WomenEd Blogs

Leading in education through a pandemic - shaping a better ever-changing world


By Jen McArdle @McArdleJen

I would like to acknowledge and thank the Traditional Custodians of this land and recognise their continued connection to Country. We thank Elders past, present and emerging for sharing this land for us to live and learn on. We thank the Traditional Custodians for caring and looking after this land for thousands of generations. We will contribute to caring for this land for many years to come and recognise that this always was and always will be Aboriginal land.

We are now entering the third year of the global pandemic, with no signs of things returning to any kind of normal anytime soon. As a principal of a small R-7 school, these years have been like no other I have experienced during my teaching/leadership career. The anxiety and stress our staff, students and their families have faced are immense. Leading a school through this time has required resilience, flexibility, understanding and vulnerability.

The only thing that we can be sure of about the future is that we have no clue what is to come next. More than ever leaders need to be resilient, supportive, flexible, and courageous problem solvers willing to take on the challenges of our ever-changing world.

Resilience and flexibility have been in high demand during the pandemic. Students, staff, and families have had to "roll with the punches"- from lock-downs, home learning, dealing with the fear of covid, testing positive to covid, loss of income and stress on relationships. Our staff have been fantastic dealing with the ever changing covid directions. They have continually adapted their planning to cater for remote learning and continued to provide the best possible education for our students. The kids themselves have been amazing, bouncing back from lock-downs and home learning and now returning to school with restrictions in place; wearing masks and social distancing. Our families too, it is so difficult to balance having their kids schooling at home whilst still managing the house, working, and looking after younger siblings. Resilience is really one of the most crucial dispositions we can teach our students.

Leading during the pandemic has required us to display vulnerability, the constant state of uncertainty becoming the "new normal" and has felt like we are being constantly forced out of our comfort zones. It has found many of us, me included, struggling with that feeling of not being in control, very problematic for those with a perfectionist nature! As the wonderful Brene Brown says, "Having the courage to show up when you can't control the outcome." I guess that is all we can really do!

A crucial aspect of the pandemic, something that can be easy to overlook with the focus on case numbers, deaths (tragically) vaccination mandates and the like, is the wellbeing of all staff, students, and our broader community. The focus in schools increasingly is data driven, NAPLAN results and the like. The pandemic has really hit home for me that yes, these things are important, but they pale in comparison with the importance of wellbeing. A major focus for us has been ensuring that staff, students, and our broader community are coping mentally and physically with the demands of the pandemic. Managing workload for staff, checking in on students and families, ensuring the school is there to help everyone get through to the other side - this is truly important work.

Finally, the cognitive load of leading, managing and teaching during a pandemic has been enormous

The amount of information to process, the flexibility required, tasks to complete, departmental directions/mandates to follow and information to distribute to stakeholders seems to escalate daily! It is important for us all to take time to focus on our tasks, eliminate distractions and ensure we have some form of a work/life harmony! Something I know is easier said than done.

To everyone who has been educating and leading through this crazy time in history, well done, you're doing amazing and important work!

'Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.' Maya Angelou

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Sunday, 29 January 2023

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