Welcome to Newbie. Population: Me.
I am 15 days into my new role as Deputy Principal, having been in other education roles for a decade. A DP role alone is a big step, but after years of being employed as a professional facilitator, it feels even bigger. It’s a weird spot to be in – I feel like I have tonnes of experience to bring, and the old school muscle memory is kicking back in, but I can’t quite start to bring it yet.
So, instead, the first few weeks have needed a good game plan….
1. Say yes to every opportunity to connect
A lesson, a meeting, a conversation, a coffee – every chance there is to escape the DP office and be part of someone else’s world in the school is accepted. I am smiling a lot, possibly more than normal, but I’m sure it will all pay off. From the hongi at my fabulous pōwhiri to the morning tea in the staffroom, all those ‘first impressions’ matter an awful lot. I hope I’ve made them positive ones.
2. He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
Any leader worth their salt knows that when we put the relationships and people first, then great work is possible. Getting to know everyone in a school of 1300 is a challenge, so this is what I’ve been doing in my first two weeks:
I have shadowed a Year 9 and Year 10 class for a day. I’m getting into other classes, taking time to chat to students who have arrived at the DP office with a query or issue. I front up at each assembly to introduce myself.
I peer often at the staff photo on my desk, trying to remember the names (and ciphers! I’m SPK…) of staff, and am doing everything I can to make sure I have met everyone for a conversation in the first few weeks. This might be a chat at lunch, a shared lesson, a quick chat and introduction as we pass in the corridor — the connection matters because no school can operate without the support of the team.
3. Soak up the culture
From the school magazine ‘Flannel’, to media galleries, to conversations about why things are this way or that, every moment conveys something about ‘how things are done here’. When you don’t even know how people prefer to make meetings (Google calendar? email?) or whether it’s ok to change seats in the staff room (it is), every small detail needs nutting out and understanding.
4. Be the learner and listen
I have a growing list of questions – everything from how the post is managed to the way the curriculum is structured – don’t be afraid to keep asking – dine on the ‘newbie’ status in the early days. Everyone has been marvelous and very patient.
There are also policies and plans, charters and SMS guides – all the documentation that comes with running a school. Plenty to read and soak in. Listening and observing, more than talking, seems key right now.
5. Trust that the dust will settle
At the moment, my brain is responding rather like it’s halfway through a bungee jump – lots of moving shapes and colors. I can’t yet see how all the small wheels make up the grand plan nor can I quite see yet where my previous experiences might come to the fore – but I know this will come clear, the list will settle, the honeymoon period will end and I will be part of the furniture.
I can’t wait.
So, what I have I forgotten? Other top advice you would add?
Image credit: Anne ‘Welcome to Newbie’ licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0