Transition Week

Leadership

A positive part of being appointed as principal of a new school is not only the opportunity to build upon your current experience but also to learn new skills.

How you approach your new role will have lasting effects on your leadership influence. Reading the school culture incorrectly could put you on the back foot and inhibit the quality of your decision making.

For me, a necessary beginning point is to visit the new school. There is nothing more important than meeting the people you are going to work with, taking the opportunity to immerse yourself into the culture of the school and getting an intuitive feel for how things operate. Visiting the school allows you to begin to ‘get a handle’ on school logistics.

My recent “Transition Week” at dar al Marefa offered the unique opportunity to begin my leadership journey at the school on the right foot. While everyone will have a few tips for the new principal, after having had a few principal appointments over the years, I find the following four insights useful in shaping how you should approach your new appointment:

1. Understanding History. Beginning with previous school improvement plans a new principal can digest the thinking that has shaped the school to be what it is today. To make effective decisions, the new leader needs to know why things are the way they are. Take time to understand the traditions, celebrations and why things run the way they do.

2. Get to know your staff and school community. In the early stages, (commonly know as the honeymoon period), it is imperative to develop positive relationships with each member of the community. Don’t forget spending time in classrooms and the playground to get to know the students.

3. Get Learning. Discovering what you don’t know is a key task in the early days. Locating the paperwork should be an initial goal. Reading the paperwork is the next! Items from parent handbooks to teacher appraisal processes to curriculum expectations help to establish an understanding of the school and most importantly, the culture.

4. Gather relevant information to design a short term action plan. While the school may have an action plan, as a new leader you bring a new ‘vision’ to the school and, after listening and learning, you will begin to craft your own views on what ‘needs to be done’. Developing your own action plan will help to connect the dots and and allow you to focus on short achievable goals.

Everyone approaches their new appointment differently. Whatever action you take it is most important that the new leader enjoys coming to work each day. My transition week at dar al Marefa Private School was exciting  and immensely interesting. Many people to meet, many things to take in! From any aspect my new appointment is going to be challenging and loaded with learning opportunity. I have no doubt I will enjoy coming to work each day.

First Step to Personal (and Professional) Growth – Identifying the Need

Leadership

I have been a principal in schools across three educational jurisdictions and two states in Australia for over twenty years. My current principalship, in a very successful school, in a beautiful part of the Mid North Coast of NSW, has reached the ten year mark.

There is a tendency for leaders to cement their stance on a school and then enter the plateau phase of leadership. Some say it’s best to leave on a high, before the sedentary side of leadership takes hold.

That said, life long learners seek further learning opportunities. They need the next challenge to keep relevant and on top of their game. For me, coming to that realisation has been tough as, like all people looking at their future, there is more at stake than what’s in it for me. There’s family to consider, mortgages, kids’ schooling, spouse’s career, your own ageing parents and extended family members, and even your friendship circles.

There are many reasons one decides to take the leap into a new job. Once decided and announced that you are leaving, people only see the top of the iceberg, they don’t see what is happening under the water, or the myriad of contexts, conversations, rationales, barriers, that lead to the decision. Usually the first response, naturally, is how your decision will impact them?

This introduction brings me to the purpose of this blog!

I have, with the blessing of my family, made the decision to resign my position to take up an international leadership position in Dubai. This blog will be an attempt to share my journey, firstly with my family, who will, for the first part, remain in Australia, until our youngest finishes her HSC in 2015.

I hope to chronicle my experiences, more as a therapeutic or reflective process, but hopefully, like other similar blogs, offer insight into the highs and lows of moving into an expat life.