We don’t always see the ripples

Way back in the fall of 1975 my parents determined we’d move to Edmonton from Calgary, the move coincided with my grade 12 year and after playing volleyball for two years in grade 10 and 11 I decided I’d try out for football for grade 12 in my new school.  The school was Harry Ainlay and as luck would have it I made the team (most likely the last one on the roster) and was along for the ride as the Titans won their first Sr Football Championship.  The roster for 1976 was stronger (I think) and I had the opportunity to play several positions on defence and a bit of scout offence.

I like to joke that my coach, Bryan Anderson, had to choose between Dave Getty, son of the Premier of Alberta at the time and former Edmonton Eskimo QB on the Grey Cup teams of the 50’s, Matt Dean son of the principal at Lazerte High School (at the time) and former Edmonton Eskimo Center on those same teams, Jackie Parker Jr. son of Jackie Parker the “living legend” of the CFL and running back of those same three-peat Eskimos and Rick Gilson, son of Bob, recently moved in realtor.  There was really no comparison in the football talents and experience, I enjoyed learning the game, playing now and then generally helping out where I could. Two for two on the city championship front, high school football was pretty good for a kid who showed up at the parties with a 2L bottle of Orange crush and went home with a fair share of quarters.

1975 City Champs

Ainlay 75 city champs

1976 City Champs

Ainlay 76 champs
76 champs

In late August 1981, I had returned from a two-year mission in Japan and was working at Prudham Building Supplies in charge of mixing cement in 1-meter trailer loads for home renovations.  Bryan Anderson drove up for a load of cement and asked me what I was up to.  I told him that I was starting a degree in education with an eye to being a Social Studies teacher.  Without missing a beat as I recall it he said, you should come coach this fall.  (He didn’t have to say where).  I was floored, why would he want someone who hardly played, so I asked and his reply was equally quick along the lines of you played safety, half, corner, outside linebacker and a bit of scout team and special teams on an undefeated team.  You can coach if you want to.

From 1981 through to today I’ve been blessed to coach 64 different football teams and next week I’ll start spring camp with my 65th team.  Those first four teams at Ainlay culminating with an undefeated first city championship in the school’s history for a junior team – one that gave up one point all season – were great learning opportunities.  I didn’t work directly with Bryan, Wayne Gallup and Bob Erichsen were the Head coaches of the junior team but Bryan was always available.  As I went on coaching in Grande Prairie Bryan was more than available he’d show up at our provincial games, and even brought Ainlay up for exhibition games a couple of times.

My football life has been a rich blessing, my life in education likewise a blessing in so many ways.  A handful of people, Dr. Bob Patterson, my parents, and Bryan Anderson most prominently included played significant roles impacting my career.

Water splashIn each other’s lives, we simply can’t always tell how far our actions will ripple out and affect lives.  I have no doubt Bryan never thought one invite would lead to whatever impact my own coaching career has had on players, fellow coaches and communities. For that matter that coaching impacted other opportunities for leadership that placed me in the position where I could positively, I think, impact the discussion around accommodations on diploma and PAT exams, the focus on mental health education, and so much more around sportsmanship, character and leadership education that has its foundation in 1975-76 and an invitation to coach football in the fall of 1981.

Yesterday the city of Edmonton dedicated an athletic field complex to Bryan Anderson.  Tonight, June 10, 2019 Bryan Anderson will be inducted into the City of Edmonton Hall of Fame.  I’ve long spoken about the importance of people having their own hall of fame, seeking out mentors and placing themselves in a position to mentor others.  Bryan Anderson has been in my personal Hall of Fame for a very long time.  I’m glad to see that the City of Edmonton has joined the party.   Thank you, Bryan and all the best to you for years to come. 

Version 2



No one gets there alone…

As the big 60 rushes up toward me this weekend I found myself reflecting repeatedly about all the people who have and continue to impact my life.

