The Downside of Perfection

My father is a retired neurosurgeon who had a brilliant career.  He was a slave to his work, and he emerged from a little boy who could only speak German when he arrived in a Canada in 1948, to a doctor and published author with status, power, money and privilege.  His dream.

“Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

Thomas Edison

I grew up with my father quoting Thomas Edison at every report card time and littering it through every summer visit and many long-distance phone calls.   Perfection was an imperative for him.  

Aspiring for perfection has some merit.  It can allow a vision to play out in your mind that can bring amazing results and the “big win”.  It can teach a commendable work ethic.  However, the flip side is it can also be debilitating.  My stepmother always recounts the story of sitting down to write letters to our mother in summer.  I would sit down and get my ideas down on the page and have absolutely no concern about spelling errors or a lack of punctuation.  When I first started blogging and she found a spelling error, she commented that I must be SO embarrassed.  I still wasn’t.  I learned that spell-checker doesn’t always work.  My sister, being plagued with being the first born, took hours completing her letter and would have holes in the page from eraser marks.  For her, it was a painful endeavour.

The part that Thomas Edison is missing in his well quoted words, is the part about the intrigue that comes with being fascinated by a question.  For Edison, I believe that this was intuitive knowledge.  He entertained the “What if” questions.  Inquiry was not an attempt to demonstrate genius.  Inquiry was letting his mind dance around the possibilities.  It takes time.  It takes patience.  It takes a belief that you can.  

In education, we frame this process in a myriad of ways:  Creative problem-solving; Deductive reasoning; divergent thinking; the inquiry process; task engagement; daydreaming.  The list goes on.  The recent rewrite of the curriculum in British Columbia comes close to describing what we are trying to accomplish in the education of our children.  We want students to graduate with the dispositions and skills to creatively engage and succeed in a world that is changing at unprecedented rates.  We want a high level of achievement that is measured in meaningful ways and inspires further investigation and maybe even genius.

In order for this to happen, we need to help people to change how they view children, adults, and themselves.  This requires a significant shift away from deficit models most of us have grown up with.  People are not defined by what they can’t do.  They are respected for their contributions and efforts are acknowledged.  Perfection is not the standard.  Growth is the expectation.  Lifelong learning is recaptured as a concept of identifying areas for growth and continuing to learn over the course of a lifetime.  

As a faculty associate at Simon Fraser University, I loved the conversations that proceeded the classroom observations with students in the process of completing their degree in Education.  They were all about what the student wanted me to look for to help them improve their practice.  I love this conversation with teachers.  The process is defined and for the learner.  I was involved in the revision of the Standards for principals and vice-principals in British Columbia.  It is the same process of supporting the learner to improve.  It presumes that the learner wants to improve.

I have enrolled Kindergarten to Grade 8 students in the public system.  I have taught summer school to secondary English Language Learners.  I’ve taught undergraduate students at the university level.  I’ve taught practicing teachers in Vancouver and in China.  I have worked as colleagues with teachers in three school districts and as a vice-principal / principal in the Vancouver School District.  I have attended professional development with educators from all over the world.  Generally, learners in all of these contexts want to improve.  The biggest block to learning is the belief that identifying growth areas will be used against you.  In contexts where a deficit model exists, perfection is the gold standard.  In contexts where a growth model exists, identifying areas for growth is a precursor to learning.

In British Columbia, the successful implementation of the revised curriculum will require the adoption of reporting practices that support learning.  Identifying areas of strength is only one side of the equation. Identifying areas which require more repetition and practice, and ways to support this learning, is the key to future development of the learner.  The aversion of many educators to letter grades or sliding scales comes out of the fact that it does not provide a complete picture that supports future learning.  Every reporting period should be a celebration of growth and an honest discussion of the plan for moving forward in the learning process.  

In the COVID-19 world, I have been involved in the question with my staff and colleagues of how to build communities when students are separated into cohorts.  My last attempt at a school wide assembly.  All students learning at school and at home were on the All-Students TEAM.  My intro worked.  Division 1 student acknowledgement of Indigenous lands from their classroom worked.  I shared my PowerPoint.  The embedded perfect clip by Canadian students illustrating the importance of Human Rights and setting the stage for Human Rights Day on December 10th.  I played it from the link in the PowerPoint.  Didn’t download it first or share on my screen.  Kids heard it but didn’t see it.  Some teachers copied the link and played it.  Epic fail.  Definitely a D grade if I was writing the report card on it.  I went on PA and apologised.  Shortly after, I received this email from a Grade 3 / 4 class:

“Division 7 is really proud of you for being brave and trying something new even if it didn’t work.”

So not actually an epic fail.  We are all a work in progress.  I met many of the criteria for success and I have learned what I need to do next time.  These kids jolted me out of the deficit model of thinking that I grew up with.  We have had many laughs on the playground about epic fails and what we learned.  I can provide lots of these stories.  For the Winter Show N’ Share, I pre-recorded everything so the hard work of students and the amazing production led by our amazing music teacher, Ms. Presley, and the slick presentation by Mr. Carruthers would be the central focus for our school community.  It was perfect enough!  For the January online assembly, I have a plan.

BC Literacy Council in Action

After many years of inactivity, the British Columbia Literacy Council of the International Literacy Association was reinvigorated with new energy and revitalization last fall. We took off running. The executive council organized and facilitated three successful events and had a lot of fun doing it. You can read more about it on our website readingbc.ca. We also actively participated in social media @BCLiteracyCoun1. Then … COVID-19. It took the wind out of our sails during spring and summer, but we are back.

