July 25, 2020

It’s somewhat amazing to me that this week has passed as quickly as it has. Yes, I’m in Ottawa, a city which I just love to wander around it and soak up the sites. Too bad for me that I can only see it out of my hotel window, or from the patio where I’m allowed to go to get some air. I’m not alone in this. I don’t have any real idea how many Government of Nunavut employees are current in this hotel which is called the ‘Isolation Hub’ but is must be a lot. There is also a Hub in both Winnipeg and Edmonton, for each of the regions in Nunavut. So, with Igloolik being in the Qikiqtaaluk, or Eastern Region of Nunavut, I’m in the Ottawa Isolation Hub.

For those that are wondering, the accommodations are first class, with a full kitchen. The meals are OK, cafeteria style provided 3-times per day. I am fortunate to have family in Ottawa (Donna’s cousin) who picked up some groceries for me. So I have lots of snacks and drinks to keep me going. The room is also big enough to allow me to walk in it, so I’ve been doing 32 minutes of ‘Power Walking’ everyday along with some other exercises. Don’t ask, I don’t know why I settled on 32 minutes.

I enjoy my own company so for the most part I’m able to keep myself entertained. I brought more books that I could possibly read, magazines, and the PS4. There’s also tv too. We’ve also had daily 1-hour conference calls for New Teachers and School Leaders. These are led by the Dept of Education and have been a really good orientation to Nunavut.

I did get some mixed news about my ‘stuff’ that is being shipped up to Igloolik. Some of it, about 3/4 of it is there already. I hadn’t expected any of it until the end of August. Hopefully the rest of it will get there in the next week or so. It’s kinda nice to know that I won’t have to be living out of a suitcase for a month or so.

As I get closer and closer to actually getting to Igloolik, I’m looking more and more forward to the work, seeing the community and meeting the people who live there. The weather in Igloolik is warm for this time of year, high teens so it would be nice if it hangs on for another few weeks so that I can get out on the land. Apparently, it’s in a landform area called the Arctic Archipelago. For those interest Travel Nunavut has a very interesting website, http://www.travelnunavut.ca, well worth checking out.

Once I get on my way to Igloolik, I’ll be posting daily events and adding a picture gallery as well. It’s exciting to be going on such an adventure, but I’m really looking forward to seeing Meghan, daughter one, who I haven’s seen in almost a year. FaceTime is nice, but it’s not the real thing.

Take care my friends.

July 20

The past few days have been very intense and have passed quickly. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that the movers came and loaded my stuff and took it off to Igloolik, Nunavut, where I will be the principal at the Middle School. At the time I didn’t know the details of my travel. I must apologize because I found out about all the ‘Covid’ related details of my travel on July 14. The details, as many of you know, were flying to Toronto and then on to Ottawa today. I got into Ottawa around 4 eastern time and have spent the evening getting settled. In any normal year, I would only have an overnight stay in Ottawa and then onto Iqaluit and then Igloolik the next day. Well, that’s not the way it is now. I have to spent 14 days in isolation at a designated hotel in Ottawa. Now, it’s not all bad, the room is really a suite. It’s quite lovely actually, it has a little kitchenette, a nice sofa, a big screen tv and a king size bed. We also get 3 meals provided and will be allowed to get outside on a regular basis, albeit in a supervised space. It also pays to have family in town to, as Donna’s cousin Shari has agreed to do some shopping for me, since I can’t leave the hotel.

I did bring along a nice collection of reading material, some of it professionally related, but most of it fits into my varied and eclectic tastes. I have recently started to read some of the old classic mysteries, works by Dashiell Hammet, Raymond Chandler, John D. Macdonald, John Le Carre, and Ian Randkin. I’m also looking forward to sinking my teeth into a new magazine that I found, ‘Eye Spy: The Covert World of Espionage.”

