April 3, 2020 Message to Members
Courage is Contagious
Coming into this week, many of us were experiencing a state of anxiety and worry that was far above what we would consider ‘normal’. Although a return to familiar routines and a powerful sense of purpose has tempered this elevated emotional state, our new routines are likely far from normal.
“Vulnerability begets vulnerability; courage is contagious.” ~ Brené Brown
Leaders often engage in acts of courage that require taking a chance or a step forward, while others may avoid or delay action. In the context of this global viral pandemic, courageous leadership will look different. We have found it necessary to acknowledge our vulnerability in the area of medical science. The Integrated Planning Framework’s first guiding principle is to Maintain a healthy and safe environment for all students and families and all employees, and in this critical area of our new responsibilities, we must rely on experts for their guidance.
Our courage will be found in our ability to assess and measure those decisions that require the expertise of healthcare professionals, and to accept that these decisions will take time to be considered. Courageous leaders are demonstrating patience.
Leaders will find that their familiar and trusted routes may be blocked, and that they will need to circle back to other paths, change their thinking, and try again. Courageous leaders are modeling resilience.
As we move forward with a growing comfort around the continuity of learning, we must not lose sight of the supports that will be necessary for our school communities to effectively engage in and deliver the plans.
If we are feeling anxious and have worries, it makes sense that those same feelings can be found in our school communities, our teachers and support staff, our students and their families. There are few who have been untouched in this crisis, and there are many who have experienced loss.
The fundamental definition of empathy is ‘the innate capacity to sense and feel the emotions of others.’ This capacity is within us all, but many will recognize that it takes time to consider the emotions and needs of others. In order to view their circumstances through a lens of empathy, we need to exercise patience and understanding. We have that time now.
As you reflect on this past week and look ahead, be gentle and compassionate with yourself. Take that deep breath. And extend a virtual hand to others, whether it’s a colleague, a student or a parent who needs your courageous leadership.
March 13, 2020 Message to Members
I feel pretty certain that I am not the only one who has stopped and reflected this week on where we are in space and time. Space, because I am thankful to be a Canadian and a British Columbian with access to a steady stream of reliable information about the threat of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), but also a surety of purpose where we know that our provincial and federal leadership are serious about safeguarding citizens. This week, I was heartened to see our provincial Minister of Health Adrian Dix acknowledge his colleagues from the opposition – BC Liberal Norm Letnick and BC Green Sonia Furstenau – for their united efforts in dealing, as a province, with the virus. And time, because I have those moments of disbelief that this can happen in our world, right now, and with such alarming pace and outcomes.
And I acknowledge, too, that if we as adults are thinking that way, then our students are in similar states of shock and disbelief as they watch the local news stories and start to understand the global context. This week, three of our schools were affected by the Coronavirus and required deep cleaning before re-opening to students. Our members have reported a high level of student absences, not to mention teachers and staff who are respecting the public health advisory to self-isolate. We recognize the immense challenge that our members are facing in maintaining the regular operation of your schools and communicating the advice of the provincial health authorities, while working to stay well and be available for dialogue with concerned students, parents and community members.
So, at the heart of this column, I really want to say thank you to all of you as leaders. Thank you for ensuring that your schools are safe places to be, and that the people in them feel confident and informed. Thank you for combatting misinformation (garlic really doesn’t make you immune to the virus, despite what you see online), and for understanding that in the face of an emergent situation like this, our students still need structure, consistency and stimulation, but not pressure to keep up with the curriculum.
Spring Break this year will have a different feeling for most of us, still a welcome break but one that comes with a sense of exhaling a long-held breath. It’s a critical time for you to recharge: for some, that’s jumping into the hustle and bustle of activities, and for others it will be working your way through the bedside pile of books. Whatever your personal tonic may be, I hope that you can drink deeply from it for the next two weeks. I’m looking forward to coming together again in a couple of weeks, refreshed.
March 6, 2020 Message to Members
International Women’s Day
One of the great events that BCPVPA has launched in the past few years is our Leading the Way: Women in Leadership luncheon. It’s in mid-September, at a time when our members are back in their schools and just past those first few weeks of wonderful organized chaos. It’s an electric event, with the continual hum and occasional spark or surge of conversation and laughter.
It’s definitely an event where members can connect and reconnect in a space and time organized just for that purpose. The words of the keynote speakers – along with the table, hallway and terrace conversations – center around themes of women in leadership through authentic and captivating storytelling. There is more laughter than you can fit in a room, and occasionally the kind of tears that signal shared experience.
Why am I talking about an event so far in the past, and so far in the future? As we approach International Women’s Day on March 8, I wanted to take the opportunity to acknowledge the substantial work of our BCPVPA members who are women, and of the many women who have become icons and pundits both in our BC education sector and worldwide. According to our 2019 member survey, more than 59% of our BCPVPA members are women, and more and more of our new members are women in Vice-Principal roles who are traveling along their career paths and contributing to the system with their innovation and passion for the work. I mention the Leading the Way event in part with a sense of awe for an event that is so charged with connection, and in part to let our new members know that there are opportunities such as this where you can meet and connect with other members from around the province, whether it’s through your Chapter, a BCPVPA Committee, a workshop or a conference.
This International Women’s Day, on behalf of the Association, I want to acknowledge the women in our lives who are leading schools as District and school-based Principals and Vice-Principals, sharing their experience, creativity and innovative spirit, and always bringing balance, passion and humour to their work. #IWD2020
February 28, 2020 Message to Members
Pink Shirt Day
One of the greatest markers in this week was Pink Shirt Day, a movement that has lifted hearts and caught imaginations with head-to-toe pink and stirring acts of kindness. Our colleagues across the province and our partners in education were front and centre on social media: we saw team photos and some top-notch dance choreography, along with a striking level of thoughtful engagement from our students. The connection that an event such as this creates – in BC, in Canada and worldwide – is remarkable, and most of the conversations around Pink Shirt Day come with the proviso that standing up against bullying is not a one-day event: kindness is an everyday act.
It’s a good time to refresh ourselves and our teams on the many resources that are available through erase = expect respect & a safe education. The site has tools and resources on topics that include online safety, mental health and wellbeing, bullying, substance use, school safety, SOGI and more. What I really like about the site is that the information is clear and easy to find – especially helpful for busy school leaders – and each section leads to additional links that can provide you with more in-depth resources.
As I moved through my week and Pink Shirt Day, I’ve thought more and more about the words of Dr. Robyne Hanley-Dafoe (RHD), our keynote speaker at 2020 BCPVPA Issues Forum, who presented last week on Resiliency and Workplace Wellness. RHD talked about the five core traits of resilience – belonging, perspective, acceptance, hope and humour – what gets in the way, the difference between ‘stress’ and ‘distress’, and what life/work balance really looks like. She talked about finding your WHY, and never letting go of it. She talked about being a person who does the hard things’. It made me think of the students who may feel isolated, scared or uncertain at school, and how we as leaders need to model and teach resilience as an exceptional tool for living.
Coincidentally, this week’s eNews column The Learning Brain is all about ‘The Building Blocks of Resilience’, with a great reminder of the benefits of resilience and tips to improve our own resilience in our daily lives. Be sure to download the PDF to get the full picture, and maybe even share with us on Twitter what YOU do to energize your own resilience in your role as a District, school or alternate setting Vice-Principal or Principal. I hope that you all have a great weekend.