Photo by Ignacio Amenábar
Principalship is sometimes described as hard, complex, or challenging, which can all be true at times, but what if it wasn’t? What if it was easy?
And interestingly, ‘easy’ is very subjective.
I’m guessing we all have aspects of the job that we find easy, but that others may well find difficult. For example, the yearly prizegiving speech. You may love giving that annual inspirational address to a packed auditorium. You look forward to it and get a real buzz from the delivery – it’s easy. But just down the road, another principal lies awake worrying about it as the fateful day gets closer. If public speaking was the primary task of the first principal, their job would be easy. If it were the primary job of the second principal . . .
I know a school leader who is amazing at creating timetables. Give them the parameters and intended outcome, and in less than 5 minutes they’ll have a functional masterpiece nailed. Give me the same challenge and I’ll struggle for ages and have to write drafts, redrafts and probably more drafts before I get it right. If timetabling was a big part of this gifted individual’s daily work, they would be cruising.
If something has a degree of challenge, and you are good at it, it also usually becomes enjoyable, fun even. (Having fun while working could be close to the holy grail!)
. . .
So, one way to make the job easier is to spend as much time as possible doing the things that energise you, and the least amount of time doing the things that you find difficult or energy sapping. Some experts even call this ‘job design’ – where you deliberately craft your role in a way that maximises your strengths (and minimises the time you spend on things that drain you).
On the flip side, this strategy means change – someone else will be doing the things that you struggle with, or those things are deleted, or they are done differently. If you have a scheduling guru in your team, doesn’t it make sense for you to release them to sort that pesky learning support timetable? You could even teach their class while they do.
. . .
Before any of this can happen, some thinking will be required.
Which regular aspects of your role could be: done better by someone else, done differently by you, not done at all? And which would you like to do yourself, or do more of?
You need some time on your own personal ‘lillypad’, with a blank piece of paper in hand, to think about this. And folks, this needs to be done off-site.
I suggest you start with the negatives – the things you hate doing. Even giving yourself permission to consider what they are, will have them rushing out onto the paper. That’s because they are usually closely linked to an emotion or two.
Then make a second list – the things you enjoy doing. The parts of the job that energise you. I’m guessing pretty much all of us will have something about hanging out with the kids in this list, but after that it will diverge uniquely. (If you genuinely struggle to think of things here, that is a tangible sign that change is needed, things are not OK, and you may need to talk to someone you trust.)
Once the lists are started, it’s time to picture yourself doing less (of the difficult) and more (of the energising). It may sound ‘cheesy’ but literally visualising what your job could be like with a better balance of responsibilities helps make change.
“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” W. A. Ward
Picturing something is that vital first step in making an abstract idea real. There’s more to do after making that first leap, but without it, what you decide is ‘impossible’, stays that way.