End School

End SchoolWhat’s your tally? If you stopped to reflect on your total time “in school” what would that number look like?

I consider my own journey – 12 years of grade school, 5 years for my Bachelor’s degree (switched majors), 3 years for my Masters and even a year of starting an unfinished PhD. Add that to 31 years in the education system as a teacher then Director…

I am looking at retiring from my current role in the very near future… 3 ½ months to be exact. It’s a strange feeling. I’ve dedicated my life to making a difference for kids and learning. I know I have always felt like it’s important to make a difference. I’ve already started to seek future work that will allow me to continue those efforts.

When I left my home in Kamloops to head to the University of Calgary, I was sitting in our basement with my two brothers. They’re a bit younger than I am and yet see the world through the lens of service. As we sat joking around and dreaming about the future we came up with a pact – a brothers’ pact. We bantered ideas back and forth and this is what we finally came up with: 3 things to do every day.

  • Challenge ourselves
  • Learn something new
  • Do something nice for a stranger

Both my brothers are Engineers. They work in Phoenix due to the fact that one of them, David, is confined to a wheelchair because of SMA. There’s never any snow in his wheelchair treads. David started a business called Dignified Living and now, along with my brother Michael they provide people a new lease on life.

modified car 3 modified car 2 modified car 1

Converting vehicles is just one of the many things they do – but I have to say I think it’s the coolest. Olympic Gold Medalist Amy Van Dyken-Rouen, injured in an ATV accident, confesses that her car gives her freedom and provides her a sense of normality. She talks briefly about her experience (and inadvertently misquotes David’s company name, Drivven… it’s Drivven…) but demonstrates what her car means to her.

Amy is a swimmer – My own son swam at very high levels and I understand the dedication these athletes have for their sport. They spend a whole lot of time looking at the bottom of a pool. I have a niece looking to get to the Olympics as well. That’s another story because you can’t imagine the sacrifices a family makes to create that type of reality.

For Amy to go from a world class athlete and then address the life-changing event of paralysis – and then go out and talk to large audiences about being powerful… Amy is on my heroes list.

At the end of it, we take a lot for granted. Getting up, getting dressed, stopping for groceries, hopping in a car – everything is so different for folks with an injury or some other issue that changes their interaction with our environment.

End SchoolNow, you might be wondering, what’s all this got to do with ending school. I guess it’s the thought that went through my head when I saw this sign: . “Are you kidding me?” Without the tally of years spent on education there wouldn’t be the David and Michael Aitchisons of the world that are committed to making a difference and have the capacity to do so.

I realize there’s a shift taking place about “how” education should be delivered… but I think there’s a stronger emphasis on the “why”. My hope is that making a difference in the world continues to be one of the big ones. As a life-long learner committed to making a difference, school never ends.