Workhorses of education | An article for DPs and APs

Have you ever tracked each moment of your day? From the 6am start to the 6.30am check of emails. Teacher relief organised by 7.00. A check-in chat with a colleague before lead team meeting at 8.15 and all staff briefing at 8.30. By the time most office workers are cranking up their laptops, most DPS have already got a couple of hours under their belts and that’s before the daily round of quick chats, parent phone calls, pastoral care or discipline, teaching and event logistics planning begin.

Victorinox Swiss Army Knife - Climber
“Swiss Army knives – famed worldwide for their versatility”

Deputy Principals are the Swiss Army knives of the education profession. And like every good Swiss Army knife, DPS are the go-to work horses of senior management — the daily running of the school falls heavily on their shoulders and they are expected to move seamlessly across multiple roles. Tweezers? Yup. Scissors. Yup. Fiddly knife? Yup.

For some DPs, the role can feel somewhat limited because it focuses on the routine clerical tasks, custodial duties, and discipline. Assistant principals are constantly

in a reactive mode, juggling the tasks that need to be done. Their activities are “characterized by brevity, variety and fragmentation” (Cranston, 2002). Farnham (2009) points out that the Deputy Principal “holds perhaps the toughest job in…education. It is often a thankless position that places heavy demands on those who take it”. It can all sound vaguely depressing!

And somewhere, in the midst of the daily whirl, we must also stay focused on our ‘why’, the strategic purpose and action plan that drives the direction of the school. We may have all our Swiss Army tools to hand, but we’ve got to be using them in a way that is worthwhile for our learners in the longer term….


This article was originally published in LeadershipED NZ (Term 1 2018), published by EducationHQ. The opening of the article is published here with permission.

To read more in LeadershipEd Term 1, sign up to EducationHQ’s Hub, it’s free for schools.

Image source: Andrew Toskin – Victorinox Swiss Army Knife – Climber CC BY 2.0


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