Are you happy?

What is it that you want in life? Success? Fame? Wealth? Happiness?

My own answer is happiness. The one thing I truly wanted in my life – which I thought would bring my happiness – I am unable to have. Therefore I had a decision to make: wallow in sorrow or find other ways to be happy. Life typically doesn’t deal us the cards we would choose for ourselves. So the question becomes: with the cards I have, can I still be happy?

I recently watched a documentary entitled Happy. It features individuals from around the world – people that you might not expect to be happy: those living in poverty with little food and few possessions, a woman whose life changed drastically when she was run over by a truck and required 26 reconstructive surgeries.

You would think that our circumstances would determine our happiness. And yet, every day, individuals prove that theory false. Despite difficult circumstances, we can choose to be happy. Despite tragic and disheartening life events – after a period of natural grief and sorrow – we can return to happiness. I think of my father, immobile for the last six years of his life. Despite his situation, he chose happiness.

One of the students I work with every day is undeniably, overtly happy. It is difficult not to smile when you’re around her. I would imagine that this will persist as she goes through life. Will she face sad, devastating or tragic circumstances in her life? Likely. Will she choose happiness? I am just as certain the answer will be yes.


One of the 7 Habits as written by Stephen Covey is Synergize. In short, it is described as “two heads are better than one.” Our students use this word all the time – even the six year olds. Outsiders to the school are surprised to hear them use it, use it correctly and understand what it means. What does synergy look like? Cooperation, teamwork, problem solving, ingenuity, a buzz of energy.

And did I ever see synergy in action this past week! At school, as we geared up for Leadership Day… as a family as we prepared for my grandma’s 90th birthday party… and even in the following video, as a group stumbles upon a trapped humpback whale:

Rod Williams has said, “We are like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. We are all unique, and have our own special place in the puzzle of the universe. Without each of us, the puzzle is incomplete.”

We bring our gifts and together we are better than we would be alone. Synergy is evident when we meet as a staff to dialogue, continue our learning and rejuvenate our skills. Synergy is evident as a family comes together to deal with the illness of a loved one. Synergy is evident on the sports field when all members of the team use their talents toward a common goal. Synergy is evident when a group of students gather to clean up the school yard. Synergy is evident when the individual notes played by the members of a symphony come together in a masterpiece.

Synergy is energizing. Synergy is not caring about getting the credit. Synergy leads to fulfillment: the satisfaction of a job well done.

P.S. Take the time to watch the whale video: perhaps it will uplift you as you begin your week…

In October, I gave each class in our school this mission: change the world through words.

Over the last two weeks I have spent much time developing a website – – highlighting the many projects of our students. As I read their accounts, I was touched by their insight and compassion. I am hopeful that this concept is one they will remember and that they realize how empowering words can be!

Just as we model and discuss classroom expectations throughout the year, this concept too is one which deserves ongoing attention. Words can be incredibly hurtful when used carelessly, flippantly or maliciously. Just recently I was disheartened to hear the words spoken to one of our students by his own parents. He was devastated.

On the flip-side, words can be incredibly encouraging, inspiring and motivating. When I was supervising the other day, I was walking with a student who has separation anxiety from her mother. Another student said to her, “Good for you. You were brave today!” A humble, timid grin spread across the girl’s face.

Whether we realize it or not, the words we hear – especially during our formative years – shape us, contribute to our self-concept and affect our willingness to take risks.

This year, our students have discussed and explored ways that words change the world. Check out the website to view their projects!



A special form of payment

I often start and end the school day with a hug. There are also many in between. In how many professions can you say that?

Our job is not known to be especially rewarding financially but payment comes in many forms. I leave my job at the end of the day rewarded by those I have encountered: students who are truly excited to see you, parents who just needed someone to listen, staff who take the extra time with a student in need of support, teachers whose passion permeates everything they do.

As with every job, there are aspects that are necessary but not desirable: a call to children’s services, a fight for special needs funding, dealing with discipline… just to name a few.

“In activity we must find our joy as well as glory; and labor, like everything else that is good, is its own reward.” Edwin P. Whipple

The hugs help too.




A four letter word. A persuasive word. A word prompting action or more precisely an end to action. A word sometimes absent when it should be present. A word effective in the face of bullying.

Recently, I watched What Would You Do? – the ABC hidden camera show with John Quinones. One of the situations took place in an icecream shop where a customer – an actor – stuttered and therefore took a considerable length of time to place her order. Other actors who were in line behind her, began harassing her, making rude comments and questioning her intelligence. The cameras caught the reactions of those unaware that this situation was staged. There were some who heard, were visibly upset but did not intervene. There were others who confronted the bullies.

Whether we are children or adults, it is easy to stand by silently during a situation we know is unjust. It is more difficult to get involved and stand up for the victim. Yet I have witnessed the power of the seemingly simply utterance “stop” in the midst of intimidation or victimization. This word typically yields results.

Just as words have immense power to hurt, words also have immense power to help. The choice is yours.


The mystery of faith

Last weekend I found a fascinating full page spread in the National Post outlining world religions. There are proportional circles representing various religions throughout the world: some familiar, some completely unfamiliar. (The link if you’re interested:

What struck me is the commonality of a belief in a higher power. Now I realize that there are 146 million people who ascribe to atheism. But the other 6 billion 3 hundred million believe in ‘something’.  What does that tell us? As humans we seek, search for and perhaps even desire a higher power. We seek explanation. We seek order. We seek comfort in something larger than ourselves.

I don’t always believe in or support everything the church does or says. I also know that our varying beliefs have been the cause of much conflict throughout history. I know that to reconcile the evolution theory versus the creation theory is a daunting task. Yet, regardless of all of this, my faith continues to be a source of comfort. Though I cannot explain my faith, it is ever present within me. Though I cannot answer questions explaining ‘why it is so’ or even ‘how it is so’, I continue to believe.

Who am I to purport that my beliefs are the correct ones? After all, I was born into my faith. It was not a choice I made. And yet, my faith provides me with much comfort. When I face uncertainty, sadness or confusion in my life, I am comforted by my belief in something bigger than myself. I have faith that there is a reason for the suffering or pain in our world though I don’t claim to like it or understand it. Watching our parents lose the ability to walk, talk and eat… hearing about the sufferings of our young students… witnessing tragic loss or abusive behaviour… the inability to have children… dealing with addiction or poverty… these are situations most of us would certainly rather avoid.

Yet, it is through my faith that I am able to provide comfort and support to those around me. It is through my faith that I find strength. Ultimately, it is through my faith that I have come to realize that these situations, tragic as they are, shape us into who we are today, making us more humble, kindhearted and compassionate.

Though it remains a mystery, my faith endures.