Decision-Making Made Easy

i am a person who

I was stuck.  I didn’t know what I should do.  On one hand, there seemed a clear course of action that I should take.  I have always considered myself an advocate, and there was certainly an issue on the table that was worth fighting for.  Yet, on the other hand, there was something that didn’t feel right about this.  I had this nagging feeling that I might be doing more harm than good, and that perhaps there was another way of tackling this problem that might yield more effective results.

Or was that a cop-out?  Was I just rationalizing so that I could avoid a struggle?  After all, how many worthwhile causes were won without some personal sacrifice on the part of those fighting for the cause?  Was I just being a wimp?

But at the same time, I’ve seen people completely ignored and written off as crazy when they take on a battle only to have someone else come along and attack the same problem with a grace and skill that wins people over and achieves the desired outcome.

What to do?

I’m fortunate to have a very smart friend with whom I was sharing my woes who, instead of telling me what to do, asked me a question.

“What would a leader do in this situation?”

I didn’t even have to pause to answer this question.  My choice became crystal-clear.  And I haven’t had a moment of doubt since.

The problem was, I’d become hung up on a label that limited me.  Now, it’s not that being an advocate is a bad thing.  In fact, it’s still something I strive hard to be.  But when I got stuck, it was like being hit by a lightning bolt to try on another label that describes another characteristic that is part of the person I want to be.

This experience has made me think about how I might be able to support others in finding the answers to their own struggles by connecting them with the kind of person they want to be.

When someone is fighting because he wants to be strong, what would happen if I asked them what a kind person would do in this situation?

When someone is reacting because they want to be heard, what would happen if I asked them how a thoughtful person might respond?

What labels have you seen drive the behaviour of others that, while on one hand are very valid, on the other, are restricting their possibilities?

What labels may be doing this to you?


Making the Tough Decisions


For many years, I watched from a distance as principals struggled over creating next year’s timetable.  I always counted my blessings that this wasn’t part of my job, because it looked like such an overwhelming task to try to think of every possible variable you need to consider.

And, of course, the universe is now laughing at me.  It’s part of my job now.

In our school, we have a team who sets the timetable, so I do count my blessings that I’m not alone.  And I’ve been surprised to find that this task is like doing a puzzle, and I actually like trying to work it all out.  However, there are certainly times that it’s beyond painful.

This teacher wants this course…. That teacher wants their prep at this time… These courses should be in the morning…. Those courses should be in the second semester… Some students are going to need to be able to have their compulsory courses done by January… some are needing a combination of grade 11 and 12 courses so we have to make sure it’s possible for them to get what they need…


Fortunately, we have an awesome leader.  At the point that it felt like we were sinking into the bog, she stopped us.  She asked a simple question.  “What is our purpose?”

And it all became clear.  Our purpose is to provide the best possible education for our students.  While there were some variables that we would have liked to accommodate, there were some that were clearly important in providing a quality learning experience.  Those had to come first.

It reminded me again of how important it is to keep in touch with our basic values and beliefs, and to use those as touchstones when struggling to make important decisions.

Even though the ultimate decision I make may not be perfect, at the end of the day, I know that I can stand behind it because it was made on solid principles.

What is guiding your decision-making?

Consider the “Why”

christmas cards

So here I sit before a mountain of Christmas cards.  They have been sitting on my table for days, and I’ve exhausted every excuse I can to avoid getting down and addressing them.  There was no point in doing them unless I had at least a couple of hours… I will just put in a load of laundry first… the kitchen is a disaster, that needs to take priority… I really haven’t spent enough quality time with the kids…Why is it so darn hard to get this done?  And if it’s that big a chore, there are lots of people who don’t send out Christmas cards.  Why do I even bother?

It’s funny how things on our “to do” list can torture us, yet, at the suggestion of not doing them, we realize their importance.  I can’t NOT do Christmas cards!!  It’s the one time of the year that we connect with all our family and friends.  There are people that we don’t get the opportunity to see very often, and this is the one way that we can ensure we don’t slip out of each other’s lives.  I see our family’s Christmas card picture hung on people’s fridges when we visit them all throughout the year.  People tell me how much they love getting our Christmas letter, and hearing about all that our family has been up to.  Giving up Christmas cards would definitely hurt my sense of belonging.

And now that I’m thinking about all those things, I feel like I need to stop avoiding them by writing on my blog, and get to it!

