Moving Forward or Falling Back

Shinpo ProgressThe Japanese have a saying, or at least when I was in Japan years ago a Japanese individual told me they have a saying that goes like this, “Shinpo shiite inai kagari dairaku shiite imasu”.  Now over the years my Japanese has faded a bit and I’ve spelled it the way I remember but the translation is relatively simple, “to the degree we are not progressing, we are falling back”.  There is no such thing in this life as standing still.  Even if standing still is measured as an opportunity lost.

Joe Paterno wrote, “Every kid who has ever played for me has heard me say this a thousand times: ‘You either get better or you get worse.’ You never stay the same.  You get better as a person or you get worse as a person.  You do something every day to make yourself a better person.  You go by and pick up a piece of paper and put it in the garbage can.  That makes you a better person.  The same is true for football (or any other sport or activity) When you go out to the practice field, you are not the same player you were the day before.  You are better or worse.  That is life.  If you go out and practice poorly, you start to go down.  Make the effort to be a better football player.  Do not just go out and practice.  Think about the practice.” (Browning, 2001, p. 168)

These words expand upon the Japanese concept and Coach Paterno provides a sad reminder that the words hold true for our entire lives.  A great career can be significantly, and to some extent irreparably, blighted when you fail to continue to progress and hold the character ground you’ve attained.  Looking the other way when what is called for is action, big or small, to ensure the right thing is done is, at an individual level, getting worse as a person.  We must work to have the courage to own our actions and our inactions.

What am I doing today that is helping me improve?

How do I react to the suggestion that I need to know more about something, or that I may be wrong in my understanding?

Is there something calling for action on my part that I’ve resisted acting upon?  What can I do to change that in the next hour, day or weeks ahead?


Browning, E. (Ed.) (2001). Coaching beyond the x’s and o’s: By the experts. Monterey, CA: Coaches Choice.

Stay humble and kind…


A lady by the name of Lori McKenna wrote the song as a list of things she wanted to make sure she told her children. Not a bad list of things for all of us to remember particularly when we get just a bit too caught up in ourselves, in taking offence, finding offence, and forgetting to look for the good in others.

McGraw and others have had a hand in creating the Stay Humble website  Take a look, consider how you might make a difference in a world that, at least from my point of view, is increasingly challenged to consider others, stay humble and kind.

I found myself wanting a root beer popsicle….

Change – Redesign – Rethinking Schools

I recently had the opportunity to present to three sessions of high school students who indicated that they might want to be teachers. Close to 80 high school students 5 young men and 75 young women (that’s something to be explored another time) shared a few of their thoughts about why they wanted to be teachers. I invited them to think about the classroom they would work in, the students they would work with and the difference, positive or negative they might be in those lives.

I also found myself pondering this in the process, I started teaching in the fall of 1985 Grade 9 Social Studies and English, I remember many of those students the band stream kids and the “Alternate” class on stream for a high school experience many of them in targeted for the “integrated occupations program” rather than the high school diploma program. 31 years later I feel like a lot has changed but then no, not so much or certainly not as much as perhaps things need to change.

My granddaughter started kindergarten this year and appears to be enjoying every minute…she will graduate in the spring of 2029 what will her learning be like? Her classrooms, her instruction models, her assessment models? How will they be tailored to her specific needs? My other grandchildren are each very different just as the student I taught and coached in my life were, and are individuals but did I consider enough their individual needs, will there be room to differentiate enough for them? Is this where technology can truly make a difference?

Those students I visited with, if a 30 year career follows 5 years of education and training will be teaching classes well into the 2050’s – care to guess what their classroom will look like, how classes will operate, instructional and assessment practices? How are we preparing today’s students to adapt?

This image has attained some level of notoriety, doubtful that it was Einstein’s actual words, but then again it doesn’t take an Einstein to know that assessing everyone in the same way does present more than a few problem regardless of the exam.


In fact I’d suggest it provided the basis for this presentation by Prince EA

It’s alright to have a little cognitive dissonance around what we’re doing as educators, parents, students, in this process of learning but it’s not ok to continue down a path built on an industrial model that is highly unlikely to meet the needs of students who will be expected to lead our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren in the course of their own careers as educators.

All teachers and all education systems in the world make a difference…how would I explain the difference I’ve made?  How would you?

Addiction, what’s my paradigm?

