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.
February 21, 2020 Message to Members
A Week of Connections
As I walked to work on Wednesday, I thought about the special pleasure of crisp air and blue skies in February, something that just seems to lift our attitudes and brighten our days. Yesterday’s Board of Directors meeting had a marina-side view, where we joked that we would need to shake up the table-seating halfway through our day so that everyone could have an opportunity to enjoy the scenery.
We are gathered at our host hotel, the River Rock Casino Resort, for a few days of meeting, learning and connecting. Today is our annual BCPVPA Issues Forum, and we’re so pleased to have a ‘sold-out’ crowd: not even standing-room available this year! Our keynote speakers and breakout presenters will share their knowledge on a variety of themes, but overwhelmingly there is a connecting thread that follows leadership in a climate of change, and the resiliency, agility, openness and mindfulness that is needed to carry us through. We are grateful for today’s opportunity to listen and learn, to explore and synthesize, and most importantly to be with our members and friends.
It’s been a week of connections such as these, leading from BC Family Day weekend with a visit to our members in Burnaby (SD41) and meetings in the office on Tuesday, and my meeting with sector leaders on Wednesday. As you are aware, Provincial Negotiation Representation has been at the forefront of the work of the BCPVPA, and it has been – and continues to be – identified by our members as a top Association priority both in our 2017-2020 Strategic Plan, and continuing in our strategic planning process for 2020-2023. In the follow-up to the passing of an amendment to the January 2019 BCPSEA Resolution 0-2 at BCPSEA’s January 2020 AGM, a number of sector leaders reached out to me to initiate a conversation regarding the amended motion. Those conversations led to Wednesday’s meeting with leadership representatives from BCSTA, BCSSA, BCASBO and BCPSEA. I appreciated the opportunity to share with the group some of the challenges that our members experience in the context of the terms and conditions of their personal services contracts. I reiterated that a provincial table continues to be a critical strategic goal for the BCPVPA, and that we are continuing to support and inform our members as we travel along this path.
The discussions in Wednesday’s meeting were collaborative, explorative and very future-outcome-focused. Two significant ‘next steps’ emerged from this dialogue. The first step is to address the amended motion from the 2020 BCPSEA AGM. This will be done through a working group comprised of members from each organization with the intended outcome to develop contract language and best practices necessary to achieve equity of contractual employment conditions for Principals and Vice-Principals. The second step will be to engage in a more comprehensive dialogue to address sector health and its impact on leadership.
These steps are positive opportunities to continue a collaborative dialogue with our key sector partners. I look forward to our next meeting, and working together to discuss system solutions that support equity and address the variability that currently exists in personal services contracts.
As part of our Chapter Council agenda this evening, your Chapter Representatives will have a number of opportunities to enrich their understanding of their colleagues’ provincial experiences through dialogue; to review the historical and legal contexts for negotiation agency; and to ask questions of staff, presenters and each other so that they can directly inform their understanding of this complex and important concept on your behalf.
Please take a minute to further explore the contextual pieces associated with this journey by going to this link on our website. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Kevin Reimer or myself directly. I look forward to the conversations, the dialogue and the important sharing of perspectives.
February 14, 2020 Message to Members
The Learning Brain Series
We received some great feedback from our members about Jack MacNeill’s column in the February 7 eNews, where the humanworks President shared some strategies for transitioning each day from work to home. If you missed it, you can read it here. The approaches are pretty simple, but – like deep breathing – we sometimes all need to be reminded to do the simple things.
In today’s eNews, we’re continuing down that path with a new information series entitled The Learning Brain. Like Jack’s column, the intent of this series is not to load you up with extra reading, but to offer some definitions, tips and tools that we hope you will find useful in your practice. This week’s installment is an introduction to the series, and we invite your comments in the weeks ahead. A special thank you to the author of this series, Rochelle Morandini, who is currently working with the BCPVPA to assist our members with the resources they need to promote their health and well-being.
