Recovering stronger – A school leader's perspectiveSunday, May 09, 2021
There is an urgent need for us to explore school leadership and the traits that must be exhibited in any bid to effectively navigate challenges and adversity that are threatening to become overwhelming.
Ironically, this presents the prime climate in which outstanding leadership will thrive.
The repeated pronouncement of a postponement of a return to the face-to-face modality of teaching and learning continues to signal a very frightening reality. We need to show how strong we are in the face of novel and unexpected circumstances. Yes we will become concerned but not daunted; we must have the resolve that we are going to find a way.
It is against this background that I now prescribe four leadership vaccines that will inoculate against any threat of a failed education system.
Vaccine 1: Risk Management
We have to focus on our own setting and proceed, based on what is in our best interest. Not operating based on recommendations from self-acclaimed consultants, technocrats and decorated practitioners. This is a new frontier for everyone, including the regulators. Given the varying geographical location of our schools, diverse socio-economic realities and landscape within which educators operate school leaders must first determine the co-morbidities of their school setting and then unearth effective and novel ways of addressing the leadership challenges which emerge. If ever there was a time when schools are faced with increased risks, it is now. This is the time for ongoing monitoring, evaluating and determining new courses of action. Leaders have to throw away the box and 'think', accepting that our raison d'etre is to successfully educate the nation's children.
Vaccine 2: Embracing Change
Remember that we do not have the knowledge or the tools to deal with this COVID-19 era; it is one of the most challenging times that we will ever face. There is no playbook to guide us. We must not allow our fears and frustration to deter us from developing that resilience to confront and conquer this challenge. We must be honest, shunning the urge to be pretentious and realising that there are gaps and even inadequacies to be addressed, and make every effort to do so.
So you were proud of yourself because you could 'Google', but now there is the rude awakening that you have to lead your staff into the online modality to deliver lessons. Wow! What a scare. But don't be frightened. We must learn to adapt to changes of the age and be able to survive. Get an information technology coach because you will need training to conquer the new frontier, or be left woefully behind.
Vaccine 3: Resilience
As we navigate our way in these uncharted waters we have to avoid embracing a melancholic state of mind, one fraught with frustration, despondency and even disillusionment. This is the natural consequence of not exhibiting resilience at this time when Internet access is limited; some staff members want to have the latitude to renege on their responsibilities; there is the need for adherence to the protocols outlined by the Ministry of Health and Wellness and we continue to operate with limited resources.
Educators are always under scrutiny and this is the prime opportunity to shine to silence the critics. The resilient educator has to acknowledge that even in the midst of a pandemic, there is a firm hand on the pulse of school operations. We must accept that paradoxically, fear oppresses strength, and gives weakness strength.
There is no room for lethargy. We must create and unearth innovations that enable us to meet the needs of our students. We need to be collaborating with other leaders to achieve an acceptable state of readiness for ongoing overall success.
Vaccine 4: Seeds of Recovery
The pandemic has seeds of its own recovery and, admittedly, the challenges are diverse. The following examples signal the reality that the recovery process will force persons to unearth and exhibit outstanding leadership acumen and prowess:
• Class size – There is now the need for creative timetabling strategies and group rotation gymnastics to guard against overcrowded settings
• Technology has to be central to strategic planning, since technology now has to be the fulcrum of any lesson delivery methodology.
• School leaders must recalibrate the structure of job descriptions to be responsive to the new roles and responsibilities which have emerged.
• A prime opportunity has been created for schools to advance community outreach, engagement and impact, by training parents who are technologically challenged to be able to assist their children.
• The engagement of stakeholders in a “Think Tank” for the revision or crafting of “A Business Continuity Plan” to guard against unpreparedness for a pandemic or any major disruption to the business of education.
One crucial seed of recovery is for school leaders to be outstanding professionals, enhancing personal brand and image; and becoming known for being adept at leadership, irrespective of the emerging circumstances.
There is now the need to heed the counsel of Abigail Adams to her son, John Quincy Adams, (President of the USA – 1780)
“These are times in which a genius would wish to live. It is not in the still calm of life or the repose of a pacific station that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties.”
Pauleen Reid is and educator, pedagogy specialist, education researcher, and Principal of Knockalva Polytechnic College.
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