For Auckland’s Western Springs College principal Ivan Davis, direct and daily communication was essential during Covid-19.
We’ve got this!
Ivan wanted his principal’s updates to be informative, to lighten the mood, and take away any anxiety that parents and caregivers may have had. His over-arching message: “we’ve got this!”
Daily updates were typically one or two pages long and would include relevant and up-to-date information and procedures relating to the pandemic. With the goal of easing parents’ anxiety about their child’s learning, the updates would address topics such as achievement and assessment, as well as providing reassurance that the school was responding appropriately and had a plan in place.
Parents and student engagement
Student engagement with learning online was also discussed, including ways in which parents and caregivers could be more involved with the learning at home. The opportunity for parents to receive email updates on their child’s activity in Google Classroom was well received; the response to sign up was immediate and significant.
All learning programmes operated from Google Classroom, when students were required to learn from home. There was an expectation for students to touch base with their form teacher at the start of each week, and then each day, work from a learning timetable from 9am until 1pm. The afternoon was left free for other activities, acknowledging that being in lockdown was difficult for some students and their families.
Preparations for future actions
The community was also kept informed on possible future actions that the school might take, such as a rostering home programme. This enabled parents and caregivers to make the necessary preparations in advance of any programme or action being introduced.
Rostering home of individual year levels (except for Year 13) was introduced in response to the Omicron outbreak and to mitigate the effects of staff absences. Once rostering home was retired, students quickly returned to school with many now appreciating the importance of belonging and learning together.
Songs and recipes
Adding some levity to the updates, Ivan included an appropriate song to capture the current mood, including 'Never let a chance go by' and 'We don’t know how lucky we are'. Even recipes featured in the updates on occasion!
Positive communication and effective connections
The response from the community to Ivan’s principal’s updates was affirming and overwhelmingly positive. They achieved the desired goal to provide positive communication and build effective connections with the Western Springs College community, as well as helping them through the difficult times. The community very much appreciated Ivan’s personable approach, being open and honest and “telling them how it was”.
Ivan recognises how important it is, as a leader, to maintain a positive approach and sense of optimism – ultimately an ‘I can do this’ attitude. He sees his principal’s role as being the ‘head cheerleader’. Looking after his staff – especially his middle leaders – is essential to this. He reflects that it has been tough for staff and leaders throughout the pandemic; ‘work smarter, not harder’ has been one of his mantras.