I felt that I had to start this school. Here’s why.
During a recent tour with parents interested in our program, I was asked this common question, “What prompted you to start this school?”
I’ve answered this many times over the past five years but for some reason this time I was thinking more about my own journey as a young person. Yes, I did start this school because I felt the right program for my own children wasn’t available but I’m aware that some of my motivation to take on this mountain was because I didn’t want young people — namely young women — to go through what I did.
I remember distinctly being at a Twenty Under Forty award ceremony several years ago, hearing the speeches where the award-winners profusely thanked their parents for all the support and guidance they had provided. I was struck by this thought: At the time, I actually didn’t have anyone to thank for who I had become and where I was in my life.
My parents were a source of care and they provided for me and certainly loved me. We also had a lot of fun during my childhood: listening to and playing music, road trips to visit family, and lots of time outdoors. What I realize now is that they didn’t have the skills for having a thoughtful conversation with me. I don’t recall them coaching me, providing guidance, asking questions, or offering insight into life or my future.
I also didn’t have any teachers, coaches, or mentors doing that either. I’m chalking that up to my ability to do schoolwork well so nobody needed to intervene, I generally kept to myself, and I didn’t know how to ask for help.
It’s not surprising that without a guide at hand, my twenties were wrought with disasters, people treating me badly, and embarrassing behaviour. It is painful for me to think about who I was back then.
It was a series of awful and sometimes scary experiences that awoke me to this question: Do I want to continue to live like this?
The answer to that in combination with a serious cancer diagnosis for my mom drew me into a cycle of questioning and self-improvement. With determination to alter the course of my life and what was possible for me, the work I did in the decades after that taught me you can really choose to change your life, choose how you see things, and choose to be better.
I ended up quitting my permanent high school teaching job in my late twenties, giving up my “golden handcuffs,” to pursue answers to the big questions I was thinking about: Why did my mom get sick? Why do people do what they do? How does the brain work?
My eyes were opened in the Master’s degree program I completed in Counselling Psychotherapy to how resilient and capable people can be and also what can really hold people back from being happy and leading a fulfilling life.
Using my degree as a launching pad, I took courses, read books, sought out helpers, and stepped out into the world with a fresh start. In my thirties I practiced my new communication skills with my mom, leading us to a deepening of our relationship. Just as we were on a roll, full of love for each other, and as I was entering a marriage myself, she passed away.
In the two years following, I ended up giving birth to my first son, moving provinces, starting a business with my husband, and renovating a house. I mention these events because this was a phase where my new-found abilities were stretched beyond their limits — I did on a few occasions crumple from the weight of it all.
The reality is that adversity, tragedies, and shocking things do happen. Tough problems to solve, messy situations that require decisions to be made, and people treating us harshly occur. My schooling did not prepare me for any of this. None of what I can do now I attribute to my school experience.
Since I have left grade school and gone to the “school of hard knocks,” I have learned that:
You can lose the people you love the most and still have a happy life. (My Dad passed away, too)
You can heal.
You can decide to stop looking at life with a glass half empty.
You can learn pretty much anything; including how to be a better person.
You can grow to be better at critical thinking, which is paramount in life.
You can live with intention — reflecting, gaining awareness, being who you are, and continually improving how you operate and interact in the world.
You can learn how to adopt new habits that help you achieve your goals. And these habits help you grow a strong character and make good decisions.
You can make goals that aim higher than you even think is possible.
And you can do hard things.
Can you imagine believing these things BEFORE you graduate from high school?
I want parents to understand that this isn’t just a school program, it’s a thriving-at-life one. Don’t send your children here just hoping they are going to be successful or “happy” but because you want them to feel confident stepping boldly into whatever life will throw at them and that the sky really is the limit. Also send your children here because you want whatever gifts they have to shine through rather than being diminished or lost at the hands of others.
So I guess the answer to the question of why I started this school is because my own children needed it and because I want your children to get their launch pad now rather than in the middle or the end of their lives.
Applications are currently open for the 2021-2022 school year for our Wortley Campus (elementary) and High School at Innovation Works.