The last couple of days I read a book by Dr. Rob Bell entitled, “No One Get’s There Alone.” I really enjoyed the ideas Bell outlined, a series of short messages emphasizing the importance of drawing others into your circle of support and looking for ways to help all in your circle of influence. We rarely know the full measure of our influence on lives around us. A simple smile in the hallway at school – as a student, a teacher, an administrator, a caretaker, education assistant, coach…you just never really know, likewise a glare, a frown. Naturally those are just passing moments but as Chip and Dan Heath write in their excellent book, “The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact” it’s moments, often small ones like a popsicle at the pool, that make a lasting impression or change the trajectory of a life or relationship.

For Bell, he suggests that relationships are like hinges, where in as we interact it provides a turn, a swing, in the direction of our lives hopefully for the good. In leadership literature generally speaking a transformational leader is seen as more positive than a leader who operates in a transactional manner. That said Bell suggests that transactions (interactions perhaps) can transform. I think ever transaction/interaction has the chance to be transformational, we don’t always know which acts or gestures will be the hinge positively (or possibly negatively) impacting the trajectory of those with whom we interact.

Consider for example the hinges, and there are a couple, in the conversation Will Smith’s character has with his son in, “The Pursuit of Happiness”. As you watch you’ll see a point where the father recognizes the impact his words have had. I’ve definitely had moments like this…though usually I’m much slower in the realization and the efforts to correct take longer, but Smith works to immediately fire the retro rockets and correct the course he recognizes he’s negatively impacted. Our words, our actions make a difference.

There’s much more to think about after reading this book, but for today, closing this post, I want to say thank you. Thank you to those who were key hinges at stages in my life Bob Patterson, who thought I should go into Education, Brian Anderson, who thought I should come coach football at Harry Ainlay while I was earning my education degree. My parents, my wife Chauna, Chauna, Chauna – what’s the sign for infinity…Chauna and our fascinatingly amazing challenging intriguing kids.

There are so many others, staff I worked with at Montrose, GPCHS, the staff at central office in GP and Westwind, and my current staff at SAPDC.

The coaches I’ve worked with over the years, the players I’ve been lucky enough to coach in basketball, volleyball, and of course football. The lessons continue to be learned every day.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself”.

And so here I am this morning a couple of days from 60 and I know better than ever that: a) I’m a work in progress and hope there are still several years ahead to continue the learning and b) I’m blessed to have had so many people help me throughout my life. Quite simply it’s true, “No one gets there alone.”



PS – Cheers to my own little “Christmas” birthday crew: Sheila G, Heather S, Sharon B, and Heather P.

Thank-you Tim Enger, the Players and Coaches of “Team Alberta”/Football Alberta over the years.

vxPttqsDQa2dSlGGYSg5lAThis past summer I once again had the opportunity to coach in Hawaii with the U17 Football Alberta all-star team. Since the early 90’s I have been richly blessed to coach on a handful of senior bowl teams, my last one being 2012, U18 Team Alberta 1999-2004 2 bronze, 2 gold, 1 silver, and the Hawaii trip teams on seven or eight occasions since 2007.  Each team presented different opportunities to work with coaches and athletes from across the province, some in one game situations, others in a national championship tournament and Team Alberta Hawaii in a mix of practices, controlled scrimmages and cultural experiences.

Like just about all good things, ultimately there comes a time where you need to step away and let others enjoy the experience.  To that end, I informed Tim Enger before our Hawaii trip that 2018 would be my last Football Alberta team and trip.  If there has to be a last Football Alberta experience, a U17 trip to Hawaii is an outstanding way to close this chapter of my football life.  I’d like to emphasize how grateful I am for the lessons I learned from all the coaches, players, and everyone who worked to support our teams over the years. Particular thanks go out to equipment support Al, trainer Nicole, team cook and grocery shopper extraordinaire Kirsten.

