Leadership Lessons from the Lunchroom

Do you ever wonder what triggers memories?  I have no doubt that somewhere in the land of Google, one would find endless links to such research.

At the end of the work day, I found myself in the kitchen, doing what so many of us are doing these days and that is scouring the cupboards for the ingredients to do some baking.  During this time of self-isolation I’ve tried my hand at a few new recipes, such as butter tarts, but I’m most comfortable revisiting past tried and true favourites.  Tonight the slightly browning bananas were calling to be transformed into Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip muffins.  As I started to peel them, my memory bank was flooded with an image of being at my first school as an administrator in 2004.  I was starting my career as a Vice Principal at WS Fox and I was so fortunate to be partnered with the incredible Diane DuMaresq.  Diane was a size zero in stature but larger than life in personality. She doled out advice, sometimes at a break neck speed and other times so subtly that if you blinked, you missed it.

Our school day was structured so that during our lunch break, our primary students all came to the lunchroom for the first part of the break and then as they transitioned outside, our junior students entered.  It was our responsibility to supervise in the lunchroom, along with Pam and Corinne, our wonderful Educational Assistants. I absolutely loved that routine as it allowed us to see and chat with our students each day.  It also provided me with the opportunity to learn how to hygienically open pudding cups, juice boxes and yogurt tubes.  I had to unlearn the “mom” way of doing it….smile

One day, during one of these lunch times a student asked Diane to peel their banana for them. Now, I had always peeled a banana from the stem. That was how I was taught. That was how I had watched others do it. That was how my parents did it. That was how I had taught my own children to do it.  So I watched with great interest when Diane shared with the student, that you should always peel a banana the way the experts (the monkeys) do and she proceeded to peel it from the other end.  I was shocked and of course had to go home and try it ~ and sure enough, it was much easier.  I’ve never gone back to my original way.

As I continued to follow the recipe and eventually place the muffins in the oven, I started to think about how my memory of the banana peel demonstration is connected to leadership lessons.  On the one hand, it speaks to the notion of being present in each moment ~ even during lunch times ~ and how the simplest question can lead to a meaningful change in practice.  As a new VP, I was constantly watching Diane and learning.  This was just another example of being observant.

But on a deeper level, there is something about challenging the status quo.  Yes, I realize that peeling a banana is not an earth shattering discovery. Yet, the lesson for me was about learning that sometimes there is a better way to get a job done; that the status quo could be (and let’s be honest, should be) challenged and ultimately improved upon. One of my favourite quotes is “The Most Dangerous phrase in the language is, we’ve always done it that way”.

Now, more than ever we will need to revisit, revision and rethink everything we know about our current way of “doing” school as we peel back the layers of how to recognize our graduates, virtual Kindergarten Open Houses and the re-entry plan for the fall of 2020, to name but a few.

A Day Like We’ve Never Seen Before

Day 19

I’m intentionally crafting and publishing today’s post early this morning as I’m anticipating that once 1:00 pm rolls around and the Minister of Education makes his announcement about the remainder of the school year, regardless of the message, my mind will begin to shift in a number of directions. If the message is that we’re maintaining Learn at Home for the next 6 weeks, how do we continue to engage families and maintain positivity among our staff?  What will it look like as we distribute the personal belongings for over 750 students? But most importantly closure ~ not the physical closure of the school, but the emotional closure that happens at the end of a school year.  For us, our tradition has been that at 3:29 p.m., on the P.A. system, we play “What Time Is It?” from High School Musical 2, as the staff and students dance out of the school.  Then as a full staff, with the song still playing on our portable sound system, we line up and wave good-bye to our students who are exiting the school via their school buses. Without the possibility of physical closure, undoubtedly, this will be our opportunity to collectively be creative and construct a virtual closure for this most unusual school year.

So, in not knowing what today is going to bring, I was drawn to this quote by Maya Angelou, “This is a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before”.  It is from a beautiful gift that was dropped off at my place last week, from a wonderful colleague. It is a journal, entitled, “Good Days start with Gratitude” ~ Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude”.  Along with the journal was a heartfelt and beautifully composed card.  I’ve revisited that message in that card a number of times over the past week and it has given me the inspiration that has been needed on those days where seeing a purpose was a bit more challenging than normal.

Today, indeed, will a day that I’ve never seen before.  From meeting four new educators who are interviewing for positions on our LTO team, along with a good friend and colleague, to having rich conversations with colleagues about placing our newest Coyotes into each of our 7 kindergarten classes, to the inevitable reactions to today’s announcement. From any angle, today will be wonderful!

And as for the Minister’s announcement at 1:00 pm, I have no doubt that whatever he shares will create the conditions for us to collectively say that “we’ve never seen a day like this before”.   Let’s make it wonderful ~ as there are so many counting on us to use that lens of positivity!

What are you looking forward to today?

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