Opening The Car Door

I've never been one to jump in at the deep end. I ease myself into things in the same manner that I slide carefully into the chilly water of a pool or a cautious wade out into the ocean. I have been described as opinionated in a low key way but I am typically unsure of myself at the best of times. So, even after six months in this new role of Assistant Principal, I am still feeling my way, thinking and re-thinking my possible approaches for effective leadership within this role. So, in an effort to lay out some starting thoughts and switch from holiday mode where I have happily absorbed a whole lot of junk pop culture, spent simple family time doing not much at all and indulging in a lot of directionless web reading and viewing to shaping up my contribution for 2012 to the Woodville Gardens School learning community.

First, a bit of background. I had a stint as acting Deputy Principal at my previous school during Term 2 and found that I really enjoyed the time out of the classroom working on staff issues, communicating with the parent community and getting a closer look at how the administrative side of a South Australian government school works. I had the opportunity to apply for a six month stint as Assistant Principal at Woodville Gardens which I was lucky enough to win for a longer three year tenure late in 2011. So, I headed off to this new "super school" with a heady mixture of excitement and trepidation because I was stepping up into a non-classroom role for the first time in a testing environment. Everything at the school was brand new and even arriving after everyone else had been settled in for the first semester didn't mean that all of the bugs had been ironed out! I've learnt quickly about the quirks of a cross platform network, large stocks of netbooks that are underpowered and disliked by staff and students alike and finding that much of my pedagogical knowledge is not necessarily common practice. More about that later - and do not mistake my observation as a criticism. In my application that culminated in my successful appointment I listed out all that I had managed in my time up to that point:

Assistant Principal – ICT and Administration
Semester 2, 2011

  • quickly established key working relationships with technician, teacher-librarian and leadership in supporting the school’s ICT direction
  • blended into the school culture, offering key support during the school’s official opening, producing and providing a student perspective video to showcase the school’s diversity
  • worked in partnership with the teacher-librarian to collaborate with middle and upper primary classes involved in inquiry research units of work
  • started a program of Professional Learning after school sessions for teachers based on the “teacher as learner” model
  • consulted with senior leadership to make decisions around student laptop distribution
  • supported behaviour management of students as required
  • taken on and maintained administration tasks including the maintenance of equitable rosters (NIT, Yard Duty, Traffic monitors), management of the School photos and NAPLAN results distribution
  • established working relations with DECS ICT support staff, learning as much as possible about the school’s technology infrastructure, its cross platform capabilities and started on the implementation of the school’s online student learner management system (StudyWiz)
  • applied for the school’s inclusion in the 2012 Microsoft Innovative Schools program
  • planned for a future staff focus on 21st Century Learning as connected to the school’s priorities, use of the TfEL and focus on personalisation of student learning

I've deliberately avoided rushing into the place and posing myself as some sort of expert. That approach can only put people off and backfire but I have made it my business to really take a close look at how teachers are using the technology at their disposal and how they work around the many roadblocks that invariably crop up. So, now as I'm about a week away from going back to work, I need to air out some thoughts about this year and how I will fulfil my role. I can only do it my way in careful consideration of the unique needs of this school and this community - what outside people think and do are only useful in so far in helping us clarify what is needed for Woodville Gardens.

Listening to Tony Bryant from Silverton Primary School in Melbourne earlier in 2011 made me realise that leadership for change can be achieved by focussing on one school becoming the best that it can be. The school can then be a focus point for other like minded schools looking for ideas on how contemporary learning can be implemented in a way that empowers the students. I'm lucky - we have an excellent leadership team all pointed in a common direction and we all bring various strengths and perspectives to the table. I'm there for my educational technology knowledge and experience in inquiry learning - and I can only claim the upper hand in those domains because I have been fortunate enough to be connected to the wider network of educators, drawing on their expertise, ideas and inspiration.

So, I have an important role to play. Technology is one of those areas where to be too prescriptive and fixed in planning means missing evolving opportunities for taking learning in new and unanticipated directions. But I have to work out how to be influential in the right way, how to make wise decisions that use resources effectively and how to make sure that we have learning solutions tailored for our kids and their unique needs. It is an exciting task. I have three years to make a difference and culture within any site takes time to nurture and shape. I am part of a team but I am very aware of the responsibilities in front of me. Like all learners I will make mistakes along the way and get sidelined, but that is all part of the process.

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