” do the work. I
held my ground and told them that there was no reason why I should accept
a lower standard and assured them that I would never assign them anything
which I felt was beyond their capabilities. By showing them that I felt
they were competent, many of them found a new level of success that
surprised their parents and former teachers alike.
The message is clear. If your supervisors expect little from you,
and give you very little responsibility, you will likely perform to that
level. However, if your supervisors show confidence in your abilities and
give you corresponding responsibilities, you will rise to new levels which
may even surprise yourself.
SHOW YOUR STUDENTS THAT YOU HAVE CONFIDENCE IN THEIR ABILITIES AND THEY
WILL PERFORM FOR YOU
This is something you must always remember when working with
students in your classroom. Show your students that you have confidence in
their abilities and they will rise to your expectations. They may fail
once in a while and may at times find it difficult, but they will become
much better for the experience.
If you are familiar with baseball, and perhaps if you are a bit
closer in age to me, you will remember Pete Rose. One day Pete was being
interviewed during spring training the year he was about to break Ty
Cobb’s all time hits record. A reporter asked him, “Pete, you only
need 78 hits to break the record. How many at bats do you think you’ll
need to get the 78 hits?”
Without hesitation, Pete looked at the reporter and said, “78.”
The report yelled back, “Come on, Pete. You don’t expect to get
78 hits in 78 bat bats do you?”
Rose explained, “Every time I step up to the plate I expect to
get a hit. If I go up there hoping to get a hit, then I probably don’t
have a prayer.”
EVERYTHING YOU DO IN LIFE WITH THE EXPECTATION THAT YOU WILL ALWAYS BE
Rose’s philosophy is one that we all should adopt. If you hope to
finish the project; if you hope to be a good father; if you hope to be a
good teacher; if you hope to finish your homework....you may do an
adequate job, but you will never make it to your ultimate goals.
Therefore, you must approach everything in life with an expectation that
you will always be successful. Nothing else is acceptable. You should
never do anything hoping to succeed. You approach everything expecting to
succeed. You may not get a “hit” every time you go to bat, but you
have to “expect” that you will or you will never get anywhere.
So next time you find yourself doubting your abilities, or unsure
about whether or not you are capable of handling your responsibilities,
remember Pete Rose. Go into everything in your life with the expectation
that you will do a great job, and you will be surprised at how well you
actually perform. And if someone else gives you a task that seems a bit
too difficult for you to handle, just remember that if that person thinks
you can do it, so should you. Go for it!
Many Parachutes Did You Pack Today? Did You Pay Attention To What
You Were Doing?
Do you ever spend any time thinking about all of the people who are
responsible for helping you make it through the day? Or are you one of
those people who actually think you have made it on your own? See if the
following little story improves your memory.
Charles Plumb was a United
Navy jet pilot in Vietnam.
After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a missile and after
parachuting to safety he was captured and spent six years in a communist
prison. He survived the ordeal and went on a lecture tour providing
audiences with insight into the lessons he learned from his experience.
One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at
another table came up and said, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters
from the aircraft carrier .
You were shot down!”
“How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb.
“I packed your parachute,” the man replied. “I guess it worked!”
Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude as he shook the man’s hand,
“It sure did. If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here
Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about the man. He said, “I
kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform: a white
hat, a bib in the back, and bell-bottom trousers. I wonder how many times
I might have seen him and not even said Good morning, how are you? or
anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a
Plumb thought of how many hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden
table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding
the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of
someone he didn’t know.
From that day on, Plumb always asked his audiences, “Who’s packing
Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the
day. Plumb pointed out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his
plan was shot down over enemy territory. He needed his physical parachute;
his mental parachute; his emotional parachute; and his spiritual
parachute. He called on all of these supports before reaching safety.
It’s easy to miss what is really important as we go through the daily
challenges of life. We get so caught up in surviving that we forget about
the people who have provided us with the support in order to get through
those challenges. In our hurry to get on with life we may fail to say
hello, please, thank you, congratulate someone else on an accomplishment,
give a compliment or just do something nice for someone we love. Yet, when
you think of it, where would you be if they hadn’t packed your
Take a few moments to reflect upon the parachutes you use during the day.
The girl who gives you your morning coffee at the drive through; the
person who ploughs the road so that you can get to work; the cleaning lady
who empties your garbage at night and vacuums your office; the mechanic
who works on your automobile; the police officer who enforces the speed
limit on the highway; the internet provider who makes sure your email
arrives on time; your spouse who is always there to listen to your
problems; your child’s coach who has made the arrangements for the game
or practice so that you could concentrate on other things; the grocery
store which remains open late at night so that you can get those things
you forgot. Think about all of the things you did today which would have
been impossible or much more difficult were it not for the help or
assistance of someone else. Did you thank them for what they did? Did you
show your appreciation?
