Let the celebrations begin!

Last week’s From the Desk of the Superintendent had an almost exclusive focus on Catholic Education. The threat is still very real but after returning from another successful Blueprints Retreat, there is renewed hope because of the quality of Catholic educators throughout the province. It doesn’t hurt to spend some quality time with David Wells, who always lifts your spirits. He will be with us here in Holy Spirit to start off our 2017-18 school year and for those who have not had the pleasure to hear him, you are in for a real treat.

What I neglected in my last post, I want to address today and it centers on celebration. While we have ample opportunities to celebrate throughout the year, it seems that from the month of May forward, we ramp it up! On Monday we begin with our traditional First Nations Feather Blessing and Metis Sash Presentation Ceremony at Catholic Central High School. It is always a highlight for me to share in this tremendous honor with our aboriginal students and families. We are so blessed in our Division to have the guidance of Elder Peter Strikes With A Gun who leads this special ceremony.

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The Feather Blessing and Metis Sash Presentation Ceremony lead into our first two high school graduations of the year. Both Catholic Central High School in Lethbridge and St. Michael’s School in Pincher Creek host their graduation masses, ceremonies and banquets this weekend. It is a little bit of driving to attend both but, so important for me to be able to bring greetings and celebrate with our graduating students and families. Please keep our students and their families in your prayers this coming week.

Last week we honored our latest Excellence in Catholic Education Award winner, Lorelie Lenaour and this week we celebrate our Edwin Parr Award nominee at a banquet in Taber. The Edwin Parr Award recognizes outstanding first year teaching. This year, Holy Spirit Catholic School Division is pleased to support Caitlyn Kasprick as our representative. Ms. Kasprick, a teacher at Father Leonard Van Tighem School  will be the toast of the evening along with other nominees from Zone 6.

On Tuesday evening, the Board of Trustees host their annual Long Service Awards. The evening begins with a mass (our Catholic tradition), followed by the awards and concludes with a social. Beginning at the 5-year mark, all staff are recognized for continuous service on five year intervals. In my travels, I’ve not witnessed a more robust long service program and so I want to congratulate the Board for their commitment to this recognition. I highlight this fact because often we believe that our norm (how we do things in Holy Spirit) is “the norm” around the province and country. I understand that not all recipients are able to attend and so for those who won’t be there I just want to thank you for your years of service and commitment to Holy Spirit Catholic School Division.

Finally, the last celebration I want to acknowledge is Mother’s Day. To my own mom, to my wife, the mother of our two grown children and to all the mothers in our communities, I want to wish you the very best. There is nothing closer to God’s unconditional love than that of the love of a mother. And so from all the daughters and sons out there we ask for God’s blessing on our mothers. May we always love them deeply, cherish their life and honor their memory.

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From the Desk of the Superintendent- May 2017

Blueprints starts on Tuesday evening but today and tomorrow morning, Catholic senior administrators are attending our regular meeting. We always begin with mass and today we were honoured to have Bishop McGrattan celebrate the Eucharist with us. He then joined us in our meeting to give all of us a better understanding of his leadership and direction for Catholic Education. While his approaches may be categorically different from his predecessor Bishop Henry, his commitment and support of Catholic Education is similarly, unwavering.

So let’s begin with a conversation about Catholic Education as it certainly has dominated the news of late. The rhetoric of only one publicly funded system is again becoming popular. The news out of Theodore, Saskatchewan where non-Catholic students will not be funded if attending Catholic schools beginning in 2018 adds fuel to the fire. But let us not push the panic button just this yet. The Theodore case has been in the courts for 12 years and already the Saskatchewan government is arguing it. Appeals are probable and so the question of non-Catholic families needing to leave Catholic schools is premature to say the least.

But with Catholic Education under such scrutiny, merely applying the “wait and see” strategy is likely ill-advised. Lawyers will be involved, so let them handle the legal dilemma and quite honestly we need to let the politicians deal in that arena. Our role, for those of us in the system, is simply to do what we should be doing all the time- offering the highest quality of Catholic Education in our schools each and every day! Demonstrate our uniqueness! Showcase how our faith is permeated in all that we do! Find the face of Christ in every child we serve, and in every parent and adult we meet. Be proud of how Catholic schools are fabrics of our communities and how all of us in Catholic Education play a part in God’s plan. This is not a wait and see approach but rather an intentional practice to solidify not just our constitutional right but more importantly our responsibility to the children entrusted to our care. If there is ever a time for our Catholic community to come together, it is now!

