Taking a giant leap .. The first two years as an educational leader (Part 2 of reflections of 2011)

It was in September 2009 when I saw this advertisement.

advertisement for my current position


Back then, I was in my third year of teaching at my previous school. I had a really good group of Year 10 students who I wanted to take to Year 12 in Physics. I had established a really reputation at this school and had a really good working relationship with everyone so I was in no rush to leave.

My then Head Teacher encouraged me to apply so I thought I might give it a shot. It was part of my career plan anyway. So when I got the call to say I got the job, I did feel as if perhaps I wasn’t ready for it. I was 25 and had only taught for 3 years. I’d been Year Adviser for 1.5 years, was relieving Head Teacher Science for 10 weeks and relieving Head Teacher Welfare for 5 weeks.

So I basically jumped into the deep end. And for those who know me, that’s what I do usually anyway. I tend not to take baby steps. If I want to do something, I just do it. One of the things I regularly say is “This will turn out really good or really bad”, but the risk of it turning belly-up never stops me from trying.

In these past two years, I have definitely learnt the most and developed the most as a teacher and a leader. Here are some of the things I’ve learnt:

• There’s a difference between leadership and management, but you need to have both.
• There’s a difference between informing and engaging people.
• Teachers are learners too and each teacher has different needs. While it’s extremely important that everyone knows what the goals are, how they get there needs to be personalised.

multiple paths analogy

One of the biggest challenges comes from my main strength. Like I’ve said before I like taking risks in the way I teach. When I have an idea I run with it. This is a lot harder to replicate in a team situation. I have a fantastic team who is willing to give 110% in whatever we do.

At times it was like the crazy dancing guy analogy of leadership. My team is composed of brilliant teachers who have great rapport with students, but I found that in my first year as Head Teacher I was the one dancing crazily and they were watching me. I wanted them to dance crazily with me too.

So I started to back up all the new strategies and tools I suggested with WHY. WHY should we take the plunge and try this? I also started doing activities in public spaces of the school like sticking QR codes all over the school and have my students running around the school with iPods to scan them. The noise and commotion of students learning would often catch teachers’ attention. They would then be curious and ask me questions of what I am doing and how they could do it with their classes. The QR code activity actually resulted in a teacher asking me how to make a QR code and he made one himself.

And like the crazy dancing guy analogy, I’ve been able to move my team forward this year because someone else has started dancing crazily with me. This colleague has flourished since I introduced him to Twitter (you can follow him at @HenryYavuz). His teaching repertoire has expanded massively and he is now taking risks with his teaching. And the rest of the team is now getting up and dancing too. Without the first person getting up and taking the plunge to dance crazily I wouldn’t have been able to create and start to implement a new unit of work next year that transforms how the faculty approaches pedagogy.

I’m really proud of the achievements of my team and the achievements of individual teachers in the team. I’m really looking forward to 2012. I’m hoping for lots of crazy dancing.

5 thoughts on “Taking a giant leap .. The first two years as an educational leader (Part 2 of reflections of 2011)

  1. I loved reading this post Alice, and sharing in your journey. You are an inspiration to many (young) early career teachers who are always told that they have no hope of leadership positions unless they have been teaching for at least ten years. Bully to those people – look at this *points above* !!!!

    • Thanks Andrew. Like what I tell many people and what I’ve been told by my leaders, leadership isn’t about age & experience, it’s about what you’ve done and what you can do.

  2. Congrats Alice on your adventurous leap into leadership! With passion and good intentions we can all hope to inspire our students and fellow educators. I enjoyed reading both your reflections! Thanks for all the time you commit to assisting our youth.

  3. Alice that video is amazing – will be watching it again before giving relieving HT a go Term 1 next year! Might even give it a run in Year 11… Thanks.

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