PACK A LOT OF PARACHUTES EVERY DAY
in your role as a teacher, how many parachutes did you pack today?
Did you make it easier for someone else to meet life’s
Remember, as well as using parachutes, we must also provide
parachutes for the people who come into our life.
And as teachers, we have a tremendous responsibility to pack the
parachutes of all of the children who are placed in our care. Further
more, it is not just the children we teach within our own wall that we are
packing for. What about the children you saw on bus duty this morning? Did
you give them a proper greeting, or did you treat them just as if they
were faceless bodies climbing down the steps of the bus? What about the
children in the hallway? Did you acknowledge them or did you just walk on
by as if they never existed?
As teachers we must never forget that children are constantly
watching us. Most of our teaching is done by example. When the children
who crossed your path today need to use the parachute you packed for them
today, will it work?
It’s Time To Just Go Fishing Again! Maybe It's Time To Just Do
Some Teaching Again!
The other day while I was caught in traffic, my mind began to wander like
it usually does when I am not preoccupied with one of my numerous daily
I thought back to the beginning of my career as a teacher and
recalled how excited I was to finally have an opportunity to ‘teach’
children. I then projected myself to my last couple of years before
retirement and realized that the early excitement I felt in my first few
years had disappeared.
I thought back to my days as a youngster
growing up in Lively and how my friends and I would play street hockey for
hours on end until our mothers would almost have to physically drag us
into the house for dinner. It wasn’t just hockey, however. A couple of
phone calls was all it took and we would have a baseball game, a football
game, a game of hide-and-seek, soccer, you name it. And we had fun - no
referees - no adults - just a bunch of kids playing for the “Stanley
Cup” or the “World Series”.
Sadly, I don’t notice the same level of excitement in the eyes of young teachers. I
certainly know that in my own career I started to lose the excitement many years before I actually
retired, but I think it was still there at least until after I had been in
the profession for over twenty years.
Come to think about it, I also notice that there doesn’t seem to be many road hockey games
around any more. You seldom see kids playing at a baseball field unless there are
adults, umpires and fancy uniforms.
It reminded me about a story I once heard about a group called “The
These men were surrounded by streams and lakes
full of hungry fish, but not one of them had ever gone fishing.
They met regularly to discuss the call to fish, and
the thrill of catching fish. They really got excited about fishing!
Something like I felt aboutteaching
when I first started. Something like a young kid feels about playing
hockey in the beginning.
Someone in the group suggested that they needed a philosophy of fishing, so they
carefully defined and redefined fishing, and the purpose of fishing. They
developed fishing strategies and tactics. Then they realized that they had
been going about it backwards. They had approached fishing from the point
of view of the fisherman, and not from the point of view of the fish. How
do fish view the world? How does the fisherman appear to the fish? What do
fish eat, and when? These are all good things to know. So they began
research studies, and attended conferences on fishing. Some travelled to
far away places to study different kinds of fish, with different habits.
Some got PhD’s in fishology.
But no one had yet gone fishing.
So a committee was formed to send out fishermen.
the prospective fishing
places outnumbered fishermen, the committee needed to determine
priorities. A priority list of fishing places was posted on bulletin
boards in all of the fellowship halls.
But still, no one was fishing. A
survey was launched, to find out why. Most did not answer the survey, but
from those that did, it was discovered that some felt called to study
fish, a few to furnish fishing equipment, and several to go around
encouraging the fisherman.
What with meetings, conferences, and seminars, they just simply didn’t
have time to fish.
One day, Jake, a newcomer to the Fisherman’s Fellowship was so moved by
a stirring meeting that he actually went fishing. He tried a few things, got the
hang of it, and caught a nice fish.
At the next meeting, Jake told his
story, and was honoured for his catch. He was then scheduled to speak at
all of the Fellowship chapters and tell how he did it. Now, because of all
the speaking invitations and his election to the Board of Directors of the
Fisherman’s Fellowship, Jake no longer had time to go fishing.
But soon, Jake began to feel restless and empty. He longed to feel the
tug on the line once again. So he cut the speaking, resigned from the
Board of Directors and said to a friend, “Let’s go fishing.” And
they did. Just the two of them, and they caught fish.
The members of the Fisherman’s Fellowship were many, the fish were
plentiful, but the fishers were few.