One thing that I’ve learned along the journey is that things can change and change quickly. The quality of that change is how we react to it. Sometimes, it’s permanent, such as the death of a loved one. Othertimes, it only seems permanent, such as a job loss, ending relationships, relocating to a new community or just simply getting old and doing different things. I have had the fortune, most of it good, to have a career which has allowed me and my family to move around north and central Saskatchewan. We’ve lived in many communities and met some wonderful people whose friendships I cherish, I’ve also met many people who, while I’m grateful for the lessons I learned, I would rather have not met them at all.

All this is merely looking in the rearview mirror, but as was said in that classic movie, The Gumball Rally, ‘What’s behind me I don’t worry about.” So, if I choose to look forward to this new stage on my journey with excitement and enthusiasm, well who can blame me really.

This blog will give me a great opportunity for me to share the adventure with, well, with whoever reads it. So then, I guess that’s Day 1 in the books.

July 9, 2020

Things suddenly become very real for me today. I know I’ve mentioned that I recently retired from 35+ years in education, that past 2 of which I have been on a medical leave. Last year I spent as the assistant at ‘Donna’s Day Home,” the daycare service my wife started up last year. It was a very busy but enjoyable year. Once I retired, I had hoped to enjoy some time to unwind before beginning any new adventures. I’ve always been an advocate of staying busy no matter what chapter of your life journey you’re in. Keeping that in mind, I had hoped to play some golf, go for some walks, read a few books, and write on this blog.

Ok, it didn’t quite work out that way. Once I was officially retired on April 1 (I’ve since started to say March 31 for obvious reasons). Anyway, my daughter Meghan, who teaches in Igloolik, Nunavut said to me, “Dad, you should apply for jobs up here. They are looking to fill several principal positions.” Never being one to shy away from a challenge, that’s exactly what I did. One thing led to another, a phone interview and Wham! Before I knew it I was the principal of the new middle school in Igloolik.

Since then I’ve been busy getting things ready and buying things to take up there with me. Meghan has been sending me weekly lists of things to get. I’ve spend more time at Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire, and Costco than most other people. I’ve also been busy catching up on some professional reading and doing some preliminary planning. Apparently, keeping busy is a sure fire way to pass the time quickly.

Up until today it has been a bit of an abstract concept my going away to work for most of the next 3 years. Donna and I have come to grips with it, to some degree. She’ll be staying in Saskatoon to help out with our youngest grandson who will be starting pre-school this year and kindergarten next year. With the Covid-19 and uncertainty around schooling for the older grandsons, grades 3 and 4, she’s needed here. I’ll be in Igloolik with Meghan. It’s a good thing that we have Face time and Zoom to stay in touch.

Things got real today. The movers came at 8:30 to start packing all the stuff I was taking with me. They were quick and efficient despite an almost 3 hour wait for the truck. Nevertheless, they were done and gone by 2:30. Up until today there was always that window to back out of going. I never really considered not going, but now that my ‘stuff’ is on it’s way North, I’m now all in, so to say.

It’s not all clear sailing however. I still don’t know when I fly out. Again, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, things are not simple. Instead of 2 days of travel with an overnight in Ottawa, I will likely have over 16 days of travel that will include 14 days of Isolation in a hotel in Ottawa. I’m only 1 of several hundred new educators who are employees of the government of Nunavut, traveling in the next 6 weeks. It’s a logistical nightmare that I can only hope and pray that those working on it have good fortune.

I guess this would be page 1 of that next chapter in the journey I’m taking called life.

Success and Learning . . .

Well, in eleven months it’s Christmas again. Time is such a precious commodity that we sometimes take it for granted. We live in an age where it’s go, go, go. I’m not sure where we’re going, or how to get there, but I sure know that we suppose to get there fast. It’s very difficult and challenging to make the effort to try and slow things down. It may be more important now more than ever to force ourselve’s to do that. I read a quote on Facebook the other day by golfing great Ben Hogan, “As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses for you only get to play one round”. When I read these words they really hit home. I haven’t consistently taken the time to smell the roses and I’m on the back 9 with only a few holes to play. For the most part I’ve enjoyed the round so far. The playing partners who have been there with me for most of it know full well that there were some good holes, some great holes, and some holes we were just glad to grind it out and get through.