I’m grateful for all the coaches I’ve worked with over the years on Football Alberta programs.  Strong personalities, differences of opinion and approach certainly existed from time to time.  If everyone was the same and saw it the same way the opportunities for progress and learning would be greatly reduced.  There were plenty of opportunities to learn, and for that I’m grateful.

I particularly want to say thank you to all the players over the years I’ve had a chance to work with be it a weekend at the Senior Bowl, 10 days on Team Alberta in Winnipeg, Vancouver, Medicine Hat, or Ottawa or Team Alberta in Maui for 10 days.  Some of them have gone on to the pros, some have gone on to be coaches, a few are officials at the CFL level, and I hope that all of them have taken something from their experience as they’ve gone on to be excellent young men, husbands and fathers.

IMG_0202This year I had another excellent group of DB’s from Brooks, Lloydminster, Sherwood Park, St Albert and Calgary.  For the second year in a row, we went undefeated in three scrimmages with schools on the island of Maui.  Each school is unique in its composition but united in their love for football.

They play the game fast and hard in Hawaii.  Maui isn’t Honolulu with St. Louis High School (home of Marcus Mariota and Tua Tagovailoa), but over the years we’ve gone up against several Division I athletes. The scrimmages and those 8 am practices up at a small community field just part of the trip, a snorkel cruise, Marriott Luau, and time at the beach round out an excellent week.

All of this, from the first Senior bowl in 1990 to the present day have been the brainchild of Football Alberta’s Tim Enger.  First as Technical Director and now as Executive Director, Tim has been the driving force behind moving football forward across the province.  Tim proposed the Senior Bowl all-star team, then moved forward to challenge Manitoba and BC in individual games with the winning team from the Senior Bowl while working with Football Canada to develop the Canada Cup.  Canada Cup lead to Team Alberta, Team Alberta lead to U18 and U16 teams, exhibition games with US teams and International Bowls and yearly Hawaii football opportunities.

If that wasn’t enough Tim championed the idea that football should be included in the Alberta Summer Games, successfully added to the games it remains the single highest attended event at the games. Provincial championships in Minor football have evolved under Tim’s watch. The Alberta Schools Athletic Association (ASAA) has enjoyed an extremely supportive and positive relationship with Football Alberta working to ensure that the high school provincial draw is played on the best fields with the best officials possible.

When the province of Alberta had precious few Field Turf fields and championships were routinely played on frozen tundra Tim and the ASAA Football Commissioner at the time, Bill McConkey, proposed the Alberta Bowl allowing all four levels of high school football to play their championships at stadiums with proper fields, bleachers, and scouting booths.  At the time there was one venue in Edmonton, today fields in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Raymond, Fort McMurray, Lacombe, and Grande Prairie all meet the new standard.  With a handful of other communities installing some form of field turf, it’s been a huge benefit to the game of football and Tim’s lead the support and growth of the sport from day one.

So thank you, Tim, thanks to Football Alberta, the coaches, players and support staff over the years, it’s been a great ride.


Team Alberta Highlights 2001


Remember when …

You know sometimes it’s pretty easy to forget just how blessed life is. This past summer most of our children and all our grandchildren gathered for a bit of fun at Lake Windemere/Fairmont. It was awesome.

IMG_3757.jpgThe most recent addition at the time, Laken, got her introduction to the nuances of mini-golf with her playing partner, grandpa.  She was an excellent partner as we registered the low score for the day. The extended family Par 3 tournament was another success, not too much concern about scores, just a great time had by one and all.  No holes in one this year, though there was one pretty good shot at it on the last hole, complete with a gallery to witness as the ball rolled up right online about 4 inches short…too bad.




The Jet Ski – Pontoon Boat day was one of the most fun things we’ve ever done, so much so we did it twice.  As sons and daughters took grandchildren out for spins on the Jet Ski the rest of the crew relaxed on the pontoon boat and enjoyed the view, the laughs and the fun.


A nice 60 km bike ride from Cranbrook BC to Kimberly BC (check out the trail) to Lake Wasa with a couple of my brothers and some of our children and their spouses, and several rounds of golf rounded out the week.

