Day 17 of 45 Days of Courage

It takes courage to learn a new thing.

I work in a profession which is all about learning. At least in theory. I think much of our education has been more about grades and credits than it has been about true learning. I love learning, though, and I am currently looking for new ways to engage in learning a new thing.

Over the years, I have been able to find many formal ways of learning. After high school, which was, for me, such a positive learning experience, even if socially it was questionable, I was able to steadily learn for four years at Western University before deciding that education was important to me as a way of helping others and hopefully making social changes. So, I earned a degree in Education and began my work in Secondary schooling.

I have always tried to I still in my students a belief that the learning is more important than the grade. But who are we kidding? If there is a grade involved at all, most students are going to care about that grade. As a principal I see the obsession with grades every day – from students and parents and teachers, some of whom still want to use marks as a way of rewarding or punishing compliance, rather than as a tool for feedback about how students are learning.

Enter…me.

For all the beliefs I have about marks as a tool for feedback, I know they matter to me too, when they are my grades. When I decided to earn my Master’s in Educational Leadership, I fought hard to earn the best marks I could, because I believed that reflected how worthy I was to be in this field.

Fast forward to today. It takes courage to learn a new thing. I am stuck. I am about to finish a professional learning program, and have only to complete the practicum portion. I am considering my learning from here, and I am very aware that, unlike when I was younger, I can not just drop all responsibilities to go earn another degree. If I could, I would run off to do a doctorate somewhere far away. But I could never afford the time or the tuition at this point.

So I am a person who needs to be learning. Here are my ideas. Let me know yours.

1. Find opportunities to learn that do not involve formal education. This is something I am privileged to do regularly as working for a learning organization affords next many learning opportunities. Perhaps there are opportunities here I haven’t considered.

2. Do a Doctor of Education program. This is on my list of things I want to do, but I am not sure if it financially feasible or if I would be able to do this with young kids and my career.

3. Turn on the laptop. did you know there are many universities and other learning organizations that are putting their courses online for anyone to access? I have been working through a course online from Yale. Did you know that at Yale University, the most popular course is The Psychology of Well-Being? So, Yale put the entire course – lectures, small group talks, readings, videos, quizzes, assignments – all of it online for anyone to take the course FOR FREE. You only pay if you wasn’t the certificate that says you took the course. So, for me, it took some courage to say, I just want to learn. I don’t need the recognition. There are hundreds of courses offered for free online. If you are interested in finding out more, check out EdX or Coursera as starting points. Or contact me and I will tell you more about it.

4. Learn a new skill completely unrelated to work. Maybe through Spectrum or through the Y? But what? I could learn to paint (and that would NOT be to satisfy those few negative people who have commented that my painted backgrounds that I post with each day’s themes are not good and I should stop putting them up. FYI, I know I am not a watercolour genius. I just enjoy it and I am going to keep putting them up as an act of courage) or learn to blow glass (something I didn’t do from my 45 Things project) or to play a new instrument or learn a new language. This might be a good idea because it will require me to step out of my comfort zone more.

Other ideas? I would love to hear from you. How have you shown the courage to learn a new thing? How can I? Tell me what you are learning and let’s celebrate that!

Day 16 of 45 Days of Courage

It takes courage to just be a person.

Ok. Now this may sound like I am just running out of things to talk about, but stick with me for a minute.

It takes courage to just be a person. To recognize that you are not the labels you give yourself…mom, teacher, friend, bus driver, banker, doctor, student. You are also not weak, powerful, brilliant, a screw-up. Those labels may describe what you do or how you interact with the world. They may describe your relationship to other people. They may describe how you respond in the face of challenge or victory. But you are just a person. You are not your accolades, your awards, your failures or your diagnosis.

You are just a person.

So where does the courage come in? It takes courage for us to step out from behind the mask of position. It takes courage for us to not “become” our labels. Being just a person is vulnerable and brave.

It also takes courage for us to see others as just people. How often do we…do I place value in someone else’s opinion or behaviour based on the label I have given them? How many times have I worn a label someone gave me because of a title they hold? How often have I written off someone else’s humanity and stuck a label on them?

It’s time to stop doing that! It’s time for us to stop hiding behind our titles or failing to see the person in front of us and not just the behaviour.

So today I will remember that before I was a teacher, a principal, a wife, a mom, and even before I was a friend, daughter, sister, woman, I was just a person. I am just a person when I have my best day. I am just a person in my worst.

Yes, I will celebrate my successes…and over the next few days I will share some of those successes I am experiencing. And I will reflect on my failures. But I will also take the steps to see the person in the mirror, in my office, on the street and on the other end of the phone.

