May 10, 2019 Message to Members
BCPVPA Member Survey
We all have different ways of organizing our busy lives. Twenty years ago – maybe only ten years ago – an electronic calendar was unheard of, not to mention all of the emerging digital devices that we now use to manage our time. It was instead a daily planner, often stuffed with post-its, peppered with a rainbow of notations, all bound up with a sturdy elastic to keep the thoughts in place.
Like our planning tools, the surveys of the time were often census-like: massively detailed, marked with a number 2 pencil, mailable in the stamped-self-addressed return envelope and a notorious consumer of time. Today the surveys that we complete online require less of us in many ways, but are just as important. We have become accustomed to the magic of three question, five question or ten question online surveys that will take us 30 seconds, one minute or three minutes to complete. We become more focused on the time that the survey will take us than on the impact that our answers can have, and that’s where I’d like to offer some perspective.
Three weeks ago in eNews, I talked about completing my BCPVPA Member Survey in a column entitled ‘Your Voice’. The use of that title resonated for me, as I wanted to convey to our members the most compelling reason for completing the survey: contributing to the voice of the membership. Without your feedback, we would not be able to confidently represent your challenges, needs, thoughts and priorities as a Principal or Vice-Principal. The 2013 and 2016 surveys helped us to move a step beyond mountains of anecdotal feedback and have provided the solid data behind issues that related to compensation, representation and work-life balance. We suspect that we will find out more about the status of these particular issues, but only with the investment of your time. We thank those members who have completed the survey, and who have moved us closer to our goal.
Whether you are a seasoned member who has completed past surveys, or one of our newer members who may be undertaking the survey for the first time, your collective voice will help us to represent our members locally, regionally, provincially and in both national and international arenas. There’s one week left to complete the survey, and you’ll find the link in my May 6 reminder email: I hope that you will pull out your device of choice, and schedule a 40-minute session to complete the survey, or even two 20-minute sessions to start, save and then complete the survey. Ultimately, you’re boosting the voice of your colleagues and ensuring that your own voice is heard.
May 3, 2019 Message to Members
BCPVPA Partnership Awards
Remarkable things happen in schools every day. Teachers go the extra mile to coach teams, a local group donates some much-needed equipment, parents fundraise for special events, volunteers fill needs as they emerge, and school leaders spend every moment trying to create the best environment and experience for students and staff. It’s not a cliché: it takes a community to support a school.
For nearly two decades, the BCPVPA has presented the annual Partnership Awards as an acknowledgement of the extraordinary efforts of individuals and groups in our communities who commit deeply to local public schools. Nominations come from our sixty Chapters across the province, and while the range and scope of the support provided is broad, the intent remains focused: it’s all about the students.
I am honoured to be at Chapter Council tonight with six Award recipients whose generosity will have a lasting effect on so many students. Some of the contributions are in the form of mentoring new skills, some in supporting vulnerable youth and families, and some in enhancing learning and looking ahead. These six recipients are representative of the support that each of our members encounters in our schools and while we can’t acknowledge everyone with an award, it’s a good time to reflect upon what we can do to say thank you in a less formal way each day.
April 26, 2019 Message to Members
BC Student Voice
I’m working on Saturday, but somehow it doesn’t seem like work. I’ll be joining several dozen impassioned, smart and lively students at the BC Student Voice Spring Forum. My session with these students will focus on a discussion of the Grade 10 Literacy & Numeracy, and Grade 12 Literacy programs: their candid feedback is critical to the Graduation Assessment (Literacy 12) Working Group and I’m looking forward to many ideas that haven’t yet occurred to the adults in the room.
In fact, the Forum – which commences today – will solicit the student reps’ opinions on a range of current societal and educational challenges. The Ministry of Health will be there to explore strategies for both mental health & vaping, and youth cannabis use; and the Minister of Education and his team will engage with the students about the Framework for Accountability.
Best of all, the students run the show. They set the agenda and host the event, which will include an inspirational address by Olympian Brent Hayden and a field trip to the Vancouver Aquarium to find out about the Ocean Wise program and get hands-on learning in the Wet Lab. What struck me most in looking at the Forum’s agenda is the focus on team-building activities, regional presentations and reflective writing exercises. These students know that there are key priorities when they gather twice a year, and that connection, collaboration and mindfulness top the list.
It’s rewarding to see students not only embracing their own learning, but drawing circles back to the starting point to ensure that their feedback is heard. On this point, I’ll add a special shout-out to a BC Student Voice representative who will be at the Forum this weekend: Sarah Seymour, a grade 11 student from SaHali Secondary School in Kamloops. Sarah was selected by the BCPVPA through a competitive application process, and is one of 300 Canadian students aged 16-24 who will attend the Canada Youth Summit in Ottawa this May. Those students will be helping with the development of Canada’s National Youth Policy. And that will be feedback at one of its highest levels.
BC Student Voice representatives come from each district, and you may have a representative at your school. Prince Rupert just held their inaugural forum, and you can find out more here. I encourage you to support the BC Student Voice initiative, and to spend some time with these students: I have no doubt that they’ll have some new ideas for you.
“When young people develop basic leadership and collaborative learning skills, they can be a formidable force for change.”
― Peter M. Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization
April 18, 2019 Message to Members
I did something important yesterday, something that I hope will have a lasting and meaningful impact: I completed the 2019 BCPVPA Membership Survey.
I know. It often seems like everyone is competing for your opinion, your feedback or your outlook, about products you use or events you attended. But if you’re going to complete one survey, this is the one to do.
