COVID-19 Distancing

Social Distancing at Spanish Banks
“We can chat from cars!”

We are social animals.  A range of cultural and social institutions, as well as businesses have been organized around this premise.  COVID 19 strikes.  The World Health Organization responds with 5 basic rules for us to follow.

Do the Five by WHO
5 things to prevent the spread of Covid19 #DoThe5 #Covid19

The first two imperatives are under our direct control on a regular basis and have been implemented to varying degrees over the course of the last several years.  Kids in public school are familiar with repetitive reminders to wash their hands and the mantra – “Cough into your elbow, away from people”.  The success in NOT touching the face depends  largely on how successful people have been in conquering the habit of nose picking.  Unfortunately the adult nose picker driving a car demonstrates this is an ingrained habit in as many adults as children.  To obliterate this habit could be the one upside of the global pandemic.

People have clearly taken the recommendation to stay home if they are sick.  I have heard a few sneezes but none of the coughing that is usually quite apparent at this time of year.  The last time I heard someone coughing in a public place was at a yoga class before Prime Minister Trudeau appeared on television and the level of concern and vigilance increased exponentially.  The obviously sick person had a big box of kleenex on her mat and evoked a fair amount of angst in the group.  I’m not certain if she returned to class while sick but it was enough to have me to take an extended break from yoga class and for the studio to close their doors within days.  I have heard the occasional sneeze escape in a grocery store or outdoors, followed by a plethora of apologies or explanations of allergies.  Sick people are self isolating due to the directive or reaction of the general public.

Maintaining a distance of at least one metre between people is the most challenging of the directives to implement.  Even though many people are trying, habit is again the culprit.  The hand goes out to shake.  The hug to say thanks.  The high five to recognize.  Fortunately Star Trek has given us the “Vulcan handshake” along with the very appropriate “live long and prosper tagline.  For long time trekkies, it also is guaranteed to evoke a smile.  Better to avoid  the physical proximity of the elbow or toe tap.

The direction to stay at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has met with good timing with the two week Spring break in British Columbia.  Yet, the wild card has been the Vancouver sunshine.  As every Vancouverite understands, sunshine screams, “Get outdoors now”.  Life in a temperate rainforest has taught us that rain is often just around the corner.  A pause in quickly getting outside to relish the sun is perceived as a lost opportunity.  Certainly by me.  What better place to socially distance than to be in the great outdoors?  This is the case in many places.  NOT in city parks of Italy or Lower Mainland of Vancouver where scenic parks are magnets for people to convene.

Living in Kitsilano, the most beautiful and accessible places to head are the beaches, parks, bike/ walking routes west from Kits Beach to Spanish Banks and east around Granville Island and the Stanley Park seawall.  As the week of stay at home lockdown has been self inflicted to prevent the spread of COVID-19, all these scenic places and routes have become much busier and hundreds of people are congregating to have a coffee, chat and watch the children play at the beach and in the parks.   Apparently this is also the case at Rocky Point Park in Port Moody and the White Rock boardwalk.

Social Distancing is possible.

There are some valiant efforts to establish the  recommended 1 -2 metre distance between people.   Many people have jumped on their bikes to do this.  In too many cases they are too difficult for some to sustain or not taken seriously.  Certainly that has been the case on the playgrounds.  Yesterday there were some new signs reminding people to maintain a 1-2 metre distance at Kits Beach but the sheer quantity of people made that difficult in high traffic areas.  My husband wanted to go for a walk, rather than a bike ride and we were unable to maintain the recommended barrier when passing people at Kits Beach or along the Granville Island walking route.   What healthy people do not understand in their risk as carriers.  Clearly on the beach and in the parks, there are also some people who believe their own physical health will protect them.   They don’t understand their role in exponential numbers of other people getting sick and the implications of the stress on the elderly, the vulnerable, medical system and the economy until we emerge out of flu season.

It does seem that we need to exercise our own judgement about how to monitor the physical proximity of ourselves to others.  I feel grateful to have my husband in stay at home lockdown.  Yes, partially for the chores around the house I’ve wanted to get done for some time, but mostly because we have fun being together.  We still want to get daily exercise outdoors, however we will be more discerning about how, when and where to do that. We will choose less busy places to walk and ride.  My pivot has been to bike the Arbutus Greenway, continuing along through the quiet Kerrisdale neighbourhood bike route to UBC, and staying on the road in the busiest sections of Spanish Banks.

If we are not making good decisions to avoid contact during a pandemic, then we are inviting government to make those decisions for us in order to protect the population.  Then again, the inevitable Vancouver rain seems poised to grace us and it will assume the responsibility for enforcing social distancing as more people are more inclined to stay inside.  Then those of us who love the smell of rain will be free to venture to the beach routes for our daily exercise without risk of close contact with others.  In the meantime, #DoThe5 and stay healthy.  Books, Netflix and binge watching all beckon.

Afternoon Update March 22, 2020 – Metro Vancouver cities have closed outdoor sports areas.  Parking lots for popular beaches and parks have been closed.  Prime Minister Trudeau adopts language indicative of further measures to ensure people people are practicing emergency distancing.

