Nov 6, 2020 Message to Members

“…making me feel like an expert.”

I have one hundred and seventeen green sticky notes on the wall of my office. On each note is written the name of a school, and the Principal and Vice-Principals who lead that school community.

Throughout the Fall, I started each day reviewing the health authorities’ posted list of schools with potential COVID-19 exposures, and I sent a quick note to each Principal. In their responses, our members shared the challenges of this experience and expressed gratitude for their district’s strong support in the process. I keep the visual record on my wall so that I am faced each day – quite literally – with the complex experiences and levels of stress that our BCPVPA members are navigating.

The count should, in fact, be higher. I made the decision to mark an affected location on my wall only once. Many of the sticky notes represent a school with more than one potential exposure reported, leading to one member’s comment that I have borrowed as the title of this week’s column.

This month, I’ve stopped posting the sticky notes: I am running out of wall space, and I took the advice of a wise Principal and stopped ‘holding my breath’, waiting for this to be over.

When I started this practice, I intended it as a clear and visual record that would be transitory … not forever, just for now. The eventual limitation of space did not occur to me: I wasn’t thinking of the long game. As October came to an end, I realized I was holding my breath, anticipating the day when I could stop covering my walls. The wise Principal who inspired me isn’t signaling defeat at the hands of the pandemic; she is instead encouraging us to settle into the structures, protocols, and reports that are the reality now, and for some time ahead.

And the report of a potential exposure will eventually come to many Principals and Vice-Principals, who will become expert in leading through this experience, as they have become expert in re-organizing divisions, timetables, and staffing. As they have become expert in supervising staggered arrivals, departures, and recesses. As they have become expert in simultaneously dividing their energies between teaching and leading. As they have become expert in daily adjustments to fill vacancies. As they have become expert in supporting their people with reassurance and compassion.

The long game is difficult to play when one is ‘May-tired’ in November, and feeling a sense of compassion fatigue. The BCPVPA continues to advocate with the Ministry of Education and the Provincial Health Office on behalf of our members, and district leaders are taking steps to recognize and support Principals and Vice-Principals in their roles. I encourage you to reach out to me with an email to confirm any recent district measures that have been introduced.

If I had continued to post on my wall, I would now have one hundred and ninety-three sticky notes. While I am not filling wall space, I still begin each day with a review of our health authorities’ reports, and touch base with each affected Principal. And the green sea of sticky notes will remain in place. They will greet me on arrival, putting our members, their experiences, and their well-being first in my mind as each day begins.