ATA News

Editorial: It’s okay for school leaders to be happy


Schools are busy. Everyone is tired and more is being piled onto plates that do not have a single iota of space remaining. Are you thriving? Has school start-up gone pretty well? Are you settling into the ebb and flow of the school year? If so, how could that be? It can feel like we must only focus on the stress, the exhaustion, the lack of support, and that we are not permitted to celebrate what is going well and the joy we have experienced thus far in the school year. 

There are many articles out there that speak about “toxic positivity” and how it may hurt schools and may demoralize staff. I recognize that we should not be running around pretending everything is sunshine and roses, but what if it kind of is? Corny teacher appreciation does have a place in schools, and articles that try to dissuade leaders from doing gestures of kindness for their staff are not helpful. 

There is no denying that your day-to-day struggles are real due to a whole range of pressures that include testing, curriculum, classroom needs, classroom composition, funding, resources, sub shortages, EA shortages and so much more. A pulse survey that the ATA recently completed found that every single person who is part of a school community is giving more than they have ever given in the past. Survey respondents talk about leaving the profession, leaving the province and considering an earlier retirement than they had planned for. However, there are other respondents who remain hopeful, do not feel isolated and said they feel anywhere from “somewhat happy” to “very happy.” 

These results are an affirmation for those of you who may being feeling a little bit guilty about your joy, for those school leaders who are a little bit unsure if people want to hear about the pleasant day you had at school. 

We have endured so much these past few years that we are tired of focusing on it, yet those experiences play a part in our wellness today. It is okay to be angry, stressed, upset about testing, funding, Covid, resources, shortages and all the other things that make you feel as though you are being prevented from being the best instructional leader you can be. But you should also want to give yourself permission to be happy. 

Cassandra Washington, a school leader from Chicago who will be joining us for our virtual Leadership Speaker Series on Jan. 24 and for uLead in April 2023, has authored a fabulous article on “leadership trauma.” In her article she lists a series of struggles that impact our work as school leaders and can impact our overall health. 

  • A struggle is when you ask yourself why you took the principalship in the first place.
  • A struggle is when your staff does not buy into your vision and necessary improvements.
  • A struggle is when the parents and community members are not supportive of your decisions.
  • A struggle is when you read negative and divisive posts on social media about you or the school.
  • A struggle is when you wake up in the morning and have to talk yourself into going to work. 
  • A struggle is when you question your own decisions and morals.

Feeling muted to celebrate your school, celebrate your staff and celebrate your students should also be on the list of struggles. 

Please know, whether you are in tragedy or triumph mode, the ATA is here to support you. You do not have to feel isolated if you are having a difficult start to the school year, and you do not have to feel isolated for having a wonderful start to the school year. We want you to feel honored for choosing school leadership and that you never have to be alone on your leadership journey. 

In the end, the Oct. 22 Stand for Education rally helped to move the needle a little bit toward a spirit of standing up together for public education. After all, no one is supposed to be the other and the very nature of our work is relational. Be gentle with yourself, celebrate your school and know you have great value as an educator every day. ❚

Tanya Thiessen

ATA Executive Staff Officer

Chris Gonsalvez

ATA Executive Staff Officer

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