You are probably aware that each year, Bill and Melinda Gates write a “letter,” an epistle that goes out TO the world, commenting ON the world, and speculating about that which might come next FOR the world. Despite the varying opinions about their entitlement (or not) to the bully pulpit, the Gates blog can be a great place to start thinking about where we humans find ourselves in this new year.
Of course, we find ourselves still focused on the pandemic, so I was intrigued to read the headline of the 2021 Gates letter: “The year global health went local.” They go on to assert, “The world has an important opportunity to turn the hard-won lessons of this pandemic into a healthier, more equal future for all. “ I sure hope so.
We have slogged through the last year, like soldiers willing ourselves to take one more step, and one more after that. We have watched community members fall ill, and sometimes die, without a way to ease that burden — a very hard reality for leaders. We have sent our students and staff home, even when we knew that that might not have been the best choice for learning, but the best choice for wellness. We pivoted and planned, prepared and procured. And still, there was another step, and one more after that.
Last year, we ended the MASA spring conference on March 13, and on March 15 Governor Walz announced school closings and planning time for “distance learning.” Since then our colleagues have become experts in contact tracing, health screening, PPE, case rates, and what seems like billions of pages of state guidance, none of which was addressed in their licensure programs.
So I can’t help but think that this is a hallmark of leadership. Doing what you must to provide the resources your communities need to be successful. And sometimes that success translates to something as basic as health. Are we seeing the end? It depends on to whom you are listening. In the Gates letter, they quote Winston Churchill’s remarks at what was thought to be a turning point in World War II: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
When I became your Executive Director last July, I never dreamed this job would look the way it has. But I know none of you dreamed your last year would look that way, either. I am anxious for a time when we can gather for a conference or meeting, and share stories about our students’ successes. We will get there, step by step.
If you have not read the Gates letter, it is readily available online.
Thank you for all you do for your students, staff, and community. Each week, I end this column with a quote about leadership and a reminder that leadership matters. This week I want to remind you that YOUR leadership matters. Stay safe. Be well. And thank you for your leadership.