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Setting the Stage for Wellness

by Barry Litun College of Alberta School Superintendents | September 1 2016 | 1 Comment

The College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS) serves and supports system education leaders in public, separate, Francophone, charter and First Nations education authorities in the province. I have been proud to serve as the Executive Director for CASS for the past three years, after serving as a teacher, principal and superintendent in four school authorities: County of Lamont (now part of Elk Island Public Schools), Whitecourt (now part of Northern Gateway Public Schools), Red Deer Public Schools and Lethbridge School District.

Starting Out

This week marks the beginning of a new school year—always a thrilling time for students, parents and staff. Who among us can recall the excitement as a student, getting our clothes ready for the first day of school or sharpening our new box of pencil crayons, hardly able to wait to use them for the first time? The first few days of a new school year is also a time for making commitments to ourselves: 

  • I will not let my desk and locker get messy;
  • I will not fall behind in my homework assignments;
  • I will not leave longer assignments to the last night.

 Adults also make commitments at the beginning of a new year. As a staff member I would commit to:

  • Keep my planning up-to-date;
  • Stay on top of my marking;
  • Stay calm and be patient.

Alas, much like New Year’s resolutions, some of the commitments fall victim to this thing called life. We become too busy, too pressed for time or too nonchalant about the things we pledged to ourselves. Over time, we look back to find we have fallen into the same patterns or routines of our past. You may ask what this lengthy opening has to do with a blog on wellness; I assure you I am getting there. Trust me.

A Little Perspective

Keeping what I have written thus far in mind, I ask you to consider how you feel when you hear or read of someone who is struggling with a personal addiction. In the past couple of years, I’ve gained an appreciation for the fact that it takes tremendous will and help from others to break a pattern that is not healthy, even though we know what we are doing is likely to cause ourselves harm.

The next quick story may seem like a digression but I ask your patience. As a thirty-something young man who was active and healthy, I experienced an inexplicable weight loss of over 30 pounds over a few months. As the weight loss continued, I became worried and went through a battery of medical tests. No reason was ever found at the time for the weight loss but I vividly recall the words of my doctor, “Don’t worry, this won’t happen to you when you are 50.” For the next twenty years, feeling fortunate that I could eat whatever—and as much of—anything I wanted to, I didn’t have to deal with any obvious repercussions.

Tying It All Together

Despite knowing that eating huge portions or choosing unhealthy foods is not good for my personal health and well-being, I have continued to do so. In essence, I have been ‘addicted’ to poor eating habits. As I start a new school year, here is my moment of truth: my name is Barry and I don’t eat well. For the past several months, I haven’t liked how I’m feeling physically and I’m not going to take it anymore. I’m hoping that this public declaration to fellow wellness champions will assist me during those challenging moments that inevitably lay ahead as I make some changes. I also commit to accessing healthy lifestyle resources such as my employee assistance program (EFAP)—a great resource available to me as an ASEBP covered member.

Wellness Champions Have Needs Too

I look forward to providing an update on my battle with my own demons six months from now, when I post my next blog. In the meantime, I encourage you all to read through the resources section on The Sandbox and get together with your workplace wellness groups to determine best practices for supporting your team’s health and wellness goals—without forgetting about your own individual health goals. In case you missed it, I also encourage you to read Stephanie Caron-Roy’s great blog on goal setting to help you get started. As wellness champions, we’ll make the biggest difference in our workplaces when we make sure to support our own health and well-being aspirations, alongside the goals for our school, district or office colleagues. Best wishes for the year ahead!

Barry Litun

As the executive director for the College of Alberta School Superintendents and a former life as superintendent for the Lethbridge School District (that brought one of the first staff wellness initiatives to the province), Barry is a Sandbox superhero of the highest calibre. Even Barry’s inability to do anything whatsoever in the musical arena is rendered irrelevant—helped along by his uncanny resemblance to the beloved Tom (Magnum P.I. days) Selleck.

Ken S. Livingstone Range School Division No. 68 | September 11 2016 10:47 PM

Excellent post, Barry, complete with a personal challenge.  I look forward to the update in a few months.  

Ken Sampson