I know right! This is a blog post. By me. This early on in the year! I would say that you wouldn’t read about it however, here you are! 🙂
Over the last 12 months, I have been doing a lot of reflection and thinking about a wide range of things, relating to both my personal and professional lives. I’ve felt that during that time I’ve been somewhat of a “scatterbrain” (my wife would agree – strongly) and that at times I have felt a tad “lost” – particularly in the professional space, and hence this post.
This post is certainly no Jerry MacGuire (great movie!) Mission Statement, however more so, me looking forward, and optimistically may I add, to the year ahead. I am looking forward to having a lot more clarity regarding what I want, what I want to do, and how I am going to do it. Based on this I have outlined several things, or goals, below (I say several because I have no idea how many “things/goals” I’ll get to) that I am aiming/wanting/ and/or driving towards for this year. These are a bit off the cuff however are things that I’ve been thinking about leading into this year.
To lead with greater clarity
Perhaps clarity is not the right word… Maybe it is intent. Or even conviction(although that sounds a bit full-on…). Either way, I am wanting to ensure that throughout the course of this year, and beyond that, the way in which I lead impacts those around me in a positive way, or even more so than currently. I am wanting to/needing to lead in a way that really emphasises the development of a collaborative culture within the school I am in, which will then, in turn, lead to a culture of continuous improvement throughout my school. The question now, however, is how? Whilst I type I am thinking clarity may be the correct word because the role of school leaders and leadership has become over the years increasingly complex. And with greater complexity becomes more often than not, comes less clarity about the role to be done and the work to be achieved. When I started off in school leadership positions years ago the expectations I had regarding what the role would be, to what it actually is, differed greatly.
In Michael Fullan’s book “What’s worth fighting for in the Principalship“, he discusses the idea of ‘Leading Legacies’ and four ways in which Principals can, in fact, lead legacies within there schools. These are;
- They lead for others.
- They develop collaborative cultures.
- They link to the outside.
- They leave fond memories.
It is the first two that I am wanting to heavily engage in, even further than what I already do (I think/I hope). In pulling each of these apart a little further, and pulling directly from Fullan’s work, leading for others means essentially that as an (Assistant) Principal my core focus is focused on classroom instruction and to assist others to do so also. Secondly, it is to essentially ensure that there are others within my setting that can do the same – even long after I am gone.
Following this, the clarity that I am after comes in the form of Ken Leithwood’s work (2007) and two of seven claims that he found regarding effective school leadership. These are;
- “School leadership has a greater influence on schools and students when it is widely distributed”.
- School leaders improve learning indirectly and most powerfully through their influence on staff motivation, commitment, and working conditions.”
If I can have a direct and targetted focus towards the above I feel that my role will have greater clarity and therefore a greater positive impact for my staff and my students.
Watch this space!
To do fewer things, but better.
I have always had a tendency to what some might call “multitask”. I can quite easily, and scarily, stop in the middle of doing one thing and start another. Not best practice, I know. Following on from above and attempting to have more clarity about what I am wanting to/needing to achieve within my role, the aim is to now do this.
The problem, however, besides the fact that I take on 4,824 things at once, is what I have already discussed and that being the complexity that comes with the (Assistant) Principalship role.
You can very easily, and quickly be, hit with the most unexpected things to support people with. Something that I have mentioned previously in another post is this complexity and the chaos that can quickly ensue in a matter of minutes whilst in this role. Chaos that requires without question a cool head, and rationale decisions to be made – and made quickly. That though is the role that I am in and I clearly understand that and it certainly does not phase me. It keeps me on my toes and challenged as each and every day is different. And I love that.
When however speaking about the bigger picture, and I refer back to Leithwood’s two claims I mentioned above, it is those that I need to “do better”. Perhaps not so much “do better”, but do with greater intent and purpose.
Having completed the McRel Balanced Leadership course in 2018, one thing that certainly impacted me was that as schools leaders, it is vital that we;
- Be demanding.