As I finished the story, the traffic began moving again and the message
If we want to keep the excitement in teachers, maybe we should just let
them teach. Forget about all of the curriculum reviews, certification
courses, professional development programs, provincial testing and just
let them teach!
If children are to have fun playing hockey, baseball, soccer, football
or whatever, we must let them play. Forget about systems, rules, house
leagues, travelling teams, uniforms, training, certification and such.
Maybe what we have to do is just give a bunch of kids somehockey sticks, a ball, a few chunks for goal posts and then leave
them alone for a few hours.
TIME YOU NEED A BREAK - JUST TEACH
My advice to young teachers is to remember the story about Jake. I am
sure that if you are in your first few years in this profession you
already feel as if you are part of the "Fellowship of
Fishermen". You likely have asked yourself hundreds of times how you
will ever find time to teach with all of the reports, evaluations, IEP's,
IPRC's and meetings to which you are expected to attend.
advice to experienced teachers is also the same.
next time you feel yourself getting caught in a rut where something you
once enjoyed isn’t fun anymore, think about Jake and the Fisherman's
Fellowship. Put everything aside for a day and spend it with the children.
Rediscover the excitement and passion which first brought you to this
profession. Just for a change, go and teach the children with no thought
about evaluation, special needs or reports. Just go and teach.
Maybe That's Why You Are Having Such A Hard Time Getting
Through To Your Students.
Let me use a little story to demonstrate what happens
to a lot of good young teachers.
upon a time a very strong woodcutter asked for a job with a lumber
company, and he got it.
The pay was really good and so were the work
For that reason, the woodcutter was determined to do his best.
His boss gave him an ax and showed him the area where he was supposed to
The first day, the woodcutter brought 18 trees.
"Congratulations," the boss said. "Continue what you were
doing!"Very motivated by
the boss’ words, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he only
could bring 15 trees.
The third day he tried even harder, but he only
could bring 10 trees.
Day after day he was bringing less and less trees."I must be losing my strength", the woodcutter thought.
He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand
what was going on. "When was the last time you sharpened your
ax?" the boss asked."Sharpen?
I had no time to sharpen my ax. I have been too busy trying to cut
message today is very short and sweet.
get so caught up in your enthusiasm for teaching that you forget to do
sharpen your own ax by getting to know your students and their parents.
Remember that you are a university graduate. You did well in school. You
had high marks. You had an excellent attitude towards learning. Your
family was very likely very supportive and encouraged learning in every
ARE VERY DIFFERENT FROM MOST OF THE CHILDREN IN YOUR CLASS...
of the children in your class will never even set foot on the property of
a university campus let alone get a university degree. For many of your
children, education is boring and is something they are "forced to
do". They do not share your enthusiasm.
if you find that the harder you work, the less you seem to be getting
through to your children, ask yourself if perhaps it is time to
"sharpen your ax" and take a day or two to get to know your
children a little better. Find out who they are and what is important to
them in their life right now. Discover the barriers that are preventing
you from "getting through to them". Get down to their level and
see the world through their eyes.
then will you be able to maintain your "strength" and be able to
do your best for your students.
Cannot Discover New Land Unless You Have The Courage To Lose
Sight of The Shore
One of my favourite authors is Tom Peters. He wrote the
following observation, “I’ve spent a good part of my life
studying economic successes and failures…above all, I’ve
learned that everything takes a back seat to innovation.”
most of our busy lives are so focused on solving day-to-day
problems that we seldom have any time to even consider
opportunities which may lay right on our doorstep. Sadly, many
of the people currently occupying leadership roles in business
and government spend so much of their time trying to maintain
control that they actually discourage employees and colleagues
from “thinking outside the box”. It doesn’t take long
for young, ambitious persons starting out in a new career to
learn that if they want to keep their job, they better do what
they are told and put a lid on things such as innovation,
risk-taking and creativity.
across a great story recently called, Paper Airplane. It was
written by a man named Michael McMillan. The story is about a
Grade six teacher who spent an entire week teaching her class
about aerodynamics. To finish off the unit she organized a
paper airplane contest. Each student was given a sheet of
construction paper and 15 minutes to build the “winning”
plane that would fly the furthest and win a prize.
students went to work immediately, carefully folding their
paper, hoping to create the perfect plane that would travel
farther than all of the others. Before long, everyone was
ready to go outside to start the contest. Everyone that is,
except for Jeff. He was a unique child and was known for
traveling to a “different drummer” if you know what I
mean. He usually had his own view of life that was not always
the same as the others in the class. Jeff hadn’t made even
one fold in his paper. He just sat there staring out the
window – thinking.
