There are 2 kinds of teachers. You have the teacher who know the best place for them to make the difference is in the classroom. And then there are those teachers who have their sights set on being in management, whether it be as a team leader, assistant principal, curriculum leader, deputy principal or principal, because it is in those positions where they feel they can make the most difference. For me I never aspired to be in management for many reasons. Back when I first started I didn’t have much confidence, I found it easier to interact with children than adults, I was really shy, I dreaded confrontation and I loved working in the classroom. I was the type of kids who in school would sit quietly and not ask questions, so there was no way I saw myself ever been in a leadership role and I was more than happy with that. Throughout my teaching career I have worked in 3 schools and did about 6 months of relieving. In each of the 3 schools I was pushed out of my comfort zone and ended up in a management position even though I never applied for any of them.
My first teaching position was about a 50 minute drive out of Gisborne. It was a little 3 teacher country school and it was the best place for me to start my teaching career. I had the freedom to try new things and was given the room to learn to be a teacher. It also had a fantastic community, the school was the heart of the community so they were always very supportive. They would always been fundraising to get new computers. My first leadership opportunity came after my second year of teaching. The principal had another job offer at a bigger school and they needed a principal. Because of the time frame, they weren’t able to find a principal in time so they asked if I would be Acting Principal for one term (10 weeks) while they advertised and appointed a new principal. Of course I was scared and took a lot of convincing. I was only 24 years old and had just become a registered teacher but I wanted to help out so I agreed, thinking it would only be for one term. Well one term turned into a whole year. To be honest the school pretty much ran itself. The previous principal had such good systems and policies in place so in that year there were no big dramas, the school just ticked along. I did have to attend The First-Time Principal’s conferences which intimated the hell out of me. There were hundreds of first-time principal’s that were from all over New Zealand. I was the youngest acting principal ever. The first conference was for 3 days up in Auckland. I just remember attending the lectures and spending the rest of the time in my hotel room by myself wondering what I had got myself in to!
My second full time teaching position was at an amazing school. The principal was a fantastic boss and the staff were a hard working and supportive team. I think it was about after 6 months they needed a Syndicate leader and the principal asked if I would do it. If you know this principal you know that you can’t say no to him, he makes it impossible (in a good way!). So I did the job and was lucky to have a brilliant team. Then I got pregnant and went on maternity leave. I ended up being at that school 4 years and in that time I learnt so much, and truly felt like I was part of a family. The principal at the school expected the best from his staff so the kids got the best, dedicated teachers. For family reasons after 4 years I had to go and telling my boss was the hardest part because I didn’t want to let him down but as I say I had to go for family reasons.
In my third full time job which is where I still currently am I was there for a year and then I was asked again if I could lead a team. Again this was only meant to be a temporary position but 3 years later and I’m still in a team leader position with other leadership/ management positions which means I no longer am in the classroom teaching. Again I have been incredibly lucky because again my boss is a truly remarkable woman. There is nothing she doesn’t know about anything and she makes running a school of 700 students look easy and all in killer high heels!
In each of these leadership roles I have been nervous, scared, anxious, you name it, but despite all the self doubt I took the opportunity because I wanted to help my bosses out. Also, I guess I took them all on because I thought they were all going to be temporary! Now I can’t thank each of my bosses enough for believing in me and giving me the leadership opportunities. I have learnt so much about education but I have also learnt so much about myself. Yes I am still the quiet one but I will talk and voice my opinions if I need to, I also stand up for myself and I now can stand up and speak in front of a 1,000 people and run meetings on a daily basis with numerous people. If I didn’t go out of my comfort zone all those years ago I wouldn’t be the person I am today, so I’m grateful that I took the leap.
Just yesterday again i was forced to go out of my comfort zone. But this time it was really out of my comfort zone because it had nothing to do with education, it had to do with business and Fashion Decider. I prepared as much as I could for the conference call and the night before I didn’t sleep. I really was unbelievable nervous about the call because I felt out of my depth and it was the unknown. Because this was the unknown for me I sought help and the conference call went really well. If I let my fear of the unknown win I would have never gone on that conference call which I’m hopeful will lead to some big things for Fashion Decider.
I guess my advice, if you are given an opportunity even if it scares you, take it. You don’t know where it will lead you and even if it doesn’t work out you will learn from it!