As we adjust to this new playing field, we adapt
We face unique challenges globally in dealing with the limitations placed upon us by the coronavirus pandemic. One thing is increasingly evident – that we are adapting remarkably well to a situation that none of us have experienced before. Home schooling, once the preserve of those in the remotest of locations, is now commonplace everywhere, from tiny villages to inner cities. As educators we find ourselves facing a common challenge, and rising to it as one.
I spoke to Mike Dubeau, Director General of the Western Quebec School Board, this week. He told me that while nothing could prepare his school system for the Coronavirus outbreak, had learnt a lot about crisis management from being forced to deal with a major flood and a tornado over the past two years.
The key actions identified from those previous emergencies were:
- Ensuring everyone is safe and secure
- Communicate constantly, consistently, precisely and compassionately
- Seek solutions that work in the new context
- Remember that work will go on afterwards, so look after one another and take care of people’s well being
- Learn from the experience and use it to shape the future
During the coronavirus outbreak, Mike has been providing his staff with a daily update. Yesterday’s briefing note covered a range of topics, from the changes introduced by the Provincial Government, to the staffing arrangements for daycare centres that remained open for the children of key workers, and how one school was using Facebook as a platform to challenge students.
While Quebec is approaching the end of the spring break, in response to the outbreak the Provincial Government is changing the way the school system operates by preparing for home schooling. Staff who would normally be on leave at this time are responding to the challenge and the work is getting done. Mike says he is proud of the response from his staff.
Our colleagues in Dubai have now reached the end of their second week of home schooling. The Government has increased penalties for failing to conform to rules introduced to mitigate the impact of the virus.
Schools in England are heading into the Easter break remaining partially open to provide daycare for the children of key workers. In both the UK and Dubai, while we all hope otherwise, the expectation is that schools will not reopen until September.
Peter Matthews sent me an article from UNESCO, which put our efforts into a wider global context. He said it was startling that in response to the outbreak within six weeks, 80 per cent of the world’s student population – 1.3 billion young people – have been affected by school closures in 138 countries. Though France has taken a centrist approach to this, most governments have put the continuation of educational provision in the hands of schools or regional administrations. A practice common across our collaborative. The article identified a number of common themes. These were:
- The drive to ensure the continuation of learning within the home context
- The rescheduling of public examinations and the school calendar
- Ensuring students continued to have a nutritious diet
- Reducing the burden on parents and carers
- Addressing the social isolation of children
We are grateful to all of you who are getting in touch and contributing to this update. If you have something you would like to share about the situation please make contact.
On the subject of coaching
At times like these when the situation is in flux, leaders must continually remind themselves that they can only manage what they can manage. As a leader, you may worry about everything that is going on around you and it can understandably feel overwhelming, but for your own peace of mind, ensure you take care of what you are now responsible for. If you are unsure, seek clarity. Then follow Mike’s guidelines.
When the opportunity comes, you will be able to lead from a secure base. As you feel more secure you will be able to harness your imagination and that of your colleagues. Remember that effective leadership comes from adapting to our vision and ambitions which we can manage. With this sound connection, you can ensure that false promises are not made or opportunities to improve the situation missed and you can gain some assurance that you are doing your best to manage and lead in a rapidly changing context.
Take care and stay safe.