Graphic Novel Panel Discussion

The BCLCILA hosted it’s AGM this past week. Thanks to the interested members that attended the AGM and congratulations to our 2020-2021 Executive:

Past President – Mike Bowden

  • Also, a newly named director of the British Columbia Superintendent’s Association (BCSSA)
  • Recently published his 4th book – distributed by Strong Nations Publisher
  • Indigenous Leader and District Principal in Kamloops

President – Carrie Froese

  • Lifelong literacy and social justice advocate
  • Principal of David Livingstone Elementary in Vancouver
  • Blogger – Inquire2Empower;  Tweeter @CarrieFroese @BCLiteracyCoun1

Vice President – Linda Klassen

  • Principal of Coghlan Fundamental Elementary School in Langley
  • Champion of the arts and Indigenous ways of knowing

Treasurer – Garth Brooks

  • Lifelong International Literacy Association member and executive member Canadian National Special Interest Group of the ILA
  • Past National Coordinator of Project Love Letter Writing Project

Membership Secretary – Kelly Patrick

  • Librarian at Point Grey Secondary School in Vancouver
  • Author of The Kelman Sisters’ Cookbook

Secretary – Kathryn Self Ransdell

  • Orton Gillingham trained tutor and active PAC member of General Gordon Elementary in Vancouver

Our Provincial Coordinator – Karen Addie

  • Literacy Consultant with PhD in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Technology
  • Experienced teacher in public and private system, Vice principal in the public education system 

We are ready to pivot and explore other ways to involve and support literacy advocates in British Columbia in a COVID-19 world.  I have found Twitter to be an excellent source of professional development.  It has also been a way to develop relationships with people who have common interests.  One of my teachers at David Livingstone Elementary School, Karen Lirenman, wrote her book, Innovate with iPad – Lessons to Transform Learning, with a colleague, Karen Wideen, who she met and collaborated with online.  I recommend you follow @BCLiteracyCoun1 and executive members who are active on Twitter @CarrieFroese @k_addie @KlassenLinda @TheDuke_247 @tlslovebooks  Our ILA Provincial Coordinator, Karen Addie, is also exploring ways for us to engage and collaborate in virtual spaces.  We are planning to do some Twitter Chats this year to invite participation in the creation of our British Columbia Literacy Association Annotated Booklist 2020-2021 to support social emotional learning in schools.  This will be publicized through twitter so be sure to follow. 

The COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter Movement has focused attention on social emotional learning like never before.  We would be negligent as educators if we failed to acknowledge the need to carefully consider and implement supports for our students.  Our ultimate goal is to empower our learners with a sense that they are cared for and valued as a springboard for engaging in their learning journey.  As a bunch of book lovers in the British Columbia Literacy Council, we of course came to the conclusion that books are a perfect way to provide supports for our students at school and a home. 

There are many booklists that have been collated for a variety of purposes.  Our goal is to create a booklist that addressed the following:

  1.  Anecdotal Reference by educators to specify the appropriate audience and possible uses of the text in terms of social emotional learning and BC core competencies. 
  • Representation – In order to feel valued and included in our school communities, our students need to see themselves as part of the community.  This includes students who identify, live or learn in ways outside on the dominant group in the school community.  This also includes our Indigenous, Black, and people of colour. 
  • Stress and Coping – Books that help students to understand stress in our lives and possible coping strategies.
  • Working for Social Justice – Books to help students explore what makes us human, our basic rights, freedoms, and our responsibilities as anti-racists in our school, our community, and our world. 

This is a large task and will require that we engage not only our current membership but also capture the imagination of other literacy educators and parents in British Columbia.  We are inviting mass participation online.  Participants are asked to become International Literacy Association members.  All people who join the International Literacy Association in British Columbia are automatically members of the British Columbia Literacy Council of the International Literacy Association.  There are numerous membership options, and a hardcopy or online newspaper is included.  There is also the opportunity to add popular International Literacy Association publications, such as The Reading Teacher and Reading Research Quarterly to your membership.

BCLCILA members who contribute to the British Columbia Literacy Association Annotated Booklist 2020-2021 will receive one of the titles from our booklist to use with children.  Widespread participation in this project is encouraged.  You are invited to submit as many entries as you wish.  Please complete one form per book.  Please note one book will be sent to each BCLCILA member participating in this project to celebrate our collaborative online project.  All submissions must be made via THIS LINK.  The information submissions can be displayed in an excel spreadsheet and organized for publication. 

In March, my big risk-taking venture was connecting with my Livingstone students via Video Tweets.  I have upped my game and I’m reading an SEL books weekly  – Ms. Froese Reads on my own YouTube Channel.  It’s still a big risk but I’ve come a long way from my initial Video Tweets.  This is being published on my school wide Office 365  TEAM and tweeted on the school twitter account and @BCLiteracyCounc1   You are welcome to use it with your students.    I’m feeling very grateful to have a team of people still engaged in doing the work of supporting our teachers and students.  We hope you’ll enjoy us in this positive and proactive engagement.  We’re always open to new ideas.  We hope to hear from you.

Keep Going for Equity and Justice

Creating a space where each member of a community not only feels welcome but valued and respected is a gargantuan challenge.  I have been welcomed into spaces where there are is an unwritten code, or set of expectations, that you must identify and comply with if you do not want to fall into disfavour and subsequently have the welcome withdrawn.  All too often the rules are apparent after the fact.  Or perhaps, they are never are discerned.  Job places, schools, places of worship, and community gathering spots face the same challenge of how to create spaces where people with diverse cultures, belief systems, family structures and appearance can come together in a context where everyone feels valued and in the words of Marlo Thomas – free to be. 

I have lost heart that any set of rules will provide all the answers. The Declaration of Human Right and Freedoms was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948 and enshrined the rights and freedoms of all human beings. Subsequent human and civil rights law have codified many of these basic rights. We have had time for full implementation. And yet, in wealthy countries the #MeToo #BlackLivesMatter #IndigenousLivesMatter echo the cries of people waiting for even basic rights to be extended to them. The citing or rules, finger pointing, and defining the work that others need to do, breeds anger and resentment rather than a collective, coordinated effort to do better.

If we are going to make a difference in the quest to create respectful spaces, we are going to need to capture the imaginations of the people within organizations whether it’s a workplace, school, club or social organization.  Co-existing in a space does not generate a welcoming or generous climate.  We need curiosity and empathy.  The kind of curiosity that inspires us to want to get to know each other, the patience to listen to someone’s story and the development of empathy.

The best place to start teaching this process is in schools, where we already have students brimming with curiosity, not afraid to ask questions, and ready to dive into the learning.  I have been inspired by Patrick Stewart’s reading Shakespeare’s sonnets and Michelle Obama’s story time online.  As part of the process of building community in our school, I decided to put a weekly story on YouTube for my school.  For my first book, I chose Fauja Singh Keeps on Going to dovetail with our recent learning about Diwali. 