To give him
more time, the teacher told Jeff he could go last. As the
contest went on there were some very interesting results. Some
of the planes barely flew two meters while others did
surprisingly well. As the students in the class each stepped
forward to test their creations, Jeff stood there at the back
of the line, still holding on to that piece of construction
long, Jeff was the only remaining contestant. With great
anticipation, the class watched as Jeff approached with his
“craft” well hidden behind his back. Then he stepped to
the line and exposed his masterpiece…a flat sheet of paper.
But just as the class began to snicker, Jeff confidently
wadded up the piece of paper into a tight ball, and then drew
his hand back and threw it higher and farther than the leading
plane had landed.
The rest of
the class stood there in amazement. The silence was broken
when the teacher began to clap her hands and stepped forward
to present Jeff with the first-place prize. The rest of the
students then joined in applause and cheered the champion.
demonstrated a new way of interpreting a problem. More
importantly, he had the courage to act on his vision.
a lot of people in my life like Jeff. Most of them, however,
have grown tired of trying to “fight the system” and
eventually settled down into a relatively secure life of
compliance and conformity. They learned early that “rocking
the boat” and “making waves” makes most other people
uncomfortable. Your life is a lot less stressful if you just
“go with the flow” and do what you are told.
gone on to “think outside the box” and have become very
successful through innovations that other people soon came to
like once they got over their initial “fears”.
once said, “Only those who are willing to go too far can
possibly find out how far they can go.”
time you come up with an idea that seems “outside the box”,
have the courage to act on your vision. If you fail, you fail.
At least then you will know how far you can go or at the very
least, what you must do to go further the next time. T.S.
Elliot’s message is true. If you never fail, you never
really know just how far or how successful you could become.
You have to fail in order to know when you’ve gone too far.
in order for Christopher Columbus to discover America, he had to have the
courage to lose sight of the shore.
am sure most of you have noticed an increase in the number of
disturbing stories and articles about young people both here
at home and around the world who are involved in crime,
vandalism and generally what we would consider downright
disrespectful behaviour. While I am not sure if the actual
crime rate among our younger generation is any worse than that
of adults, it seems as if the media is quick to pounce upon
examples of out-of-control youth as a way of attacking our
education and police systems as well as our publicly funded
social services agencies. These incidents also give an
opportunity for politicians to feed the media frenzy by
calling out for stronger enforcement and punishment measures
to deal with youth crime or more funding for public education.
As I prepared to write this column, for example, I read
several feature articles about how our education system has
been forced to lower its standards in order to reduce the
failure and drop-out rates among our students. Teachers in
classrooms today are required to make adjustments to their
programs in order to provide adequate accommodation strategies
for children who have been identified with learning
disabilities, and it seems as if there are more and more
identified students every year. In order to cover the
curriculum many teachers are therefore forced to “teach to a
lower level” than normal so that all of the children have a
chance of understanding and keeping up. What results is a
system where marks are inflated and children expect that they
will get high grades with less actual work effort. On top of
the lowering of the standards in the classroom, teachers
coming into the system today are entering the profession at a
time in the history of education where being a curriculum
expert is nowhere near as important as being an effective
classroom manager and disciplinarian. Unfortunately, classroom
management and discipline falls into the same category as
parenting in our society. For example, once you become a
parent it is generally up to you to learn parenting on your
own from experience. “Here’s your child. Good luck!”
The same can be said about teaching. Once you graduate
from Teachers’ College and are given a class of kids to look
after, you are on your own when it comes to learning how to
manage the group of children effectively in order to help them
learn the concepts in the curriculum. You can always read
books, attend workshops and talk to other teachers, but how
you manage your classroom is pretty much left up to you. Some
do an excellent job of managing a classroom of children and
some have a terrible time keeping control.
Without a doubt, students seem to have the upper hand
today. They are not allowed to fail in most jurisdictions so
teachers lose one of the primary motivational tools they had
in the “old days” – FEAR! Fear of failure; fear of
punishment; fear of authority; and most of all fear of how
their parents would punish them at home for misbehaviour at
school. And so, we conclude that it is becoming increasingly
important for teachers to be true motivators and inspirations
for their students. This is a profession that is under a great
deal of stress today, and it doesn’t look as if things are
going to change much in the next little while.
While we can always look on the dark side, it is
refreshing when we witness students who are “making a
positive difference” in the community and who truly care
about maintaining their own set of high standards.
