Sept 11, 2020 Message to Members

“Begin as you mean to go on…”

I can’t remember where I first heard this phrase, but the words of Charles Haddon Spurgeon became a fixture of my Welcome Back address during the first assembly of the school year. Now, for the first time in 50 years, I have not started my school year in a school. No assembly, no homeroom, no students. And I’m feeling a dissonance, as if I’m not where I am supposed to be.

But I can still hold fast to Spurgeon’s statement, simple words which carry significant weight: start well.

As I write this, Principals and Vice-Principals all around the province are welcoming staff to their buildings and anticipating the arrival of students in the days ahead. They have spent nearly all of the summer preparing for this week, knowing that a solid launch is critical to the tenor of the year. And they have been planning for this launch in spite of the gaps and the ever-changing landscape. They have been planning to start well, and to carry on in that fashion with high expectations, and noble aspirations.

If I were in a school, not only would I be planning the school wide start-up, I would be balancing plans for the start of my own classes, with my own students. Our 2019 BCPVPA Member Survey reported that 28% of our Principals and 79% of our Vice-Principals continue to teach – in many cases, they do so for a significant part of each day. It is likely that these leaders have not yet been able to turn their attention to that important facet of their planning and preparation. A critical element of starting well, and beginning as you mean to go on, is readiness. This year, our focus as leaders has been drawn to the changes – new procedures, safety protocols, a flurry of communications and varying levels of anxiety – leaving our readiness for other important start up endeavours to be addressed through late nights and early mornings.

So, what could be considered ‘a good start’? It’s one with clarity, confidence and purpose; one with direction and reliable consistency; one with vision and achievable goals that can be celebrated along the way. A good start is one where we huddle up and dig in together, for the sake of each other and our communities. Can this be achieved in a time where our sight is limited to the immediate? Can we begin well, when our plans will almost certainly face change?  Yes. We can.

We will begin by doing what we always do: connecting with our people. We will greet them, truly see them and hear them. We will support them and build community and security. We will be open, transparent and collaborative. At a time when our education system is experiencing a tremendous shift, when schools are challenged to set aside the established procedures and to respond with innovation, and amid a pervading sense of uncertainty about what will come next, our members will continue to offer the clear and stable leadership that is needed.

As for me, the kindness of a local school Principal will allow me to spend at least a few  moments in a school this week, to see and feel this beginning from the inside, and to participate very modestly in the dynamic which first drew me to this profession. I believe this will dispel the dissonance I feel. Like you, I trust that I am where I should be.

Now, let’s begin.