As I reflect on all the many people I’ve come into contact with it amazes me that some I can remember just as clearly as if we had lunch earlier today. There are others who are hazy and I have to think real hard to remember them. There are also a few that I wish I had more time with and there are those that I’m very glad that I don’t have to worry about spending more time with.

One of the pleasures I’ve found in using Facebook and other social media is the opportunity to rekindle some old friendships and acquaintances. I find that I’m very curious about what life has brought to so many of the people I knew in elementary school, high school, university, or in the workplace. We spent a lot of time together, unfortunately in many cases it was only for a few short years. Many years have gone by so if you would like to share with me, that would be nice. I have tried to share about my family and life, but it’s tough to cram all those years into a few paragraphs. But I’m gonna try. That’s one of the reasons for starting the blog and getting the Facebook page going.

If you haven’t noticed yet, my family is everything to me. I often told my staff at the schools I worked in, family comes first. Take care of yourself and your family. For me the next thing is faith. I make no bones about the fact that I am a Christian, I grew up in a United Church of Canada family. I have relied on my faith to help me through many times in life when I didn’t understand why things were happening the way they were. Third on my list is where I often put career. Perhaps, this is why I have always been doomed to middle management, I don’t know. So, if we measure success by career titles and material wealth, then I guess I haven’t been all that successful. However, if you define success by your family and personal values, then I am more successful than I deserve to be. I never really know where to put health. Should it be it’s own item or should it be included with self and family? I guess you’ll have to decide for yourself, but I’m leaning towards self and family.

I want to share something that is very important to me and that is learning. Not just acquiring skills, but being open to the idea of learning new things. Spending most days over the past year as an assistant at Donna’s Day Home, the childcare service provided by my wife Donna, has reinforced with me how important and precious this quality is. Why then do we take if for granted and in many cases stop using it. I don’t think a day goes by, that one of the children isn’t learning something new. My hope is that we adults would open ourselves up; truly open ourselves up to learning new things. This may include, but does not have to be limited to the acquisition of new skills. I think it is far more important that we allow ourselves to be open to new ideas; to be ‘Open to the Possibility’. So, I challenge my Friends and Followers to accept this philosophy and share with me on GrandpaGuy.com something that you have recently learned.

Here’s an Idea . . .

I’ve struggled as a career educator in a system that has lost it’s way. We have produced a generation and are producing another generation of students that is emotionally bankrupt. How did this happen, well it happened because the Bean Counters and Analytics folks took control. Somewhere along the way teachers stopped being able to provide love and attention to students needs and were forced to meet standards of performance. Let’s be honest, children at school are not the same as machines in a factory. The true measure of a successful education system is not the final product, it is the experiences gained along the way. When I began my journey in education as a 5 year old in kindergarten right up until I left the classroom two years ago I have seen many changes. I remember teachers being strict, but they always made me feel that I was important. They were genuinely concerned with the how we were learning, rather than the what we were learning. I remember having the confidence as a grade 8 student to go and interview the ED of the John Howard Society in Saskatoon. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I know my teacher helped me set up the interview and to put together the information. As an educator I have always believe in allowing the students to make choices of what they want to learn and then helping them do so. In essence to be able to take ownership of their learning. One of the best ways I found of doing so was  supporting, organizing, and advocating students involvement in both Science Fairs and Heritage Fairs. Sure, we may not have always followed the rules, I am a deconstructivist by nature. The thing is these kids enjoyed the experience and I certainly enjoyed watching them learn.

Where did we get it wrong then, you might ask. Well, there is nothing wrong with having a curriculum to follow. That being said, here in Saskatchewan we used to call them Curriculum Guides. I have always interpreted this to mean Guidelines, as opposed to actual rules. The reason we have Superintendent, Directors, and Boards of Education who treat them as Rules, is that they are trying to use them as a measure of teacher performance rather than student learning. This is wrong. It is an unnecessary intrusion into the basic operation of a classroom. At the heart and sole of education is the relationship in the classroom between the adults and the students. I say adults because there are teachers, support staff, student teachers, adult volunteers and others who may be in the school and classroom on any given day. So, that relationship, while it is critical, is hard to measure. Whereas reading scores and math scores are far easier to assess and apply to a scale. Let’s be honest here, these scores and the scales they represent are artificial constructs. As such they should be used as guides and not as gospel.

