Leadership – what’s it all about?

Leadership has been an area of interest for me for a long time and I’ve been looking back at some of the experiences that influenced my own ideas of leadership when I was young. Some time ago I wrote an account of my experience as a student teacher which I have revisited and summarised below.

On my first visit to a school as a student teacher in 1962, the school principal gathered the new student teachers together for a chat and stressed the importance of personal awareness, using Plato’s words, ‘Know thyself’. He suggested that we should carry this idea with us in our work throughout our lives. This advice stayed with me and I often shared that piece of wisdom in later years. This Principal was a great leader. He visited the classrooms and talked to me about what was happening and showed me what was important. He was an excellent role model, teacher and leader and I learned a lot.

Class teachers in schools when I was starting out as a teacher were also supportive. They guided me with good program planning, modelled good teaching practice and introduced me to a variety of student-centred approaches that emphasised involvement and participation of children in their learning. At first, I found it difficult to stand in front of a class and I had no idea of what I was doing, but there was lots of support, advice and encouragement that eventually helped me to teach effectively.

The teachers had high expectations and their good mentoring and training set the tone for what I might expect from myself as a teacher and leader in the latter part of my teaching career. As a 17 year old I learned, from these mentors, the value and importance of principals and teachers sharing their skills and experience with student teachers and I practised that in later years.

I often think about the many leaders who guided me patiently through this training period and I’m grateful for their input. My love of learning, teaching and leadership started in my early days as a student teacher and has remained with me.

Are you a leader? Were there any special mentors in your life?