Can you find the courage today to just be a person? To step out from behind the mask of your title or to not limit yourself by the labels others place on you? Being a person is the one thing, the ONLY thing I have been since the day I was born, and will continue to be until the day I die.

Can you find the courage to boldly state, “I am just a person?”

Day 15 of 45 Days of Courage

How is it possible that today marks the one-third mark for this series? I am so grateful to each one of you who has read, commented, shared privately with me that you are getting something from my posts. I truly appreciate the feedback. ❤️

It takes courage to release control.

Yesterday I mentioned a difficult conversation I was going to have. Well, I had it. And the result was somewhere between what I was hoping for and what I most feared. Isn’t that usually the case?

So often we have expectations about how our lives will go or how our relationships will be. And we try to manipulate the world around us so our reality is more like the expectations we have. I have learned that I do this all the time. I like to make things better. I am a “fixer”. But rarely, if ever, does trying to fix the world around me bring me peace or joy.

The much more difficult and courageous thing for me to do is to trust. To release control. It takes courage to release control…of the outcome, of the other person’s response, of my own emotions, of the laws of the universe… but I am learning that if I can release control and simply accept what is happening (without my interference) with compassion, I do find peace.

Yesterday was a day for me to process. My apology wasn’t accepted, but that is out of my control. My questions were answered in a way that left me feeling more hurt and filled with self doubt than before. But today I will find the courage to release control and simply allow what has happened to be.

Is there anything in your life that you need to release control of today? How can you begin today? Take just one small step of courage with me today.

Day 14 of 45 Days of Courage

It takes courage to say “I’m sorry.”

I am not talking about the very Canadian “I’m sorry” we all know and love. You know, the one I give to someone when they accidentally step in my foot? And I am also not talking about the flippant “sorry” you make because your mom tells you to apologize to your brother and you just want to get back to whatever you were doing.

I am talking here about sincerely apologizing when we recognize we have done something wrong or something to hurt another person. The kind of apology you know you need to make but you really don’t want to because to apologize is to admit wrongdoing and to be vulnerable.

No one likes to admit they are wrong. Especially me. Sometimes it takes me some time of working through a whole web of thoughts and feelings and playing back an insides to recognize when I was in the wrong. And sometimes it can feel like too much time has passed to apologize. But I think those are the apologies that take the greatest courage.

Today I will be speaking with someone I haven’t talked to in a long time. I did apologize for some actions that were wrong, and I don’t know if this person accepts my apology or not. That isn’t up to me. What is up to me is to recognize when I am wrong, to sincerely say I am sorry and to ask how I can make it better.

For me, that takes courage. Especially when the relationship matters. To apologize is not weak. It is a statement of strength and it takes tremendous courage. Tomorrow I will be talking about having the courage to release control of the outcome.

Do you have an apology to make? Consider the courage it will take for you to make it. Courage takes practice and this practice can repair the relationships that matter to us.

Day 13 of 45 Days of Courage

It takes courage to stay connected.

This morning as I prepared to write today’s post, I realized I did not do a painted background for the theme. I do not apologize for this. I was out last night connecting with my very dear friend Stephanie. That time is sacred and went a little later than my nights (especially a school night) usually do.

Stephanie is one of those friends who I see three or four times each year but it feels like we are just picking up where we left off. Do you have friends like that? I have known her since grade 7 and she has consistently been, for me, the example of the kind of friend I want to be. She is steadfast and loving, compassionate and giving, and she is not afraid to tell me when I am doing something that isn’t good for me. She loves my kids and my wife and I love her family too.

And she is so courageous. She always has been. In grade 8 I was SO awkward. And I tried to fit in with my group of friends but I was so inauthentic in doing so (as many thirteen year olds are) that it was really off-putting to my friends. And, led by one girl who really did not like me, I was ostracized and excluded. It hurt so badly to go through that. No one wanted to talk to me or hang out with me. The ringleader would spread rumours about me, write hurtful notes and put them in my locker or tell others not to be friends with me.

And they listened to her. Most of them listened. But not Stephanie. Even in the face of the possibility of losing her friends, she would not follow along. She still talked with me and included me. She convinced me that if I was just myself, without apology, people would like me.

As an adult she willingly stepped in at the last minute to stand by my side at my wedding when my brother stepped down. I will love her forever for that.

And on the day I posted something very concerning online, she called to check on me and even went as far as driving from Waterloo to Woodstock to stay with me until I could get an appointment with my therapist.

