7

Maybe Dad: A Simple and Powerful Message From My Daughters

I sat there and stared at the table setting and welled up in tears. The other 3 plates contained what was left of a family dinner and mine lay there empty. Beside each table setting, my girls had written the names of our family members. Beside my name said “Maby”. Maybe dad. It was a message that broke my heart but I needed to hear. Too many dinner times I had arrived late or not at all because I was in a meeting or just trying to get that important email sent out. Too many dinner times, I had left my wife and daughters with the hope that I would be there for dinner but arrived 15, 30, or 60 minutes late. Now, we are at the point of “Maybe, Dad” for dinner. When we stop and listen to our kids, they can tell us so much… so much that comes unfiltered. So much that comes straight from their hearts.

I remember Chris Kennedy sharing that Barrack Obama had made it a priority to be home for dinner and if the President of the US could do this more often than not, so could he. Whenever I start to complain about my job, Chris is always the first person to tell me, “you signed up for this, you can choose to make it work for you”. I hate it when he says this but he is right. In our job as educators, there will always be the draw to be part of that committee, to attend that workshop, to be part of that meeting, to plan that perfect lesson, or to write that important email. There are many times when we can say no. Saying no to the things we don’t necessarily want to do is easier; saying no to the things we do want to do is much more difficult. We can, however, do this and make our families a priority.  We are all busy and we never have “enough time” but we can prioritize our time; if dinner time is important to me, I can make better boundaries and be sure that I am home for this more often. Yes, there are evenings when I absolutely have to be at the school or in a meeting but there are other times where it is my choice and I prioritize other things over these dinner times. This is not so much about doing way less but perhaps doing things differently. Instead of working until 6:30 and then heading home, I can head home earlier and catch up on work after the kids are in bed. I can still do my job well but shift my schedule so I do not miss out on the most important times in my life… time with my kids – these are times I will never get back and they must be a priority.

Having said this, I also think that we, as a system, need to continually strive to be more understanding of the importance of family and create the conditions for more wellness and balance in the lives of people within our communities. Each person is at a different place and we need to do a better job of seeking to understand and support. It is no secret that people who are healthier and happier are more engaged and more effective at work; we need to make this health and happiness a priority in our schools and districts. As principals and formal leaders, we can have a significant impact on this but we also need to take care of ourselves. The “airplane oxygen mask” analogy works here too – if we do not take care of ourselves, we will have a harder time caring for others.  There will always be a need for some late-afternoon learning sessions, volunteering as after-school coaches and club leaders, and having some fun as a staff beyond the school day but we need to be continually mindful of what we are asking of ourselves and others. If family is a priority and time with family makes people healthier, happier and more engaged at work, as a system we need to support this.

My goal is to put my family in my calendar like I do for meetings and evening events. I have to set better boundaries on leaving school to make sure I am home. I have to learn to say “I can only stay until 5:30”. I can be more reflective on what needs to be done and what can wait. I can be home for dinner more often.

In the past year, there have been some changes that have occurred that have helped me as a father. I am thankful that our superintendent has discouraged emails on the weekends as I find I can be at home and away from work on weekends (and to district staff who are bringing wellness to the forefront). I am thankful that my colleague George Kozlovic encouraged me to take emails off my phone so I can be at home and focus on family. I am thankful that my staff understands that I need to arrive at school a little later in the mornings so I can help my daughters get ready for school and my wife can look after our newborn son. Most importantly, I am thankful that my daughters set my name tag as “maby Dad” and sent me a message to shift my priorities and be home for dinner more often. There will be more times when I get to home to help to cook, serve the food, talk about “what went well” in our days… and the table is set with my name tag saying simply “Dad”.

Please feel free to share any ideas that have occurred in your school or district to help support those wanting to spend more time with family while maintaining their effectiveness as an educator. 

This song is a good reminder for us all…

14

When You Comin’ Home Dad

Finding balance as an educator is an ongoing challenge.  All the time spent prepping, assessing, meeting, and learning are the things that make great educators but they also affect life’s balance between work and family.Family

For my wife and I, these next few months will be the most exciting, challenging, and  joyous times of our lives as we are expecting twins in November/December.  As these children will be our first-borns, I want to make sure that I alter my life in such a way that my family is always the priority.

Education will always be ONE of my passions but it will never come close to the passion I have for spending time with family.  The main goal for me in the next year will be: BALANCE.   I want to be the parent that my parents were to me.  I want to be there to play, watch, teach, learn, read, coach, share, and love.

Although I have heard this song many times, I have never really listened to the lyrics.  As I am now approaching fatherhood, this song brought tears to my eyes as it developed a whole new meaning to me.  Please have a listen and reflect on the balance in your life.

