Superintendent Christian Michalik shared the message below in the Learning Circle, an enewsletter to all staff in the Louis Riel School Division. It touches on how school communities can further prepare themselves for a potential move to Critical (Red) and his vision for the additional two days of professional learning on Monday, Nov. 30 and Dec. 7. A reminder: There will be no school for students on either of those days.
“We teach who we are” in times of darkness as well as light. - Parker Palmer
I usually end my message in the Learning Circle with a quote. This month, I choose to open with a quote. The quote, “we teach who we are” is one I often reference from Parker Palmer’s book, The Courage to Teach
. His book has been a source of inspiration over the course of my career, but especially of late during my meetings with colleagues as we plan for the upcoming professional learning in LRSD that is scheduled on Nov. 30 and Dec. 7. I also know that an important day of learning is also being planned for our valued and essential non-teaching staff.
In the first three chapters of the book, Palmer travels the inner landscape of teaching and learning. He identifies inner forces that disconnect us from our students, the subjects we teach and ourselves. And, he explores ways we can bridge that disconnect by “reclaiming selfhood, confronting fear, and thinking the world together by means of paradox.”
In the last three chapters, he turns to community – “the kind of community that teaching and learning require, that can help renew and express the capacity for connectedness at the heart of authentic education.”
For Palmer, “community is an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace, the flowing of personal identity and integrity into the world of relationships.” For me, that grace he writes about is what we must strive to achieve in our efforts to build community in the midst of a pandemic.
He goes on to say that “When we talk about leadership, we have a tendency to contrast communities, which are supposed to be leaderless, with institutions, which need leaders. But it is possible to argue the opposite. Institutions can survive for a while without a leader simply by following bureaucratic rules. But community is a dynamic state of affairs that demands leadership at every turn.” This pandemic has provided additional evidence to argue the case.
Like Palmer, I would argue, that schools and classrooms are best served when nurtured as communities—not institutions. We need to be the leaders in our schools and classrooms who can pull our community toward our collective vision as we try to find the courage amid the pandemic and even joy along the way.
Palmer refers to this distributed leadership as the work of nurturing 'Communities of Congruence'. Now, more than ever, we need to build and nurture a Community of Congruence in LRSD. Our professional learning days will offer opportunities to build harmony and strength that can only be achieved when we nurture our LRSD community and build congruence together.
This is my hope for these days of professional learning and well-becoming as we continue to navigate the pandemic. I am so looking forward to meeting with school administrators, teachers and educational assistants on Monday, Nov. 30, to kick-off two important days of learning.
READYING FOR RED
As confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in our province, all of our schools must be ready for a move to Critical (Red) that could be announced by the government at any time.
If you haven’t done so already, I strongly encourage each of you to take the time to talk to your students about what learning from home will look like in the Critical (Red) level for schools, the technology requirements and what routines would be essential to a successful learning experience from home. Part of this planning should include checking in with students to see if they have a device to work on, access to the internet and a workspace to use while at home. If you discover that some students don't have all of these requirements, please let your principal know, and we will look for solutions.
Our time together on Monday will help us dig deeper as a school community about how to ready ourselves and plan for all scenarios
Stay safe and be well,