Amidst the tumult of school life in this final passage of time in the 2019 school year
so often our physical, mental and emotional capabilities are stretched to the limit.
It seems everybody wants something from us – the union sub-branch wants to talk
about workload or consultation, the SEIL wants to meet regarding our 2020 AIP or
PDP, parents and students have concerns about 2020 classes, teachers want to be
appreciated for their efforts, you’re still trying to finalise staffing for 2020, and, if
you are unlucky, somebody has complained enough to bring the Merit Board or
some other investigation into play. Many are cantankerous, demanding and even selfish, and we
have so much on our ‘must do’ list. There is arguably no more stress on you as a Principal than at
this time of year. It’s difficult to focus on the positives, and to recognise our achievements and successes
for the year.
So ‘what’s new’; ‘Let’s just get through this’ and ‘bring on 21 December asap’ I hear you say!
Maybe it’s time to reshape this situation. Let’s not wait until a last day luncheon or morning tea.
Stop just doing and being influenced to react, and focus on those most important values that should
underpin our individual and collective personal and professional interactions. We might take this as
an opportunity to turn it into a time of reflection and celebration through the quality of our leadership.
This need not create additional workload for us. In fact, there is no better time to influence the climate
and culture of a school than during its most stressful and distressing periods.
In this context it enables us to revisit our narrative of leadership and school improvement. It can include
(a) restating our understanding of context of the work at our school; (b) reminding others of
our school values and goals; (c) in the context of current school performance and aspirations, highlighting
our progress and achievements in the school’s improvement plan (SSP, AIP), especially that
made in the school’s teaching & learning practices, both explicit and implicit, what we hoped to see
and are seeing; and what each staff member’s responsibility has been in this context; and (d) reinforcing
our understanding of expectations of each other as colleagues, community members and
member of the profession, including recognition of the commitments and sacrifices each has made.
This is both a reflection and celebration of what we’ve achieved and experienced in 2019.
It can even reflect your understanding of your school’s progress against key elements that underpin
high performing schools, (imagining where you sit on an improvement continuum):
• consistency in expectations for high level student learning
• consistency in practice across classrooms and grade levels
• cross-talk amongst teachers and school leaders about problems of teaching and learning
(reciprocal responsibility)
• collaborative planning and problem solving around instructional practice
• level of agreement (and explicit statements) among individuals about norms, values, and
instructional practice
• agreement about what high-level student work looks like
• processes and structures for making common problems common
• collective ownership (responsibility & accountability) of student learning
In this time of tension and tumult, which will vary in intensity across our schools, it’s about taking
the opportunity to model and influence the quality of human interaction that upholds the values of
your school. This can be special; it can be an event; you can lift the tone and focus on so much that’s
good; and it can be uplifting for you and your staff.