It’s been more than two years since the entire world population embarked on the same boat and entered uncharted terrain. Together we have ridden one wave after the other with no idea of what the future holds in these pandemic-ridden times.
It has been particularly tumultuous for the global education system, especially for school administrators. No matter what title they hold, school leaders play a pivotal role in coordinating and implementing the Covid-19 protocols in their institutions.
Besides, as schools tentatively reopen to welcome back students and teachers, school heads bear the immense weight of responsibility for their safety. Even seasoned school administrators would feel uncertain as they tread these daunting circumstances.
The good news is that some leaders of CBSE affiliated schools in Chennai have managed these challenging circumstances remarkably well. Their superb leadership has guaranteed the safety and well-being of their students and minimised disruption to academic schedules.
So, how did they do it? Let’s remember that there are no blueprints to guide school leaders through such unprecedented times. We can, however, list a few recommendations to guide, support and equip educators to adapt to the changing times.
Guidelines for School Leaders To Navigate The Pandemic
- Prioritise safety and well-being
School heads should take up authoritative leadership to deal with the biggest problem at hand, which is the health and safety of everyone on the campus. In this period of uncertainty, there will be many practical things to take of. This means taking decisive action and focussing on the safety and well-being of students and teachers.
Leaders of IB board schools in Chennai are also responsible for sharing government-related advisories and proactively implementing changes. Another key consideration is ensuring learning continuity while ensuring physical and psychological safety.
2. Help with the transitioning
Adjusting to new approaches is a tough phase for the entire school community. This transitioning phase may involve scenarios like:
- Moving to a new building
- Replacing lost materials
- Sanitising the campus
- Setting up socially-distanced classrooms
- Implementing social distancing
- Combining remote and physical classrooms
Leading a large group of diversely-aged people through such complexities can be extremely daunting. However, you can adopt a collective approach to find solutions for these challenges. As a school admin, you can:
- Collaborate with parents and your staff.
- Ask them for suggestions.
- Draw on their collective wisdom to implement the right solutions.
- Delegate responsibilities to staff with specific expertise.
- Employ counsellors, psychologists, nurses, and IT staff.
Rebuilding your school community and transitioning to an unfamiliar phase after a major gap requires much work. But you can ensure a smooth transition by implementing these “out-of-the-box” ideas.
3. Ensure connectivity and communication
In addition to supporting mental health and academic success, school connectivity is a significant factor for promoting well-being amongst students. A sense of belonging and the experience of safe and trusting relationships are crucial for all students, irrespective of their age.
Creating open, consistent, and safe communication channels is the key to fostering connectivity. School leads must encourage staff to reach out and encourage students to open up about any issues. It is also crucial to acknowledge that people will cope and react differently to the current situation.
It is the role of school leaders to foster an environment where the school community feels included, connected, safe, and respected. Frequent communication during a crisis can minimise concern and reduce the effects of isolation.
4 . Be patient with teachers and students
Schools reopening in these difficult times is a challenge for the teaching community, as it is for children. Teachers may have faced untold hardships these days, even while dispensing their school duties from home. Therefore, they may face many hurdles as they realign their focus and strive towards recovery. School leaders should accept these hurdles as assets rather than deficits. One of the many ways to accept these assets is by giving appreciation to the teachers through meaningful gifts or messages. They can also:
- Spend time observing how teachers are catching up
- Encourage reflective discussion with the staff
- Provide constructive, but compassionate feedback
On the other hand, while dealing with children, school leads should:
- Give them multiple opportunities to practice
- Allow them to make mistakes
- Support the knowledge they gain from their experiences
Our school communities need big, audacious goals to make up for the lost time. But we have to respect the time it will take for the teachers and children to learn, adjust, and see results.
5. Minimise the school’s goals
One of the common mistakes you will probably make as a school leader is to set a plethora of goals to catch up with the time that has slipped by. Unfortunately, this could be a big mistake. Here’s why: You end up simultaneously chasing multiple goals and losing your energy to build the momentum to gain the desired results.
Instead of chasing multiple goals, narrow them down to those that deserve the most attention. You can prioritise:
- Reducing absenteeism among teachers and students
- Improving staff-parent and staff-children interaction
- Increasing student’s sense of belonging and safety
Ensure that your objectives are measurable, consistent, and targeted towards student learning and well-being.
6. Provide guidance for teachers
You cannot think about achieving school goals without your staff’s involvement and cooperation. As their leader, you should list down the objectives and show them what to do to achieve each one. You have to analyse and create planning processes that will actualise the goals. To provide the right guidance, you can:
- Share reliable resources with the staff
- De-construct the resources to make them relevant and actionable
- Conduct regular meetings for teachers to share their ideas
- Encourage collaboration among staff members to implement best practices.
7. Prioritise equality among students
Real success in a school comes when all students are equally involved in achieving the institution’s goals. Aggregate results measure traditional success, but real improvement is a matter of leaving no one behind.
So, how can you prioritise equality? As the school administrator, you can disaggregate and analyse school-level data to analyse different subgroups of students. This analysis will help you identify specific problems, diagnose the causes, and instruct appropriate behaviour shifts.
For example, if you identify a student group that struggles with learning difficulties, you can introduce more diverse and engaging teaching methods for all classes. Thereby, everyone benefits from these initiatives, rather than any particular student group.
Effective Leadership Skills To Handle Crises & Emergencies
As a principal or school administrator, you serve as a role model for an entire community of students and staff. How you handle this pandemic crisis will set an example for future leaders. Therefore, you require a critical set of skills and attributes to navigate these treacherous waters and emerge victoriously.
Here’s a list of skills that will help you dispense your leadership duties in times of crisis:
- Strong decision-making abilities
- Rapid and flexible responding abilities
- Capacity to think creatively and laterally
- Determination and optimism to persevere
- Collaborative and communicative skills
- Ability to synthesise and disseminate information
- Ability to empathise rather than sympathise
And in the process of expending all your energy on your school, do not forget to take care of yourself. To be a successful leader, you must adopt:
- Mindful training to deal with stress
- Self-care restoration practices
- Emotion-management strategies
- Positive mindset approaches to solving problems
Do not forget to be kind to yourself when dealing with uncommon adversities. Take time to pause, breathe, acknowledge your limitations, and ask for support when needed.