But I believe there is a lesson in here….  So often in the bustle and hurry of life, things become chores on a list of things we feel obligated to do.  Instead of focusing on WHAT you have to do, if you bump up your thinking to consider WHY you are doing these things, it can completely change your motivation.  Instead of feeling like a slave trapped in the kitchen this Christmas, maybe you would feel satisfaction in bringing the whole family together to share a wonderful memory.  Maybe the stress of all the packing and driving from one house to another would be transformed into feeling thankful that you have so many people in your life who love you.

Are there things you feel bitterness about that might change if you considered the “why”?

And now, I’ve got Christmas cards to address…

Simple Thing That Aren’t That Simple


I love those moments where the basis of Restitution is reinforced by new research and findings from completely unrelated fields. It’s what makes me confident that the principles we teach are solid – not only does my own experience tell me this, but others are finding the same to be true.

I had one of these moments the other day in a training session I attended. The presenter was talking about the importance of organizations being confident in their core values and beliefs, and how without this, a business cannot succeed.

He challenged us to come up with a statement that outlines the core values of the organizations for which we work.

Seems simple enough. But it was stunning to me to see what happened next.

People talked about how we provide high quality educational experiences.

They spoke of helping people develop competency.

They talked about providing a skilled workforce, and helping people to find fulfilling careers.

It all sounded pretty inspiring. Until the presenter pointed out that these statements are not statements of belief, but that they are statements of what we are doing. To get to the level of beliefs, we need to ask ourselves, “Why do we do these things?”

We do them because education is important.

Because we believe that all people deserve the opportunity to find fulfilling work.

Because we believe that in order to keep our community strong, people need to find educational opportunities close to home.

Why is it so hard to talk about what we believe?

When you meet someone, one of the first questions asked is “What do you do?” But when you really get to know someone, you know so much more that simply who they are. You know what they stand for, and what is important to them. Imagine if instead of asking someone for a job title, if instead we were to ask a person why they do the work that they do.

It made me wonder – if we spent a bit more time thinking about why we do things, instead of what we are doing, is it possible that our behaviour would be less reactive, and more purposeful?


Do You Practice What You Preach?

walk the talk

It never ceases to amaze me how often an inconsistency exists between what our stated beliefs are, and how we actually choose to behave.

We tell kids that mistakes are how we learn, and validate that they didn’t behave that way for no reason… but then we judge and roll our eyes at a colleague when they handle a difficult situation poorly.

We say that in our school we believe in respect… but we condescendingly shoot down a colleague’s idea at a staff meeting.

We say that we believe in life-long learning…. but when the principal presents a new initiative, we disengage and refuse to participate because we are already too busy trying to get through the day.

This is why it’s so important for staff to come together as a group and reflect on what our core values are, and evaluate our actions. It’s very easy to get caught up in the moment and react, rather than look inside ourselves and think about our values and beliefs, and allow those to guide us.

And if that’s what we want our kids to do, shouldn’t we do the same?

What’s Up On The Walls

I’ll never forget the student who was telling me about how he was being mercilessly bullied, whose eye was suddenly caught by poster on the wall proclaiming that his school was a safe and caring place.  “What a joke,” he commented.

It’s not enough to declare our beliefs; the hard work is in living them every day.

Having said that, it’s also important that we are clear and concrete about what we believe in. I’ve seen some schools that do an excellent job of talking to students in the first week of school about what kind of a school we want to have, never to broach the subject again.

If we are going to create an environment where people think about their beliefs and are guided by them in their behaviour every day, it is important that we have constant reminders around us, and engage in ongoing discussions.

What’s up on the wall isn’t enough on its own; but it can certainly be a touchstone for us.

These pictures were shared with me by a teacher from Niverville Collegiate. She was incredibly passionate as she explained to me the work that their school had done to develop these beliefs, and how they are displaying them in every possible place to serve as constant reminders about what is important. I could tell from her energy that these ideas are much more than words on the wall!

niverville 1

In places where there isn’t room to list each of their beliefs, like the welcome mat at the door, they use the “NCI CARES” logo.

niverville doormat

And then there’s the version with key words:

niverville 2

How do you bring your school beliefs to the forefront every day? Please share your ideas in the comments below, or email me ideas or pictures and I’ll post how your school is keeping Restitution alive!