Every three years, the BCPVPA reaches out with a comprehensive survey to measure the thoughts, experiences, views and needs of our members. The intent is to gain an important province-wide perspective: with consistent questions at a moment in time, we will collect member responses from large and small schools, rural and urban schools and new, mid-career and seasoned leaders. The responses will collectively provide the contextual evidence that guides the Association, informs our Strategic Plan going forward and identifies needs in professional development, member support and advocacy.
The past surveys in 2013 and 2016 have helped us to focus our advocacy for members with the Ministry of Education and school boards. Data from the 2013 survey influenced the Ministry’s formation of a leadership development working group to examine how leaders are supported and continues to be relevant as the system addresses recruitment and retention. The responses also reinforced our case for improved compensation. Data from the 2016 survey led to significant sector alignment regarding the gravity of work-life balance for leaders and resulted in our development with humanworks of the Early Intervention Program. The numbers matter. The numbers help us to represent you, and to amplify your voice.
I finished the survey within about 30 minutes, tucked by the window, with my coffee, on my iPad. Working through the survey is a deep and thoughtful process, and perhaps a healthy release of everything that you want to say. You get to tell us about you, your background and experience, your work environment, how you assess performance and how you are in turn assessed. You get to tell us about your school resources, where responsibilities lie and the challenges of your role. And you get to tell us how we’re doing, what your priorities are as a member and the best way that BCPVPA can meet your needs. It’s all there.
So, it’s not that I’m hoping for poor weather this weekend, but if we happen to be struck by wind or rain, sleet or snow, that could be a great opportunity for you to settle in, pull out your phone and be heard. We’re listening.
April 12, 2019 Message to Members
A Different Way to Serve
As I prepare for the April 12-13 Board of Director’s meeting, I’m reminded of the diversity of thoughts and perspectives that will soon gather around our Board table.
Of the many strengths of the BCPVPA, our diversity is critical to our success as an organization. This is reflected in our committee work, leadership development support and engagement with our many partners across the sector and beyond. The Board of Directors is purposeful in their recognition of diversity, and consistent in ensuring that diverse viewpoints and experiences have a voice in supporting our work.
I’d like to alert you to an opportunity to bring your own unique personality and abilities to the BCPVPA Board. This year, five Directors of the Board will be elected to a two-year term and a President-Elect will be elected for a one-year term before assuming the office of President. The nomination period for both of these roles is open until April 30, and members are nominated for the roles by other members.
I recognize that many of you volunteer enormous amounts of time in local or regional roles, and the thought of spending time away from schools and family can be daunting. But I encourage you to balance those considerations with the opportunity to grow and gain deep experience in the engaging, collaborative and meaningful work of the Board. I have always appreciated the focus on producing results and outcomes that signals the power of the time we spend together. The Board commitment is similar to that of a busy committee, but a Friday and Saturday spent sharing and learning with colleagues is energizing and enriching. Time flies when you’re having fun!
It’s possible that you’ve considered running for the Board in the past but did not pursue a nomination due to other commitments, or uncertainty about the role. You may be looking at a colleague right now and thinking ‘Wow. ________ would make a great Board member’. Undoubtedly, you’re wondering what the typical Board member is like and if this role would be fit for you. The answer is that there is no typical Board member, beyond being a BCPVPA member who is dedicated to supporting other members and furthering our collective goals. Board members have hailed from around the province, large communities and small communities, and have brought with them a staggering range of experience and expertise.
I anticipate this weekend’s meeting as an opportunity to engage in meaningful discussion, and to consider points of view that would not emerge without the diversity of thought on the Board, which itself is representative of the diversity of thought in our Association. If you can see yourself or a colleague taking on a Board role, I encourage you to pursue a nomination. If you have questions, please reach out as I would welcome the opportunity to chat with you. To find out more about the process, or to download the forms, please visit bcpvpa.bc.ca/elections
April 5, 2019 Message to Members
As we return to our schools fresh from the break, Spring is in the air and the natural rhythm of the season offers sensory reminders that we are well beyond the half way point in another school year.
I hope the break was just that: an opportunity for Principals and Vice-Principals and their school communities to refresh and rejuvenate. Although time is a constant – with a nod to both Einstein and Christopher Nolan – I was reminded by colleagues this week that Springtime in schools may not actually be a constant after all! “Wasn’t the break 3 weeks ago?!” “Did March even happen?!” “I need more time!!”
A good reminder that planning and preparations for the next school year are well underway across our system, and that time – whether it is a constant or a variable – is a precious commodity.
As you prioritize your time in your schools, I encourage you to consider two specifics: your communication plan and your wellbeing. In the whirlwind of the busy days and weeks ahead, advance notifications and reminders are so appreciated by our school communities. Timely and effective communication is proven to reduce stress and anxiety in staff, students and parents. Knowing is the first step in preparing.
And, while we’re engaged in planning, let’s make sure we don’t forget ourselves. As we plan our timelines, building in our own needs helps to ‘guard’ that important time we need to sustain ourselves.
March 15, 2019 Message to Members
What is your ideal Spring Break? A ski trip or sun vacation with the family? Local staycation adventures, spending time with your kids, dogs, cats, friends? Whatever your version of ‘perfect’ might be, I hope that you will be able to live it over the coming break. It’s a milestone in the latter half of the school year and time to take some deep breaths and recharge. The coming months will be rewarding but busy, and you’ll be ready. I look forward to being back with you in April, and hearing about your best Spring Break moments.