TBT – Private School

Yes, I went to a girls private school. Before you go thinking that I come from privilege and all that, I have to tell you how it came to be.

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One night in a bar in Revelstoke (a small mill town in Central BC) my dad was having drinks with a client who worked for an up and coming logging company. While I’m sure my dad was not completely sober, his client was, from all accounts, three sheets to the wind. Nobody’s sure why (or they’re not saying) but the client decided to give my dad an envelope with a fairly substantial pile of company stock in it. In the coming months the company boomed and voila, we all got sent to private school.

Contrary to popular belief not all girls are sent to private school because they are rebellious hellions. Sure, some are, but….well that’s another story. I was just entering grade nine and I hated it! For the first few weeks I would come home every day and cry. By the start of October my mom said that if I still hated it at Christmas time that I could go back to my old school. Four years later I graduated from Crofton House School for Girls.

It had everything a good private girls school should have. Tartan skirts, navy blazers, ivy covered walls, bad boarding house food and a stern Head Mistress.

Her name was Miss Addison but she was affectionately known as AD. Looking back, she wasn’t really that bad, but in the moment, she was terrifying. I remember one weekend my girlfriend, who was a boarder (she lived at the school) was staying with me and we went to a party together. The party was awesome and she went back to the school on Sunday evening. Monday morning we both got called to the headmistress office. Somehow she had found out that we had not only gone to the party but had been driven by a friend of mine and not my parents. A big no-no for a boarder. How she found out we never knew but we got a stern talking to and were shaking in our Oxfords by the time we left.

The ivy covered walls that surrounded the ten acres of grounds served to not only keep us in, but to keep others out. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. For example, there was the time that a dozen barely dressed grade twelve boys from Point Grey High School found their way into our morning prayer assembly. I can’t imagine why my parents disapproved of me dating one of them?

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That’s me, second from the left in the middle

With only 49 girls in my graduating class we were all pretty close. Sure there were cliques and the obligatory hierarchy of popular girls, but at the end of the day we all participated in school pranks and went to the same parties. And let me tell you, private school girls can party. If parents were sending their daughter to Crofton to get them away from drugs, sex and alcohol they were making a huge mistake. HUGE.

I often get asked if I feel that a private school education was worth it. For somebody like me? Yes. I was an average student who really didn’t care much about school or grades, but at private school I was forced to work harder. There was no coasting through. You worked hard or you dealt with the consequences. For me, the most important part of a private school education was not the grades or the college prep. What Crofton House taught me was how to be a better person. Okay, so maybe being able to eat grapes with a fork and spoon (thank you etiquette class) isn’t a valuable life skill, but being able to speak in public and respect authority, among other things, has served me well.

I have so many incredible memories (and some blackmail worthy photos) from my four years at Crofton House. Girlfriends that I get together with after over thirty years and still laugh at the things we did. The school itself has changed quite a bit but the motto has not. Sevabo Fidem. Keep the Faith.

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In Search of Higher Education

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Over the years, whenever I’ve come to a crossroads in my life, I’ve entertained the idea of going back to school to finish a degree I halfheartedly started after high school. For one reason or another it has never happened and now, at fifty, I’m pretty sure it never will. I have no regrets though, because I know that if it was meant to be it would have happened. My friend Karen, however, came to a point in her life, at 47, and realized that she did want to further her education. Growing up in Saskatchewan, Karen’s mom didn’t have a formal post secondary school education and as a single mother she struggled. Seeing that, Karen knew from an early age that she wanted more for herself. She would go to university, get an education and have a career. It was never a question, it was just something she would do. Her life has taken some twists and turns along the way but the desire to better herself has never faded. At 50 years of age she is five months away from earning her MBA.

After high school Karen earned a degree in Commerce and Computer Science at the University of Saskatchewan then took a year off and travelled in Southeast Asia. At the end of that year she needed to make a decision on what to do and where to go. “I sat in a bar in Bangkok and tried to decide if I should go to Australia or the UK”. Although the lure of beaches and surfing was strong, the UK won out. Securing a work visa, she headed to London. Even though she had her degree, she was in her early twenties and had no real life work experience so she joined a temp secretarial pool. Her programming background and her wicked typing skills got her plenty of jobs and within a few months she was offered a full time programming position. There’s no doubt in my mind that it wasn’t just her university degree that propelled her into this job. Karen has, what I would call, moxy.

Okay, so quick life segway…..While working in London Karen met her soon to be husband. They returned to Canada and had two boys who are now 18 and 16. She took a programming position at a telecommunications company and continued to move up the corporate ladder. About 2002 she met me. (Okay, so maybe that’s not really a “life moment” but it was at a time that her life was changing so I’m putting it in the story). A few years later she found herself going through a divorce. Having been through a divorce, I know how all consuming it can be. From what I saw, Karen took it all in stride. She put her head down, worked hard and raised her sons. All the while continuing to better herself personally and professionally. I truly admire that.

