The role of a principal is challenging, relentless and rewarding. You have to be committed to improving the lives of young people and passionate about learning not just students but teacher learning as well as your own.
I admire principals (and their team) who go into bat every day for their students when many teachers don’t or won’t.
I had a conversation this week with a secondary principal who spoke honestly about the challenges of changing cultural beliefs and teacher practice.
What impressed me was the way in which he was addressing the issues to improve quality learning and teaching by working collaboratively with his team, being honest about the challenges, relying on data and student voice to inform strategies and accepting accountability.
What I liked most about their approach was that teachers received data/feedback without any judgment. The onus is on each individual teacher to ask their own questions about the data/feedback and to reflect critically on their practice.
We shouldn’t be afraid of the data/feedback because it is a useful tool for identifying where we are and where we need to be.
One of the great insights this principal revealed was that too often we assume we understand learning from students’ perspective. We assume they’ve understood fundamental concepts in Year 7 or that transcribing notes from the whiteboard is relevant or engaging.
We cannot assume anything about our learners or the quality of our teaching without relying on good data and feedback, which includes student voice.
Children disengage from learning when it doesn’t, as Sir Ken Robinson says ‘feed their spirit’. So the question we must ask ourselves is how are we feeding the imagination and spirit of learners and how do we know?
Many may not want to walk in the shoes of principals but we should at least walk in the shoes of our learners.