I find myself recently challenged about some of my thoughts, previously held dispositions around addictions and addicts. Having watched a couple of Ted Talks recently, and in consideration of some of the students and adults I work with IN ADDITION to reflecting on my own approach to Golf, Football, buying/reading books, and work this is really an area where the more I know the more I need to know more.

I’ll come back to this one but I’m using this post more like a short electronic bookmark/bookshelf.

Gabor Mate (author of “In the realm of hungry ghosts: close encounters with addiction”)  in addition to talking about addiction ties in the piece of responding to Trauma – what it is we need emotionally that we’ve somehow convinced ourselves can only be filled by our “addiction”.

What about the addiction to power, the addiction of those who are focused on getting “stuff” at the expense of others or making up for some real or perceived shortfall.  Insecure/inferior – historical examples discussed would open the door for a wide range of conversations.

Johann Hari provides further examples particularly about the void that addiction fills and how punishment – the go to move most often employed in our schools and countries – may be missing the mark.



Failure is a moment…and then you decide

It has been far too long between posts. I could write about the many things that have been going on; the work, the family, the dissertation, the life, but really in the end I just haven’t made it a priority to gather my thoughts in this forum and write them down. I should have, if only for me, but if the best time to plant a tree is 20 or 40 years ago and the second best time is today (if you’re not deep in a Canadian winter) then the best time to start writing was yesterday and the second best time is today.

I love sports, pretty much all sports though I admit some are only highlights “SportsDesk” viewing for me, football and hockey I PVR and watch as much as I can, particularly the Edmonton Oilers, KC Chiefs, Denver Broncos, Eagles, Colts, Niners these have been my teams over the years but I enjoy great plays and great players across the NFL, CFL, NHL and NBA.  Lessons never cease to come from sports and are relatively easy to apply in our own lives.

Take a minute to consider Blair Walsh kicker for the Minnesota Vikings. In the first week of the 2015 season playoffs he had a chance to win the game for the Vikings and defeat the Seattle Seahawks, a relatively simple chip shot kick in a range where he has previously made 189 of 191 kicks from 27 yards or closer – in short Blair Walsh is money from this distance ALMOST a sure thing.  And then ALMOST happened, shanked it, pulled it wide left and now he’s 189 of 192 kicks and the Vikings season has ended. Failure…but no where near fatal and that’s a key difference.

Watch the video of the play – the Seahawks joyous, clearly recognizing their good fortune, stunned disbelief really the primary reaction of the Vikings, the joy for the Seahawks lasted about 7 days then they too lost and their season came to an end, that’s the way it works for all but one team every year in every league.

Take a minute to read the MMQB (Sports Illustrated Article)  by Peter King @SI_PeterKing a conversation with Blair Walsh and a great story of the support and reality check he received from a group of elementary students – would have been cool if it had come from a group of adults at some forward thinking corporation as well but perhaps us grown-ups need a reminder about perspective…ya think?

The President of Harvard wrote a letter a couple of years back suggesting that students of Harvard read, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz, I was lucky enough to be in the Harvard book store, read the letter and then read the book she wrote, “Twelve hundred years before Rene Descartes penned his famous “I think therefore I am” the philosopher and theologian (and eventual saint) Augustine wrote, “fallor ergo sum”: I err, therefore I am”.

Blair Walsh like 100% of the rest of us on this province made a mistake – in his case a very correctable mistake and that’s it, lesson learned a part of his life story but just a part, not even a chapter and he’s decided that after that moment of failure it’s move on, move up, and continue to work at being the best he can be.  I’d suggest on many levels as a fan and on a personal level related to the multitude of mistakes or failures we experience every day it’s a pretty good example to follow.



This life is a time to….

We have this life on this earth, may last a day, may last 115 years, but this is the life.  What we do not get are “do-overs” in the sense that yesterday was and yesterday will not be again. This is not to say we can’t have a conversation about yesterday, or even where we were or where we were not before we came to this life – only that we cannot change our past.

What we do control is the next few minutes, hours, days, weeks, and however much time we are granted in this life.  In many respects it is the what’s next, the tomorrow’s, the application of lessons learned that frames our future and the invitation to mindfully ponder that future and work to make evermore wise decisions about our time and activities is at the core of Christensen’s book.

I think it instructive that the book provides a guide for moving forward, improving upon our individual condition through improving choices built upon improving results.

how will you measure your life

A Christmas thought…with hopes of Peace for all.