Confederation Secondary School’s Evolutionary Band comes to
mind as a group of 25 or 30 young students who are simply
“top of the class” in what they have done and what they
have accomplished. Many other individual students have
excelled and risen to the top level of achievement in their
fields. You’ve read about some of them in The Vision Paper. As a community we have a collective responsibility to
ensure that whenever a young person does something great, it
is a cause for celebration and public recognition. It is
something that we must hold up high as an example for others
I have always believed that if you hold the bar up
higher, students will jump over it. All you have to do is give
them the right kind of motivation and give them credit when
they accomplish their goals. We can raise the standards, but
it will take a total community effort. Let’s work together
Of Making People You Meet Feel Special
It is awfully difficult these days to find anything
positive to say about going to the gas station to fill up on
overpriced gasoline. Nevertheless, the other day a young man
named Ryan McFadden served me at the local Petro Canada and he reminded me
that there are people in this world who have a knack for
saying just the right thing to make others feel special.
I stopped in just before lunch to fill up my wife’s
car. Ryan served me, took my $30 and returned with a receipt,
offering me a polite, “Have a nice day.”
After lunch, I returned with my truck and pulled up to
the pump. Ryan once again came out and greeted me with a
sincere, “Hello. You’re back again.” The fact that he
recognized me out of all of the customers who he had seen that
day and the fact that he remembered me being there in a
different vehicle would have been enough. However, when I gave
him my $50 this time along with the Petro Points card, he
stopped abruptly and said, “You didn’t have this card this
morning. I will put the points from the last purchase on the
card for you.” He even remembered the amount of gas I had
Ryan is just pumping gas as a job while he decides what to do
with his life. He will continue his education and likely end
up in a very nice career. However, what he did that day
demonstrated that Ryan has a gift for making people feel
special. The fact that he not only remembered and acknowledged
that he had served me earlier in the day, but that he also
remembered that I had not received the Petro Points I had
earned, and then took it upon himself to make sure I was given
those points made the pain of getting “gassed at the
pumps” a whole lot easier to take.
The experience with Ryan reminded me of a story I had
read about a grocery store bagger named Johnny. Johnny had
Down’s Syndrome and decided to do something to make a
difference for the customers he met during the day. Since
Johnny liked quotations, each day he would pick out one that
he liked and he and his father would use the computer to print
off a number of copies. Johnny cut the sayings in little
strips and then signed his name to the back of the little
strips of paper. When he packed the groceries for a customer
he would drop the little strip into the bag and say, “I hope
you enjoy my quote of the day.”
Within a few weeks, the lineups at Johnny’s checkout
were three times as long as the others. Customers would wait
in line just so they could get one of Johnny’s quotes of the
day. In fact, some customers were coming to the grocery store
2 or 3 times a week just to see the smile on Johnny’s face
as he dropped in his favourite quote.
the practice caught on and the lady in the floral department
began cutting off broken flowers and pinning them on elderly
women; the guy in the meat department was putting his
favourite Snoopy stickers on the packages and talking to his
customers; everyone was finding creative ways to put their
mark on service.
The lesson here is pretty obvious. When it comes to
service, we all have our unique gifts to offer. However we'll
never make the emotional connection with the customer unless
it begins in our heart. What Ryan did that day may have seemed
insignificant, but it certainly left a mark on me. What Johnny
did in the grocery story certainly left a mark on his
customers. It has made me even more committed to doing my part
to making people with whom I come in contact realize that they
too are important to me and that I do care about them a lot.
This week see what you can do to leave your mark on the
people with whom you come into contact.
As I was working on a story one day I reflected upon
a mission statement: “All knowledge is
sacred." I found my thoughts drifting off to an
article I once read entitled ‘The Watermelon
Hunter’. I would like to share it with you at this
upon a time there was a man who strayed from his own
country into the world known as the
. He soon saw a number of people flying in terror from a
field where they had been trying to reap wheat.
"There is a monster in that field," they told
him. He looked, and saw that the "monster" was
merely a watermelon.
offered to kill the "monster" for them. When
he had cut the melon from its stalk, he took a slice and
began to eat it. The people became even more terrified
of him than they had been of the melon. They drove him
away with pitchforks, crying, "He will kill us
next, unless we get rid of him."
happened that shortly afterward another man also strayed
. But instead of offering to help the people with the
"monster," he agreed with them that it must be
dangerous, and by tiptoeing away from it with them he
gained their confidence. He spent a long time with them
in their homes until he could teach them, little by
little, the basic facts which would enable them not only
to lose their fear of melons, but eventually to
cultivate melons themselves.”
first person who wandered into the “
” made the mistake of “killing the monster” for
the people. This action may have removed the immediate
problem, but it didn’t comfort the “Fools” because
they still held on to the original fear that had made
them terrified of melons in the first place.
