Tag Archives: Kobe

Goodbye My Sweet Girl

As I sit here with my dog Shaq in her last moments, listening to her breath as she sleeps, I think about all of the times that I have had with her that have made my life so much better.

Almost fifteen years ago, as a coach of a high school boys basketball team, we went on a road trip to my hometown for a tournament.  As we sat in a Burger King, and I read the classifieds to them, I said, “Do you guys want to come get a dog with me?”  Of course, they said they absolutely would love to go.  We went to a farm just outside of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and there were ten puppies there to pick from, and while nine of them ran up to me, the one that ran away was the one that appealed to me.  She seemed so shy and that she just needed love.  Myself and twelve basketball players were in a van with this sweet puppy, and you watched this dog take some of the toughest kids you know and reduce them to mush.  When I asked them what I should name her, they said, “Well you already have Kobe, so you might as well name her Shaq.”  I thought that it was a ridiculous name for a girl, but they said well it is short for “Shaquelyn” (rhymes with Jacquelyn), and I was sold.  A new puppy had entered my life.

As I already had Kobe and he suffered from severe separation anxiety, I felt that giving him away would be too hard, and that another dog was the answer. My girlfriend at the time, said it was a bad idea, yet I still returned home with a surprise that charmed her immediately.  Every single day I left Kobe, he would start to destroy things, bark wildly, and tear at the floor in front of the door.  The first day that I left him with Shaq, he didn’t even notice I left.  She immediately made an impact on both of us.

Even as a puppy, she controlled the house.  There were the “Shaq Rules”, where basically she got whatever she wanted, which lasted her entire life. She was shy but sweet, and was leery of people, but very loyal to me.  Although she was not a “snuggler”, she was in every room that I was in, all of the time.  She would sleep at the foot of the bed, she would stand at the top of the stairs, or she would sneak her way into the bathroom.  Presence was everything to her.  I had her since she was 6 weeks old and although I would like to think that she needed me for protection, she saw it the other way around.

At about 9 months old, I took her to the vet to get her spayed, but unfortunately the operation couldn’t happen that day; she was already pregnant from the town stray dog.  A few months later, in a house that had only 500 square footage of room, I was now home to 2 dogs and 10 puppies.  12 dogs in my life and I was living a real-life Disney movie.  I gave every single one of those dogs to students in the town, and I am sure that some of her offspring are still around, but I also know that she outlived a few of them.

For the last fifteen years of my life, Shaq has been a constant.  She had been there through the loss of Kobe, the purchase of my first home, the loss of my dad, and getting engaged, amongst a myriad of other things.  Through several ups and several downs, I was always guaranteed to come home to her running to the door and wagging her tail.  About three years ago when she was diagnosed with cancer, I decided that serious medical treatment was going to be too much for her, and decided against it.  The doctor predicted that she would live for six months and three years later, here we are.  Shaq was a fighter.

My last couple of years I have spent a lot of time on the road due to work and leaving Shaq and Odom had been the hardest part of that experience.  When you are used to a house that always seems to be full of love, it is tough to spend a night in a quiet hotel room.  I have been so used to sleeping with my dogs, that I often held a pillow and slept on one side of the bed on the road because that was my routine.  The dogs ruled the house, with Shaq as the ultimate boss.

I got the call while I was in Indiana that Shaq hadn’t eaten, and when she went to see the vet, she told me that Shaq had “given up”.  I said okay, cried profusley, and booked a flight home.  She had been there for so many good and bad moments in my life, that there was no way that I was going to absent for her last.  I rushed home as soon as possible, fearing that she would not be alive when I got home.  As I rushed out of the cab and downstairs, I saw her lying there with hey eyes open, waiting for me.  I picked her up (which she had NEVER been okay with until today), and carried her just like when she was a puppy, relieved that she had waited for me.  She nestled into me and you could see a sigh of relief in her demeanour that I had made it home.  I have not left her side since.  As I prepare to take her to the vet tomorrow morning, I think about how much love she gave me and how the house is already starting to feel a lot more empty.  Dogs have brought life to a home, and made it more than a place to live.  It is going to be so tough to be in a room and not feel Shaq’s presence as she watches and hovers over me.