- Be supportive.
- Be intentional.
If I can be these 3 things at an even greater capacity to what I do them now, with that focused on Leithwood’s two claims that I mentioned – then I will have the focus (and time) to do those few things – better.
To reignite old passions.
This is not a segway to a dating service, rekindling old flames, or anything of the sort – just to make that clear. 😉
When I think about what it was/is that used to get me out of bed in the morning (and still does to an extent) in regards to working in education, it was always teaching. Working with young people. Watching them learn, grow and develop – academically, emotionally and socially. I think about the huge focus that integrating technology used to play in my teaching. A focus that led me to be involved in great things with great people – namely my involvement with the Google Teacher Academy both as a participant/inductee and also a mentor, and of course my involvement in the Apple ADE community.
Both of those experiences, which are still ongoing provided me with opportunities to meet great people and outstanding educators and to build my own capacity in fully utilising the tools that Google and Apple offer – to improve learning outcomes for my students.
Having increased my teaching load in 2020 to 2 days a week, in a specialist Physical Education role, has me excited about wanting to do well for my students and do well for myself as an educator. I am also wanting to reengage A LOT more with those two communities above as over the past 3-4 years I have fallen away from those spaces and not through lack of interest – but – through the complexities of being in a school leadership role.
I am also wanting to ensure I can share the opportunities I have had with my staff in past and promote these so that they too can have similar if not the same opportunities with these great organisations.
To focus more on me.
Sounds selfish now doesn’t it. Here I am talking about supporting my staff and school and now I’m jumping on my own bandwagon!
One of the first lessons I clearly learnt being in a school leadership role is that you cannot be all things to all people all of the time. Not even part of the time. You just cannot. A fault, perhaps, I have is not so much trying to please people and do things for them all of the time, but to assist and support them in moments of need – all of the time. A fellow colleague and Assistant Principal once told me that if you say that you’re going to do something – do it. It is that simple. What makes that difficult is when you say you will do all things for all people. I even have a gentle reminder of that saying on my office wall, which is below.
Several years ago I undertook the Bastow (Institute for Educational Leadership) Unlocking Potential: Principal Preparation course. This is a course designed specifically for school leaders wanting to build capacity to ensure that they are prepared for their first principal appointment. As part of this, you are paired with an accredited “coach” from Growth Coaching International who supports you in a coaching/counselling type role. From the session had you look at setting a number of goals for yourself moving forward that are aimed directly at improving your capacity to be an effective leader/principal. To this day I still remember those goals that were set – and in particular, a goal that I failed, I believe – dismally, in achieving. That being;
- To take more time for me professionally and personally.
This largely came down to me giving myself permission to, like now, for example, take time to focus on building my own capacity and doing the things that will, in turn, make me a more effective leader. This may include anything and everything from catching up with colleagues to talk about the complexities of school leadership over a coffee, engaging in professional reading, undertaking an online course and or anything else that would support me to better support, my staff and students. It’s fair enough to say that I have done VERY little of the above over the past few years. Perhaps trying to support all people all the time has impacted this… Perhaps not having clarity around what it is I am wanting to achieve has impacted this. Perhaps it is something else. Regardless, I am planning on taking more time to focus more on me.
The second part of this is trying to locate the ever-elusive “work-life balance”. Sometimes I believe that a work-life balance is in fact a myth – just like Unicorns and Mermaids. I have intensely struggled over the years to make inroads here and I am sure that I will struggle again this year… although I do believe that if I have the above things that I have discussed in place, and have them at the forefront of what it is that I am wanting to achieve, that the whole “work-life balance” thing may in fact appear and if that is the case, which I hope it is, I will be just as shocked if I were to come across a Unicorn or Mermaid, or a Mermaid riding a Unicorn!
There you have it. They’ve been typed up and are now online so there’s no hiding them. They are what they are and I have every intent in seeing them through as best I can.