This is not just the end of the school year for me. It is not just an end to packing up for the move to a new site during seismic mitigation of David Livingstone Elementary School. It is not just the end of my tenure as principal of David Livingstone Elementary School. It is not just the end of 15 months of the daunting task of keeping our school community safe during a global pandemic. It is not just the end of my career in the public school system in the British Columbia, Canada School system. It is a decision that there are new opportunities to capture my imagination and focus my energy.
A cool breeze is signaling the end of a heat wave that had the capacity to close down our schools for the first time ever in my life – in the final week of school, no less. Many of us have had our second vaccine or we’ve booked the appointment. Masks are now optional and people on the street are smiling and once again chatting with one another. The fear is beginning to dissipate. People are beginning to exhale and look forward with hope.
The COVID 19 experience has shaken us to the core. Some people have been overwhelmed by fear. Some people have tapped the opportunity to settle old scores or to feed their egos or exercise their power. Some people have been unkind and unreasonable. Has this been an illustration of the worst version of themselves? Has it been the unveiled version of themselves? Will they rue the day that they exposed this aspect of their character, perhaps to themselves? Only they really know.
In the midst of – yes, I’m going to use the word again – UNPRECEDENTED – stress, many people have stepped up to show the very best version of themselves. Kindness and tenacity prevailed. When smacked down with new demands and fears on top of old ones, many have stood up straight, shoulders back, problem solved and did what was required.
The most prevalent feeling that I have today is one of gratitude. We made it through the school year, without locusts or flooding, until the end of the year. In the final weeks of school, I personally witnessed so much appreciation, love, and the ability to laugh in the midst of what felt like a black comedy of the absurd at times. Although rigorous safety protocols were not always welcomed, we managed to get through the year with only two exposures. No school spread. Teachers pivoted to online learning overnight despite varying degrees of comfort with technology.
In the face of all that was thrown at us as educators, students were cared for with love, concern, and efforts to take care of their mental health and continued learning opportunities. In turn they provided us with the delight in being together and a fresh perspective on resilience and adaptability. And I was sent off to retirement with a plethora of treats, flowers, celebratory beverages, chocolate, and good wishes. Colleagues even came together in shifts on the hottest day of the year, with sweat running down our backs in an unconditioned space to toast retirees. And the party and the planning for future endeavours continues. But first, I have slept more in the last few days than in any given week of school over the past 15 months. And I am grateful.