You might also wonder what gives me the right to say this. Well, as I said I’ve had a long journey in education. I began as a student, when on to university and entered the teaching profession. I returned regularly to education and other learning opportunities through out my years in education. I hold two undergraduate degrees, a Bachelor of Arts (sociology) and a Bachelor of Education (secondary). I also hold a Master’s Degree in Education specializing in Curriculum and Instruction. I am also half way through a certificate in Special Education programming. I have been a classroom teacher, school based administrator, and central office administrator. I have worked in rural and urban communities in Northern and Central Saskatchewan. I have spent countless hours preparing lessons, searching for ideas for kids, marking papers, preparing reports and other things. I have also spent many hours and travel lots of miles with students on intra and extra curricular activities. Over a life of 55 years has made me somewhat of an expert on the topic of education.

Why did I do all these things. I’m not unique, any good teacher has done, does, and will do the same type of things. Always with the end goal of making the experience ‘good’ for the students. So it stresses me that education has become less of a human institution and more of an industry model.

One of the greatest tragedies of modern society and using education as a microcosm of society is that the analytic numbers haven’t changed that much in the past 10-15 years. Reading scores are about the same, math scores are about the same, and graduation rates are about the same. So why then do we have so many children and youth experiencing mental health issues? It’s not hard to extrapolate that in a few years we’re going to have more and more adults with mental health issues. I’ve always been an advocate or proactive rather than reactive strategies.

Instead of talking about mental health issues let’s put a strategy in place that will genuinely address the issues. Let’s stop the reading and math assessments and minimize the curriculum. It isn’t important for students to study the human body, dinosaurs, somebodies history, every year for 12 years. In theory this should be building upon previous knowledge. But once you learn something it’s time to move on to something new. Kids do this effortlessly everyday. We need to focus on the other side of learning, I’ll call it what it is popularly known today as Social Emotional Learning. In essence this boils down to helping kids become decent human beings. I’m not so naive to think that all kids will be decent human beings as kids, youth, and adults. What I do know is that by focusing on the kids social and emotional needs we will start having more and more kids enjoying life and not being stressed out and then checking out.

When I wrote my Master’s Thesis, I was challenged to think beyond just saying the system was broken and needs replacing. I addressed this then and have also spend a lot of time thinking about it since. In that process I have become an advocate for replacing the system rather than changing it. In this I have been influenced in my thinking by the work of  Robinson,  Egan, Dewey, Hattie, Fullan, Hargreaves, Levine, Greene, and Sinek to name but a few.

We need a change to our system if for no other reason it has lost it’s focus. We can avoid catastrophic results by refocusing and truly placing people first before numbers on a ledger.

“Keep Busy”, They said. . .

For that past 2 years I have been on a leave from work due to Health related issues. One of the results of this was a move back to Saskatoon from Cut Knife. We first landed with our youngest daughter Tanys and rented a room in her condo, I was in recovery mode and Donna (my wife) continue to babysit for our grandsons. A little over a year ago, with our welcome at Tanys’ waning, I can’t image that as a practicing 30 year old RN, it was easy having your parents as roommates, we had the opportunity to rent a lovely little house on Adelaide Street from Donna’s cousin.  While Tanys didn’t say we should move out, she was supportive of the idea. If fact she and her sister moved our stuff into the new house and out of the Condo without our having to ask for help. We were thankful to them because it has worked out well.

Our middle daughter Kendra, who was concerned that Donna might not be able to babysit anymore, encourage Donna to take on a few more kids, basically opening a daycare in the new house. So, one Saturday after we had moved in, Donna and I were out doing some errands’.  When we returned, much to our surprise, the mainfloor bedroom had been converted into a daycare room. Play centres were set up, toys had appeared, stuff was on the walls, the room was ready to go. Kendra then helped Donna set up an advertisement on a Mom’s site and before we knew it we had a couple of kids coming to us each day. When September came, and the new school year, we added two more full time. We are expecting to hit a high water mark of 8 full time and 3-4 partime/casual kids for next school year. One of the nicest things about the Day Home is that by having our grandson here he naturally calls us Grandma and Grandpa. The other kids have also been calling us Grandma and Grandpa as well. It’s cute at home, but when we take them out it can get a little confusing for others. It’s just another thing we don’t question or correct, but just roll with it.

