By Lori Lockhart, Central Division President-Elect and Principal of Roosevelt Elementary School, Willmar, MN
The last few weeks have been turbulent as we all personally and professionally wrestle with what we hear and see in our news media. The Coronavirus or COVID-19 has put this country in a tailspin. It’s affected our national, state, and regional areas with wonder, excessive amounts of communication, and potential misinformation. Who and what do I listen to? Who and what source is accurate? How do we react? As a leader, how do I respond, what do I say, what action(s) do I take? From the questions comes a need for clarity and ultimately balance, which comes from what we as leaders do each and everyday day: seek solutions. For this and other unsettling things we respond to daily as leaders, we can use the same formula. Here is a formula I’ve become accustomed to using for my 20+ years in education.
First, be clear about ‘the what.’ What is the problem? It would be best if you had clarity around what it is you are grappling with. You also need to be clear about is ‘it’, the problem, an action item, does it need a response, or does it just need time to evolve and present itself with more detail? For example, on March 6th, we did not even consider closing schools, but as the issue evolved over time with more evidence and information gathered, as of now, March 18th, schools are closed.
If it needs to be responded to then, do your homework, read the research, and find the evidence; what’s been done before? Second, and a close second, surround yourself with knowledgeable people, like our staff and other colleagues in the field. Seek out their expertise and listen, take notes. Hear their insights, ideas, and the pros and cons they bring to the table.
After hearing all voices and ideas, anticipate and talk through the unintended consequences of each course of action so you can get as close as possible to a win-win for all parties involved. An unintended consequence is the result of a decision that is not favorable, like canceling school due to the Coronavirus, but knowing a consequence of that is children not being guaranteed breakfast and lunch, or to offer E-Learning but not all homes have internet and devices. So here lies the balance, how to weigh the information and find the middle ground.
Finally, make a decision. Trust yourself, the work you did, and the input from others. We’re never going to call them all right, but we’re going to get close. Like with all unsettling situations, once we make a decision, we need to be done and let it simmer. We’ll need to circle back to monitor and or tweak, but at least we can say in good conscience, and by using good judgment, it is done.
I end with a note of harmony, remember the wonderful camaraderie we all experienced at MESPA back in early February? We’re all still here, lean on one another, now’s the time.
Now, where are the testing kits, I have a bit of a cough. Should I get the latest on that from Fox, CNN, or MNSBC? Let me know at email@example.com……cheers!