August Special Message – Back to School, Values and Culture
Posted on August 1, 2022
First Nations Education Administrators’ Association salutes education administrators for their continued dedication and leadership amidst these challenging times. Education Administrators are responsible for the well-being of both the students and staff within their educational institutions, as well as remaining accountable to the communities they serve.
Within the dynamic COVID-19 waves, policy and wellness, education administrators must find ways to positively promote transitions into regular in-class learning and extra-curricular activities, while also preparing for possible return to virtual classroom learning. It is important for Education Administrators to acknowledge their own opinions, values, and anxiety regarding COVID-19 as they prepare to provide support to their staffs and communities. Smoothing the transition back to in-class learning encompasses the First Nations traditional values of Respect, Honesty, Courage, and Love.
One of the most meaningful ways to exhibit respect for staff, students, and community is by listening. Amongst these populations, diverse opinions, values, and perspectives will be expressed regarding supports, suggestions, fears, and anxiety about the management of COVID-19 and its variants for return to school plans. As educational leaders, it is vital to allow stakeholders to express their concerns and be actively heard. Despite whether these expressions are similar or opposite to education administrators’ own emotions and opinions, it is important to validate statements and comments by acknowledgment through understanding and empathy rather than agreement or deviation. By appreciating each person’s perspective brought forth in a dialogue, it opens the communication for respectful problem-solving and acceptance of any legislation or policy implemented.
Using a respectful approach of listening and acknowledging various perspectives is productive in promoting acceptance of staff and students’ preferences with managing COVID-19 hygiene. Promoting an environment where it is okay to wear a mask, or not; choosing to congregate, or not, is totally okay so long as it coincides with the current legislation and policy. Mutual respect of individual’s choices regarding health and safety is likely to carry-over to mutual respect for other decisions.
Another traditional value, Honesty, is crucial in moving forward through the trailing pandemic. Providing clear and honest information regarding the latest regulations and guidelines, as soon as it is available, will avoid confusion and anxiety. The information provided to staff, then families, regarding the return to in-class plan should include:
Any physical or procedural changes made at the school
Specific expectations for staff and families
A tolerance for uncertainty and possible changes
Resources for staff, students, and families for coping with COVID-19 management
Being open and honest about returning to in-class learning by acknowledging the risks involved and emphasizing how to take precautionary measures to reduce risks to everyone, can help both staff and students feel good about returning to in-class learning and group activities. It is equally important to avoid blanket statements such as: “everything will be fine,” or “there is nothing to worry about,” as these statements are easily proven untrue within the unknown evolution of the coronavirus and its variants. Using such reassurance statements rather than honesty can create doubt and further thoughts of uncertainty.
First Nations Education Administrators’ Association applauds the courage exhibited by Education Administrators for keeping their own biases in check regarding COVID-19 management while helping staff and families manage their fears and anxiety about the ever-changing health and safety recommendations. Encouraging tolerance and resiliency of the uncertainty and potential changes with COVID-19 hygiene management will enable staff and students to realize their own power and capabilities for coping with change.
As educational leaders, Education Administrators amplify courage when they model their own positive coping behaviors by remaining calm, neutral, honest, and caring amongst the dynamic policies and guidelines issued by the various health authorities. Encouraging staff and students to take the situation one step at a time will help everyone enjoy the present with less worry about the future. In addition, praising your staff for having courage and resiliency in facing return-to-school fears is also a positive step in the process of returning to a sense of normalcy in attending public education. Acknowledging fellow staff and students’ specific actions of courage, such as: defending their stance, practicing precautions, or working in a vulnerable environment; creates an environment of unity as everyone in the school will get through this situation together.
Finally, the value of Love is needed in these unstable times. Education Administrators are powerful leaders and influencers who often forget that they too are humans in need of love and compassion. Self-love is necessary before you share your compassion to others. Prior to preparing to support staff, consider taking an extra day or two to relax and replenish before eagerly returning to work. Modeling good self-care can motivate staff to take better care of themselves as well. Having and promoting a healthy mind frame and good physical health will improve the overall health of school spirit.
Self-love can be practiced by:
- Giving gratitude for each day
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle (nutrition, sleep, exercise)
- Taking alone time to connect with nature
- Building a positive communication network with professionals and Elders
- Appreciate time with family and friends
- Humbly acknowledge your own goals and accomplishments
Using the traditional values of Respect, Honesty, Courage, and Love as Education Administrators mitigate the upheaval COVID-19 has the potential to create, will result in a productive, culturally appropriate, and successful 2022-2023 school year.
“7 Tips for Educators Returning to School During COVID-19”. www.anxietycanada.com