I’ve served in Catholic Education since I began my career in 1985 and there has always been a perceived threat. Maybe this threat is the same as always or maybe it is more intense. Regardless, all of us in Catholic Education, regardless of denomination need to be prepared to stand up if required. I’ve long argued that Alberta has one of the best education systems in the world in part because of publicly funded school choice and because of that, it is worth protecting!

Enjoy some spring weather and have a great May!


Foundational Knowledge of First Nations, Métis and Inuit

The following article was published in the Lethbridge Herald on April 19, 2017.

In the coming months, new standards will be unveiled for teachers, as well as school and system leaders. The current Teaching Quality Standard came into effect in 1997 and, although it has served the education system well, it certainly requires an update. Principals have been governed by the Principal Quality Practice and superintendents have operated under the CASS Practice Standard. The new legislated quality standards will be described in terms of competencies and indicators and should further enhance the professional practice of all. All Alberta teachers, and school and system leaders will be expected to meet their unique quality standard throughout their careers.

An area that has been added to all three standards is foundational knowledge about First Nations, Métis and Inuit people for the benefit of all students. Teachers will be required to develop and apply this foundational knowledge, principals will support the school community in acquiring and applying this knowledge, and superintendents will establish structures and provide necessary resources. A key understanding is that this foundational knowledge is for the benefit of all Alberta students. It is not localized to areas where a high population of indigenous people exist. Regardless of the numbers of self-identified First Nations, Métis or Inuit students, this is the common standard.

Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary this year and there is no better time to fundamentally shift our thinking and attitudes towards our aboriginal people. The treatment of our indigenous people has left a black mark on our Canadian history and unfortunately most of us have little knowledge about the origin of that treatment. Would any of us agree with our own children being forcibly removed from our homes? Would we accept having our language, culture, and traditions eliminated? Would we tolerate the prevalent attitude of former government officials like Duncan Campbell Scott, head of the Department of Indian Affairs from 1913 – 1932, when he suggested, “I want to get rid of the Indian problem.”

It is an ugly truth that should be no longer hidden from our students or simply glossed over. The new standards will provide our Alberta students with an opportunity to accurately reflect and demonstrate the strength and diversity of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people. Societal change can only occur through a true understanding of the historical, social, economic, and political implications of the treaties and agreements with First Nations, the legislation and agreements negotiated with Métis, and of residential schools and their legacy.

School systems have the task of ensuring we move in the right direction; toward reconciliation, truth and understanding. We can no longer accept lagging achievement results. It is time to raise the bar and close the gap. We must stop making excuses and start finding solutions to build capacity amongst our First Nations, Métis and Inuit students. Without confronting some of our brutal history, we will not achieve the societal change required to make Canada truly great and, as in most cases, it needs to start with education.

From the Desk of the Superintendent- April 2017

I’m writing this message as I’m on my flight to Halifax to attend my biannual Education Development, Research and Innovation (ERDI) Conference. For those unaware of ERDI, the conference brings together 50 superintendents from across Canada to meet with corporate companies and review new innovations. Beyond the obvious advantage of connecting with senior educational leaders from across the country, I’m able to bring back to Holy Spirit some innovative ideas and solutions that support the work in our division. The national exposure for Holy Spirit is also beneficial as large corporate organizations know who and where we are and desire to partner with us because of our ability to implement quickly and respond rapidly.

Speaking of work, we just completed our third Continuous Improvement Plan Reviews in our schools. This review was characterized by senior educators visiting classrooms, observing instructional practices and then meeting with school administration to discuss successes and challenges on realizing our three priorities of faith development, literacy and numeracy and First Nations, Metis and Inuit learning. We know from research the importance of senior administration being in schools and in particular in classrooms to keep current and provide support. Getting out of my office, into schools and classrooms and visiting with staff and students is still the highlight of my job.

If you’ve been keeping up with our Here in Spirit newsletter, you’ll know that we are beginning to see the face of our leaders changing. Over the next 3-5 years, we will experience considerable change around the Learning Leadership Team table. This is not unique to Holy Spirit as many divisions across the province are facing similar challenges. I think we are well positioned in many ways because of the strength of our associate principal pool and Catholic leadership program but, I would be naïve to believe that we will be able to fill all of our senior and school administration positions (potentially 22 in the next 5-8 years) internally. I’m always on the lookout for leaders and if you are considering a transition into formal leadership, I would invite you to set up a meeting with me to discuss your future plans. My door is always open!

