Calm waters, beautiful sunsets. Taking my evening walks on the quiet beach in eastern Canada allows me an escape from the current reality. I feel blessed to have this opportunity each and every day and I try hard to never take it for granted. On March 11, I finished my coaching day and left a school; little did I know that I would spend the next twenty weeks (and more to come) virtually meeting educators and coaching from home. Instead of wondering if flights will be delayed or canceled and how my visits will be received at schools and in districts, I am losing sleep over the enormous decisions that face the district and school leaders I am working with and the teachers who are entering a school year full of unknowns. School is starting very soon in many places that I work. Here is what I learned this week…
Resiliency: Working as a teacher, administrator and consultant since 1980, I have witnessed incredible acts of resiliency by educators over the years but never has this been so apparent as it is right now. Since March, teachers and leaders in districts and schools have stepped up, figured out, adjusted, tried again and now they are building the plane as they are flying it- responding to government requests or suggestions, school board decisions and others weighing in on how or how not to open schools this fall. Classrooms are being set up for physical distancing, virtual learning platforms are being developed and teachers are being trained and retrained while trying to stay healthy and safe. They know their number one job is to educate and ensure each and every student receives an education and despite the numerous distractions, I am confident they will figure out how to stay focused as this school year begins.
Empathy: I am proud, honored and amazed (not surprised) to witness the empathy being shown by district leaders as they work with their principals. Building professional development sessions that include self-care, social and emotional support for school leaders is the new norm as they understand the need to share ownership and build human capacity within their systems. They are exhausted, confused, and also building the plane as they fly it; knowing that each and every decision taken right now will be met with question. They can not make every person happy (parents, community, staff) and it feels like a no-win situation. Their focus has to be on the education and well being of students and at the same time, do their very best to take care of the adults in their system.
Excitement: Over the past few weeks, I have had the absolute pleasure to work with brand new principals! Their excitement explodes through the computer screen, creating synergy that is often difficult to find in a virtual coaching model. Despite the world as we know it today, they are ready to take it on! As one of my dear friends, educator Lissa Pijjanowski said in an instagram post this week, “Educators, you’ve got this!!”. In fact, principals, seasoned or our newbies are up to the challenge! They are working collaboratively to determine best next steps and create solid action plans that will be safe and healthy for students and staff. They are also modeling empathy and understanding and we need to hold them close to our hearts as they never signed up for leadership this difficult.
So, on that note, if you are a leader reading this, I would love you to join our virtual, complimentary book study beginning August 4. My co-author, Jeanne Spiller and I will be working through Leading with Intention as we desperately want to help you recharge your battery and tackle this school year with confidence and focus. It will also be recorded so if you can not attend one of the four sessions, register regardless so you can access the recordings. Here is the link for the complimentary registration- https://www.solutiontree.com/ca/leading-with-intention-book-study.html. Jeanne is a practicing assistant superintendent, dealing with the same difficult decisions that you are and I am working through so many leadership coaching conversations that I feel we have lots to offer you right now through this book study. We sure would love to “see” you there!
The year 2020 will long be remembered in world history. For educators, it will be one that has most definitely impacted how you teach and lead. There have been and will continue to be lessons learned of how the sails can be adjusted when the waters are not calm, when the tides can turn at a moments notice and we have to respond accordingly, and how the trust and relationships that we have with parents, students and other coworkers create a network of care and support we all needed when we were confused, sad and frustrated. Emotional, social, mental and intellectual needs of ourselves and others have been challenged in ways we never knew possible.
The year is not over and care must still be taken as we plan and adapt for the start of the school year. We know students will return to us with learning gaps and in whatever format learning has to take this year- within the walls of a building or in front of a computer screen, the needs of students will be the focus. This is the truth about why we are educators. No matter what. I believe in you and will be here to support you. You’ve got this.