Tea, Roundtable and the Pandemic: A Conversation with the Ms. Watters

Phoebe Wang interviews Ms. Watters, WCI's principal about her second year in the role.

Do you remember the lady in the hallway last year holding a huge red stop sign that said, “I’m the new principal. STOP- say hi!”?

This lady who always has a smile on her face is our principal, Ms. Watters.

I was honoured to have a valuable opportunity to talk with our Viking captain online during such a unique school situation.

There have been a lot of things that have changed in this dramatic year. And I wanted to know what has changed in the second year that Ms. Watters has joined our Viking family. Here are some highlights from our conversation.

In terms of being a principal, Watters’ job has changed significantly due to the pandemic. “Safety has always been my priority, but there’s a whole new way I have to think about safety,” she told me.

Watters, who is the most enthusiastic principal I have ever met, told me that she was also interviewed by students for FJORD last year and that at that time she could invite them to her office and serve them tea. As she was saying that, Watters took a teapot out of her cupboard and said, “I’ve had to put my teapot away because I can’t serve tea to people.”

In last year’s interview with FJORD, Ms. Watters served tea. This year, the interview needed to happen virtually. Screenshot from video interview.

Watters mentioned that, typically, principals from different schools meet once a month for an imperative meeting to discuss the critical needs of all schools. Instead of face-to-face discussions, Google Meets have replaced everything.

“So, a lot more has changed in terms of the role of principal, and the lens, or the way that we do the work that we’ve always done,” said Waters. 

Watters talked about how, with the combined efforts of students and teachers, our school raised $15,000 in support of the schools Walk for Hope campaign, and this wonderful performance has attracted the attention of CBC News and CTV News, who came to WCI a few days ago to report on this story. However, the reporters were not allowed to come into our building for safety reasons.

Although there are things that have been changing around the school. Watters mentioned there are still some that remain unchanged: “how great my teachers are, how fantastic my students are, how I know everyone’s sort of rising to the challenge.”

When I asked if there was anything Watters hoped to do but hasn’t had a chance because of the pandemic, she introduced the “Roundtable” idea. 

Ms. Watters shared about the Roundtable project that she would like to see happen at WCI this year. Screenshot from video interview.

WCI has always been a place that represents diversity and multiculturalism. The role of the Roundtable is to gather student voices based on the representation of each student group, which will include clubs in the school and multiple associations – the Black Student Association, the Chinese Student Association, the Indigenous Student Association, and a Muslim Student Association that they are trying to create.

“At the Roundtable, student representatives will be able to share with each other what they are doing great, what they need the principal and teachers to do, and what suggestions can be made,” she explained.

Watters is hoping to create a more visual, sturdy and convenient bridge with the student community through Roundtable. For her, the roundtable shape is a reminder of Indigenous culture’s use of the circle where no one person stands out as having more power than another.

To facilitate better understanding and clarify the use of the Roundtable, Watters used a university student union as an example, “What I would say is it’s a little bit like what you would see at universities when they talk about student unions” that gather to make decisions that are conveyed to the administration of the school. 

“I have great teachers working through the plan, and I have great students. [I]t’s just slower in the pandemic, and we’re going to get there.”

She believes that over the course of a year, students will be able to have a comprehensive understanding of how to use and run the Roundtable and eventually achieve some success.

There are three main future goals that Watters has for the future of the school: decolonizing harmful behaviour, effective communication in the building, and continued academic success. “And the way that we do that is going to be about how we achieve it has to be a team effort. It’s not about me,” she said.

At the end of our conversation, Watters offered some advice is indispensable: 

“Always follow public safety.”

“Always.”

She said this without any hesitation.

“Don’t panic” was what Watters said last year during the interview with a student journalist, and it was exactly the same thing she suggested we do this year. 

“It is interesting because I could not have predicted the pandemic when I gave that advice. It’s going to work out, and it’s hard to have faith that we’re going to figure it out,” she laughed. 

Watters then said, “We have to kind of recognize that we’re in that state of sort of perpetual unknowing about what will happen next, [and] we have to kind of almost relax into that.” 

I agreed with her: with the epidemic spreading, everyone’s heart is a little restless and anxious because no one knows what’s going to happen. This advice is certainly an honest and down-to-earth one and one we’ve been trying to live up to.

Ms. Watters reflected on the coincidence of offering the same advice two years in a row. Screenshot from video interview.

If you ever get a chance to step into Ms. Watters’ office after the COVID-19 and enjoy a cup of tea with her, I’m sure it will be a wonderful experience.  But, please don’t tell me about it, since I sadly missed this face-to-face opportunity myself.

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