Schools PCA: The art of working together

Teaching and administration in education are such different jobs. For future assistant principals, there are multiple paths for leadership in education. For some, it is the route of school administration; for others, it is growing and expanding influence as a classroom teacher. For others, it is advancing their union leadership. And, for some, a combination of all three!

All these roles are important and influential. I have had a chance to see a lot of excellent school principals and a lot of great union reps, and they share many qualities. Some of the best union reps I’ve known have later become great principals. Here are some of the qualities that make up both:

They are good teachers It is people who have the power to make a difference to their students’ lives who usually make great leaders. 

They listen well Leaders in education truly listen. People turn to their union leaders and their principals most often when they have a challenge.

They have a presence Principals and union leaders don’t need to fill the room with their personality, but they do need to be able to capture the room with their words, their manner, approach, and vision, and build connection and trust.

They manage change Our profession is forever changing and its leaders must adapt. We see changes in society, particularly through the influence of technology. Modelling how to manage change (and the challenges that might come with that) sets the tone for those we work with.

They work behind the scenes Leaders often put in a lot of hours ‘behind the scenes’ to support people, processes and systems so things work and people feel heard, valued and supported. Good leaders do this in a way that prioritises time for people.

They are always open to alternatives We all see things from different perspectives. As a leader, it’s about teasing out those perspectives, seeing and sharing the bigger picture, looking into the future, and finding the balance between the decision made and the relationships. You don’t have to compromise values and principles, but you need to be flexible. 

They separate issues and people We need to be able to discuss and debate ideas. We don’t all need to see the world in the same way but, when we disagree, it doesn’t mean others are wrong. When there is a disagreement, reaffirm your shared values, commitments, and what you do agree on.

They want to leave things better for the next person Good leaders are always thinking about their time as being on a continuum. They want to do the best for students, staff, and parents during their time, but they also want to make sure things are well set up for the next person who steps into the role.

We need good leadership in all aspects of the school system – whether principals, staff, or union reps. Those who foster a culture of learning, working together to keep students at the centre of decisions, are the best kind of leaders.

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