As 2017 was coming to an end, I started this weekly Saturday blog to share my experiences and thoughts as I continue to work to improve schools. Before taking a summer break, I had penned 25 posts (you can read them all below here if you want!). I truly enjoy the opportunity to share and love the feedback that I receive on the blog. I wanted to come back to it refreshed and ready to write and I wasn’t sure on what Saturday I would start posting again; I just knew that after a short break, I would. Someone very dear to me has a saying that he uses when I am struggling with a decision… “relax and wait for the sign”. The sign came to me this week, on July 10, when I learned of a dear friend’s passing… Becky DuFour. Today, Saturday, July 14, is her 58th birthday. And so, this post is dedicated to Becky and all she has taught me about schools… and about life.
For the educators reading this, I am pretty sure that Becky’s name will be familiar to you. She worked with her husband, Richard DuFour for many years as international presenters and co-authored many books, with Rick and others, supporting collaboration as the focus of school improvement- professional learning communities. They were part of the Solution Tree family, the company that I am also so fortunate to work with and, for many of us, Rick and Becky were the reasons that we came to be part of this journey. I first met the DuFours in 2004 when I was a superintendent. I had the opportunity to invite them to work with us in my district and later had the pleasure of working with both of them in places throughout Canada and the USA. With Rick and Becky there were laughs, hugs and learning.
As a leader, I so appreciated that Becky was always willing to listen and help; she was just an email or phone call away. As a friend, I warmed when I heard her voice, saw her name pop up in an email or best yet, was with her in person. Her writing guided my work both as a principal and as a superintendent and since I became a road warrior, her teachings have helped me guide many others in ways that are so needed in our schools. Laying the foundation for trusting, collaborative relationships that are focused on student learning and student achievement, understanding that there are “tights” that must lead to accountability in schools and knowing our collective purpose as we do this work are just a few of the many, many key messages that I carry with me every day from Becky’s teaching. She was often heard reminding us of our collective purpose and to ensure that we all shared ownership of students.
Most importantly though, in the past five years, I learned life lessons from the DuFours. Rick was diagnosed with cancer and for several years, we all watched as he stayed true to who he was, a teacher first and foremost. Becky loved and supported him with all of her heart. When Rick passed away in February, 2017, Becky, his rock, continued to be there for everyone. I will never forget her warm welcome and embrace for me at the celebration service for Rick. Becky just had a way of giving you what you needed, unconditionally and with so much love. She demonstrated for all of us, what it meant to live with a heart full of gratitude despite any difficult days. Since Rick’s passing, I continued to be inspired by Becky. Despite her grief she worked shoulder to shoulder with us, leading webinars and calls with schools, giving advice and continuing to provide direction and leadership to the work of improving schools.
Lastly, Becky is the reason that I even started this blog. In November, I had the pleasure of seeing Becky and talking with her about writing. She knew that I was working on a draft of a book and she encouraged me to also consider this blog. I will never forget what she said to me, “don’t over think it…just write.” She shared with me her experiences with her writing and how she had to work at staying focused and finding the time. And so, since November, that is exactly what my blogs have been. Weekly writings that I felt inspired to put to paper and I tried really hard to just let them be… for Becky. I will miss so many things about Becky, mostly, just knowing that she was out there, home with her family or on the road teaching others and that I might have more time with her. Oh, and her hugs… she knew how to give you a hug that meant something and, most recently, I looked forward to her weekly emails and comments on my blog. She told me she started every Saturday morning reading them and she always sent me a note. Her last words to me every week were … “keep writing”.
So, this 26th blog is dedicated to you, Becky DuFour, author, incredibly strong educational leader, mentor, loving wife, sister, mother, grandmother and dear friend. My work will feel different for a long time without you. Your legacy of passionately going forth to improve schools will live on in my heart. And, for my family and friends, don’t be surprised if I hug you with a little more strength and hold on just a little longer… that will be Becky’s influence on me reminding me that the most important work we do is to love others. As her beautiful daughter Hannah said to us this week, she knew how much she was loved. And, Becky, we all knew how much we were loved because you showed it in every single thing that you said and did. Thank you.