With thanks to our school leaders…

Sask Bulletin
June 25, 2021
By Jane Macleod, Senior Manager, Research and Records

Instructional Leadership

It’s the middle of June and if you are reading this, thank you!!

There has been a lot of commentary about the extraordinary nature of this past school year and sitting back in June 2021, we hope principals and vice-principals around the province are feeling a sense of pride and accomplishment for the successful administration and management of what must have at times felt like a very long school year. To each of you, we say, “Well done and thank you!”

Over the past few months, school leaders have shared their stories in national webinars and provincial networks. A couple of themes and/or excerpts stand out and warrant recognition and a sincere thank you.

  • Thank you for your patience and flexibility in changing schedules, timetables, room assignments and even student assignments on the fly. The unpredictable nature of the pandemic created the need for immediate action, meaning that this year principals, in addition to the ongoing administrative and management responsibilities, found themselves doing everything from checking medical supplies to troubleshooting technical problems. In her study of school leaders’ responses to the pandemic, Dr. Pamela Osmond-Johnson refers to principals as the “other first responders” in that they are on-site, initially tasked with assuring ongoing quality instruction as well as ensuring the safety and well-being of students and staff.
  • Thank you for taking the time at the end of a hectic day to listen to a colleague, parent or student in need of an answer or, in some cases, a shoulder to lean on. Whether it was a face-to-face or an online encounter, school leaders took the time to listen carefully and respond to questions or concerns underscoring the fact that a principal’s gift of time makes a difference.
  • Thank you for acknowledging that teaching this year was anything but easy. In many ways, teaching this year was much like navigating a raft amidst the surges and swells of tempestuous ocean waters. Despite the challenges of shifting from face-to-face, online or remote teaching, teachers continued to worry about relevant pedagogy, student engagement and student success as well as students’ mental and emotional well-being. Principals repeatedly shared their stories about supporting teachers and others throughout this challenging year.
  • Keeping with a nautical theme, thank you for keeping your head above water! A recent report for the International Council of Education Advisors asserted that the pandemic has caused chaos around the world and remarked that even the smallest centres have not escaped its vice-like grip. However, they recognized the importance of the school leader at the helm staying the course. In addition, research from both Ontario and Alberta found that school leaders are characterized by their commitment to others and their perseverance, sense of purpose and calm during turbulent times. Undoubtedly, the principal as compass metaphor fits here.
  • Thank you for keeping a sense of humour. Playwrights and directors know the value and power of comic relief and there have been many times when a lighthearted quip or story has rendered a sense of equilibrium to an anxiety-laden situation. People will remember these times.
  • Thank you for acknowledging that the way ahead may not be smooth sailing. Businesses, organizations and community groups all aspire to see things back to normal. However, the unpredictable nature of this virus is just that–unpredictable, and come September, schools may need to again prepare for a continuum of responses. It is a wise principal who sends teachers off on their well-deserved holiday with instructions to rest lots, rejoice in a job well done and rekindle their sense of professional energy.

Without question, 2020-21 has been a challenging year and Saskatchewan’s school leaders are ready for the summer holidays. Again, thank you for all that you have done to keep the ship afloat this year. Perhaps there is truth in the words of some anonymous great thinker who said, “I want to vacation so long, I forget all my passwords.” Enjoy your vacation!