It’s Been a Rollercoaster…


Well, after a ridiculously long blogging hiatus, I am back. Getting my head back into this “blogging” caper has been plaguing me for quite a while and although I am not one to be making excuses, because put simply, that’s a cop-out, the fact of the matter is that stepping up into an Assistant Principal role in 2016 has really not afforded me the time to dedicate to writing in this space. That sounded awfully like a cop-out, I know!

Now in saying that we’ll get on with it and move forward to the crux of this post, Rollercoasters. Perhaps not rollercoasters themselves but more so however the highs and lows, the anxiety and thrills, the happiness and sheer terror that they can bring. All very much like what I have experienced in my first term as an Assistant Principal.

The decision to move from the teaching realm and in to the higher echelons of educational leadership was always something that I wanted to do. It was always just a matter of timing and when my current position became vacant I felt that it was not just the right time but also the right opportunity.

I can say that without a doubt I have learnt more about educational leadership in the last 11 weeks than I have in the last few years combined. It has reminded me a lot of university in the way that it prepares you for the real to be done after university. You can read and read and read about what educational leadership looks like and all of the wonderful things you’ll be able to do however, it is not until you are in that role and walking the walk that you very quickly learn that what you perhaps read and read and read was not all that helpful to begin with. What I mean by that is that theory is great, however it’s the hands on experience where the real learning occurs.

Now something that I have not been great at recently, aka forever, is my ability to reflect on the impact I have had either in regards to my teaching practice and or the educational leadership roles I’ve been in. That has certainly changed over the course of the year and what I have outlined below are the leadership lessons that I have learnt in my short (assistant) principal career. These are and have been standout lessons and takeaways, especially in line with the work that I have engaged in as part of the ‘Bastow Unlocking Potential: Principal Preparation Program’ and, upon further reflection, areas that I’ll continue to focus upon and make priority.

Time is Your Friend: As a newly appointed Assistant Principal, the chances are, all eyes are on you. The focus placed upon all of your actions, your comments, and your behaviors can be heavily scrutinized and to lead staff through any form of change process, you first must build the rapport with others that will support the work moving forward. And, this takes time. As a new leader there is no need to rush in and make immediate impact. As a leader, your efficacy towards building and sustaining positive change is partly measured by your confidence, and to develop this with new staff takes time.

Know Thy People: Peer to peer professional collaboration is not always easy to facilitate and encourage. Teachers often display acts of wizardry in front of students however are reluctant to share professional practice with one another in the spirit of professionalism. Because of this, it is important to know your staff and their personality traits and individual learning styles. Some are happy to take the stage, others are comfortable at talking underwater, some also however are not confident in engaging within professional conversations at all. Having an understanding of your staff, their differences and knowing level of competence they are at means that different approaches are needed to successfully move forward.

Mind. Set. Match: In any form of professional learning, it is imperative that those you are charged with working alongside to drive school improvement attack it via having a growth mindset. This is the notion that a person’s intelligence in any given area can be developed. The influence that school leaders have in inspiring staff to embrace challenges, overcome obstacles, learn from feedback, feed on the success of others and drive their own learning should never be underestimated. Professional dialogue from a principal to their staff to encourage this mindset needs to occur for effective change to take place and there is no better way to do this than to model it yourself.

Know The Work: It is vital that one knows and understands the work that needs to be done. Sounds fairly obvious right? I once heard a well-known educational leader say that data does not tell a school’s story. I disagree. What stories does the data at your school tell you? Where does the focus need to be? What staff need their capacity developed? And more specifically, in what areas of their practice? In identifying the work needing to be done, focus on the solution, and not why those things need improving in the first place. Embed a common and consistent language around positive and growth mindset to help drive the work that needs to be done.

Back Your Judgment: It can be easy to second-guess yourself. Your judgments, thoughts, ideas, conversations etc. can quickly move from being the greatest ideas and thoughts you have had to potentially becoming items that, all of a sudden, you are not so sure about. You are in the position of leadership that you are in because a panel deemed you to be the best person for that role. Back their judgment and most importantly your own. Trust in self is vital to being a successful leader.

Support. Vs. Delegate Vs. Empower: There is nothing wrong with saying “I don’t know”. No one will think less of you if you do not have all of the answers and you’d be mad for thinking that anyone would. As an extension to this, and what is even better than OK to say is “I don’t know, but together I am sure we can work it out”. There is a vast difference between supporting your staff and doing it for them, delegating work to them, and building capacity within to empower them to drive the work needing to be done.

So what do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts and thanks for reading!

One thought on “It’s Been a Rollercoaster…

  1. Mr Barclay,
    As always you give me faith in the notion that we all go through life as continuous learners. I can both understand, empathize and reflect upon your recent journey, in my case, from afar! You have articulately summarised key areas and in particular, I agree with the notion of knowing thy people. Just like there are variations in personality, learning styles and work ethos in any classroom of students, You will find this in any school staffing group also. High flyers and chain draggers – the challenge is to harness and encourage the strengths and support and develop those not as willing to ‘get on the bus’ and arrive at the preferred destination. But i am certain I am telling you something you already know.
    Good luck Legend and let me know if I can support!

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