Yesterday I went to renew my drivers license and after being away for a year I did not realize that the office had moved. So, a planned, (very short), walk to the renewal office became two, (very long), bus rides across the city of Coquitlam into Port Coquitlam. But this isn’t a post to whine or complain, rather it is to say ‘Thank you’ to the everyday bus-goers of the city I call home. It was at the very first stop that I noticed the start of a trend.

A young lady took the bus only one stop from the station then stood at the back doors to get off. When the bus stopped and the back doors opened she paused and said in a loud voice for the driver at the front to hear, “Thank You!”

On my 4 bus trips I think I heard ‘Thank You’ to the driver at least a dozen times. This got me thinking about the reading and watching of the news I’ve done recently, (something I rarely do except on holidays). Earlier this summer I read about a bus driver that had been attacked by a passenger. I don’t remember the details, it was one of a number of depressing things that I read, forcing me to put the paper down in disgust. Some bus driver in a far-off city gets harassed and it’s news, but wonderful thankful people are never mentioned. They may not be ‘newsworthy’, but I’d like to think that they are ‘blogworthy’!

A couple days ago I watched the late night news and the two headlines on Canadian National news were 1: The high incidents of drowning this year, and 2: A shooting in Connecticut, USA, by a disgruntled beer and wine wholesaler employee. Depressing.

So to end ‘Part 1’ of this post, ‘Thank you’ to the wonderful people of Coquitlam for being so kind and uplifting! I too gave the bus drivers an inspired ‘Thank You’, and my last one was followed by several others as we all departed at the final stop of the run. And a big, ‘No thank you’ to newspaper reporters and newscasters who drivel on and on about all the evil in the world. I’ll stick to blogs and twitter for my information and take a pass on reading and viewing news about countless tragedies and disasters and perhaps, if I’m lucky, one ‘feel good’ report. There is too much good in this world to have you shift my attention away from it.

— Part 2 —

I’m currently reading a book called Disrupting Class, by Clayton M. Christensen, and one of the key messages early on is that schools have done a remarkably good job over the years, but the measurements we use to judge them keep shifting. To use a sporting metaphor, they keep moving the goal posts… with ‘they’ being parents, policy-makers and society in general. The shift to greater and greater standardized testing has compounded this because we are on a shift away from that kind of learning being important, but the goal posts have not shifted away yet. However if you read ‘the news’ then schools are filled with failures on every level. Meanwhile, my news feed is filled with wonderful teachers and amazing projects.

So ‘Thank you’ to all the amazing teachers in my network that I learn from whenever I get online, and ‘No thank you’ to people who complain about ‘the system’ and ‘failing schools’ who don’t actually try to do something about them.

— Part 3 —

I remember watching The Razor’s Edge years ago. Bill Murray plays Larry Darrell a taxi driver ‘in search of himself’ who at one point serves as an ambulance driver in World War II. His partner/co-attendant Piedmont is a sour man that is bitter and unpleasant.

If memory serves me correctly there are also two wonderfully optimistic, volunteer, British ambulance drivers that work with Larry and Piedmont. In a scene, these two happy-go-lucky ambulance attendants have engine trouble as they attempt to bring injured soldiers to safety while under fire. Stalled, the Brits attempt to repair their ambulance while enemy fire pinpoints their stationary location. Bombs get closer and closer until they blow up the ambulance, killing these two men. Larry is distraught and the bitter Piedmont says a few kind words about how nice these two were and then says, to Larry’s disgust, “They will be forgotten.”

Later, Piedmont is killed (I don’t remember how), and in a monologue Larry talks of this unruly, unkind and cantankerous man and then says, “He will be remembered.”

I was still a teenager when I saw this movie but it has a powerful lasting affect on me. I realized then and there that we tend to pay far more attention to people and things that are negative and annoy us than on the things we should be happy and appreciative about. I’d like to think that this is learned and not human nature. We don’t have to focus on the negative, and we are better people when we don’t.

— Epilogue —

So I’ll take heed of lessons learned and avoid the “No Thank You’s” as I bring this post to conclusion.

“Thank You” to the bus-goers of Coquitlam for inspiring this post. Thanks also for reminding me of the valuable lesson Bill Murray taught me so long ago.

“Thank you” to the amazing people in my digital network that inspire and teach me. You make lifelong learning fun!

And, “Thank you” to those that read my blog and to those that take the time to comment. I appreciate the conversation and the encouragement.

The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.  ~John E. Southard

10 comments on “Thank you and no thank you

  1. Great post, Dave. And it had me thinking about a simple classroom strategy learned in my practicum many years ago, and that which I still try (not always successfully) to remember today. That is, the management style of positive reinforcement. So easy it is to focus on the 1 or 2 kids that are not towing the line or following expectations. More often we (I) should be praising those that are being exemplary and creative. If I am waiting for a class’s attention, rather than pointing out who I am still waiting for, giving loud compliments to those who are demonstrating appropriate behaviour (especially those who don’t usually), has a way better effect. 🙂 Do I always do that? No. But I try… and your post is another reminder of how this also needs to be our focus in society.
    Thank YOU, Dave, for always challenging me!

  2. What a timely post. Today I was thinking about my daily photoblog, and the time needed to keep up with it. But then I realized it’s been a great way for me think of a positive moment each day that I link to a photo. They’re not always exciting moments, but there is always something that I can find each day that can bring a smile to my face. It’s a great habit I hope to keep up, and I know it brings a smile to those that occasionally read it. So, thank-you for the reminder to look for the positive.