Minister of Education David Eggen was in town on Friday to meet with the Board of Trustees. As part of his visit he toured our newest school, St. Teresa of Calcutta since he was unable to attend the grand opening back in October. The innovative design and creative learning space of the school has caught the attention of Alberta Infrastructure and is currently being highlighted. Capital projects continue to be a priority in the division. St. Michael’s School in Pincher Creek modernization will be completed for September 2017. We are close to tendering our St. Patrick’s Taber modernization which is expected to be completed for September 2018. The Board continues to be hopeful that a new elementary school for west Lethbridge is announced next budget cycle and continues to advocate for the modernization of St. Francis. The complete capital plan which was passed at the March Board meeting can be found here. For more details about the March Board meeting, please check out the Board Briefs.   

We were blessed again this year with a wonderful Spiritual Development Day and a big thanks to Joann Bartley and the entire planning committee. Fr. Cristino set the tone with a great message around prayer in his opening keynote and I certainly appreciated his willingness to provide two Q & A sessions. Not many of us have the confidence or conviction to just stand up in front of a crowd and take questions, especially when those questions revolve around controversial issues. I knew Fr. Cristino when he was a student in Medicine Hat and his faith was great back then and so my admiration for him continues. Spiritual Development Day provided all of us some great faith development during this time of Lent. Now, with Easter just around the corner, we bear down in our preparation for the death and resurrection of Christ.

And so as I close off this message, I want to wish all a very blessed Easter. May the hope of the resurrection and the passion of our Lord be in your heart! God Bless!

Let’s Innovate!

Let’s innovate! We need an education system that provides us with students who are innovative and creative. To be successful in the future, students need to be adaptable and flexible. They need to be great communicators, collaborators and let’s throw in that they can get along with everybody they meet! That is exactly what our division, province/state or country really needs from the education system. We need students who are globally competitive! Sound familiar?

Oh, did I forget to mention that we need all of those skills and competencies developed but let’s not really change anything. Instead of doing what is best for students, we should continue to listen to a very loud minority who complain excessively about the current system but heaven forbid, reject any sort of change. They still want letter grades, percentages, rankings, back to the basics and anything that was the norm when they went to school because you know… it worked for them. To be honest, I’m not sure it worked for them when I listen to some of their rhetoric!!!

If we want to create a system of education that engages students, prepares them for a future that we can only imagine, then don’t shackle educators with arbitrary or worse ancient and irrelevant rules. Allow education to move away from only an accountability system to an assurance model where stakeholders understand the difference between high quality learning and compliant testing. That doesn’t mean we don’t need standardized tests to maintain and check on standards but let’s look for assessments that can illustrate the competencies learned by our students and not evaluations that simply require a regurgitation of knowledge. Let’s look for ways where students can demonstrate their learning beyond a paper and pencil test because most of us, as I’ve said before, are evaluated on our performance and not simply our test taking skills. Employers have little use for employees who know their stuff but can’t apply it!

A couple of weeks ago I met with my C21 Canada Leadership Academy colleagues. We are a group of K-12 leaders from across the country focused on setting national direction so Canada doesn’t just remain good in the world but transforms to great. Each of us has examples of greatness in our own systems and when I engage with my colleagues I learn a tremendous amount. I gain multiple perspectives, I witness various strategies and I come back to my division ready to share my learning. But I also am affirmed in those visits with colleagues and from tours of their schools. I see so many examples of high quality learning and innovative practice that I also witness in our own division. Learn and affirm are required to move us away from the status quo and to shake off those naysayers who want us to go back to the “good old days.” Whether I write this as a superintendent, a dad or now a grandpa, I can’t ever imagine believing that the status quo is good enough! The education system that every child deserves moves forward, challenges what school ought to be and pushes the boundaries outward.

So just because the system worked for “them” doesn’t mean it will or can work for the students in our classrooms today. The world is too different, too complex to “do it like we’ve always done it and expect different results.” Bold leaders in government, (not those who pander to loud minorities), collaborative and forward thinking system and school leaders (not those who rule with an iron fist) and, fearless and passionate teachers (not those who make excuses) are required. Building better systems that can engage young minds and activate a love of learning intrinsically cannot ever be accomplished by doing more of the same. It is time to break the mold of what school was and create what school needs to be. Our students deserve it and our society needs it!

