Day 10,952: One Voyage Ended; A New Beginning

The way ahead seemed at once both clear yet so uncertain.
Never was there any doubt
about the voyage that was faced.
The only questions at the time were about the destination.
Futures always uncertain
as the course ahead was traced.

Just like it was for Father the rural life did beckon.
Returning home a teacher–
the thing that was wanted most.
Physics, Math and so much more, you don’t get to be choosy.
The students’ futures were all that mattered
in that small school by the coast.

Got married there, first son born and another would soon be coming.
Nine years had passed quickly.
Things had changed as all things do.
A new challenge presented–teaching physics at a distance.
Secondment meant to move away;
a career to start anew.

It was supposed to be for just two years but you know the way that life is.
You stand upon the next big rock
and your vantage point is changed.
And twenty-one years later reveal shores that look so foreign
from a vessel that over time
was refitted; rearranged.

And what a journey it has been! What friends I’ve met! What things I’ve seen!
What an honour to have been a part
of what’s kept rural places alive.
Throwing down the barriers, rendering distances transparent
meant a way of life we’ve fought to keep
could continue on and thrive.

The students: some struggled, some coasted and some soared on high,
each one with their way to find.
Some were mine to guide.
The colleagues: all so different; each with something to contribute.
The mentors; givers, best of all;
on whose guidance I’ve relied

Together we’ve navigated stormy seas and lands uncharted.
Tears and rents we fixed together.
Always hope for what’s yet to be.
But the journey will continue on, with one less hand on board her.
I’m looking to catch the next boat out.
A new voyage I just can’t wait to see!


38 thoughts on “Day 10,952: One Voyage Ended; A New Beginning

  1. Johnny

    “You stand upon the next big rock
    and your vantage point is changed.”
    Amen, Brother …. well done.
    Congratulations… and… thank you!

  2. I loved the metaphorical references to your coast, the ocean, the place in which you are rooted to the challenges faced as an educator bound up with your header picture – just brilliant. All good wishes to you on your new journey – may the seas be calm.

  3. You always wanted to become a teacher, right? I am asking because according to my (anecdotal) experience these are the best teachers 🙂 … in contrast to those who became teachers accidentally. I am including myself and my teaching assignments in the latter group actually. I rose to the challenge finally but I think I would have been happier at the university e.g. if I would have been able to concentrate on my research only.
    But I had one colleague I remember in particular who was basically born to be a teacher. Though he started as a graduate student in the standard (‘non-teacher’) physics track (in Austria ‘standard physics’ and ‘teaching physics’ are two different majors, sort of…) I feel that he enjoyed teaching more than anything else so he traded off his research PhD for a master’s in teaching physics and math. Unfortunately he died very young from cancer – your moving lines have somehow invoked these memories now. I can just remember that he had just been teaching high school for a short time after his graduation, but yet at his funeral many teachers and students of the school were present… giving lots of speeches about his terrific abilities as a teacher.
    I hope this comment isn’t too offtopic… I just thought that my colleague would probably have reflected on his teaching career in a similar way – and he was a computer geek, too.

    1. I still have all of my University ID’s from way way back in the day. I left home at age 16 after completing grade 11–that was it at the time–and moved to St. John’s to attend Memorial University of NL. My ID said by faculty affiliations were Science and Education. At the time all I wanted to do was study Physics (and, of course math) and become a high-school teacher. I have had lots of time to think about it and know, beyond doubt, that I would do exactly the same again. The basis for the decision came down to an understanding that while I loved interacting with the physical world (experimental physics was, to me, just an extension of my love, which I still have today, of finding out how things work) I loved interacting with people even more. Being a physics teacher gave the opportunity to pursue both. What I discovered soon after making that decision was the pure joy that comes from helping people to see what they previously could not. I believe that your friend would probably have agreed.

    1. One of the happy discoveries — or perhaps ‘changes’ might be a better term — that I have made was to realize that I am not so much ‘from’ here as ‘of’ here. This place has let me become a part of it and that feels good.
      With that in mind, your recent trip to Albania and Greece stirred up something like that. It is not hard to feel the overall ‘presence’ of the land in the people and the intense and complex interaction between the two.

  4. George

    A wonderful career (calling) beautiful captured. The quote states, “We stand on the shoulders of giants”. You are one of the giants, my friend. You helped blaze the trail. You are one of the brilliant beckons whose light will illuminate the journey for present and future educators. Well done Maurice. You have made such a difference for so many students and educators. You could sit on your laurels but we know that you won’t. You have too much more to offer. Take care of yourself and best wishes for continued good health, happiness and prosperity. Cheers.

