Home' Independence : Independence Vol 32 No 2 Oct 2007 Contents Independence Volume 32 No. 2 45
Tim Waley, Principal,
Fahan School, Hobart,
I love being with the students in the class-
room. I love the friendly, collegial kind of
relationship one can have with the older
students and the give-and-take teasing one
is able to have with those who are younger.
Quite frankly, these are times of blessed re-
lief from the many other dealings we need
to undertake as principal. Strangely, I ac-
tually trained to be a teacher! Alas, ambi-
tion has meant that the amount of time I
now have to pursue this ‘quality time’ is so
significantly reduced and infrequent it al-
most doesn’t register.
I also have responsibility for a small K-12
school. One thing I have always held to and
will not do is make a commitment and then
not be able to maintain it. It would not
be fair to the students or to the staff who
would have to cover for me when I let them
down. As it stands, I am either not organi-
sed enough or not efficient enough with my
time management or a combination of
these and other failings to make the com-
How then to stay practicably in touch with
classroom practice, understanding the chal-
lenges for teachers in their everyday work,
appreciating the hurdles involved in cur-
riculum innovation and assessment at
I jump at opportunities to do ‘supervisions’
or to fill in for short periods when a staff
member is away on leave. This happens
irregularly, but frequently enough to stay
in touch with the students if not with those
As a leader, the cultivation of empathetic,
informed and regular dialogue with my
colleagues is for me a key essential. While
I may not be able to commit to regular
classroom practice I am able, almost daily,
to engage in what is hopefully meaningful
discussion on many of these and other mat-
ters with staff. I think they know I care, I
think they know they can chat with me or
other colleagues about the issues that mat-
ter to them or are of concern in the class-
Our smallness also allows us to celebrate
the successes of strategies that have worked
really well with each other as they occur,
not just at staff meetings. A small school
allows us these sorts of interactions, I sus-
pect more frequently than may be the case
in places that are larger.
Regular meetings of those we at Fahan call
curriculum coordinators keep me in touch
with the nuts and bolts of the classroom
experiences. Having a highly dedicated and
efficient deputy who also looks after mat-
ters of curriculum and timetabling and
with whom I meet daily (often numerous
times) keeps me very much informed.
It is not a perfect model, but I am really
lucky to have a great staff whose profes-
sionalism and willingness to apply best
practice in teaching and share it keeps me
pretty well up to speed.
Of course we will always know when
things are becoming a little scratchy, won’t
we? Why is it that so many people who
are not trained in teaching are so knowled-
geable about areas such as curriculum and
pedagogy or, for that matter, teaching gen-
erally? Then again, without our parents,
where would we be? Come to think of it,
the phone hasn’t rung for a few days now.
All must be well.
• ‘Coffee with the Captains’, when the
deputy principal and I take the captains
and vice-captains of both the day and
boarding schools to a local café after
school to chat and plan together.
• Cruising around the school whenever I
have the chance, dropping in to class-
rooms and chatting with students about
what they are learning. Teachers enjoy
and encourage these visits.
• Calling in to Integrated Learning classes,
pulling up a chair and working with
groups of students as part of the tea-
ching team, or else being ‘guest speaker’
when invited by a team.
Keeping tabs on what’s happening in the
classroom is helped by some of the above
strategies, but there are others as well,
• Teacher presentations at teaching staff
• Informal chats in faculty areas.
• Professional development days.
• Attending heads of department
• Regular meetings with my colleagues
on the leadership team who work
closely with teachers and students.
What also helps a great deal has been
the gradual change in our school in
understanding that teaching is a ‘public’
activity, not a private activity which takes
place behind closed doors. We are all
involved and all accountable.
As a leader, the
and regular dialogue
with my colleagues is
for me a key essential.
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