I gathered the book, my tripod, my iPhone, and headed off to read the book to a Grade 5 class.  After I discovered there was too much noise and the student response to the book, I headed off to read to the Grade 3 class I was covering.   It is a newly published book by Simran Singh with illustrations by Baljinder Kaur that bring additional insight into Sikh culture.  Fauja Singh is 108 years old and will live on in my heart.  He experiences physical adversity, racism, loss, and becomes the first 100-year-old person to finish a marathon.  Fauja demonstrates resilience, perseverance and grace in moving forward to become an inspiration for all of us.  Before I went off to read with students, I called one of the parents in my school community to make sure I was pronouncing Fauja’s name correctly.  Turns out Bindy interviewed Fauja when she was doing the research for her doctoral degree and was able to provide a great personal story to bring additional insight to our students.    

My 15-minute YouTube time limit for Ms. Froese Reads, didn’t allow for me to include the fascinating conversation with students.  All of us immediately made the connections with Terry Fox, the Canadian hero who demonstrated the same kind of perseverance and integrity as Fauja.  The image of Canadians running beside Fauja was reminiscent of people running beside Terry to encourage him along his route and it made us proud as Canadians.  The racist treatment of Fauja in New York post 9/11 was a focus of both conversations.  A Grade 5 girl with white skin spoke of her embarrassment about people being racist, even though she wasn’t there.  A Grade 3 boy with brown skin gave an impassioned and well-informed speech about how Donald Trump and how his racist beliefs are taking the United States in the wrong direction.  These kids heard Fauja’s story.  They understand fairness.  They empathize.  They were inspired by Fauja’s mother ‘s message that “Today is a chance to do your best.”  How do we inspired everyone to take a step back and proceed with kindness on a path to equity and justice?

We are at another junction in history where people are pausing to consider our direction.   Certainly, it will take a willingness to listen more and to broaden our perspectives if that is to be a path towards equity and justice.  The route of how to get to a more social just society is widely disputed.  I still hold tight to the  principles laid out in the United Nations Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  I believe the process of continuing to articulate those principles in a Children’s Charter, an Indigenous Charter, and a Canadian Charter were important to further strengthen these basic rights and freedoms.  I will continue to live them and to teach them.  I believe in laws and their fair application to provide justice.  I also believe in mandatory training to outline expectations in the workplace and in public institutions.  Yet, they are not enough. 

How do we inspire curiosity and a desire to do better?  How do we break down the hierarchical and social structures that inhibit people from sharing their stories with the people in their schools, jobs, places of worship, and the cities we live in?  And how do we inspire people to want to empathize?  How do we encourage people to give each other the benefit of the doubt and not immediately assume the worst intention?  Any environment that creates a fear of making mistakes, is destined to become entrenched in camps.  Silence follows fear.  Growth requires a collaborative effort to understand. Authors like Margaret Atwood, Wab Kinew and Yaa Gyasi have the ability to shift perspectives within a few hundred pages.  Children are responsive to well written books with diverse perspectives, particularly when followed with engaging discussion.  Sitting face to face in a room and learning about someone’s journey is magic.  As a member, then community fieldworker for Amnesty International, I had the opportunity to listen to the stories or many people who had been imprisoned and tortured for their religion, ethnicity, sexual preference, political belief or relationship to someone else being persecuted and intimidated.  They were stories or hope, survival and gratitude.  They were inspirational and strengthened my resolve to work for social justice.   During the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, hearts were broken listening to traumatic stories of residential school survivors  and family breakdown of our Indigenous people.  It brought a part of Canadian history, omitted in textbooks, to the forefront of our collective consciousness as a country.  Anyone involved in the process has a greater level of empathy and understanding of the complexity and importance of the path to reconciliation with our Indigenous people. Like Fauja Singh, we need to keep going until basic rights and freedoms are part of the lived experience of all people and we don’t even have to ask – Do you feel valued?  It will be a given.

Imagination in Leadership

Imagination has factored into my life in a myriad of significant ways. It is largely responsible for many of my happiest memories in childhood, teaching, and parenting. The role of imagination in my leadership has been more obtuse. Is there room for imagination in the many management responsibilities and competing priorities of principals and vice-principals? Although I know in my heart it has to loom large, I have been struggling to articulate it.

When I was young, developing the imaginative ability of children was not a priority goal.  School was task oriented.  I remember my Grade 5 teacher closing the curtains so we would focus on copying the notes from the board rather than the snow falling outside.  I spent the morning staring at the curtains, imagining what it would look like at recess.  You did the work and then the recess or lunch bell rang, and we spilled out onto the playground.  The holes in the chain link fence meant that play easily extended into the forested areas bordering the school.  After school, we were set free to run with the neighbourhood kids and be home for dinner.  My bike was another appendage of my body and it took me off to explore, build forts, and discover.

My parents’ divorce made travel part of my early life. First by car. Then by plane. I learned there were lots of places to explore and lots of different ways to live with different expectations and rules of engagement. We were still free to roam the Hollywood Hills and the wilds of the Sierra Nevadas. Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm provided a window into how adults can structure imaginative play.

As a first-year teacher, every Friday the Shape of the Day was titled Friday Fun Day with coloured chalk and large swirling letters.  It was a day devoted to engaging students in learning in wild and wonderful ways.  My Grade 2 students actively participated in planning our explorations.  That was the year that Krista Pera hand sewed a shiny fabric bauble at Christmas for my tree and demonstrated that anything was possible if you created space for it.  Inquiry brought a structure to my teaching practice that allowed me and my students to go after finding the answers to interesting questions.  Imagination was a habit of mind that I brought to my practice and continued in my teaching of elementary, secondary ELL, and post secondary.

There is a comradarie between teachers that exists in many schools that makes teaching rewarding and filled with lifelong friends.  I was fortunate to have many colleagues that would spark ideas that became great learning adventures for my students and me.  I also had many enthusiastic colleagues who were willing to ask questions and play with ideas.  The strong professional development wing of the BCTF and supportive principals provided funding and many opportunities for distributed leadership to allow our imaginations to flourish. 

As a parent, my first born led the charge into imaginative play. His grasp of the possibilities without any concern for safety, took me to new places. How do you create a safe context and an opportunity to explore was my quest. His sister arrived and followed his lead with abandon. I walked into her room one day to witness her brother’s scaffolded instructions for how to escape from her crib. He assumed the role of Batman. She had no alternative but to be Robin. Just as my sister and I had been many moons ago ( to quote my mother). The Dynamic Duo wanted challenge and adventure. Imagination was not taught, but spaces were created for it. And yes, sometimes they included trips to the Emergency ward. As they grew older, outlets for creativity were formalized through many sets of lessons, and classes as Place Des Arts. Imagination was not only part of free play, but also expressed in clay, paint, crayon, music, and pencil. For our son, even biking and snowboarding became acts of imagination. It became as much a part of the process as muscle memory.