Getting an executive MBA requires a lot of things. Working for an organization that believes in people is a great place to start, and Karen’s employer has been behind her all the way. But ultimately you need to have a full support team. Work peers, friends and family. At one point in her first year Karen was struggling to juggle work, school and parenting . Feeling like she was, perhaps, not fully there for one of her sons as he reported a less than stellar grade, she said to him, “I think I should just quit this and be more available for you.” As her eyes filled with tears she recalled that her son had adamantly told her, no way was she going to quit. They were behind her 100%. Now if only she could get them to study as much as she did. Unfortunately it hasn’t all been as good as that. “I wish that women would support women more.” She’s left friendships behind because some friends, female friends, couldn’t support, or understand, what she would gain from this venture. Feeling that there was no room for negativity in her life, she has forced to moved on.

A big part of the program she is enrolled in involves working in teams and networking. Some of the members of her team are VPs of huge corporations and are well connected men and women in Vancouver business. At first she was a bit intimidated, but then one night over beers she realized she was just as smart, if not smarter, than most of them. Hey, she thought, I could do your job. One day she probably will. As she gets ready to travel to Mexico next month to complete the International portion of her degree, she thinks about how good it will feel to be done. She has specific goals in mind for her future and opportunities and connections that will take her anywhere she wants to go.

This is the reason I write this blog. Exploring other people’s Best Things in Life and searching for mine over the last nine months has shown me so many different approaches to doing what you love. So many different ways to be happy. I will not go back to school. It’s not in me. But I admire Karen so much for what she is doing and I think that not only will she succeed in all that she does, but along the way she will teach others a thing or two. She has taught me that some things are really hard to achieve. Sometimes the road to them is long, winding and full of pot holes. But if you can navigate that road, as Karen has, great things await you. The Best Thing in Life await you.

Preschool Life Lessons

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In my opinion the most overlooked job out there is that of a pre-school teacher. You will have grade school and high school teachers, college professors and bosses who will teach you a multitude of fascinating things. But really, pre-school teachers give you the basic tools to deal with all of that from day one. Pre-school teachers teach you how to share, keep your hands to yourself, speak kindly to others, not to push and not to stick your fingers in other people’s food. All important things to remember in the class room or the boardroom. It takes a special kind of person to teach our children these valuable life lessons while still nurturing their spirit and developing brains. Emma and Sarah, owners of Sunshine Cove Preschool, are two of those special people.

When I first met Emma and Sarah they both struck me as two of the warmest, kindest caregivers I had ever met. The first thing that I noticed about Sarah was her voice. Calm and soothing and kind. My mom would say that it was like butter. A true reflection of her character. Emma’s smile could light up even the dreariest of Deep Cove rainy days and even the most standoffish child would melt from one of her hugs. But don’t let those characteristics fool you. These ladies are not pushovers. They are both certified Early Childhood Educators from Capilano University and are firm on what is acceptable behavior in pre school (and life) and what is not. Smacking your buddy over the head with a book because you don’t like their opinion is not acceptable.  In preschool or in life apparently.

Emma and Sarah met a few years ago working for a daycare that my daughter attended. They discovered they had similar teaching styles and quickly became great friends. When the daycare closed they decided to take a huge leap and open their own preschool. Sunshine Cove Preschool was born. The decision to move from employee to business owner has been exciting, stressful and nerve racking all at the same time, they say. It was a tough start with neither of them having much business experience and balancing the work as a child care worker with the administration of the business side has been an eye opener. They both admit to being a bit naive when it came to the business side. They were lucky enough, however,  to have a great former employer who has guided them through the rough patches. Each credits the other with getting them through the last couple of years.

The school itself is amazing. It’s an older warehouse building that they have renovated. It is everything a preschool should be. Bright, colorful, warm, welcoming, fun. Nature is a huge part of their program and it is everywhere. Kids can create, paint, build and get messy or plop themselves down in a comfortable chair and look at any number of books and puzzles. Their program is a bit different from the other preschools in the area in that they offer a four hour session. This, they feel, gives the kids time to really settle in each day and allows Emma and Sarah time to establish good routines and structures and really teach rather than just watch. It also gives parents a decent stretch of time to work or relax. The toddler program runs Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30-11:00 and the preschool age kids can come Monday through Thursday for two to four days. Friday is a drop in day for registered students.

I feel that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how good Sarah and Emma are with the kids they care for. They are constantly looking for interesting and new education techniques to use when dealing with hyperactivity and aggression – two behavioral traits they run in to quite often. The flip side of that is nurturing the kids who maybe don’t need as much direction. Emma told me about one little boy that would happily play at the light table for 45 minutes on his own. The challenge, she said, comes in recognizing him and his fascination and not always focusing our time and energy on kids who need our attention. It’s important to connect with him and say “Hey, you seem to really be enjoying that table. Tell me about it?”  Don’t you wish some of your past employers  had done this with your work?

Being new business owners has taken an emotional toll on both Emma and Sarah over the past two years, but they wouldn’t have it any other way and wouldn’t have done it with anybody else. Their passion for teaching and nurturing kids is so inspiring to me and to be able to take that passion and make it your life’s work must be so satisfying. I can think of no better place to send a preschooler than Sunshine Cove Preschool. It would give me comfort knowing that they are in Sarah and Emma’s care and that they will learn those valuable life lessons that will carry them in to the big world with confidence.  The Best Thing in Life is knowing how to behave.  And to not stick your fingers in other peoples food.