I had no idea of the number of Mom’s who need care for their kids. As I said, we’ve got a full house, plus we have several on a ‘waiting’ list. It’s been truly an amazing year so far. Donna’s Day Home is a thriving home based business. I’m the ‘volunteer’ assistant and find the days go by way to fast. They get going by 7:30 in the morning and usually we’re done by 5 and we’re able to relax and have a drink.

I have no idea really how my treatment is going. I have Type 2 diabetes, but we’re getting things back under control. I also suffer from anxiety and depression. Again, with therapy, medication, diet & exercise, these have been held in check. Two years ago I had a complete breakdown. During which I wasn’t looking forward to the future at all. In fact I went through a dark period during which I seriously questioned my future, however, with the help of my medical team and with the support of my family and friends,  I’m doing really well and looking forward to the next stage in life. It’s certainly not what I expected, but then again, when the journey began 40 some years ago, I really didn’t have much concept of where it was going to go.

In addition to my activities at the Day Home, I’m trying hard to read regularly. I have always been an avid reader. It was usual for me to have more than one book on the go at any given time. I lost this during the past few years and have only recently gotten the desire and the stamina, to read back. I am also attempting, as you know by reading this, that I am trying to get back to writing on a regular basis. This blog is as much about my Therapy as it is about providing information to others.

All I can say is, “They”, whoever “They” are, were right in this case; keeping busy is the key to keeping healthy.

Oh the weather outside is frightful

It’s seems to me that common sense isn’t all that common when we get extremes of weather. During the summer, we get some days that are extremely hot when the risk of sunburn, sun/heat stroke, and such afflictions are at great risk, many expose themselves to these harsh conditions and thus put their health at risk. It seems strange to think about these things when we are currently experiencing the opposite temperatures, -40C with a wind making the temperature to be around -50C is DANGEROUS. If you don’t absolutely have to go out in this weather, then DON’T. Stay home, relax and keep yourself warm. BUT, don’t forget about your furry family members as well. They too can feel the effects of extreme temperatures and should be protected.

If on the odd chance you have to venture out, then take precautions. Bundling up with extra sweaters, ski-pants, socks, and warm mittens/gloves is the order of the day. It’s also not a bad idea to wear a scarf or face covering. Skin exposed to these extremely cold temperatures can freeze quicker than you might think. Should you be warming up your vehicle, don’t feel bad if you give it a few extra minutes. I know newer vehicles, with synthetic oil don’t need more than a few minutes to be ready to drive. But really, after only a few minutes the vehicle isn’t ready for the driver or passengers. Let it warm up long enough so that you are somewhat comfortable (warm) when you drive. Make sure your sightlines are clear, take your time and accept that it is far better to be a few minutes late to your destination than to have an accident along the way.

Above all, be thankful that we are having this kind of temperature in the middle of January and not in the middle of November. Spring isn’t really all that far away. Then we can spend time worrying about those other temperature extremes that I mention earlier.

January 13, 2020

This is a very cold day today in Saskatoon. Temperatures, with the windchill are below -40C. I did make it out earlier to move the snow off the front step and sidewalk, I’m glad I don’t have to go out until later when I go get the boys from school. I’m looking forward to getting a new routine started today, first and foremost is posting daily thoughts and events here on this page. My plan is to keep this journal current and then add extra pages with ‘Topics of Interest’ and ‘Advice’, that come to mind. I will also offer a regular column that will be a general comment of my observations of current events.

I hope you find the tales that I tell interesting and maybe, just a little bit inspirational or thought provoking. There’s nothing like a good debate to keep thought juices flowing, particularly when it’s so cold outside.