Leadership Lessons from an Orchid

Although I love and appreciate receiving flowers, my track record for keeping them alive is less than ideal.  So, two years ago, when my son gifted me a beautiful white orchid for Mother’s Day, I anticipated that once the four blooms fell, it would unceremoniously be tossed over the edge of the creek which runs alongside of our house.  But instead, life got busy, and it was forgotten.  As the naked stem started to wilt, the leathery leaves seemed stronger and more determined to thrive.  So, every once in while, when I remembered, I watered it.  Then low and behold months later a new stem emerged and upon that new stem there were 8 blossoms ~ larger and fuller than the first ones.   Once again, as the blossoms fell, I anticipated that the lifespan of this flower had finally reached its peak. The second stem was starting to wilt and die.   I moved the orchid from the full sun front room into a corner in my home office ~ for what I anticipated would be its final resting place before meeting its fate over the edge of the creek.  But, just like the little engine that could, this past week another stem emerged, and, on that stem, there are multiple buds ready to bloom. I will be first to share that these new stems are not as aesthetically pleasing as the original one, they are awkward and at times the simple vase looks like its about to tip over, but the blooms are fuller, more fragrant, and heartier than the originals.

It could be said that leadership in the time of a pandemic is comparable to the life cycle of this orchid. At each new pivot, each new change in direction our sense of what should be (the known pathway ~ the original stem) has dwindled away.  We have had to go back to our roots and remember what makes us strong. Regardless of what was happening, day in and day out, keeping students healthy and happy was always at the core of our decisions. Like the roots and leaves, our commitment to safety and happiness grew stronger. With those guiding principles, we were able to grow new pathways (new stems) and those pathways produced better results (more plentiful and hearty flowers).

For our Sir Arthur Currie community, ideas such as;
~ a First Aid station at the east doors which reduced the number of students in the office at break time,
~  increasing the time that specialty educators spend with classes,
~  more controlled entrance and exit routines and
~ limiting number of students in washrooms  are just a few procedures that will continue, regardless of system COVID messaging.

One of the websites that I landed on during the composition of this post was entitled 10 Things Nobody tells you about Orchids.  Here are a few tidbits of orchid information and the accompanying leadership learning.

1)  If you think it is time to water your orchid, wait one more day.  Over the past two years, protocols, screeners, messaging changed daily (sometimes hourly).  If we have learned anything over the past couple of years, it is patience.

2) To get an orchid to re-bloom, trick it into thinking it’s in the tropics. There were several days when we did our best to create the illusion that things were “normal”.  We learned how to incorporate masks and shields into Hallowe’en costumes and classroom activities continued to be engaging and fun-filled.

3) You probably don’t need to put your orchid in a bigger pot. We learned that bigger is not always better. There were small moments of celebration that were just as meaningful as any past huge galas.

4) Your orchid will not be any happier in a special Swiss-cheese pot. We never forgot that we had what it takes to thrive through the pandemic. We did not need any special bells and whistles.  We maintained strong, compassionate relationships with our school community and in turn their support meant the world to us.

5) It’s not OK to use ice cubes on orchids.  We refrained from anything shocking or disturbing. Steady, calm, and caring were the core traits that we relied on.

And as I embrace this third stem, in anticipation of the numerous flowers that are on the verge of blossoming I cannot help but wonder what is in store for our school community in these last 2 months. We are on the verge of returning to sense of normalcy ~ but with a greater heart of gratitude, as we have missed the excitement of spring in a school for the past two years.

What lessons have you learned in the last couple of years?
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