4 October 2011 On board Flight QF150 heading for Sydney... time to reflect on the journey and look back to where it all began..
Midway through 2008 our principal asked me if I would consider the position of Acting Deputy Principal for 2009. After some consideration, discussion and reflection I accepted. Simultaneously Jan mentioned the value of further study for me… knowing that I loved College and loved learning. She suggested studying for my Masters of Educational Leadership, which I immediately rejected. She persisted and sent me the information pack and convinced me to enrol immediately and join the 2008 intake for a 3 year journey. For this Jan, I am eternally grateful.
On Monday the 5th of January I flew to Wellington for two week contact time with the 2008 cohort of 27 teachers from around New Zealand. The whole journey started in an amazing way when Kevin (who I went to school with) upgraded me to business class and I sat beside Wendy (who I played squash with in 1986). She took me directly to the CBD and so began a journey of learning, connecting, discovering, growing and above all fun.
My first paper was The Study of Organisations with Dr Michael Cash. Immediately I became aware of the value of learning and growing into my leadership role. I discovered the structural framework, the human resource framework, the political framework and the symbolic framework. My first major assignment was planning, implementing and evaluating a “Smartboard Showcase” run by the learners, for the extended school community to showcase the recent expenditure in IWBs throughout the school. This was an incredibly successful venture resulting in 85 percent of our families participating, unheard of in the past.
Paper Two was Authentic Leadership with Dr Dennis McLaughlin. This paper really lit my leadership learning fire. We were continually challenged to reflect on our strengths and weaknesses and develop strategies. We learnt about moving from self awareness to self mastery to interpersonal connection to authentic leadership. Dennis reignited my love of literature and so began the journey of reading for learning all over again. For this assignment I wrote to leadership essays around the idea of “Lead to Succeed” from the book of the same title by Chris Lewis. “Reflecting, learning from experience and seeking feedback are at the pinnacle of great leadership. To successfully lead others, one must first seek knowledge about oneself, with this knowledge being at the cornerstone of kaizen (‘continuous improvement’). (Lewis Pg 275)
Paper Three was Shared Leadership in Semester 2 of 2009. I was two days away from flying to Wellington when Mum suddenly became very ill. That was the beginning of a nine week time of touch and go, with 3 hospitalisations, blood transfusions, a stent and a long recovery. I did not make it to Wellington and completed the paper distance out of Brisbane with Dr Chris Branson. This was a very stressful time for me with daily visits to the hospital and caring for Mum. Despite the odds Mum made a full recovery and has been an incredible support throughout my study. I struggled with the concept of fully distance learning and found it a very lonely journey. I really missed my fellow students. I completed the paper with distinction and am very grateful for all the support I received. My assignments for this paper consisted of developing a shared culture of leadership at our school, followed by a reflection on my ability to lead with a stint as Acting Principal.
In January 2009 I returned to Wellington for the contact time for paper four and five. Paper four was our research project with Dr Michael Cash again. I focussed on using the online learning environment to enhance the home/school partnership in numeracy. This enquiry practicum was as challenging as it was rewarding. Seldom do we have the privilege of relaxed time to interview fellow staff members and students to really reflect on the value of our programmes. I found the ethics committee’s expectations very challenging but was delighted to complete such a wonderful learning journey. I presented the findings of my research at the Otago Numeracy Symposium and at the North Otago Principal’s conference.
Paper Five was Leading Educational Change with Dr Gayle Spry. This paper was the first rigid ‘academic’ pedantic paper. Our first assignment was “Why is educational change an issue in contemporary education?” Followed by a second assignment, what is a meaningful conceptualisation of leading educational change? And how should we go about leading educational change? Alongside this we had to develop a conceptual framework for our leadership. It will come as no surprise to those of you who know me well, that I chose a circus tent! I was delighted with this, but alas, my tutor was not so delighted at all. Me thinks she did not understand me...
In July of 2010 I returned to Wellington for Ethical Leadership with Dr John Kleinsman. This paper was challenging with in depth look at moral and ethical issues and dilemmas. For my assignment I chose to reflect on the learning needs of senior student s and families at our school. This is in response to the increasing popularity of exiting our school at year 6 to attend colleges when we offer full primary education right to year 8. I chose to use this assignment to work with our students and families to really delve into the ethical issues of leadership at St Mary’s. I chose the movie Nemo because of its universal appeal and its social-emotional-moral-ethical leadership examples. This was a wonderful learning journey but alas we continue to struggle to keep all of our Year 6 learners.
Paper 7 was in January 2011. I have now received a Study Scholarship thanks to TeachNZ and life is much more balanced. There is only so long you can teach fulltime, lead and study! This paper was Leadership Spirituality with Dr Denis McLaughlin. This was another awesome opportunity to learn and share and grow in the spiritual nature of our leadership. Paper 7 comes with some flexibility of assessment and I was extremely fortunate to be granted permission for a passion project. For this I looked at my place within 3 generations of females and leadership from the past and looking to the future. Furthermore I was granted choice of presentation method. The result was a movie reflecting on aspects of leadership throughout my Mum’s life, my life, and my daughter’s life. This was an absolute joy to create, and receive feedback on. I now have a treasure, an absolute Taonga, a rare and precious gem to view and share. Thank you Denis for that privilege.
The final paper in my Master’s journey was Developing Inspired Leadership. This paper was one of the many highlights on my journey. I t was a synthesis of all the papers to date with a view to firmly establishing and living our unique leadership role. My assignment for this was He Korowai Rangitiratanga –
The Cloak of Leadership! I found this paper the most challenging of all to really define my leadership stance. I struggled to limit my concepts but eventually developed a cloak of leadership that I am proud to live daily.
What a journey. I feel very privileged to have not only embarked upon, but indeed thrived upon the experiences, the learning, the connections, the reflection, the self discovery…
As I sit on the plane today I am aware of how extremely fortunate I am. I have so many people to thank for this incredible opportunity. First and foremost, to my wonderful family who have stood by me through thick and thin, essay deadlines, assignment despair and sooo much time away from home. I was away from home for my son’s birthday in 2009 which was probably harder on me than on him. Thank you, thank you wonderful family. I am so lucky to have Grant here beside me on the way to my graduation and I know that my children and Mum are with me in spirit.
I have to thank Jan for challenging, inspiring and believing in me. To my fellow staff members, thank you for your care, support and encouragement. To all the learners in my classes over the past 3 years, thank you for the challenge, the interaction and the fun.
To all my fellow students, thanks for the collaboration, the friendship, the conversations, the laughter and all of the precious Wellington memories.
To all my fellow educators, especially those in my Twitter PLN, thanks a million.
This year of study leave saw me develop the concept of a Twitter Tour. This has really seen me living the dream. I have travelled from Paihia in the North to Bluff in the South and made numerous stops along the way. I have loved every minute of the journey, meeting face e-to-face, travelling with facilitators, school visits, fun and laughter in classrooms, conferences, geocaching, tweet-meets, educamps, 4square, but above all, meeting new fabulous friends all around New Zealand. I always say, ‘the world is full of friends I am waiting to meet!’ Well, I have met a lot of you this year and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity. I really am living the dream.
I know that I will find the return to the routine of the classroom incredibly challenging after a year in a bubble. I am so excited about my learning, my passion for education, my enthusiasm for new and innovative opportunities, my collaborative classroom opportunities and my learning space visions. I am exuberant about the beginning of 2012 and also incredibly nervous that I will stumble and fall. I know that I will need each and every one of you to support me and guide me and encourage me to ‘get back up’! After a year ‘on the road’, I really will be challenged to keep my feet on the ground…
What a journey! Roll on GRADUATION!