Just like she has been by my side for fifteen years, I am going to be by her side until her last moments.  Shaq taught me how to love unconditionally, and forgive easily.  We can learn so much from our dogs if you are open to the love that they are willing to give, and even if sometimes you are not.

Tonight will be our last night together and tomorrow I will say goodbye to my sweet girl.  I am going to snuggle her like crazy and give her as much love as possible while enjoying one last NBA FInals game with her, since I have watched so many with her by my side.

Thanks Shaq for teaching me so much…Just like Kobe, your impact on me will never be forgotten and I will try to be the person you have seen me to be.

Sleep warm my sweet girl.

The Myths of Technology Series: “Technology Dehumanizes”

For ISTE 2014 in Atlanta, I will be presenting on the “Myths of Technology and Learning”. As I am really thinking about what I will be sharing at the conference, I wanted to write a series of blog posts that will help myself and others “rethink” some of these statements or arguments that you hear in relation to technology in school.  I will be writing a series of blog posts on different myths, and will be posting them on this page.  I hope to generate discussion on these topics to further my own learning in this area and appreciate any comments you have on each idea shared.

“As the Internet has become more central in our lives, we have begun to witness a revival of the importance of being human.” Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant

One of my favourite books that I have read in the past few years was called “Humanize”, and it really helped me to think of technology in a much different way than I had in the past.  As an assistant principal years ago, I remember actually arguing against the use of technology because of the way that I had seen it used.  Students would often go to a lab, which became an event, and teachers would often have students interact with websites or programs, instead of people.  I watched kids focused on a screen and losing connections with one another.  If I continuously talked about the importance of relationships in schools, it didn’t make much senses to talk about technology this way.

When I became a principal however, Twitter started becoming all the rage amongst educators, although I never really understood it.  Once I started connecting and sharing with real people, I was hooked.  Not only were these people brilliant educators, but they were great people that I connected with.  I learned not about their philosophies and thoughts on education, but about their families, their likes, their interests, and who they were as people.  I don’t come back to Twitter for the technology but for the connection.  If you build relationships in any area of your life, online or offline, you are going to come back.  Relationships are built with people and the people are what brought me back.  The ability to show one’s self was the draw for me.

Although I was proud of all that my school was achieving, while also sharing my own thoughts on education, I decided to show other aspects of my life as well.  People saw through the sharing of my love of basketball, music, and humour, that I was not just a “principal”, but a person who happened to be a principal.  But it was not only the “good” times that I shared.  When I lost my first dog Kobe, or went through another stressful time in my life, and even lost my dad, I felt that the Internet cried with me and gave me a virtual hug.  People came together to help me through trying times, many that would be considered “strangers”.  My willingness to share myself made me more than an avatar, but a human being.  This past weekend when I got engaged to the girl of my dreams,  I got another giant virtual hug.  Because I have been willing to share my ups and downs, I have been able to connect with so many people that I would consider good friends.

I have experienced this, but I have also seen these stories over and over again online.  John Berlin, made a video asking Facebook for his deceased son’s “Look Back” video, and when it was picked up by a Reddit user, people shared and reshared the video, which quickly caught the attention of Facebook and led to the video being released.

There is more good than bad in the world and the Internet has given us the opportunity to really tap into one another as human beings.

As a school administrator, I think often about the opportunity social media gives us to connect in ways that we couldn’t before.  If you look at large school districts such as Peel District School Board in Ontario and Surrey Schools in British Columbia, they have made their world a lot smaller by their use of social media.  In large geographical areas, they have used social media to create a “small town” feeling within their communities. Although you might see their leaders only once in person within the school, you have the ability to connect with them often online.  It is all in the way that you are willing to use the technology.

