Thursday, October 14, 2021

Time to Calm The Farm - Schools are not in chaos

These are challenging times as we deal with a very tricky global pandemic and school leaders are being called upon to lead when the conditions and the criteria are changing quite rapidly. I want to paint a different picture than what has been presented in some media headlines over the last few days and which has also been presented in some education-focused Facebook groups.

I am writing this on Thursday morning, so just short of 3 days since the announcement of testing and vaccination mandates. Facebook groups have included a clamour of agitation, anger and panic from a very small group of teachers and leaders about the lack of detail to support us in our work. The group is small but their clamour has occupied these spaces and can give a distorted view of our profession.

I'll kick off by saying that I have received the exact same Bulletins from the MOE and I have found them clear and timely. By Monday night I knew that my school in Auckland would not be opening as normal on the following Monday. I knew that before any of my staff could return to school to teach students (whenever that may be) that we would all need to produce a clear Covid test and I knew as a Principal that I would need to operate a confidential register for that. I knew that all staff would need to be fully immunised (2 jabs plus 2 weeks) by January 1 2022 and have first jab by November 15 and that I needed to keep a confidential register of that. I also knew that all staff, after return, would need to provide a clear Covid test weekly until they reached full immunisation status.

By the end of Tuesday I fine-tuned my current staff register on vaccination status - this was one I created a couple of months ago when I requested my staff share their vaccination status with me and keep me updated as they progressed through the vaccination process. I told them I respected their right not to supply that information. The good news was that all but 2 of my 91 were happy to do so knowing it was confidential to me. Very quickly I modified it to include Covid testing results and a confirmation of vaccination status.

By the end of Wednesday I was able to confirm all of this with my staff and immediately began to receive the updates and evidence I require from them. That is continuing this morning.

I am not waiting to hear from MOE about how I have conversations with any staff who are currently not vaccinated. This is because I know how to have these conversations. They have no choice but to be fully vaccinated by 2022 and my conversations with them will be all about supporting them to make the decision that will work for them - all of the time respecting their decision. I'm not panicing about that because I have until November 15th to do my best to support them to become vaccinated.

This morning I received a very clear outline from my union describing my obligations which supported the steps I had already taken.

But this is what I'm annoyed about:

School board chairman resigns abruptly after Covid vaccine made mandatory for teachers

Did everybody who saw this headline read this sentence in it?:

When asked if the decision related to the Covid-19 vaccine, he said “no, not directly”.

And I read this this morning:

Northland educators slam Covid-19 vaccine mandate for teaching workforce

The article quoted 2 primary principals who had some opposition to the mandate and 1 secondary principal who supported it. Such a headline is an insult to 'Northland educators".

Then I read:

The article produced no evidence to indicate chaos. One primary principal was quoted saying she didn't know how to talk with teachers who were going to resign and a sector leader who stated some principals were concerned but many were very supportive.

Thankfully I came across these 2 tweets from a respected ex school leader:

NZ schools not in chaos over government decision to mandate vaccination. In an emergency, leaders flourish and managers wither. Schools will soon find out if their principal is a leader - builds strong relationships & who is knowledgeable, calm, inclusive, humble and articulate.

What BS! It’s in times of emergency that leaders flourish and managers wither. Schools will soon be finding out whether or not their principal is a leader possessing strong relational skills, knowledgeable, calm, inclusive, humble and articulate.

It's times like this that the true nature of our leadership is revealed. We can't control the spin the media puts on things because they see some loose canons spouting on Facebook, but we can definitely control how we lead in this space. We can oppose decisions or express concerns but, as a leader, we have an obligation to spread calm, hope and optimism.

I'll finish with this from Peter Garelja's tweet above:

Schools will soon be finding out whether or not their principal is a leader possessing strong relational skills, knowledgeable, calm, inclusive, humble and articulate.


MrsC said...

Tautoko your korero Maurie! Your staff are lucky to have you lead them.

Sarah said...

Awesome post Maurie

Kere said...

Thank you for posting your voice of reason. After a very stressful week not all to do with COVID, I am grateful to read a positive post.

Michelle said...

What a breath of fresh air it is to read this. I completely agree with you and after becoming rather frustrated with what you’ve described above myself, this gives me and will give many other colleagues assurance that we are in fact on the right track.

Debs said...

Well said

Philip Jellyman said...

Well put Maurie. Logical and pragmatic. Great to read this in the wake of seeing those headlines!

Michelle Fepuleai said...

Love this…you’ve put my thoughts into words! Ka rawe!

Peter Brooks said...

Well put Murray. I totally agree.

Gene Bartlett said...

Very timely korero. Thanks

Unknown said...

Thankyou for articulating what the majority of us believe.

Michael said...

Yes, yes and yes. Thank you for articulating what many of us are feeling.

Tony Cairns said...

Thanks a million Maurie, awesome thoughtful careful analysis and great vision
and hopes for future - I see schools all round teh motu following your lead albeit a decade and pandemic late - but better now than never - all the best - we're battening down at this end of the motu waiting for the tide, wave and virus to reach our double jabbed, masked and distanced families

Unknown said...

Yes indeed! Thank you Maurie

Maria Krausse said...

Kia ora Maurice,
Tino pai. Thanks for your considered and well-researched post. Calm the Farm indeed. Good leaders will continue doing what they do - and do it well.

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