Last Sunday, my husband and I jumped on our bikes and did our standard route around Stanley Park.  En route home, a car stopped at a red light on a busy street, suddenly decided to make a quick right turn to avoid the light and didn’t notice me stopped in the bike lane beside him.  In my peripheral vision, I saw him and muscle memory from years of trail riding and riding along logs in bike playgrounds kicked in.  I jumped off the other side of my bike while he drove into the front tire of my bike and knocked it down.  It was a habit.  I learned long ago on my Brody Mountain bike that sometimes, you just need to bail.  I think that’s what it’s like with imagination.  The more you think divergently and aspire to problem solve creatively; the more opportunities present themselves.  It becomes a habit to think wide and consider possibilities. 

Organizational skills and problem-solving ability are required parts of the job of principals and vice principals.  It is the foundational piece for administrators, as classroom management is to teachers.  Imagination is not a prerequisite or even a standard expectation. Professional development, diploma programs, graduate work, training for faculty associates, and teaching teachers in China allowed me to further develop my skill level in tandem with my vision of possibilities for learners.  Imagination is required to envision what education could be beyond a current reality.  It is present in those administrators who are able to formulate a vision of the possibilities.  That vision may reach beyond the specific context and limitations that exist.  If being imaginative has become a habit in the principal or vice-principal, it kicks in just like muscle memory.   It needs to be fed by hope in order to flourish.  If we hold tight to the fact that we have the capacity to make a positive difference in the world, we can enlist our imagination to aspire to bring a possibility to life.  And if we are lucky, the spark will ignite the imagination of others. 

Hallowe’en Fun in Times of COVID

One of my dear friends introduced my family to ranching life in Merritt, British Columbia. We’d head to the Chutter Ranch to ride horses, participate where we could, and adopt the stance of what we called “The Country Mouse”. The farm boss, Traugott, took my riding skills to new levels during times where we were riding for a purpose, like separating calves from mamas. He’d yell “yahhh!” and I’d hold on for dear life as the horse did the very familiar I work. When my sister and her family bought a ranch in Texas this past year, our family was stoked! We made a bee line from Vancouver and Taiwan (where my daughter is working), for the GameFive Ranch last Christmas. While we were there, my sister bought me, not the sale boots that I was gravitating towards, but the most beautiful “real working” red cowboy boots that I loved. I was ready to don my cowboy persona for Hallowe’en.

The Perfect Cowboy Boots

Hallowe’en has been met in our school community with a fair amount of trepidation.  In our school community, Hallowe’en has been BIG.  Huge participation in wearing costumes.  Amazing costumes.  A massive parade of the amazing Hallowe’en costumes with copious quantities of parents showing up to watch.  Lots of contributions of treats in the classroom.  Pumpkins delivered to the grass field for all students to claim.  Hot chocolate.  Lots of fun.

This year, as administrator of the school and designate “safety police officer,” I initially felt that most of my effort was going into scaling back what we have done in previous years. No parade. No parents in the building. No treats from parents. Prepackaged, commercial treats only from teachers. Tonga. My concern as an educator was how we could maintain the fun of this season of imagination. Fortunately, my teachers had that covered. Did you know that some teachers have entire outfits made of Hallowe’en fabric? Others are willing to sweat profusely to maintain the integrity of the costume – Beit Eeyore or a clown? Activities throughout the day were integrated with the Hallowe’en theme and novelty. Our kids were well taken care of and their imaginations were being nurtured.

The added bonus was the Livingstone Garden.  Last weekend my husband and I were biking through UBC neighbourhoods, and noticing that Hallowe’en decorating was still quite amazing this year.  I stopped to take picture after picture.  Graveyards.  Harry Potter themed worlds.  Huge blow-ups of pumpkins and ghosts…  People willing to play.  Although it was a last-minute announcement, I invited the school community to join in with decorating the garden.  One group of students came through with a scarecrow.  One group helped to make the black fringe to blow in the wind.  One class came through with spooky ghosts.  My trusty dollar store helped out with the rest of the decorations.  The decay of the fall garden added ambiance. 

On Hallowe’en, armed with dollar store candy, monster erasers, sticky frogs, my Hallowe’en playlist, and my tongs, I headed to the garden at four intervals. With my black, BCPVPA mask, I looked more like Jesse James, famous train robber. However, with my daughter’s Calgary Stampede, cowboy hat and the current expectation of masks, I was not too scary. Class after class entered the garden. I could easily change the playlist from fun to spooky on my phone depending on the group. Some kids would even dance with me.

I made a decision to buy both treats and decorations. As a result, I did not buy chocolate bars for every student in the school. I bought little packages of ghosts, bones, and pumpkins. Chewy, sugared eyeballs. Chewy fruit candies. Caramels. And I pulled monster erasers and sticky frog toys from the cupboard for kids who don’t eat candy. I was waiting for complaints that the treats were small. Never happened. It transported me to the penny candy store that use to be by Tatlow Park. As kids, my cousins and I would take coveted change from our grandpa and uncles, to the candy store ,and carefully select our purchases. It was fascinating to watch our students. Some kids knew exactly what they wanted and decisively made their choice. Some kids were overwhelmed with the choice and just took what the person ahead of them selected. Others could not make a decision at all, and I needed to make it for them to move the line along. And in most cases, it was followed with a Thank-you or Happy Hallowe’en. Gratitude. Good feelings. Joy. So much fun.

Another fun element was the inclusion of our preschoolers at Spare Time Treehouse, the little ones playing on the public playground with their parents, and kids en route to Tupper Secondary School.  There was the element of delight in being included in the fun.  In some cases, disappointment that they were not wearing their full costume.  There was a feeling of community and a sense of victory in maintaining the spirit of fun in midst of it all!  Anything is possible, even during times of COVID. 

Happy Hallowe’en

An “Oxygen Mask” for the Principal

My life as an airplane passenger started at for me at five years old on the trek to visit my father in California during summer vacations. I long ago lost track of the number of flights I have taken, or the number of safety presentations that I have heard. At one point, I decided I might be a stewardess so I could fly to grand adventures for less money. The fact that you had to serve people caused me to rethink the job as a viable option, but the aspiration made me practice the safety presentation until I knew it by heart. The takeaway, “in the event of an emergency, secure the oxygen mask to your face before trying to help someone else”.