    1. George, thank you very much for that. This teaching career that I’m just wrapping up was all I really wanted from life but along the way I have found that it has given back such wonderful gifts. The experiences, friendships–such as yours–and the intense satisfaction that simply flows from doing the job; gifts like none other.

  5. I very much liked the following …

    What an honour to have been a part
    of what’s kept rural places alive.
    Throwing down the barriers, rendering distances transparent
    meant a way of life we’ve fought to keep
    could continue on and thrive.

    … and herein, to me at least, was (and continues to be) your REAL contribution. Did you stop and think, when you penned this line, of the long term significance of this? It struck me immediately. Yes, you are a teacher of Math and Physics … but, having read your Magnum Opus about distance education … it is clear to me that your real contribution has been the provision of access. YOU did that. You did exactly that. Good for you. Well done. Well done indeed. D

    1. Thanks Dave. I am honoured. In reading this it became clearer to me of something else we have in common. You know my passion for preserving our rurality in the only way I know how. One of the strongest passions for you and J. has been to preserve, advance and mainly to share a way of life that is better than the one normally practiced. Looking at Pairodox is all about pursuing a way of life that intelligently merges modern life- and environmental science with the best of what traditional (hmmm there’s a word that often gets a bad rap. As used here it means already tested and proven not ‘old fashioned’ and stuck in the past’) practices have to offer. I like that very much. Most ‘modern’ approaches are arrogantly stupid in that they just ditch/dismiss existing practices and opt in favour of what industry currently has to offer, thinking, foolishly enough, that they must be better if they are new. Silly them as the current industry stuff usually has major flaws–flaws that are often corrected by existing practice if only the developers would take the time to properly examine existing practice rather than arrogantly thinking that THEY had all the answers.
      See–we have that in common. Through my career I’ve always tried to blend the existing ‘what works’ with the new possibilities, rather than jumping on the bandwagons. You guys too.
      And it’s exciting and rewarding, isn’t it!!

      1. How very kind Maurice – thank you. Joanna and I both read your comment and agreed that “Finally – someone understands what we’re trying to do.” Thank you for recognizing and for putting that clear understanding into words. Perhaps I should forward your comment to my Mother who has never really understood what it is we’re all about. D

    1. Thanks, Tim. You’re about to have an awesome year; Frank was showing me some of the changes! I will be in touch when school starts. I’d like to compose a vignette on what you will be doing over the next year if you’re okay with that. The way you’ll be running your curse over next year is something they should be shared 🙂

  6. Wilbert

    Maurice what a GREAT job! When I arranged for your secondment to teach Physics by distance, I wasn’t aware of your other talents!! I have many fond memories of working and collaborating with you, in particular, our time together in the Centre for TeleLearning and Rural Education. You have made a major contribution to improve the equality of educational opportunity for students in rural and isolated communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. Enjoy your retirement!

    1. Thanks, Wilbert. My friendship with you is something that I treasure. Remember the first day we met? Young grad student popping into your office looking for information and advice? It turned out that that advice and help kept coming over quite a few years…and enriched my life very much. I’m grateful.
      Regarding the Centre, the lunch times were always the best! I always got the best stories and insight!
      Yes, I’m looking forward to what’s next. I can see that you are enjoying your retirement and I hope to do the same.

  7. I am drawn to your writing and this post dances with my spirit. The things you have given, contributed, encouraged and inspired will be carried forward for generations to come. The future you’ve created for your rural community is awe inspiring. You know I live in a rural area and this country is tiny yet we are losing our communities, pushing our young people into the cities because we haven’t had the foresight or the passion to use technology, great teachers and broader thinking to create a new vantage point. I hope we will learn from you, throw down the barriers and overcome the (small) distances we need to traverse.

    1. Thank-you. The work continues here. Even now there are so many new, brash administrators out there in the system who refuse to come on board with the technology insisting that:it doesn’t work: It does; we have decades of evidence! They just are too set in their ways, too stupidly arrogant and blind to accept the fact that something they currently do not know can be better. They feel that since they have ‘risen so far’ that they must know better. They do not realize they they are just plain wrong. Falling back to unchanging existing methods is not good. We have found methods that work well for teachers and students yet so many refuse to come forward and are content in being just as bad as they were the day before rather than, with effort, being better. There’s lots to do yet! The good news is that many of our former students are now adults and are influencing the system; causing the ‘old boys network’ to take a good hard look.

