You teach your children some fashion sense
And they fashion some of their own
- Gordon Downie

Monday, June 17, 2013


Ain't no time for worrying
Gotta go
Move on
Got that getaway feeling
I'm leavin'
 ~ Paul Brandt

In May, 2006, I was called into the office at Glendale Middle School and informed that I would be leaving. My destination was Grandview Elementary School, the school where my eldest son Connor was attending Kindergarten. I was coming off a difficult year of soul searching. I sincerely enjoyed my time at Glendale, but there were a lot of things that made me look elsewhere. I was restless and ambitious, but I was not really ready to assume any great responsibility at a school level. My first five years of school administration strained my ability to focus on my family and I felt quite compromised. There were many things I wanted to accomplish at Glendale, but I felt like my family suffered because of my obligations at school. It pissed me off to miss hockey practices or skating lessons. My boys spent lots of time at school with me, which was fine, but it was also time we could have spent in a playground or in a park. I pursued a couple of principal positions during that vear. I was driven in part by ambition and in part by the memory of my failed hockey career. I became a Vice Principal at a young age, just as I entered the Western Hockey League at a young age. My untimely exit from hockey was fresh in my mind and I did not want to let opportunities pass me by. In the end, I was interviewed for two principal positions, offered one, and decided to pass it up because it would have forced my family to move a long distance from Red Deer.

My transfer to Grandview was proof to me that things happen for a reason. I have very special memories of my experiences at all of my schools. However, the past seven years at Grandview fill my heart like no other professional experience to date. I have written a lot about how much this school means to me. It chokes me up whenever I talk about it.

Grandview was a great place for my children. Without exception, they had amazing teachers. My boys grew up in full view and I cannot understate how much I value the opportunity to have front row seats. I was there for assemblies, concerts, field trips, and all of the special events I would have missed had I worked at another school. Moreover, I had the opportunity to actively shape their experiences by pushing for a climbing wall, booking guest instructors, arranging field trips, and planning many keynote events in Grandview's school year. There is no doubt that I had a vested interest in making Grandview the best possible place for my own children. However, a school needs to be a great place for all children. It should not matter whether a parent is an employee of the school district, a family that lives directly across the street, someone who recently immigrated to Canada, a family that lives in our catchment area or a family that will only be with us for a matter of days because their lives are in crisis. The diversity of the students who attend our school make it special.

Grandview is full of incredible people - staff, students, and parents. This is the part I cannot write without tears. These are tears of fierce pride, intense gratitude, and sincere love. I got my first introduction to the "Grandview Way" from Jean Cobb, who loved her kids first and foremost. When Jean did something, she did it with pure passion and genuine love for the students who attended her school. Early on, when we were asked to "go with the flow" and make a significant change to our school day, the eminently wise Kevin Shilling nodded his head and made a simple comment. "C'est la vie a Grandview"... Throughout their school career, my kids had nothing but the best teaching possible. Danece Workman, Gail Schmitt, Shirley Brault, Carol Johnson, Kelly Martinez, Maria Tisdale, Shauna Kadar, Lynn Gwartney, Carrie Tobler, Sue Mueller, Sandra Morton, Kevin Shilling. The list of amazing teachers my kids did not have is just as long. The list of amazing support staff matches the length of both lists. That, in my mind, is a true testament to the quality of adults who spend their days in our building.

Make no mistake. At Grandview, we work hard and we play hard. A few years ago, my friend Monte Selby came to spend a week in our school to write music with our students. One of the songs, Fun, says "We have fun here at Grandview/We have fun every day". That fun can be found in the classrooms, the hallways, the playgrounds, even the office. Our teachers love what they do, our kids love coming to school, and we fuel one another. I never miss dressing up for a spirit day, from cowboy to mad scientist to superhero to wearing full hockey gear (including my skates) for a day. Our staff also plays hard after hours. Staff retreats, hockey drafts, conferences, post-interview debriefs, progressive suppers, scavenger hunts, camping trips. We don't party every Friday like I did before I had kids, but when we decide to let go, it is a ton of fun.

Grandview is at the heart of our community. The playground, soccer fields, baseball diamond and outdoor skating rink are well-used after hours. The Red Deer Fencing Club uses our gymnasium every weeknight through the winter. Red Deer Pond Hockey teams hold practices and tournaments on the outdoor rink. Each winter, the school plays host to the Red Deer Rebels Enmax Pond Hockey program. My favourite evening of the year, however, is our family BBQ and outdoor movie night. Each year, families from the school (past and present) converge on the school grounds to eat, visit, and watch a movie on a gigantic outdoor screen. It is an evening that reminds me of the barn dances and church picnics of my youth and I am incredibly sad that this year's event was my last.