It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the business of life while forgetting to live life.  I’ve been guilty of this on more than one occasion that’s for sure.   I’m not suggesting events like a week at the lake are the only way to live life, nope there’s been super days before, since and will be many great days in the future.  That said,  these days were, and remain, days that reset and restore an element of balance necessary to have enough in the tank to get through tough days that are simply part of the deal that is life.  At least they do for me.

It’s not just grandchildren or children that say, “remember when…” there’s a reason for that.



Treat them all the same by…

Carol Ann Thomlinson is perhaps the world leader in differentiated instruction.

How to differentiate.pngHer most recent book on the subject, How to Differentiate Instruction in Academically Diverse Classrooms 3rd Edition (2017) starts out with an explanation of what differentiation is and isn’t and proceeds to provide educators with a myriad of examples and thought processes by which they might better meet the needs of the students in their class.  Differentiation is scary stuff, the thought compels the teacher to consider how best to teach and support each student as an individual rather than teaching one lesson, designing one assignment or activity for all 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35…students in the classroom.  Differentiation is not 35, 30, 25, 20 …entirely different lessons, assignments or activities.

Steven Covey, in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989) wrote,  “The Golden Rule says to “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” While on the surface that could mean to do for them what you would like to have done for you, I think the more essential meaning is to understand them deeply as individuals, the way you would want to be understood, and then to treat them in terms of that understanding. As one successful parent said about raising children, “Treat them all the same by treating them differently.”  It is this notion of treating each individual the same by treating them all differently that I’d suggest is the foundation of a truly inclusive education system and one that his helped by an excellent understanding of differentiation as outlined by Tomlinson.


The foundation of success is in knowing your students, knowing what makes them tick and tuning what we do, even fine-tuning the work to harmonize with and draw out the best in our students. Tomlinson, in chapter 9 uses the notion of a soundboard or equalizer to suggest that for some students we can slide up a bit here, draw back a bit there to get the perfect pitch, tune that draws out the best work.  Don’t panic, the students and parents are partners in this work. Tomlinson provides excellent examples of strategies that can make it work in classes big and small, diverse or homogenous.


There are soundboard settings that can be one click and adjust a number of sliders, some can be pre-programmed and activated when the moment is right and in a differentiated classroom where the foundation has been set with students and teachers engaged in the conversation and routine development it’s clear that everyone can benefit from the collective attention to diversity in the room.

This makes sense or should make sense.  We are not all the same, we share many characteristics but like snowflakes no two are exactly alike, even identical twins need a variance.   Seems like a perfect place to revisit Todd Rose’s work on the Myth of Average.

Treat them all the same, by treating them differently.  It’s really an extension of the golden rule and the results help close the gap between the best version of each student and where they currently stand on their journey.


I Need to Know More…

The announcement of new standards for teachers, administrators, and central office educational leaders included very specific expectations around an understanding related to the history of First Nations, Metis and Inuit life in Canada.

For teachers it is the fifth standard and reads:

Applying Foundational Knowledge about First Nations, Métis and Inuit

5. A teacher develops and applies foundational knowledge about First Nations, Métis and Inuit for the benefit of all students. Achievement of this competency is demonstrated by indicators such as:
(a) understanding the historical, social, economic, and political implications of: • treaties and agreements with First Nations; • legislation and agreements negotiated with Métis; and • residential schools and their legacy;
(b) supporting student achievement by engaging in collaborative, whole school approaches to capacity building in First Nations, Métis and Inuit education;
(c) using the programs of study to provide opportunities for all students to develop a knowledge and understanding of, and respect for, the histories, cultures, languages, contributions, perspectives, experiences and contemporary contexts of First Nations, Métis and Inuit; and
(d) supporting the learning experiences of all students by using resources that accurately reflect and demonstrate the strength and diversity of First Nations, Métis and Inuit.

