There are a number of challenges, and emotions, experienced when starting a new school. The first couple of weeks of 2019 were particularly strange in that I was not experiencing the usual chaotic and frantic start to a typical school year. In contrast to this, I found myself in a very quiet office without a clear game plan! Where do I start?
It has been good to have some time to contemplate my vision for the College. This is something that needs a lot of thought and it is my intention to articulate this in a few ways to best connect and communicate with different stakeholders.
I find myself now having to consider the staffing recruitment process. Like a coach picking his side, I am in a position of now having to plan for progressively recruiting and appointing a completely new staff team. This process is not too unlike some professional sporting codes and the challenges faced, such as the Salary Cap! I need to work within the constraints of the system and the resources that are made available to me.
Shortly, I will be advertising for a Foundation Assistant Principal to join me at the start of next year in preparation for the College to begin in 2021. This is quite a unique opportunity! A school with a blank canvas, that will redefine learning with a vision for the future, will shortly be seeking a leader who will bring innovation and creative thinking to new and exciting challenges. This rare degree of autonomy in building a new school is sure to attract much interest.
I recently came across a report by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, ‘Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching – a New Zealand perspective’. One theme in this report is that of “Changing the Script”: Rethinking learners’ and teachers’ roles. It states (p. 4):
“Twenty-first century ideas about knowledge and learning demand shifts in the traditional roles or ‘scripts’ followed by learners and teachers. If the purpose of schools is not to transmit knowledge, then teachers’ roles must be reconceived… This calls for a greater focus on … thinking about what role teachers can play in supporting the development of every learner’s potential… (and) how learners and teachers would work together in a “knowledge-building” learning environment.”
Peter Hutton, Advisor at the Future Schools Alliance (FSA), has encouraged me to consider assumptions about school before a staffing model. Think creatively in terms of flexibility and best use of resources and where they are really needed. This is a challenge to those of us who have experienced the narrow and somewhat prescriptive traditional model of education (which still dominates today). Peter was able to turn around Templestowe College in Victoria which has built a student driven and empowered culture.
Some initial thoughts about staffing from ‘scratch’ include:
- How do I effectively communicate my vision with clarity, so I am attracting the right staff ‘cultural fit’?
- Can existing and conventional roles be changed to better meet the needs of today’s learners who will enter a complex and rapidly changing world?
- What leadership structure do I want? How do I most effectively use the Staffing Guidelines and Base Establishment, for instance, to develop a team of leaders that will build capacity amongst staff and successfully drive the vision?
- How do I ensure staffing structures are conducive to merging both student learning and wellbeing as one, not two separate entities? A priority will be to empower staff to strategically and collaboratively work in teams to plan, prepare, teach and co-teach.
- What will be the teacher role requirements for Catherine McAuley Catholic College?
Your thoughts and feedback are welcome!