Happy New Year!

I often think back to this time one year ago. On the news, we were hearing and seeing the horrific details of a viral infection in Wuhan, China, and the impact of lockdown in the city. We really had no idea how it would impact our lives. We went on making resolutions and plans for 2020. I signed up for two marathons. We booked flights and accommodations for conferences and holidays and we had no idea they would not happen.

My #oneword for 2020 was “Sawubona” or “I see you“. I wanted to act in a way that let others know that I saw them, I heard them, I valued them. It is a quality approach to the work of a superintendent. I had just worked through some public consultations on our new strategic plan, and I knew that developing my professional skills in combining public input with research-based decision making was an important area of professional growth.

“Yes, I see and hear you. Yes, I value what you are saying. And yes, I need to make difficult decisions that don’t always align with your requests, but that do certainly align with what we believe to be best for all of the children in our care, based on professional research applied to this particular context.”

I did not anticipate that my superintendent work would change so much in 2020. I didn’t imagine the endless, often last-minute, calls with provincial government for updates and new directives. I didn’t imagine being asked to lead provincially as part of the steering committee for remote learning in Manitoba. I didn’t imagine how far removed my work would be from what I anticipated it would look like. I did not imagine that 9 months after the Manitoba Education Review was due to be released, we would still be waiting for it.

We cannot predict the future. The world changed very quickly this year. It taught me the real value of deep positive relationships with others.

Sawubona. I am walking away from 2020 with such a rich and beautiful group of people who I feel deeply connected to, and who will continue to be an important part of my life for years to come, no matter where our lives take us.

Last January, I was looking forward to a rich slate of learning opportunities planned for 2020. They evaporated before my eyes once the pandemic arrived. While I felt remarkably privileged to be leading a school division during a pandemic, I also felt those important professional growth opportunities slip away. The time needed to constantly change course, to solve complex problems related to ensuring high quality learning for all children/students during a pandemic, and to answer questions that resulted from all of these changes, significantly impacted the time I had for my own professional growth.

So that is my focus for 2021. I have decided that my own professional learning needs to be front and centre again.

My #onewordedcan #onewordonted #oneword2021 is


As I move into a new role as a system leader in a new jurisdiction, I know that this will serve me well. I need to spend time every day on my own professional learning, and in taking the time to share it back with my colleagues and my PLN.

When we approach the leadership work as learners, we model for others what is most important in our learning organizations.

What is your one word to focus on in 2021? Share it back on social media with the #onewordedcan hashtag and I will collect all the words here.

Update: For Ontario educators, please see the #OneWordOnt challenge by Julie Balen explained here.

Feature photo by @brett_jordan

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