Spiritual Development Day- March 13, 2017

I want to provide you with my opening address from this morning but before I do, I just want to reflect briefly on the day. Maybe I’m a little bias because I’m the superintendent, but I thought today was phenomenal. Fr. Cristino hit it out of the park with his keynote and the simple message of how to ensure we pray: (1) Schedule it, (2) Make a plan, (3) Be realistic and (4) Be consistent. But what was even more impressive to me was his willingness to answer tough questions about morality, controversial issues and spirituality. Some may not have agreed with his Catholic responses but all should admire his willingness to be upfront and open about our faith. In the world of being politically correct it was refreshing just to hear the raw voice!

I attended both of his sessions but I know that throughout the day, we had tremendous presentations from our own staff and others. I’m so very proud of all our staff who were willing to present on various topics. It is never easy to present to your peers and even more taxing when it is about something as personal as faith. Well done and thank you to all who presented.

Finally, what an honor to have our new Bishop of Calgary lead our Eucharistic Celebration. I had the chance to visit with him during lunch and into the afternoon and if my first impressions are correct, Bishop McGrattan is truly a gift for our school division. I’m looking forward to getting to know him better, working with him and forging a strong relationship. We were very blessed that only two weeks into the job, he is in our school division. Big thanks to Fr. Kevin!

And now my opening address.

Good morning! Before I begin, I want to first thank all who have been involved in today. Joann and the Division Religious Education Committee and of course Becky in the background, have put together a fabulous day of faith development. Regardless of where any of us are on our own faith journey, today has something for everyone to be able to nurture and grow in one’s faith.

I would like to say that my opening comments are my own but the truth is, like a good teacher, I borrow or steal others’ thoughts or practices and that is what I’ve done today. Credit goes to the book, “Being Catholic” from the course Catholicism which many of us are currently studying and our own Fr. Kevin.

Let me start with this passage from “Being Catholic.”

Christians are not distinguishable from others either by nationality, language, or custom. They don’t inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect. With regard to dress, food, and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in.” pg 153

If someone was to walk in to this gymnasium right now, beyond the symbols of our faith, they would not see anything different. We dress similar, look similar; we are a microcosm of the world, a multicultural community.

But we are different or should be different in our values, our priorities and our actions. As Catholics, as Christians, our values differ from many of those out there in this secular world. We are counter-cultural, just as Jesus was some 2000 years ago. And if we are true to our values, our priorities, our faith, then we should just be a little out of step with the rest of the world. Not easy to be out of step but our faith calls us to be that way.

 Unfortunately we can’t just be out of step in our words or in the silence of our homes. We need to live it outwardly and role model it in our community, to our students, and to each other. Living it, does not mean judging or condemning the person who has been seduced by this secular world but rather correcting the action. As Father Kevin said last night, we never have the right to judge but we always have a duty to correct.

Correction is difficult especially in the faith area because we often don’t really know what the Church teaches. And that is why our faith plan, “Rooted in Christ” where we follow Jesus in the weekly Gospels and days like today where we really dig in to our faith, allows us better ability to correct and not judge.

Today, people are more concerned with how they look as opposed to how they pray. They measure success with how much you get instead of how much you give. And they like rules as long as they don’t infringe on their own rights. Being people of faith, we understand it is not easy to be different. Yet, if we are not different in our words and our actions then we risk becoming numb to the indifferences in our world, to accepting the Godlessness and ultimately being consumed by secular values.

I pray that today will continue to form your faith as you journey in Holy Spirit Catholic Schools. Thank you and God Bless!



Adverse Childhood Experiences

The following blog post was printed in the Lethbridge Herald on March 8, 2017

Last week, as part of our ongoing professional learning, school and system leaders watched the documentary, “Paper Tigers.” It is a story about an alternative high school in the state of Washington and its turnaround due to a focus and understanding of brain development and the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Holy Spirit leaders have committed to learning more about brain development in order to better support all of our students.

We know that childhood experiences, both positive and negative, have an impact of the development of a child. While we often believe that stress is about negative experiences, we need to understand that not all stress is bad. Positive stress, like meeting new people or starting the first day of school, is actually helpful. With adult support even some tough and stressful situations can assist children in preparing their brains and bodies for future challenges. Resiliency is developed over time through supportive adults teaching coping skills, as opposed to simply eliminating stressful situations all together.