  3. Elan,
    Great point! We have a lot of quiet or unassuming students in our classes that deserve our attention.

    Heather,
    I gave up on ‘a photo a day’ as it seemed to always end up being something I thought of at the last minute, and ‘one more thing’ added to my plate. If I had taken your attitude towards it, then I probably would have appreciated it more and stuck with it!

    Thanks for your comments!

  4. Dave, a very timely post. Sums up exactly what I was struggling to articulate to my line manager in my performance management meeting this week – I hear so many positives from my PLN, but we rarely hear that same level elsewhere. I’ll be pointing her in your direction!

    Thank you 🙂

  5. In my first year of teaching it often felt like a thankless job. About half way through the year a new student joined two of my classes and he thanked me at the end of each lesson. It raised my morale incredibly. I worried that the other students would be a bad influence and he would stop thanking me and stop contributing positively to class discussions. In fact, the reverse occurred. This one boy had an incredible influence on the attitude of the class and many began thanking me at the end of each lesson.

    Now, 6 years later, as a better teacher and improved culture in my school, most students thank me at the end of each lesson. I was even thanked at the end of a lunch when I kept students in to complete homework not done.

    Thanks for your post Dave. It’s nice to think of the positives in the world.

  6. THANK YOU! I live in South Carolina, not a bastion of exemplary education, and I am sick to death of being labled a failure by every politician coming down the pike. You are exactly right, the goalposts are moved at will and, to continue the metaphor, the children of this country are used as political footballs. I have said over and over that we have great students and great teachers. Do we need to get better? Absolutely. Can we? Absolutely. But not through increased testing. Standardized testing will not be accurate until we can standardize children..and God willing, that will never happen.

  7. Hmm… You’ve touched on so much in this post Dave!

    I absolutely agree that we all need to remember to acknowledge the positive! As you point out, I too see such fantastic stuff going on all the time – out here in the virtual world, in the school in my district, in my work with other districts. Wow! So much passion and caring and energy! Without reservation, I can say that educators (as a whole) are amazing people! My work as a parent leader also leads me to say, without reservation, that parents (as a whole) are incredibly passionate about helping their children grow up to be contributing citizens and happy people.

    So we have all this passion and caring, yet have such a hard time agreeing on what needs to happen? What’s working and what’s not? What do we do next?

    Where do we go awry? A quote from Chris Lehmann always sticks in my head – something along the lines of “take a good teacher, put them in a bad system, and the system too often wins…”

    Take Barry Oshry’s work on organizational behaviour – it applies equally to education as any other organization. The fact is, the “system” has a personality just as much as any individual within it! And depending on which “role” you play within that system, you “wear” that organizational behaviour – most often unaware that you’re doing so! Parents and teachers are inevitably adversaries within our educational system – not because we don’t care about the same things (the kids!!), but just because that’s how the system sets us up…

    The other thing that’s struck me recently is a comment that a friend made – that many Asian cultures handle criticism or negative comments very differently. He said “North Americans are so focused on the individual that you have no “we” to support you when you deal with the tough stuff. In many Asian cultures, they start with a foundation of community – so you can say to someone “I don’t like your hair” and they don’t take it personally. It’s just an opinion about hair because they know that it’s not something that would ever “eject” them from the community. Their sense of belonging is just assumed…”

    We don’t deal with “failure” very well here. To me, it’s not failure – it’s a learning opportunity. But on a day to day basis, how do we talk about failure? Or when things don’t work? I’ve really been paying attention to how often I say to my kids “who did this?” – because that focuses on whose “fault” it was. Instead, I’m shifting our conversations to “what happened and how can we learn from this?” – because that way, I can instill in them the practice of accepting that everyone makes mistakes, having compassion for all involved, and taking advantage of “community” learning. Heck, there’s not enough time to make all the possible mistakes ourselves – we may as well learn from each other’s mistakes together! 🙂 But that means we have to trust each other enough to reveal our vulnerable places… Do we have that kind of trust with each other?

    What would our communities (a classroom, a school, a family, any group!) look like if we could focus on the positive, support each other’s “best selves” AND accept that failure is part of learning (not a judgment of your worth!)? How would we act? What would we say? How would we feel?

    Sorry for the long comment! Can you tell this has been churning around in my head for a while?? 🙂

    Thank you for your post!

  8. This is a great reminder. Thank you, Dave. It’s very easy to get into a rut of complaining. We’ve had a great opportunity this summer for complaining because of the oil spill in Dalian. Many folks think of it as such a great failure. But do they remember to thank the fire fighters who put their lives at risk? Well, if I could, I certainly would. It’s very easy to focus on the tragedy of the environmental damage, but what about thanking the people who are working on clean up. One man even lost his life in that effort. There are so many difficult and thankless jobs. Thank you for reminding me to not only say “Thank you” more often, but to put a big , sincere “Thank you” out into the either for all those who never get them. And teachers are among the many who don’t get even a little bit of the amount of gratitude they deserve.

  9. Dave,

    I couldn’t agree with you more about our need to focus on the positive, say thanks to people around us and be part of the solution not part of the problem. Like you, I’ve pretty much given up on newspapers except for the comics and the crossword! Too much focuses on what we have too much of already in our world – the negative. So, thanks Dave for reminding me to say thanks to all those people in my world who do things for me, look for ways to create solutions and be positive! I hope you enjoyed your summer and best of luck to you in this new school year!

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