Ask any teacher in a school they love, in a role they relish about where they see themselves in five or so years time and they will often tell you that they see themselves exactly where they are. Who could blame them? After all, knowing that your students enjoy learning and willingly come to class, complete their work and achieve solid results is the gratification teachers generally enjoy and often come to take for granted. Ask a middle manager in the same school, the same question and chances are they will also envisage that they will remain at the school, for in addition to the great students, they have generally worked hard to establish a cohesive, collaborative and efficient department.
There are very few heads of department who willingly decide to leave their role and take on a role in a school that poses new challenges and different needs. Those who do, often seek out a similar or better performing schools, hoping to carve a niche for themselves. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but it’s a rarity that someone will find fulfilment by leaving a high performing school to a school that holds great promise and potential, but is working hard on school improvement and changing the culture and expectation of students and their colleagues. In short, the idea of leaving a place that works like clockwork, to a place where you can draw on your philosophy of education to implement new and exciting ways of teaching and learning does not hold great appeal for the majority of educators in middle management. This is largely because it takes so much time and energy and because results are so public. The intense pressure is felt by subject coordinators, particularly English Coordinators because their results are public. The number of Band 6’s attained in English are published each year in the paper. The NAPLAN literacy results are often the domain of the English department and of course we know these results form a big part of the MySchools Website, which we also know, a lot of potential parents check out, well before they come to an Open Day or set foot in the school. The role of English Coordinator (and the same can be said for the Maths Coordinator) is so much more public.
The reason that I have outlined some of the challenges of the English Coordinator is to highlight something fantastic that one of my closest friends and mentors has decided to do. Early on when I started out as an English Coordinator, this woman was the first person at a Network Meeting for English Coordinators at our region, to introduce herself to me and immediately offer me her number and any assistance I may require. I remember feeling at ease after meeting her and at the same time, thinking I don’t even know what I don’t know, so what will I possibly ring and ask her! It didn’t take long to establish a great working relationship and friendship with her. We worked collaboratively, writing HSC programs and sharing them between our two schools. I learnt so much through her actions and her words. She treated everyone with dignity. She was so creative and dynamic, I remember thinking how much I wanted to be like that for my staff and I was so proud that I found my way and was able to be the creative, energetic leader of my department.
Today I have found out that this wonderful, creative, energetic and inspiring educational leader has decided to take on another role at another school. She is heading off to be English Coordinator at an all boys’ school, a school that has seen enormous changes in leadership over the past couple of years. It is a school that desperately needed change and is now well and truly on the way to achieving great things for their students. When I spoke to my friend, I initially thought she was going to tell me that she was going to be Head of Curriculum or Assistant Principal at another school (because I always imagined that would be her career path) but she told me that she was going to be English Coordinator at a school that was going through a lot of change. She spoke positively about the challenges she will face and the ideas she had for meeting the needs of her staff and students. The energy, enthusiasm and creativity she has is balanced by her keen intellect and common sense approach. I thought long and hard last night about how lucky her new staff will be to have her as a leader. When I think of her unwavering support, encouragement and generosity, I am confounded by how much energy she has for her work, but also her family. She has shown me that it is possible to balance your passion for work and your passion for your family. She has shown me that it augurs well to be generous and share your resources and ideas, because it serves to improve teaching practice and ultimately student outcomes (I think Hattie did some research that also showed effective teaching practice has a huge impact on student performance). She has shown me that the depths of a teacher’s heart run deep. To want to step into the same role in a different school, with all the expectations and anticipation for success must be both thrilling and a touch overwhelming. If anyone can find the best in her colleagues and her students it is Mosh Mavrakis. Mosh is a great mentor because she is someone who has seized the opportunity to transform the learning of students and staff in need. Reminded me of dear Robin Williams’ role as Mr John Keating when he says to his boys ‘Carpe. Carpe. Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” No doubt your mantra to inspire your boys in 2015. All the best dear friend in your new venture in 2015. I cannot think of anyone else who could take on such a challenge with the love, passion and dedication that you have for teaching and learning. You are a human dynamite and your colleagues and students will know that soon enough! I can imagine that as the news filters through your school, there will be a real sense of sadness and loss, because you have done outstanding things at your current school. You’ve etched a path for success that has been well trodden. I wish you every success.
Thank you for being the mentor I needed in 2008 as a new coordinator and again in 2014 as a new mother. You’ve inspired me in so many ways and I know for a fact you’ve inspired many a Coordinator in the Inner West Region. I look forward to hearing about your experiences in 2015. Enjoy the last few weeks of term, allowing your colleagues and students to farewell you and thank you for all that you have done.