Tag Archives: Shaq

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.

Lessons from Shaq

The fear of thunder

Shaq..waiting for the thunder to stop.

Spending the last few weeks in Adelaide, Australia and spending a great deal of my time on the road, I have struggled with missing my dogs.  I am lucky that I have a great friend who is making sure that they are taken care of and loved as I am gone, while also getting to stay in their house (they have been there more this year than I have!).

Often I have written about my dog Kobe, who had passed away a couple of years ago, and Odom, who is finally growing out of the puppy stage, but have said little about Shaq (yes, they are all named after people that played for the Lakers at one point).  I always wondered about why Shaq has had little face time in my online world, and I guess part of it is that she is extremely camera shy (she literally runs when you get a camera out sometimes) and has always been timid.  But as Shaq grows older and starts to move into the final stages of her life (she is 13), I have missed her more than ever on this trip.

You see, Shaq was not really what I ever wanted in a dog when I first got her.  She was extremely shy and as Odom and Kobe were extremely affectionate she was always somewhat despondent.  Rarely would she enjoy being petted and she was extremely weary of new guests.  She is all bark, with maybe a touch of bite (if you try to cut her nails) and has stressed me out on several occasions.  As Odom and Kobe would often want to sleep on the bed, Shaq would often sleep beside and just want her own space.

I struggled with this for many years, but I just kept giving her love, giving her love, and giving her love.

As she got older though, I always appreciated that although she would not sleep in the bed, she was always near by. Always.  If I was in my office, she was in the office at my feet.  If I was in the kitchen, she sat close.  When I would watch TV, she would be sitting on the couch beside me (yeah, they have the run of the house).  Once in awhile though, while I was sleeping, Shaq would sneak on the bed and lay close.  Although it was always on her terms, she was always there. As I said, she was sometimes tough, but I just kept giving her love and her presence in the room was aways amazing.

Always close…but not too close.

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by gcouros

I truly believe that you can learn a lot from animals, and if you let them, they can make you better people, so as I thought about Shaq and how much I miss her, one student popped up in my head over and over again.  For the sake of the story, I will call him Sam.

Sam came to my school when I was principal and I knew that he had a special heart but struggled as well.  I had known that he had some issues with his temper and often would get into trouble.  At one moment he was the kindest boy ever, and in the next, he would be yelling and swearing.  Too often we focus on the second part, yet I always try to find the positive in every kid and knew that if you kept working with Sam, he could be a good kid.

One time Sam was extremely upset in a school assembly and for the safety of others, he was sent to my office.  He came in and he was extremely escalated and was swearing a great deal.  10 years ago I would have yelled at him as he escalated as I didn’t know what to do but I have learned that is about as effective as yelling at a class when you need them to be quiet.  I wanted to model the behaviour that I would expect out of Sam so I calmly said, “when you are ready to tell me why you are upset, I will be ready to listen.”  He kept swearing and I sat there doing work on my computer.  I just kept telling him that I was going to wait for him to calm down but I wanted him to stay in the office with me.  Again, 10 years ago, I would have asked him to leave, but I have learned that often times with kids like Sam that when you actually cut off that physical proximity, you teach them that when times are tough, you will easily abandon them.  Now I just wait and make sure that we are in the same room.

Shaq taught me this that even when it seems tough, keep giving love, keep giving love, keep giving love.

So as Sam calmed down, he talked about what was upsetting him and also talked about how he was sorry about the language that he used.  I told him how much I appreciated everything that he had said and he had done some work with the custodian and myself so that he could help around the school.  This was not the last time Sam had one of these temper tantrums, but he got better and better over time and I felt that he knew that I wouldn’t ditch him when times were tough.  When I moved onto a different position and left the school, I promised Sam that I would come back and check in on him and I smile every time I see him still.  In a farewell, Sam said, “Every time I get in trouble, I will think of Mr. Couros.”  His wording made me laugh but I knew exactly what he meant and was glad that he knew that I had cared for him.

The reason that I think of Sam when I think of Shaq is because no matter how tough they seem to be, they are always there.  Shaq is always in the room near by, while Sam was the first kid to school every day and one of the last ones to leave.  This was a happy place for him and the proximity for both was something that they each craved.  We often overlook the fact some of the kids we struggle with as teachers and show up every single day, are the kids that need us the most.  Anyone can teach the well-behaved kids; the ones that we struggle with are the ones that make a great teacher.  Sam pushed me to get better and taught me to be patient, calm, and caring when it was sometimes hard to do so.  People show their true worth when times are tough, yet when we go through those things together with someone, we come out with a much stronger relationship.

I still see Sam every now and then and he smiles and is excited to see me and I him.  He still gets in trouble now and then, but I know that he is in good hands and is cared for.  As he becomes a young adult, I am so proud of how much he has grown up and I will continue to watch him grow and develop.

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.

As Shaq and I her deal with her cancer and she slowly goes into the night, I will always be thankful that she was and will always be close to my heart, no matter her physical distance.


cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo shared by gcouros

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.