Becoming or being a school principal today, requires a strong desire to serve, the agility to change direction quickly when needed, the consciousness of having many unthought of solutions to be explored, and the tenacity to accept responsibility.
The role of principal places you at the swirling centre of conversations that all have the common desire: to do the best by children. What greater reward can there be in life than to know every working hour of your week is devoted to this cause? For
this is the reason why we all join the profession initially: to make a difference.
My humble beginnings as a school leader were marred by complexities that were mostly unexpected and that were eventually managed and transformed into possibilities with the help of mentors. The role requires you to be humble and accept that asking
for help and learning from others is going to produce a solid platform. There were many mentors that supported my journey: other principals, businesspeople, selected literature, and many, many children.
Learning starts every day, and this will be a continuum until you are in the role. The excitement and rewards become visible when decisions made meet most needs; when your team develops new ways to achieve a task you had been working on for a considerable
time; when teachers or parents share with you class successes; when children call you by your first name and ask you to listen to their proposal for a new fundraiser to save the turtles.
My biggest learning has been the growth we can achieve for all stakeholders when there is true collaboration and opportunities provided to others to perform at their best. Trust and strong support where it is needed, for members of my team, produced
unexpected and well-received outcomes.
The main role of a principal, I believe, is to build a positive culture. This takes time, knowledge, and understanding of the community and a continuous refocus of values desired in the environment. Every single stakeholder, from child, to parent,
to cleaner, to volunteer, is responsible for building the culture of the school.
Empowerment to share in this responsibility grows when each individual feels valued: this is the work of the principal.
I have not yet discovered a magic wand or crystal ball that will provide the right answers on how to improve the quality of learning and teaching in each classroom. What I know is desperately needed, is a way to retain educationalists that care about
students. Teachers want to see success in every child, but workloads and accountability requirements cascading on them from every entity are making their work near to impossible. Principals must find ways to remove as much paperwork and reporting
from the class and allow teachers time to be spent on identifying how to teach, not just what to teach.
My recommendation for an incumbent principal is to work very closely with your staff and understand their daily tasks; understand the profile of students and families within the school and find ways where technology can reduce the load. Become au
fait with new digital technologies and adopt systems that collect, analyse and report on student data. Currently, teachers collect huge data daily, and often are unable to dissect the information required to support our students more effectively.
Another and more salient recommendation is to care for yourself first and foremost: ensure you have support systems, liaise with colleagues, and talk through your issues. Do not be afraid, they have similar ones and may be worried about showing their
own vulnerability. The job of a principal can be tough, but the rewards can be comparable to the best influencers in the business. Allow yourself to learn on the way.