Continue reading “COVID-19 Distancing”

7 Habits +1 to Empower

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Betty Boult was the keeper of the knowledge when it came to Stephen Covey and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People when I first started teaching in Abbotsford.  She had done the facilitators training and she facilitated with flair.  We had animated discussions and were committed to engaging with the ideas and doing the work to complete the workbook meticulously.  I can still play out some conversations that resonated and remember my queries around some of the habits.  Those were the days when “sharpening the saw” was just a part of daily life and took much less deliberate effort.   Saying “no” was not yet part of my repertoire and everything was a priority.   These were the days before children and my husband was working just as hard to start his business.  The advantage of professional development in Abbotsford was that it was a small enough district that we all did pro-d together.  Therefore, the things we learned and ideas we were thinking about, were discussed in the staffroom, as staff socials and the ideas frequently referenced.  I think in this way, many of the ideas were incorporated into who I was.

I recently finished reading Stephen Covey’s (2008)  The Leader in Me:  How Schools and Parents Around the World Are Inspiring Greatness, One Child at a Time.  In this book, the learning is focused on children in K-5, middle and secondary schools, in the United States (the main focus), Singapore, Canada and Japan.  The power is that it that the ideas are introduced and developed with entire school populations.  Students are taught public speaking and acknowledged for their strengths and encouraged to assume responsibility for leadership tasks within the school.

I remember shortly after my Covey training, I was asked to do the goodbye tribute to my mentor, Joan Fuller, at her retirement function.  Public speaking had never been in my comfort zone.  Memories of tomato seeds bouncing out of my hand during my 9th grade oral report haunted me.  Boring topic.  Questionable choice to be holding the smallest of all seeds for an oral report in front of the class.  Terrifying teacher who was known to roll her eyes. Nothing good came out of it and I carried a lingering fear of public speaking.  However, I loved Joan and had a vested interest in making her retirement special.  I was terrified.  I was over prepared and tripped over my words.  I was glued to my cue cards.  My vocal chords constricted.  My legs shook.  I blushed.  And yet, I lived through it.  Everyone clapped and smiled.  Joan was delighted and cried.  And there were no tomato seeds.  I drank the Kool-Aid and was excessively proactive and had a passion for professional development.  I found myself more and more speaking in front of audiences,  in both my professional life and involvement in personal passions.  Yes, I was one of the lives that was changed because I had come to understand I had something worthwhile to say.

Covey is frequently referenced but I wonder how many people really understand the ideas and have integrated them into their lives and then regularly revisited.  There is a tremendous amount to be learned that directly correlates with empowering, not only adults but children too.

For those of you who need a quick recap of the habits:

  • Habit 1:  Be Proactive
    • Take initiative
  • Habit 2:  Begin with the End in Mind
    • Set goals
  • Habit 3:  Put First Things First
    • Prioritize and only do the most important things
  • Habit 4:  Think Win-Win
    • Getting what you want while considering others
  • Habit 5:  Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
  • Habit 6:  Synergize
    • work well with others to accomplish a task
  • Habit 7:  Sharpen the Saw
    • Eat well, exercise, get enough sleep
  • Habit 8 (added in 2004):  Find Your Voice and Help Others Find Theirs –
    • Identify gifts.  Optimize them.  Develop them.

The Thrill of Change

We hear a lot about the difficulty of change.  The stress of change.  The reluctance of people to change.  However I think change in under-rated.  There is an excitement and a promise of possibility that can also accompany change.  Quite frankly, I love it!   Change is learning.  Every time we venture out of the house, challenge our mind or talk to someone, we are stepping into the possibility of changing our experiences, our feelings, our thoughts or our life path.  Perhaps that is why I like to travel, to read, to write and to talk, yes even ramble, to friends and relatives and even to strangers.


I am on the precipice of a change in job.  I officially start as the principal of University Hill Elementary School on August 1st.  I unofficially started moving in, learning, organizing and exploring at the beginning of July.  I’ve had a chance to get to know the engineering staff, learn about the award winning UHill Kinderclub, School Aged Daycare and Preschool from the amazing staff, walk down the Salish trail and discover an immediate left turn takes you to Wreck Beach (yikes!).  I have figured out how to change the sign with moveable letters at the front of the school and found the cheapest pots big enough to let the amazing plants in the entrance ways continue to flourish.  I have unpacked my still excessive number of boxes of books, manipulatives (yes, I still have the bins of lego and wooden blocks from my own kids) and other treasures (yes, including my rocks).   I am thrilled to have a huge old, oak desk in a huge office with three different views and windows that open.


I had a chance to meet staff, students and parents and heard about amazing outdoor learning programs, arts performances and work around Indigenous ways of knowing and technology in June.    I can’t wait to get to know the people better and to discover the ways I can support them in their work.  Change brings with it the possibility of continuing to grow and develop in ways we have yet to imagine.  Yes, big change = big thrill.  I love it!