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Leading During a Pandemic

 Never thought I'd EVER type a title like that.  Pandemics were only events I had taught about during my History classes. The experience thus far can only be described as surreal. It's been a part of our reality for nearly 10 months now and the fear and uncertainty is still not lost on me with the reporting of daily infection and death rates. It has been my single greatest challenge as a leader to date to show up to work everyday imbuing optimism that we're going to be ok, that school is a safe place to be. I have to say that on 98% of those days, I have believed just that. We have be so very fortunate not to have experienced any positive diagnoses of COVID-19 so far. Implementing the new health and safety protocols, while tedious and laborious, has not been all that  difficult. Sure, the work up front was a lot - signage, taping arrows and cues on the walls and floors, rearranging classroom furniture to establish social distancing in the classrooms ... as the Principal, th
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The Need to Read

I strongly encourage all Administrators to join organizations that promote ongoing professional learning and reading. It is very easy to fall out of the habit of taking up PD to stay current with the prevailing pedagogies and instructional practices. As instructional leaders we have an obligation to model this for teachers, who model it for students.  In purchasing a membership to ASCD, I not only receive great newsletters and access to (virtual) PD, I also receive books - ones that you can touch and old and highlight all over and make margin notes in... old school! My first read is by Marilee Sprenger, Social Emotional Learning and the Brain . This is a perfect fit for leading and Alternative Education Program. The hope it to easy-to-implement resources that contain concrete strategies for my staff to use to support the complex needs of the students in our school. I love to be able to make these sorts of offerings. I strongly believe that it sends a clear message that I understand the

Harm Reduction at School is a Life Saver

I will admit that it took me a bit of time to wrap my head around the idea of harm reduction at school. Eventually, I realized that I was making the same mistake that a lot people around me were making in that I was not allowing myself to imagine running a school differently than I had prior to my current assignment. In my previous schools, if a student came to school under the influence there was no question what would happen: search was conducted to ensure that he/she was not in possession of illegal substances, parents were called to inform them of a suspension and the student was sent home immediately. The thinking behind this standard three-step process is that the entire student body had to be sent "a message" that being at school under the influence would not be tolerated. Essentially, this practice is for everyone else BUT the kid who is being sent home! I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that these situations are often the exception, not the rule. The long

Back-to-School of a Different Sort

I am typing from my office, three weeks prior to the re-opening of the school ot staff and students. It's not the same old back-to-school excitement that I have felt every year since I started teaching in 2003... There is no air conditioning, making mask wearing more uncomfortable than usual. My table is covered in signage and bright orange tape in preparation for the  the implementation of the various safety protocols. My printer is whirring from the sound of endless pages of instructions and documentation from the Ministry of Education, York Region Public Health and the system in which I work. While I love paperless practices, these are the sort of documents that need to be highlighted with margin notes so that not a single detail goes unnoticed. I'll be honest... for the first time, I'm super nervous. It's not the same the accompanies the first day on the job as an Administrator. It's stemming from the fact that I'm alone. There is no other Administrator look

The Magic in Relationships

After March 13th, when we are all ordered into quarantine as a result of this pandemic, I was truly worried for my kids. When colleagues have asked how my kids are doing, I'm honest in saying that they are doing the best they can and my staff are working harder than ever to engage them. We're not just able to work our magic like we used to... For many, coming to school is a refuge from the realities of home life and consistent, regular access to mental health support services. It entailed being met by the morning welcome wagon, and hearing messages that people were glad to see them and hoped that they had a great day. Sometimes, it means sneaking into the kitchen with a teacher or support staff for an bowl of cereal or bite of fruit because there was nothing on the dinner table the night before. It's entering the building and without saying a word, someone has figured out that something horrible has happened and the fact that no school work was getting done that day wasn

Catholic Education Week 2020

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Catholic Education Week. It is truly a gift to be able to work in a publicly-funded Catholic school, where we can be free to express our faith so freely and unapologetically. It's a bit sad that we are presently in quarantine and cannot gather in community to celebrate this wonderful gift but my staff and I decided to capitalize on the marvel that is social media to stay connected to our students. We wanted to inspire hope and encourage them from our homes, to theirs. I challenged my staff to select a favourite Scripture passage that they felt evokes a great sense of hope and each day on our school's Twitter feed, I feature a staff member with their quote. I also posted these photos into all of the Google Classrooms that the staff were running for  distance learning. In our special community, where relationships are so key to student success, we thought it was important for the kids to see our faces. We called our little project #motivatedbyfaith

I Am a Catholic Principal!

Yesterday was National School Principal Day and this lovely nod from CPCO showed up on my Twitter feed! Prior to its release, I had to complete a questionnaire and what is featured on this image is the answer to a question that asked about what I thought was greatest accomplishment over the past year. I thought I would share all of the responses to the other questions that were asked. Is there a personal experience/incident that led you to choose this vocation? Please describe. I never planned for a career in Administration because I loved teaching too much. In ongoing discussion with a Superintendent-mentor, I began to realize how much more I could help students who really needed it. I also began to realize the potential that existed to influence change at both the local and systemic level in terms of supporting a variety of student needs through various initiatives. What do you love the most about being a Catholic school leader? What I have come to truly appreciate and love