Who is Paul?
We interviewed Paul Richard during the Learning Fair of the Upper Grand District School Board at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada, in August 2019.
We had met Paul for the first time in May 2018, as he was Principal at Norwell District Secondary School in Palmerston, Ontario. The meeting was a milestone for us in the writing of “Edupreneurial Pivot”. After we discussed with Paul, we were convinced that we had met a truly edupreneurial mind, the essence of the entrepreneur and the educator embodied in a single person.
As Paul is moving to a new school (College Heights, in Guelph) in September 2019, the interview is a good opportunity for a deep dive into Paul’s achievements at Norwell.
Paul’s entrepreneurial Mindset has led to major innovations at Norwell
The interview shows how Paul’s genuine entrepreneurial mindset worked wonders to make Norwell District Secondary School a living and growing 21st century school.
The interview starts with a review of three of Paul’s major innovations at Norwell: the theatre programme, the hockey programme and the LEAF (Local Environmental Agriculture and Food) programme.
During this first part of the interview, Paul tells us the actual stories behind each of the projects. Some guiding principles appear clearly. Paul’s curiosity led him to look in the immediate surroundings of Norwell to find resources for the new programmes he wanted to set-up. The approach proved more than successful, since it provided Paul with resources for his school as expensive as a theatre and an ice-rink!
Paul’s orientation toward value creation focused on the understanding of the community. The LEAF programme is all about connecting school education with the immediate concerns of the local farmers. Such a connexion brought many key business partners to Paul and a strong support by the local community.
Paul’s entrepreneurial Mindset has become viral!
One part of the story is particularly striking to us: Paul says that his initiatives had a strong influence on the mindset of the school community as whole. “Countless teachers, Paul says, came with proposals!”.
Paul’s entrepreneurial mindset seems to have been viral: “What else can we do?” has become the motto of the staff in Norwell.
The main takeaways from Paul’s experience
The second part of the interview goes into some take-aways that will benefit all actors of education who wish to develop their edupreneurial mindset.
The first take-away is a power quote that Paul shared with us: “I learned so much listening to trees”.
The second take-away is about focus: act where you can be effective and don’t worry about the things you can’t change.
Paul elaborates on this idea with a very telling (and Canadian) metaphor: that of canoeing through rapids. In such situations, you cannot move the rocks, but you are surely free of moving your canoe around the rocks. And, Paul adds: “That’s where the fun lies!”
In the concluding remarks of the interview, Paul has a word on the new situation of schools in the age of information and underlines that we must understand that there are lot of ways in which kids can learn. If schools want to remain relevant, they can start by considering that business is not a bad word, and that a lot can be learned from the methods that are shaping the world we live in.
Paul will soon be back on Twenty-one in a series of podcasts where he will be to be telling us everything about his challenges and his new experiences at College Heights, in Guelph.
We want to express our gratitude to Brent Mc Donald, superintendant at the Upper Grand District School Board for having invited us to participate and to hold a workshop during the 2019 Learning Fair and for making all these inspiring exchanges possible!