I have the privilege every day to speak with schools, corporations, police, non-profits, church and support groups and other organizations about the tremendous practical benefits of social media in our lives today.
My typical routine is to arrive at a venue, sign in and meet-and-greet at the school office, chat with the organizers and student tech teams, test my setup, watch as the students roll into the auditorium or gym and then launch into the presentation. Afterward, take some Q&A and answer questions with students wanting more specific tips and online ideas.
But then January 8th, 2016, came and something changed with me. Actually, a lot changed with me. I was invited to speak with students at Judith Nyman Secondary School in the Peel District School Board. The VP had discussed with me the need to modify my presentation to facilitate a different level of learner and a wider scope of student. My experience that morning impacted me greatly and far beyond anything in quite some time. I began to say hello to the students as they arrived in the cafetorium but what I observed left me truly humbled; teachers and administrators extending a sense of love, patience and compassion toward their students that was deep, authentic and, to me, moving.
I feel blessed and honoured to spend most of my days in schools where the concentrated development of academic, sports and other disciplines, scholarship preparation and the eventual achievement of meaningful career goals is expected. But the students and teachers of Judith Nyman showed me, more than anywhere else, humanity and humility, hope, encouragement, love and the fundamental and unconditional acceptance of a human being.
I sat in silence in my car outside the school, thinking for a long while about the students and their families lives, early hopes and dreams, and their futures and opportunities that so many others simply breeze through, automatically. I thought about my own son who is athletic, focused and skilled to play baseball at the elite level. And I thought if life had turned in another direction how things could have been much different.
As I drove away it occurred to me, deeply, that I was brought to Judith Nyman Secondary School for a reason; to not so much be the teacher but rather, to really be the learner. And for that, I am grateful.