If a school leader uses social media as a way to simply share messages, and not engage with their community, it will not be very beneficial and does not create much more than existed without the technology.  Recently, I saw my good friend Jimmy Casas (who I met in person first but have become very good friends with because of technology) share a post about being vulnerable.  In it, Jimmy shared an anonymous tweet that was targeted against his work as a principal:

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 11.25.11 AM


Jimmy could have simply ignored it and moved on, but instead showed his vulnerability and addressed it openly.  That is courageous leadership.  The ability to openly share and discuss a criticism in a space that is totally open.  The irony of the post is that technology was used in an anonymous way from someone who was not willing to be brave enough to address Jimmy in person.  If you think about it, people dehumanize one another, not technology.  We have to always remember that on the other end of that Twitter, YouTube, Facebook account is a person, and when we choose to use technology in such a manner, we do more harm than any social media account ever could.

I often hear people talk about losing special things such as handwritten cards because we are often focused on teaching technology to our kids.  There is something sweet and sentimental about a card, but then I think about the video my brother shared of my dad below:

I wouldn’t trade seeing my dad in this video for any handwritten card that he could have ever  written.  His humanness shows here and I am reminded of his loving, goofy, and caring heart even though he is not with us anymore.

If you think about it, this type of technology can makes us even more human than we were before, it’s simply on the way we choose to use it.

“One of the reasons social media has grown so fast is that it taps into what we, as human beings, naturally love and need and want to do—create, share, connect, relate.”
Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant

3 Years

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by George Couros

Sorry for the personal post, but today is an anniversary that I have promised that I would honour until the day I die.

My first dog Kobe died three years ago today.  To that point, it was the toughest day of my life as I had never lost anything close to me.  Even though I was an adult, I felt I really “grew up” a lot that day.  Sitting by something you love and watching him pass away as you hold him is a tough experience and one that I often wake up remembering.

Every night that I was in the same house as Kobe, he would crawl into bed and lay beside me, look at me, put his paw on my shoulder and sigh as if he was frustrated that we could not understand each other’s words.  I would say, “love you buddy”, and eventually fall asleep. Because my body temperature is always quite warm, it was uncomfortable for Kobe to sleep beside me, so he would wait until I fall asleep, and then go lie beside the bed.  I would look every morning beside the bed and smile.  Dogs do not only give you unconditional love, but they teach you to love in that way as well.  Kobe has set an extremely high standard for what I want in my life, and what I will accept.  The quote, “be the person your dog thinks you are”, sets a high standard that I think about often.

That being said, I still wake up some mornings and look beside my bed, but Kobe is not there.  I miss him but I would not exchange the pain for anything as I was blessed to find a dog that taught me a lot about life.

As my oldest dog Shaq starts to display the same things that Kobe did before he passed, I am taking more time to just enjoy and love her.  She has mellowed in her old age, and as a dog that used to hate going outside, she has now taking a love of going for walks.  So we go often and as long as she can hold up.  I come home some times and she doesn’t even notice or wake up until I sit beside her and start to pet her.  It is sad and beautiful all at the same time and I am learning to embrace those moments that she is not rushing to me when I get home, but I am rushing to her.

The end is seemingly near for her and I want to make sure that I enjoy as many moments as I can.  With two years of a lot of travel for work, I am happy to say that Shaq has not spent one night in a kennel.  She has had people that have loved her because that is her home as much as it is mine.  Kobe taught me that they are more than just “dogs”, but they are family.

As I think about Kobe and see little things that constantly remind me of him, I share this poem from Jimmy Stewart about his love for his dog. It is pure perfection.  It made me smile, reminding me of the frustration you sometimes have with a dog, while also making me tear up thinking of the love that you receive from a dog that you would never expect.  “Beau” could easily be replaced with the name of “Kobe” for myself, as I am sure it will resonate with anyone else

I miss and love you buddy. Always will.

