Thanks to our colleague, Emma Le Marquand, for writing this ‘guest post’ at the blog about her new role.
At the start of last term I took up an appointment in western region as a DP. This was significant for me for three reasons: 1) I have spent my entire teaching career in Western Sydney, 2) a move to the position of DP instead of just pretending and 3) it’s a National Partnerships job.
The conditions of the third point will be my main focus as I share with you my experiences of finding my feet in the last 11 weeks – experiences I’m sure many of you remember!
Firstly, my position has a shelf life of 3 years. Secondly, I am only responsible for the welfare (discipline!) of year 7. I do not have to manage properties, daily organisation, presentation nights etc. I’m sure you are starting to see the pay off for the temporary nature of the job!
I think National Partnerships funding and its aim to see ‘School operational arrangements that encourage innovation and flexibility’ is incredibly interesting and of crucial importance to schools thinking about how their world is going to look in five years time. But I’m not going to deal with that now.
Instead, I’m going to ask you to imagine that you had 3 years when you walked into a school. 3 years to try and take a lovely, but very established and not-at-all mobile staff and make them excited about teaching in new ways. 3 years to establish effective transition programs and shared programming and teaching practices with partner primary schools (who are up to 50km away). 3 years to get teachers comfortable with working in teams and thinking ‘quality teaching’. And then, you walk away and hope it is sustainable. What would you do? More importantly, what wouldn’t you do?
I’ve spent enough time in tough schools, in a range of positions, to know that for most DPs their days get mangled and devoured by the pestering cries of a thousand minor emergencies; leaking water pipes, out-of-control classes, recalcitrant and belligerent students and parents, teachers on the edge and brain-numbing meetings.
Despite my more limited range of responsibilities, schools being schools, my daily existence is still threatened to be subsumed with these things. So, here’s my point. I only have three years. It is my duty to limit the amount of time I can spend on these matters. Naturally, I find this incredibly liberating, but also a real challenge.
In terms of finding my feet, this has actually being the most difficult thing for me to manage. I needed to take the time to understand the school and set my priorities, but this meant that I wasn’t visibly committed to anything, so I had to avoid being dragged in to other people’s agendas. Mostly, I’ve managed by having very clear and obvious commitments, such as scheduling time in other people’s classes, visits to primary schools, a lengthy curriculum review. All of this has given me the chance to write out my three year plan (which is now 2 ½ years) that has clear priorities and strategies.
But really, the main things I’ve learnt are about letting go of guilt and managing the balancing act:
- I can not be all things to all people
- Keep an eye on the big priorities and the hourglass in the corner
- Support people enough so they don’t burn out
- Don’t let myself burn out.
I’m fairly sure for Deputies everywhere ‘Twas ever thus and ever thus shall be’.