School Leadership After COVID Starts With Grace, Patience, Empathy and Flexibility

Jan 8, 2021 12:00:00 AM


It was Friday, March 13, 2020, and I was sitting in my office, after the building had cleared, in disbelief at how everything had changed so quickly. School was closing a week early for spring break, and unknowingly at the time, for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. It would be another 157 days until we would hear the joyful sounds of children in our building.

COVID-19 had rocked the world and changed the reality of schools as we knew it. Those in school leadership understand how leading in challenging circumstances is the norm. But [pullquote]no experience or training could prepare any of us for how this pandemic would make us feel as though we did not know what to do.[/pullquote]

School leadership as we had known it was disrupted, and if we were going to lead our schools in the time of now 100% remote learning and an ongoing pandemic, we would have to look at school leadership differently. It was the time with students not in the building that I reflected on what type of leader I had been and what kind of leader I would need to be moving forward. I had to lead differently—with a different mindset. I had to lead with grace, patience, empathy and flexibility. [pullquote position="right"]School leadership needed to look different because it would be essential to get everyone through this new reality.[/pullquote] 

Lead With Grace

The impact of COVID-19 has been hard on many people. Our school community has been rocked. The virus has impacted students, families and staff. So, I wanted to change my leadership style when it came to grace.

During this time, I have wanted to lead in both my words and actions to give grace. Grace is about giving courtesy and goodwill. And I wanted to provide some grace for all because of the expectations I had before March 13. I needed those expectations maintained, but I also had to give grace when they weren’t. Giving grace should not be difficult when you remember how much you need grace as well. I know there will be times during this pandemic when I hope I will be shown some grace.

Lead With Patience

There were times before in my school leadership where there were things that I got upset about when it came to my school. Truthfully, when I reflected on it, those things were petty and I should not have been mad with my staff, students and families—especially during a pandemic.

When a teacher did not meet a particular deadline, did I consider the reasons behind not meeting the deadline? When parents did not always respond to the messages or calls from the school, did I consider the fact that they may be now in between jobs? When students did not log on to the class, did I have the understanding that maybe the internet was running slow because now three other people in the house are all using the internet? Having patience is about understanding—then you can move forward, grow and help others grow as well.

Lead With Empathy 

This school year, I have tried to move with more empathy. While the pandemic did not hurt my pockets like it hurt many others, at the same time, the pandemic did reveal just how hard many people had it in our community. While I did not miss a meal, miss a paycheck, or have to bury a loved one, I moved out of my selfish ways and tried to look through other people’s perspectives. Empathy has to be a component of how I operate moving forward.

Lead With Flexibility

It’s easy in leadership to always take a hard stance on things. Before the pandemic, I found myself leading more with an iron fist. I had created these hard stances, and I was less often to consider other possibilities or waiver off that stance. I know that it can be necessary to be solid in what you do and in the way you lead; however, being a leader has taught me that you can still be a strong and solid leader and still have flexibility. Willingness to change and, if need be, compromise is okay. That does not make you weak as a leader

There will come a time where schools will return to normalcy. Regardless of the normality, I will continue to lead with grace, patience, empathy, and flexibility.

This post originally appeared on Indy K12.

David McGuire

David McGuire serves as principal of Tindley Summit Academy located in Indianapolis, Indiana. He has served as the principal for the past five years. David has taught high school and middle school in Indianapolis, in both the charter and traditional district settings. He is currently a fellow of the Indiana Principal Leadership Institute. David is a graduate of the Relay National Principal Academy, a 2017 Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and a 2017 Teach Plus Alumni Board Fellow. He completed the Indianapolis Urban League Young Professionals fellows’ program. He currently moderates for the Indiana e-Learning lab, where he focuses on parent and community engagement. David holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Central State University, a master’s in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan, and building-level administration from Marian University. He is currently a doctoral student of education in organizational leadership at Marian University.

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