Wit & Wisdom

Game Changers & Tales of Triumph and Woe

7 Lessons From My Father

CJ Westerberg, May 3, 2011 9:34 PM

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Chris Wejr is school principal at Kent Elementary School in British Columbia.  He has spent his career working with students as a high school physical education, math, and science teacher, an intermediate teacher, an elementary vice-principal, as well as a high school volleyball, rugby, track, and basketball coach.  He is husband "to a wonderful wife who runs her own dance studio" and recent father of twin girls.

Lessons From My Father
by Chris Wejr

Seeing how Father's Day is nearing, I felt that I would take this time to reflect on some of
the key lessons that I learned from my dad, Glenn Wejr.  My dad has spent his life bouncing from career to career but this was not because he fared poorly in that specific career but because he wanted to try something different; he has worked as a retail clerk, teacher, coach, business owner, school board trustee, realtor, and real estate developer.  Through all of these ventures, he learned some key lessons; the following is a list of lessons that he shared with \me that have impacted the way I lead my life:

1.  Keep your head up when you cross the blue line, head down when you are teeing off; keep your elbow in when making a jump shot and you elbow out when swinging at the pitch.  My dad was my coach in almost every sport.  He was the official coach for many and the behind-the-scenes-late-at-night coach for others sports.  As an athlete he excelled in basketball, baseball, and curling and for sports like hockey, he learned the sport and volunteered his time to coach the teams in which I was involved.

2.  Pick your team based on their personality and character, not based on their present ability.  Every year that my dad came home from the meetings where they place players on teams, I would always be upset because I would say, "they have all the best players, why didn't you pick any of them?"   Every year he would respond in the same way , "the players on our team are coachable, you wait and see."  Every year we would start out losing to the other teams but by the end of the year, because of the focus on effort and attitude, we would end up being victorious and proud as a team.

3.  Praise effort, not ability - don't praise too often, don't be afraid to offer feedback on improvement.  As a child I was always frustrated because my dad never told me I was a
good athlete or I was smart.  He just talked about working hard and spending time practicing.
I could go out and score a hat trick and on the ride home he would say, "you played really well, you worked hard, now make sure you donĂ­t stop back checking once you get to the neutral zone."  Sometimes I just wanted him to tell me I was the best hockey player; now that I know the importance of praising effort (through my experience as well as listening to experts such as Carol Dweck), I am thankful for the way he praised me.

4.  Give back to your community.  My dad has been heavily involved in volunteering to
coach and organize endless leagues as well as giving his time to things like the volunteer fire department and the International Order of Canadian Foresters.  Through his modeling, I became involved in coaching in high school and this carried right through until recently.  I still take opportunities to work with kids at lunch and after school and these 'coaching' moments are often the best part of my day.

5.  See people for who they are.  As a very young child, I remember being afraid of people who appeared to be different.  A man named Alan always used to come into my dad's sporting good store and visit with him.  Alan had a mental disability and appeared very different to me.  In order to help me understand, my dad often invited me to come along and do things with the two of them; by doing this he showed me that yes, Alan was different - but he was also an amazing person.  Another example involves a man named Franco.  Franco also had a mental disability and, too, spent many hours just visiting with people in my dad's store.  Franco ended up being almost a part of our family; he played ball with us, watched my hockey games, and ended up curling on my dad's curling team.  Unfortunately, both Alan and Franco left us far too early but the lessons they taught me will remain with me forever.  To see the tears from my dad as he gave the eulogy at Franco's memorial service made me not only proud to call him my dad but so thankful that he introduced me to Franco.

6.  Tell people you love . . . that you love them.  My grandfather never told my dad he loved them until he was 75 years old and in his final years.  My dad has never been afraid to let us (my sister, Lindsay, and I) know how important we are to him and although we probably already knew it, it sure is nice to hear it.

7.  Some lighter lessons: Snakes are the scariest things on earth and it is ok for kids to see you protecting yourself with a lawnmower,  Canucks will win the cup . . .  eventually, you will learn not to stick a key in an electrical outlet after only one attempt, eat your vegetables (except onions), consumer debt is bad, have your money work for you, and a sense of humour can get you through a lot of challenging times.

By no means is my dad perfect.  He has made many mistakes just like everyone else; what he has taught me through this is that it is ok to take risks, make mistakes, learn from them and use these to become a better person.  My dad and I are now closer than we have ever been and it is because of all these experiences and lessons that our relationship has become so strong.  As I move closer to fatherhood (this winter!), I truly hope that my kids can have a father like I had.

This may be the first and last blog my dad ever reads (he still does not believe in using bank cards) but I just wanted to let him know how much I appreciate all that he has taught me.

Happy Father's Day Dad.  Love ya!

Orig. pub. Wejr Board June 2010
Related posts The Daily Riff:

Time to Re-think School Award Ceremonies?  by Chris Wejr

The Game of School.  Only winners allowed?  Is Learning a Sport?

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It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
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