Happy New Year!

It’s a new calendar year and — as you’d expect — I heard lots of talk last week about resolutions.

Some time ago, I abandoned the annual practice of promising myself to be better at something. Instead — as a part of my commitment to studying and practicing empathy — I’ve tried to focus annually on a specific ‘learning goal’. Once, for example, I committed to learning how to whistle.  Sometime thereafter, I took tap dancing lessons.

For the past two years, I’ve focused my learning goals on the pursuit of certification as a Swimming Canada official so I can be more actively engaged in my daughter’s world of competitive sports.  In doing so, I’m reminded that learning something new – no matter the intensity of your motivation – requires patience, persistence and resilience. The journey to date has been both a learning experience and a lesson in humility. Consistent with my original intent, it has – without question — cultivated my empathy for students and the amazing colleagues who provide front-line services at Sheridan. 

Suffice to say that the ladder to becoming a senior swimming official takes a lot of time. On average, I have volunteered over 100 hours a year since 2016 at meets across the GTA in positions that range from basic timing, to the person who marshals and organizes heats, to being the starter. To progress to the next level, you need a diverse array of experience and two signatures from qualified evaluators.

My schooling on the intricacies of each role on a competitive pool deck has been fueled by coaching from a long list of mentors.  This has served to reinforce my commitment to being generous when people ask me for help.  Further, my learning has been accelerated and enhanced by the opportunity to apply theory to practice.  This is consistent with what the research tells us and foundational to how we approach teaching and learning at Sheridan.

Finally, the very few people (swimmers, coaches, parents) who have yelled at me, been condescending, or otherwise disrespectful have raised my consciousness about the challenges inherent in providing effective, efficient, and high-quality front-line services.  Wow:  some people are really rude!  I remain in awe of the work our colleagues do to provide outstanding service across our campuses to students, faculty and staff … sometimes under very difficult circumstances.  Pursuing my latest ‘learning goal’ has served my purposes brilliantly.  In the process of learning something that is important to me, I have had to park my ego, focus intently on a goal, and demonstrate an enormous amount of patience. It has decidedly cultivated empathy, something I believe is foundational to being a good educator, an effective leader and a decent human being.   Happy New Year !!!