On the other end of the spectrum of positive and tolerable stress is what is most concerning to the development of the child’s brain. Toxic stress is severe and ongoing and often caused by abuse, neglect and addiction. Research is showing that this type of stress, without any buffering from supportive adults, has impacts throughout school into adulthood.  Toxic stress is an adverse childhood experience.

Adverse Childhood Experiences are reported through the lenses of abuse, neglect and family/household challenges. A simple questionnaire of 10 questions provides an ACE score (http://www.ncjfcj.org/sites/default/files/Finding%20Your%20ACE%20Score.pdf). The long term effect of a high ACE score is staggering with increases in risks of future violence as well as negative impacts to health and opportunity. For example, a person with an ACE score of 4 or more is 7 times more likely to go to prison and 12 times more likely to attempt suicide.  Unfortunately, even in the best neighbourhoods and within the highest socioeconomic status, all children can experience toxic stress in their first 18 years of life.

There are many strategies within education to mitigate the impact of these negative experiences. Strong early learning programs with a focus on growth through play and interaction are key. Ensuring that every student has at least one significant adult in his/her school life is essential. And finally, understanding that a child’s severe misbehaviour is often due to a lack of skill and not a lack of desire, and that responding with empathy is vital. Educators and especially those in leadership positions must continue to build their knowledge on brain development to ensure that we are able to support students to develop the skills they require to become healthy, contributing and resilient adults.

But our greatest chance of success towards building better brains and decreasing negative childhood experiences must come from society as a whole. It cannot rest solely in the educational realm. Parents, grandparents and other caregivers are key participants, but so are politicians, business and industry leaders and the general public. The Alberta Family Wellness Initiative (http://www.albertafamilywellness.org/) provides some excellent user friendly videos and resources. We now have the research on brain development to make great strides in the lives of all citizens and the time is now to make it happen!

From the Desk of the Superintendent- March 2017

I want to begin my March message by sharing the incredible experience of attending the installation mass of Bishop McGrattan on Monday evening in Calgary. This was the first installation mass that I’ve attended and it was an extremely powerful event. Watching the procession of our deacons and many of our diocesan priests followed by 31 Bishops and Archbishops and Cardinal Thomas Collins was moving. Included in the ceremony was the presence of Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, who represented Pope Francis and gave greetings on behalf of the Holy Father. There were two things that made me most proud in relationship to our local First Nations peoples. The first (which is common practice in Holy Spirit) was the acknowledgement that the mass was being held on traditional Treaty 7 land. What a powerful gesture! Secondly, special guests were recognized before the mass and asked to come forward to greet Bishop McGrattan. Chief Roy Fox and his family from Kainai were among those special guests. I had the opportunity to talk briefly with Bishop McGrattan after the mass and we are looking forward to him celebrating with us at our closing mass on Spiritual Development Day on March 13th.

Installation MassSpeaking of Spiritual Development Day, what a wonderful lineup of faith learning experiences organized by our own Director of Religious Education, Joann Bartley and her committee. As members of a Catholic school division we relish in these spiritual opportunities to nurture and grow our faith. We are reminded that the strength of our separate system always rests with each of us as individuals and in our own faith commitment. It will be a great day and I’m excited to share it with our Holy Spirit community of faith.

Although February was short, it was certainly a high quality learning month for our staff. I’ve heard great feedback on this year’s Teachers’ Convention especially around the keynote presenters. Developing resiliency in our youth regardless of being in the school or at home and nurturing the creative spirit of children are both important topics. Support staff also had a great day of learning at their day. I was fortunate to travel to Montreal as part of the C21 Canada CEO Academy. We were hosted by the Lester B. Pearson School Board and I had the chance to visit schools and work with leaders from across their jurisdiction. My colleague, Director General Michael Chechile leads an excellent and innovative school division and my learning was great.  I was also invited to attend the Advisory Board on English Education and was asked to provide an Alberta perspective on a number of topics including our work around First Nations, Metis and Inuit education. But as I commented last night at our Catholic Leadership Program, part of the learning when I’m outside of our division is the affirmation of the great practices that occur in our own backyard. Visiting schools and classrooms allows me to see the many positives that honestly, are just part of our norm.

