Beijing to Toronto is a 13 hour flight. That is a long time on a plane. I am not a nervous flier but whenever I fly I do find the turbulence a bit uneasy. I have only been on one or two flights where turbulence has been severe but I am so happy when those flights touch down. I do know several friends that dread flying and have had some very harrowing experiences that have left them anxious, unnerved and afraid to fly.
Thankfully I made it home with ease! I was so excited to come home and to reconnect with my family and friends. I have really missed the friendships, professional dialogue and support. During many of these conversations my friends said you are so brave, I admire you, I am jealous of what you are doing. My response was really? I am certainly not brave but I am excited about growing and learning in a new context. The learning is fun, exciting and rejuvenating and without turbulence.
Coffee, lunches, dinner, drinks all led to deep conversations about what I was going to do next. My answer “I do not know.” Right now I am trying to live in the present and enjoy the experiences and opportunities that find their way to me. The other half of these conversations was about the present reality of education in Ontario. The constant turbulence that administrators and teachers face each day!
The reality of not having enough supply teachers to fill jobs. The reality of having staff who are on stress leave because of the changing demands of the job. The reality of increasing mental health needs of students, parents and staff and the lack of resources to meet these needs. The increasing demands to improve student learning and to support teachers in improving their practice. The reality of dealing with difficult parents who do not want their child to take responsibility for their actions, learn from failure, problem solve or build resilience. So many of these problems seem to have no easy solutions and are overshadow the focus on leading the instructional program.
Teachers and administrators who constantly live in this turbulence suffer from the effects. Many teachers and administrators are on leave because of the effects of stress on their physical and mental health. The fear, anxiety and uncertainty that ensues as the turbulence continues!
A few bumps on the journey are to be expected and can be managed but the constant turbulence makes the journey extremely difficult!
I admire my colleagues and friends that are working in Ontario and dealing gracefully with the challenges that they face each day. They are the ones that are brave! Brave enough to stick it out and to embrace the ride as difficult as it may be! These colleagues are deeply committed to being effective leaders. They work to balance the demands of instructional leadership and management. They are talented, brilliant and most of all resilient!
I feel as though education in Ontario is at a tipping point. One thing that I have been thinking about a lot is the urgency for school boards to look at each school’s needs individually and to implement creative solutions to meet these unique needs. There are so many initiatives that are constantly coming at school boards from the ministry. Many of these come with specific targets, funding parameters and strict accountability measures. School boards do their best to filter and implement these initiatives as effectively as possible but often lose the ability to innovate, create and implement interesting supports that would better meet the needs of individual schools.
I wonder if giving more autonomy to school districts and schools would help with the turbulence and allow for a smoother ride for all stakeholders?