And so, with Valentine’s Day upon us and thoughts of loved ones, family and friends in our hearts, you still have time to send your cards, chocolates and flowers. Or, better yet, why not keep healthy living in mind and instead extend an invitation to take a weekend walk, breathe some fresh air, spend quality time together away from the usual distractions or take on some snowshoeing or cross-country skiing! There are so many options in beautiful British Columbia, and what a wonderful opportunity to remind ourselves of the connection between healthy hearts and healthy minds.
I recently read an online article – Brain health rests on heart health: Guidelines for lifestyle changes – and it was an enlightening reminder that self-care today plays a significant role in sustaining a healthy future. It’s not complicated:
“Regular physical activity — any activity, for at least 150 minutes per week, is number one on the list of evidence-based actions you can take.
Exercise clearly lowers the risk of dementia, even Alzheimer’s. Studies show that people who exercise more are less likely to develop dementia of any kind…”
On this BC Family Day weekend, I encourage you to prioritize some heart-and-mind time for you and your family.
February 7, 2020 Message to Members
We just passed Groundhog Day, that odd North American celebration where a large friendly rodent holds court on the coming of Spring. Apparently, the tradition originated in German-speaking areas, and the original soothsayer was a badger. This year, Shubenacadie Sam of Nova Scotia retreated for six more weeks of winter snoozing, while Wiarton Willie of Ontario gave claws-up for an early Spring. In either case, I have to say that even with an extra day in February this year, Spring seems to be approaching with a determined pace. Not that I want to channel Bill Murray, but sometimes I’d like a do-over!
With the Professional Learning Development (PLD) meetings this weekend, I want to again extend my appreciation to colleagues who are also feeling the days rush by, but still take the time to reflect on their learning leadership, and to actively enhance their capacity to serve their colleagues more deeply and efficiently. Since the last PLD meeting in October, more than 250 School Plans have been created in BetterEducate, using the new module with the invaluable support of Chapter PLD reps and the BetterEducate Support Team (BEST). Many of the School Plans use the Spirals of Inquiry template, and we are so grateful for the support and guidance of our partners and mentors, Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser.
In the same timeframe, more than 900 new Growth Plans have been created in the BetterEducate platform, and thousands of artifacts and evidence have been embedded into our members’ rich and engaging Growth Plans across BC. The most powerful aspect of these two approaches to professional growth planning is the connection that is made between colleagues, both familiar and new. The expertise and wisdom drawn from the collective experiences of our members and partners is unparalleled, a treasure trove that is now both accessible and relatable.
The best part of using the online tool is that when I wake up tomorrow, see Bill Murray in the mirror and feel like I’m stuck on repeat, I can take a quick look at my Growth Plan and ground myself to the path behind and my journey ahead. Creating your own Growth Plan is definitely time well spent.
January 31, 2020 Message to Members
The BC Principals’ & Vice-Principals’ Association has one critical mandate: to support our members. We do this in the context of leadership development, advocacy and representation. As a learning organization, the BCPVPA is focused on supporting our members – and the sector – with exceptional leadership development opportunities. In a week, our Professional Learning Development Committee and Chapter PLD Representatives will gather for biannual meetings and workshops. I’m looking forward to connecting and engaging in generative learning, and conversations with colleagues from across BC. The focus on instructional leadership is near and dear to my heart!
I also appreciate and recognize the critical role that our members play in their classrooms, schools and communities. It is my pleasure and honour to regularly share your contextual experiences when and where I can. This week is one of those times.
As many of you know, the BC Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) Annual General Meeting is underway, with a representative from each of our 60 School Boards in attendance. Earlier this week I sent each School Board Chair a letter, with the request that they share it with their BCPSEA representative. The letter reminds the representatives of BCPSEA’s January 2019 resolution and commitment to engage in non-binding discussions with the BCPVPA through 2019, with the objective of establishing a structure and process that could identify key terms and conditions of employment. The letter also outlines our Association’s concern that, despite our outreach, those non-binding discussions have not taken place. You can read the letter here.
The BCPVPA’s goal over six years of advocacy has been to achieve a provincial negotiation representation model that will support our members in the negotiation process, eliminate the significant inequities and inconsistencies in Principal’s and Vice-Principals’ contracts throughout the province and ultimately create new efficiencies for both the employer and our members. In essence, your employment contract is a tangible representation of financial security for you and your family. It is a framework that supports your professional capacity, and it is the ultimate safety net for your physical and social-emotional health.