In the days ahead Christians in the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world born as the son of God, the Father to earthly parents Mary and Joseph.  Other celebrations of the season and the new year will provide pause for reflection on the year past and commitments for the days ahead. We wish everyone the best as you enjoy the season.

The Christmas story as recorded in scripture can be read in Matthew Chapter 1 verses 18-25  and in Luke Chapter 2 verses 1 – 21.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints provides the following story of the Nativity as told in the Holy Bible:

Service perhaps the best way we can share the gift of Christmas

ThePianoGuys – O Come, Emmanuel – provides an interesting remembrance of the story of the birth of the Savior with scenes from the Nativity video above

A Christmas thought and wish from Rick and Chauna Gilson

Chauna and I would like to share our best wishes to friends and family alike for a wonderful Christmas season – we know that there are challenges in all of our lives, and certainly great challenges in a world that seems so determined to emphasize the differences, heighten distrust, and generally build as much enmity as possible between people. Examples such as those evidenced in conflicts with police and most often minorities, wars around the world, persistent struggles with race, failure to consider the feelings of others in social media and all our conversations highlight the need for us collectively around the world to understand that in a very real sense we are all family…with all the challenges that brings…and need to work harder at loving each other and seeing the good; the potential that each of us has. We cannot feel better about ourselves by trying to make others feel worse.  In so many ways it’s just a matter of making better choices. In so many other ways it’s a matter of looking for ways to make life a little easier for everyone with whom we have contact.

In the end it is critical that we replace love where hate reigns, patience over impatience, trust must trump distrust and seek to understand those different from ourselves rather than seek to judge or distance ourselves in a failed attempt at isolation in an increasingly open society.   In the book of John chapter 13 vs 34-35 we read the words of this same Jesus who is at the foundation of Christmas saying, “A new commandment I give you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”  We are confident that “peace on earth goodwill to man” can be much more than just words in a Christmas Carol.

Best wishes for the Christmas Season and Happy New Year to friends, family and anyone else who stumbles upon this Christmas Post.

Stress Buster ….Embracing the Stress…and Providing the Service

It is not uncommon to feel a bit stressed. I frequently hear of students who suffer from stress, or anxiety – heck throw a math exam my way – never mind that it’s a grade 6 math test and watch the bullets of sweat bead up on my increasingly balding head.  This belies the fact that I did receive 100% in Math 30 back in the 70’s as I finished my high school math career. (That 48% the first year required a second effort and 52% in the second round to attain that 100% but still….who says traditional math instruction didn’t work).

Back to embracing stress…I have 3 daughters and 3 sons – the youngest is now 21 (I think) and all of them have their own unique ways of dealing with stress and anxiety.  Recently I had the opportunity to watch Kelly McGonigal (@kellymcgonigal and Kelly’s website with tips,videos, articles etc)  present at TED (not live I haven’t been that fortunate but on youtube). Check it out below.


Kelly McGonigal referred to a couple of studies in support of her work, here is a summary of the Keller, Litzelman study from the University of Wisconsin.

Jamieson, Mendes and Nock’s work on our choice to redirect our response to stress can be read here.   And a brief report of the study can be found here.   Jamieson, Mendes and Nock quote William James writing, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”  This aligns with my belief that we must never forget that our agency, our ability to choose is foundational in all that we do – that and the faith based notion that we will never be tested beyond what we are capable to endure.

Like any other skill or attribute our capacity to redirect or refocus stress and anxiety from debilitating to empowering or at least sustaining our work takes time, but like every other lesson it begins with a commitment to listen, read, and ponder the alternative responses and then giving it a try.

I particularly like the idea that service rendered to others, even when we feel caught up in our own tsunami of events and “stress” can provide us with a valuable stress buster and the capacity to get through the moment and increase our own capacity. I find myself challenged to be more mindful and keep my eyes open for opportunities to serve and support.

Check out Kelly McGonigal on twitter @kellymcgonigal and Kelly’s website with tips,videos, articles etc

What Kind of Teammate….

As the commissioner of football for the Alberta Schools Athletic Association (ASAA) I had the opportunity during the weekend of November 21-22, 2014 in Lethbridge, with winds sustained for much of the weekend in the 20mph/40km range with gusts exceeding 50km, I watched as 10 teams competed for provincial championships in 6-man, and the four tiers basically aligned with school size with Tier I being schools over 1250 and Tier IV schools under 450.