My time at Grandview has not been all sunshine and roses. For every difficult parent, there are 99 amazing parents at our school. I will not deny that I worked with some families that were completely dysfunctional and messed up. Overall, though, these types of people are not the norm. The norm is parents who volunteer for field trips, participate in fundraisers, sign agendas, attend school functions and want the best for their kids. It is a regular occurrence for people to walk into the building and say, "I've heard this is a great school. I want my kids to come here."

There have been some incredibly "interesting" events over the past seven years. Parents who have undergone sex changes so a child refers to their parents as "Mom" and "Mom Mom". Folks from all parts of the world who have no idea what we are talking about. One year, I returned from spring break and noticed that my office had an extremely bad odour. I searched the bookshelves and work desk for leftover food or milk that one of my "lunchtime guests" might have left behind, to no avail. I purchased a Vanillaroma stinky tree to try and cover the odour, with minimal success. One day, as I was searching my shelves, I found the source. At Christmas, one of our more interesting parents had given me a box of home made rum balls as a gift. Not trusting the source, I left the rum balls on a shelf and forgot about them, until I discovered that they had indeed gone bad. Another day, I had to restrain and physically remove a student from the playground to the "thinking spot" in our office. I had to quickly push the door closed to prevent them from bolting around me when I realized that I did not have my keys with me. The student stared a hole through me and bellowed, "LET ME OUT!" I replied, in an tone with equivalent volume and rage, "I CAN"T!" At the time, the door locked from the outside and I was indeed stuck in this room with an out-of control child. My response seemed to stun the youngster, who then asked (in a sincerely puzzled tone), "Really?" I then explained that no one was coming to open the door until I asked them to. The absurdity of our situation defused the conflict completely. "Really? You are the vice principal and you're locked in here with me? That's funny."

When I really reflect on my seven years at Grandview, it fills me with pride. I had the good fortune to work with amazing people - teachers, educational assistants, secretaries, caretakers, counsellors, maintenance staff, IT support, student teachers, community volunteers, guest artists and instructors, and central office staff. I worked three very different, yet equally impressive principals. I met hundreds of children and their families. I made lifelong friends and I watched my children forge powerful friendships. I can look around the school and see my fingerprints all over it. In the end, though, my career as an educator is a book and my years at Grandview have been seven of my favourite chapters.

I entered this school year knowing it would likely be my final year at Grandview. I was hoping to move into a Principalship in Red Deer Public, and when that did not happen, I decided to widen my view. Now, I am reminded of the lone traveler in Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken. I have decided to take a different path than most. I'm leaving behind twenty years of experience in a school district to start fresh with an amazing opportunity in a completely new community. I was hurt, disillusioned and frustrated when I was passed over for a position in Red Deer Public. Now, the excitement I felt when I first entered school administration has returned and I feel very confident about moving forward. Like the character in Frost's poem, I won't know whether this is the right decision for a while. At the moment, it feels right and it makes sense.

I’d rather live my whole life with a sense of abandonSqueeze every drop out, no matter what happensAnd not wonder what I've missedI’d rather risk ~Paul Brandt


  1. Ted, you have inspired your students and staff. You have created a rich learning environment and a climate of trust and caring. Grandview grew with the passion you brought for making the school the best place for kids, staff and parents to learn and develop. It was also amazing to hear guests at the school talk about the influence the school climate had on them, like Tall Paul.
    Your colleagues in Red Deer will miss you. RDPSD missed an opportunity to experience the "Ted Effect" at the principal level. It is unfortunate but I believe everything is for a reason and one door closes but others open. So your door to Delburne is open and you can turn on the lights inside.
    Thank you for your friendship and all the professioal courtesies and help you gave me. I value the years I was at Grandview and had the pleasure of working along side of you. Shalom. Deb

  2. Your posts always cover a wide territory. You tel it like it is...the 1 out 100 negative parents. The odd out of control kid. I like your story of being locked in the room with the kid. A typical Ted story. Grandview has the only idea that works and that is to put kids first. There were times in my career when kids were not first.
    Delburne is going to be lucky. all the best to you in the next stage of your career.

  3. I agree that Grandview is a great place, and you played a big part in making it a great place. It was the best kind of last minute change of plans for me when I joined GV. It will forever be in my heart. I too am sad to leave my RDPSD years behind, but I know the risk I'm taking is the right one, especially after reading about why being in your kids' school was so valuable.
    I am truly honoured to have worked with you Ted. Delburne is very lucky.