Posts from the ‘Deputy Principal Matters’ Category

Professional Learning Day

A guest post by Margaret McLelland*
On Friday 25th March 2011 the NSW Secondary Deputy Principals Association is holding its second Professional Learning Day. This follows on from the first well-received PL day this year which had a focus on the digital revolution. The theme of the day in 2011 will be “What a change in education! What a chance for deputy principals!”. 
In response to our evaluations, there will be a suite of workshops so that there will be more interactive content and we’ll reduce the number of keynote speakers. The venue will be Citigate Sydney Central Hotel, which is close to Central Station and convenient for DPs coming in from country areas.
We’re in the process of designing the program and booking presenters and so it would be greatly appreciated if DPs could let me know of specific areas of interest they’d like covered. At present, suggestions have been more on ICT developments and progress with ACARA and news about the national curriculum.
We also like to provide practical, operational support for the DPs and school finances, O H & S developments and changes to staffing procedures are popular choices. Linking the digital revolution is schools to real change of quality teaching delivery in the classroom is also high on the agenda. Effective use of data to inform school improvement is another big area and one that DPs are often expected to manage.
Anyway, if there are any other suggestions for workshops and presenters, I would love to hear about them – sooner rather than later – as we must begin to form the basis of the program in the next few weeks and begin to book our presenters.
On a final note, a number of DPs mentioned how much they valued the time to reflect and discuss issues with their colleagues and so we’ll endeavour to provide for this on the day too.
If you are interested in working with a small band of DPs who will organise this Professional Day – it’s great professional development and experience – please let me know via email.
*Margaret is Deputy Principal At Georges River College Penshurst Girls Campus with special resonsibility for managing the professional learning delivery at the school. She is one of two Vice-Presidents of the NSW SDPA, again with responsibility for the Association’s professional learning delivery. With Miriam Wride, she won a scholarship from the Association in 2009 to write a paper on professional learning and school improvement and prior to that I represented DET at an international conference in Utrecht where Margaret presented a paper on using case studies to gain insight into what students understand about teacher professional learning. Margaret has also assisted with projects managed by DET Leadership and Professional Learning units.

Musings of a Newb

Thanks to our colleague, Emma Le Marquand, for writing this ‘guest post’ at the blog about her new role.


Newb vs noob

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’.