As the weekend progressed I observed all manner of teammates, as I always do when I watch football, some of them on the team and others; parents and friends in the stands.  I find myself musing upon what type of teammate we are in our various endeavors as I consider the actions of those theoretically supporting their team in each of those games.

Are we the kind of teammate that gets a bit too focused on ourselves and forgets about the team?  I observed a parent who seemed to think that it was his job to stand over away from his own school’s parents behind the opposition parents and make comments designed to taunt, tease, even mock…why? I had spoken with the captains of the 10 teams competing for 5 championships on Friday morning and stressed that when they spoke with their parents Friday and Saturday don’t be afraid to remind your parents to be good sports in the stands. Clearly not all parents got the message – it did nothing – absolutely nothing to help the team, it did embarrass his school, other parents, and hurt the feelings of little brothers and sisters, and parents of the opposition. Really quite a selfish act when you think about it.

For the vast majority of parents and players the weekend was excellent, a lot of great plays and a lot of great support. If we keep it at the front of our minds to be the best teammates, everyone can enjoy the game…any game life presents to us, win or lose.


Robert Matthew (Bob) Gilson Dec 10, 1937 – June 28, 2014

Bob GilsonOn Saturday June 28th Bob Gilson moved on to his next stage in this eternal journey. Bob had been formally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in March of 2012 but had been demonstrating elements related to memory loss and the early stages of dementia for several years prior.  The Apostle Paul said, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain” (1 Corinthians 9:24). Having run the good race it was time and so we take a few minutes to review what from our point of view as his family and friends was one heck of a race.


Dadwise guyBorn in Niagara Falls Bob moved to Calgary at the age of 11. His family would maintain the same house in the Renfrew community for the remainder of his parents Bob Sr, and Eva Gilson’s life. Bob had two sisters, Arlene (older) and Mary- Jayne (the youngest) and one brother Bill.  He is predeceased by his mother and father and brother Bill.

At one point in life Bob gave some consideration to becoming a catholic priest, after spending Gr 8 and 9 out in Brockville, Ontario he returned to Calgary to complete his high school education first at St. Mary’s High School (Gr 10) and then at nearby Crescent Heights High school where he met Marilyn (Johnson) Gilson, any plans to be a priest were concluded at that time and on May 12, 1958 they were married in at Our Lady of Help Chapel.

Feed the cake wedding

A family quickly followed with Rick, Dan, Jamie and Randy added by January of 1966.  The four boys would keep things hopping in the house for many years to come.


Bob worked for the Calgary Albertan from January of 1954 until 1972 holding several positions he began in the composing room, was circulation manager and classified advertising manager in the course of his employment. While circulation manager he was most proud of the carrier training program and the competitions he developed to increase circulation. As the Albertan was the morning paper that become the Calgary Sun, Bob worked with Calgary police to help train carriers to be observant citizens, he indicated that his carriers had provided police with many tips and several received citizenship awards from the city for their work. Bob expanded this program to feature students of the week from Calgary high schools and had a culminating celebration to recognize the Student of the Year at the Palliser Hotel.

DSC_0032Bob was heavily involved in scouting at several stages of his life, himself a Chief Scout and Queen Venturer he had several opportunities in his life to hold positions within scouting and went on to be a national trainer in the scouting organization. Be prepared, do a good turn every day, be a good citizen, work, were core values all initially developed in scouting.

On February 22, 1964 Bob was baptised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  This was not a decision he took lightly having been raised in a Catholic home, in fact he had met with missionaries on and off virtually since the marriage in 1958. Bob had developed so many strong relationships with missionaries, even mission presidents of the Canada Calgary Mission that his baptism was very well atteold temple shotnded. In June of 1965 Bob and Marilyn were sealed in the Cardston Alberta Temple.  In the teachings of the LDS church this key ordinance referred to as sealing, allows a husband and wife to be together for eternity, the traditional phrase often heard in weddings, “till death do us part” is no longer the limit where a temple marriage or sealing has taken place.

Bob’s last assignment in the church, one he held most dear, was as a worker in the Edmonton Alberta Temple helping others complete the necessary steps to enjoy the same blessings of an eternal family and eternal marriage.

