Saturday, December 5, 2009

Digging Deep, Holding On and Pushing Forward

The 2009 school year is drawing to a close - and I say that with both a heavy heart and a huge sigh of relief. There is still so much to do before I can walk away satisfied that the job is done and yet each day I have found it increasingly hard to dig deep and find the focus, drive and energy needed to keep it up.

2009 has been a year of change and growth - both personally and professionally. The major catalyst for this has been taking on my first official leadership role as Head of Department for years 10-12 English, Humanities (Ancient History, Modern History, Geography, Economics) and LOTE (Japanese) programs. And what a ride that has turned out to be - with the expected (and unexpected) highs and lows, challenges and successes. I have to admit I've considered throwing in the towel a number of times, I've cried (behind closed doors), I've ranted and I've celebrated. More than anything though, I've grown - as a leader, as a teacher and as a person.

I have grown by...

Taking myself seriously.
I have never been comfortable being an official leader, I've always been a leader "behind the scenes", maybe it was a fear of being the target if things went wrong, or being considered "uppity", I'm not sure. It took me a good six months to start to really settle into my role, probably a little longer. I spent a lot of time second guessing myself, hesitating, looking to others. Eventually that lead to the inevitable confrontation with reality and through the mess I realised I had a choice, either step up and step down. I chose to step up and haven't looked back. I've slowly gained confidence and have started standing up for myself and my beliefs.

Trusting myself.
As the youngest member of the department I'll admit I've had moments when I didn't trust in what I was trying to bring to reality and I let others highjack my vision. I worried so much over the novels I'd selected for our literature studies I honestly lost sleep. I still worry too much, I still spend far too much of my time waiting for the reprimand over the smallest decisions. However, I'm learning to trust myself and my decisions.

Widening my world view.
I have been a Drama teacher,a junior Studies of Society and Environment teacher, a Modern History teacher, a junior English teacher and an English Communication teacher (at one deeply low point in my career I was even a year 8 German teacher despite never having spoken German). But I have never been a Geography teacher or a Vocational Education and Training teacher, I have never been the one getting grilled over the feedback from external reviews on our performance, I've never been comfortable analysing data, drawing conclusions and developing strategic responses. This year I've been all of these things and more. I've learnt to make decisions and stand by them, I've had to have hard conversations (and deal with the fall out) and I've started to see things from a different perspective - I talk now in terms of syllabus documents, strategic targets and goals, measurable outcomes.

There will always be resisters.
I am fairly certain that in the past I've been guilty of being a teacher "in the trenches" openly resisting the direction of my leaders, openly defying change. Trust me, I've learned this year that that looks and feels very different from the other side of the fence. At first I was frustrated and upset by it, but I'm not anymore. I've learnt to play a juggling game of applying pressure, forging ahead and backing off as necessary. Over the year we've made some pretty huge steps forward within the department, teaching teams and across the campus this way and I'm proud of that.

Despite the rollercoaster I've been on this year as I come to terms with my new(ish) role I just hit "submit" to submit my application to continue in the role for another 12 months. Maybe I'm crazy, but I think it's more to do with the fact that I want to continue to push forward. We've had some big successes this year and they're providing an exciting platform from which to launch our programs for 2010.

Our successes have included...

Increased collaboration.
English, out of all the subjects I work with, is notorious for being a very "traditional" subject in its teaching and learning approach. At the start of the year the teachers were very happy to each work in their isolated classrooms, going about their own thing. Our planning meetings buzz a little differently now - there's a growing recognition of the power of drawing on each of our individual strengths and specialities and a commitment to instigate a number of programs which will see the walls open far more often.

Digital Pedagogy for all.
Despite my first meeting of the year included a comment about how ridiculous working with wikis and blogs in English was and an open resentment to the inclusion of digital assessment tasks, that's mostly died down now. Even the most avid resister at the beginning of 2009 is increasingly accepting and open to learning new tools and supportive of digital activities in our classrooms.

It's an exciting place to be in, 2010 is promising to be an exciting year as a teacher and as a leader. I just need to dig deep and hold on for five more work days...

1 comment:

Shane Roberts said...

Nic, isn't this ride of middle management unpredictable, exciting, stressful, life changing and challenging. But think of the much wider impact you have on learners and learning now that you are in this position.

Well done on a good year. Enjoy the break.