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09/30/2018 - Week #4 

September 30 – the last day of the month, and therefore a great time to reflect on how we have done with this month's focus on respect and The Golden Rule – treating others as we would like to be treated.

I have a friend who went to the dentist this week. He inadvertently set his phone calendar incorrectly, and showed up at 8:45 a.m. instead of for his scheduled 8:15 appointment. Being my friend – beyond thoughtful and always deeply considerate of people's time - he apologized profusely. The receptionists at the dentist's office were eager to help – in fact, one said, “Hey – it's going to be just fine. My daughter was scheduled to come in for the same procedure at 9:00 – you can have her appointment.” My friend, obviously, was delighted. And then it happened. When the receptionists phoned back to the people behind the scenes to explain the change, someone – I truly hope not the dentist – said, “No. He was late. We cannot change the appointment.” My friend offered to pay for the missed appointment, thinking that might be the issue. Nope. The anonymous naysayer appeared to be pretty focused on maintaining the principle of the thing. My friend left, painful tooth still painful, and thought generous thoughts – perhaps that person had had a bad day, perhaps someone had hurt him/her by being late? Who knows? I wondered, listening, how bad a day would it have to have been (by 9:00 a.m.) to prevent a person in a service industry from providing a much needed service when given the opportunity? Clearly, this anonymous person was not practicing The Golden Rule. My friend took comfort in the receptionists' reactions – disappointment in not being able to help, outrage at their perceived unfairness of it all, and their heartfelt desire to help someone in pain. His tooth still hurt, but he was warmed by their attempts. His is a generous heart.

I get it. I truly get it. A few years ago, new to the role of Vice-Principal, I noticed that one family was constantly late to school. Of course, this does cause problems. There is extra work in the office, signing in late students, the class is disrupted when late students arrive, the teachers have to backtrack, repeating lessons so that the late students know what is going on. This is all time and energy that could be better spent on moving student learning forward.

So...I met the children and their mother at the door. I asked why they were late again. I told them how disruptive it was. Great, huh? Yeah, not so much. I spoke to the mother later – thank goodness she had the courage to come and see me and speak directly to the issue. The kids weren't late through any fault of their own – the family was going through a difficult time. Had I responded positively to the truly monumental achievement that had occurred when those children showed up at school? No. I had basically yelled at them. (I didn't actually yell, but imagine how it must have looked from the perspective of those children.) That encounter, and the instructive conversation with that loving Mom that followed, taught me – no, reminded me - that children need to be welcomed, and celebrated and feel valued when they arrive at school, no matter when that is. This is why my favourite time of the day is at the beginning, when I stand at the Kiss and Drop and welcome children and their families in to a new school day. I know Mr. Rait feels the same, because he is there for the same reason when he comes. That is not his scheduled duty. He is practicing The Golden Rule.

Looking back over the past month, I recall many, many examples of where individuals practiced The Golden Rule. Yes, there were some...shall we say... learning opportunities, as well. It is hard to say, but there were times when we, as a community, found it difficult to put aside our impatience, overtiredness, frustration or simply self-absorption to focus on making our words kinder, gentler and more loving, or to make that extra effort to help someone. We have to do better. Respect and The Golden Rule are not just a one-month focus. We need to keep at it, not just all year, but for our entire lives. All that said, St. Mary's is doing pretty well. I have noticed that the children are not fighting as much on the yard. I'm out there every recess, so I notice these things. I walk through the halls and into classrooms, and the only real yelling I've heard was from a supply teacher. (I dealt with that. Our children deserve better.) We can always do better, but we really are treating each other more gently.

That's the overall picture - “doing pretty well”. Then there are those moments that give me goosebumps. Do you know that we have a teacher who will be late to school tomorrow because she is helping a family new to the community get a family doctor?

We had another new family register, and the parents and children came for a tour of the school on Friday. Our staff members were so warm and so wonderful to this family. It made me proud to be a part of this school, where teachers whisked children into their classrooms and spent time getting to know their new charges, and one of the boys recognized a good heart and ran to hug Mrs. Fotheringham – a complete stranger.

I sat in on a teacher's information meeting on Parent/Teacher night. I wonder, do those parents realize how lucky their children are? That teacher – the kind of teacher former students come back to visit year after year – is petrified of public speaking in front of adults. She did it, though, after a sleepless night, worrying, so that she and her students and their parents would all be on the same page.

Then there are our children. We can learn so much from our children. Our children are the shining examples of speaking with kind words, of giving joy, giving second chances and approaching each day as if it is extraordinary.

We had two days of Hip-Hop instruction this week – THAT was fun. The Cross Country Team headed out to Wasaga Beach. The bus patrol team completed their training. Mrs. Strojny attended an Outdoor Education conference, and came back inspired and full of ideas for our much-hoped-for outdoor learning concept. We had Mass on Thursday, a teaching Mass led by Father Gerard and musically accompanied by the Youth Ministry students from Vanier, after a miracle of organization by Jason DeHetre, our Youth Minister. (How wonderful it is to see our two schools and our Parish so connected.) We had, of course, our Parent Teacher night. Thank you so much to our positive, hard-working and generous Parent Council, and to all of the children and families who attended and made a point of stopping by to say hello. Our P.A. Day was packed with compliance instruction, but the staff hung in, and even took the time to recognize ways in which we could all work together to support our entire community.

So, what's next? October's theme is Responsibility. We are going to work on Habit #1 of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Be Proactive. Proactive people are not easily offended, they take responsibility for their actions, think before they act, bounce back when bad things happen to them, find ways to make good things happen, and only worry about the things they can control. We'll work on changing our language so that we create more positive outcomes. We'll work on being can-do people. We'll learn about pushing pause before we spit out what we're thinking in the heat of the moment, but which could do lasting damage.

Did you know that it takes 21 days to change or create a habit? How about we spend those 21 days doing something incredible? Check this out:

I look forward to October – particularly this next week. We are starting the month off with a bang: 
Monday is Orange Shirt Day. (
Tuesday is our community apple picking evening. I hope to see as many of you as possible out at Kennedy's Orchard in Nottawa – come meet my sister Anne and her husband, Ray, who are visiting from Tasmania. We'll be there probably around 4:30 or 5:00. The event runs from 4:00 – 7:30.
On Wednesday, how about meeting us at 8:30 at the bowling alley, so that we can all walk to school together for International Walk To School Day? We're so lucky to be working with the city of Collingwood on such Healthy School Initiatives.
On Thursday, our Cross Country Team is off to Klondike Park, in Wasaga.

I look forward to the new month, and thank you for the trust you have placed in us. It truly is a joy, and an honour.

S. Eccleshall.

Posted by seccleshall On 30 September, 2018 at 3:36 PM  

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