Me in Review

I am really trying to be reflective about the year I have had and looking back at some of the posts that I have written.  I see many people doing these types of reflections on their most visited or popular posts, but I wanted to look at the posts that have had the most meaning to me.  I am inspired to do this after reading my good friend Summer Howarth’s blog post on the “Year that Was“, which was deeply personal and open.  Personally, I know I connect on a much deeper level to the bloggers that share these stories.  I especially liked this quote from Summer about her future:

* Take a chance. If you don’t like your situation, change it. You aren’t a tree.

So as I look back at my own year, I just wanted to share some of the posts that I go back and read that give me some perspective on how I am doing as a person, not so much as an educator:

1. Fall Apart; Fall Together – This was an extremely tough time for me personally and I like to think that I look back at this time and have become stronger.  As with any person, struggles are never simply “over” but they are something that you continue to look back and reflect on.  As I grow, I know that true strength comes from being able to acknowledge weakness, not by ignoring it. I have to continue to read my own words below:

I have learned to not just dream anymore, but to full on pursue those dreams.  I have learned to refocus my efforts to be the leader that I need to be for those that I serve.  I was at my lowest and I was able to come out of it because others loved me and believed in me.  I need to continue to grow and be that person.  All of those people that stuck by me and helped me have motivated me to do the same for others.

2.  Why I Try To Follow Every Teacher I Can on Twitter – Connecting with people on Twitter has not only been career changing but life changing (seriously).  I have met so many amazing people through Twitter and I am always excited about the next conference or connection that I will make because of how I have connected over this social network.  It has been a great ride!  Here are some of my thoughts on why I connect to so many:

I have learned over and over again, that I have no idea who I can help, who can help me, and who I can be the connector for between two separate parties, so I do my best to follow as many teachers as possible.  You do not have to be a prolific “Tweeter” to help me become a better educator although your sharing does help.  A ton of people trusted that they could learn from something from me a long time ago when I had contributed very little, so I am going to continue to do the same.

3.  Lessons from Shaq -My sweet dog Shaq has been struggling a little bit as she gets older, but she is just as smiley as ever.  Probably one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life was when I first went to the SPCA and got my first dog Kobe, which led to Shaq, and now Odom.  I just absolutely love dogs because of all they teach you and as I wrote about Shaq, she taught me to ” keep giving love, keep giving love, keep giving love.”  As she gets older, she continues to push me to try and get better:

After 13 years with Shaq, she is now crawling into bed and nestling right beside me every single night I am home.  It has taken a long time but I appreciate it a great deal because she taught me that if you keep giving love, eventually that love will be returned in spades.  Dogs have a funny way of making us better and teaching us to be kinder people to all those that we encounter.

I have learned to love blogging because it has given me these opportunities to look back on much more than schools and education, but hopefully, my growth as a person.

Why I try to follow every teacher I can on Twitter

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by stevegarfield

Tony Baldasaro wrote a blog post yesterday that is getting a lot of attention regarding why he “unfollowed 5000 people on Twitter” and how he is going back to starting over.  There is a lot of powerful thoughts in his post on how we actually connect with each other in this space:

As I pressed unfollow 5,000 times, I realized that I didn’t know most of the folks that I was unfollowing.  Actually, it was more than that, I had no clue who these folks were.  They were complete strangers.  I literally had no connection to them, which, in hindsight, should not have been a surprise.  As I said earlier, I didn’t “pay any attention to them” how the hell would I actually know them.  It did hurt to unfollow folks who brought great value to my life, but I knew if I was going to do it, I had to fully commit.

Now I don’t want to say Tony is wrong, and from my several meetings with him I can tell you he is an awesome guy,  but I do want to offer a different perspective.

