Good Morning, Happy New Year, and the Best for a Hopeful and Optimistic 2019!
I welcome all of you back, after what I hope and will trust was, for the most part, a relaxing and rejuvenating two weeks of our annual mid-winter Christmas Break.
2019, now here upon us, brings with it the usual coffee chats and staff room banter around New Year’s Resolutions, commitments to changing things, and the obvious looking ahead to another 12 months, another year added-on of course. I spent most of this break either being out on the ice, fishing; or reading a book, actually, several books to be honest. It was an interesting holiday away, as it seemed to me that as much of it was spent outside on the lakes or in the bush, as it was spent reading. I don’t think one can read too much, but one can start many books and then bounce back and forth between them I guess…although I wouldn’t recommend it😊. For myself, it was also a very reflective time off and away; and reading can certainly stimulate the neurons in such a way that reflection and “thinking ahead” go into overdrive. In terms of reading, for those that might be interested, I continued with the Biography of Mikhail Gorbachev (a small undertaking of about 800 pages that has become a prolonged effort), a book given to me by a close friend and colleague from U of T on how to change school systems, a couple of books by Brene Brown (Senior Team, a heads-up!), and of course “All Our Relations” by Tanya Talaga and the focus for our very own KPDSB Book Study coming up. It probably is worth mentioning that my oldest son Aoedan did buy me for Christmas the best of Clint Eastwood’s “Good, the Bad and the Ugly” DVD series too, which took up part of Christmas Day; but hey, aren’t we allowed a little deviation from time to time??!!
I do not mean to suggest that it is neither of anyone’s interest or time of what the DOE occupies his time reading, but it might be worth considering that when you mix such a range of books, thinking and reflecting just might go hand and hand. The Gorbachev Biography has for a long while been an effort worth tackling for me because I have always viewed him as one of the great leaders of the 20th Century and a man who made peace a mission amidst tensions everywhere. I guess I also enjoy reading about famous leaders and what makes them tick?? But as I continued over the break, I began to come to some realizations and maybe even a few conclusions.
First, and likely the most important consideration for me, was that as we enter a new year and one to be sure full of uncertainty and maybe even a little bit of trepidation with a new Government, having a measured and steady perspective will be necessary; possibly more than ever. I can assure everyone in our KPDSB Family, that there will be changes this year as a new Government takes hold and establishes its priorities. These changes and this recalibration of priorities is not to be feared or intimidated by, but instead evaluated and considered first before reacting. In saying this, having an “even-keel” perspective that is not over-reactionary, but thoughtful and informed will is required. As I thought of my own perspectives on Education, specifically Education in Northern Ontario for our kids and for you…the staff that work tirelessly for our kids, I made another observation. Where do our perspectives come from? While reading one of Brene Brown’s books (“Braving the Wilderness: The Courage to Stand Alone”), the question is posed, “What influences our perspectives??”
Our own upbringings, our families and friends, our communities, our workplace yes our own biases, and even our employer; all of these would be entirely appropriate and reasonable responses.
But here is what I came to when asking myself this same question; my perspective on many things come from my own experiences. My first-hand and lived experiences have influenced and steered my views in such a way, that the decisions I make, and the approaches I take all come from experience now. I would suggest that for many of you, the same can be said; your experiences both good and bad, positive and negative, happy and sad…they all influence your perspectives. In fact, perspective, as far as I can see, is absolutely a function of experience.
Over the last number of months, many around me will have heard me remark that “experience really is invaluable”; you simply cannot replace experience and give it a value. It is as invaluable as it is irreplaceable. As a new Director almost six years ago, I would have had the same beliefs that I carry now; what has changed is my perspective on how to get things done and what experiences have taught me lessons. As we enter a new year full of change and possibility ahead, my commitment to you from the entire Senior Administration Team is that we will use our experiences to make the best decisions we possibly can. We face difficult decisions ahead I know this to be sure; but with a Vision that puts kids ahead of policies and procedures, can assure the staff we will make good decisions that support you and in turn support our students. Even with some level of uncertainty around provincial funding, staffing, and possibly even capital work, I am confident and prepared that any decision we face in 2019 will be made thoughtfully, measured against its value for kids and the system. I will add that decisions will be made (and with a level of assurance) that our experiences have aided our resolve and determination to take the right course for the system. In saying this, I again invite all of you to provide and share your own invaluable and needed perspectives, that have without question been influenced by your own experiences. As we enter immediately into a new Strategic Planning Consultation exercise for the Board, your perspective will be needed more than ever, this 2019.
I wish you all well, your schools much success, and with the anticipation that only a new year can bring! And remember, winter is now half-over!!