Remembering the Orchid Grower

imageBefore I started this blog and before my daughter started The Sound of Swarming, we managed and wrote a lot of material for a blog that focused on lifelong learning. I’ve been trolling through those posts and pulling out some that can be edited for this site. Last night, I stumbled on the post below. I am repeating it here because Carl recently passed away and I miss him. I’ve edited the original post, in order to remove it from the context of the previous blog series and I added a bit of the personal side of Carl that I knew.

I spent four days in early December 2009 attending AIIM’s Electronic Records Management (ERM) Master certificate training. Having already completed the ECM Master course, I knew the class would be great and I knew I wouldn’t be able to wait to talk about it. As it turns out, this class was also a perfect example of the use of transitions, which was a presentation technique that I was trying to master at the time.

Teaching a four day technical class takes a special kind of instructor under the best of circumstances. In my opinion, the best of circumstances would be a class on judging beach volleyball, or bacon recipes; did I mention that this was a class on Records Management? Our instructor, Carl Weise, pulled it off with ease.

Like any good instructor, Carl began with great material; since it was prepared by AIIM, I wasn’t expecting anything less. Still, 32 hours of even great material can be painful if the students aren’t engaged, and keeping those students involved and motivated to participate falls to the instructor. Carl started off like several other great instructors that I know by taking a few minutes to learn a little bit about his students and why we came to the course. Then he began to adapt.

From that point forward, he tailored his examples to our backgrounds, our industries and our needs. He encouraged discussions, and if they didn’t occur spontaneously, he started them. These transitions kept us awake, kept us participating and gave us the chance to share our experiences and learn from each other. I’m not sure if he was testing our understanding, but he was certainly gathering information. I lost track of the number of times Carl wove our discussions into his examples in a later topic. The class, which could have been a dry presentation of several hundred slides, became a dynamic exchange that seemed like it had been written specifically for the students in the room. The quote below is from the original blog in 2009.

I am writing this blog post before leaving for the last day of this course and I can honestly say I am eager to get to class – remember, this is Electronic Records Management”

Whenever I am in a class like this, I take several sets of notes. One set is the stuff I need to remember for the exam and the case study required to get the ERM Master certificate. The second set is the things I want to remember to apply back at the office and the third is a list of things that I can do to improve as a presenter. One of the things I noticed about Carl is that although he adapted his presentation, he remained Carl. This was something that I really couldn’t jot down in my notes, but I had the privilege of talking about that with Carl over dinner. I told him that I admired his ability to drift in and out of conversations and, without any overt efforts on his part, to always remain in charge of the class. Carl was gracious, suggesting that we (students) were responsible for participating and that he had had some classes where the students “just sat there like bumps on a log.”

We also discovered a common interest in woodworking. Carl’s father was a cabinet maker who had left Germany for Toronto. Carl explained that his father made furniture as gifts for family members and as those people passed on, Carl was collecting some of his father’s work. He shared several sets of photos with me that showed the handiwork of a skilled craftsman.

Carl might not have been a woodworker like his father, but he was a skilled craftsman. His expertise was Records Management and his craft was teaching. He knew how to read the grain, make connections, assemble and properly finish the product that was represented by the students in the room. Sorry for stretching the woodworking metaphor a bit there, but when I saw Carl at the AIIM Conference each year, he would always ask me about my latest woodworking projects. The two pictures below are from the group that Carl sent me in 2009. Both pieces were made by his father. The coffee table on the left includes some hand carved elements that are amazing to me. The plant stand on the right is a simpler piece, but I like it because, in all the photos Carl sent me, that’s the only one where he included a caption.

I’m the orchid grower!


R.I.P. Carl. You helped many people to be better at their craft. I am proud to be one of them.

20 thoughts on “Remembering the Orchid Grower

Add yours

  1. Having attended plenty of required continuing ed classes, I appreciate an engaged, competent instructor. You paid Carl a nice tribute, and no doubt, he was aware of your affection in the years you knew him.


    1. He was a great instructor. Fortunately, he was alive to read almost all of this as I had posted it as a review of his techniques right after I took the course. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.


  2. Having worked at the craft for years, I appreciated this tribute to a fine teacher and your understanding of the skill it takes to be one. I also laughed aloud at the line about “judging beach volleyball or bacon recipes.”


  3. Hi Dan,

    Great story about Carl.

    It sounds like he embraced all the positive components needed to teach enthusiastically.

    I would have like his class no matter what subject he taught.

    My daughter is a sixth-grade teacher and she, too, has what it takes to keeps her students engaged in a classroom setting.

    She teaches in an economically depressed area and she understands she has just “one” school year to help her students to successfully move forward on their journey.

    I love the detail in the tables. You did a wonderful job drawing the orchids into Carl’s story. :)

    Here’s to the Carl’s of the world … may there be many more!



    1. Thank you. Of all the people I have known, the good teachers I’ve had are the easiest to remember. your daughter is very special to take that job, and to take it seriously. Good luck to her.


  4. It is what we leave behind us that counts. Don’t you think, Dan? You are continuing what Carl taught you, and enjoying it as well. Someday you in turn will teach this craft, and give this Gift to someone else to continue when you are gone. At least that is how I see it. Great post!!! Love, Amy


    1. I hope so Amy. He passed away too early, but I am glad that I was able to share those thoughts with him before he did. So many of the people who made a difference in my life never heard that message from me.


  5. Moving tribute to a man who played a role in your life. As Amy Rose writes above, we aren’t really dead if we leave a legacy like Carl did with you and others. He certainly was an influence, reminding me of one of recent posts.


  6. What a lovely tribute to someone who truly impacted your life. It says much about both of you. I love the pictures you shared, as well. Thank you, Dan, for a lovely and moving post.


  7. Some people leave lasting impressions in your life. Carl did to you.
    Where you say “Carl started off like several other great instructors that I know by taking a few minutes to learn a little bit about his students and why we came to the course” reminds me of a lecturer we had in 2007. He was teaching Engineering Mathematics in 3rd year. When he came the first day he did not introduce himself and he did not bother to know us. He came with a folded exercise book containing old notes. It was so ancient the pages were brown and the writings were faded. He began to write notes. As is the custom in our schools–a very irresponsible and lazy custom indeed, if you ask me–we took out our books in order to take down notes. He gave us notes. To make it worse, or worst, he’d write a problem on the board and follow it with a solution. His notes consisted of problems and solutions. SO THAT WE DID NOT HAVE TO THINK. He never spoke for the entire 2 hours. Some days the only way we’d know that he had come was when the student in the front of the class became suddenly quiet and started writing. It was a writing session, not Mathematics. I hated it like hell. He brought the same problems in the CAT and the main exam. Nothing changed at all. Even in the same order. SO THAT THOSE HARDCORE CHEATING PEOPLE HAD A FIELD DAY.
    That lecturer was a terrible person. What kind of Mathematics is taught in such a fashion? What kind of Engineering? I always wanted him to be fired. But the guys in charge of the department were worse. The chairman himself missed all his classes. The VC was like the Devil. Ah!


    1. I’ve had plenty of bad instructors. One (Quantum Mechanics) was very similar to that. He would just solve equations on the board, never describing what he was doing and he expected his work to make as much sense to us as it did to him. It was awful. I’ve also had very good instructors, who took the time to know his/her students and to adapt the class around them as much as they could while still covering the required ground. Thanks for the comment.


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