Sunday, 23 February 2014

Week 23: Being a Student Driven Principal #SAVMP

Students of Saint Mary's Hall
Students of Saint Mary's Hall (Photo credit: Robert of Fairfax)

"Too many times we miss out on great opportunities because we have the wrong mindset.  At what point in a teacher’s career does the focus shift from doing what is best for students to, “let’s do what’s best for me.”  Our systems are built around the convenience of the adults and not necessarily for the benefit of the students."

The #SAVMP blog this week asks 'are you a students' principal?'  Interesting question - this is something I don't think I have spent much time thinking about.  The quick answer would be 'of course, we are all here for the students'  But obviously I have to go deeper than that.

I have been very fortunate that in my first school, I have a group of teachers who are dedicated to doing the best for their kids.  I truly believe that.
This being the case, the best thing I can do is support them and help them to do the job that they are doing.  I need to be aware that I can be a distraction to staff if I am not careful. 

Like all principals, I want to make my 'mark' on the school and leave it better than I found it, but I have to make sure my ego doesn't get in the way of good leadership.  If you are able to judge that teachers are doing their best to work for the kids then naturally, I need to make it easier for them to continue to do this.

To be a child-centered principal I think it is really important to spend lots of time with the kids and support initiatives that will make learning more engaging.  Once teachers know that is what you are all about, they will start to come up with all sorts of initiatives that center on the child.  The great thing is the teachers have all the great ideas, they just need to know that you will support them and that you will encourage them to take more risks.

So, over the past three years, we have tried a bunch of initiatives that support a child-centered approach.  We have worked hard to develop green spaces around the school - all designed by the students.  We are a Destination Imagination school, a great program run entirely by teacher and parent volunteers. We have great recreation programs like Starr Gymnastics and Jungle Sport, we have a long-time commitment to teacher inquiry leading to new initiatives in the classroom and we have more ideas and initiatives all the time.

To me, this shows that we are all child-centered.  We are trying to make the student the center of our universe and we are continually looking for ways to create a holistic learning experience for our kids.

Am I a child-centered principal?  I am because all our teachers are.
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  2. We've had the chance to go into schools and help kids to think as well as learn - what I notice is that the curriculum itself doesn't always allow for such stuff, and so much depends on the head teacher making time for it.

  3. Hi Jenny, I would be interested in hearing how you do that, sounds like an important initiative.

  4. Great post, Paul. Sometimes we just need to support our teachers and get out of their way. I especially like your last lines. "Am I a child-centered principal? I am because all of our teachers are." Well said!