The last post I wrote was about me being given the opportunity to relieve as deputy principal at my school. That was a month an a half ago. Admittedly I haven’t been as regular with my blogging ever since I took on an executive role at my current school – a symptom I attribute to teaching less, and in a less innovative way than I did at my previous school – but this big gap between two posts reflects the crazy of my last 6 weeks. Wow, 6 weeks! That seems ages, but actually feels like a tiny fraction of time.
So, here’s my reflection on being DP… for me to remind myself that it was a position I never considered as part of my career prospects, which now, in the right context, I think I’d quite enjoy. I’ll write this as dot-points, because it’s Saturday morning, and I have at least two other posts I want to smash out today also.
- DPs are always on display, and always available
My HT T&L office is upstairs at school, and has a solid door that I close every day. It’s not because I want to shut out the world (although often I do), it’s just that it feels natural to have it closed and work, work, work. I like having space to do what needs to be done – I sit on the floor, on the lounge, on the ottomans… work whilst I’m standing, go on my phone and tweet/message people about school stuff, and when I need a mental break I play Atari, or read a book. When you’re DP, these things don’t an can’t happen. You sit at a desk, your door is always open, and if it isn’t it is made of glass, so people can see you in there, and know exactly what you’re doing. You’re on display. For me, that was pretty intimidating, and probably the biggest thing I had to adjust to. Oh, and the fact that you can hear everything, so you can’t really ever switch off to issues unfolding, even if they’re not related to the year groups for which you are responsible. The good thing about this system, is that you are available, and you are always in the know – essential features of a great DP. After a few days I got used to sitting behind a desk, and looking out into the hallway at people who looked back at me as they walked past. I got used to colleagues and students and parents and community members popping in to talk or ask a question, and I really (re)discovered the ‘social’ aspect of myself.
2. The unexpected becomes the expected
I was actually surprised by the fact that it seemed I had few defined responsibilities – as HT T&L I always have a to-do list a mile long, but this helps me focus and feel accomplished when I have completed things. The role of DP is incredibly fluid – the responsibilities are three year groups full of students, plus a range of administrative tasks related to those year groups, and then whole school responsibilities such as running assemblies, writing articles for the weekly newsletter, and preparing for executive meetings. Each day I would come to work at least an hour before school started, and some days I would sit there with my desk incredibly tidy, just waiting for what was to befall on me. There’s no telling what will happen each day in relation to the students for whom you have responsibility as DP – you can’t timetable a broken heart, a broken shoulder, a anxious parent, a change of mind regarding subjects, or the need for advice. You also can’t schedule a broken toilet, haha. I learnt to have incredible patience, and to be ready for anything – I actually really loved that part, because the adrenaline associated with the unexpected is something that I enjoy. Maybe that’s why I enjoy teaching in the first place?
3. Working with incredible female leaders is incredible
During my time as relieving DP, I was fortunate enough to work with two amazing women – my fellow DP (who is actually HT Welfare, and relieving as DP for a term) and my boss (who was relieving principal and whose job I was filling in). They were both working in relieving positions, and you wouldn’t know it – they did a seamless job. It’s funny, but I think my fellow DP decided that me being in the role as well gave her an opportunity to really push me as a leader, and as an individual. I remember on my first day in the gig, I told her the one thing I did not want to do was talk in front of the whole school on assembly. It terrifies me. Sure enough, in the first week I was wearing a fluro yellow vest and running the evacuation drill, which required me to speak on a microphone in front of the whole school. I was so scared, and she knew it, but she didn’t let me get out of the role, and I really appreciate that decision – I discovered that I could be responsible for 800 students and 60 staff getting organised in an unconventional situation. The following week she was at it again, when she had me run the whole school assembly – which involved speaking on the microphone (which for some reason freaks me out), and ensuring the assembly ran smoothly. It seems so small in hindsight, and I think that’s why it was so big – she made me overcome a fear, and allowed me to find a new strength. My relieving principal was beyond inspiring – her calm demeanour, her sense of humour and fun, her intelligence, her energy, and her warmth ensured that I loved every minute of being DP. Her open door approach meant that I felt comfortable asking questions, and her humble nature and eagerness to learn and try new things meant that my offered ideas were always taken on board, resulting in lots of cool new things starting up in our short three weeks together as senior executive. She is a brilliant leader, the staff and students love her, she is incredibly organised (something I continue to strive for), and she is committed to improving school for all involved. I was so lucky to work closely for three weeks in a small team with two strong, intelligent, caring women for three weeks.
4. I love teaching
I honestly didn’t expect to miss my classes, or my classroom, as much as I did. This is my first year of having my own room at my current school, and that space had quickly become essential to me – being without it for three weeks felt weird. I love going into the classroom and being silly, and free, with students. I missed my year 11 class – I didn’t teach them for the three weeks – and felt rushed with my classes I did keep (year 12 and Praxis), because I wasn’t always in the headspace for them. Whilst I did find as DP I had more time to be organised (being physically at school for two more hours helps with that), I felt that I missed the craziness of being on so many classes (yes, this week I regret this sentiment because it has been beyond manic). I have loved being back with them all – one of my favourite things is being in that room with 20-30 kids, and just letting go. I want to get better at it always, but I know that means it’s my passion, and it’s still where I want to be. So whilst being DP is now something I can see myself pursuing – at least in my current school – I know it won’t be for a while. I still have so much to learn about being a great classroom teacher.