Reflections from Kelly Bicknell, Principal of Galatea School
Introduction from Danny Nicholls, Leadership Advisor to beginning principals in Bay of Plenty/Waiariki
I’m delighted to introduce this blog post by Kelly Bicknell, Principal of Galatea School in the Bay of Plenty. I‘ve been working with Kelly since her appointment to the role in Term Two 2017. We have worked collaboratively on developing her leadership practices since then, being guided by ERO’s Leadership Indicators and examples of good practice. Our meetings together are a mixture of “what’s on top” discussions of leadership issues, reflective thinking and review, and strategic planning. Using Open to Learning practices has meant we have quickly developed a respectful and productive working relationship. As well as my site visits twice per term we communicate via email/ skype or phone as needed, and Kelly also has the extended support of a tailored principal mentor, and regional workshops once per term with other beginning principals.
It’s been a privilege to work with Kelly and to support her journey as a school leader.
From Kelly Bicknell, Principal of Galatea School
The road to becoming a principal for me was a short one! I’m a great believer in grasping opportunities when they present themselves and this is exactly what I did. After graduating from Massey University, I taught for five years in the Bay of Plenty and Wairarapa. The next eight years were devoted to growing and nurturing a family. A fulltime permanent teaching position presented itself at our local school – Galatea School. We had been living in Galatea for four years on our family dairy farm. Teaching positions didn’t come available very often at this wonderful school so although it was one year earlier than I had wanted, I went for it and never looked back. One year later, the Assistant Principal position became available. Once again, I took the opportunity. Just as I was settling down into my new management role, I was required to step into the Acting Principal role as our previous principal had won a position which required a quick start. I realised very quickly what a privileged position being a principal was. I had passion, I enjoyed bringing out the best in others and I had new ideas for Galatea School. By term two, just a term on from being made Assistant Principal, I was walking into my very own Principal’s office at Galatea School.
There are many rewarding aspects to this job and it is these rewards that I keep close to my heart. I love making a positive difference to our students and our community. I have enjoyed listening to the encouraging feedback from the wider community. They have been very complimentary about how the school looks and feels. I can also see that my staff are also striving to make positive differences based on our direction and this is evident in their classrooms, programmes and planning. I am proud when a programme I initiated flourishes and evolves into a significant component of the way we do things at our school. I also appreciate how being a principal allows me to work alongside great people and agencies. In my short tenure, I have already formed great relationships with people at NZSTA, the Ministry of Education, accountants, our Board of Trustees, mentors, advisors, Sport Bay of Plenty, RTLBs, local iwi and the list continues. I hope these people know what a fantastic resource they are and their immense value. I learn a lot every day from these people. As a teacher, it was always my aim to have a positive impact on the students in my class. As a principal, I now have the opportunity to have a positive impact on the entire school and ensure that all our students are having the best education possible.
Every day and every task within this role provides challenges. In many instances, I need to teach myself everything the first time round. As a result, I am constantly using the Ministry of Education, Danny (my advisor), my mentor, Novopay and other agencies as sources of valuable information. Common sense, passion and logic only gets you so far! Obviously my quicker than usual progression into this role has meant that I wasn’t able to observe the practices of other principals. Additionally, having only 98 children at my school also means that it is often ‘Me, Myself and I’ when it comes to the delegation of key responsibilities.
I am blown away by the level of support available to beginning principals. You never need to feel alone in this journey. I look forward to our Regional Hui each term in Rotorua. Danny and his team from Evaluation Associates carefully select a range of engaging and relevant speakers. I always leave feeling full – not just from the yummy lunch, but also from the knowledge bestowed upon us! Another highlight of the day is getting the opportunity to network with a wide range of beginning principals. Just the other week, I received an excellent recommendation for an appraiser from a colleague.
As part of the Beginning Principals’ Programme, I was able to select a mentor. For me this was easy, choose someone who you know is excellent at their job and inspires you to be the same. Although these types of experienced principals are always the busiest of people, I was lucky that Jill Weldon from Te Puke Intermediate accepted this role. She is always just an email away when I have those ‘quick questions’. And I am looking forward to the National Hui later this year in Auckland. Three days of learning the craft further!
I often get asked by members in the community, friends and family if I enjoy my job. Absolutely I do. I wouldn’t change a thing! Being a principal and leader of a school is an absolute privilege. While it’s important to value the past and people that have been before you, it is definitely rewarding to achieve new goals and wonderful things at your school. If you feel that you have skills, knowledge and the passion to create brilliance, go for it! Like any job, there are challenging days. On these days, reflect on the positive and great things taking place because of your leadership.