Alright, this is September 2002 and I am starting teaching French at Cheam High School, Surrey, London, UK. I am green, eager and feel not ready, I come back home very late but I keep trying new things every day. Young, creative and overwhelmed. Sixteen years later, a few schools and job descriptions later, I was about to start a new school year with similar, mixed impressions. First year as High School Principal. Committed to make a difference and constantly wondering if I was ready. At least I have felt like this until now. Throughout the first couple of weeks, a big change has been happening thanks to the following:
Connecting with new teachers
While picking up new teachers at the airport, sharing a pizza dinner with them, chatting away and running a first interview with one of them, the first weeks have built up my confidence. It is fantastic to connect with new faculty and talk about their background, their hobbies and their families. Also, I feel privileged to be working with them: they are experienced, experts in their fields and many of them speak Spanish, which will help them tremendously.
Planning for the orientation sessions for new and returning faculty has been pumping me up. As I am trying the balance out the heavy content with nuts and bolts and protocol-based activities, I am putting myself in the shoes of the teacher I was yesterday and I am planning to share the essential. Of course, there is always quite a lot but I am planning my sessions in the way I was planning my lessons. Keeping a balance, making people move, having fun, reflecting and learning.
Communicating new things
Well, in fact, the best is not to share too many new things and hopefully they were discussed at the end of the previous year. Surprises can be overwhelming for teachers who are thinking of teaching their students. I remember Steve Druggan, one of my PTC course facilitators and Head of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, Philadelphia, who told us that during orientation there is always someone that comes and says: “I only need five minutes with your team”. His suggested response was: “no you don’t!”. So true and powerful. We know it so well. Teachers are eager to be in their rooms, get their first lessons organised and set everything up. But we all know that this balance is hard to find and I should get better with time. Also, I will be able review teacher’s feedback at the end of the orientation weeks to make some improvements for next year.
Setting the tone
At the end of last year, the idea of having some High School pillars that would drive the whole year slowly developed into those:
Be present Do your best Get involved
Those are linked to our school mission and will frame our High School experience. The main idea is that success at High School is not rocket science:
-students have to come to school and be mentally present in class.
-students must be committed to do their best, all the time.
-students have to find ways to get involved in the school community and other communities through service learning, arts, sports, student council etc.
Furthermore, when I was interviewed for the position, I organised my vision around my three C’s:
Care Connect Commit
As an educator those three C’s are crucial to me and not just an interview strategy. So, I am planning to link my three C’s to the High School Pillars and share those links to the High School faculty.
Finally, I am currently developing the High School goals that not only will be connected to the School Strategic Plan but also to the High School pillars and my three C’s. Those High School goals will be around:
Communication Instruction Collaboration
Back to reality
I feel fortunate to work with a fantastic High School Admin team and together we have been working on new students’ schedules, the High School calendar, our Week Without Wall coming up very soon, reorganising and renaming the new senior area, hiring a learning support assistant, and more. The one thing that is a great lesson to me is the following: before the summer, we had some small scheduling conflicts for some students. It is just amazing how we can solve those issues after the summer break. Looking at the scheduling board with a fresh mind and some solutions come straight at you.
Those are my thoughts for the beginning of the year. I know that for some of you, school has already started, for others it will start in a few weeks. Regardless, I wish everyone a great new school year-let’s dive in!
For what it’s worth…