The saddest part of all this is that Chapin died 7 years later… and never got to see his children grow up.

I need to find the balance to be there for the many special moments with my children.  I never want to answer the question, “When you comin’ home dad?” with “I don’t know when“.

Thank you to presenter and ex-principal Denis Harrigan of Victoria for introducing this to me.  Thank you to my parents for always being there.

13

Lessons From My Father

Seeing how Father’s Day is nearing, I felt that I would take this time to reflect on some of the key lessons that I learned from my dad, Glenn Wejr.  My dad has spent his life bouncing from career to career but this was not because he fared poorly in that specific career but because he wanted to try something different; he has worked as a retail clerk, teacher, coach, business owner, school board trustee, realtor, and real estate developer.  Through all of these ventures, he learned some key lessons; the following is a list of lessons that he shared with me that have impacted the way I lead my life:

Father and son and our wives.

Father and son and our wonderful wives.

  1. Keep your head up when you cross the blue line, head down when you are teeing off; keep your elbow in when making a jump shot and you elbow out when swinging at the pitch. My dad was my coach in almost every sport.  He was the official coach for many and the behind-the-scenes-late-at-night coach for others sports.  As an athlete he excelled in basketball, baseball, and curling and for sports like hockey, he learned the sport and volunteered his time to coach the teams in which I was involved.
  2. Pick your team based on their personality and character, not based on their present ability. Every year that my dad came home from the meetings where they place players on teams, I would always be upset because I would say, “they have all the best players, why didn’t you pick any of them?”  Every year he would respond in the same way , “the players on our team are coachable, you wait and see.”  Every year we would start out losing to the other teams but by the end of the year, because of the focus on effort and attitude, we would end up being victorious and proud as a team.
  3. Praise effort, not ability – don’t praise too often, don’t be afraid to offer feedback on improvement.  As a child I was always frustrated because my dad never told me I was a good athlete or I was smart.  He just talked about working hard and spending time practicing.  I could go out and score a hat trick and on the ride home he would say, “you played really well, you worked hard, now make sure you don’t stop back checking once you get to the neutral zone.”  Sometimes I just wanted him to tell me I was the best hockey player; now that I know the importance of praising effort (through my experience as well as listening to experts such as Carol Dweck), I am thankful for the way he praised me.
  4. Give back to your community. My dad has been heavily involved in volunteering to coach and organize endless leagues as well as giving his time to things like the volunteer fire department and the International Order of Canadian Foresters.  Through his modeling, I became involved in coaching in high school and this carried right through until recently.  I still take opportunities to work with kids at lunch and after school and these ‘coaching’ moments are often the best part of my day.
  5. See people for who they are.  As a very young child, I remember being afraid of people who appeared to be different.  A man named Alan always used to come into my dad’s sporting good store and visit with him.  Alan had a mental disability and appeared very different to me.  In order to help me understand, my dad often invited me to come along and do things with the two of them; by doing this he showed me that yes, Alan was different – but he was also an amazing person.  Another example involves a man named Franco.  Franco also had a mental disability and, too, spent many hours just visiting with people in my dad’s store.  Franco ended up being almost a part of our family; he played ball with us, watched my hockey games, and ended up curling on my dad’s curling team.  Unfortunately, both Alan and Franco left us far too early but the lessons they taught me will remain with me forever.  To see the tears from my dad as he gave the eulogy at Franco’s memorial service made me not only proud to call him my dad but so thankful that he introduced me to Franco.
  6. Tell people you love… that you love them. My grandfather never told my dad he loved them until he was 75 years old and in his final years.  My dad has never been afraid to let us (my sister, Lindsay, and I) know how important we are to him and although we probably already knew it, it sure is nice to hear it.
  7. Some lighter lessons: Snakes are the scariest things on earth and it is ok for kids to see you protecting yourself with a lawnmower, Canucks will win the cup… eventually, you will learn not to stick a key in an electrical outlet after only one attempt, eat your vegetables (except onions), consumer debt is bad, have your money work for you, and a sense of humour can get you through a lot of challenging times.

By no means is my dad perfect.  He has made many mistakes just like everyone else; what he has taught me through this is that it is ok to take risks, make mistakes, learn from them and use these to become a better person.  My dad and I are now closer than we have ever been and it is because of all these experiences and lessons that our relationship has become so strong.  As I move closer to fatherhood (this winter!), I truly hope that my kids can have a father like I had.

This may be the first and last blog my dad ever reads (he still does not believe in using bank cards) but I just wanted to let him know how much I appreciate all that he has taught me.

Happy Father’s Day Dad.  Love ya!