Health and Safety, and Social Emotional learning has been at the forefront of my mind, since March when the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic first impacted the British Columbia School system in a big way.  The website and the TEAMS Platform for staff was updated with many helpful links and ideas.  In my leadership role, I implemented many ideas to provide support for kids, parents, and staff.  During the summer, opportunities to address self-care were easier because there was more time.  However, now back in the midst of addressing needs of others in an emotionally charged environment with many issues to address, what are those things that make up the oxygen mask for the principal?  It is only October and the answer to the question is elusive to many of us.  I have come up with five things that I am trying to do now that school is back in session to provide that much needed “oxygen mask”.

  1.  Try to Avoid Personalizing Negative Interactions

COVID has created a highly emotionally charged environment.  You don’t have to be in a position of authority to experience overtly inappropriate reactions to events folding out around us.  Sometimes you just need to be there.  The other day I was riding my bike to work.  I most often take the seawall route because it is so pretty and a great way to start and finish the school day.  As I was about to cross the road by Granville Island, a guy in a nicely pressed pink shirt, driving a big, black SUV, stopped to unleash a string of expletives at me and the bike rider beside me, and then squealed off in front of us with his red face and a head that looked ready to explode.  The other bike rider and I shot each other perplexed looks, wished each other a good day, and carried on.  I wonder how the rest of pink shirt guy’s day went.   The only option is to recognize that this person is having difficulty coping.  Step away.  Sometimes there is a need to revisit the situation later.  Sometimes I just chalk it up to COVID stress. 

  •  Set Boundaries

My initial strategy was to try to develop plans, and back-up plans to fully inform people of upcoming changes and issues.  I would also try to trouble shoot, problem solve, and address all the requests coming my way.   I would wake up in the wee hours of the morn to strategize and send email.  I created comprehensive communication systems and broadcasted the latest information.  I created multiple ways for people to provide input into decisions.  I soon learned that I would not be able to solve all of the problems, I was overwhelming people with too much information in some cases, that not everyone wanted to be involved in all of the decisions, and that the shifting landscape caused frequent changes in information.  Plans were obsolete within hours and I was exhausted.  Now I am waiting for the reality of the situation to play out before I make plans and announce them.  I realize that I am never going to solve all of the problems, get all of the jobs completed, or make everyone happy.  I continue to have an overdeveloped work ethic and do the very best I can in a workday, but I also set boundaries about a time when work stops and starts.

  • Connect Often with Supportive Colleagues Doing the Same Work

Never underestimate the value of having people who you can trust to call.  People who you can call and cut to the chase when you’re in a hurry or to vent.  Other principals and vice principals are the only ones that can possibly understand the work you are doing on a daily basis.  They are the people that can steer you in the right direction, let you talk through your rationale, share a similar experience, problem solve, give you another perspective, tell you where to find the updated form, or just laugh with you.  I have principals that my life crosses paths with in a multiple of ways – book club, golf, personal experiences , shared friends, or perhaps BC Principals’ Vice Principals’ Association responsibilities.  We share experiences in the same schools, the same community school teams, or connections with universities.  Those conversations are invaluable because the understanding of our shared experiences and navigating in shark infested waters is pivotal right now.  These are the people who  always give you the benefit of the doubt and have your back!

  • Laugh

I recently had a high school friend on Facebook send me a message after I had posted something.  She reflected that although we have lived in different cities for many years, she can still hear the giggle and the joy in many of my posts.  On both sides of my family, I grew up laughing.   I just celebrated our 35th Wedding Anniversary.  The key to the longevity of the marriage is we can still make each other laugh.  Our kids are grown but they still life to travel with us and visits are filled with laughter.   Being able to identify the humour in even a difficult situation, often helps us to get to the other side of it.  The most common refrain in the job right now – “You can’t make this stuff up,” followed by laughter!

  • Make a date with yourself

I am currently reading, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.   Her book targets those people aspiring to become more creative.  She makes a suggestion that I think is invaluable to anyone.  It is not only giving yourself the permission to indulge yourself with a fun activity but also planning it and putting it on your calendar.  One of my goals for this year was to read 100 books.  Thanks to COVID, I’m almost there.  Reading is high on my list of dates with myself.  So is writing.  So is being by myself.  So is Book Club.  So is Happy Hour with friends.  I like the deliberate way in which Cameron talks about creating these spaces for ourselves.  I think it is an aspect of self -care, as important for principals and vice-principals, as it is for staff, parents and kids. 

The focus of my professional growth plan this year is focused on the Relational Leadership standard.  Developing inclusive and collaborative cultures with effective communication requires a focus on social-emotional learning more important now than ever before.  How people are coping with the stress of COVID-19, recognizing the inter-cultural context of our schools, and developing a sense of collective efficacy determines our effectiveness as a school community.   In March, my focus was very much trying to address the social-emotional needs of staff, students, and parents in my school community.   I was running as fast as I could, and I was exhausted.  My pivot is not to shift the focus of my work, but to integrate how I can model self-care.  I’m putting on my oxygen mask, and hopefully my school community will all benefit from it.  My fellow administrators, I’m interested in what makes up your oxygen mask?

As always, I understand that not everyone is comfortable expressing their ideas online.  I appreciate the private messages, emails, and calls.  They push my thinking and contribute to the “eureka” moments along the way.

Terry Fox in Times of Covid-19

I paused when I considered the annual Terry Fox School Run this year. This surprised me. I have both a personal and professional connection to the run. I am old enough to have the memory of the kid dipping his toe in the Atlantic, starting on his lonely run, then capturing the imagination of a country. I no longer have enough fingers and toes to count the number of community and school runs that I have participated in. Terry Fox defined my identity as a Canadian. Yet, I faltered. My job as a school principal is to ensure safety.

Inspired by Terry Fox

I am a big fan of a party.  That is what Terry Fox Runs have become.  The crowds flocking to runs do not capitalize on the gut-wrenching sadness of cancer, they ride high on the belief that every person has the capacity to take risks and do great things.  They are fun.  We do make a difference. The Terry Fox Foundation has raised over $800 million dollars towards cancer research. There is a cure for the type of cancer that Terry had. The Terry Fox Run was my first of many 10 K runs.  Someone told me towards the end of the run that I had good form.  In every run since, when I’m sure I have to stop, I straighten up and am buoyed up to finish. 

