Oct 2, 2020 Message to Members

Concrete – Specific, Particular & Real

September is over.

September in schools often ends with us internally harbouring the contradictory sentiments ‘will this never end?’ and ‘that was fast!’.  In a typical year, it seems there is never enough time to address all of the needs and details of a start-up; in a pandemic year, the demand of time is relentless and consuming. Despite the challenges of back to school 2020, school leaders and their teams around the province marked two significant events with their students and communities in the last days of September.

While marking the 40th anniversary of the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope, the Terry Fox Foundation introduced What’s Your 40? as a creative way to engage students with Terry’s vision, regardless of the nature of their schooling this Fall. BC Principals and Vice-Principals supported their school teams to keep this long-standing tradition going, with imaginative innovations and a contagious spirit. Terry’s original Marathon of Hope – and every step of every kilometre traveled in the last forty years – are symbolic contributions to the fight against cancer. In these final days of September, I ran with a local elementary school as my own act of support for Terry’s campaign to find a cure for cancer. And on my run, I wore my bright orange shirt.

September ended with a significant observance: Orange Shirt Day. Originating in Williams Lake in 2013, this legacy of the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) Residential School Commemoration Project and Reunion events is the vision of Esketemc Chief Fred Robbins, himself a former student of SJM. His vision for a national day rests upon the personal story of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad and her residential school experience. Wearing an Orange Shirt on September 30 is a visible demonstration that we witness and honour the healing journey of Residential School Survivors and their families, and that we commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation in a manner that is specific, particular and real.

In both September events, participation is relatively easy. The challenge is in the follow-through. We are challenged to live up to our symbolic demonstrations of support with further action, action that takes the abstract into the concrete.

This September held many lessons for the entire K-12 sector. In our return to schools, we were compelled to establish our priorities and determine what must be preserved in our school calendars, and what can be paused, and considered in due time. In our hearts, events that honour the strength, compassion, and courage of human spirit soar up the list as a priority. Circumstances such as the Ministry of Education’s decision to postpone the FSAs help us to create space for those events, and to find ourselves better prepared for all of the priorities that come next.

And – just like that – we find ourselves in October and it’s National Principals’ Month (NPM). This is our opportunity to show our appreciation for the work you do, and for who you are. In all of our conversations over the past months, I have heard so much about what you are facing and how you are solving those problems, how you are offering solace to students and staff, and building on a creative vision for your schools that is effective in our new reality. I have heard you offering kudos to teachers, support staff and families, and delighting in the sound of students in your hallways. I hope that you can take a reflective moment during NPM to recognize the enormity of what you have accomplished and to thank a colleague and thank yourself.