May 8, 2020 Message to Members

Sunshine, On a Cloudy Day

This week I was in a bit of a funk. I’m not sure if it was the steady cycle of Zoom meetings in a basement office, my attempts to plan for a future that is marked by unknowns and constantly moving dates, or the recent rainy weather. Or, perhaps, a confluence of all those things. Fortunately, a bit of sunshine appeared in the form of Chris Horton, a Principal in SD73 Kamloops – Thompson.

Chris and I connected using Zoom, and we recorded the first episode of the new Principl[ed] Podcast. I enjoy a number of podcasts from a wide range of genres including Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, Under the Influence and The Chief Wellbeing Officer. I am hopeful that the Principl[ed] Podcast will offer a fine blend of practical information and leadership perspective along with entertaining anecdotes that can be appreciated by our Principal and Vice-Principal colleagues in British Columbia and beyond.

As I reflected on the process of recording the podcast, I realized that chatting with Chris about my leadership journey not only cheered me up but energized me. The questions that Chris asked to initiate our conversation helped to remind me of why I love this work and how important it is. I don’t think I’m giving anything away if I share a couple of the questions and my responses, and hopefully you’ll find time during a drive or a walk to listen to the Principl[ed] Podcast when it debuts in June.

Chris: How did you arrive at your current role, and what are two to three reflective take-aways from that journey?

Me: “My journey started with the impacts that others had on me. I was, and continue to be, so fortunate to have been influenced by exceptional coaches, educators and leaders. Really wonderful people, making a difference in their capacities. I saw, and see, the impact they make and hold myself accountable to them.”

“Indirectly, kids and the future are what I am all about; the further away from the classroom my roles take me, the more focussed this has become. As complex and nuanced as the leadership work can be, keeping the focus of the system on student success is my north star. Systems thinking requires a certain discipline and an appreciation for the stories of the past, present and future: these threads are interconnected and influence how I think, plan and act.”

Chris: What advice would give to a new or aspiring school leader?

Me: “If I could go back and give my younger self two pieces of advice around leadership, the first would be: slow down. I don’t mean take days or weeks to accomplish something. I mean to consider that we often focus on and give so much time to dozens or hundreds of things in a week, that we typically end up forgetting about ourselves. Taking two or three minutes a day doesn’t sound like much … so why don’t we do it? Slowing down is directly connected to self-care and sustaining our own capacity. This leads to an increase in our awareness of self and when we find ourselves in very challenging times, we can feel confident in our ability to support others.”

“The other thing I would suggest: lean into empathy. Empathy and how it connects to compassion are foundational for the relationships necessary for successful leadership. With empathy, we can appreciate how others are arriving in their day – and in their roles – as part of this larger system. We aren’t isolated ‘cogs’ in the system, we are part of it, and we are interconnected social and emotional beings. With an awareness of empathy and by practising compassion, we can bring purpose and practice to sustaining ourselves and our relationships.

Chris: So, how do you do this, David?

To hear the rest, you’ll need to stay tuned and watch for the launch of the Principl[ed] Podcast!

My sincere thanks to Chris Horton for reminding me why I started down this path and – in these challenging times – why quality leadership is so critically important.

Take Care,