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NESLI Leaders in Action: susan cameron

Susan Cameron is a senior education leader in regional New South Wales. Taking part in the Leading Teachers Colloquium has strengthened the teaching cohort at her school and led to improved teacher-student relationships.

First and foremost, I am a teacher. I have a passion for lifelong learning on a personal level, but also as an educator and role model for my students and colleagues. Professionally, I am the Director of Staff Development at Kinross Wolaroi School (KWS), which is located in Orange, New South Wales.

Previous tertiary study, leadership positions and classroom experience has taught me that leadership context matters. Because of this I was eager to embrace the opportunity to grow the skills of our staff through the NESLI Leading Teachers Colloquium.

All teachers are leaders in their classroom. At KWS, the additional areas of co-curricular and boarding contribute to the overall complexity and cultural aspects of leadership. Our staff must be well equipped with leadership styles and strategies that they can draw upon depending upon the context to support the mission of KWS now and into the future.

The Colloquium has provided a platform to strengthen the current leadership skills of staff and to provide a safe environment, allowing for leadership responsibility and accountability to be openly shared and discussed.

The program has resulted in enormous support amongst thirty staff members, including myself, who represent a cross-section of teachers at KWS. The group is of mixed gender and consists of Senior Management, Heads of Academic areas, Heads of Houses (associated with student wellbeing) and classroom teachers, with experience from both the Preparatory and Secondary schools.

Taking place in a social setting has allowed for the process of direction and influence to come from both internal (KWS staff) and external (NESLI) facilitators. Quality relationship building and ownership of the values of what it is to be a current or aspiring leader at KWS has been reinforced. Both the NESLI team and KWS staff have appreciated the inclusion of Senior Management in the course and have identified this structure as a significant contribution to the program’s success.

The Colloquium has very evidently improved teacher-student relationship building. Teachers completing the program have noted their enhanced toolkit of strategies and reflective pedagogical knowledge when working with students and parents.

Their confidence and ability to manage personality types, have the difficult conversations with both their peers and others stakeholders and seek feedback from their students has been enhanced and affirmed through completion of the program. Teacher–teacher relationships that work to continually strengthen the school’s vision and support the school’s cohesiveness have also grown.

The inclusion of a Senior Manager in each cohort has clearly emphasised the whole school support for the program and the concept of leaders learning together and from each other.  Conversations amongst the program participants often begin with ‘…’ or use acronyms or program specific language. Through the peer coaching aspect of the program it is very evident that a number of deep and lasting professional friendships have been formed and strengthened. In addition, staff now have a better understanding of the various challenges associated with different school leadership positions.

The Colloquium has allowed KWS the opportunity to meet the school’s collective ambition of providing an ‘…engaged and innovative learning community with a focus on developing individual and collective strengths’ (KWS Strategic Plan 2014-2018). With a focus on leadership that supports student learning, the course has fostered professional learning conversations and has provided a research-based leadership direction for the school community to embrace, nurture and develop. Our staff have welcomed the facilitators of the program as friends and mentors. The collegiality that exists within the school has been extended to the NESLI team.

The NESLI partnership with Monash University to convert the colloquium learning into credit points toward a Master of Leadership Degree and BOSTES accreditation is also greatly appreciated by staff undertaking the course.  It has provided a further pathway for learning and strategic economic directions for the school.

For me, I continue to support the staff and my belief in the importance of being a lifelong learner.

Susan Cameron is Director of Staff Development at Kinross Wolaroi School in Orange, New South Wales. Educators from the school completed the Leading Teachers Colloquium.

Kinross Wolaroi School staff in a meeting
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