second person gained the confidence of the people from
’ and was able to slowly teach them basic facts that
enabled them to lose their fear of melons.
so, the second person in the story helped the people in
’ by showing them not only how to overcome their fear
of the ‘unknown’, but to also embrace the melons and
cultivate them for their own benefit.
also reflected on a time early in my career as an
elementary school teacher when I learned something very
important about my role in the development of effective
‘learning skills’ in my students. One day a student
stood up and explained that he would not be able to
complete a written assignment that I had just given to
student explained that he was ‘Educable Mentally
Retarded’ and attended special education classes. When
the other students began laughing at him, I immediately
stopped the lesson and reminded all of the children that
someone else’s opinion of them did not have to become
their reality. I further told them that no one ever
“rises to low expectations” and that as long as they
were in my class they were going to be treated as if
they were all capable of greatness. I explained that it
was my job as their teacher to make sure that they had
the skills, confidence and self-esteem to take on any
and all challenges and that I would never give them an
assignment of which they were not capable of performing.
That day changed me forever as a teacher and it changed
the way I challenged my students. I adopted the
philosophy that if you look at a child the way he is, he
only becomes worse. But look at him as if he were what
he could be, and then he becomes what he should be.
that day forward I always had high expectations of my
students, and pushed myself to make sure they all had
the skills they needed to “learn for themselves”.
that there is greatness inside each and every one of us.
As parents, we must do everything we can to provide our
children with the skills and attitudes that will make
them hunger for knowledge. We must teach them not to
fear the “melons they come across in their lives”,
but rather to embrace them and learn how to “cultivate
this new knowledge” for their benefit and for the
benefit of others around them.
just finished reading what must be the shortest story in
the world. It is a story that was written by M. Stanley
Bubien and is entitled, “The Unhappiest Man Who Ever
Lived”. Let me share the story with you.
Never!” How is that for a powerful story?
Let me tell you the story again.
Yes, these are definitely the words one would
expect to be spoken by ‘The Unhappiest Man Who Ever
Lived”. Do you know him? Have you ever met him?
To further illustrate the message of this
wonderful story, let me share with you another short
passage I came across recently. The author of this story
is unknown, but I am sure each of us in our own small
way can identify with the moral.
story is entitled, ‘Are Your Potatoes Heavy?’
“A college teacher brought a couple of huge
sacks of potatoes to class one day. She told her
students to think of people they have refused to forgive
for whatever it was that they said or did to them. All
of the students could think of quite a number of people
who had done something to them that was absolutely
unforgivable. The teacher then instructed the students
to take one potato from the sack for each person for
whom they could not forgive and write the name of that
person on the potato. Each student then put their
potatoes inside a clear plastic bag and were told to
carry that bag with them everywhere they went for one
full week. They were to put the bag beside their bed at
night, on the car seat when driving, next to their desk
at work, at the dinner table, etc.
The students experienced the inconvenience of
lugging this bag of potatoes around with them.
Naturally, the condition of the potatoes deteriorated to
a nasty smelly slime. This was a great metaphor for the
price we pay for the emotional baggage we carry around
with us when we refuse to forgive others for the pain
they have caused during our life’s experiences. The
message came across loud and clear to the students who
suddenly realized that while we often think of
forgiveness as a gift TO the other person, it is
actually a gift FOR ourselves to get rid of these nasty
feelings that we harbour inside.”
It is too easy to blame others for our problems.
When this becomes a personal habit, we tend to blame
others for all of our anger, frustration, depression,
stress and unhappiness. If something is missing, someone
else must have moved it; if your marriage did not work
out, it was your spouse’s fault; if you lose your job,
it was your employer who was to blame; and so on.
Personal happiness and peace cannot be achieved
as long as you are blaming others. In order to be at
peace with yourself, you must accept responsibility for
your own actions as well as for your reactions to others
around you. To carry on the hatred is like carrying
around a bag of potatoes. Until you forgive the person
and get rid of the potato, it will be a burden on your
life and will follow you wherever you go. Forgiving the
person who has done you wrong is not so much a gift to
that person, but a gift to yourself so that you can rid
yourself of this heavy burden and not allow it to
consume so much of your life. You can apply this
philosophy to virtually all situations in which you find
yourself unable to forgive another person.
Blaming others is very stressful and takes a
tremendous amount of mental energy. It also leaves you
powerless over your own life in that you soon feel that
your own happiness is controlled by the actions of
others. When you stop blaming others, you will regain
control of your personal power and take charge of your
own happiness. You will also find that life is much more
fun when you stop blaming others and forgive them for
what they have done.
