April 1, 2021 Message to Members
“… and you may contribute a verse.”
My phone buzzed in my pocket just as I was taking a sip of my double double. I was waiting for the hotel shuttle on a sunny, warm Saturday morning in May in Vancouver. I pulled out my phone and read the excited text: “I’m staring at an empty chair. Where are you!” The message came from our Chapter Rep Jenn, who was sitting at our table for Chapter Council; I obviously was not.
But let me back up.
I’m a sucker for those teacher movies. I could watch films like Mr. Holland’s Opus, The Emperor’s Club, and To Sir, With Love over and over again – and in fact, I have! The final scene of Dead Poets Society when Mr. Keating’s students are standing atop their desks gets me this close to ugly crying. When I would use this film – even just this scene! – as part of my lesson plan, I would have to step out into the hallway for a moment so my students wouldn’t see my watery eyes or hear my sniffles. Don’t even get me started about the effect the soundtracks have upon me!
I raise this irrelevant personal fact because it illuminates the inspiration that had me drinking coffee in the sun, late to the table with my Chapter.
In one of Robin Williams’ many powerful scenes from Dead Poets Society, he is addressing his class on the value of poetry, arguing that medicine, law, and engineering are important to sustain life, but “beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.” He goes further to quote American poet Walt Whitman on the powerful play of life that goes on, and his assertion that we are all players who may contribute a verse. As teacher Mr. Keating, Williams challenges his class of young men with the question, “What will your verse be?”
It is a romantic vision, perhaps more than a little sentimental. However, it is a core tenet of our society and is fundamental to our cherished democratic principles. Contributing our voice, whether as an individual or as a representative, is a powerful right and responsibility. And in 2014, as my eldest was poised to finish high school and leave home, I wondered about my own verses in this life and how I could make a greater contribution. And it was this wish to serve and to contribute that led me to drink coffee on a sunny Saturday. I was trying to calm myself right before addressing my colleagues in my bid to serve our Association more substantially.
It was the Saturday of the Spring BCPVPA Chapter Council meeting, and it was the morning when attendees would hear the speeches of those seeking election to our Board. As Chapter President, I would typically have arrived for a portion of the meeting the night before, but another commitment required me to fly into Vancouver early Saturday morning. In my planning, I had time to spare; however, a tweak in the agenda moved up the speaking schedule. This was the impetus for the panicked text from Jenn. Apparently, my time was soon!
I made it to my table with moments to spare, and when I stepped up to the microphone, this is some of what I said:
Approximately 48 hours ago … I boarded one of two buses for a four-hour road trip … taking 57 high school students to see a production of Twelfth Night … we boarded the same two buses for the homebound leg of our journey. ‘Round about midnight, on the west bound shoulder of Highway one, still two hours from home, I found myself searching the backpacks of two rather short-sighted youth who believed it was a good idea to spark up a joint from the back row seats on bus number two … I thought to myself, "I love this job!" Those may not have been my exact words at the moment but, upon reflection, they are the words I will use to qualify that field trip … This is why I signed up for this gig: there are going to be crap moments littering the path of my journey, but there are going to be so many more gems!
I’ve been a Principal in BC for the better part of half my life! … Does this qualify me to serve on the Board of Directors? Not necessarily, but it does give weight to the scope and vision that I can bring to the table of our Board.
Right about this point, Kit Krieger held up the paddle which told me I had less than a minute to wrap this up. I think I used language not meant for a live microphone, and then rushed to my conclusion.
It is the members of our Association who have, time and time again … rebuilt and restored relationships with educators, support staff, and parents in each of our communities. It is the members of our Association who have walked on the higher path, doing our duty through the turbulence, quietly maintaining our integrity and professionalism. It is the members of our Association who have been patient, continuing to be inspirational leaders solely for the intrinsic rewards. It is the members of our Association who will navigate, once again, the crap moments that litter the path ahead. And it is the members of our Association that I now wish to serve in a more significant capacity.
It’s important to recall the landscape of 2014: we were not leading through a pandemic, but were about to occupy our buildings alone as a prolonged strike began. While portions of my speech were considered a little unorthodox, they were chosen to illustrate both the unpredictable challenges of our roles and the reliable character of our members, words even more appropriate today.
Either despite this approach, or because of it, the membership elected to put me at the table as a Director. I have many blessings in my life, and many achievements of which I am proud, and nearly all relate to my family. However, serving our members at our Board table has been a humbling honour, and a verse I am so grateful to have written.
Today marks the opening of nominations for the 2021 BCPVPA Elections, and this window remains open until April 16th. In my career, and most frequently in the years since 2014, I have enjoyed the privilege of meeting many of BC’s Principals and Vice-Principals whose voices and leadership have a remarkable impact in our schools and communities. I know the names of many school leaders I would call to serve our membership, each with a verse to contribute. I believe that you do, too, and it all may begin with a nomination.
With sincere thanks to our current Directors whose terms are coming to an end, and with best wishes to our members who will seek election this year, I wish everyone peace and rest for the long weekend ahead. Keep safe and well.