The Not-So-Secret Diary of a Principal
Teresa, Principal of a primary school in Cork and more recently during lockdown- a “highlighter” reader. She loves working as a principal and has a fantastic team of colleagues that create a warm and safe environment for students to flourish. Teresa shares her experiences with other teachers through her popular social media profile “Journey of a Primary Principal”.
My alarm goes off…
And I usually get straight up without pressing snooze.
The morning is my favourite time of the day! Sometimes I get a quick workout in or a bit of yoga and I try to walk to school, it gives me a chance to listen to a podcast or clear my head, and it helps towards my step count too! I always eat breakfast in school with some of the staff, I love this time as we have a chat and catch up before the madness of the day.
We start early – our gates open at 8.10 and I stand at the gate to greet the children, rain or shine. It’s my very favourite time of the day!
I am responsible for…
An awful lot!
Even though I have a great team of staff around me who all work so hard to bring our vision of an inclusive, progressive school to life, at the end of the day, the buck stops at my door.
Luckily, I have a hugely supportive Board of Management and patron body (Cork ETB) so there is always back up if I need it.
I think that the most important people in your school are the staff, and if they feel happy and supported, they provide the perfect environment for children to flourish.
I don’t know if anyone has ever successfully drawn up an accurate job description for a principal, but it is anything but dull!
My typical day…
Varies from day to day. Some days, I am stuck in the office for hours on end, having meetings or working on paperwork. Other days, I get to visit lots of classrooms, teach at stations or do assemblies. As an admin principal, it can be a challenge to remain connected to teaching and learning, so I try to get as involved as I can. My success rate varies greatly!
The best part of my job…
Is seeing our teachers take the vision and translate it into warm, caring, vibrant classrooms full of active learning and innovative practice. As a result, our children are so happy and engaged and visiting classes is one of my favourite things to do.
As a developing school, I have seen the school grow from just 3 children to 320 in only 5 years. Despite all of the bumps and learning curves along the way, it has been hugely satisfying to be part of such a unique experience.
The most challenging part of my job is…
Fighting for everything- from SEN teaching hours to SNA allocations, it feels like half of our year is taken up with appeals, reviews and form filling. Some days are really tough, dealing with child protection issues or critical incidents. I don’t feel the need to pretend to the staff that everything is always easy- they know that I have good days and bad days, and this vulnerability is an important part of our relationship. I do not have all of the answers, but I will try very hard to find them.
I think that principals have so many challenges, but we are fortunate to be surrounded by so much joy. Having the option of popping in to a Junior infant class after a difficult meeting is just fantastic-they remind us of why we went into this job in the first place.
I am inspired by…
The staff in our school who work so hard to ensure that our children are receiving the very best education, and instil such a sense of respect and caring in their classrooms. The appetite for improvement is palpable, and it makes our school a very special place.
I am also inspired by leaders who value empathy, emotional intelligence and kindness.
I am new to the teacher instagram community but there are some pages there that really are effective in getting us to think more deeply about our practice, and to keep trying to improve. The most important message is that while perfect displays and amazing resources play their part, at the end of the day, the most important thing is a kind and caring teacher who sees each child as an individual, and is driven to help them to reach their potential.
I try to do a bit of ‘highlighter’ reading (another new lockdown habit), go for walks with my family and dogs, and just chill. I do find it hard to sit down and just relax, but I am getting better at it.
The motto I live by…
I have two mottos that I try to live by is “Control the controllables”. We cannot control everything in our lives but we can control our reactions to what life throws at us. Worrying about things that we can’t control is a waste of time and energy.
The other motto that I really love is ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’. It is hard not to compare ourselves to others, but it is vital to always be aware of how comparisons can affect our wellbeing.
A huge thank you to Teresa for sharing her not-so-secret diary – we don’t often get principals sharing and we love it when we do!
We love the sound of Teresa’s school – sounds like a lovely place to work.
Would you like to share your diary or like to suggest a teacher, principal or education professional whose diary you would like to read?!
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate yourself or someone else – ah go on!
This is always a hot topic for teachers and so important to get it right.
Here are some mistakes that teachers have shared with us when they did our EPV Summer Course on Classroom Management with Niamh Byrne, Irish Primary Teacher.
We have dipped in and out of the CPD course to learn what to do instead!
Why do we remember the words of lyrics we haven’t heard in years? Why do some experiences stick in our heads more than others? Something made them memorable!
Make your lessons stick by trying to make some aspect of it different. This could be as simple as playing music (we have played classical music when students were working independently in the past) or hooking them into the lesson with mystery tasks or controversial questions that spark debate.
When planning ask yourself: What can I do to make this lesson memorable?
Trying to keep calm when things are not going well in the classroom can be such a struggle. It is overwhelming to try and support students with their emotions and behaviours – as well as our own.
Susan Gavin, course author of EPV Summer Course “Supporting Students with Challenging Behaviour” has put a comprehensive course together to help us pre-empt issues and creating systems and ways of working that stop things escalating negatively.
Trina Golden – Primary Principal of a new school, Owenabue Educate Together in Carrigaline, Cork. Previously the Principal of Ennis Educate Together. Passionate about equality based education, additional needs, educational disadvantage and trauma informed approaches.
Okay so we’ve all been there – a job post comes up on your screen that you hadn’t seen before and the deadline is that day!
You quickly rush the application to get it in before 3pm and pray to Beyonce (she’s like God, right?) that it’s acceptable!