For educational leaders at the school level the standard reads: 

Supporting the Application of Foundational Knowledge about First Nations, Métis and Inuit

5. A leader supports the school community in acquiring and applying foundational knowledge about First Nations, Métis and Inuit for the benefit of all students. Achievement of this competency is demonstrated by indicators such as:
(a) understanding the historical, social, economic, and political implications of: • treaties and agreements with First Nations; • legislation and agreements negotiated with Métis; and • residential schools and their legacy;
(b) aligning resources and building the capacity of the school community to support First Nations, Métis and Inuit student achievement;
(c) enabling all school staff and students to gain a knowledge and understanding of, and respect for, the histories, cultures, languages, contributions, perspectives, experiences and contemporary contexts of First Nations, Métis and Inuit; and
(d) pursuing opportunities and engaging in practices to facilitate reconciliation within the school community.

For system leaders, specifically Superintendents and Deputy Superintendents the standard reads: 

Ensuring First Nations, Métis and Inuit Education for All Students

5. A superintendent establishes the structures and provides the resources necessary for the school community to acquire and apply foundational knowledge about First Nations, Métis and Inuit for the benefit of all students. Achievement of this competency is demonstrated by indicators such as:

(a) supporting staff in accessing the professional learning and capacity-building needed to meet the learning needs of First Nations, Métis, Inuit and all other students;
(b) engaging and collaborating with neighboring First Nations and Métis leaders, organizations and communities to optimize learning success and development of First Nations, Métis, Inuit and all other students;
(c) understanding historical, social, economic, and political implications of: • treaties and agreements with First Nations; • legislation and agreements negotiated with Métis; and • residential schools and their legacy;
(d) aligning school authority resources and building organizational capacity to support First Nations, Métis and Inuit student achievement; and
(e) pursuing opportunities and engaging in practices to facilitate reconciliation within the school community

The education community collectively and leaders in First Nation, Metis, and Inuit knowledge are working collectively to provide a wide range of resources to assist in the attainment of all three levels of standards.

Some of the resources available to support teachers, school and system leaders include:

The Alberta Teachers Association – The Professional Learning Pebbles Activities to build teachers fundamental knowledge  This 123 page document provides teachers with a range of activities, documents and links to support their own learning and the work in the classroom.   Another document put together by the ATA is Education is our Buffalo available in PDF form.

Empowering the Spirit Website by the ARPDC (Provincial Body that SAPDC is part of) provides a wide range of resources.

Learn Alberta has developed lessons available online as Talking Together: A discussion guide for Walking Together

YouTube provides several videos that can support learning and understandings.  One such example is the song by Cindy Paul: He Can Fancy Dance dedicated to residential school survivors.

The National Film Board is a significant resource of a wide and growing range of videos and teaching guides. One powerful example of the films available from the National Film Board is the movie, “We Were Children”.  You can watch the trailer here.

The NFB allows for the creation of an account accessing their “campus” of educational resources.  One series of films is their Indigenous Voices and Reconciliation Series

Currently (April 2018) you can go to a theatre near you and take in the feature film Indian Horse that provides a depiction of residential schools with a hockey setting:


Dr. Patti LaBoucane-Benson has written a graphic novel based upon her extensive research for her dissertation entitled: The Outside Circle: A Graphic Novel.  It is available in print and kindle version and provides a different look at the generational trauma and impact of residential schooling.

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I plan to add further resources in the days and weeks ahead in support of the collective work to meet and exceed the standards as we strive to better understand, teach and support all students, teachers and families.


Mind the Gap


Several years ago I had the opportunity to take a few teachers and students on a trip to Finland to visit some schools, teachers, and students. In planning our journey we had a one-day layover in London, England and determined that we’d use that delay to go visit a 7-12 school in the suburbs of London.  This process would require us to use the London subway/train system to get from our hotel to the school, about four transfers undertaken during the morning rush hour.  Well over a million people moving across all those trains at that time and our little band of 7 from a community of 56,000 in northern Alberta set out the concur the Tube. It seemed like a daunting task as we planned it, and it was thrilling and a bit anxious as we operationalized it, made all our connections and safely arrived at the school.   At each stop, as we waited, boarded, passed each station, departed and made a way one phrase echoed over and over, “mind the gap”.