Several years ago when I first started Twitter, I thought, like many do, that it was probably the dumbest thing ever.  I used it randomly, followed some educators, but mostly celebrities, because I didn’t understand how it could improve me as an educator.  My brother and others asked people to blindly follow me to help me build a network even though I had nothing to contribute in that space.  It was not that I had nothing to contribute, but that I just didn’t really understand how I could do it on a social network.  So people followed me and I offered nothing other than a wise-crack here and there.  Then after a couple of weeks I decided to take a year sabbatical from the space :)

A year later, I was coaxed into trying it again and people blindly followed me knowing how I easily gave up on it in the first place.  I actually decided to give it a legitimate try and quickly I was hooked.  I was amazed at how much I learned from others and how open people were to connecting.  I remember sending out a google form and having people share and reshare a tweet that showed my staff the power of Twitter for professional learning.  I look back at that post and some people that helped have become good friends and some people I still don’t even know.  Yet they were all willing to help some guy from Canada who was trying to help his staff.

I even watch today as my brother asks people from his network to help him get others connected:

Him asking for this help while only following a select few would be hypocritical in my opinion. (He follows over 13,000 people.)

The network that I have connected with on Twitter have helped me through some tough times.  When my first dog Kobe passed away people supported me from wherever they were in the world to make it through a difficult time.  When I was dealing with some personal issues, again people rallied around me and either tweeted, commented on my post, or emailed me directly to offer stories and support.  Some I knew and some were total strangers, but all were willing to help.

Currently, I follow over 8500 people on Twitter and that count will continue to grow.  I rarely look at my “home” column because, as Tony mentioned, it moves way to fast.  I use hashtags and lists to find information I am interested in.  Every once in awhile though, I take a peek at that home column (interestingly enough, that is how I found Tony’s blog post) and find something amazing, or see someone I follow asking for help.  Either I try to help them myself, or “Retweet” them to help them find a connection.  If I didn’t follow them, I wouldn’t be able to do that.  I do this because so many people have done this for me.  Although it is my “Personal Learning Network” it is not just about what I take from it, but also what I can give, not only in information, but in facilitating connections and offering some help.  I am, as all educators are, extremely busy, but when I can help, I try to do my best.  We are all teachers and we all should focus on what is best for kids.

I look back at when I started and if people look at what I had actually contributed, no one would have followed me.  I think they looked at what I could contribute in the future.  I remember this summer when someone with 15 followers and 26 tweets, helped me out a great deal.  If I used Tony’s way, this would have not happened.

Now some of you may be reading this that I am not following on Twitter and if that is true, I apologize.  I don’t use a “follow back” function because I do limit my network to mostly teachers (yes, I do follow Justin Bieber), and do not really care to connect with companies.  I also don’t check who unfollows me because I don’t really know how that would be helpful to me in any way. I do follow people that don’t follow me because I can still learn from them. The only reason I wouldn’t follow someone is because I find them offensive.  I try to look at who follows me when I have an opportunity, and follow them back if they are an educator because I know that I can probably learn something from them.  But unfortunately, sometimes I miss people and when it is brought to my attention I am often quite embarrassed.  Allie Holland, Jimmy Casas, and Diana Williams are all people that I didn’t realize that I wasn’t following, yet I have learned a ton from them in a short time and actually would consider them friends now.

Although there are some tweeters that I look at daily, Tony could have done what he was talking about by simply creating a list of his favourite tweeters and inserting that column into Tweetdeck.  It really is that easy.

I have learned over and over again, that I have no idea who I can help, who can help me, and who I can be the connector for between two separate parties, so I do my best to follow as many teachers as possible.  You do not have to be a prolific “Tweeter” to help me become a better educator although your sharing does help.  A ton of people trusted that they could learn from something from me a long time ago when I had contributed very little, so I am going to continue to do the same.

Still Here

Two years ago today, I lost my best friend Kobe.

The last picture with my best friend.

Although sometimes I think of him and a tear comes to my eyes, I would never trade the pain I felt that day and after for the amazing companionship he offered me.  I never had any idea how much you could love an animal, but Kobe changed that for me.  He has made me a “dog person” and I know that at whatever point I am in my life, there will be a dog there beside me.  I will continue to try to be the “person my dog thinks I am”, although the unconditional love a pet gives you, I wonder if that is even attainable.