I have well developed organizational skills and the desire to engage the whole school community during Annual Terry Fox School Runs.  Last year, the music was pumping, the kids were energized, the gigantic Terry Fox flag flying, and families and neighbours flocked to the school to cheer us on.  Kids were proud of the distance they ran and the money they were able to fundraise for cancer research.  Terry Fox inspired them.  COVID-19 caused me to balk.  How could this be done following the required COVID-19 guidelines? 

I am very grateful to my staff for providing the impetus for the run this year.  Matt Carruthers brought it up at a staff meeting and the date was set. He provided the schedule for running in learning groups/ cohorts, and the crew to distribute and collect cones.  Staff led the charge in their classrooms with lessons and inspiration about Terry Fox.   I set up the online donations site and sent the letter home explaining how the Terry Fox Run would look different at Livingstone Elementary in times of COVID.  My heart held more trepidation than enthusiasm. 

I started run day with a talk about Terry Fox.  My heart fills with pride when I talk about who we have self-selected as a Canadian hero.  Who had a more valid reason to feel sorry for himself and to feel really angry?  The kid had lost his leg to cancer.  Yet, that was not what defined him.  He set a goal to raise $1.00 from every Canadian to go towards cancer research.   Done by February 1st of 1981.  Yet that was not what defined him.  He is defined by perseverance.   He was not always the best at things that he loved, like basketball.  It didn’t stop him from loving the game and trying to improve.  He is defined by empathy and sympathy.  He experienced the ravages of cancer and its impact on other kids in the hospital with him.  He didn’t let adversity immobilize him.  He was able to think of how he could make the lives of other people better.  He was willing to do something really hard.  And in the process, he captured our imaginations and gave us hope.  He defined heroism in a very Canadian way.

On the Livingstone run day, the gigantic flag and the cones were in place. Most families respected my request to participate via our Twitter feed @LivingstoneVSB on the school website. The Spare Time Treehouse Preschoolers led off the run on the gravel field first thing in the morning. The final learning group / cohort was still running according to schedule at 2:30 pm. Ms. Janze’s class had inspirational chalk messages of encouragement on the sidewalk. Kids were laughing and having fun. They were setting personal goals of how many laps they would do. As we progressed through the day, the donations to the Livingstone School Run continued to roll in. At last check, we were at $2,814.95. Precious dollars we are able to contribute to cancer research when donations to charities are down due to the global pandemic.

In times of COVID-19, there are many disappointments and challenges to maintaining a positive outlook.  Terry Fox is perhaps our very best example in Canada, of how adversity does not have to conquer.  The #beliketerry and #tryliketerry capture how it is possible to move beyond sadness and anger to strengthen community and make a positive impact in a world that needs it.  And my heart soars 🙂

School Leadership In Times of COVID-19

“Dear Carrie…this rock reminds me of you. Beautiful, solid, sage and determined to retain its core – no matter the force.” #gratitude #inspiration Elena Photo of Hoodoos in Alberta, B.C.

I have a particular penchant for instructional leadership.   In my history as a teacher, the principals and vice-principals who fed my enthusiasm to learn and supported me in all kinds of wild and wonderful projects and inquiries, were the ones who empowered me.  I was encouraged to try, celebrate grand feats, and laugh about things that did not go exactly as planned.  I embraced leadership early in my career but resisted school administration for a long time because I loved teaching.  However, once I finished my secondment as a Faculty Associate at Simon Fraser University, I had discovered the perhaps the joy of empowering adult learners in the education system. I can write a good grant and secure funds.  I can collaborate on an inquiry and ensure I can inform practice with current and inspirational educational research.  I can help find and support opportunities for my staff to pursue their passions.  I can build in structures of support and promote the work being done.  However in the midst of a global pandemic, everything else pales in comparison to the need for principals, vice-principals, and school staff to peel back to our core purpose – that is our ethic of care. As demonstrated by Nel Noddings (1929 – ), caring and relationship are the most fundamental aspects of education. It is just as relevant to our adult learners in the education system as it is to our students.

Supporting our school staff during a pandemic is fraught with challenges. How do we support teachers, in as Parker Palmer (1997) frames it, to maintain their “love of learners, learning, and the teaching life” in the face of so many demands, expectations, and concerns for their own families? Shared food via treat day and pot- luck lunches, gatherings, and staffroom meetings have been the language of appreciation, acknowledgment, and comraderie in school culture.    Online meetings are too often reminiscent of the Twilight Zone with the “Is anyone out there?” being met with incomprehensible silence.  Striving for bandwidth results in posted icons and silenced mics.    Tough crowd to read! Challenging environment to truly respond with an ethic of care.

I wrapped up my professional growth plan in July.  I was so disappointed with the cancellation of the trip to work on instructional leadership with colleagues in Nisga’a with Tara Zielinski from West Van, Kathleen Barter from North Van, and Elizabeth Bell from BCPVPA was cancelled. I continue to believe that instructional leadership needs to have a driving force in our education system to support our students developing a voice and the skills required in a changing world.  I continue to believe that collective efficacy is our best bet at facilitating meaningful change in our education system. For that reason I will continue in my work facilitating The Essentials for New School Leaders course continuing throughout the year and a VSB Inquiry group. But for now, the primary driving force in the education system must be focused on relational leadership.  At this time our success in mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic with our students, parents, staff, and our community partners are the determinants of the strength of our school system to achieve it’s core purpose.

I believe there are some things we can do to make a difference and to make people feel cared for. I’ve got it down to five key things that are achievable.

1. Vigilant Health & Safety Practices

In June the district average of return to school was about 33%. Just over 50% of students returned to my school site.  I am the daughter of a retired neurosurgeon, so I have grown up with a “safety first” consciousness.  By the end of June, I realized that perhaps I had been a bit too rigorous in controlling numbers of students on the playground.  We have four very large play areas.  I could lighten up.  I have heard from staff that they need to feel safe. The established protocols are for them as much as students. My Operating engineers and custodial staff have been amazing in taking on the increased work load and working with me to ensure we are following the established healthy routines. I’ve heard from my parent community that they appreciated how seriously we are taking the COVID-19 preventative measures.  This September, about 90% of our students returned to school.  We have trust from our parent and student community. The parent community is being very respectful of requests to maintain 2 metres of physical distance from other people’s children so we can limit the contacts of our learning groups / cohorts during the beginning and end of the day.