Consider this map of the train run at it works and it meets the needs of all those who need to move across one of the great cities of the world, but truly – “mind the gap”.

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It strikes me that everything about an inclusive education model is entirely about minding the gap but perhaps not quite in the way we might anticipate. The gap in my mind is extremely individual.  It can be measured in the collective for sure as one explores one demographic group against another, but in truth, the key gap is that between where the individual student is now and where that specific student wants to be and can be (not always the same thing) on any given day.

What do you truly believe about the potential of the individual?  My belief system suggests that we are all sons and daughters of God.  This does not suggest that one religious belief system is right over another only that universally every single man and woman is a son or daughter of God. Just as we grow from childhood to adulthood in this life we have a spiritual and eternal potential that can be seen in our eternal spiritual parents.

So the effort to mind the gap and ultimately close the gap, that space between where I am today and where I can be in anything I undertake, is the work of the moment, the day, year and on into the eternities.  Big and small picture stuff to be sure but isn’t that what core beliefs are all about?  I think it is.  On a personal level, it feeds into the statement that the more I know, the more I know I need to know more.  At Grande Prairie Composite High School it led to contributing to and mindfully striving to live the school motto painted on the gym floor basketball boundary, “Everyone learning every day”.  If any of us are going to close our personal gap, if we are going to help others work at attaining their potential we need to truly live a life of learning… every single day.

We have an educational system that truly was designed to meet a very specific end, an industrial model – even a factory model that assumes all students learn at the same pace.  Witness the Carnegie Unit of 25 hours per “credit” of instruction and a historical norm of teachers setting dates for quizzes, unit exams, assignments and ultimately final exams under the assumption that all students learn at the same pace.  The quadratics unit exam is next Wednesday, that’s when the train stops and you pass or fail, end of story.  Stack on that the belief in practice that for some in education, and particularly some with a misguided notion of accountability through standardization that suggests all students learn the same way and the same rate of time or the division, school or teacher appears to have failed, at least in the eyes of the political/financial head.  Advocates seem to believe all students are best assessed the same way, can share their knowledge the same way and for the convenience of a schedule complete their learning and are ready to move forward on the same day and time. It is a flawed and false mindset that rather than minding the gap, expands that gap at an individual and collective rate.

What gap are we to mind?  I would suggest that there are multiple gaps, just as there are multiple stops along the London subway (Tube) system.  There are gaps in our personal relationships.  There are gaps between student marks at the simplest level, gaps in course selection, and achievement.  There are gaps in identifiable groups based on ethnicity and gender in various courses and programs.  There are gaps in support for students with high needs, gaps for students with high ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experience) scores.  There are gaps in terms of students who could, with support, take and successfully complete more rigorous programming.  There will always be gaps in our understanding and practice, the one eternal truth is that there will always be a need to learn and grow, for all of us.  There are a lot of gaps.

I need to start with myself, I invite everyone to begin there.  Perhaps our mind should turn to the gaps in our own lives, they clearly exist.  Think of the very best you that you can imagine.  Now think of you as you currently exist.  What is the nature of that gap as you analyze where you are and where you want to be or could be?  What’s being done to help close that gap for you as an adult?  As a parent?  As a teacher?  As a son, daughter, husband, wife?  What about each student as they reflect on the score they thought they could earn, the life they thought they could build for themselves and that gap?

Consider the gaps, accept the challenge to close the gaps you see in your own understanding and commit to being a support to those around you in whatever capacity.  The process of minding and closing gaps in the process of development and growth that leads to the very best version of self and supports others in the same way.  Mind the gap. Close the gap one hour, one day at a time.