South auckland pasifika principals pursue postgrad pdJune 2016
Rowandale School principal KARL VASAU was one of four principals in the Pacific Island Manurewa Principals (PIMP) group to pursue a postgrad professional development opportunity. He believes professional development is “critical” for principals.
Q: Education Review: What inspired you to seek professional development at the postgraduate level?
A: Karl Vasau: I belong to the Pacific Island Manurewa Principals group, and we work together collaboratively, sharing ideas and working together in our community. We’re all like-minded principals who come from very similar schools with a similar ICT infrastructure.
We saw The Mind Lab by Unitec’s Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice as an opportunity for us to grow our knowledge and understanding around the effective use of ICT, so that we could take more of a leadership role in our schools. Along with the three other principals in our PIMP group, I enrolled in the course in November 2015.
Q: What does the course entail?
A: In the first half of the course we have looked at a variety of different leadership theories and styles around how digital tools and collaborative learning can be used to raise achievement in the classroom. We’ve also looked at and researched the various opinions around 21st century learning and how educators can transform their practice.
The second half of the course is mainly online, with the occasional face-to-face workshop and focuses on research-informed practice, self-reflection and community engagement. This gives me the opportunity to apply my insights back into my school’s curriculum, whilst studying online alongside my fellow principals.
Q: What were your first impressions of the course?
A: I was quite anxious before I started the postgraduate course, but I knew that I had the support of my principals group which really helped.
Our group would always attend the sessions together and meet up beforehand to compare notes and collaborate on assignments. The support of our group, and the team at The Mind Lab really made our study that much more beneficial and enjoyable. It created an environment where you’re working with other teachers straight away. It was a very teacher-friendly course – it’s flexible around our work and can be adapted to our schools.
Q: Ultimately what do you hope to get out of the course? In what ways do you hope it will help you to be a better principal?
A: It is setting me up with the skills and knowledge to understand exactly how ICT can be used to support learning in my school, and is helping me to understand more about what it means to be innovative.
I’ve learnt that to be an innovative teacher, you don’t just do amazing things within the classroom but you step back and look at how the whole school can upskill in ICT from a leadership level.
Q: Is it a challenge to fit the study in around your work and other commitments?
A: As principals we’re pretty lucky in that we’re able to allocate time for our study. We have leadership teams within our schools that will cover us when we get together to do our assignments. We work long hours so it’s extremely valuable to have some time in our week dedicated to professional development.
There are so many expectations and requirements of teachers these days – children’s achievement is paramount.
If a teacher is considering further study it’s important they discuss the options with their principals. The school should understand they’re not only investing in the teacher’s development, but in development for the whole school.
In the past I’ve had teachers come to me and ask for time to do their assignment I’ve said yes, but I didn’t really know what I was saying yes to. Now that I know, if a teacher came to me I would make sure I provided extra assistance because of the flow-on benefit to our whole school.
Q: Do you think professional development is important for principals? Why?
A: Definitely. I think for us to stay ahead of the game, professional development is critical and as leaders we need to show our staff that we are willing to walk the talk.
Participating in this professional development is another way of showing our staff there’s a thing called ICT out there and if we’re willing to take a risk and learn, so should they.
Q: How does collaboration with other principals help you do your job better?
A: Being a principal can sometimes be a lonely job, and you need a good, close-knit support structure. My principals group helps me to seek collaboration and work together with other peers. We’re very like-minded and get on well, which is a bonus.
Q: What are some of the most challenging aspects of being a principal?
A: The most challenging aspect is the bread and butter of schools – raising student achievement and keeping up with all the national standards. We need to make sure that our curriculum reflects one that’s broad, focused and targeted to the needs of children. We need to keep staffing levels appropriate to the needs to the school, and hire teachers that reflect the community, the goals of the board and of parents.
Being a low decile school, we deal with the issues within our community, support our parents and ensure that kids come to school every day and are exposed to an amazing learning experience.
Q: And the most rewarding?
A: I really enjoy coming to work. Every day I wake up and know that I’m off to a workplace I enjoy. It’s a beautiful community – we have wonderful staff, a supportive board, awesome parents and children with so much potential.
Rowandale School is a family-like context, which is what I base my whole philosophy around. In order to be successful, educate kids and support families we need to be like a family. We need to treat every child like they’re our own.
Q: What advice would you give a first-time principal?
A: As a principal, you are never too good to do anything on your own. I’ve been a principal for 10 years and I still enjoy collaborating with others. I learn off other principals all the time – I steal ideas and pinch systems. Other people have so much more knowledge than you when it comes to different areas, so learn off them and let them help you.
If you’re a sponge, and you take support from others then make sure you’re reciprocal in sharing that with more principals and teachers. Remember that you need to share with others – when you share information it reinforces everything you’re doing.
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