Realisations about leadership

Educational leaders talk about things they learned about leadership.

Alan Straker, while at Whitney Street School

The power of coming back to look at things together.

Once a person said to me, our job as principal is to get the best teachers we can in front of the kids and then get out of the way to let them get on with the job. But I've quickly come to realise that it's far more than that.

The staff have to be nurtured just the same as the students, in terms of their learning. You can't expect that they'll just carry on forever and a day being really good teachers. You have to give them space sometimes to allow them to grow in terms of their learning.

I think one of the most powerful things in this school is the amount of coming back to look at things together as a group.

We have done that in several different ways over the years. We've done it through written feedback, round table, and meetings where we used an external facilitator. And I think every time, it hasn't mattered which way we have done that - we've reflected on what we have done. Sometimes we haven't changed things; it's going great so why change it? I think it's made me more focused as a leader.  

Leslie Murrihy, while at Manunui School

The need to balance collaboration and direction to create change.

When I began my principalship, I had this idea that by presenting teachers with powerful ideas, that would create change. I presented powerful ideas to teachers through the literature, and through discussions around education theory, but I discovered that that didn't create change.

Perhaps the biggest learning I discovered is that you need to work alongside people to create that change, and to actually help them put that change into practice in their classrooms.

I've also discovered as a leader, that if you wait for people to do the things that you think they need to do, it often won't happen. There are times when you have to make it clear that certain changes are a priority. That was quite a big learning for me. At times I had to say that I know what's important, and to put things in place to ensure that these things were integrated into what happens in the school. So I think it's a balance between collaboration and being slightly more coercive, because it is my responsibility to make sure that things change, and to make sure that students do learn.

What I'm doing as a leader is trying to recognise the strength of others, because as a leader it's very easy to think that you should be an expert in everything. That certainly is a failing of mine and something I have had to learn.

Vee Singh, while at Pakaraka School

Principal Vee Singh.

The value in seeking out information and support. 

I've discovered several things about leadership. Firstly I've realised that I need to ask, because if I don't ask – if I don't consult – I fail myself, and in doing so I fail the teachers, the school, and everyone else. I need to be in touch with pretty much everything at grass roots level.

I've discovered that it is good to belong to different principal association groups, because I can then work alongside my peers, network, and benefit from others that can act as temporary mentors for me.

I recognise the importance of building a trusting relationship with my staff, as I need to get good rich feedback.

And I now recognise the importance of prioritising. I don't think I was very good at that for a while in the beginning, because being new to a school I was trying to please everyone.

I have also learnt that appraisal is important to me. I need to have someone from the outside, an external appraiser coming in and looking at the way I do things over a lengthy period of time. In other words I need lots of sessions. I need to have clear-cut goals, I need to have a defined and meaningful plan to work with, and I need to have the support of the Board of Trustees.

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