School leaders share a common bond – whether you lead in an urban, suburban or rural setting.
During the last two months, I’ve also been thinking a lot about another common bond all school leaders now share: caring and serving from a distance.
Whether your school is public, charter, or private – you wear many hats, including guiding instruction, ensuring school safety, or communicating with your community members. Although stories vary across the nation and world in managing closures and remote learning, many principals also have learned how to respond to students whose families have lost grandparents to COVID-19, parents who are sick, and students who are hospitalized.
Meet Patrick McLaughlin
This week I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Patrick McLaughlin. He is Principal of St. Francis Preparatory School, the largest, private, Catholic High School in the country. Located in Queens, New York, his school community has been at the epicenter of New York’s battle with COVID-19.
For some perspective, at the date of this recording, May 8, 2020, the U.S. had seen 1,248,040 cases of COVID-19 with 75,477 deaths. New York state alone has suffered 321,962 cases with 26,120 deaths. That means Patrick’s state has experienced almost 21% of the deaths that have occurred across the U.S.
Patrick is a frequent listener of the Principals Matters podcast, and two weeks ago, he sent me this email I’ve reprinted in part here with his permission:
“So many of our people have experienced death, illness, trauma and heartache here in New York… I have been doing videos to our school community once or twice a week. In between I send them written updates. Communication is such an important tool for us right now and I try to make both upbeat and informative. I am actually running out of spaces in my house to shoot the videos from. One was actually from my laundry room. My parents and students and faculty are very appreciative of all the times I have reached out to them. Communication is huge!”
I was touched by his email and reached back to him. Later we set up a time to share a conversation about the lessons he’s learning during distance learning.
Patrick has been fortunate to have spent his entire career in the same school, first as a student, teacher, coach, department chairperson, assistant principal and now principal. St. Francis Preparatory School is a highly diverse school in a highly diverse community.
In this week’s episode, he shares how his school has learned to come together through diversity. He also explains ways his students serve and work together with students from their neighborhood public elementary school.
Throughout this episode Patrick also explains:
- How COVID-19 cases have touched his school community and his own family
- What steps he and his team members have taken to stay connected and communicate with students and famililes during school closures
- Lessons he is learning that may help other principals trying to stay connnected to their own students
- Advice he has for principals who may be facing similar scenarios in the weeks or months ahead
- Lessons in grace he is learning to show himself and his teachers in these new ways of doing school
- The dreams he has for the future when students and teachers can one day reconnect and be together
Now It’s Your Turn
I hope you will listen to the entire show for great takeaways from Patrick’s experience.
As you continue serving your school community this week, be encouraged that your students, teachers and parents recognize the value of relationships now more than ever.
What ways can you continue reaching out, connecting and communicating with them? Even as you lead from a distance, what’s one step you can take today to give grace to yourself and others?