If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about Australians in my time here, it’s that they’re up for a challenge. In fact, they thrive on it. One of the most rewarding challenges an educator can take up is the principalship of a school, but it seems like there’s a kind of serendipity that comes into play in becoming a principal. I was shocked to discover that less than 10% of principals surveyed in the 2014 Staff in Australia’s Schools (SiAS) survey intended to be a school leader when they started teaching. And yet, 96% said they would choose the role again if given the chance.

I wrote in my first blog about the challenges and rewards for modern principals, today, I’d like to focus on our school leaders who may be up for the challenge! It’s a timely topic as we’ve just launched new resources that draw on real-life experiences in schools to help guide and support new and aspiring principals.

It’s not hard to see why many teachers don’t see the principal role as appealing given how the media frequently present being a principal as an isolated and thankless job. We don’t hear often enough about the rewards.

Yes, being a principal is a complex role, but almost all the principals I’ve met thrive on the challenge and believe the rewards definitely outweigh everything else. 

Many, many of the principals in our schools are tremendous at what they do, but we do have to be better at preparing our aspiring principals for the role. Only 15% of primary and 22% of secondary school principals reported that they were very well prepared for their role. Given the scope of modern day principalship and growing expectations placed upon our school leaders, this presents a big challenge.  

This is in part why AITSL has produced a suite of tools and resources to support aspiring principals to prepare for the challenges ahead. You can access video case studies to be inspired by great principals, watch the national conversation on Leadership Pathways, or learn more about what kind of leader you will be by engaging with the Leadership Scenarios.

But I will also say that if you’re thinking about becoming a principal, your colleagues, friends and family are your greatest resource to help you succeed. Professional networks and communities of practice can provide you with support and advice around how you’re tracking and where to next. Principals themselves are a goldmine of information and expertise. Talk to the ones you respect the most and find out how they became the great leaders they are. Pay close attention to those who are having the biggest impact on their students. Student growth is the ultimate sign of great educators.

One of the great aspects of working at AITSL and developing our resources is that we get to meet some of Australia’s best school leadership talent and get a glimpse inside their amazing schools. Our team recently featured Monique Carter from Lansdowne Crescent Primary School in Tasmania in a video case study. Monique painted a very different picture to the tabloid ‘doom and gloom’. “One of the key roles that I have in school is to know all of my students, to have a relationship with each one of my students,” she told us. Monique has a deep and devoted connection to her students. She told us about the joy she takes in her work, and especially in “the impact that you have on student learning”.

I think that this is a great piece of advice from Monique to aspiring principals and school leaders. Despite the competing demands on your time – and there will be many – it’s important not to lose sight of a principal’s foremost priority – the learning progress of students.

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Lisa Rodgers, AITSL CEO