End of Year Reflection

Leadership

It is hard to believe that I have completed my first academic year at Dar Al Marefa. It feels like yesterday that I arrived in the Dubai to take on a new leadership position in a new country. The personal learning has been immense and very rewarding both personally and professionally.

As such, the end of the academic year is an exciting time for a school community. While everyone is looking forward to the summer break, the effective principal will use the time to focus on school improvement planning for the following year. At some point the principal will take stock of the year and spend some serious time reflecting on the events of the school year. Reflection is a critical practice of the effective leader.

Most reflections begin with a meditative approach, looking back and remembering the events month by month. This offers the principal with the timeline of the school. Completing the first year of a new school this process helps to focus on what’s important, what’s valued by the staff and school community. While each event has it’s mini evaluation after the fact during the year, recalling the various activities allows the principal to pinpoint what our school stands for. Looking at the events of the year questions like the following can be asked:

  • Do the events of our school reflect our vision & mission?
  • Are the events simply annual activities that we do……..(because that’s what we do?) Do the same people do the same things year in and year out?
  • What innovations have we introduced to the school?

For me, there are a few key questions that arise to guide my reflections as a principal leading the school. As leader this year have I:

  • Shared a clear understanding of what I stand for in teaching and learning?
  • made explicit the school action plan and its implementation?
  • Supported staff in their efforts to improve their instructional practice?
  • Increased the focus on student achievement? Has the student engagement increased?
  • Instilled confidence and fostered individual teacher aspirations
  • Value added to staff development? Did I delegate and empower or did I listen but made my own decisions?
  • Acknowledged the achievements of staff?
  • Celebrated success?

Such questions are great discussion starters to have with your staff, leadership team, students and parents. By doing so the effective leader is able to rate the climate of the school. It can be quite sobering to find out what staff say about your leadership of the school. (What does it say about the leader who doesn’t ask the questions?….) This is an important consideration because the  Gallup’s 2013 Global Workforce Study found that only 13% of people in 142 countries reported they were engaged in their work, while nearly a quarter reported they were “actively disengaged.”

When leaders speak about their key achievements as leader of their school, the community is not wanting responses on your personal milestones (eg I completed my first marathon this year). Although important to the well being side of leadership they are looking for some depth from the professional sphere. Furthermore, they are not looking for generic type answers either.

Focusing on your action plan should give you plenty to talk about when someone asks you……have you made a difference this year?

A Time of ‘Lasts’

Leadership

During the last few weeks before transitioning to a new appointment you have the opportunity to undertake things for the last time. The last staff meeting, the last report, the last breakfast gathering, the last Parent and Friends meeting, the last playground walk, the last assembly, and so forth.

Completing each final activity brings the reality of leaving a much loved school behind and as one does, it is an optimal time for reflection.  As a principal, the first part of reflection involves the professional, reviewing how successful your strategic plans have been, the impact upon the teaching and learning and the growth in teacher professional learning.

The second level of reflection focuses on the personal. When leaving, particularly after ten years of close working relationships, you development strong bonds with staff. Personally speaking, I am very grateful for the personal and professional relationships as they have helped to shape who I am today, my thinking, my views on issues and even influence my decision making. In a sense I am the sum of my relationships.

One of the positive things about beginning a new job is that it offers you the opportunity to apply your learnings in a new setting. While many people make excuses for not taking the time to reflect, citing busyness or lack of interest, the benefits, although not always immediate, are numerous.

In a funny sort of way doing things for the final time is in fact, preparing to do things for the first time.