So, next time you think you are so angry that you
feel someone has done something to you that can never be
forgiven, remember the story about ‘The Unhappiest Man
Who Ever Lived’. Get rid of your potatoes and enjoy
Five Most Dangerous Words In The English Language
last time I took my truck in for repairs my mechanic told me
that it was a good thing I came in when I did. He showed me a
part that was just about to break and which would have
resulted in substantial damage to my engine. As I uttered a
sigh of relief, I recalled that for several weeks I had
frequently heard a strange sound coming from the engine, but
each time I had uttered those five most dangerous words in the
English language: MAYBE IT WILL GO AWAY.
case it was the engine of my truck – nothing major really
– so what if I had to get a new engine? But I would hate to
count the number of times I have attended the funeral of a
good friend or family member who also uttered those same words
about a lingering pain or uncharacteristic symptom.
recall watching many students in my classes over the years as
they struggled and suffered with learning difficulties that
were the result of stressful events occurring in their family
that parents simply hoped would go away.
there is a situation you face in your own life right now that
you wish would either go away and disappear with a snap of
your fingers or be transformed overnight without any
intervention on your part. Whether that circumstance is a
dissatisfying career, an unrealized dream, a bad marriage, an
injustice you don't want to mention, signs of abuse that you'd
rather not acknowledge, or a mile high stack of unopened mail
- one thing is certain:wishing that "maybe it will go away" won't
make it happen.
need is a course of action that will support the situation you
want to create. If you want a satisfying career, then you must
get the training and education needed to get you into that
career. If you have an unrealized dream, you must do things
that will take you closer to that dream. If you have a bad
marriage, you must do something to make your marriage better
or get out of the marriage. In other words, uttering the five
most dangerous words in the English language just won’t
work. It is not enough to say MAYBE IT WILL GO AWAY.
are especially vulnerable in when there is a crisis in the
family. And whether you tell them or not, they know that
something is wrong. They notice when family routines are
disrupted or if mom and dad seem more withdrawn and stressed
out. They can tell when something is not right and if you
don’t communicate with them there is no telling what they
might be thinking. Experts always recommend that you confide
in your children and you explain things to them in an
age-appropriate manner as much as they want to know.Find a time to tell your children what is going on and
you will be saving them from long-lasting effects that may
even impact on their education. Something to remember is that
the younger the child, the more important it is to
communicate. Parents often feel that their two or three year
old is too young to notice what is going on in the house, but
children who are trying to make sense of their world know when
things are not right. A few simple words of explanation can
make everything better and will keep them feeling safe and
matter what is causing you stress at this time in your life,
create an action plan right now to address the problem. DO NOT
fall into the trap of using those five dangerous words,
because in most cases, IT WON’T GO AWAY!
You Always Do What You’ve Always Done You’ll Always
Get What You’ve Always Got”
I recently saw a documentary on television about Alcatraz
Prison. It was a famous fortress that housed some of the
most hardened criminals of all time. The cameras
followed the person doing the show and he explained how
many men had tried to escape, but only one was known to
went on to point out how the prison was built on an
island in such a way that it was virtually impossible to
usual, my mind wouldn’t just let me enjoy the show and
I soon started to think about how this show was so much
like an article I had just finished reading. The article
was about the other prisons that are equally confining
in this world. But those prisons have doors that are
never locked; there are no guards around the perimeter;
and escape is not only encouraged, it is actually
the host of the show continued to talk, I could clearly
see the similarities in both prisons. First, there was
, which was man-made and constructed on an island to
keep criminals away from the rest of the world. Then
there was the other prison, which is self-made and tends
to keep us away from the rest of the world where we
might be able to enjoy the best that this life has to
offer. That second prison is called Habit.
the article I was reading, Dr. Jay Dishman described
Habit in the following way:
is thinking about ourselves and our environment as a
jail or paradise. We need only to look around us and we
will see people who are rich emotionally and materially
because they think and feel rich. We also see people who
are laden with emotional and material debt because they
think and feel poor. Some are inspired with vision,
others are encumbered with doubt. Some are moved by
ambition, others feel safer in monotony. Some reach for
the mountain tops, others huddle in the pits. Some seek
opportunity, others wait for it to knock. The sad fact
is that we find far more people who are confined by
their thoughts than we find people who are fed by
Dr. Dishman was describing is so true. Many of us are
locked inside a prison by negative thinking. And yet all
we have to do to set ourselves free is to renew our
mind. By renewing your mind and your thoughts, you
change your habit of thinking and you renew your life at
the same time.
