Sunday, March 31, 2024

How Might We Refresh Reconnect and Refocus our Leadership?


I was rapt when the Secondary Principals Council won 2 annual payments of $6000 for Principal Wellbeing in the latest Collective Agreement. Steering our schools through the pandemic in a way that kept students connected to their school and learning, balancing the wellbeing needs of students and staff and supporting the range of and rapidly developing protection measures put in place by the government was demanding work for principals. We had been asking for programmes such as professional supervision for many years and now principals could use this new resource to best support their wellbeing.

I was a little disturbed by the speed at which a range of wellbeing retreats in a number of Pacific Islands emerged which included a few half days focussing on personal wellbeing (with, I suspect, some tools to support wellbeing) and time for rest and relaxation. I was worried a bit about these because it was my view that yes, a few days relaxing on a Pacific Island might help you overcome some stress in the short-term, but it may not actually address the long-term stress that was impacting on the wellbeing of principals. The demands of leading our schools in these rapidly changing times would still exist after returning from such a break.

During a visit to Wellington last November I caught up with Derek Wenmoth for a coffee to discuss how we could work together to support principal wellbeing. It soon became clear that we shared the view that a principal’s wellbeing was best served when they clearly understood their ‘why’, their moral purpose, and were equipped with tools that allowed them to lead their school on a journey of transformation that was driven by this moral purpose. I certainly knew in my own principalship that being clear about what I was prepared to ’die in the ditch’ for meant I had the confidence to be courageous and to take action. I was able to reflect that my wellbeing was best served when my leadership was guided by my personal Leadership Model shown in the diagram below:

This conversation was the beginning of the work that resulted in Derek and I rolling out Refresh, Reconnect, Refocus – a programme that began with a 2 day retreat for 14 primary and secondary principals in Hanmer almost 2 weeks ago.

Over 2 days each participant was supported to re-engage with and explore their own moral purpose around their leadership, imagine a range of possibilities, identify an area of focus for their leadership, explore tools and frameworks for guiding their next steps and connecting with a buddy from the group to support each other over the next 20 weeks.

At the conclusion of the hui we agreed on 20 weeks of buddy connection, 1-on-1 connection with Derek or myself, webinars from experts and whole-group check-ins. We also committed to meeting face-to-face at the end of the 20 weeks to celebrate our progress.

The feedback, at this early stage, from the participants has been hugely positive. One participant posted on Facebook, “Best PLD ever!”

Other participant feedback included the following:

I loved the mix of Secondary and Primary Principals, quite unique. Sincere collaboration felt between all participants.

A good investment in my professional learning because it was organised and planned by experts who have a deep, authentic and proven understanding of what is important in schools ie what to focus on for the maximum benefit to schools and learners.

Two days of taking a breath and focussing on what really matters with passionate, engaged educational facilitators in a peaceful alpine setting. Listening and connecting with other principals who came to refresh, reconnect and refocus. This hui delivered all this and more.

Engaged, passionate, well informed facilitators who seamlessly worked together to deliver an outstanding programme of thought provoking leadership learning.

Refresh, Reconnect, Refocus is the perfect title for this professional development. It does just that. A fantastic retreat, space to think, relax and start to reconnect.

While the 2 day Retreat component is over the mahi now will be about remaining connected and focused over the next 20 weeks to build on the momentum that got underway at Hanmer.

As a facilitator I came away refreshed, reconnected and refocused!

What Next?

Derek challenged all participants to think of themselves as Systems Leaders, not just as leaders of their own school (see his post here). Tomorrow's Schools has us as leaders of our own entities, each doing our best to navigate the rapidly changing environment. There has never been, in my view, a rallying vision for us all to unite behind despite the best intentions of the Ministry, different Ministers and programmes like Kāhui Āko. It is time for a movement of like-minded leaders to connect and focus in meaningful and sustainable ways to support each other on this important journey of transformation. This felt like the beginnings of such a movement.

We've started with 14!

We’ve had a number of inquiries already about whether we’re planning to run this sort of programme into the future, including questions about running it for APs and DPs. If this is something you’d like to be a part of, or know of someone who might be interested, I encourage you to add your name to our registration of interest so that we can keep you informed of our plans moving forward into the second half of 2024 and 2025.

Think about joining a movement of like-minded leaders!

Register Your Interest Here

An opportunity for emerging leaders

We are both really motivated to work with newly appointed APs and DPs as they are our future principals. I can’t help but think how I would have benefitted, early in my leadership, from being supported to explore my moral purpose in relation to leadership, to explore different ways of leading and to become familiar with a range of tools and frameworks to support my leadership.

The drivers for change in schooling are not going to go away and it is vital, in my view, that leaders do not become part of the roadblocks.

If you want to be on this waka or know someone who should be on it, please register through this link or share it with that someone.

Register Your Interest Here


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