A Principal’s COVID-19 Diary: Perspective

Because I’m moderately overwhelmed by the admirable level of virtue that I see on social media amongst, well, everybody, especially educators, I’m hard-pressed to find something original I can contribute during this crisis. But I’m reminded of what my mentor told me: “When it comes to leadership, the best thing you have to offer is your authentic voice—your stories.”

So, I thought I would start a COVID-19 journal. (Perhaps one day, these posts will be featured as a primary source document on the American History New York State Regents exam.) The problem with writing during a time as turbulent as this is that what I write today may seem absurd two months from now, a week from now, even an hour from now. Although conditions shift dramatically minute to minute during this crisis, I can only hope to offer reflections on conditions that exist now.

The Importance of Perspective

These are two of my favorite tweets that I’ve seen during this time:

Your grandparents were called to war. You’re being called to sit on your couch. You can do this.

To put things in perspective for those of us feeling a bit stir crazy already—Anne Frank and seven other people hid in a 450 square foot attic for 761 days, quietly trying to remain undiscovered to stay alive. We can all do our part to keep everyone safe and spend a few weeks at home.

Perspective!

Jericho High School students observing “social distance.”

I’m reading a wonderful book about Winston Churchill’s leadership during World War II, The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson. During this time, people all over England were being killed by bombs dropped from enemy planes. Twenty percent of London’s population slept in the subway while another twenty percent of the population slept outside—anything to avoid being killed by a bomb. Food was scarce. Everything was scarce.

Perspective. That’s what I’m talking about. We’ve got to keep our perspective, stick together, persevere, and endure. Complaining isn’t helpful either. We need to focus on life and death. People are dying from this thing. Who are we to complain about being stuck in the house? There are people who don’t have homes and who don’t have food. In times of crisis, it’s always the individuals who live the most fragile existences who are most exposed. If you have a paycheck, health insurance, a roof over your head, and food in your fridge, try to be grateful (and wash your hands). Check your privilege.

In the words of Winston Churchill, “Do not let us speak of darker days; let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days: these are great days—the greatest days our country has ever lived.”

Donald Gately, EdD, serves as the principal of Jericho Middle School in Jericho, NY. He was the 2016 New York Principal of the Year. Follow him on Twitter @donald_gately and visit his blog.

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