I can circle back to our meetings last week with another important BCPVPA group, the Contract Advisory Committee. Their ongoing support of our members who have contract inquiries or issues with their employment relationships really illuminates the challenges that our members experience in trying to maintain their financial security while at the same time managing increased workplace intensification, supporting students and staff, and being lead learners in their schools.
As Principals and Vice-Principals, we all began our careers first and foremost as educators. That passion for learning and supporting innovation is what energizes us each day. As leaders, we look after schedules, scraped knees, assessment and curriculum implementation and even the odd sidewalk covered with snow, but we lead people, and those people need and deserve your full attention and support every day.
We continue to hear from our members directly, and we’re listening. The BCPVPA will continue our focus on the critical steps in the journey towards negotiation representation so that you can maintain your focus on the important work of leading BC schools and supporting student success. You are all doing such great work.
January 24, 2020 Message to Members
A New Year
As we wrap up week three of 2020, I hope that you were able to unplug – literally, and figuratively – during the break.
Ironically, my departure from the Lower Mainland to head home for the holiday was delayed by road closures due to extreme snowfall, but eventually we made our way to the Kootenays. Despite the record snow falls leading up to the break, my ‘home hill’ Red Mountain was hit by the warming trend in late December and skiing was limited. But, rather than wallowing in self-pity that I wasn’t skiing fresh Kootenay powder snow, I enjoyed something new … nesting! Having three 20+ kids around made for some amazing conversation. I found myself listening much more and saying much less. Darn kids know a lot!
So, here we are: January 24, 2020. Most of our elementary colleagues are supporting their school communities, as students and families transition back to routines, our secondary colleagues are already preparing for 2020 course selections and in semester schools they are busy planning for a ‘year-end’ and the start of semester two. Our colleagues in district positions are gearing up for budget and enrolment predictions, and those of us with online and alternate responsibilities are awaiting the details of the funding review. In other words, January for Principals and Vice-Principals is incredibly busy!
Luck was with me last week as I was able to dodge some extreme weather and flew in and out of the Okanagan. I was visiting our colleagues in SD 58 Nicola Similkameen, and I enjoyed sitting in on their district team meeting in Princeton. It was great to hear a bit about the strategic planning process, along with the initiatives and successes SD 58 has experienced, and in turn I was able to share some provincial perspectives and respond to contextual questions.
This week was busy with Ministry meetings, specifically the Framework for Enhancing Student Learning Advisory Committee, Sector Advisory and the Leadership Working Group. I appreciate the opportunity I have to share the perspectives of Principals and Vice-Principals during these conversations, and I am reminded of the importance of connection. My Chapter visits and the engaging conversations that we have are critical to my capacity to represent our members’ experiences and perspectives. Much of the feedback is reinforcing, as our roles are relatively similar and familiar, but local context really matters. Chapter visits create and sustain our connectedness both as individuals and as a leadership community.
Today I am enjoying connecting with our Contract Advisory Committee in Richmond. The wisdom and experience in the room is so appreciated as we discuss items that carry some significant gravity. In essence, your contract is a tangible representation of financial security for you and your family, a framework to support your professional capacity and the safety net for your physical and social-emotional health. I am grateful to our colleagues who take the time to support us with this critically important work, and I look forward to the strategic conversations.
Tomorrow, I head out of town to continue my learning with the BC Compassionate Systems Leadership team. I am excited to reconnect with our international cohort, Mette Boell and Peter Senge, over the course of next week.
As the weekend approaches, please take a minute to consider your own ‘battery levels’ and respond to your needs. As Marc Brackett says, “give yourself permission to feel.”
December 13, 2019 Message to Members
Today’s post is brief, as I know that you are all preparing for your break. While it’s a short message, I hope you’ll keep it in your thoughts. Carve out some time for yourselves during the holiday season, and find your personal joy in reading a new book, walking some quiet paths, launching a baking marathon or catching up on your favourite Netflix series. Best wishes to you all for the winter break and I look forward to seeing you in 2020.