In the summer of 1974 Bob took the family and moved to Edmonton, Alberta to pursue an opportunity with a new publisher. This was short lived and followed by a brief career in Real Estate.  In 1976 Bob took a position as manager of Apex Auto Upholstery where he remained until 1984.  This was at the height of the boogie van customization craze and Apex lead the way in the Edmonton area perhaps the most memorable being the Star Wars van complete with little fridge in a mock up of R2D2.

Bob returned to the newspaper industry with the Red Deer Advocate Newspaper chain from 1984-90, during this time he commuted to Red Deer on Monday mornings and return early Friday to allow the younger boys to remain at Ainlay, and the family to remain in Edmonton.  A man of several hobbies but in each instance when he had that hobby he was all in, these years were the golf years…perhaps because it was pretty easy to golf Monday – Thursday night when the rest of the clan was in Edmonton.

Returning to Edmonton Bob worked for a number of companies; Netmar (advertising), Open Concepts (Computer service), Best Works (Advertising/Promotions), Debaji’s (Bakery Manager, Catering Dept), and Paladin Security to bring his work career to a close as he officially retired in 2003.

With “paid work” behind him, the idea of sitting around was not quite in the plans so Bob and Marilyn determined it was time to head out on a “seniors mission” for the LDS church.  While Bob may have hoped for a posting in someplace along the the church history trail such as Nau102_0270 copyvoo, Illinois that was not to be case and from 2003 to 2005 they headed to Donetsk, Ukraine for two years. While on the mission the language did not come easily to Bob so he relied on the young missionaries to translate for him as he taught and provided leadership examples.  His years of service stood him in good stead as he was always looking to help others, seeing the need before others but 126_2689 copyinviting everyone to share in the fun. B ob had helped introduce Bitty-ball (basketball with lower baskets for little ones) in SW Edmonton and managed to get a shipment of basketballs from Germany to the mission in the Ukraine and started bitty-ball there…the standard was set and missionaries that followed have been involved in teaching Bitty-ball.142_4296 copy 127_2761 copy








While teaching others and inviting them to be baptised and join the church is a primary focus of all missionary work Bob provided great service in leadership training, helping to facilitate charity humanitarian work such as the red wheel chair project and genuinely enjoyed working with the great people of the Ukraine and Crimea.

Shortly after returning to Edmonton Bob and Marilyn would serve a second mission in the Edmonton Canada Mission assigned to particularly work in the area of Wainwright supporting the members and working with families while they commenced working in the Edmonton Temple it was a period of great enjoyment and service for both of them.

94 on GP shouldersbaby rick with stacheThrough all of these years of work and service family has been at the core of the good times. The four boys, 19 grand children and as of this point seven great grand children brought great joy, there are pictures of just about every child and grand child at some point in life up on dad/grandpa’s shoulders.  masen and GP

His laugh as he wrestled, chased, tossed up in the air, played in the water, is counted among the choicest of memories by all of the children and grand children and great grandchildren.
Whatever, whenever, Bob was happy to spdad and dan and kids 95end time with the children and holidays at the lake (Shuswap in the early years, Fairmont in the later years), or trips with various family members to Disneyland, Disneyworld, Hawaii, Florida, Mexico, Panorama, were all enjoyed as more time with Grandpa.



Needless to say for a number of years on Christmas Eve it fell to GranChristmas 95 donkey daddpa to play the very critical role in the family enactment of the Nativity. Yes Bob Gilson was a great donkey – and as the number of little granddaughters grew and each granddaughter needed their turn as Mary…that donkey got a heck of a workout.


dad mom 95




The memories are countless, and that’s the way it is supposed to be.  Bob Gilson loved his wife Marilyn, they didn’t run on the same schedule as far as time went their entire mortal life together but that was a great part of the fun.  As a couple they set an example in so many ways for so many people of the value of work, service, great cooking, the importance of family and Marilyn will continue to live that example in the many years to come. Bob Gilson was a great example in so many ways, he was self taught, he was a worker and a builder; a builder of self and others. Alzheimer’s took a lot of Bob over the past few years, but it brought out an amazing gentleness and left us who knew him ironically focused on the memories of which the disease robbed our father, husband, grandfather, great grandfather and friend.  We who loved him know that families are eternal and are greatly comforted by the knowledge that Bob had a very immediate reunion with his memory and his loved ones who had proceeded him in death.  We’ll see you soon enough Bob.


leg family later