His hair was always better than mine :)

Since Kobe had passed on, I thought back to so many memories that I had with him and how he taught me that love could be unconditional.  I would often come home on his later years and find poop and pee on the floor and be upset for about two seconds.  Then I would just look at him and smile and feel love.  Everything was great because he was there.  But the lessons that he taught me and the comfort he provided while he was alive seemingly ended as he passed.  I had a ton of great memories but no more learning.

Now this might get a little weird for some but I have wanted to share this story for awhile…

In April, I was struggling quite a bit with something that had happened in my life.  I wanted to feel better but it just wasn’t happening and although I had a lot of great support, I was off.  Although I was still trying to do things, my heart was not there.  I had a great opportunity to speak at the #140Cuse Conference at this time, and although I had full intentions of still doing my “talk”, I had no idea how I was going to make it through.  Public speaking is something that I put my whole heart into, and it can be quite energy sucking, but if my heart isn’t in the right space, I can find it to be extremely tough.  I went to the events the night before, mingled, chatted, but went back to my hotel room and felt the same emptiness in my gut.  I was terrified of how I would look the next day on stage.

And although I had trouble sleeping for weeks, I fell asleep quite easily that night.  Maybe it was exhaustion.  Maybe it was the terrible EST time zone.  I have no idea why but it happened.

Then came a dream.

In my dream, I was at my old house in Humboldt, Saskatchewan and just hanging outside when I realized that I had left Kobe in the house for six days by himself.  Terrified and wondering if he would be okay, I rushed into the house, and opened the door to my old bedroom and then I saw him, tail wagging, excited as ever to see me.  I hugged him, petted him, and just was so happy to see Kobe.  It was so real that the “dream” feeling went away quickly and it was just time I was spending with my best friend again.  We went for a walk, sat on the couch and watched TV, and just spent time together.  It was nothing crazy but just stuff that we used to do when he was around.  Kobe would always do this thing where he would sit beside me and just reach out his paw to say “hey…look at me!”, and I felt that same paw on my lap.  He was just there.

I have had dreams with Kobe in them before and I would always wake up crying.  I felt the opportunity to see him but then he was gone and I hated it.  This time it was different though.  I felt like I spent days with him and they were real and when I woke up, I had the biggest smile on my face and had just felt a calm that I hadn’t had not only in the last few weeks, but seemingly ever.

Then I went on to present and felt like I had one of the best talks that I had ever done.  Interestingly enough, Kobe was a major focal point of my talk.

When I thought about the dream and what it had meant to me was that, although I had sometimes been away from those that I cared about (six days apart from Kobe), the ones that truly love you will always be there.  Kobe had also taught me in that dream that I had to just sit back and enjoy those little moments that are sometimes hard in my hectic life.  Although I wish I could say that I am there, I still have a lot of growing that I can do personally (don’t we all) and I often go back to that dream to help me refocus.  Although he is gone, from that moment on, I always feel that Kobe is still here, popping in my head and heart to help me through times that may be tough.

I remember on the day of #140cuse, wondering if I should share my dream with the audience that day, as it would have tied in well to what I was discussing, but at that moment, I just wanted it to be mine.  For all the times that I have focused on sharing, this story, at that time, was just for me.  No one else.

But with the anniversary of Kobe passing, I received an email from a “stranger” this week, where he told me how he was inspired of the story of my love for my best friend:

“…one of your stories that touched me most was that of your dog Kobe. I know first hand the emotion that goes with losing a beloved pet. (I attached a picture of my Captain on his last day) I regret not having that moment to let him munch some McD’s (I thought that was awesome), my Captain left us on my 6 year old son’s birthday so you can imagine the added impact of hearing my sobbing so say “how can I have a nice birthday without Captain” ugh, I am getting teared up just thinking about this…but this is the power of Connectedness, you were able to reduce a grown man in NJ to tears by your video sharing your story. I feel it is imperative that we all (all of us connected educators) leverage the power of social media to create an avalanche on the so called education reformers, policy makers, and politicians.” Dr. David Gentile

How cool is that?  The story of my love for my dog in Canada, inspiring a Superintendent in New Jersey to push education forward.  If sharing my love for Kobe could have a tenth of the impact on others that it has had on me, then I am happy to continue to share it.

