November 8, 2019 Message to Members

Back on the Road

On this, the Friday before November 11, I want to acknowledge the role that Principals and Vice-Principals play in planning and hosting Remembrance Day Ceremonies in their schools and communities. It’s a time of providing both youth and elders the opportunity to share in reflection, and honouring those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy a life of peace. Thank you for your efforts, your attention to the small details and your accommodation of the diverse needs of many.

My Fall 2019 On the Road theme continued this week, with a return to Vancouver Island and visits to Chapters in SD71 Comox Valley, SD72 Campbell River and SD69 Qualicum. My heartfelt thanks to Presidents Charles Schilling, Laird Ruehlen and Lori Marshal for coordinating my visits and arranging for meetings and presentations. I often refer to the unique contexts I experience as I travel around our wonderful province, but I also appreciate the common themes and characteristics that school leaders share with me in our conversations. This week’s Island visits really highlighted this experience.

As leaders, we are quick to share the positive student progress in our schools, initiatives that increase student engagement, new strategies and resources that support our staff in their work and so much more. I’m filled with positive energy when I see and hear about your collective positive impacts on student success and your school communities as a whole.  But there’s more. Our complex work and the time that is required to ‘get it right’ continues to be the consistent and common theme across our provincial landscape.  When I ask the simple question, “How are you showing up in this moment?”, the majority of us are initially challenged to respond honestly. We struggle to give ourselves permission to ask the question, “how am I?” because, too often, we already know the answer.

My work with compassionate systems has shown me that there are small actions we can take to support ourselves and each other. These small first steps are important, as the larger systemic changes will take time. Small actions are important for sustaining and recharging. As leaders, we know that modelling is an important strategy in our work. Do as I say, not as I do just doesn’t cut it anymore. Our days are busy and the ‘to do’ list really can grow over the course of the day, but there are many times in a day where transitions occur. The beginnings and endings of meetings are an example: take 3-5 minutes at the start of a meeting to be present and engage in a ‘check-in’ process, to focus your thoughts and to literally catch your breath. It’s a small step, a little pause that creates time for self-awareness and gives others involved in the conversation time to do the same. This small action typically produces a simple outcome: a much more effective and focused use of time.

I have to admit that the first few times I led a brief check-in, I felt a bit of ‘imposter syndrome’. I now realize I was actually feeling very vulnerable in sharing a new practice. As leaders, we often ask others to do this exact thing. By modelling this practice, we can accomplish three important system outcomes: self-awareness by being present; providing others with time and space to gather themselves; and acceptance of showing vulnerability, not as a weakness but as a part of compassionate leadership. I encourage you to give ‘checking in’ a try.

Take Care,

David