LEADING LIGHTS     Issue 4 | 2020



What our school leaders are saying and doing

What our school leaders are saying and doing to ensure hope, wellbeing and their own resilience are important in their place. What has changed or become more important to them?

Article by School Leaders   

When you ask school leaders to write three or four sentences about what is happening at their place and for them at this time, you see the passion, care and core capability of New Zealand leaders. A huge thank you to those who sent in  some of their thoughts.

In the last four weeks, lessening the number of staff meetings (PLD sessions) enabled teachers time to do 'other things’. We urge teachers to be off the school grounds before 4pm twice a week. Last week the team leaders (syndicate leaders) instead of a staff meeting took their teams out for a school funded afternoon tea.

In times like these the leader has to be resilient and for me that is about making time for myself. I need to be in the best possible health (physically and mentally) so I can support others. I walk each morning around our school grounds - before 7am. I book an hour session every three weeks to 'rejig' my resilience. It is important that we are able to keep our heads well above water so we are aware of the needs of those around us. It is also important to know which 'monkey' not to take upon our shoulders.

People come first at our place and we show them that by having our team leaders all released each Thursday. They are encouraged to take half a day off on one of those Thursdays, twice a term. This is because we are aware of the heavy lifting they have done since the first full lockdown. The office staff have also been given half a day off on alternate Fridays.

During lockdown we discovered just how important it was to have fun as a staff when we connected on zoom. One of our zoom sessions we ended with a trivia quiz. Activities such as this lightened everyone's mood.

Maggie Reid | Tumuaki Tuarua / Deputy Principal at Flanshaw Road School

Not sure if it’s helpful - but this is a bit of a quote out of a blog post I am taking forever to write. Rather than what’s different, it’s more of a 'what’s important to me' going forward. So, what's changed/important for me since our pandemic lockdowns ... a challenge going forward.

"The pandemic has starkly highlighted the inequitable access to education for the most vulnerable students in our nation, and in particular, it has thrown into the spotlight, the digital divide. As we move forward as a nation, we have the opportunity to reimagine education and educational delivery. To do this, we need to make a concentrated effort in tackling the equity issues that separate and cut across our society. The challenge is how we go about achieving this together, leveraging our learnings and taking on this challenge with collective efficacy. As a profession what/how are we collectively advocating to ensure all our students have an equitable bite of this new 'Educational Apple'?"

Stephanie Thompson | Principal at Beachhaven School

WSLS Stephanie Thompson

What has changed for me, is pre the Covid lockdowns I felt we needed to try and do everything and we were kept busy all the time. What the lockdowns taught us as a school, was that the connection with the children, teachers and the community was what was most important. We learnt that we needed to lift up our heads and breathe. We focussed on what we would or could achieve in such a unique time.  We learned that we needed to support each other, connect with each other and share the challenge together.

Kerri McKay | Principal at Bayfield School

What has changed for me during this pandemic? Well, I started my principalship at the beginning of the year so there have been some steep learning curves. What I have personally learned is that the ‘TEAM’ is most important. Working together is what we do. As well, me and in fact, the whole leadership team collectively have shown calmness to our staff, community and students. I have learned people look to the leader to guide/ lead them through times of uncertainty. Often I had to put on this calm demeanour and an air of knowing, whereas in reality, I felt like a duck treading water (felt like I was sinking and just keeping my head above the water).

As well, reaching out to other leaders and mentors so I could talk through what was happening really helped me.

As a new principal stepping into a role where I had high community expectations of me has really made me realise, “I can do this and I believe I am making a real difference to the children, their families and my incredibly dedicated staff.”

Sanjay Rama | Principal at Ponsonby Primary

WSLS Sanjay Rama

How has leadership changed for me? Some of my reflections are:

  • As a new principal in a school, facing a crisis so early on was challenging. However, it created an opportunity for me to share those human skills that principals have which resulted in rapid deeper connections with my staff, Board and community. They experienced me responding and leading in a crisis, so saw a side of me which in normal times they may have taken a longer time to experience: ie. empathy, care, reassurance, kindness, responsiveness, adaptability etc. I believe this created deeper connections and relationships.
  • Positive feedback from staff and community resulted in my confidence to lead in this new setting and I believe strengthened my ability to be more concise, decisive and timely (leading from the front is sometimes necessary). There was a tension for me at the start of COVID. How much time is spent on collaborative decision making vs how much on ‘telling’? If or when we are faced with crisis again I am more confident with getting the balance right.
  • The experience really emphasised again for me the need to filter a lot of the information given, simplify it, time it well and be proactive in getting it out as quickly to people as possible with the intent to reassure. No time for procrastination which is sometimes a challenge for me as a leader.
  • Another change would be the increased trust in the Ministry and their ability to work collaboratively with Principals. They demonstrated that they could do this in a timely and respectful way and we expect this to continue.

Cindy Walsh | Principal at Freemans Bay Primary

Connections with people are one of our first priorities for successful leadership. Our school leadership check in with our staff on a range of levels, such as classroom, school, home and family. If the well-being of our staff is good then they will be at their optimum capacity to deliver high quality experiences and learning. One example of this is we also have a little value added tradition called Well-Being Wednesday, where all staff must leave school by 3.30pm on a Wednesday and have some “me” time out of school. I stay behind until all children have left our school and then I go home also.

WSLS Jason Swann
WSLS Otahuhu Primary Image

Jason Swann | Principal at Otahuhu Primary | NZ Pasifika Principals Association President