So two years after he has passed, he still feels like he is sitting right beside me and nudging me with his nose when I need that push to be better.  Every time he comes into my dreams now, there is no more crying, but there is just happiness and peace because I know every moment that I see him, is a moment that I need to cherish.

I miss and love you buddy.

Sleep warm Kobe.


Shaq and I still miss you Kobe.

140 Characters of Kindness (Video)

I had a great opportunity recently to attend the #140Cuse conference in Syracuse, New York, and learn from some amazing innovators from many different industries.  It was a great experience and I am extremely thankful to the organizers who invited me and did an amazing job with the conference.

Below is my talk from the day.  It was amazing to be able to share stories about people I have connected with across the world and to honour my dog Kobe.

I hope you enjoy it:

More than just a dog

“Death ends a life, not a relationship.” Jack Lemmon

One year ago today, I woke up and knew one of the hardest days in my life was about to happen.  Looking at my dog Kobe and seeing him unable to lay down, yet barely able to stand, I knew I was going to have to say goodbye.

Since then, I am different.  I can’t really tell you how, but I know I am.  A piece of my heart went with Kobe and it will stay with him.

Time has flown by this last year, but he pops in my head so often.  That day (and many days after), people reached out  and comforted me during one of the toughest times of my life.  I always think about the strangeness of that day, wanting to both reach out yet to also be alone. I could read email or tweets from people who showed they cared yet could shut it down when I needed distance.  I needed what I needed in those moments.

When I first started teaching, I moved to the small town of Maple Creek, Saskatchewan.  Although I was excited for my first, full-time teaching job, the thought of moving to a small town, away from family and away from my friends, was tough.  What made it so much easier for me, was that every day, I would come home to a wagging tail and a lot of unconditional love from Kobe.  If people could love the way that dogs do, the world would be so much better.

Those years living in small towns and teaching were really lonely, and sometimes, I wonder about my own personal well-being if I did not decide to have Kobe (and eventually Shaq) in my life.  They felt like life savers and meant so much to me.

Since Kobe has passed, I decided to open my home to another dog from the Edmonton Humane Society.  It was  a hard notion for me at first, but someone on Twitter had said to me, “You love animals so much that you need to open your home to another one.”  It stuck out to me and when I was ready, I went back to the SPCA and opened myself to a new friend:

Unlike some people who have experienced the loss of an animal, I did not believe, even for a moment, that I would never get another. I did know full well that there were just too many animals out there in need of homes for me to take what I have always regarded as the self-indulgent road of saying the heartbreak of the loss of an animal was too much ever to want to go through with it again. To me, such an admission brought up the far more powerful admission that all the wonderful times you had with your animal were not worth the unhappiness at the end.” ~ Cleveland Amory

Although Odom (my new dog) and Shaq are awesome, each dog has their own personality and it is amazing how you connect in such different ways.  Sometimes I look at Shaq and see how she has mellowed as she has become older, and I see the influence of Kobe on her.  Then I look at Odom and will let out this distinct “sigh” that was a signature of Kobe.  It seems like Kobe is saying hi to me through them; it always makes me smile.

Both my dogs are amazing and they are like my kids, but Kobe was my best friend.

Some days when I think of Kobe, I still cry.  The weird thing is, that I appreciate those moments that I have because it shows me how much I loved him and how he really impacted my life.  So many great things happened those years that I know I was blessed to have him find me.

There were so many people that reached out to me during that time last year, and checked up on me from all over the world, and for that, I will always be grateful.  I struggled so much on the day that I took him to the vet but the one thing that was said to me that really stuck out was the following:

Dogs spend all of their lives being there for you.  At the time when they need it most, you need to be there for them.