2. the Spirit of Servant-Leadership

Nel Noddings frames “receptive attention” as an essential characteristic of a caring encounter. Shane Safir frames the conditions to adopt the stance of a “listening leader”. Margaret Wheatley points out that “(s)uccessful organizations, including the military, have learned that the higher the risk, the more necessary it is to engage everyone’s commitment and intelligence”. (The Spirit of Servant Leadership 2011, p. 172). All of them are getting at the importance of demonstrating care and finding out what people need. I have done a lot of listening. I have asked a lot of questions. I have heard that teachers need to feel safe at school. I have heard that too much information is provided, and too little information is provided. That the message needs to be consistent. That I am trusted to make the hard decisions and that is why I am the one getting paid the “big bucks”. That some people want to be fully involved in decision making. That some people are just so tired or worried. That some people are overwhelmed or frustrated. That some people need more tech, more resources, and … The big learning for me has been that I’m not going to be able to solve all of the problems, prevent messaging from changing, or make everything better. All I can do is listen, show that I care, and be responsive to achievable requests.

“We can’t restore sanity to the world, but we can remain sane and available. We can still aspire to be of service whenever need summons us. We can still focus our energy on working for good people and good causes.” Margaret Wheatley. Perseverence page 25

3. Effective Communication

The only constant in our schools right now is that things will change.  Another truth is that some people find the quantity of information daunting.  Some staff requested a Sunday Night Week at a Glance with key information. For others, they want access to the original document being cited and the references.  I have discovered some ways to provide information that I find helpful.

Email

Outlook – For incoming information to be shared, email makes it easy to forward information, particularly if a group send has been set up.  It is also the easiest way to track conversation threads. 

MyEdBC – this is the easiest way to contact families quickly and easily.  It also allows me to keep classroom teachers apprised of what is going out to parents. 

Office 365 Platform:

  • TEAMS

The Vancouver School Board has adopted this platform to communicate with staff and students.  My experience tells me the information is most accessible if the name of the TEAM channel is descriptive enough for staff to access what they are looking for.  Each channel allows you to pin up to three documents to the top of the FILES section within that channel for ease of access.  The Livingstone Staff Classroom also allows staff to access information from committee meetings and participate in decision making to the extent they desire.

The Vancouver School District has just created an “All Livingstone Student” Classroom (group of all students in the school).  My intended purpose was to provide an online Health & Safety Orientation to those students not yet attending.  However, it is turning out to be a great way to reach out to students in a way that emailed letters to students and video Tweets have not. 

There is also a TEAM for District initiatives, information, learning and meetings.

  • SWAY  

I love this format of presenting information because it allows you to share a great deal of information in a highly visual way.  In Spring, one Kindergarten teacher went on Maternity leave, another retired and the final teacher had not yet been hired.  It allowed me to provide a virtual tour to our new Kindergarten students.   It also allowed me to provide a Health & Safety Orientation that could be referenced by students and is now my standard newsletter format.

  • FORMS

Forms provides templates for you to secure information about opinions.  It has been used by the VSB to solicit parent information.  I also used it to secure intake information from our Kindergarten families and information from teachers about their thoughts and requests.  This method of getting feedback enabled me to involve staff in decision making when we shifted to an online platform in March. 

Livingstone Elementary School Website

Never has it been more important to have an up to date website.  I’ve gotten better at providing links to sources that regularly date their information like the Vancouver School Board.  The VSB has also gotten good at fanning out pertinent information directly to school websites. 

Twitter

I am still a big fan of Twitter both to share good news stories and interesting information.  It is linked directly on to our school website, so families do not need to have a Twitter account to access information.  The biggest challenge is making students aware of whether they have permission to have their picture on the school website.  Parents need to understand that they have every right to decide if they want to sign the school media release form or not.  They need encouragement to share their reasoning even with our youngest students.

PAC Facebook

I have not set up a school Facebook account.  However, the Livingstone PAC has set up a very active fb site.   Good communication with parents will help you to stay apprised of the issues and concerns of the school community, so you can attend to them directly.

4. Continue to tap into the Joy of Learning

The other day I got feedback from a parent that was unexpected but also very much appreciated.  She thanked me for not forgetting the fun.  She noticed the efforts to provide “friendly” reminders of two metres without making them scary – butterfly nets with ribbons, one pool noodles plus part of another pool noodle to make it exactly two metres, pinwheels with ribbon, and plastic parachute men from the dollar store.  She appreciated the four hours of taping by Mr. Froese to make perfect roadways in the hallways to direct students and the moose crossing signs to keep people on their route – all featured in the sway presentations.  She also noted the increased opportunities for outdoor learning and inquiry projects.

I have spoken before of how my daily quest for joy usually takes me to the playground.  I have assigned two school wide assignments via SWAY and on the ALL Livingstone Students TEAMS classroom.  Students can keep track in their student planner and they can form a springboard for future student learning. They have been great ways to stimulate the conversation and focus social-emotional learning, positive mental health and literacy development.

Gratitude Log – This assignment is to focus attention on the things that are good in the world.  It is an effort to have students slow down and pay attention to what is happening around them. 

Reading Log – I’m a big believer that if you don’t like to read, you haven’t met the right author or the right book. It all begins with a conversation about what you’re reading. Reading relationships are instrumental in developing new perspectives and comprehension skills.

5. Take Care of Each Other:

Back when I was a Resource teacher at Maple Creek Middle School, one of my colleagues, Wayne Rogers, nicknamed me the Tazmanian Devil.  I have a long established history of walking quickly and getting things done.  It did not work for me on the wet hallway the other day.  I went down hard, jumped up in embarassment, and left school to nurse my twisted knee, strained ankle and possibly fractured scaphoid.  The physiotherapist ordered me home to apply heat and rest.  One of my teachers sent me a text ordering me to stop working.  Her assessment was that I work too hard, I needed to binge watch Netflix, eat buttered popcorn, and she followed up with a list of excellent binge-worthy possibilities.  Good advice.  Knee and ankle are fine.  Wrist braced.  Perhaps the biggest take away is we all need to take care of each other.

Ray Ferch, Shann, & Spears, Larry C. eds.(2011). The Spirit of Servant-Leadership. Paulist Press, New York.

Wheatley, Margaret (2010). Perseverence. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., San Francisco.