  8. Eric Nippard

    Maurice. A few words are certainly not sufficient to summarize or quantify the impact that you have had on education in this province, nor the impact that you have had as a mentor for others. Myself included in that latter category. You have taught me much. You have inspired me to reach beyond the confines of what is possible and strive for the often impossible. I am grateful for the many chats, the sage (and often drawn out. LOL!) snippets of advice, and most of all, for your commitment as a colleague over the last thirteen years. All the best as you go forward. Thank you.

    1. It’s been my pleasure. The challenge now is to work to keep that movement going. In our system it’s hard for forward momentum to carry us far since there’s always so much resistance (physics analogy!!!) so we must always be alert to the new changes and willing to continue to apply pressure intelligently. Our revised system means significant changes; new needs so one of the big jobs ahead is to determine the nature of our next stops.
      And I have confidence in you 🙂

  9. Josephine

    Beautifully said but you always had a gift for writing. You know whatever vessel you may board in the future the Barry crew is always there with support and love for a wonderful husband and father .Keep sailing there is so much more 🙂

  10. Beautifully captured Maurice! It is little bit of a funny feeling when one leaves a wonderful long-time career, I decided to do that 3 years ago. The first weeks, I remember feeling a bit like I was not needed anymore. Maybe that was because the email “inbox” was not full every morning…and you can only do so much bird watching and house projects. But it didn’t take long before another ship came by and off I went to do what I had always dreamed I would be able to do one day. Now I can blend nature walks and other pleasurable activities, like blogging and other writing, with work at a rate that is completely up to me. I’m sure a tall ship will come by one of these days that you’ll want to sail on…Life is good 🙂

  11. Cecilia

    Hi Maurice
    Good Luck in your next journey. Interesting, all I ever wanted to be was a teacher. I did for a few years but the demands for full time work has led me here supporting the educational system. All the best!

  12. Hey Maurice … on another topic … how does Elke embed the little animations she sometimes shows on her posts? I’ve got one of a two-stroke engine that I’d like to have show in motion. Thanks

    Here’s the link to the animation. How do I embed it?


    1. That one will be straightforward since it’s a GIF and it has a real URL. Here are the steps:
      1-copy the URL to the clipboard.
      2-Click the “Add Media” button.
      3-Look to the side of the page that appears and choose “Insert from URL”
      4-Just paste the URL and fill in the what’s left.

      1. Yes, I simply embed animated images in this way! I am even more lazy – I embed the code as it is displayed on as then I am sure there are no issues with proper credentials, copyright etc. (as the alt tags including the proper references are already included).
        On Wikimedia there is a button “use this file on the web” and clicking on it shows the code. You need to click on the “text” tab in the WordPress editor and paste the code.

      2. OK … now why wasn’t I smart enough to look around and find that routine myself? Perhaps I’m simply lazy … I knew you would know the answer … it was the easiest route. Thanks much. I’ve got a post in the works which Joanna and I agree, “Only Maurice will appreciate.” D

  13. This morning I read some of Dave’s old posts, to which he pointed me in response to a conversation we were having on animal health. I shared with him a book I’m reading, called Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong, translated by Howard Goldblatt on the Mongolian herdsman of the Steppe. They live in a very complex and delicate ecosystem, one that requires considerable observation to understand and respect, and which requires a commitment to following traditional practice to keep the grasslands alive. This sometimes means forgoing new technology and comfortable solutions to maintain the grassland health, but this is not to imply they lack interest or enthusiasm for innovation. In fact, most of our modern world ideas about innovation and culture come from the way the Mongolian khans conquered, united, and governed a large portion of Asia and parts of Europe in the 13th century.
    To bring this straying comment back to context, I also zoomed in on Dave’s favourite lines, “kept rural places alive.” I also identify with this. I made a life-changing decision recently largely based on a similar call, and I can only hope that as I pick my way down this path I don’t lose sight of why I chose it.
    Also, please don’t feel obliged to answer all these comments. Rather than bunching them together, I chose to spread them out over several posts. Our time is limited, and I don’t assume that because I have a free day to putter around the blogosphere that you do as well. 🙂

    1. On a regular basis I work with people who advocate for what they call, “the use of technology” in classrooms and offices. Generally this really means, “buy my product,” or “I’m great. Do it the way I do it.” Far too often when I look just beneath the surface I find not an innovative and improved procedure but, instead, just the grandiose claims made by those who are not self-aware enough to realize just how wrong they are.
      These same people contemptuously spit out the phrase, “your way is too traditional,” without taking the time to objectively compare their way to the existing one. in most cases we both would have benefited had they been able to do that.
      As for life-changing decisions, I commend you for having the courage to transform that feeling into action and agree, yes, always keep the long view in sight.

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