Every summer, I outline ten aims for the upcoming academic year but, to be honest, I considered skipping this year. With my new leadership role in a brand new school in a new city, there will be countless challenges and lessons to learn! In many cases, I don’t even know what I don’t know! Identifying just ten targets is a drop in the ocean!
Having said that, the reflective process is always valuable and blog posts like these keep me accountable. Keep that in mind as I outline just a few that spring to mind right now.
Relationships, relationships, relationships
I realise it’s not written like a target, certainly not a SMART one, but I’m reminded of the ‘Three Rs’ of education: relationships, relationships, relationships. My success in the new school will hinge entirely on my ability to establish and build relationships with all stakeholders. This will be an ongoing, highly intentional goal that I’ll work on daily through my actions and interactions. This includes carefully navigating conflicts and difficult conversations.
Establish a positive school culture
In addition to relationships (and largely as a result of relationships), it’s vital that we establish a positive school culture. As a member of the founding senior leadership team, I will play a key role in this. We have to get this right, otherwise we’ll need to fix a negative culture later (which is much harder). It’s actually one reason that I was attracted to the role. I think it’s an exciting opportunity to start something special from scratch – with a relatively small team and based on shared beliefs and values. Then we can nurture that culture as the school grows.
Learn students’ names
As mentioned, my goal is to build relationships with all stakeholders. This includes students and it starts by learning their names. We expect VPA to grow rapidly over the next few years, but it’s starting relatively small with fewer than 200 students. Learning all of those names will be challenging but not impossible. I can’t explain it but names are just powerful. There’s an enormous difference between “Good morning!” and “Good morning, Adam!”. At VPA, our work will be deeply personal and caring.
Immerse myself in Chinese culture
As an expat, living and working in Shenzhen will be more challenging than it was in Hong Kong, which is a very international city and relatively comfortable for foreigners. But with this discomfort comes an opportunity to immerse myself in the rich Chinese culture that I’ve come to appreciate so much. A big part of this is language. After eight years in Hong Kong, my ability to speak Cantonese is pretty much the same as the day I arrived. I’m not proud of that. It’s a mistake that I won’t make again. I’ve been having Mandarin classes for the last few months and I’ve paid in advance for many more. I’m determined to maintain the effort and get better.
Maintain balance and wellbeing
In recent months, I’ve been really successful in this area. I’m exercising more, eating healthier, sleeping better and my overall wellbeing has vastly improved. I also lost a lot of weight and feel like a million dollars! I owe this to Charlie Burley at the Teachers’ Team – definitely connect with him if you need help in these areas! Anyway, if I’m not careful, the stresses of a new job could send me back in the wrong direction. I will remain highly intentional about my balance and wellbeing, and build on the successes so far.
Connect with Shenzhen teachers
In Hong Kong, I was part of a network of inspiring, supportive teachers from around the city. These connections were invaluable to me and we’d meet regularly for social and professional events. My goal is to actively reach out to teachers in the area, starting with the people who I already know from Twitter, to start growing this new network.
Familiarise myself with new technology platforms
Over the years, I’ve developed expertise in educational technology and I’m certified in association with many different technology platforms. However, China will make me feel like a novice again for two reasons. Firstly, some of those platforms are not used in China (such as Google Workspace apps). I’ll need to become very familiar with Microsoft very quickly! Secondly, some of the platforms that are widely used in China are not commonly used elsewhere, such as WeChat. I just hope that my technology skills are transferable to new platforms and that I’ll quickly adapt!
Be a student of leadership
A popular quote that floats around social media states “the fact that you worry about being a good teacher means you already are one.” I think the same applies to leadership. Like teaching, leadership is hard and complex. Excellence is a moving target. I don’t believe that we can ever master leadership. In fact, I fully expect to fail multiple times throughout the year, but these missteps are all part of the journey. My goal is to soak up as much leadership wisdom as I can through reading, coaching, connecting, etc. and apply it to my practice. Perfection isn’t the goal here, but I can be better and better.
Promote STEAM education schoolwide
One of my biggest passions in education is STEAM, and I’m excited to implement and promote it schoolwide from a senior leadership position. I will enjoy working closely with our STEAM teacher, Amy, to develop VPA into a leading school in this space. Innovation is a priority for us and a moving target, and STEAM plays an important role in that. I’m excited to work in a school that values it so highly.
Maintain my blogging habit
As I mentioned already, writing blog posts has always been a reflective output for me and a valuable way for me to express my ideas, thoughts and reflections. As a busy administrator, I will need to remove some things from my plate to make room for new responsibilities, but blogging will not be one of them. I want to maintain the habit that has benefited me so much over the years, without putting too much pressure on myself.
Please drop a comment below if you have any advice or suggestions regarding any of the above. I look forward to my new chapter and sharing blog posts along the way. Stay tuned!