Leadership Is A Tough Gig

More and more, I really think that leadership in schools is a tough gig. I said as much to my boss the other day and I am not at all sure that being a principal is where I'd want to be in X number of years. Looking at it more closely than I could when I was solely a classroom teacher has revealed it to be a thankless job where you are trying to guide a very disparate bunch of educators towards commonality of purpose within the school setting. Now, my job has a leadership component and I very much realise that I have heaps to learn in this area but the "big picture" aspect is one part I find very rewarding, but also extremely frustrating. This year, my role has me with my class four days a week and having that time with a bunch of kids reminds me of how totally absorbing the classroom teacher job is. To do really well at being well prepared, one must block out distractions with the end resulting in a form of oblivion to the rest of what's happening within the school or indeed, the whole education system. It's worlds away from "big picture" where notes in diaries, following yard issues, making sure there's enough crayons for the art lesson tales precedence over whether system goals are being met or whether technology is being integrated into the learning program. It's the world where if the printer doesn't work or if one child's logon in the computing room doesn't work then that's a big priority that demands immediate action. I, as a classroom teacher, don't really care what's happening across the school in a junior primary classroom because frankly, I've got a stack of stuff to do on my own plate.

But the school leader which pushes to the fore on my designated coordinator day and never really fades from view any other time has to take a different tack. I need to know some of what's happening around the whole school because effective use of ICT resources have to monitored, relevant T&D has to be provided for the staff and other administrative duties that help the classroom practitioners' lives tick along have to be attended to. That's a big juggle but I signed up for the extra responsibility and get the extra $$ in the pay packet as a result. But the principal has to spend all of their time balancing big and small picture - keeping the school as a whole moving towards its objectives, balancing and dripping down department expectations, knowing the kids well enough that any teacher who says little Johnny is being a pain and could you deal with it can be taken in stride. The principal has to put up with being called out across the staffroom mid-conversation and expected to nod excitedly at their coordinator's completion of a regulation task! I'm not sure I'm cut out for that role and luckily being in official leadership is not the only way to be a leader in education.

But... leadership is not easy.

Attribution: Image: 'Leadership' by Dunechaser

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8 thoughts on “Leadership Is A Tough Gig

  1. Tom Sheehan

    Thanks for your comment Graham. I have been a principal twice before of small schools and am currently a deputy principal.

    The difference this time is I will have considerably more time to complete some of the leadership jobs as before when I had a day a week only. Even though the school is smaller some of the jobs still take the same amount of time as in a large school.

    I am particularly excited because my new school is at the very beginning of its ICT and learning journey. I try to keep positive, deal in solutions rather than problems, treat people with kindness and fairness and most of all treasure the gift of the day. Sounds a little mushy but helps me to function well.

    Once again thanks for your comment and your blogging ! I really enjoy reading your stuff !

  2. greg carroll

    Great fun though …. I vividly remember doing management study as a classroom teacher and reading (Sergiovanni I think) about how one study showed that principals spend an average of 6-8minutes focused on any one task. Sort yourselves out I thought …..
    Now I would LOVE to get that time without being interrupted! LOL

    THE view from the Office is unique and one I love. But also the classroom is something I miss … this year is the first time in a school since I began teaching in 1989 that I have not sat down with my own class on day one of the school year – very strange.
    The strategising and planning is the aspect I enjoy too … and empowering others to be the best they can be. School leadership is all about cultural management I believe, and at the centre of this is relationships. It is a ‘people’ profession…
    Just like in the classroom it is about being a mentor and ‘guide on the side’ rather than a font of all knowledge.
    I like your point about official and unofficial leadership!

  3. Graham Wegner

    Thanks Miss Profe, Tom and Greg. Your additional points are great to ponder. The part of being a principal that I would struggle with is having so many balls in the air at once and being responsible (and expected) to know precisely when each one is meant to drop and when exactly to get the next ball into the air! I like your points, Greg, about relating it back to the classroom – the prinicipal’s “class” is her or his staff and she/he is responsible for their development. And if we know anything about adult learning, that is no easy task.

  4. Ken

    Graham, I have always believed that leadership is about relationships and relationships that build trust empowers individuals with a tremendous amount of influence. So, in our job of educating children I think that we must create opportunities to bridge the gap of relationship building by creating social networks online, as my students are accomplished in, and we as teachers are allowed to interact and influence them in their environment. I just ran across this new website called TeacherTube.com. I think that it has potential to create this environment that I speak of.

    What are your thoughts?

  5. Steli Efti

    If you want to lead – you have to walk the talk! I believe that authentic leadership is king! Don´t ask for anything you wouldn´t do! Don´t preach anything you don´t believe!

  6. Cindy P.

    I completely agree with you when you said, “I’m not sure I’m cut out for that role and luckily being in official leadership is not the only way to be a leader in education.”

    Our administrators and leaders at our school are amazing. I have never-ending respect for what they do everyday. I admire our administrators more because they were teachers not long ago and understand the situations we teachers go through everyday.

    Our principal also encourages us to lead either a club or a committee at our school site. This way, it lessens the load on other teachers who have so much on their plate. If everyone on campus helps one another and leads a club, committee, or program, I believe that we will become a better community.

  7. Miguel Guhlin

    Amen, Graham. I always liked the idea of the reluctant leader, dragged against his will into serving because only he could save the day. Romantic, foolish…

    Now I know that it’s about more than that. It’s about putting yourself in the hands of the people you are responsible for and trusting them to deliver…you just hope it won’t be your head on the platter.

    While I am sometimes disappointed, I am pleased more often than not with the results. Leadership is about trust, drawing strength from those you lead, and knowing when to decide to move forward when no one else sees a reason to.

    Miguel Guhlin
    Around the Corner-MGuhlin.net


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