title of this week’s editorial is a quote I actually have
taped on the top of my computer screen. “If you always
do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what
you’ve always got.”
time I find that I am beginning to lock myself inside a
mental prison, afraid to be inspired by some new vision
of mine, I glance at the quotation and ask myself if I
am becoming a victim of habit. I ask myself if there is
a better way of doing what I want to do…if there is a
faster way of doing what I want to do. I don’t want to
be trapped by Habit. I want to feel the freedom and
exhilaration that comes from being inspired by a vision
that few others can see. I want to reach for the
mountain tops. I want to reach out and take hold of
opportunities, not sit back and wait for opportunity to
is safe. Habit is predictable. Habit keeps your life on
an even keel and allows you to “fit in” with the
rest of society. Habit is also appreciated by those
around you who need predictability and who want to know
what to expect from you at all times. That is why we
spend so much time teaching our young children routines,
so that they become habit forming and controlling.
certainly you will encounter your share of failure and
disappointment, but as the saying goes, “Twenty years
from now you will be more disappointed by the things you
didn’t do than by the things you did do. So throw off
the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the
tradewinds in your sails. Explore! Dream! Discover!”
allow yourself to remain trapped inside a prison with no
locks, no doors and no guards. Escape today.
This World You Tend To Get What You Expect So Make Sure
You Set Your Sights High”
It doesn’t matter whether you are at work or at
play; young or old; rich or poor; man or woman - in this
world you will find yourself always being judged and
evaluated according to your performance. And yet,
one’s personal level of performance is often a direct
result of the expectations of people around them or to
whom they are responsible. If someone expects you to
fail at something, you often live down to that
expectation. If they expect you to succeed, you do
everything you can to live up to that expectation.
a classroom teacher I saw this all the time. There were
many students who came into my class with low marks and
a reputation for having poor work habits. Their parents
would tell me that they couldn’t find anything that
would motivate their child to complete assignments and
homework and that they had faced failure and challenges
have always had a reputation for being a stubborn man,
so I would usually ignore previous reports and establish
high expectations for ALL of my pupils. Many of them
protested that they "couldn’t" do the work.
They complained that other teachers had understood their
“learning difficulties” and would reduce the
workload or modify the program.I held my ground and would very forcefully tell
them that there was no reason of which I was aware to
accept a lower standard and moreover, I assured them
that I would never assign anything which I felt was
beyond their capabilities. Things might not be easy, but
they would be achievable with hard work and
showing them that I felt they were competent, and that
in my capacity as their teacher, I had the confidence in
their ability to succeed, most of them discovered a new
level of success that surprised their parents and former
teachers alike. Best of all, they surprised themselves
at the work they were able to accomplish once they set
their sights and their own personal standards higher.
Many of these former students have returned at various
stages of their life to thank me for “being so hard on
them”, and for “helping them build up their own
self-confidence and self-esteem”. Time after time I
have heard these young adults tell me that all they
needed was someone to “push them to new heights” and
someone who they knew “was going to be there for
support and guidance along the way when they needed
who are familiar with baseball will remember Pete Rose,
or will at least recall having read something about his
playing ability. One day he was being interviewed during
spring training the year he was about to break Ty
Cobb’s all time hits record. A reporter asked him,
"Pete, you only need 78 hits to break the record.
How many at bats do you think you’ll need to get the
hesitation, Pete looked at the reporter and said,
report yelled back, "Come on, Pete. You don’t
expect to get 78 hits in 78 bat bats do you?"
explained, "Every time I step up to the plate I
expect to get a hit. If I go up there only hoping to get
a hit, then I probably don’t have a prayer."
philosophy is one that we all should adopt.
you hope to finish the project; if you hope to be a good
father; if you hope to get higher marks; if you hope to
finish your homework....you may do an adequate job, but
you will never reach your true potential. You MUST
approach everything in life with the expectation that
you will always be successful. Nothing else is
acceptable. You should never do anything merely hoping
to succeed. You MUST approach everything you do in life
fully expecting to accomplish your objectives. You may
not get a "hit" every time you go to bat, but
you at least have to "expect" that you will or
you will never get anywhere.
next time you find yourself doubting your abilities, or
you are unsure about whether or not you are capable of
handling your responsibilities, remember Pete Rose. Go
into everything in your life with the expectation that
you will do a great job, and you will be surprised at
how well you actually perform. And if someone else gives
you a task that seems a bit too difficult for you to
handle, just remember one very important thing. If that
if that person who gave you the task thinks you can do
it, so should you.