Today, we begin our Lenten Journey with Ash Wednesday services throughout our division. Over the next 40 days, we are called to embrace the three pillars of Lent: Prayer, Fasting/Abstinence and Almsgiving. Today’s Gospel (Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18) reminds us to do so without contorted faces, away in silence, where only the Father sees and knows. Jesus says to his disciples, “Beware of practising your piety before people in order to be seen by them;” 

Lent is a personal journey, but it is a spiritual journey that we must all embark upon as we prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. May God bless you this Lenten Season.


Learning for all staff

Yesterday morning, I addressed our support staff as they began their day of learning. It is an annual event that coincides with Teachers’ Convention and invites ALL of our support staff to come together for an opportunity to learn. You see, learning or being a learner is not owned by only the teaching profession. Learning or being a learner is owned by everyone.

Successful organizations today must be learner focused. Organizations that fail to learn, cease to exist. People who choose not to learn or whose arrogance (these are the ones who frustrate me the most) inhibits learning face a similar fate.  While they may not cease to exist like organizations, they generally become irrelevant or obsolete and unfortunately are seen as loners who don’t get along well with others. Sadly, we all have those people working in our organizations!

One of the most profound quotes that I use often when speaking about learning comes from Eric Hoffer.

In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.

Learning causes us to grow and change. A change through learning is far more sustainable than any change caused by persuasion or by force. It creates a connection and becomes part of you (Anthony Muhammad). It is what is needed to lose our myopic views, shed our egos and gain multiple perspectives. It is what allows us to acknowledge that there might just be a different point of view or another way of doing things.

We are living in some of the most tumultuous times in in history. Change is inevitable but sadly growth is optional. Whether we talk about large scale corporations or school divisions or individuals, learning is required to meet the challenges we will continually face into the future. School systems in particular, can ill afford to offer learning to only teaching staff. We must create a culture where learning is for everyone and an environment where all are open to it!

The two chairs of the organizing committee, Jane Meeker (President of CUPE1825) and Michelle MacKinnon (Director of Support Services) require significant thanks for their leadership as does the entire committee for their work. There was great energy, strong camaraderie and a lot of what I love to hear the most…laughter. Well done everyone…it was a great day!

Open to learning

Sometimes it is in the simplest of conversations or actions that we learn the most. But that learning can only take place if we are truly open to it. Our opportunity to learn should be constant and not encumbered by our own decision of whether the situation we are in, or person we are talking to, is worthy of that openness. In other words, we need to park our ego and open our minds to a different perspective. .

We are challenged on two fronts to be open to learning. Our ego is the first culprit. For leaders and dare I say all educators, the ability to park their ego and be open and ready to learn is essential. Learning does not just come from the guru heard at a conference or the latest book read. Although these professional learning opportunities should always be available and accessed, learning opportunities surround us everyday. It is not just compartmentalized in a classroom or a course. It occurs in everyday conversations and interactions and often arrives in front of us from the most unlikely of candidates. Our professional colleagues certainly provide us with occasions to learn but what about parents or students, our educational assistants, bus drivers or custodians? We are surrounded with some very knowledgeable sages if we just stop and listen. Sadly, our ego (especially those of us with education degrees) prevents us sometimes from looking beyond a person’s lack of “credentials” in the educational field and we tune out! Wow…what a missed opportunity yet, realistically parking our ego should be fairly easy to overcome. Once we truly believe that all people, no matter their education or background can contribute to our learning, we’ve eliminated that barrier.

The more difficult challenge is learning when listening to an opposing viewpoint, especially one that is diabolically opposite to our own. It is interesting that we want our students to have multiple perspectives and yet we sometimes hold on to only one world view. We look for relevance within the minutia instead of finding relevance in all that we encounter. Covey’s “seek first to understand before being understood” provides us with a strategy to hear and learn. If our goal is learning, then it isn’t about ramming our opinion down another’s throat but rather gaining a different or fresh perspective. Understanding doesn’t mean you agree, it just means you understand! With all the hate in our world, can you imagine what would happen if we just gained some alternative perspectives and little more understanding?

It is important to realize that there exists a learning opportunity in every conversation we have, every person we meet and every situation we face. Open to learning must be a core competency taught in our schools. But it can only be taught in our schools if we as educators and leaders are open to it ourselves! Challenge yourself this week to be more open to learning!