Stay connected with your people. It takes courage. Stephanie is my example of courage today. Thank you, my friend, for showing up, for telling me to rest when I need to, for helping me through my childhood, for forgiving me when I was a jerk. Thank you for sharing your family with me and for being brave enough to call me when you need to talk. I want you to know that I will always be here for you.

So today, I encourage you all to be courageous, make that call. Connect with someone who you haven’t seen in a while, with someone who, when you are around them, encourages you to be better.

Day 12 of 45 Days of Courage

It takes courage to admit you are not okay.

Let me start by saying that today, I am okay.

But I wasn’t always. And I know there are days to come when I won’t be. And that is okay.

A year ago today, I was really not okay. I was overwhelmed with things happening in my life. I was struggling to carry the trauma I was working through while also holding space to hold the pain of others who shared so bravely with me. I wanted to believe I could do all of it. But I couldn’t. And I was too afraid to tell anyone. I was afraid I would look incompetent to lead and do the work I love. I was afraid that admitting I was not okay would be a burden to those I love and would hurt my wife and kids. I was afraid that admitting I was not okay would be seen as weakness. So I kept all of the pain and the fear and the anxiety that was lying to me about who I am, and it built and grew until it all came to a head a year ago. And it literally nearly killed me.

Thankfully, something pulled me out of that tunnel and not only did I find the courage to walk away from the path I was on, but I found the courage to admit I was not okay and I needed help.

Asking for help is not easy for me. It never has been. I have always felt ashamed to ask for help because I believed it meant I was not capable or enough. That is wrong. I am capable. I am enough. I just needed help. And even though my first attempt at asking for help that day left me feeling more ashamed and dismissed and judged, something I am still trying to work through today, I kept asking. And it got easier to admit I was not okay. And eventually I found the help I so desperately needed.

In my work I see so many young people who are on that same path. They are desperate to find connection, for someone to see them and tell them we see them and that it is okay to not be okay. It is brave to admit you need help. Sadly, some don’t ever find that courage to admit they aren’t okay.

When I talk to my children I hear the same resistance to admit they aren’t okay and I realize I have modelled for them that saying “I’m fine” in the face of overwhelming pain is not only acceptable but expected. And I need to change that.

To you who saw beyond my “I’m fine”, thank you. I am learning to admit when I am not okay.

To you, who may be reading today, feeling overwhelmed and desperate, be brave today. Tell someone. Tell anyone who will listen. If you don’t know where to turn, ask someone. Ask me. I will help. I will never dismiss you or not believe you when you say you need help.

You are brave. Lets take a step of courage together today.

Day 11 of 45 Days of Courage

It takes courage to step into the arena.

Today in Canada and in many places around the world, we will stop to remember the sacrifices made by the brave men and women who have taken up the call to battle for freedom. Some of us will attend school gatherings. Some will attend ceremonies at a local cenotaph. Many will go about their daily business but will stop for a minute at 11:00 to silently consider the price of freedom.

There is no way for me to make a comparison between the courage it must have taken for these young people to walk away from everything they knew to fight in a war on the other side of the world and our own call to courage. To do so would be both insensitive and disrespectful.

But what I will say is this… we live in a world where injustice and cruelty are often dismissed as just part of our society. But it doesn’t have to be. That is not the vision of Canada our young men and women fought and died for.

When I stop a young person from making a racist or sexist or homophobic comment, I am honouring their sacrifice. When we write to our politicians to insist on better funding for the services we deserve and which benefit our society, such as health care and education, we are honouring their sacrifice. When we have the courage to ask the person near us in the grocery store to honour the minute of silence at 11:00, we honour their sacrifice.

Any time we step into the arena, that place where we are vulnerable and visible to all the spectators, where others may shame us for our faults, or laugh at us for our errors, we honour their sacrifice.

For them, stepping into the arena meant literally putting their lives on the line. For us, stepping into the arena will likely not mean life or death. For us, having the courage to step into the arena is a choice to get messy, to possibly stand alone, to speak up for what we believe to be true and good and right. For us, stepping into the arena will probably not be met with an enemy holding a gun. But we may be met with an enemy who uses our words against us, who reminds us of our past and asks, “who do you think you are?” There will be critics. That I can guarantee.

Step into the arena with me. Today, find the courage to speak up for what you believe in. Stand up for what you know to be good and true and right. Today, let’s remember those who have sacrificed their lives for the freedom we enjoy. And let’s continue to honour their sacrifice with our words and actions.

And PLEASE take a moment to stop and silently remember today.