I always love the conversations and written feedback that come out of these blog posts. Please respond with the things you are trying. I’m still looking for the magic bullet to make everything better 🙂

A Celebration of Batman Day

Who knew? The official Batman Day is September 19th. Batman has a special place in my heart. My older sister, Debbie, was the Batman of my childhood. I am three years younger, and was relegated to the position of Robin, very enthusiastic and supportive sidekick. In a world where my mother was a slave to “being a lady” and determined that we would be little ladies too, Batman and Robin, meant freedom. On Jericho Beach, at Tatlow Park, and in the backyard, when those towels were tied around our necks, we were invincible. We were wild. We were off singing at the top of our lungs:

My sister and I in our caped crusader personas

Da na na na na nuh,

Da na na na na, nuh,

Batman!

Sunbathers with freshly applied oil complained to our mother and yelled at us, as we threw up sand, running by, or jumped up on the logs they had claimed as their own.  Our path would be diverted, and new archrivals added to the game.  Some of my most daring feats and trips to the Emergency Room were in the name of Batman.  The ten stitches on my right knee are proof that even superheroes have setbacks to overcome.  Some kind of fun!

As a young adult with a preschool son, Batman took on new meaning.  Before he could talk, Tyler would fly off the end of the couch with the expectation that his fall would be cushioned or someone would catch him.  With the grand discovery of Velcro, I was able to put my mediocre sewing skills to use to create a Halloween Batman cape that immediately became part of became part of his daily attire.  The world was full of unknowns but Batman was ready.

At three years of age, I had found the perfect pre-school just half a block from my school. I could drop Tyler off before I went off to teach Kindergarden. I could scoop him after I taught the half day program and let him nap in my classroom as I prepared for the next day. It was perfect. Off I went with my perfect plan and my caped crusader. The owner and head teacher at the Montessori Pre-school was alarmed with Tyler’s “overdeveloped” imagination. I cited research of the benefits. The articles citing the downsides of imagination started to fly in my direction by Day 2. Battle lines were drawn:

I am Batman!

Teacher: “Good Morning, Tyler.”

Tyler: “I’m not Tyler.  I am Batman!”

Teacher:  “You are  not Batman.  You are Tyler, pretending to be, Batman.  Take off your costume and hang it up on your hook.”

The battle lines intensified.

Teacher:  Good Morning, Tyler.  Now hang up your costume on your hook.”

Tyler:  Loud roar of a lion.  Well-practiced due to repeated readings of Child’s Play book I’m As Loud As A Lion, As Gentle As A Lamb.”

In under two weeks,  Batman had conquered his archenemy and I was looking for other childcare options.  Fortunately, Mrs. Durkin and Kiddies Korner Pre-School welcomed Batman, accepted his cape as part of life, and celebrated his imagination.  Batman had learned that he had the skills and superpowers to take on any challenge and rein victorious. 

In my life, Batman has been a symbol of empowerment and readiness to take on a challenge.  You stare down the beast and do battle for justice.  Batman Day brings a smile.  It is a celebration.  I’m adding it to the calendar!

Never Underestimate the Power of a Librarian

A regular ritual when I visit my father in Los Angeles, is to go to my much beloved Huntington Library. This week in a quest to organize my life, I reshelved some of my most precious books. Two books my Dad bought me on our most recent trek to The Huntington Library make the cut as precious. Before they went back on the shelf, I sat down and reread them. Then phoned my father.

Fond Memories of The Huntington Library

My parents were divorced when I was very young.  At five, I started to join my sister on airplane trips down to California from Vancouver, B.C. every summer.  Trips to Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, Sunday morning rounds to the hospital to see Dad’s patients before church, and visits to the Huntington Library became favourite rituals.  I liked trips to the Huntington Library because my stepmother would buy me new dress-up outfits to wear for the outings.  As a very little girl, I gravitated to the two paintings of the prints that my mother had bought with white French provincial frames to match my bedroom suite.   I called them “Pinkie” and “Bluey”.  The prints of the famous paintings, Pinkie by Thomas Lawrence, and The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough were positioned over our beds in the room I shared with my sister in Vancouver.  I got Pinkie over my bed.  The paintings were also displayed in the same room in The Huntington Library.  I assumed the artist was the same and that the kids were friends.  I wanted a dress like Pinkie’s and I liked the shiny blue outfit “Bluey” was wearing. 

When I was 8 years old, one of my Dad’s patients, Lyle H. Wright, was grateful to my father for saving his life.  However, post brain surgery, he was no longer able to manage the altitude of 7500 feet above sea level and trips to his precious cabin.   We became the proud owners of our Silver Lake cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Lyle left all his books.  Cabin time lent itself to reading along with blackjack, hiking and fishing. 

As I got older, the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and The Gutenberg Bible printed on vellum captivated more of my interest on trips to the Huntington Library. I found it amazing that there was a time when books were written, decorated by hand and printed on animal skins. I was amazed that the little metal squares needed to be placed individually in the printing press. I was part of the modern world with the typewriter. My mother’s claim to fame was that she was a private and confidential secretary who could type over 90 words per minute. The dimly lit room in the separate building that houses these literary treasures creates reverent attitude. Or am I simply living out my life as a slave to literacy?

Huntington Library Treasures

It wasn’t until I talked to my father the other day, that I understood why he wanted to leave the book collection in the cabin untouched. Lyle was a reputed librarian at the Huntington Library who had amassed the significant collection of American fiction. Who knew? After our phone call I followed the process for so many of us living in the COVID-19 era. I logged into my Amazon account and made my desperately required purchase. Another piece of the puzzle will arrive on Sunday.

AMERICAN FICTION, 1876-1900 (AMERICAN FICTION) BY LYLE H. WRIGHT PUBLISHED IN SAN MARINO: HUNTINGTON LIBRARY PRESS, JANUARY 1, 1978; ISBN-13: 978-0873280426. THE FIRST TWO EDITIONS WERE PRINTED IN 1965 AND 1969.

In the meantime, I am feeling infinitely indebted to who I remember as a gentle, old man with white hair, a very big moustache, and a kind smile. Someone who liked me. It was in fact Lyle who cultivated my love for a good murder mystery.  I had thought it was Jessica Fletcher on Sunday nights.  It was Lyle who provided the opportunity for my Dad to reach for the Edgar Allan Poe collection and terrify me with his suspenseful rendition of “The Pit and the Pendulum”.  It was Lyle who fed my quest for social justice when he put Victor Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning within my grasp for repeated readings over the years.  Never underestimate the power of a librarian, even long after death.  Thank you, Lyle.  I just wish I could to talk to you about books!