Posted in NAPP2016, Professional learning, random ramblings

My thoughts on leadership

For the last year or so I have been trying to build a picture in my head of what leadership looks like for me. I’ve done some readings, listened to some amazing speakers, bounced ideas of amazing leaders and educators and watched some youtube clips and TED talks. They all were great, but still didn’t quite fit.

The idea of self was hard for me. All through out NAPP we have been asked ‘who are you, and what do you value?’. I kind of brushed over it with an awkward feeling – what exactly is my ‘moral purpose’? Who am I to ask/demand these things?

But part of my roll is around leading change. And I think I’ve finally got an idea of what I want my leadership to look like


Ko Rakaia te awa

My river is the Rakaia

My river is the Rakaia because my family has a crib at the south side of the river mouth. I grew up on holidays there, fishing for whitebait and salmon, swimming in some of the creeks, being terrified of the waves from the sea (the drop of along that stretch of coast is crazy) and hearing of stories of flood and destruction. It fills me with sadness that my son might not get to see pods of Hectors Dolphins skimming the waves after Kawhai like I did as a child. My Grandfather spent countless hours constructing flood protection along the banks to stop the Rakaia huts getting flooded. Every time I drive home from Dunedin to Christchurch, I cross over the bridge and look at the water – is it high or low? rough or like glass? Multiple braids, or a solid stream. I am linked to this river more than I realised as a young person – we moved house, I moved cities, but the crib has always stayed the same and the awe inspiring power of the water still fascinates me.

I want my leadership to look like the Rakaia river.

Multiple sources feed into the river, contributing diverse ideas. The river might separate out into individual streams, develop eddy’s (thanks again to Karen Hopai for this idea) that can either suck ideas under or propel ideas forwards. At times, the river is sluggish and slow, other times rapid and raging. The river comes together only once in the journey from the mountains, at the Gorge, before it all streams out again finding a unique path to the sea.

Care is needed to ensure the river does not become a flood or a tidal wave that people become afraid of and can also wash away a lot of good things that are happening. Or that people will put up barriers to protect what they deem as essential or what are genuinely to good to throw away. A lack of ideas and input would dry up the rivers flow. Taking to much from the river will also dry the rivers flow so we need to carefully nurture and respect each individual drop on water.

The water also shapes the landscape around it, carrying rocks and earth and nutrients, hosting multiple lives along the length. It provides enjoyment, sustenance and occasional danger along its banks. Occasionally new paths and streams are forged, either by a flood of water in a hurry, or water gently carving away at a bank, or water building up due to some obstacle. And it might so happen that that direction is not as fruitful as first thought, and the water needs to change course again, either in a flood or bit by bit.

But all of the water, no matter the path it takes, eventually reaches the ocean. The rivers goal is clear – doesn’t matter how you get there and what uncertain paths you take, the water gets to the ocean. Which is where another fabulous idea that I learned this year comes in (thanks to Judith Forbes for sharing this at the Dunedin NAPP day)


The challenge for me is to not be the ‘Tsunami’ and allow people to find their own path. Respect that people will take a different route and maybe a different speed. If I can encourage people to ‘long’ for a more meaningful education for our young people that empowers them to become better citizens of this world, it doesn’t matter if they take a slightly different path.

‘ I took the one less travelled by, and it has made all the difference’ (Frost). So long as the end goal is the same, it doesn’t matter what path you take.

Posted in NAPP2016, Professional learning, random ramblings

Reflections from NAPP PLG 2

Being very honest, I have not done nearly enough for NAPP since the Hui in the holidays. There have been so many other things to do (Oh my goodness ALL the things) that it just kept getting put into the next week pile. EVERY WEEK. When the PLG day rolled around, my first thought was ARGHHHHHH – I am already out 2 days that week. We have ERO the week after. I’m off to Wellington. And then sadly I am heading home for a funeral this week now too. Life just keeps getting bigger right now…

So despite all of the other things, it was really good to have the day set aside to focus on it, regroup and get re-energised. To have TIME to think about what I am doing, where I am trying to go and TIME to talk to other people about projects and ideas and ponderings. To have TIME to listen to others and their experiences, and TIME to learning new things.

The most valuable session (to my mind) was listening to a newish principal about their experience. I can’t share the full story, but there were certainly some challenges and it was a very warts and all story that was told. The points that stuck out for me where

  1. When you apply for a job, the BoT/School want you to
    1. have all of the strengths of the previous person
    2. none of their weaknesses
    3. Solve problems instantly….
    4. without creating new problems
    5. AND be great on stage at prize giving.

So just be yourself – no point in every trying to be what they want, cause then you need to be that person. Which is impossible when you are under constant pressures.

2. Every school is full of people, and people are messy. But they are your greatest asset. Treat them like you want to be treated and build relationships with them – this will make hard conversations easier.

3. If you want your school to be a safe place to make mistakes, model it. Make a mistake on purpose if you have to – and acknowledge, apologies, wear the egg and fix it

4. Look after yourself. NO-ONE else can do this.

They also shared an amazing quote which is mixing in with my nautical themed NAPP experience so far


Which is awesome. Don’t get bogged down in the small stuff, and don’t tell people what to do, let people find their way to change.

With all the challenges and down times, this person still thought that leading a school and a community was ‘magic’.

We also had a really good session on finance. I am mindblown about how much of this (what I consider CRAP) Principals have to deal with. Staffing, op budgets, donations, PTA, buildings, taxes, expensese…. it went on and on and on…..

What I took out of this (other than a confirmed belief I NEVER actually want to be a principal under the current model…..) is that there is not enough money EVER. So I do need to think more about the price of things compared to their value. What is value for money? What is value for students? teachers? The community?

Linked to this is that you can’t actually MAKE parents pay for anything. Eg workbooks – you can’t make students and parents pay. Because you could still teach using refill paper and a white board. You can’t make students bring a device, because you could do it with refill paper and a white board. This ‘default’ learning setting of bare bones needs to change. Bare bones should not be teacher delivery, student writing in silence. Student deserve better. But really, this is a whole other blog post…..

So it was a very worthwhile day away from school. And once I get back from the funeral, and once ERO is out of the way, and once I am back from Wellington next week (I am talking to TELA….) I must make time to go back and really invest in the readings and re connect with my coaching buddy. I need to get on and document my inquiry so I don’t get to the end of the year and find I haven’t got anywhere.

So another big thing I got out of this day is that there are sooooo many things. To hear, to read, to listen to, to watch, to discuss and to do. I often lament my students lack of prioritising. Perhaps because I am so woefully inept myself 🙂 I need to be more purposeful around my NAPP inquiry to ensure it remains meaningful, useful and FUN.