I think about Kobe everyday and I know he was so much more than “just a dog”.  He was a best friend and I miss him every single day.

Love you buddy :)

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened. " (Anatole France)

People Business

My last picture with my best friend. I will always remember him :)

cc licensed flickr photo shared by gcouros

Last year was a fantastic year for me but had one of the toughest experiences of my life when I lost my first dog, Kobe.  On a day that I struggled so much and never wanted to come around, I now look back at my time with my good friend and think back with fondness.  Kobe was the dog that I always wanted when I was a kid, and through all the pain that I felt that day, it was worth every moment that I got to spend with him.  I still look at the above picture and she some tears, but they are happy tears as I was glad that I got that one last picture.

With all of the good times that I had with Kobe, I decided to go to the Edmonton Humane Society and add another member to my family, Odom:

cc licensed flickr photo shared by gcouros

And I still have my other baby Shaq:

cc licensed flickr photo shared by gcouros

Yes, I am one of those “dog” people.  My dogs sleep with me every night, and we take naps any chance that we go home. This is something that is unique about me and makes me who I am.

The lesson I learned through all of the kind words about when I lost Kobe, and all of the excitement from others when I went and brought Odom home, and take pictures with him and Shaq is that, as educators, we are a group that cares about others.  The caring and empathy that was sent my way through a very hard time by educators all over the world, helped me get through something that was very tough.  We are in the people business and no matter the changes in education, no matter all of the reform that is happening, people need to come first.  Sometimes we are extremely sad, and sometimes we are extremely happy.  Sometimes we are in the middle.  No matter where you, or your students, or your colleagues are on that spectrum, it will affect what they are doing.  What we can do is just to continue to care about each other.

I look back at the beginning of my career and shudder to think of one of my favourite sayings: “I am not paid to be your buddy, I am paid to ensure that you do your work.”  Now I can debate what being a “buddy” means, but all I know now is that statement was wrong. I don’t think about what I am “paid” to do anymore, but I think about it is important that we care about those we serve and work with.  Doing that will help them do better in whatever their passions may be.

Want to make change in education? Care about people first, and the rest will come.


cc licensed flickr photo shared by Pink Sherbet Photography

I was very proud of our school division today as they connected with all stakeholders to get their thoughts on our vision and direction for technology integration in our schools.  It was very impressive to hear the voices of students, parents, business leaders, and educators all talk about the future of our school division.  It was a fantastic day and I appreciate the openness of our schools.

I took notes so I could write about it tonight but I decided to talk about something else.

As September is an extremely busy month with budgets, meetings, visioning, school reports, and so on, I will admit that I have been fairly stressed.  With a loss recently in my life, it admittedly has been hard to focus.

Sitting at my desk, finishing a report, one of my fantastic teachers popped by my office and asked if a student could hang out with me and continue on her art project as she had felt sick.  My staff has known I have been a little down in the dumps, so it was as if this teacher knew she was really doing something for me and not necessarily the child.  The grade two student sat at the table in my office, and coloured her assignment that she was working on.  I sat there and looked from my desk, stopped what I was doing, and got up.

I sat down beside her, took one of her pages, and asked her, “Do you mind if I colour with you?”.  She smiled, looked at me and said “Of course.”  I asked her to choose whatever colour she would like, and in that instant, I just forgot about all of the things we have to do as administrators, and just coloured.

We sat and listened to music.  We coloured. We both felt better instantly.

Knowing that the student would want to go back when she felt okay, I asked her if she was ready to go and join the class.  She looked at me and said, “No. I just want to hang out with you.”  I was kind of hoping she would say that. She made my day.

With all of the things that we try to do as educators, and all of the stress that comes with the day-to-day managerial duties of an administrator, it is these moments with students that make me work harder.  It is these moments that continuously push me to do what is best for our kids.

The most important thing that we could ever teach our students is to take care of one another.  Sometimes they show us they have learned that when they take care of us.