Time For Summer, A Time For Purpose

Good Morning Everyone, June 22nd is here!

In 1965, the American Folk-Rock band “The Byrds” wrote a song that made #1 in North America; a song that I am almost certain everyone of you has heard at least once before and likely many times. In fact if you have ever watched Forest Gump, you have heard “Turn, Turn, Turn”. Google the song and listen to it on Youtube, and I almost guarantee that you have heard this song and as you listen, I am speculating you will find it hard to not smile and feel good.

To everything, turn, turn, turn.
There is a season, turn, turn, turn.
And a time to every purpose under heaven.
A time to build up, a time to break down.
A time to dance, a time to mourn.
A time to cast away stones.
A time to gather stones together.

Every June as the school year draws to a close, and as many of us feel raw emotion of so many memorable events, like graduations (yes, I am including Kindergarten graduations!), awards ceremonies, speeches, retirement events and staff transfers of colleagues, it really is hard to not be emotional. It is the time of year where so many of our staff see and experience first-hand the rewards of a year’s long labour; labour that at times you felt as lows and frustration. And labour where there were highs of gratification and exhilaration; the knowledge that you were seeing in real time the impact you had on a young person’s life and knowing that your profession in support of education is a noble one. An experience that this time of year seems to bring me annually, is the listening of tunes or songs that I find melancholic and that I can’t seem to get out of my head.

For some undetermined reason the hearing of a particular song at this particular time of year also really reinforces that summer is now here, and another school year is ending. A couple of years ago, it was the Motels’ “Suddenly Last Summer”, last year it was 10,000 Maniacs’ “These Are the Days”…and this year it is, you guessed it “Turn, Turn, Turn”. But when I listened to the song, I also felt that its lyrics had a special and particular meaning for me.

2016-2017 in the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board, there were many turns and changes that took place; many were planned with strategic thought, and some, well…not so much! But as the famous lyrics by the Byrds suggest, for every season there are turns and there are new opportunities. As I write this, my last blog of the season, I have many of you in my thoughts as I consider your experiences and your own lives across this vast system of ours over this past year. Some schools have seen incredible experiences and events, some of our schools have experienced challenge and adversity, and yes, some schools have experienced heartbreak and tragedy.

I feel it is worth stating too, that these same experiences ranging from success and pride to heartache and even tears, also apply to you and your own lives. Every single person that works within the KPDSB has lives of their own, families and personal experiences that shape their work and their work-worlds. For this reason, coming to the start of summer, two months of downtime and rest is not only well-deserved, it is quite honestly needed. Rest and enjoy YOUR time this summer my colleagues, when you can, where you can. Working in the KPDSB is hard work, and it takes a toll at the best of times. The Daily Physical Activity (DPA) Initiative was meant to not promote lieu days, but rather promote wellness for you and for each other. I am pleased to share with you that the DPA pilot will continue into a second year and if the survey data we collected two weeks ago is accurate, when you return in September over 90% of you will sign on! Think about joining on over the summer if you haven’t already. Special thanks to Shawnda Norlock (RLDHS) for pointing out to me last week that the DPA concept was not about reducing illness and absences, but rather about the changing culture of the Board. A important recognition to Shirley Niemi (Upsala PS) who in addition to retiring at the end of the week after a career in teaching also used the DPA to spur her on to lose over 35 lbs this year and enter retirement feeling energized and content!

I chose to rewrite this last blog because as I have been frenetically travelling the Board these last few weeks (trying to get to as many events and schools as possible) I was fortunate to be able to participate in a year-end school/staff bbq in Pickle Lake with the Crolancia Staff with some “Friends of Crolancia” a couple nights ago. I bbq’d steaks for about 25 people and visitors, and had the most enjoyable evening I have had as the Director of Education in some time. I watched a small staff laugh, cajole and tease one another in a way that made me wish I was part of a school staff again (I actually believe I asked to be an ex-officio staff member of Pickle Lake next year!). But what was most impressive to me during this year-end staff event was the fact that this group of colleagues: has had its share of adversity, is absolutely at the end of the road (or as Pickle Lake likes to brand itself is “Ontario’s Last Frontier”), and relies on one and other to get through the long winter months…and yet here they were, completely enjoying their time together and oblivious to roles and titles. Talk about a flattened organization!

I share in your fatigue at this time of year and can always tell it is June, when even I have to sometimes pull myself out of bed in the morning. You all have earned this feeling of exhaustion. As we say goodbye, and the “seasons turn, turn and turn again”, our farewells are not just for a couple of months, but for some they are final in the professional sense. As teachers and staff in schools, you have your colleagues that surround you. In Senior and school Administration, we have our admin colleagues. This year, the change for us is unprecedented; we say goodbye to Shelley Compton, Kathy McConnachie and Liz Sidor as principals, and adieu to Dean Carrie, Scott Urquhart and Susanne Bastable. Change is all around us, and change is what also allows us to “gather stones together” and begin a new chapter with new stories fueled by new energies and new ideas. It is time for the season to turn and change to summer, and time for reflection and the beginning of new ideas. As I say this, I thank and tip my hat to my retirees, all of you.

To all of my school staff and administration, enjoy your time away; enjoy it with your families and friends during bbq’s, boat rides, holiday vacations, and yes for sure…fishing! Be safe, be happy, and be optimistic!

And as The Happenings in 1966 sang themselves one year after the release of The Byrds “Turn, Turn, Turn”…

“See You In September”!

Take care, and very best wishes,